Once upon a time in a land far, far away, over the river, through the woods, past miles of corn fields, soy bean plants…and nestled between cow pastures and a horse farm…I met the man of my dreams. Though neither one of us actually knew it at the time. My dad had been appointed pastor of this cute little country church out in Appalachia territory about an hour away from my home town of New Richmond, OH. I was 16 years old and very much in a “serious” teenage relationship.
Mr. and Mrs. Storer, Chad’s parents, were members of this little church. As a matter of fact 3/4 of the members of the congregation was Chad’s family…his grandparents, a couple of his aunts, and a bunch of his cousins. Chad, however was not a regular attender. So Chad’s mom did what any loving, concerned, Christian mom would do…she told her son that there is a new pastor at the church and they have a cute daughter and maybe he should come and meet them…ahem…her. Now, Chad, at 20 years old, was involved in a very serious relationship of his own so of course he was not interested in meeting this new pastor’s daughter, especially at church. So it was a couple of weeks before he finally graced us with his mysterious presence.
Not that it mattered anyway because when he found out I was only 16 and I was told he was 20 then we were undoubtedly out of each others leagues. I was far too young for him, he was definitely too old for me. And none of that apparently made a bit of difference to either of our mothers! Because while he had his mom in his ear bribing him to church, I had my mom in my ear dropping hints that I shouldn’t “be so serious” with my boyfriend trying to get me to go out with this guy!…This OLDER guy…our mothers must have known something because oh what a difference a year makes…
My serious teenage relationship did not last forever like I thought it was going to, but Chad was still ultimately out of my league. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely acknowledged and admired his devilishly handsome good looks, but there was not one part of me that thought I could intrigue his affection. We did , however, begin building a friendship that no one else seemed to really understand and more who did not approve.
See, Chad was the black sheep of the family…of the church really. He showed up every once in awhile, half hungover, after long nights of partying and living the bachelor night life. He was basically engaged to this other woman, he had an apartment of his own, a job, a cool car, and looks to die for. He did his own thing and if you didn’t like it or approve he simply didn’t care and didn’t have time for you…and that included family and especially included church. But that never swayed my dad away from being the good pastor that he was to still reach out to him and visit him. To present every opportunity to get this boy’s soul saved. Trying his best in the most subtle (and sometimes not so subtle I’m sure) ways to minister to him and love him.
His serious relationship finally dissolved when he finally realized she would not (or could not, not really sure which) follow through with finalizing her divorce…yes, he had been dating a married woman this whole time…SEPARATED but still very much married. And so he started showing up to church a little more regularly. And being the black sheep that he was, he would slip in and sit alone in the back of the church. This is where our friendship began because I would be the one to go and sit with him.
Remember my shattered serious teenage relationship? Well this potentially left me without a date to my Junior Prom. As our friendship grew he just kind of threw it out there that if it came down to me not having a date to my prom he would be more than happy to take me…as “friends” of course. Just so I didn’t have to miss out. I was a little shocked and really in disbelief. Why in the world would this guy go out of his way to take me to a high school prom when he has already left those days behind. But, I did tuck that away in the back of my mind as an option…WAY BACK! I didn’t really want to have to rely on that though. Not because I didn’t like him, but because I was afraid that I really would! I could not risk falling head over heals for this gorgeous guy just to have him break my young little naive heart. So my Junior Prom date was filled by a friend from school, and there was no harm no fowl.
Skip forward to my Senior Prom, when again I found myself to be without a date. I had dated a couple other guys between then and now but my heart was not ready for that “forever relationship” with them and I let them go. I thought that I was still scared to commit to that type of relationship. I thought that I just wanted to have fun not being committed to one guy. After all, I was still “just a teenager in high school.” But, who was I really kidding, I still longed for that type of a relationship where I felt butterflies every time I saw him and I would blush just at the mention of his name. I longed to have that one relationship that would be the end-all relationship, the love of my life, my forever partner and friend. And one day I realized he was literally right in front of me.
One night at church (I can’t remember if it was a Wednesday or a Sunday), in March of 1998, we were sitting together in a pew like always. I brought up the fact that it didn’t look like I was going to have a date for prom again. (Ok, now this was about 2 months out…I very POSSIBLY could have still come up with a date for prom by then…but I had another plan in mind.) I reminded him that he had given me an open invitation about a year earlier that if I ever found myself without a date that he would be more than happy to fill that spot for me. Now, I also knew (or hoped anyway) that with prom still being about 2 months away that there was no way he would wait 2 months to take me out! I was hoping that this would open the door for him to actually ask me out on a regular date well before prom. So I mustered up the courage and asked him if he would still take me to prom, and he said of course he would. And the butterflies started. And I’m sure my face was beyond blushed!
Before church was over he had also posed the idea that maybe we should go out on a date before prom gets here, because that is still a couple months out…(WHAT?! It actually worked?!) So of course I very non-nonchalantly said that would probably be a good idea (as my stomach and heart is turning somersaults inside me!) How about this weekend? (So I am thinking we planned all this out on a Wednesday night now that I am playing out this scenario in my head.) We can get dinner, go see a movie? It’s a date then.
I can honestly say I have NO IDEA where we ate…I can’t remember that at all. But I remember we went an saw The Man in the Iron Mask at the movie theater in Hillsboro, OH. And on Monday morning when I went back to school my best friend in the whole world since Kindergarten turns around in Spanish class and asks me, “So…how did it go?”…”I’m going to marry that man” I said very matter-of-factly. And with a grin from ear to ear she lovingly and approvingly said, “I knew that’s what you would say.”
I knew from the moment I began dating my husband that he was the man of my dreams. The man that God made just for me. As I look back on the circumstances that brought me to him, that brought my family to him, I see how God literally laid and directed our path. I could almost say from the moment I met him I knew that he was meant for me, but I suppressed that feeling for awhile. I certainly was attracted to him from day one! I thought he was the most beautiful man I had ever met. I WOULD get butterflies every time I saw him! But I just brushed that off as a silly fan-girl crush. Until the day that he asked me out on a proper date. Then I knew. It was not a crush. It was destined. Even better than that, it was PRE-destined! Our family could have gone a whole different direction. My dad could have taken a prosperous job in Indiana and we never would have even come to this church! But I was the one to speak up to say maybe we should. I was the one to pose the question, “What if this is a test? A test from God to see if you are faithful to Him and His calling. To put a choice in front of you like that…money or ministry.” I was the one to initiate this direction and destination.
I see now looking back on everything that God had carefully and thoughtfully aligned our lives. God ordained our relationship, ordained our marriage. God brought us together and recognizing that, there would not be anyone or anything that I would let distort, destroy, or dismantle that!
Today, I still get those butterflies. But it is more meaningful these days. Back then there wasn’t much of a fight for my man. I mean let’s be honest, the beginning is almost ALL about physical attraction. It’s at least very heavily based on physical attraction! I’m just being real here. Most of my efforts went into trying to look pretty and smell nice. But the older you get, the more comfortable you get in your relationship, you begin to take those little things for granted and the effort to look pretty becomes…well…EFFORT! And I am sad to say that I began taking those little efforts for granted after awhile and didn’t realize how much it actually meant to my husband when I would go out of my way to look nice for him.
But that story is for another day. Because today I celebrate the young love that started it all. I celebrate the flirty beginnings. I celebrate friendship starts and friendship middles. And I celebrate that there is still not an end to this young love story I call my life.
This is dedicated to my husband of 19 years today. The love of my life. The match to my soul. The beat to my heart.