Our First Date
Continued from Letting Him In

JJ called later that week to see if we could get together the next time he was in Raleigh. He was finishing up his co-op job in Greenville, NC and headed back to Raleigh in a couple of weeks before going to his hometown (Hershey, Pennsylvania) for Christmas break. Now that we were "more than friends" I was so excited that our visits were going to be official "dates."

After being married almost 14 years now, we look back and laugh at our lame dates. JJ was still in college and didn't have much money to spend. Neither of us remember ever going to a movie, or dinner on a date. I am sure we did, but it was rare. In fact when we got married, we had a hard time planning date nights because we had such little practice.

But, I will never forget our first date! It was at his brother's house. I know... how romantic. I think we watched the ACC tournament for a little while but all that mattered is that we held hands. That I loved! Just being close to JJ and knowing he cared about me was like being in Heaven. He really was my best friend and there was NO ONE on earth I would rather have been with than him.

Just as I started getting ready to head back to my apartment, JJ got this real serious look on his face. He said he wanted to talk with me before I left. Why do they always wait until it's time to leave?

He told me it had been a while since he dated anyone and that he wasn't interested in just dating for the sake of dating. That is why He had prayed and waited before pursuing more than a friendship with me. He said his parents often asked him if he had a girlfriend and after a while, he told his mom that the next girl he dated would be the one he married.

He did not just say the "M" word, did he? I thought. Is he proposing? O lord, help me!

Not that I wouldn't have said yes on the spot, but I was quite surprised by his pledge of allegiance to me. I am sure at some point he asked if I felt the same and I melted at his feet and said yes. I have forgotten those details. I just remember him explaining that he had one more semester to co-op and three more semesters of classes at Virginia Tech which was four hours away. So, we decided we were on the two-year, long-distance dating plan with hopes of getting to know each other better and praying toward a future together.

Then he asked if he could kiss me, and I said, "No....."

HeBrews Faith Cafe
Come join me for a shot of faith espresso and some freshly brewed Holy grounds at HeBrews Faith Cafe.

I couldn't decide which theme to go with so I created a second blog for my family and me to go with a new topic I am developing about faith. Yes, I have the blogging bug thanks to my friend Marybeth.

My Friend Kim
I am pausing in the telling of our story to share something that is going on in our lives right now. We found out this week that our neighbor and friend, Kim, has stage 4 breast cancer. It has spread to her spine and the large upper bones in her legs and right arm. This all came as a huge shock. Kim was having back pain that kept getting worse. Her family has a history of back problems so she thought it may be a ruptured disk. She went to a back specialist and they found a compression fracture that they attributed to a possible tumor. Scans and tests were immediately scheduled and on Monday, the results outlined all that is going on.

Kim is doing amazingly well. She and her husband, Mike, are taking it one day at a time. They seem so calm - although I am sure they have their overwhelming moments. They are being strong and very positive. They have a great support system of family and friends around them. So many neighbors care about them and want to help. It's been incredible to hear how many want to bring meals, watch the kids or do whatever they can to serve them. Some who don't even know them want to bring a meal. Of course, most are moms and we moms stick together and cover for each other, even if we are strangers. I love that about moms!

Speaking of moms, Kim is a really great mom!!! She is what I call a full-time, professional mom. I even interviewed her recently to help prepare a message I was giving at the National Hearts at Home conference. We have been neighbors for about 5 years so I've seen her day in and day out. Her kids are her top priority and she gladly gives them her attention. Sometime I feel like I run out of things to do with my kids, but whenever I go to their house she is doing something for them or with them. One thing I've noticed is that she never seems overwhelmed by having three kids - 10, 5 and 3! She is one of the most layed back moms I know. Also, her kids are really fun to be with. They are just as cute as they are sweet. We love having them hang out with us and our kids.

Kim is also a great wife. She loves her husband Mike and it's obvious that he is her best friend. When she talks about Mike, you can tell she really admires and supports him and his goals in life. He's been such a trooper this week balancing all that has been thrown at them, taking off work for her appointments and making sure his "girl" is okay!

Please pray for Kim and her family. I got a note from someone in Florida today who found out from a friend of mine that my neighbor needed prayer. They have a prayer ministry and put Kim and her family on their priority prayer list that is read and prayed over by pastors in their area. I love how God is taking care of them through those close by and those far away. Maybe you can be one that joins hands and hearts with us to lift them up for healing, peace, joy and strength.

Letting Him In
Continued from "I'm Married to My Best Friend"

In December 1992, two months after our hiking weeknd, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and scheduled for an immediate mastectomy. The first person I called was JJ. He drove two hours to Raleigh, NC, to listen and pray with me. Then he offered to drive another 6 hours the following week to be with me during her surgery.

At first, I declined his offer. I didn't want to let my heart attach to him during an emotional time for fear that I'd get hurt again. I knew my guard was down a little leaving me vulnerable. He insisted on being there because he didn't want me to go through my mom's surgery alone. I didn't want to be alone either so I told him I would pray about it. I decided to process my decision with my roomates and my pastor's wife. I shared my fears and they challenged me to take a risk and let JJ in, a little. Letting him in the protective wall around my heart was exactly what I would be doing. After praying about it more and sensing God provision of comfort through JJ, I decided to take the risk.

My mom's surgery went well. Her lymph nodes were clear and her prognosis was very good. I wanted to feel relieved, but I still felt overwhelmed by the "what ifs" and my fear of the unknowns that lay ahead. My mom's mother and grandmother had died with breast cancer. I felt pretty certain that my mom would be okay, but I wasn't so sure how I'd be. I feared that a very similar chapter would be written into my own life story. More than being afraid of cancer, I was afraid I would not be able to handle it with as much courage and confidence as I saw in my mom at the time.

