The pilot just turned off the “fasten seat belt” sign and the attendants are moving around getting ready for food/drink service. I think tonight is microwaved hot dog night :). The flight is not too full so I have all three connected seats in my row all to myself. My usual aisle preference (good for stretching your legs into the aisle) is trumped tonight by the breathtaking view out this window. A few thousand feet below us, the clouds are thick like an ocean of bleached white cotton balls. I really haven’t sat and figured it out, but I bet we can see for thousands of miles. At the end of that view, the horizon is boldly colored with fierce orange and pink hues that fade upwardly into the blue and eventually dark of night.
I’m sitting here grinning like a school boy on Christmas Eve. See, it was only 6 weeks ago, yesterday, that nearly this exact same scene played out as I flew from Newark to San Diego for work (today it’s Newark to LA). The sun was setting and I uncannily also had a window seat to watch the marvelous colors over the bed of clouds. It was on that flight that I knew for the first time, exactly when Kristin and I were going to get married (Part 2 below). I can’t wait to share that story with you, but before I do, I’d like to take you back to just before she and I began dating.
How we knew we’d get married…before we even started dating
I mentioned here a while back that I hoped to get lunch with you and share with you the amazing story that God is writing. Well, that hasn’t worked out for various reason (mostly because there are a few thousand of you regulars and just one of me – *smirk*)…so I’m getting the courage to actually share the details with you all. These are intimate details of our lives that we hold in high regard. So as much as is possible, please treat them that way.
It was just short of 11 months after Misty died that I first realized I was going to be able to love again. I found myself looking around every corner wondering if this or that attractive girl was someone I should date. I wasn’t sure what to make of these feelings, but before long God spoke to me very clearly and directly. I remember it like yesterday. I was in Richardson TX for work and visiting a church service with a friend of mine from there. The speaker for the evening was the wife of the Pastor. I sat there for over an hour while she delivered one of the most riveting/knowledgeable/biblical sermons I have ever heard in my life. About half way through I felt like God slapped me in the face with a bit of truth I had been missing. It was like He firmly reminded me that I needed to consider who would be perfect for me and for Olivia. And someone that we would be perfect for as well. So it was there, on that trip that I decided to make a list of priorities and committed to pray until God brought the right person into our lives.
My list included some obvious criteria like “she needs to be called to serving in a church” and “she needs to be sold on living in NJ”. It also had some difficult ones like “she has to be strong enough to talk about Misty to Olivia or sit through dinners or events where I speak about her” and “Olivia has to immediately take to her…in a way that is way beyond normal or average”. I had an off the wall request as well…I asked God to bring someone into my life who wasn’t around for the last couple years with Misty…someone from out of town who hadn’t stepped foot in the local churches while they were all praying for Misty. See, I didn’t want anyone who had any preconceived ideas or any thoughts about my being a good husband or anything. I didn’t want to start with anything like that…I just wanted to get to know someone and bring them into that part of my life gradually. I wasn’t looking for someone who might just want to be with me because they knew I’d stick it out to the end with them. Now this was a particularly sticky request seeing that I just asked for someone who was sold out to live in the area. And lastly, I knew that I wanted to be with someone who had an equally traumatic experience in life. I wanted to be able to relate on the most intimate emotional levels and I felt that I had to be with someone who kinda understood where I had been. I know this seems like a crazy list of things, but this is honestly what came into my mind that week as I sought for the things I needed to pray about finding in a person. If you don’t believe me, talk to Dr. Librizzi, my counselor…I let him in on all this pretty early (I’m obviously joking…he won’t talk to you about me, but I really did make this list!).
So I’m praying for these things and one night not too long after, the words just jump off the page to me. It had been right in front of my face all along and I didn’t even see it. My list was Kristin. She had moved back to NJ from CA just weeks after Misty’s memorial service. She wasn’t around for any of it. But she came back because she had a burning desire to be back in NJ near her family. After she was back, she felt compelled to step up and take a leadership role in her church. She was leading a woman’s group and so clearly impacting people in incredible ways. If you were to talk to the girls in her group, none of them would question her gift and calling to ministry. On top of that, Kristin had basically lost her mom at the age of 8 and grew up wishing she knew her mom better. I mentioned this on here before (divine appointment), but when she met Olivia she had a deep desire to help her in some way. After all, Kristin had been there. Also, the first time Olivia met Kristin she asked me to go ride in her car with her (never before had that happened with anyone) and then the next week when seeing her at a public get-together she ran past all the girls she knew much better (including her aunt) and ran to Kristin. This was after meeting her once. Check in that box :) I think I have made my point.
