{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 23~Engagement Story {Her Version} ~ The Right Man is Worth the Wait

Thank you all for your kind words regarding last week’s post. I am thankful for each one of you who wrote to encourage me and especially those of you who shared your own stories! We’re in this together and there is strength that comes from being honest and open about our struggles.

This week is going to be a bit lighter and fun!

I’ve mentioned before that Brad and I never officially dated. But I have never told you all the whole story. So here goes, with all the juicy details *wink*…

The first time we ever met was in the summer of 1996. I was an 18-year old, new Christ-follower, and still pretty rough around the edges. Brad was 28 and just off the road. He had been traveling with Truth and had decided to settle down and get a real job (just kidding, Honey!!). He was the new junior high student pastor. We were at a youth meeting and I was showing some of my friends my new belly button piercing. Brad walked by, stuck his face in our circle and said “What’s going on over here?”. I quickly lowered my shirt and told him to stop staring at my tummy. He had some funny response like “Well, stop showing it to everyone!”.

We always got along really well. But I didn’t view him as “dating” potential for me. He was, as I said, 10 years older than me. He was the youth pastor and the newest, most-eligible bachelor around our church. There was a lot of buzz when he moved here. I was pretty new to the church myself, but I was around enough to know that people were talking about him. The ladies (and girls) all thought he was cute and great marriage material. The guys all thought he was really cool (although dressed a little too preppy) and everyone knew he was an amazing singer. (I know it sounds like I’m bragging…maybe I am…but it’s really true!).

I enrolled in our local university that fall, deciding to stay close to home until I was sure of what I wanted to do with my life. I had a plan early on in my senior year of high school, but then I found the Lord (or really He found me) and it changed everything I had thought about what I wanted to do. I stayed really involved at the church, in the youth group and continued getting to know everyone there better…including Brad.

In January of ’97, I decided to take a semester off of school and intern full time at the church. There were 7 of us and they divided us up between the senior high and junior high groups. And yep, I was placed in the junior high group with Brad. We had so much fun, coordinating retreats, special events and summer camp. We all took a road trip to California at the conclusion of our internship and I remember sitting shotgun while Brad drove the 15-passenger van. We talked and laughed and had a lot of fun.

I decided to go to Oklahoma for school that fall. Many of my friends were going and it seemed like it was the best choice for me. My heart was for ministry and it seemed this might be my best route. My friends on staff at the church asked me to stay, but I didn’t think it was the best decision. They had fun joking with me about how I would be homesick and calling them everyday. John, the youth pastor, actually bet me that I couldn’t go 2 weeks without calling. I took the bet. Later, Brad told me that I could call him instead.

My experience at school was really great. I didn’t so much love the school part (I still didn’t know what I wanted to study) but I really enjoyed the experience. It was a Christian school and every week at chapel they brought in different preachers and teachers. I was learning so much about the Lord and about His people. God was wooing me, bringing me closer to Him and I would have these amazing encounters with Him. I loved calling or writing Brad and telling him all about it. He was always so encouraging and had really great insight about all that I was experiencing.

I came home from school for a week during fall break. The youth department was having a week of dedicated prayer times in the morning. I was sitting and praying in our youth chapel one morning when Brad passed by in front of me. The Lord spoke to me and told me that Brad was my husband! I was completely shocked! I felt like our relationship had grown to a friendship level–I no longer viewed him as the pastor way older than me, but as a good friend. But I was interested in a guy from school and was actually enjoying getting to know, and date, different guys. I wasn’t looking to get into a serious relationship and I never assumed it would be with Brad!

It snowed and snowed that weekend (if you’re from Colorado you may remember, or have heard of, the blizzard of ’97). We had so much snow that we couldn’t open the doors of the church. We had all been up there for a junior high lock-in…and we were literally locked-in! I was supposed to drive back to school that weekend, but obviously couldn’t. On Saturday night, I was sitting in the youth offices with John (the youth pastor I mentioned above) and he asked about my “love life”. I was open with him and told him I was enjoying dating at school. And then I mentioned Brad. I felt my face flush as I told John about how our relationship had changed. I didn’t mention the part about God speaking to me, though. I was a bit nervous that I had made it up. He smiled and nodded as I talked and then told me that he and Brad had talked about me and that Brad had acknowledged the change in our relationship as well. The conversation didn’t go much further than that, but I left feeling like maybe I had really heard from the Lord.