Looking back I can see that I didn't need to be worrying about a future chapter, God was writing a very current chapter in my life, right then and there. The main character was standing by my side the whole time. JJ had arrived the day of my mom's surgery. That night we went to the grocery store to get some ice cream for her. I shivered from the cold air as we walked through the refrigerated section. JJ put his arm around my shoulder to give me warmth. It was a gesture of friendship but instead of making me warm, it gave me chills - you know the kind you get when someone you like brushes up against you. Uggg, I just knew this was going happen! I thought to myself as I casually found a reason to turn down an isle and pull out from the shelter of JJ's arm.

While JJ was at my mom's, I was plagued by something that had been bothering me for several weeks. You see as sweet as JJ was, and as Godly as he'd been, he also had a quick wit and made sarcastic little comments every once in a while. I was sensitive and took them personally. It had only happened a few times and he hadn't done it during his visit, but with my heart falling for him, I knew it was something that needed to be addressed.

The first time he used one of his quick "come backs" we were with friends and it totally caught me off guard. But I had noticed the more time we spent together the more easily he would make a funny, but not-so-funny, remark to me. I also noticed he didn't do it to my friends and that bothered me. It seemed that he was letting his guard down with me and I was seeing his darker side. I knew I was falling for JJ and the alarms in my heart were warning me that I had let him in too close and I needed to pull away before I got hurt. But instead of simply withdrawing, I decided to talk with him about it.

At first, he was a little defensive. Understandably so, since I hadn't said anything to him before. He said it was just his sense of humor. He didn't mean anything by it. He explained that he'd grown up with sarcasm so it was just natural for him. I decided to throw in some Biblical backing to my concerns, mentioning how James says our tongue is a powerful weapon. He didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with the few incidences I mentioned. I wondered if I was making a big deal out of nothing. Yet, I didn't want to continue a friendship with someone who would hurt me with their words and not see anything wrong with it. I knew I needed to pull back.

The next morning during my time with God I talked to Him about my fears and concerns. As I prayed and read my Bible, I felt like God showed me how we all have areas we need to work on and the He wanted me to find verses about the power of our words to give to JJ. I remembered the many times we had shared favorite verses on the phone or when we saw each other during our time knowing each other. God's Word had a special place in the foundation of our frienship and I knew JJ loved the Scriptures. I wondered how much he'd love and honor them in this hard situation.

It was the day before he was leaving and I decided to wait for just the right time. When I gave the verses to JJ, he was shocked and convicted. He took them and looked them up and spent time praying through them. That night we sat at my mom's kitchen table talking and he apologized. His defenses were gone and he was completely humbled.

He explained the problem - he cared about me, more than just a friend!!!He told me he'd been praying for three months that God would give him the go ahead to pursue a relationship with me. But God hadn't given him peace or permission to tell me until that day. (Okay, I was dancing on the inside, just so you know.) He said his sarcasm was his way of keeping me guessing, of keeping a distance. He said he had asked God to help him with his words and help him lose the sarcasm. With a glistening in his eyes and tenderness in his hands that held mine, he asked for my forgiveness and told me he never intented to hurt me.

That night he also asked if we could be more than "friends" and I gladly agreed to let him in, just a little more!

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I'm Married to My Best Friend!
And he's a younger man!! He looks like he's 20 (and a little sleepy) in this photo, but he's actually 35. That is 5 years younger than I am! Never in my life did I think I'd marry someone younger. I hadn't ever even dated anyone younger. But God!! He had such a plan and He used it to pave the way for a friendship that would become the foundation of a lifetime commitment. Isn't that the best place for a marriage to start afterall?

Since JJ was younger, I saw him as a friend - not as a potential catch. He was still in college and I was well into my carreer. It was safe turf. I'd been through two broken engagements to the same guy (another story) and hadn't dated in almost two years. I was afraid my heart would be broken again. Convinced that I needed to be perfect for someone to love me, I tried to act perfect and look perfect. But since JJ was only a friend, I was totally myself with him - very imperfect! I didn't care if he saw me without make-up, in sweats, grubby or glam.

One night, JJ stopped by to hang out with my roomates and me. He'd made homemade chilli for us. We were quite impressed! Then as he was leaving, he took out the trash for us. Later that evening my girlfriends and I commented about what a great husband he'd be for someone and how we wished he were older. Soon after that I set him up with one of the college girls that was in a Bible study I was leading. If I couldn't have him I should share the wealth with someone else, right? Well, I knew something was wrong when I got mad at him the first time he showed interest in her. He walked past me to sit with that cute thing at a church event and it hurt my feelings! I was falling for him, but of course I didn't let it show. I simply stuffed my feelings down and didn't say a word.

Our friendship continued to grow. We'd hang out in groups a lot, but occassionally it would end up being just us. What I liked about JJ was that he brought out the kid in me. One time he dared me to climb a tree, and I did! Another night, we were up in this lookout tower and he taught me how to spit long distance. Well he tried. I didn't do so well.

Another weekend a group of us were going hiking in my hometown. Everyone backed out except JJ. We had planned to stay at my mom's house and I wanted to go home for a visit, so we stuck with our plans. After hiking all day, we stayed up talking and laughing past midnight. Many months later, when I talked to my mom about us getting engaged, she told me that she could hear us that night and she knew he was the one for me by how much he made me laugh!

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