Well, last year, for our anniversary I wrote a long and boring post on why I don't think marriage is hard. Or at least, that's what it was supposed to say. It was really just long and ramble-y. But this year, I think I'll write the story of how we met. It's way more interesting and pretty awesome too, although also very long. I'll split it into two parts for ya. Part one is how we met. Part two is how our teenage, long-distance acquaintance turned into a serious and beautiful relationship.
But before I begin, do you remember this?
Except now it's especially weird because while I was making eggs and toast for John for breakfast on our anniversary this year, I broke another egg. Twice now, I've broken an egg on my anniversary. Good thing I don't believe in omens! Totally weird, but definitely coincidental...in as far as I believe in coincidences, which don't really exist because God is completely sovereign and has it all planned out from the tiniest detail to the big eternal picture. And this is pretty clear when you hear our story, because it's wild that a girl in Key West should marry a guy from the mountains of New Hampshire, isn't it?
I grew up in the Florida Keys. My whole life. I traveled a little with my family, but not extensively, the Florida Keys was my world. And while I figured one day I'd grow up and move off somewhere, maybe go to college, that somewhere never really extended farther than Tampa, where my older sister lived. I was only fifteen.
Well, it was the day before my birthday, the next day I would be sixteen. It was Easter Sunday. We were in church, my dad in the front being his pastor self, and the family sitting in the backer rows of the building. Right as the 11:00 service started, four young men entered the building and sat directly behind my sisters and I. They were kind of dirty, a little smelly and their shirts were really wrinkly. They all had long hair, some of them in braids. I didn't get the greatest view of them before they sat down, so I probably took these details in afterward, since obviously, I wasn't going to crane my neck around to look at them.
I don't remember if I wondered who they were, or if they distracted me from the service or if I intended to introduce myself to them after the service, but then, I don't remember the sermon much either (sorry, dad). It just so happened, that after the service, Abby, my older sister, and I turned around. And there were four young men, standing there. We introduced ourselves to the visitors like model pastors daughters. Their names were Seth, Sam, Rob and John. Seth and Sam were brothers. Rob and John were brothers. This is how it happened:
Abby said "Hi, I'm Abby."
They said respectively "Hi, I'm, Seth, Sam, Rob, John"
Then I said "I'm Christy" and they said, once again, their names respectively. Except for John who said "And I'm....still...John." Which immediately endeared me to him. Because I was thinking it was very silly that they were all repeating their names when I had just heard their names.
They were from New Hampshire, they were on a road trip. They had been driving most of the night and slept, the four of them in Seth's five seater car, on the side of the highway. When the morning came, they thought they would like to go to church, it being Sunday and all, but they also wanted some better sleep. So they headed into Key West to sleep on the beach and while driving through the lower Keys they saw our church building, and the big sign that said "Worship at 11". Which is when they decided to come to our church because the service was the latest they had seen yet and therefore they could get more sleep before going to church.
Cool how that worked out, eh?
Well, while Abby and I chatted with these boys, it turned out we had common spirits. Not a lot in common, necessarily but similar attitudes towards life. That is, we did stuff that we liked and thought was fun, and didn't care if it was considered "cool" or not. Of course, that really means we just had our own definition of cool, because no teenager can actually not care about being cool. And since Abby was the oldest of our new formed group at 19, we were all teenagers.
Seth was, had been, a snowboard instructor for the winter, Rob was an apprentice electrician, Sam and John were still in school, but the cool part was that they were homeschooled, just like us! We chatted about the merits and awesomeness of being homeschooled. We chatted about the retardation of public schools. We chatted about life in the Keys and life in New Hampshire. Then it was getting late, and no more people were in the church. They said they were going to go into town to see some sights and we invited them back to evening service, if they wanted.
And they came. Much to Abby's and my delight.
It now occurs to me how very unusual it is that four young men, on their own in a different state from their parents or anyone that they know, should come to church at all. But especially strange that they would voluntarily go to an Sunday evening service. And even more so, because their church at home didn't even have one. The first service means one thing, but I think their attending the second service might mean something else.
