Wednesday, May 13, 2015
For Those Inquiring Minds...
Our story begins before we even talked to one another. When the Biltmore Baptist Church East Campus (now Swannanoa Campus) launched in January of 2012, Brian and I were both there. I was in attendance with my then-husband, Cecely and Titus. Brian and his daughter Hannah were in attendance as well. Brian helped with the opening of the campus, and Hannah attended the AMP service. She and Cecely met in AMP and became fast friends. After East Campus “settled” Brian and Hannah returned to the Arden Campus.
Fast-forward a year to January 11, 2013. That is the day my former husband asked for a divorce. I was distraught, heartbroken, confused and hurt. Brian and I had become Facebook friends through our common thread of Biltmore Baptist. Brian and my husband were actually in a men’s group together. Still, I had never met or spoken with Brian. A couple of days after Brian’s birthday in 2013, I was sitting alone at the dining room table. I was on my computer and I had 2 windows open: Facebook and Southwest Airlines. I was so hurt. I was convinced God had forgotten me. I was certain I wouldn’t survive. I had already talked to my Mama about taking care of my kids for me for a week, and I was ready to run away. I had put in all of my information on the Southwest website. All that was left to do was to hit submit. I am not exaggerating when I say that my finger was poised on the keyboard when a post from Brian appeared on my Facebook feed. “Drove around a lot last night thinking about everything leading up to now in my life - some things have been great, some things have been horrible. But at the end of the day, all I can focus on is how many great things that God has blessed me with, and the things that were bad, are in my past for a reason, so I think I'll just leave them there - where they belong.” I knew from previous posts from Brian that he was divorced and that he had 2 beautiful daughters. I had read posts about how hard it was on him when he was away from them. But, until that moment, I had not processed what that must have felt like. I read and re-read his post. I determined that I had to meet him. I had to know how he wasn’t angry and bitter and how he was still able to give God the glory in the midst of a life interrupted. I have told Brian more than once that his post is what saved me from hopping on a plane to horrible choices. Brian says he has to give God the credit, and I agree. God sees what we don’t, and He knew that I would see that post and it would tug on my heart.
If you know me at all you know that I am friendly, but I am not forward. I am also a stringent follower of the rules. I didn’t know what was happening in my world, and I was hoping and praying for restoration. I did know that I had to meet Brian and find out the secret of his joy. I contacted Brian via Facebook which was completely out of character for me. At this time, Brian knew nothing of what was going on in my world, and all he knew was the wife of a guy he was in a small group with was contacting him. At this point, I was working for BBC East (Swannanoa) in a 10-hour position. In an act to protect me and give me a break, my supervisors had me spend a month at the Arden campus shadowing the kids ministry. I had never attended the Arden campus save for special events. Brian asked me to meet him at the coffee counter on the Sunday after I contacted him. He is a wise man, and I saw that from the get-go. He was protecting his reputation and mine. When I introduced myself to him, I asked, “how do you do it? How are you not angry and bitter and ready to explode?”. I told him what had happened, and he was “floored”. He told me that what had gotten him through was realizing that God was bigger than his problems. Consequently, he sent me a link to his video interview where he had shared a portion of his story for a sermon series. As he spoke in that interview, I felt such relief. Brian had been exactly where I was standing, and he had made it! Recently, I told Brian I used to listen to his interview every night when I was trying to go to sleep. I would chant the last words he spoke over and over in my mind and heart: “God never fails. He never gives up on you. God fights for you.” (Brian's Video Testimony)
After meeting Brian, he encouraged me to participate in an online Bible study that he was facilitating. On Tuesday nights, my former husband would come to our old house and play with the kids while I sat holed up in my bedroom. It was torture to hear my family laughing without me. I would put in my earbuds and engage in the Bible study. What a help that was! The study was on the book of Philippians, and it is where Brian and I discovered we both shared that book as our favorite, and that our life verses were found in Philippians…Brian’s is 4:13, mine is 4:19. During this time, Brian would pray for my husband, my children and me. I began praying for his girls and him. We didn’t know what was going on with my situation, but Brian was literally joining me in prayer for our family to be restored.
