Sunday, March 24, 2013

12 Years of Marriage... Our Story

Today is our anniversary!!  Abe and I have been married for 12 beautiful, wonderful, challenging, and passionate years.  Abe is originally from Missouri, and I am originally from Missoura (pronounced with an Ozark twang) ... but our story is not that simple.  Tonight I write our story for us, for our children, for your enjoyment, and also for a piece of understanding in God's perfect timing for each of us.

My sweet husband performed this weekend at Time Out for Women.  It was a perfect start to our anniversary weekend.  His singing group is called Jericho Road.  They were preparing to sing "For the Love of a Woman" to an audience of 2,000+ women, and my husband called me up on stage and asked the audience for a standing ovation in celebration of our anniversary.

What a surprise!  I wasn't sure what to do as I looked out at all of the women standing for us.  All I could think was that I wished they could each receive their own standing ovation for the lives that they live. I blew a kiss to them and kissed my husband's cheek.  Someone in the audience yelled out, "Oh you can do better than that!... so we kissed on the lips too!!:):

Time Out For Women was in Indiana this weekend, and I left the conference with a heart full of love and inspiration. Before returning home, we planned on visiting some friends in Ohio.  While driving in Ohio, we passed a car with a hand-written sign inside the window that read, "Honk if you're Mormon."   Abe honked, and we all waved.

A couple of minutes later they passed us with an additional sign taped to their back window that read, "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!"  We all honked and waved vigorously.  What a fun surprise to see fellow Time Out For Women attendees.  At 1:00 pm today we went to church before visiting our friend.   Abe and I sent the children into the church first because we were cleaning up a few things in the van.  We entered the chapel and were surprised to see the children sitting with a woman as if they had known her forever.  We sat down beside her too, and she leaned over and said, "Happy Anniversary."  She had also been at Time Out For Women and recognized the children when they came in.  Because of my husband's announcement on stage, she remembered about our special day.

My experience on stage with my husband yesterday was significant to me because the first time I ever saw my husband was on the stage at my freshman orientation at BYU... long before Jericho Road ever started. :-)

How We Met

I had been waiting my whole life to go to BYU.  Honestly, my main excitement about BYU was all the good-looking boys I would meet who had good standards and loved God. I rarely dated through high school because not many of the boys in my school had values that I could trust.  I was holding out because my brothers and sister had told me all about the dating scene at the university, and I just knew it would be worth the wait.

It was!

I didn't think I would find the best looking guy of my life in the first week I was there... but I did!  Abe was on stage singing with a group called, "6 Trac," and I was a silly, 18 year old girl screaming like a life-long crazed fan.  I left behind all inhibitions (if I even had any to begin with:)) and rushed the stage; the security guard had to gently nudge us crazy freshman girls back from the stage.  I screamed so loud that I had a raspy voice for 3 weeks after that concert.  

Abe didn't know I existed, and I figured I'd never see him again.  In the meantime, I dated lots of other sort-of cute boys at BYU... after all, that was one of my main purposes of going there!

Five months later, I was sitting in my theater class when the actors from a play called, "Free At Last" came to  speak to our class about their experience.  I had some questions about the play; so after the question and answer period was over in the class, I approached one of the very handsome actors to question him a bit more.  He started to answer my questions and then wisely said, "Why don't we arrange another time to meet, so I can answer more of those questions for you."  I agreed, and this handsome actor claimed that as I walked away I gave one last look over my shoulder.  He said that look meant I was really "into him."

We met at our arranged time, and he really did answer my questions.  Then we parted... but not without a formal invitation to go on a date...TO THE TEMPLE!  What a first date!!  Only a really great man would have the courage to take a girl to the temple on a first date.  He also drove a beat-up car.  I concluded that only a humble man would drive a car like that.  I really started to like this man!