After evening service, we regrouped and continued to chat. Our topics of conversation were varied and sundry and at some point, my mom and dad joined the conversation, which didn't phase any of us. When it came out that they didn't actually have a place to stay in Key West and that they intended on sleeping in their car or on the beach again, my Dad offered them a couple night's stay in our church's sanctuary. They gladly accepted and asked if there was anything that needed to be done around the church premises that four strapping young men could help out with.
Turned out there was. Though it didn't really require their strapping-ness.
My dad's evangelistic ministry puts out a quarterly newsletter. Back then, it was quite the process to get out. over 1000 people received our newsletter by mail, and then we always needed extra to hand out and keep on the church's back table. These newsletters needed to be folded in half, have the insert placed in the middle, and folded again. Then mailing sticker dots put on to keep them sealed shut and address labeled after that. It's a long and arduous process made better and faster by more helping hands and some good conversation. Abby and I already had been working on newsletters most of Saturday, so we showed our new friends the work room and the six of us sat and worked and chatted. Mom and Dad went home (which back then, was upstairs of the church) and late into the night four boys and two girls talked and folded paper in the church offices.
It was during these hours that John and I sat beside each other compared interests. We actually did have a lot in common. Both being wildly interested in fantasy literature, reading and writing it. And while I was thinking this guy is so cool, he's just like me! It's like we're the same. John said aloud "You're just like me! We're practically the same!"
I was smitten. He was moderately good looking, with his straw coloured hair in shoulder length braids, and freckles and blue green eyes, but what really got me, I think, was how much attention he paid me. And the fact that we had so much in common. He was cool and sweet and had a very funny sense of humour. He made me laugh more than anyone I knew, and best of all, he was the first person of all time (maybe the only one?) to tell me that I had a beautiful laugh. Up until that point in my life I had been told on many occasion, that I had a "weird" and"obnoxious" laugh, that it was "too loud," "sounded like a donkey," and "sounded like a pig." And once I had been told I should "get a new laugh." And he told me it was beautiful. Beautiful. Yes, I really was smitten.
The next day was my birthday, and since our New Hampshire Boys (as we called them from then on) were staying beneath us, we saw them. They went to the gas station down the road and bought themselves a gallon of milk and some cereal, and then they had breakfast with us. Our family had cereal too, and would have gladly shared with them, but it was just as well that they bought their own, for all we had was soy milk and the healthy cereals....
Being homeschooled, and it being my birthday, I declared it an official holiday and all my siblings followed suit. We took our NH boys on a walk around our neighbourhood and showed them the quarry were we liked to swim and the bridge where we liked to jump into the water. It was a jolly time. They expressed interest in seeing my dad's evangelism technique in downtown Key West so we took them to the famous Mallory Square. More accurately, they drove themselves and myself down (since it was my birthday.) and my sister rode with my dad down. We played hacky sack and roamed Key West before going back home to have birthday cake with my family and then proceeding to the church offices once again to continue to fold newsletters. My younger sister Julie joined us then, realizing she was missing out on a lot of fun.
It now occurs to me to wonder at the trust of my parents, both in their daughters and in complete stranger guys to allow us to hang out so much without any kind of chaperoning. All I can say is that my parents are incredibly reformed and very much trust God's sovereign will.....
That night, we folded newsletters till about 3 am. When we ran out of newsletters to fold. After that, we talked a little more and then we got to playing card games and Mafia and all sorts of other stuff. It was the first and only night I ever did not sleep. The sky began to lighten. We walked down to the quarry together again and watched the sun rise and the morning bloom. It was nice.
During this whole time John stayed by my side as much as possible. While Julie and Abby grouped up with the others, John and I seemed always slightly paired off and to the side, holding our own conversations. I felt very fond of him; I appreciated his attentions and loved how much we had in common. I had never had such easy exchanges. His humor and wit were hilarious and original, I didn't even know such funny people existed! Though I did not think him particularly handsome or hot, I did find him rather cute. He was only 15 after all.
That afternoon they left, saying they had arrangements to stay with some friends in northern parts of Florida and then they had to be somewhere else soon after that. We all exchanged e-mail addresses and AIM names before parting ways. (There was no facebook back then, thankfully). I went to bed to take a nap, smiling in my sleep I'm sure.
Stay tuned for part 2!