In March of 2013, it was made evident that my husband would not be returning home, that my children and I were going to be evicted from our house, and that there were other issues which triggered his want for a divorce. Once I knew this, I knew that biblically I was allowed to pursue the legal actions for a divorce. I started the process with the assistance of my parents. I was able to find an apartment for my children and me (which is another awesome story of God’s provision) and my job grew into a 40-hour position with benefits. God is good. He sees what I can’t! My kids and I began counseling and joined the Divorce Care program. During this time, Brian and I would exchange messages on occasion. We would share You Tube videos to make each other laugh. We would send songs of encouragement on the down days. We were friends, but on a completely platonic level.
In June of 2013, my kiddos and I headed to VBS at the Arden campus. On the first day, Cecely, Titus, and I were standing at the registration table. Cecely turned around and shrieked. And like a scene out of a movie, Cecely and Hannah were going towards one another. The two of them hugged then started talking a million miles a minute. That’s the day I met Hannah. Each day that week, the girls found one another to talk. Then, Cecely asked if Hannah could come over and swim at our apartment. For that summer, Hannah came over often to swim, watch movies, and sleep over. It was always a noisy, but good time. While the girls would hang out, Brian and I would exchange conversations about logistics for swim dates and sleepovers. We would still message each other words of humor or encouragement. Again, I would say that we were friends, but that neither of us were processing anything more than that. I honestly believed that I would be single forever and that I was too damaged to be redeemed. I’m not sure what Brian was thinking, but feel free to ask him!
Brian and I ended up in a couple of connect groups together, and through those encounters, we learned a lot about each other. This opened us up for conversations on deeper levels about our pasts, our spirituality, our beliefs, our goals, and our dreams. At this point, I began thinking, “wow, this man is incredible!”. We talked a lot, we laughed nonstop. We spent time with each other when our kids were hanging out, at church functions, or at connect group.
Fast forward to Brian’s Kenya trip. That is when everything changed for me. I remember following his posts on Facebook and texting his parents to make sure he was safe. I remember getting so mad at myself for caring that he was traveling. I went to visit friends out of town while he was away. My kiddos were in summer camp during the same time, so I was all alone. I stayed in one of the days I was gone, and I my phone rang. I have a rule for my phone…if I don’t know the number, I don’t answer it. For some reason, on this day, I answered that unknown number. And, to my delight, Brian was on the other end of the line. I couldn’t believe it! We talked about baboons and volcanoes. As soon as we hung up, I sat down on the floor and sobbed. My mind was reeling… "he called me from Kenya! What does that mean? What do I do? Why am I crying? Why am I so happy? How am I so happy?..” My brain is a dangerous place on a calm day. This event almost landed me in a hospital! Brian called me every day that he could while he was in Kenya. When he came home, my kids, Hannah, his Mom and I had a party for him. I remember how excited yet peaceful I felt when I saw him once he came back. I felt safe knowing he was near.
Because I am a by-the-book person, and because Brian is a big believer in doing things the right way, we did not formally begin to date until my divorce was final. We did continue to spend time together with our kiddos and with friends and family, but we did not start our official dating until we felt comfortable with the legal process being behind us. Since then, I would say that life has been pretty great. There are things that are incredibly hard to deal with. Having a very similar past means we share very similar hurts, which is a blessing and a curse. I feel that we have mastered the art of family dating. We love being with our children and providing them with memory-making opportunities. We enjoy time with each other’s family. It is extremely difficult to pursue a person and to build a foundation for a relationship when there are so many challenges present. But, I have realized the 2 years of conversations we have had, prayers we have shared, and goals we have pursued have laid a solid foundation.
