Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Our Story (the Long, extended, uncut version)

When Matt and I were dating, engaged and newly married (less than 1 year), it seems that we had MANY opportunities to share our story.

How did you start dating?

How long have you known each other? 

How long were you engaged? 

Where did you meet? 

Etc, etc, etc

However, last night when I was talking with someone at a church event and mine and Matt's story came up, I realized it had been a long time since I shared it and I had missed it. So, I want to share. It's a long story and if you can chose to not read, I won't be offended. This is for me. If you do chose to read, enjoy and know, we didn't write this story, GOD DID.

Quick side note, this story will be written from my perspective which for the most part is our perspective except for the early years because we didn't know each other then. :)

As a young girl, I grew up as a friend to all. I like boys, sure, but I didn't have a huge interest in dating which was often mysterious to me. When I was a senior in high school, I began to get involved in a small group where I would babysit the children for the parents to enjoy fellowship. During this time, I learned a lot about God's plan for my life and he burdened my heart for a few things during that time.

1. No kissing until you are married (I know crazy right?! I originally thought so but NOW I know it was the best step. 
2. Marry your friend.--I knew at this time that I had NO desire to marry anyone that wasn't my friend first. 
3. No dating until you are ready to marry.--This was easier because I had not dated up to this point so I didn't know any different. 

It was also during this time that I feel the Lord put this in my heart and I often reminded him of this "Lord, don't send him to me until I'm completely content in you because I know myself and if you do send him too early, I may abandon my commitment and devotion to you for my earthly love" 
Sounds crazy, but I'm a passionate person and I knew my heart needed to be in the right place and of course, I knew the Lord already knew that too!

I went through college and most of graduate school with little to no prospects for dating which became extremely difficult at times but I always reminded myself of his plan and reality, my deepest desire. This was also a time for me to share with any women and girls I encountered about the story God was writing. Boy, did I get some crazy looks at times?!

You have NEVER kissed anyone?!?
You aren't going to kiss until you get married?!? That's impossible. 
You've never dated anyone?
The Lord told you WHAT!?!?

And the occasional... 

That's so cool. 
What a blessing. 
Man, my story has been so torn up. I wish I could say the same as  you. 
God is so good. 

(Side note: When I started replaying our story in our head, I realized that the part of the story before Matt is pretty long BUT I don't want this to be several blog posts because that's just not my style so I'll keep pressing on)

When I was in graduate school for Speech Language Pathology, I had the opportunity to choose my internship location anywhere within 5-6 hours of where I was. I opted for Birmingham, Alabama OR Jackson, Mississippi. I ended up with Birmingham even though I was resistant (and that's a whole 'nother story) and I was there for 7 months. 

When I went to Birmingham, I didn't know what to expect but the shortened version is this. Moved on a Friday, went to Church of the Highlands on a Sunday, met an amazing group of Young Professionals, had my life changed, moved from there after 7 months and was a completely different person. BOOM!

Looking back, I realize that Birmingham was the obvious choice because when I began looking for jobs, I received one near Montgomery, Alabama that I never would have considered had I been in Jackson, Mississippi or most other places. 

In January of 2009, I moved to Montgomery, Alabama to begin my first big girl job. You know the one, the one that you look forward to your whole life, the one that actually pays bills not just helps you buy new shoes, the one that begins to fulfill your career calling in life, yeah, that ONE.  I lived with family for a few months and went back and forth to Birmingham often until I got settled in Montgomery in April of 2009. Through a friend and a round about way, I ended up at Gateway Baptist Church on April 5th, 2009. Two weeks later I attended a Sunday school class there where Matt and I first met.

During the time between April 19th and January 10th, Matt and I became great friends. We attended church together, went to Sunday School together, hung out with the same friends, spent time together watching movies etc. Somewhere in that time, I began to develop feelings for him but wasn't exactly sure what to do about it. At some point that summer, he texted me and asked me to pray for him as he was dealing with feelings for another girl and didn't know what to do, etc. I was super glad to pray for him because he was a friend but my feelings were crushed!

During this time, I also fasted for 2 months from any time alone with guys which was hard because Matt and I had been spending time together just the two of us intermittently. Come to find out, this is one of the things that he liked about me.

We began attending a the same small group and became better friends and then we went to Passion 2010 together. And by together, I mean that we both went. At Passion, there was a text message conversation that went something like this.

(I'm sitting with the girls I went to Passion with and Matt and his group are behind us but I didn't know that)
Matt: Hello, beautiful friend. 
Leslie: You can't do that to my heart. I know you are being sweet but it's hard for me to guard my heart when you say things like that. 
Matt: I want to talk to you when we get back from Passion.
Leslie: Okay. (Holy moly, you mean I have to wait up to 7 more days to know what you have to say to me. Are you kidding!?!) (By the way, he now knows that doesn't work!!!)

On January 10th, I began a 21 day fast with my main prayer focus being "Lord, give me clarity on my relationship with Matt. Help me know if I should wait for him to pursue me or if I should just accept the friendship for what it is". Approximately 3 hours after I begin this fast, Matt calls me and tells me that he has sought the Lord and wanted to pursue a relationship/courtship with me.

HOLY COW. Quick answer God. I appreciate it! Please note that I continued with my fast and during that time, Matt and I spent time together but our first date was the day my fast ended. 

When Matt and I began our courtship, our goal was marriage. We didn't know 100% that we wanted to marry each other on that 1st day but if it had not been a serious consideration, we would have never begun courting.

It should also be said that one of the most awesome things about our courtship was that we already knew so much about each other because we had spent so much time together although mostly in a group setting. That helped our relationship so much. It was also another answered prayer for me, as I had always prayed that I would marry my best friend.

About 1 month into our courtship, we began to read a book titled "101 Questions to answer before you get Engaged". This was a tremendous blessing for us. It brought up a LOT of hard questions that we sometimes did not want to answer but it helped us learn to communicate better and helped get those hard questions out of the way.

Matt and I courted for 6 months including a 1 week fast where we did not communicate with each other at all. This was hard but it was a calling God placed on our lives and we knew it was from Him. At the end of that fast, we had so much more clarity for our relationship.

Side note #10925: We chose not to say "I love you" until we were engaged. It was HARD and trust me, we wanted to but we knew that above all else, we needed to guard our hearts and our minds and this helped us do that.

On July 10th, 2010, Matt planned an all day date including the Farmer's Market, homemade breakfast, Despicable Me, nap time and a trip to Shakespeare to feed the geese. I was anxious all day because I like to know what's going on and Matt wasn't budging to tell me!!!!

When we arrived at Shakespeare, there were no geese and I kept saying, "There are no geese. There are no geese". Matt said "It's okay. This spot is perfect." He turned around and got on one knee and said "Leslie, I really do love you and I want you to be my wife." I freaked and of course said yes and then the best part happened. He pulled out a Fiestaware red pitcher (my fave dishware) and washed my feet. Such a blessing. It was in that moment, I knew even more certainly that I'd keep him forever.

The months between that day and our wedding day on January 1, 2011 flew by. We looked forward to our day to be together forever and we reveled in all God had given us.

21 months from that day and 3 1/2 years of knowing each other and we are still amazed by the story God is writing. We know that God will continue to use our story to teach others things about himself.

P.S. I hoped to include some of the things God has burdened our hearts with to help keep our marriage strong but it didn't fit here so maybe I'll do that another day.

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful story. I'm so glad you shared it! I'm googling that book :)