Maybe that is why I loved writing those first two blogs. It was so surreal and movie-esque - and it really happened. To me. Like I couldn't believe God was actually writing this script and putting me - me - in the story. It really almost felt magical. And honestly, writing those two blogs was a bit therapeutic for me. It was a great reminder of God's providential hand in our union.
But I fear I'd be guilty of what the screen-writers do if that is all I say and just cut to the engagement. Not every moment of our relationship has played out like a fun, romantic comedy. So, I wanted to put in some 'off-screen' moments - along with the magical ones that would make the movie cuts - to hopefully tell a more realistic story of what God has written thus far:
- The holidays ('07). It was so wonderful to finally have someone to share them with. I remember how great it felt to walk into Thanksgiving Eve service with someone and not have to go alone. Giving Christmas presents, spending New Year's Eve together and having someone to kiss! Valentine's Day - he snuck into my classroom the night before and there were balloons and gifts and flowers on my desk.
- My struggle with missions. That winter ('07-08), even though God had given me a green light about staying, I still struggled with a lot of guilt about not going. That definitely dampened what should have been some of those wonderful first few months. My uncertainty stole alot of the joy of the moment. James was patient, but I know I wore him out at times.
- While I was away in Nicaragua (April '08) on a missions trip, he was back at home attending a marriage conference, getting himself ready for our future. That really impressed me.
- The spring learning curve ('08). About that time, more of our 'true selves' and our differences emerged, and we really had to start the 'work' of a relationship - communication skills, differences between men/women, our backgrounds, the baggage that comes with every person. And this was my first long-term relationship, so I felt really unprepared for how to navigate through a lot of that; I didn't really have a good gauge for knowing that a lot of what we were going through was just 'normal'. I'm a perfectionist, a deep thinker and at times, a catastrophizer - and when combined, they are a dangerous trio in a relationship.
- Nigeria (July '08). Oh, that was an amazing time for us! We grew so much closer through that experience. I was the team leader and this was his first trip. I was a little nervous, but it went beautifully! We had a great time serving the Lord together, and I remember being so proud of him when he preached in a church there. And, he later told me that seeing me in my element in missions is when he knew he was in love with me. I have such great memories of that trip.
- The fall learning curve ('08). Just more 'stuff.' A big lesson God taught me during that time was 'Love is patient, love is kind.' (I blogged about that). I remember going to see the movie 'Fireproof' with him, and God really pressed into my heart the tenacious side of love - less of the 'feelings' of love, but more of the selflessness of love - and the choice to love.
- Christmas break (Dec '08). We drove to Florida to visit my grandparents, and we had a great time with them. They loved him, and I loved how James fit right in with them and totally loved their stories and felt such a deep connection with them. We also had so much fun going kayaking, going to Miami beach, staying up all night on New Year's Eve and going to the beach and getting breakfast in the morning. Another great bonding experience for us.
- Precovenant Classes (Jan'09). James planned for us to take the pre-marriage classes. In my church, these are a pre-requisite to being married. He had told me in Florida that he hoped we would be engaged by the next year, but we both felt it would be smart to take these classes before we got engaged. They were good- but very heavy. It gave us a lot to think about - and again, more things to work and process through - individually and together. If I could think of a word to sum it up? Intense.
- The waiting (Spring '09). James would always talk about being on a 5-year-plan, so I never really knew if he was serious or just throwing me off. After the classes, we never really talked about engagement plans or anything like that. I never wanted to pressure him, and I wanted an engagement to be totally from his heart, without any coercion...so, that was a little bit of a hard time for me. I knew that he wouldn't have gone through all that trouble if he wasn't serious, but sometimes, my fears got the better of me. I spent more time worrying than I'd like to admit. My dangerous trio reared its ugly head on many occasions.
- His secret meetings (Spring/Summer '09). This was a good thing! Without me knowing, he took it upon himself to meet with our pastor, receive prayer for the upcoming meeting with my parents, call our pre-covenant leader for prayer, and speak to my parents. All of this was in preparation for our upcoming engagement/marriage (none of which I knew was coming!) He also was meeting with his jeweler friend to pick out the ring.
The next story I'll tell is the engagement. But I write this preface just to emphasize that this has been a journey of - and over - a lifetime, not a movie that is neatly resolved in 2 hours. It has had movie-esque moments - magical and surreal, and other times, it has been very real and challenging. But I think I speak for both of us when I say that our saving grace has been God's involvement and sovereignty over our story. There have been some key moments when we needed His intervention and help in one way or another- and truly, - and very thankfully - He wrote himself into the script. He truly is the Hero and Superstar of this story.
The journey is adventurous, scary, uncertain, breathtaking, frustrating, exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, and wonderful all at the same time. But my life with James is worth every minute of it, and we happen to have a fantastic Writer who knows exactly how the story should end - and knows just how to make that happen.