We had been dating for a few weeks when this handsome actor mentioned that he sang in a music group.  I looked closer at him.  At the time, his hair was grown out really long for his play.  I pictured him with shorter hair and singing on stage...  "OH MY GOSH!!"  I shouted out.  You're the same guy I was fanatical about at freshman orientation!!  He confirmed that he did perform at Freshman Orientation.... although he did not remember the crazy, screaming girl at the front of the stage.

I couldn't believe I had been dating the same guy all this time! Abe was my rock-star and my handsome actor?  No way!  I didn't even know my rock-star from Freshman Orientation attended BYU!  I just kept liking him more and more.

Our 1st Kiss

We spent LOTS of time together.  One evening we went to the gas station to get a soda.  Abe says that as he handed the soda to me, I brushed my fingers over his as I took the drink.  He claims he knew he was going to kiss me that night because of my finger brush.   (Please!! - Men hang onto any clue they can that we're interested in a kiss!!:-))

Because he was hoping for/counting on a kiss, he took me to a romantic spot.  Abe drove up the mountain to the base of a popular hike that leads up to a giant painted "Y" on the mountain.  We didn't hike; we just stood outside the car gazing at the city lights and holding hands.  Anytime you hold hands with a boy on a mountain looking over a city... the inevitable will happen.  Abe called it... we kissed.

We continued to date for several months into the Summer.  One day Abe said, "You know... my dad asked me if I thought you were someone I could marry."  I responded, "Oh really?  What did you say?"  Abe said, "I told him I thought you were someone that I could marry."  Of course I was honored, and I loved him with all my heart... but I was scared.  I called him up and broke up with him out of the blue shortly after.  Confused, Abe asked if we could still be friends.  I said, "No, that would just be too hard.  I can't ever see you again."  What???  Abe was so confused and chalked my crazy behavior up to me  being 18 years old.  He vowed never to date such a young girl again.

After I broke up with him I cried and cried!  As I prayed about it, I kept getting the feeling that he was the one I was supposed to marry... just not yet.  I was so sad that I had cut off all ties with him, and I began to be impatient with the Lord's timing.  I started to regret my decision and called Abe several times.  He responded very coldly claiming that he was just honoring my request  to not even be friends anymore.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I stalked him for a  bit.  I loved him, so I wanted to do nice things for him.  I didn't want him to know the nice gestures were from me  though.  I left his favorite treats, lotions, and magazine on his doorstep and ran.  He never knew it was from me. That didn't help; I still felt heartbroken wondering how to fix what I had done.

Reuniting after a Four Year Break-up...

Over the years we lost contact completely.  I dated several other boys whom I thought I loved, but Abe was always in the back of my mind. Many others asked me about marriage, and I ended things quickly with them as well.  I served a mission in Bolivia and even recounted stories to my companions of my true love named Abe.

After my mission, I had only been home in Missouri for a week, and my dad showed me an article in the BYU magazine featuring Abe.  My dad mentioned how much he liked Abe.  I reread the article several times- secretly searching the details to see if a wife was mentioned anywhere in the story.  Nothing was written about a wife... hmmm... thoughts were planted in my heart and mind.

Over the next week or so, I talked to another man on the phone quite a few times.  He even flew all the way to Missouri from Texas to see my homecoming talk.  One night he asked me on the phone if there was anyone I felt like I had made a mistake with in my dating years.  I told him there was a guy named Abe that I would like to tell him sorry for the way I broke up with him.  I explained that he was a great guy, and I ended things abruptly with no real explanation.  He encouraged me to formally apologize to him.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time period, Abe's life-long friend was trying to help him with the dating scene. He said, "What about Rachel?  She was a nice girl."  Abe said he hadn't heard from me in years, and the last thing he'd heard about me was that I was on a mission.  Neither of us did anything at that time, but the reminders of each other were preparing us for what would come next.

Anxious to return to the dating scene of BYU, I left for Utah after being home from my mission for less than 2 weeks.  Within the first week of being there, I ran into Abe!!  He had recently graduated from BYU, so I didn't expect to see him there!  We gave each other a big hug and arranged to get together... to just talk.