A few weeks later when I was back at school, one of my closest friends called and told me that he had overheard Brad and John talking about me and that John told Brad about the conversation we had. I was furious! I was supposed to go home for Thanksgiving and now I couldn’t imagine going home and acting like everything was normal. Had I ruined my friendship with Brad? I called John and asked him about it. He was honest and told me it was true. I was so mad…and he actually thought it was funny! He laughed and told me that everything was going to be fine and that they all couldn’t wait to see me when I came home. That made me even more mad and even more nervous about seeing Brad.

I didn’t call or write Brad after that…I just couldn’t imagine facing him. The night before I was supposed to drive home, he called me. He didn’t address the “talk” he had had with John. It was pretty short and light and he said he was excited to see me and asked if we could talk when I came home. I told him that would be great and that I was excited to see him too.

We spent a lot of time together during Thanksgiving break. On my last night there, he brought up his conversation with John. He told me that he was interested in me too and that we should just be open to whatever what might happen. His exact words were, “I’m not saying let’s date but I’m not saying let’s not.”

Not confusing at all, right?

We talked a few times on the phone in those weeks after Thanksgiving. When I came home for Christmas break, we saw each other almost every day. We were alone sometimes, but most of the time we were with friends. One night, after we had all been together at a friend’s house, he kissed me. Ok, so I’ll leave *some* details out but I’ll just say that I left that night knowing that this was the man of my dreams and that we would live happily ever after.

And it’s true. But it didn’t happen right away.

I went back to school and he didn’t call for 2 weeks! He tells me now that 2 weeks isn’t that long and that I shouldn’t have taken it so seriously…but guys let me tell you, waiting 2 weeks to call is never a good thing unless you’re trying to communicate that you’re “just not that into her”! He apologized and said he had been busy moving into his new house. I told him that was no excuse and that it was lame to not have called. We moved on, but things didn’t move at the pace I originally thought they were going to. He was very nonchalant and noncommittal. I started thinking that I had read him all wrong.

He came out to my school a few weeks later with some of the other pastors for a conference. We went for a drive and he told me he wasn’t wanting to get into a long-distance relationship and that we should not continue the way we had. This was upsetting for me, but I understood and agreed that we’d stay friends. I was already contemplating a move back home in order to take a position at the church, so we decided that we would just see what happened.

Two days later, while he was still in Oklahoma, I woke up in excruciating pain. My friend rushed me to the hospital where they diagnosed me with a kidney stone. It was so large that I would have to have surgery to have it removed. Brad came to the hospital and stayed with me through that day while they ran tests. We planned for surgery a few days later. Brad’s flight home was for the next day. I assured him that I would be fine and we said goodbye.

He called to check in on me and sent flowers after my surgery. He was so sweet and caring as I recovered.

The whole kidney-stone ordeal lasted for about two weeks which resulted in me missing a lot of classes. When I was finally recovered, I had a decision to make. It was going to be very difficult to make up the work, but not impossible. I could work really hard to make up all of the missed school work to finish up the semester or I could withdraw. In light of my wanting to take the church position back home, I decided to withdraw.

Brad called and asked if he could fly out and drive me home. He said he had talked to my parents and wanted to begin officially dating me. Of course I said yes!

The drive home with Brad was so fun. I felt like this was finally it…the happily ever after I was dreaming of.

Not so fast!

Life was so crazy when I got home. The position I was wanting at the church didn’t turn out to be right for me. I had just dropped out of school and was living with my parents. It seemed everyone at the church was watching Brad and me, waiting to see what was going to happen. I had random people that I didn’t know stopping me to ask about our relationship. I felt like the world was spinning and I couldn’t find my direction.

After about a month of craziness, Brad broke things off with me. I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. Wasn’t he supposed to be my husband? Why weren’t things working the way I thought they would?

Although we weren’t officially dating, we still saw a lot of each other. We were in the same group of friends and we were all working at the church, even though I was volunteering. I took a job answering phones at a local non-profit and started praying about what my next move might be.

A couple of months later, in the summer of ’98, John and Brad offered me a job at the church. I would be an administrator in the youth department, focusing on junior high youth ministry.