So one night as Olivia and I picked her up and made a Starbucks run after she got home from work (she was a day shift nurse then), we sat in the car as Olivia dozed off and we began to talk about “us” for the first time. I told her that she was exactly the person that I wanted to be with, but there was one problem. I wasn’t really able to “see” her in that light. She was like a sister…not a girlfriend. Her response to me will go down in my all time favorite quotes list. She said: “I feel like God has been telling me I’m going to marry you, but..well…I’m not really always attracted to you either”. We burst out in laughter; probably more from discomfort than amusement. We looked away and sheepishly back at each other not knowing what to say. Finally I weighed in: “OK, this is kinda crazy, I’m going to take a week and fast and pray about this. We’ll talk later.” With that, I began fasting and praying. I took a personal retreat to the White Mountains and it was there that I can say I really felt like I talked with God. Now, I’m not one of those “super-Christians” who will tell you that God told them to look under the seat at Chucky Cheese and they find a $100 bill or anything. In fact, I try to reserve the “God told me” thing as much as possible. But really, I can’t get away from it here. So many times throughout this whole process I have felt like God has really and clearly spoken to me. So there I am, at the end of my hike about to turn around and head back. I’m standing on top of Little Haystack Mountain after coming over the incredibly picturesque Franconia Ridge and there I fall to my knees in tears. Images of my friendship with Kristin pass through my mind as if showing me pieces of the puzzle that I had missed; pieces showing me how the whole thing just fit together in a way I couldn’t have dreamt up. As I kneel there I feel an overwhelming peace and a sense that God is telling me that this whole thing, my friendship and soon-to-be relationship with Kristin, was His doing. Of course over the course of the next month Kristin and I quickly became very attracted to each other. It was as if, once the walls were down, the feelings grew very quickly. Today we are amazed we were “just friends” for so long! We actually met back in February and began just talking about ministry. Soon I was helping her move into her house and hanging out every week. By May, we talked multiple times a week and our friends will tell you that I spoke of her as if I respected her more than anyone I knew. She spoke the same way of me. See, God allowed us to be “just friends” for months so that when he spoke to us about being together, we had a 100% confidence that we knew the other person’s character…and a 100% confidence that it was a character we wanted to be with. I have such an appreciation for the 6 months of friendship we had that was not in any way tainted by infatuation. So, the last week of September brought the beginning of our dating relationship and like I said, before we began we basically knew where we were going.
But here I am today, on another trans-continental flight watching the sun set. Well, by now the sun is down and the only lights are that of a few small cities within view; cities that faintly glow just below the vanished horizon. But I’m remembering a few weeks back when the date of our impending wedding became remarkably clear. Now, I’d like to share that story.
How we knew when we were getting married before we were even engaged
Like I said, we had begun the relationship knowing we were going to get married. I tried to take a step back and be slow for the sake of “caution”, but the writing on the wall was too clear. After a few months of dating we approached our counselor about how to know when to get married. We knew that our relationship was, in many ways, on display…so we wanted to set a good example. He first stressed the value of good decision making processes (I’ll write about this soon) but shortly after that he made a bold statement to us that has drastically impacted us. He said: “I have a feeling that God is going to give you a symbol or a sign from the Bible that will clearly show you when to get married”. I’m thinking: “whew, ok buddy…that’s a little weird, but we’ll give it a try…” And so we did. We fasted and prayed for a week and came together to discuss. Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel like I had any “revelations” so I asked Kristin to take another week. She had felt a great peace about a certain month, but I asked her to keep that quiet until we really prayed more about it.
The next day, I was on a flight to San Diego in a scene much like what I experienced just over an hour ago. I opened my Bible and began to read the book of Ruth. Within minutes, tears are streaming from my eyes and I’m hiding my face from the man seated two seats over from me. I bury my face in my Bible and read the story through a few times back to back. See, this story (which by the way is recognized in secular institutions as the “Mona Lisa” of short romance stories) is about someone who lost their spouse…and after grieving that loss, God revealed a new plan. God divinely arranged a new marriage and put all the pieces together. The new couple strove to honor God in their relationship and he blessed them by allowing them a place in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ. WHOA…wait a minute. There’s a story
in the Bible about God not only allowing remarriage, but showing it as clearly arranged and willed by Him. I was blown away by this, but it didn’t stop there. Every few verses I’d find the words jumping off the page. The descriptions of Ruth were exactly the way I’d describe Kristin. And the descriptions of Boaz…well, he was totally the man that I’d want to be and had some characteristics that I feel I’ve worked hard on. If you ever see me with my MacArthur study Bible, ask me to flip through the book of Ruth. I scribbled in ink all through it, coloring each page with notes and revelations. The book is full of comments to remind myself of how I felt when I first read it….to remind myself that for the first time in so long, I felt like God was ordering my steps again. For the first time in way too long, I didn’t have to doubt myself in saying that God really does want what’s best for me and Olivia.
As I read Ruth I knew that somehow this story was what I was looking for. I felt like God was holding my heart closely and painting a picture for me; a picture of him knowing the ways of my life well before I ever walk them. A sense that even in the writing of the Bible, there He was penning a story that I would someday feel was my own. A little research on the book and I find out that every year, on the day of Pentecost, the book of Ruth is read and honored around the world. That was it; the symbol our counselor had told us to wait for. I had no idea when the day of Pentecost was, but I knew there was going to be a wedding on it. When my flight landed in San Diego I pulled out my phone and quickly searched the internet for the date: May 23, 2010. When I got back home I visited Kristin and told her the story and as I told her the date her face lit up. I remember the adorable smirk on her as she nodded and spoke: “Yeah…May was my month. May was totally the only month I really had a peace about”. That’s it…we’re getting married in May. It was remarkable because before that very conversation we had been tossing around dates like October, or maybe as early as August. Never did we think May. But alas, none of these things were really our ideas.
So last Wednesday when I proposed on a flight to Las Vegas…the reason I proposed on a plane wasn’t for shock value (though, we all know I don’t mind that). The reason was because it was there, on a 757 operated by Continental Airlines and traveling from the east coast to the west coast…it was there that God spoke to me about exactly when to get married. So I found it a fitting place for me to eventually give her the ring :)