Sunday, August 30, 2009

Missions, Marriage and the Providence of God

There's actually a lot more to the story between meeting the Border's Guy and the ring on my finger.

Let me give a little history. Probably 2 years before I met James, I had a pretty intense time with the Lord...God brought me to utter honesty with myself, and through that, I fell in love with Jesus like I never had before. This was on the heels (as it usually is) of significant heartbreak. During that time, I brought before the Lord the question of moving overseas. Missions had grown to be a big part of my life, and I really wrestled with whether or not He wanted me to go into full-time foreign missions. During that 2 yr time, I had pursued teaching overseas, but God closed that door when I took guardianship of my nephew Mike, who was 15 at the time. My plan was that when Mike graduated (in '08), I would pray again and see what God would have me do.

Well, in the summer of '07, I went on a trip to Brazil and when I got home, I was really feeling like I should pursue missions once again. Mike would be graduating the following spring and I felt like I needed to start planning. So, I was ready to just jump in and start looking for opportunities. As I was about to embark on that, I clearly sensed God say to my heart, 'Katie, give me a chance to order your steps." So, I just felt to be still for a bit and see what God would bring to me.

Not long after that, I met James in church. Within weeks, I was completely in a tailspin. Was this from God? Was this a distraction? Should I not even get to know him? Would I fall in love and then God would send me away? Did this mean I didn't love Jesus? I felt tortured in my heart the more I got to know him. I definitely sensed something between us, but I was so afraid of the potential conflict between following my feelings and obeying God. Was it too much to hope that maybe they were the same thing?

I spent a lot of time praying about it, and all along the way, God used many different ways to encourage me to keep going forward (this article, for example). But I still felt so guilty. I had told James from the beginning that moving overseas was a possibility for me, but he felt peace about us continuing to go forward and just trusting God.

By November, my heart was so tortured that I knew I had to put it out there and see what God wanted me to do. One Sunday, our pastor gave a message about persevering and doing the will of God. I felt so confused because I didn't even know what that was for me. So, I went up for prayer and just laid it out before God. "Lord, show me your will and I will do it, whatever it is. If you want me to go overseas, then I will go. If you want me to stay and pursue this with James, then I will do that. Please just make it clear to me. I can't hear you in my heart because I'm so confused and conflicted. Please show me in some other way." A woman at the front prayed for me, and she encouraged me to just trust the Lord and that He would make it clear.

Following that service, James had mentioned to me that he really wanted to go on a short-term trip the following summer. I encouraged him to do it; as for me, I didn't know if that was something I'd be doing; I could be planning to move overseas at that time - for good. On our way out of church, we ran into Jim and Victoria, a young married couple who was on the short-term committee. I asked them if the trips for next year had been planned, and they said, no, they hadn't been planned yet. James said to them, "You know, I'd really like to go to Nigeria." They joked and said, "Katie, you should lead a team to Nigeria, then." [Jim and Victoria told me after the fact that they had said this to me. I had no recollection of this.] So, that was that...for the moment.

So, nervously I waited for the answer that week. I remember having a conversation with my parents about all this that Monday night. I told them about church and they said, "But Katie, you teach in a Christian school. You are doing missions!" I agreed, but I couldn't pretend that I hadn't been thinking about moving overseas before I met James. I had to see what God wanted me to do.

Well, the next day, I was about to walk into my missions class that I teach when I heard someone calling my name. "Katie! Katie! Miss Mauro! Miss Mauro!" I turned and saw that it was Pastor Rich, our missions pastor, and John Long, head of the short-term missions committee. "Katie, we just heard from the Lord!" they said, half-joking, half-serious. Oh gosh, here it heart froze and my eyes opened wide. "Katie, we are taking a team to Nigeria next summer and we want you to lead it!"

Everything started spinning around me as their words sunk in. Short term trip. To Nigeria. They wanted me to lead it. Wait - James wanted to go to Nigeria. Oh my answer! It wasn't either/or - missions or James. Here it was - God was giving me both! This was what He wanted me to do in missions. It wasn't to go overseas for good. For now, the plan was to lead the short-term team to Nigeria.

I gave James the news that Wednesday, and a smile came over his face as he processed all of those details and the ramifications sunk in. And, it was that Saturday - December 1st - that James officially asked me to date him exclusively.

It took a while for this answer to prayer to really sink in - that it really wasn't God's will for me to move overseas. But thankfully, later that school year, God made it clear that not only was He not sending me away, but that He actually wanted me to stay at the school I was at.

I somehow always thought that it had to be either missions or marriage. It seemed too much for me to believe or ask God for both. But in His providence, He proved that He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all I could have dared to ask (Eph. 3:20).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How I Came to Meet 'The Border's Guy'

This actually is kind of a fun story. In October 2006, I was in Border's Bookstore, killing time while my nephew Mike was at youth group. I was looking in the Christian book section, when this really good-looking guy started to look at Christian books also. We acknowledged and smiled at each other, and we both continued to browse. I lingered a little longer than necessary because, when do you ever see a good-looking guy in the Christian book section??? For me, those two worlds just never seemed to collide (By that, I mean 'Christian' and 'good-looking guy').