The next year was a mix of ups and downs. I really loved my job. I loved the students we were getting to work with. I ran small groups, went to football games, coordinated retreats, ran rehearsals for our youth choir, went to summer camps…it really was my dream job. Anything I could dream up to do with these kids, I could do and it was just so fun. I also really enjoyed working with Brad. We did get along really well. We worked together really well and I just loved being with him. I was completely in love with him and he, and pretty much everyone else, knew it.

We would talk every now and then about “us” and it always came down to him not being sure. To be honest, this was heartbreaking for me. I knew I loved him and wanted to marry him. I knew I had heard from the Lord sitting in that chapel, but he didn’t seem to be in on the secret. So, I waited. I cried a lot. I prayed a lot. I had one close friend (hi, Rachel!) that I confided in…although I never told her about God speaking to me. She would always say, “One of these days you’ll be done and you’ll walk away.” I couldn’t imagine that being true. I couldn’t imagine ever walking away from Brad.

In the summer of ’99, we planned a three week trip to Europe with our youth choir. It was my responsibility to plan all of the details of the trip and I loved every minute of it. We ended up with a team of 50 students and 10 leaders with a trip planned for France, England and Germany, one week each.

A few days before we were scheduled to leave, I woke up in the middle of the night with that all-familiar, excruciating pain. My mom took me to the emergency room where Brad met us. The doctor confirmed that it was another kidney stone and I would need surgery.

We were supposed to leave for Europe in less than a week! I was so upset. I couldn’t imagine missing this trip–after I had spent so much time praying and planning for it. We arranged the surgery date, the after-care and then changed my flight so that I would meet the team 4 days late.

Although I was not fully recovered, I took some pain pills with me and met our team in Paris, France. The whole trip was wonderful. We had such a great team and it was so fun watching these young students minister with such boldness. We also saw so many great sights in Europe. I remember standing on the Eiffel Tower with our group. It was a breathtaking view and I couldn’t help but imagine what it might be like if I was there alone with Brad.

That three week stretch was the longest Brad and I went without spending time alone or talking about the “us” issue. He was completely focused on the team and the ministry of the trip. I admired that and grew a new level of respect for him during that time. He led with such authority and confidence. Because we weren’t spending any “personal” time together, I had the chance to view him from afar and see how amazing he really is. I had known this all along, but the emotions of our relationship had muddied my opinion of him. If absence really does make the heart grow fonder, this was the perfect example.

We came home from that trip different. I didn’t understand it, but somehow we had matured in how we related to each other. I sensed a new, although different kind of, closeness with him.

He asked me out to dinner one night a month or so later and I accepted. Although we hadn’t addressed it specifically, we began spending more time together and to me, it felt like we were dating.

In late September, we were on our way to a movie when I got up my nerve to bring it up. I just had to know what he was thinking and how he was feeling. I told him I felt confused because we would go out and have a great time together and he would treat me like we were dating. Then we would go into work the next day and he would treat me like it had never happened. He pulled into the movie parking lot and we talked for a while. It was the same kind of conversation…him being unsure. Finally he said, “I really like you. I just don’t know that I’m in love with you.”

That was it for me. The moment that my friend Rachel had always told me about finally came. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t emotional. I plainly said, “Well, if you don’t know that by now, you never will. I need this to be done now.”

Crazily enough, we still went in and saw our movie that night. I don’t remember much of it. I just remember feeling like this was the end and that things would be different from that point on. He was due to leave on a trip overseas with some of the other pastors in a week, so I figured that would give me some time to process and decide what I was going to do.

The night before he left for his trip, he called and asked if I would come over while he packed. I told him no. After I hung up, I regretted saying no. While I felt I needed to be clear about my intentions, I also couldn’t bear the thought of him traveling overseas without knowing that I cared about him. I went over to his house, said goodbye, told him to have a great trip and that I would take care of everything on the ministry side while he was gone.

While he was gone, I began researching ways to leave. I considered moving to California where my grandparents lived. I considered going back to school. I felt I needed to move on. I needed to get away where my heart could heal. When one of my friends asked me out on a date, I said yes. Even though I didn’t want to date anyone else, I was feeling an urgency to move on. I had obviously misunderstood, or made up, what God had told me in that chapel. It was over.

What’s funny is that my friend and I went out to dinner and both proceeded to talk about the people we were in love with. He was pining over another girl and everyone knew I was in love with Brad. What was supposed to be a date ended up being a time of commiserating. It’s funny to think now of how I thought going out with someone else would mend my heart. However, he invited me to attend a concert with him the next Monday and I said yes.

