After spending a little time on this forum and finally receiving some of my equipment in the mail, I successfully completed my first shave tonight. Thanks to all those who contributed and offered advice!
Brush: Tweezerman Badger Shaving Brush
Razor: Merkur 30C
Blade: Derby Extra
Soap: VDH Scented Luxury Shave Soap
Thankfully, I was able to complete 3 passes with no major issues. It went significantly smoother than I thought it was going to go. I started by soaking the brush in warm water while I was in the shower. Once done soaking, I worked up a lather with the VDH soap and dove right in. Cheeks and moustache area went extremely well with no irritation at all. I had some trouble on my lower neck area due to the curvature. It got irritated after 2 passes, so I cut it short on that part. No major bleeding, but definitely some redness. After the shave, I rinsed with some cold water and I didn't have any after shave balm, so I just used my usual Cetaphil facial moisturizer so it didn't dry out.
The Merkur 30C with the Derby Extra seemed to go fine. I don't have anything to compare it to, so I suppose I'll stick with that combo for a bit just to get a baseline. I do have to say that I was shocked at how flexible the blades were. I envisioned the thickness of a utility blade.
Overall, very pleased with my first experience. And plus, the VDH soap smells great :)
Comments, criticisms, and suggestions welcome!