The following is a story of Justin and I. How we met. How we began.
I have thought to record it into a short story for some time now and finally got the chance to put it all down in sequence, complete with a few of my diary excerpts and precise dates.
I think it’s important to remember past stories, to re-tell past stories, and to appreciate past stories.
This story is one of the greatest stories of my life and one of my most favorites.
If you’d like to read it, please enjoy,
but if not, it’s alright,
I’ll re-read and re-tell it plenty of times for the both of us.
…I can’t speak for Justin, but since my first childhood crush, I had dreamed of the time I would be able to be in a real relationship. I didn’t ‘date’ through middle school, nor did I date through high school, so as my freshman year of college approached, I felt SURE it must be my time!! College was the best time of life to start dating; I had always thought of it that way! Of course God would allow me to be in a relationship, I had waited SO long!!
Needless to say my greatest goal for college was quite solidified in my mind. GET A BOYFRIEND.
First semester freshman year came and went without any guy adding up to who I thought would be the perfect one for me. I was frustrated and becoming a bit desperate. Desperate for a boyfriend, desperate to stop wanting a boyfriend, desperate for focus.
“I want so many things, so badly, and I can’t seem to find them. I want a boyfriend, but I can’t even handle a relationship with God, let alone a boy. I want to stop trying to find a boyfriend, I can’t have it weigh on my mind anymore…”
Second semester freshman year came and on the first day back at school someone caught my eye. He would have no idea how quickly I would attach myself to the idea of him being the one for me.
“That boy would be scared of me if he knew how much time he took up in my thoughts.”
Throughout the semester I pursued friendship with him with vehement intentionality. He became the greatest reason I was at school, every friendly gesture on his part towards me convinced me more and more that HE must be my soul mate.
“I’ve started judging everything by his response. I’ve become jealous of his time. I’ve become unimportant unless he’s in the room…and he has no idea”
Sounds a bit crazy? Just wait…
As the semester began to wane things took a turn for the ‘worse’. He began dating someone else. And not only did he start dating someone else, but I had become the third wheel at the start of their dating relationship. I felt tragically heartbroken. I had become so consumed with the thought that he and I would end up together that I had lost focus on everything else. My identity had been so fully found in what ‘might’ happen between us that once it was not an option any longer, I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I was angry.
I was heartbroken.
I was exhausted.
I had wanted a relationship for so long, why wasn’t God letting it happen.
Summer came and I went away to work at a photography company at the beach. I had walked away from my freshman year of college completely broken, frustrated with this guy who maybe never even knew what I was expecting from him, and so upset with myself for not being good enough for him. I targeted my criticism at my worth and began the summer with a lost identity and a crushed self esteem.
Throughout the Summer I fumed against myself, the guy, at God and at my situation. But I came away from that Summer rested, so amazingly healed, strong in Christ, and bold in my understanding of who I was and where my worth was to be found [in Christ].
“1 John 3:20 ‘for whenever our heart condemns, God is greater than our heart and He knows everything’
…I’m ready to go home.”
Sophomore year began.
I was still single, still had never dated, but my perspective and thought processes had changed.
I was no longer desperate and seeking for assurance of my worth. I was confident.
Near the end of the Summer I had learned that the guy had broken up with his girlfriend. I took the information in stride and didn’t pursue a friendship right away once we returned to school; I wanted to see if he even wanted that again.
He did, so we hung out again, and again, and again, and again.
As time passed I grew conflicted. I wrestled with my emotions and the desire to be in a relationship again. The possibility of ‘us’ seemed so obvious, how could it not be right?
A month or two into the semester I went away with my best friend back to her hometown for a birthday celebration weekend. While we were there I decided that once we got back, I would approach him and ask him directly what his intentions were. I had hoped, by that point, he would have come to me and told me his intentions, as I felt I was being nothing but obvious in my attempts to show him how I felt, whether he was interested in dating or just wanting to be friends, but he hadn’t and I was tired of guessing, tired of assuming, tired of wondering.
While away for the weekend my best friend showed me this video::
It completely changed my understanding of myself, him and our ‘situation’ and I know that God used it to begin to whisper into my heart the fact that he and I weren’t meant for each other and that my focus was still too much on the wrong things. The first night back I confronted him and asked him if he was/or would ever be interested in dating.
