It will happen when you least expect it. That's what they told me. You know those people who had found love and seemed to have forgotten what life was like when they were single. Sometimes I couldn't help but taste vomit in the back of my throat when their eyes glazed over and their cheeks looked like they had been pinched too hard.
And sure, I'd force a smile and nod politely. What I expected was that the man I would fall in love with would be my best friend, someone I had a friendship before a romantic relationship. I had always thought that would be the case - with my personality and my type of ideal relationship. My heart had been disappointed, and it was a season where God reminded me to wait on Him for what (and who) He had in store for my life.
Little did I realize how true the above statement was for me.
But that's getting ahead of the story...
It was my first year out of college. I had graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in May 2006 and decided to stay in the city. Four other girlfriends and I rent an apartment together and had dreams of finding jobs and living out the Christian girl version of Friends.
One of the unlikely turns to my story is landing a job at the very college I had graduated from. Now Moody is a fabulous college but like many college students, once you've graduated, you plan to never return to your alma mater until maybe your 25 year reunion, maybe 10 years if you're pushing it.
~ engagement picture of where we met ~But it was a good job (assistant to one of the Associate Deans) that I couldn't turn down. And the rent and utility bills were adding up and you need money for that. Playing house and pretending you live a life of a celebrity (all play and no work) can only last for so long.
So I was just in my second month of the job, busy learning the ropes and familiarizing myself with new job, when the most good looking man I had ever seen knocked on my office door.
Now know this about me: I have a type. I didn't always date my type in the past but I had a type. Tall. Dark hair and dark eyes. Baby face. No facial hair. (If he had facial hair, it eventually would have to go.) Amazing smile and teeth. Being the daughter of a man in the dental field, my man would hafta have good teeth. Duh.
And this hunk of a man fit my type exactly. To the T, people.
You might as well have blown a blast of wind through his hair and insert a sparkle on his smile and heart shaped cartoon drawings around my head.
Maybe not really but you could have 'cause I couldn't stop thinking, How cute are you?
But being the professional that I was, I asked him if there was anything I could help him with?
"Hello, yes! Do you know how I can connect to the wifi up here?" My office was directly across from the campus coffee shop. I went ahead and helped him out of course but even after he left the office, I couldn't stop thinking about him. I totally did the whole pep-talk of trying to get myself to stop thinking about him. I recently got out of a relationship and the last thing I needed was more boy-drama in my life.
And believe it or not, the pep-talk worked.
Though I didn't think much about him after that, when he did come into the conversation for some random reason, my sister and I called him "the cute grad student." We didn't know his name and neither of us saw him around on campus much. If we did cross paths, it was a mere exchange of hellos. I knew from our first meeting that he lived off campus, which explains why he wasn't around as often as the other students.
The next time we crossed paths was at my birthday party. It was a joint birthday party with my friend, Josh, and "the cute grad student" happened to be among Josh's invited friends. We all sat around a long table that fit about 30 or so people - and "the cute grad student" happened to be sitting right next to me.
I did find out that his name was Ryan and that he was extremely talkative. He asked me a lot of questions about me but with the atmosphere of the party and so many people talking to me and each other all at once didn't make it the most conducive place to have a get-to-know you conversation.
After the party, a smaller group of friends wanted to make a McDonald's run and then hang out at my apartment. I asked Ryan if he wanted to join us but he said he had an early morning so he needed to head home to bed. I couldn't help but feel disappointed - first because I was worried that he thought I was ignoring him at the party and second, I was hoping to have another chance to talk to him more in a smaller group setting.
Fast forward to three months later, January. By this point, I didn't see anything happening between me and Ryan. Our paths weren't crossing at all, plus life was busy and I found myself more involved with work, friends and city life.
However, somebody asked me if I was interested in anybody and I told her that there was nobody but surprised myself when Ryan's face came to mind.
Saturday mornings in Chicago were my favorite. They were the only times during the week where I could escape to a nearby Starbucks (one on nearly every block of the city) and spend some time alone. It was how I recharged. One morning on my walk back to the apartment, I passed by yet another Starbucks at the exact moment that Ryan stepped out of it.
We were both surprised, exchanging nervous laughs and light conversation. What were you up to? Or just studying, you know. It's a beautiful morning. Isn't it? I love Chicago in the morning.
