September 18 is a good day. 34 years ago the best husband ever was born. Yes, I know this is super syrupy but it's the truth (and this is my blog so I am allowed). Happy Birthday baby! We are so thankful to our God for you.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to post "our story" for those of you that do not know it. I think it is a great story and I love telling it.
I met John through my college roommate Julie. John and Julie grew up together in their youth group. When we (Julie and I) would come home for a weekend, Julie would gather all of her friends from home too. So inevitably, I came to know several people that belonged to Julie's circle, John included. So we would see each other periodically, maybe 2-3 times a year for a couple of years, even when Julie moved to Tyler to attend a college there.
I remember the first time I met John. He was teaching at a Christian school where Julie's mom worked and so we went to see him in his classroom on a visit to Julie's mom. I found it quite comical. There were 3 girls in his room and he seemed totally uncomfortable and maybe intimidated by all of these women. I knew a little about John at this point. Julie valued his friendship and theology. He seemed very internal, maybe a little quiet, and definitely a thinker. I love boys like that. And he played guitar, a huge plus in my book.
I remember on another visit, we went to a baseball game and my other roommate Kendra made the comment that she could see John and I getting married. A totally off the cuff comment, especially since Kendra didn't really know John enough to make such a prediction. Nonetheless, I will admit it made John all the more attractive and mysterious to me.
One weekend, Heather C and I went to visit Julie in Tyler, along with Julie's friends Daniel, Heather and of course, John. We all crashed in Julie's one bedroom apartment and had a great time. Julie told me later that Heather told her on the way back home that John kept talking about me. Hmmmmm....
My dad and Julie had a funny relationship. They were bound to one another by their love for cut-off shorts and Dad sort of adopted Julie as his 3rd daughter. So when it came time for Julie to graduate college, my dad and I traveled to Tyler to see Julie graduate and attend a little celebration back at her apartment. This visit to Tyler confirmed my suspicions that John was interested in me. He had traveled there too and back at Julie's apartment, he would not leave me alone, totally giving me a hard time about everything, a true sign of love. Right in front of my dad!
So things went along like this for awhile. Julie moved back to the area and the 3 of us would meet at a coffee shop once a month maybe for a deep theological discussion (or should I say argument?) and some coffee. It was great! Oh, how I miss those days. Well, Julie had the nerve to go off and get engaged to a guy in Boston (Julie if you are reading this, I am just kidding!) so she quickly ditched us and it became just a John/Jennifer theological debate. Basically, John would beat me up with the Bible and I would take it! :) These were the best of times and the worst of times because John was leaving in January to attend Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and I knew our days were numbered.
Now, let me take a break and make mention of this. I was a fiercely independent single girl and was content, for the most part, with that role in life. I was working full time, going to Seminary full time and leading worship for the youth group at my church. I lived out of my car. I had bags packed for each thing I did. I was super busy and loved every second of it. I had been wounded by a previous relationship and in many ways, was damaged goods. I had been so hurt emotionally (and this was 4 years prior) that I really struggled with trusting another person with my heart. John and I talked about this even in our coffee meetings.
So with that said, I didn't know what to think about John or about him leaving. I remember him calling on Christmas Day to see if I wanted to go see Lord of the Rings at the movies with him that night. Umm, duh, yes I wanted to go. We went to the 10pm show and I remember making my hand easily available to him in the movies so that if he wanted to hold my hand, he could do so. He didn't take the bait. We laugh about this now.
So, the time came for him to leave. 3 days before he was set to drive to Philly, we had a coffee date. After much consternation, I had written him a letter describing to the best of my ability how I felt about him. I also bought him a phone card so that if he wanted to call me, he could. But I was a chicken and only gave it to him at the end of our time together that night, with the explicit instructions to not open it until he got home. I was scared.
Well, the next day goes by and I don't hear from him. Not a good sign. The Lord was good to me though. He protected my heart. I was not in despair.
The next night, the night before he leaves town, my phone rings. It's him. Lord, help me. After some small talk, he gets right to the point. He drops the bomb. We are too much alike. It would never work. What??? In the same sentence he would say "I think about you all the time and want to call you" and "We are too much alike and it would never work." What was a girl to say? He just stomped my heart, my vulnerable heart into the ground, but I liked him too much to get mad. I don't remember how the conversation ended, but it did and I wondered if our friendship would ever be the same.
Well, I went on with life. I thought about him a lot, but I was so busy (the Lord's providence) that I just didn't have time to throw a pity party. 2 weeks go by and on a Sunday afternoon, the phone rings and it's him. We talked about Seminary and Philly and what life was like there. We talked for over an hour. He accused me of avoiding him and I explained that I was just extremely busy, in fact, I really needed to let him go so that I could finish reading for school before church that night. But he wouldn't get off the phone. And then finally, he worked up enough nerve....he was wrong. What!?!? He had dinner with a buddy there who was engaged and he was telling John how much he and this girl were alike and how things were great, etc. and suddenly John realized his "theology" was wrong. It was good to be alike, not bad.
So, he wanted to date.
Could this work?
That was in February 2002. Well, there were a few bumps along the road. He foolishly thought we should just talk 2 times a week on the phone. Silly boy! And then when I suggested he fly home for a weekend to see me, this was such a revelation to him. He had a lot to learn! This was actually the first time he had ever met my parents. Though by this point, unbeknownst to our parents, we had already talked marriage and when and what then.
So he met my parents in March and I scheduled a flight to Philly in April. Unbeknownst to me, John called and spoke with my dad while I was in class at Seminary one night to ask his permission to ask me to marry him. My dad's response: "Are you sure you want her?"
So in April, I flew to Philly, my first visit there. It was beautiful. My flight, of course, was delayed and I got in very late that Friday night. John came and picked me up the next morning and took me to this arboretum nearby. I didn't know it, but this was a planned visit. He was going to propose. He had his roommates, David and Tom, plant this little bag with the ring at the base of this huge tree and then from a distance watch to make sure no one came along to take it. As we walked up to this tree, they were instructed to leave so that we would have our private moment. Well, just getting into Philly the night before, I had no idea that John was about to propose. I knew he was going to propose (or at least I was pretty sure) that weekend but not so quickly. So as we come up on this little gift bag, the conversation went like this:
John: "Oh, look. I wonder what is in that bag?"
Jennifer: "John, that is not our bag, do not mess with it!"
John: "I just want to see what is inside." And as he opens it, he rips the little sticker that was holding it closed.
Jennifer: "Well, great! Now they (the rightful owner) will know you messed with it."
So CLUELESS!!! Well, once I see him pull out a ring box, John says my eyes got really big and sparkly and he asked me to marry him. It was magical.
Oh and I forgot to mention that it had been raining all morning and stopped just as we pulled up to park. It was April 18, a Saturday. Then, we did what most people do who just became engaged. We went to eat a philly cheese steak sandwich! Ha! And the funny thing....the guy sitting next to us at the bar of the deli turned to us and said, "I can tell you two are really in love." Isn't that crazy!?!?! We confessed that we had just gotten engaged. We did go out for a romantic dinner that night and then to NYC the next day. We met Julie (of all people!) at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. It was a great time there, mixed with some sadness, as we knew we would spend the majority of our engagement in different time zones.
But God was faithful and upheld us until our wedding day, January 11, 2003, just eleven months after John made that phone call to me from Philly.
John, you are the greatest gift outside of Jesus that the Lord has given me. And through you, the gift of our two sons. Thank you for changing your mind and calling me and loving me from that moment on.
I love you baby!