He said no. And I walked away from our conversation with the most amazing sense of peace.
I had never felt such an immense sense of almost tangible relief. Maybe it was the healing from the past Summer, maybe it was the influence of the video, maybe it was the mere fact of saying out loud to him what I had hoped for us to be, whatever it was, I walked away from that moment completely convinced that it was never meant to happen. And it was so much better this way.
I felt free, free from every expectation I had put on him, free from every hurt that I felt he had caused me, free from every emotional connection, free.
Now I know what you’re thinking, I thought this was a story about how I met Justin?
And you’d be right, because the previous was important back story but now my friends, is when it starts to get REAL good!!
Less than 2 hours, I kid you not, after I confronted my Freshman year fellow and walked completely away from the possibly of ‘us’ ever happening, with a sure sense of resolve and rest, my brother brought Justin over to my family’s apartment for the very first time.
We had our first conversation; it was easy and without pressure, and when he walked away, I remembered him.
Now at this point I was thinking, “Are you kidding me?? I get one guy out of my head and now another one to replace him in the SAME DAY? WHAT is wrong with me??”
So I gave it time. I didn’t force anything. I didn’t want a rebound guy, just someone else to focus my attentions on, but something was different. My thoughts about him were different. I wasn’t consumed, I wasn’t anxious. I was happy and willing to just be friends, because he was worth that.
On October 7th 2011 we hung out with the same group of people for the first time. We sat at the capitol building downtown, listened to music, talked with friends and each other, bought snacks with the group and he got me a flyer for a ballet performance of Swan Lake with a suggestion that a group of people should go.
I came home and wrote in my journal- “Justin J. H….. That is all.”– oh…and I kept the flyer. : )
At this point I was really growing in my Christianity and my understanding of relationships. I truly began to discover how Christ could be my everything.
“I do not want a relationship right now. I mean it. For the 1st time. I mean it. I am excited to learn more about Christ. He who satisfies my every desire. It just shocks me how much Christ does for me. In Him is found such contentment and peace.”
Some time passed and I continued to learn more about myself. I was gaining clarity by the day and loving every moment of it! Autumn came in full swing and my heart was glad with the coolness of the air and the joy I was experiencing.
“This Fall does change me. The fire of the leaves builds a fire in my heart. The color of the light sheds a new shade on my perspective. The briskness in the air wakes up my sleepy mind.”
I must admit, that with all the learning and the joy, also remained the desire for a future relationship. I wasn’t seeking one right away for the first time in a while, but my inner most heart still hoped strongly for the day it could happen. My perspectives was different, but my desire remained, quietly now, settled.
As I continued to see Justin at different points through the weeks, my inclination towards being around him and talking with him grew. I struggled with making sure I wasn’t making the same mistakes twice, I didn’t want to emotionally attach myself to someone else who did not return the feelings. I was wary, but still yearning for his friendship.
Then on October 28th 2011 I walked to campus from my family’s apartment to an outside dinner event. It was about an hour into that evening, after I had seen Justin with some of his friends that I felt the need to ‘let him go’.
“I shouldn’t be attaching my feelings to him, I already made that mistake once. And it failed and hurt. I don’t want to make that mistake again. I can’t do that again. I will wait, because when ‘he’ comes, he will want me, just as much as I want him. It will be mutual. I long for that. It hurts too much when it is not…I need to let Justin go and not expect him to like me. I need to let him go.
So I will try.”
Throughout the night I continued to wonder if I should just go back home, but I stayed, I’m not sure why, I had countless opportunities to leave the dinner, but I stayed. And then, at the end of it, as I lingered, talking with a friend Rebekah T. and my brother, Andrew, Justin came over to join the conversation. It was the first time I would talk directly to him all night.
And so began the night that Justin and I would genuinely become friends.
We all talked for over an hour in the cafeteria, and then continued the conversation as we walked towards Justin’s dorm, the 4 of us, along with others, then sat in the hallway of the dorm for over another hour, laughing and having a stupendous time!
I was thrilled! I had never been so comfortable with a guy before, never had so much fun, never felt so accepted, and so worth it. If nothing else, Justin was turning out to possibly be an amazing friend.