I tried my hardest to think of something clever to say, but - darn it - nothing. I stalled, hoping that he might talk to me, but - nothing. Finally, I went to go sit down with my books and my friend Ryan, one of my best friends. I explained the scenario to him, and wouldn't you know it, the cute guy also sat down in a chair not far from us. "That's him!!! What do I do now??? It looks like you are my boyfriend!!!" Ry said, "Let me get up and walk around and maybe he'll come over to you." I said back, "But it already looks like we are together!" Ry got up anyway, such luck. The cute 'Border's Guy' did not approach.

Well, next Wednesday rolled around. I thought, "Maybe if I go back again, maybe he'll be back at the same time, the same place..." [I have to put in a disclaimer here. I have never done anything like that in my life. It was completely out of character for me!] However, I went to Border's again - same time, same place. No such luck. Chalk it up to fate, God's will - whatever. It just wasn't happening with me and 'The Border's Guy'. And so, life went on...

I didn't really think much about The Border's Guy after that...all I really remembered was that he was good-looking (tall, nice build, dark hair and light eyes), a Christian (from what I was guessing), and for some reason, I remembered his outfit (a sweater that stuck out in my memory, for some reason - and black dress pants).

Fast forward almost a year later - Labor Day Weekend: Sunday, September 2nd, 2007. I was in church as usual that Sunday. My mom was with me b/c we had a baby shower to go to after. I sat where I usually sat. The service began, and a few minutes into the service, a group of 3 came and sat in my row. Rob I recognized. He came every week and sat in his usual seat (Far right side, end seat, near the fake tree in the corner). Well, other people were in his seat, so Rob and his entourage came and sat in my row. There was another girl and guy with him, so in my mind, I put together that it must have been Rob's brother and Rob's brother's girlfriend.

In the middle of the service, the pastor had us greet the people around us, as is our usual custom. I turned and said hello to Rob's friend and introduced myself. He said, "Hi, I'm James. I'm here with my friend Rob and his girlfriend." Oh, OK, I thought to myself. Not Rob's brother; not Rob's brother's girlfriend.

Service went on as usual, and after the service, James and I chit-chatted for a few minutes. James said he was looking for a new church and I casually told him our church was great and that he should try it.

After we say goodbye, my mother was instantly like, "Katie - who was that guy??? He seemed like he was interested in talking to you...Maybe he's 'The One.'" You know mothers... "No, Mom. I have no idea who he is. Please, let's not even go there."

When you've played this single's game as long as I had, I just knew that I shouldn't even touch this. How many times had I randomly bumped into guys and thought, '"Maybe this is 'The One,'"... only to find out - nope, not the one.

"Mom, let's just leave it alone."

So, next Sunday came around, and James was back. After the service, I was talking w/ some of my former students, and I saw him across the lobby with Rob. I made up in my mind that I was not going to pursue this. If something was meant to happen, he would have to take the lead. Well, a few minutes later, James just marched across the lobby to me and started talking. I was impressed. We chatted again and that was that.

Well, next Sunday came around, and he found me again. And we chatted. And then we ended up planning to go to the same Sunday School class next week. And then after that, we ended up talking to each other during the break between class and the service. And then after that, James asked if he could sit with me. And then after that, he asked for my phone number. And then after that, he asked to take me out...

OK, now this is where the story gets fun. About six weeks after we had met (by this time, we were talking on the phone and had been out maybe once or twice), James walked into Sunday School a little late, and I thought to myself, "That sweater looks really familiar. It kind of looks like the sweater The Border's Guy was wearing." And then I tried to remember what The Border's Guy looked like...couldn't really remember. But he did have dark hair and light eyes - and so did James. I contemplated the possibility for a moment but just wrote it off as coincidence. It wasn't more than just a blip on the radar - came and went. A sweater is a sweater.

Well, later that week, James emailed me and told me that he was going to Border's one night to read before work. "No way," I thought to myself..."What are the odds..."

This drove me crazy all week. And finally, I just had to ask: "Um, James - do you go to Borders much?" "Yeah, I go sometimes just to read." "Um, were you going about this time last year???" "In October?" "Yeah." "Yeah, why?" "I know this might sound crazy but...." And I proceeded to tell him of my encounter with The Border's Guy. He was quiet for a minute, and I began to feel stupid. Then, finally, he said, "Were you wearing a denim jacket???" I was. I usually am wearing a denim jacket. "Yes..." "I remember you! You were with that dude! I knew you looked familiar when I met you. I remember being disappointed that you had a boyfriend. And I even prayed, 'Now God, why can't you send me a pretty Christian girl like her???' "

No. Way.

Here I was, hanging out with The Border's Guy.

James later told me that he had planned on coming up to talk to me that night...until he saw me there with 'that dude.' A little later, we actually did stop into Border's one night, and - just to prove he wasn't lying - James pointed out where he had been sitting and where I had been sitting... and yup, he definitely was the one - The Border's Guy.

And now, almost three years later and with a ring on my finger, I am happy to report that my mom was right - James was 'The One.'