It started as a crush. A crush that I wrestled with to not lift me in the clouds. Stephen was cute; he had big eyes, long eyelashes and adorable lips. He dressed like he was 25, already held a steady job, slicked his hair back and was stick skinny. It was hard to bottle up this crush. My purpose in life at the age of 15 was to honor God, serve my parents and family and to not get distracted or wrapped up in a boy, or a crush. I had my mind set that I was saving myself for the one that I would marry, if I weren't ready to get married, why get wrapped up in someone? Now, I don't write this to boast, or to say that if you do things differently than me that you're in the wrong. I say this to let you know my story and hopefully offer some encouragement to those of you who are not yet ready to get married but hope to in the future. God has been good to me. And I will say that if you choose to let God take over your life, in relationships and everything else, He will bless you whether you see it or feel it now, He will.
In addition to our families doing a lot together, Stephen and I shared the same group of friends. We did a lot together with a group that varied from 6-12 of us between the ages of 14-25. Game nights, youth group, movies, shopping trips; that's how our friendship began. It remained simply friendship for a couple of years. Neither of us had any idea the other possibly "liked" the other one. As I said before, I knew that I wasn't of an age to get married and so I made a lot of effort to not let this crush of mine show. I didn't want Stephen to know I liked him. Why? There was no reason to give a piece of my heart to any other man than the one that would be my husband. Because there was no reason to get emotionally entangled with a boy that might someday be somebody else's husband.
A crush is healthy and natural but when you begin revealing a crush, you may become emotionally attached and this is where trouble may come. A relationship can be a wonderful thing, in God's timing. I didn't want a relationship to come in the way of my relationship with God. It was hard to sit back and not be flirtatious. I saw other girls flirting with the boy I liked and of course any teenage girl likes attention from the boy she has a crush on but I held back. I wanted to help him be the man God called him to be. He was my friend and a true friend would want the best for him whether I would someday become his wife or not. It was also hard to accept the fact that God deals with us each individually; my job is to honor God. What others do, is not my business. As long as I am honoring God, seeking Him and trusting Him, I don't need to worry about my future. I don't need to worry about whether that boy I like will one day like me back or if he'll end up marrying that flirt down the road. God loves me and has a plan for me. I simply need to do my job and let Him do his.
I did spend time praying for Stephen. As a friend that I liked, I prayed that God would keep him, guard his heart, equip him perfectly for his wife, and help him keep his eyes on God until he was ready to marry someday. I have prayed this same prayer for my brother, sister and friends. This prayer was not me asking God to make him my husband but rather a prayer asking God to bless him and his future spouse.
Most of you know that my sister is 2 years older than I am. Therefore, she and Stephen are the same age. She was my best friend and therefore we did everything together. Around the time I was 17, Stephen seemed to be popping up more and more often. He'd show up at UPX (my dad's business that I worked at) and would buy ice cream or a Starbucks Frapuccino for whoever happened to be working. He would call and see if he and Shawn could come play cards or a game of Scrabble. This is the funny part, he began hanging around more which was a little indication that he may be interested in a girl at our house but there were 2 of us girls. Which did he like? He was so reserved that we couldn't tell if he liked me or Tara or maybe we were all just good friends having fun!
It was harder than it sounds to not let my emotions out. To not try to get Stephen's attention. To let him know that I liked him just as much as that other girl. So many times I wanted to say, "I like you too. Don't fall for her." But I didn't. I sat back and watched, and waited.
When I was 17 1/2 years old (I have to add that 1/2) Stephen met with my dad to discuss getting to know me better to see if he could win my heart and possibly marry me. I didn't know he met with my dad. At that point, I honestly still didn't know if he was seriously interested in me. That evening, after youth church (we were both part of the leadership team at that point) was theater on the lawn night. Everyone (families from the church) brought lawn chairs and watched a movie projected on the side of the building. Rocketman was the movie. I was sitting with some friends and Stephen seemed to be walking around aimlessly. He seemed to be approaching me and then he'd walk past. Here's a little blurb out of my journal: "...Stephen comes up to me and asks if he can have a word inside with me for a minute. Of course I say 'sure'. We get inside and now I can tell he is nervous, he just didn't seem the same and this is what he said, 'well, I met with your dad for lunch today...and I wanted to know if you would allow me to try and win your heart?' I replied, 'I would.'" To Stephen, this wasn't the ideal spot to ask a girl if he could pursue her but that day, when he spoke with my dad at Ocean Palace, a couple of ladies within the church (Alison W. & Sara G.) were at the very next table, possibly eaves dropping! Stephen said he didn't want a rumor to get started so he had to act quick. It was that night that I began to drift into the clouds. It was a little awkward at first because we had been nothing more than good friends for a long time. When he came over the first few times after that we sat on the opposite couches. We had a lot to figure out. We held hands for the first time a few weeks later and it was wonderful. All of those moments were so special to us because we'd never shared them with anyone else. This period, that many call courtship, was wonderful. We desired our parents and families to be a big part of this time. We didn't do anything alone, always with family and/or friends. It may seem odd but when we went places, we drove in separate cars. We wouldn't watch a movie unless somebody else was watching it with us. Certain rooms in our houses were off limits (such as bedrooms). We were friends trying to see if we were marriage material. We weren't lovers yet. We didn't want to go to far and we still wanted to make sure we didn't get too emotionally attached as we weren't engaged yet!
Over the next months we talked about life, our future, our goals, our dreams and 4 months later we were engaged. We shared our first kiss (neither of us had ever kissed anyone else before) after becoming engaged. Not even a year after he requested my permission to try to win my heart, I was all his, walking down the aisle at the Tivoli fountain in Olympia. I have no regrets over our relationship. I have no regrets over any boy-girl relationships I was in. I had friends and one of those friendships grew into love and Stephen became my husband.
It is by God's grace and faithfulness that my life and my story is so beautiful. My story wouldn't be the same without having wonderful parents who spoke wisdom and encouraged me throughout the years. I am so thankful that God chose to bless me. My life has faced very few hardships and I know it's not because I am good, or anywhere near perfect. It's because God's grace is sufficient and He loves me. He saw a young girl, with many faults, that wanted to see what would happen if she left her future in His hands rather than her own.
5 years down the road, I am still in the clouds. Stephen is so sweet to me. He is a perfect gentleman. He still has those handsome eyes and adorable lips. I've changed his hair do a little and fattened him up enough that he's no longer a stick. He holds a steady job, manages our duplex and still finds time for side jobs and projects here and there. He is a great daddy, a wonderful chef and extremely smart.
...for some reason he chose me. I am his happy wife.