Eventually Rebekah T. and Andrew had to go, I could have gone home at that point, but I stayed. And there I sat beside Justin looking at pictures of baby animals online and recording facebook videos, the perfect recipe for a grand time. The activities of the evening continued on with a trek to the campus gym to watch some indoor soccer and then to a football game occurring at the high school nearby.
By the time we left the football game the group had dissipated, leaving Justin and I alone. As we were walking back he asked what we should do now, so I suggested a walk. And that we did. We lapped campus over 2 times and walked to the gazebo on the hill beside campus, fondly known as the Pointe. We talked the entire time about music, family history, and dreams. No pressure. No judgment. Just ease and acceptance.
I went home that night on cloud nine and so at peace with our situation. The irony of the night as a whole in comparison to what I had decided so confidently to do at the start of the evening made my heart wonder at what God could be doing in our situation and also solidified in my mind that it wasn’t me orchestrating this friendship, but that God was certainly in control.
This is the point when things start to happen quickly! Try to keep up. ; )
An important back story to this is that by this point Justin had become best friends with my brother Johnny and my best friend had also just begun dating Johnny as well, leading us to form a foursome friendship by default and begin to adventure all together many times a week!
There were Sunday evenings of after church fellowship (October 30th), observatory and downtown explorations (October 31st), picnics and park visits (November 2nd 2011), state museum trips, and more!
At some point during each adventure, we would end up breaking apart into groups of two. It was those times, those laps around the park, those exploring trips downtown, those walks through the museum, with just Justin and I, that began to solidify a possible future for us beyond friendship.
On November 3rd 2011, Justin sang in a choir concert at our school. I had a night class the same night. The class had three 5 minute breaks throughout it and, without fail, each and every break I ran barefoot across campus to sneak a listen in to the concert and stand in the back to catch a glimpse of Justin (not too difficult since he stands 6 foot 10 inches tall!). When my class ended I rushed back to the auditorium to try to see him one more time. The concert had finished, but he was one of the few people still lingering. I was so glad. We only talked for a short time. But it was enough.
I look back on those weeks when we began to spend more time together and remember being so happy, so excited, and having such an amazing time seeing what God was doing. I was finally experiencing what it meant to have God take control and instead of trying to plan every step out on my own, just follow His leading and rejoice in the results. I knew I liked Justin, sincerely and without a trace of the petty juvenile extremes that had plagued me in the past and I was so enjoying the new adventure, and as far as I could tell, so was he.
On November 5th 2011 I prayed ::
In you alone do I put my future hope, I am in need of focusing on you fully, please work in the situation Justin and I are in and allow it to play out the way you plan it to. Strengthen me in you and pull Justin to your heart and help him seek you and then please burden his heart to come talk to me about his intentions, whether positive or negative, God help me not depend on his feelings toward me, but depend on you.”
The day after, November 6th 2011, Justin and I had arrived back on campus after church (which met at night), we decided to walk a bit, so we strolled around the on campus apartments a few times, talking about this and that, but something was different. Justin was so quiet, and a bit distant. I grew worried, and thought “either he is really tired or just really tired of being with me…”. We eventually rested on a swing in the apartment courtyard, and sat together, in silence.
And then, Justin looked up and said, “I will ask you a question now?”
I nodded, and my heart began to pound in my chest, so many hopes rested on what he would or would not say in that moment.
He continued, saying that he thought “we were a very good situation” and that he wondered how I felt.
I replied that I did indeed feel that we were, as he said, a very good situation!
And then there was that moment, when everything is known, and there aren’t secret feelings anymore, but all truths have been told and you just know with each other. It was sensational.
Neither of us had ever dated before, so we shared the feeling of not really knowing what we should do next. We walked to the high school football field at 11pm and sat on the roof of the concession stand telling stories from the past weeks about how our feelings for each other had grown, bringing two sides of the story together to make a whole.
“ …then we walked and sat on the roof of the concession stand…and there we swapped stories about how we felt about each other all along…it was so different than anything I have ever experienced before! I like him so much. My entire insides are just flying around because I am so happy!! I will never forget this night on top of the concession stand. It was perfect.”
And thus began the most beautiful adventure of a life time that lead to dating, engagement and now our marriage.
Justin was my first everything. And I feel to my core, that our story was fully orchestrated by God, that I can see His blessing and that it was Him who allowed the pieces of our lives to come together in that time to now move forever onward as one.