My plan was to tell him how sorry I was for the way I ended things 4 years previously.  He wanted to apologize for being so cold-hearted when I tried to reach out to him after that.  I had assumed that his coldness meant that our relationship never meant much to him, but in actuality, he was merely protecting himself from the whims of a young 18 year old girl.

After our apologies, Abe invited me to some activities... just to be nice since I was fresh off my mission.  I guess he was determined not to put too much into me in the beginning until he knew he could trust me.  We went through a McDonald's drive-thru, and he made me pay for my own burger!!  I was not impressed, but I think the Spirit must have helped me to see the intentions of his heart.

As we quickly grew closer and closer to each other again, I told myself before one of our dates that if we kissed again, I knew I would marry him!  I couldn't play games anymore!

When we did kiss again, the reassurance came strong and clear that he was my one and only.

An Awkward Yet Rewarding Visit

Soon after, Abe invited me to his house in Missouri for a graduation party that his parents and cousins were throwing for him.  Even though he really wanted me to go, neither of us could pay for my plane ticket.

However, the man that encouraged me to apologize to Abe had still been calling me.  This man was very wealthy and wanted to date me.  In his efforts to show me he really loved me too, he encouraged me to find out for sure how I felt about Abe.  He offered to pay for me to fly to Missouri with Abe.  It may sound cruel that I would accept money from one man to pay for a plane ticket to go to Missouri with a different man... but that's what I did because I had no other choice!   I was in the pursuit of my future husband!!

The day before we left on our trip to meet Abe's parents, Abe thought that we shouldn't date exclusively for a little while.  I was devastated and cried all night long. Even though he had just broken my heart, Abe still wanted me to go with him to Missouri the next day.  I guess he knew our step back wouldn't be a permanent situation. Well I felt very awkward!!  I had to go to my x-boyfriend's house, sleep at his house, meet his parents and cousins all on the tab of another man.  Weird but true.  I decided I wouldn't act weird though; instead, I concentrated on showing love to Abe's family.

While in his home, I watched Abe lay his head on his mom's lap with such tenderness and sweetness, I knew he would always treat me with that same tenderness and sweetness if he were to be my husband.  I decided I needed to let Abe know how much I really loved him and that I was ready to fight for our relationship.  Maybe I needed to be in that awkward situation to value the man that God was placing in my life.  Each of these strong reassurances from God later proved to be necessary in order to strengthen me as we faced many hurdles in our courtship.

On the plane ride home, Abe reached over and held my hand again.  I didn't want to move my hand even a centimeter because everything felt completely right with our hands entwined once again.  My heart pumped rapidly because I knew there was no turning back... Abe was mine.

The Proposal

It took Abe several more months for him to actually propose.   During those several months I made sure he was well aware of my ring size... just in case.  Alright, I admit it.  My roommates and I made a sign with my ring size and posted it on our wall.  I knew Abe and I were supposed to get married, and I didn't want to wait any longer.

Abe says he also knew, but he just had to save up money for the ring.  Twelve days before Christmas, Abe gave me symbolic presents for each day.  On Christmas Eve, as Abe and I busily wrapped Christmas gifts together at his parents' house, he suddenly turned on the CD player.

Abe had written me a song and recorded a piano back-up in a studio before arriving to his parents house.  He sang to his previously recorded track the most beautiful song entitled:   "Accept Me As I Am."  He then held both my hands and asked me to marry him giving me my culminating gifts of his twelve days of Christmas... one ring and one song .

It was a sacred time of tears, kisses, hugs, and a huge "YES."

I thank God for my dear husband of twelve years.  These years have by no means been perfect.  We are far from perfect, but I'm grateful for a man who puts God first and loves me despite my insecurities and weaknesses.  He honestly never tells me about my weaknesses; he just patiently trusts me that I'm trying to be better.  Abe's patience and trust make me want to be better... so I keep trying.  He loves who I am now and sees the potential in what I can do and who I can become.

Thank you for being my forever love.  I love you with all of my heart.

Our Story Continues...