There’s a pretty well-known book out there called “When God Writes Your Love Story.” I haven’t actually read it, but I always loved the title, and the idea of God writing my love story. There seems to be a common idea among young girls, especially, that if you “hand God the pen” He’ll write a perfect, beautiful story with a lovely ending. And often He does. But some of us have to wait a long time, and our stories have some not-so-pretty parts. That doesn’t mean God isn’t the Author. It just means He has a different path for us to walk.
Like a lot of girls, I hoped (and assumed, for some reason) that I would be married young: perhaps not at eighteen, but surely by my early twenties. I won’t take the time to walk you through all my single years – that would require its own book – but that was certainly not the case. I was 29 on my wedding day, and 30 before my first baby was born. There were many lonely walks, tears in the dark, and long talks with God in those years, but I can honestly say that He used that to prepare me, and I really believe that those difficult years are bearing fruit in my marriage today. There were guys I liked that never noticed me. There were guys who liked me that I couldn’t stand! There were long seasons of “no one on the horizon,” a failed courtship, and the weddings of nearly all my close friends.
And then, quite suddenly, God moved.
In August of 2009, I attended a conference/retreat for homeschool graduates in Colorado. There were over 200 attendees from all over the US, including my future husband, Evan (who lived in Southern California) – but we didn’t meet until after it was over and some of us had gone to see a local attraction, Garden of the Gods. We only talked for a couple of minutes, and nothing happened. We didn’t see stars, or lose our breath, or anything. Actually, we just went back home and continued to live our lives.
The “organization” (HomeschoolAlumni.org) that put on the retreat has an online community with discussion forums. Both of us are members, and after the retreat we were posting quite a bit in some of the discussions. We started to see that we thought alike in a number of areas, and began emailing each other occasionally to have further dialog on family structure, homeschoooling, child rearing, etc. Actually, marriage — in a theoretical sense — was a frequently discussed topic.
This continued at intervals, but the pace picked up around the February. That’s when we started instant messaging each other in addition to emailing. Generally these chats weren’t very long or very deep, but on March first Evan initiated a chat that lasted four hours. At the end he typed the famous words: “I still don’t know you that well, but you seem more or less interesting.” And that, believe it or not, is the beginning of our story.
We spent hours emailing and chatting. Evan called my dad and got permission to talk on the phone (the first phone call was also four hours, with topics ranging from politics to cloth diapers). In April he flew to Wisconsin and we started our “official” courtship. Well, he actually flew to St. Paul, MN, which is the nearest big airport. Mom and I drove down to pick him up, and stopped at Culver’s (a Wisconsin-based fast food chain) to get him something to eat. He only requested a hamburger, but my mom wouldn’t hear of it. “You have to try their frozen custard,” she insisted. She bought him something that had brownie pieces in it (for some reason I wasn’t paying too much attention to the ice cream!), and we got back in the car. The ice cream was placed in the cup holder in the center console. Yes, you know where this is going. While the three of us chatted away, Mom picked up the ice cream and proceeded to eat about half of it before she realized it was for Evan. She was horrified, but Evan is an easy-going guy and tried to convince her that it was fine. She was sure she’d made a terrible first impression.
Pretty soon, Mom’s cell phone rang. “It’s Steve,” she mumbled as she flipped it open. “Hello? Oh, yes. The car is running fine. Just fine. No problems at all.” What was that all about, I wondered. We haven’t been having problems with this car. About an hour later, it happened again. “No, no problems! The car is running great!” Mom assured my dad. I didn’t find out until later that this was a code arranged beforehand to let Dad know how Evan’s visit was going, and if we could actually talk to each other!
The first visit went well. We weren’t sure what Evan would think of our farm life since he lived in the Los Angeles area, but he fit right in with our family and didn’t act like a city slicker even once. He had “the talk” with my dad and our courtship was official. To celebrate, we went on a double date with my parents, and Evan gave me his arm as we walked out to the car. My siblings, peeking out the window to see what happened, decided that must mean we were courting, and were pretty excited. My sister Betsy must have been really excited, because when she went back to finish her ironing after we left, she burned herself on the arm (and has a scar to this day).
My first visit to California went well, too. I was a little intimidated to meet his beautiful mom and sisters… they seemed so polished and sophisticated. I was greatly relieved to find that while they are indeed lovely, gracious women, they are very down-to-earth and accepted me right away. They have since become not only my beloved family, but wonderful friends, as well.
Since we were separated by 2,000 miles, we did a lot of emailing. And talking on the phone. And video chatting. And flying. Wow, did we rack up the frequent flyer miles! I was able to take a very special trip to England with my dad in July, and we managed to contact each other a few times while I was there. I used public wi-fi whenever it was available, and we have pictures of me outside little pubs in Northumberland with my laptop.
When I returned from England, I had another trip planned: to California, of course. Although I had no idea, Evan had a special plan for this visit. He bought the ring the day I arrived and even had it in his pocket at the airport! He planned to propose on August 1, which was a Sunday.
On Saturday evening, we went to a gathering at the beach. When we got home, we sat on the couch in his parents’ living room and talked for awhile. Evan decided to propose then instead of waiting for the next afternoon. (He had been told by my sister that I wanted to be surprised, and thought I might catch on if he went with the original plan.) But the ring was upstairs. So he told me he was cold and needed to go put some jeans on. I didn’t suspect a thing.
Upstairs, Evan started to get nervous. He prayed that God would help him be calm. When he returned, we sat on the couch for another couple of minutes, and Evan actually fell asleep! I guess his prayer was answered. After a few seconds he woke up and asked what time it was. I couldn’t see the clock from the couch, so Evan went to the kitchen to check the time. It was 12:15 am (making it Sunday, August 1). “Oh, we should probably go to bed, then,” I said. I stood up to give Evan a goodnight hug, and he pulled the ring out of his pocket and said, “Will you marry me?”
I was absolutely shocked. I knew we were headed to marriage, I thought he would probably propose soon, and I had even prayed that morning that he would ask on that visit. But to have him just ask out of the blue like that…! I wanted to say, “Did you seriously just ask me to marry you?” But of course I said yes, instead. I felt like it took me awhile to respond since I was in shock, but Evan says otherwise. Hey, I wasn’t going to give him a chance to change his mind!
We set the date for November 6, 2010, a mere three months away. I knew I wanted a simple wedding and that I definitely didn’t want to wait to be married to this wonderful man. My goals for the wedding were: glorify God, rejoice in the wonderful thing He had done, not spend too much money, and not put a lot of stress on my family. Because of this, our wedding was much more low-key than many, but still beautiful and special. My sister Katie did the calligraphy for our invitations. My other sister, Betsy, did my hair. Our attendants were our siblings. We didn’t do any of the “details” that generally cause stress for the bride, like favors for all the guests, elaborate decorations, and endless food options. I’m so thankful that Evan had the same mindset , and the wedding planning was truly enjoyable rather than a source of conflict!
Although three months is a short time to prepare for both a wedding and moving halfway across the country, it sometimes felt that the day would never arrive. Like all days, it did arrive, and in the presence of family and friends, we said our vows to each other. One of my favorite parts of the wedding was when we all sang together “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” Verse three sums up our story pretty well:
“Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yes, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?”