When Brian and I began dating, we would talk about marriage. Neither of us wanted to waste time on casual dating. We talked about every topic under the sun. About six months ago, we started to have more frequent and deeper conversations about being married and joining our families together. Brian suggested that we attend counseling together. Oh my goodness...if you could have seen and heard what went on in those sessions. All I can say is, God bless our amazing counselor!!! We began to plan the logistics of a wedding. It wasn't a romantic process, but we are practical people. Romance doesn't rate high with either of us. We knew we would want a small, family wedding. We knew we would have to plan around several schedules from work, children, exes, family members, etc. To my surprise, a wonderful family friend was attending an event Brian and I were at, and she mentioned us having a wedding at her home...this was funny because Brian and I had only begun talking about a wedding and hadn't shared that information with anyone else. Isn't God's sense of humor excellent? Brian and I went to her home, sat down and chatted, and set a date! Again, not romantic, but for the sake of logistics. We let our families know the date so travel plans could start being made. A few of my close friends were let in on the secret to start helping me plan a wedding. I had basically resolved that we would continue on this practical wedding planning path and there wouldn't really be any romance.
Brian, on the other hand, had a different plan. He and I had talked about what we liked and wanted for our wedding. I had told him that I had always wanted a Claddagh ring. When I was in high school, I did some research on Ireland, and I fell in love with the folklore and landscape (one of my bucket list items is to go there). As anyone who has met Brian ever knows, he loves the Irish, too, but the ones who are based in South Bend, Indiana. I learned in our planning, that Brian is also pretty traditional, which did surprise me. He kept mentioning that I probably really wanted a diamond whenever I would say I wanted an emerald. Little did I know that he was in cahoots with a ring designer in California crafting my perfect ring. Having the busy lives we have, it is rare for us to have a stretch of time together without work or kiddos...and we're fine with that. I would look at our calendar and see that we just stay so busy. Brian, however, had been working on a proposal plan behind my back. Apparently there were some set-backs (again, ask Brian more about this) and his proposal plan kept moving later and later on the calendar.
On Saturday, May 9th, Brian masterminded a plan to surprise me with hidden romantic skills and with a gorgeous ring. I had been gone on a work retreat, and upon my return was diagnosed with a severe sinus infection which made me puny, loopy, and not very pretty. I also had my kiddos that day, so I felt anything romantic was a pipe dream. But, with the help of some incredible friends, Brian managed a fun distraction for my children and a little time away for us. I am a planner, Brian is more spontaneous. I cannot tell you the number of times he has said, "let's just go for a drive." He does that so much, that I am accustomed to hop in the car and roll with it. Those were the words he used on Saturday, and I had heard them before, so my suspicions were nonexistent. Brian drove me up to Mt. Pisgah to an area he and I had visited when we first began dating. It is a beautiful spot where you can't help but soak in the wonders of creation. We talked and walked. While we were roaming, we spotted a small trail we had not noticed before. We followed it to some beautiful rock stairs that led to what felt like a secret garden. While I was yammering on about who knows what, Brian grabbed my arms and turned me to face him. A little background information that you need to know is that Brian's height and strength are two of my favorite qualities. I always say to him, "I love how tall you are". When he turned me towards him, I looked up at his face and he was smiling so big. No, he did not get down on his knee, but I am glad he didn't. I love looking up at him. Brian said some wonderful things full of kindness and sweetness. He spoke of his love for me and for my children. He spoke of answered prayers and God's goodness. With tears in both of our eyes, he asked me to marry him, and I said a resounding yes!
Now, we are counting down to a wedding and making plans of combining homes. We know there are challenging days ahead, but we have no fear. We feel confident that God brought us together, and we are very excited to see what God has planned for us. We both have dreams of mission work. We have goals to travel and see God’s creation. We want to be the best parents that we can. And, we share a heart for God and for others. We have already had some fantastic adventures and wonderful experiences. I am so grateful for second chances. I am thankful to serve a God who redeems, restores, and blesses.