On Monday, as I was getting ready, my phone rang. It was Brad calling me from Greece! He was all business, asking about church stuff. I played along and gave him the report. Then, he asked me what I was doing that night. I told him I was going to a concert. He asked if I was going with Rachel and I simply said, um, no. He understood from my tone what I meant and he quickly said goodbye and hung up. The way he hung up made me sad, but I quickly put it out of my mind.

That Wednesday morning, I woke to the sound of my phone ringing. It was Brad. He said he was calling from the plane (Do you remember those pop-out phones that used to be on the back of airplane seats? No one ever used them because they were so expensive! Yes, that’s the phone he was calling me from.). He said they were flying home early and that he would like me to pick him up from the airport. I said no. He asked again, please would I just come? He had some things to tell me.

Standing in that airport was so awkward. There I was, the secretary…standing there with the pastors wives who were awaiting their husbands. I smiled shyly and told them I was just giving Brad a ride home.

When we got to Brad’s house, he began to unpack. He took out a Greek goddess statuette and said she represented beauty. He told me that she reminded him of me and that he had thought of me every moment of the trip. He said he couldn’t enjoy any of the sights or events because he wanted me there with him. He told me he realized that he loved me.

I was so shocked. And nervous. I was nervous to put myself out there again. How did I know he wouldn’t change his mind? I thought it might be easy for him to say these things while we were alone at his house, but what would he say when we were at work? Was this just emotion from being gone, or did he really mean it? I thanked him for the gift and then I left, without saying much else.

He called the next day and asked if he could take me to dinner. That night he expressed his feeling again. And I told him how I felt. I just didn’t feel like I could believe him. He had been so wishy washy before. How could I trust him? He asked me to let him prove it. I agreed. That sounded kind of fun! Before he left that night, he told me again that he loved me. I somehow stammered the words out–in total unbelief that this was actually happening. Could it be that this man that I loved so deeply really did love me back?

The next morning when I walked out my door to go to work, I found flowers on my doorstep. The note attached said, “I love you and I don’t care who knows.” I called him and thanked him–and then threatened to take them into work for everyone to see. He told me that I should do that. He really was proving himself.

That next morning, Saturday, we went to a friend’s house to celebrate the adoption of their daughter. Brad asked if he could take me out afterward.

He took me to a park and we enjoyed a picnic lunch together. We went for a walk in the woods, walked barefoot in the stream and held hands. Was this what dating Brad was really like? I was so incredibly happy.

As we were on our way back from our walk in the woods, Brad knelt down and asked me to marry him. It was as if the world stopped spinning. I was so in shock that I don’t remember anything he said and I couldn’t say a word. When he showed me the ring, he told me that he had bought it in Greece. I wish I could tell you that it was so romantic–and it was–but I was so overwhelmed at the events of the past few days that I could hardly respond. I don’t think I even officially said yes!

By that evening, after we had shared the news with friends and family, we settled into what we were doing. We decided to get married quickly–on December 31st, 1999.

I love our story. It’s not perfect. It wasn’t then and our first year of marriage was pretty rough as I recovered from the inconsistency of our courtship. It took me a while to accept the fact that he loves me and wants to be married to me. It’s still not perfect. We have our disagreements and rough patches. But we made a decision to love each other and that decision, and our love for the Lord, keeps us committed through the hard times. I have always loved Brad. And even as I write this story, I see how his heart was always set on me as well…even though he didn’t always know it *wink*

During our first premarital counseling appointment, I told Brad what God had spoken to me two years earlier. He was so shocked and surprised! And he told me how grateful he was that I had never told him that before he made the decision on his own.

I am so thankful for him. He is such a gift. He is perfect for me and was well worth the wait!

Make sure you come back on Wednesday to hear {His Version}!

 

This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.

3 thoughts on “{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 23~Engagement Story {Her Version} ~ The Right Man is Worth the Wait

  1. I LOVE your story. You are such an amazing couple. Thank you for sharing with us. Thanking God for this pairing, his timing is always right 🙂

    Like

  2. That was awesome! Beautiful love story, maddening as it was. Glad he finally came around and hasn't looked back since! You guys make a terrific couple!

    Like

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