And then he said, "Well, I was about to grab some lunch. Would you like to join me?"
Dry mouth. Flustered speech. Ears burning. Squelching a squeal. With all that I managed a super cool, "Yeah, sounds great."
We made our way towards Chipotle (which in my nervousness, I walked in the completely opposite direction for about 10 minutes and then had to do a 180), finally being able to have a full on conversation without interruptions.
Again in my nervousness and excitement, I forgot I was supposed to meet a couple friends. My cell phone was vibrating like crazy in my coat pocket. I finally picked up the call and told my friends that I would be there in 5 minutes (everything is in walking distance to a Chicagoan).
And wait for it (I AM THE WORST) I left Ryan at Chipotle. He said he totally understood. I told him that I'd love to do this again sometime. I took my half full burrito bowl in a to-go bad, thanked him and....I'M THE WORST...left. WHY?! Who knows? I should have just told my friends to go on without me but it was one of those moments where I didn't know what to do. Slap me on the forehead.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. Yes, I was ranting that to myself the whole way back.
The weekend went by and I was still feeling like a complete idiot. He probably thought I was too cheap to buy my own lunch so I went out with him for a paid Chipotle lunch. He probably thought I wasn't interested. But I was! I was interested and I just blew the whole thing up in my face because I could not think clearly and rationally.
But thank God for second chances.
As I was typing away on my computer on the following Monday afternoon, I heard a knock at my office door and yes, you can say this was a wind-through-my-hair-moment. And through his hair because it was Ryan! It was the end of the day and he was on his way home but he wanted to stop by to say hi.
And then the moment that proved I wasn't a complete idiot - the moment where I guess he did see something in this flustered mess of a girl: he asked for my number and if he could take me out to dinner that weekend.
Um, heck yes.
And you know me and my trying to be smooth. Except for a brain-fart moment where I stared at his phone for a nano-second too long and couldn't remember my own phone number and said something like, Ha! I never call myself so who remembers their own phone numbers!, I told him that I looked forward to it.
That Friday night, Ryan took me to The Melting Pot where we ended up talking over three courses of mouth-watering fondue for literally hours to the point where the waiters started clapping when we stood up to go. The same thing happened in the second, third, fourth and the many other dates that followed. Time evaporated when we were together, talking and laughing and eating.
~ at his Christmas graduate school banquet. look at his hair (oh lalala!). look at my hair (meh). ~
~ taste of chicago 2010. experiencing Chicago together is one of our all time favorite memory!~And through of that, I knew there was something about Ryan. We were so similar in so many ways, yet so different. He made me more nervous, more crazy and more liberated. He made me yearn to know Christ and His word more. We shared a mutual interest in movies and football and food. And deep down, what scared me the most was that I knew that I was going to marry this man.
Four years of dating brought it's ups and downs, lots of learning and growing for both of us. It might have even included a month long break-up but it was the time apart we needed to realize that we really did need each other after all.
~ evening before our engagement ~
And little did I know that around the same time the following day, Ryan would be on his knee with the most beautiful engagement ring, asking me to spend the rest of my life with him (you can read our engagement story HERE).
A two year engagement followed. Ryan moved back home to Georgia, and me to South Carolina, to be with our families. It was not how we had planned it but some unforeseen circumstances left us from being able to move forward. Again, it was yet another season of stretching and earnestly praying for each other - and as difficult as it was to be apart, I would not change any part of it. It was through that waiting season that God ironically drew us closer together in our relationship despite the long distance. We savored the times we visited each other and learned to communicate over the phone or skype or email (you know how hard it is to communicate in person with your significant other? try it without facial expressions and tones. possible but not easiest.)
~ lots of traveling back and forth from GA to SC or meeting up in the middle at McDonald's and Panda Expresses on I-95~
As you can probably tell by the picture above, we definitely got their support! Ryan and I had the dream wedding we wanted - on a beach in Maui at sunset, just the two of us on December 17, 2012. And to be honest, our time in Hawaii was more than I even expected and felt like the entire time was an absolute dream come true. (click HERE and HERE for more pictures and details about our elopement!) We also celebrated with our family and close friends at a reception in August 2013 which was a complete party and half!