Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Love Story

Where do I begin to tell the story of how sweet a love can be
A sweet love story that is older than the sea
Where do I start?

Valentine's Day is fast approaching. To be completely honest I abhor these Hallmark-made holidays that intimidate one into buying unnecessary junk in order to appease a loved-one who really doesn't want the junk or need to be appeased. Needless to say...I'm not a romantic. And other than telling me everyday and in many ways that he loves me, neither is Dave.

I thought I'd share the romance of our love story - where it all began, how we met, what brought us together. It doesn't seem unique to me but really, everyone's story is unique. I hope you enjoy ours - from my point of view, of course.

To begin with, there is an age difference between Dave and I. It isn't like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, or even Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. Let's just say when I passed my driving exam at 16 Dave's voice had yet to change and he had a full head of hair. This is key to understanding where both of us were in life when we met. Dave had just graduated from Baylor and I was heading over to Pakistan to work with Afghan refugees (from the Soviet-Afghan war) and was waiting in Pasadena for my visa. I was working with a mission organization called Frontiers and had joined one of the church-planting teams. I was the lone single with two other married couples (with kids).

Dave had taken a class that summer, after graduation, in Pasadena, called the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Through that class and meeting folks at the U.S. Center for World Mission (where the class was held) Dave decided to join the staff of Caleb Project. Caleb Project was a mission organization which talked to college students about missions, challenging them to consider missions as a career. One of their methods of operation was called "Traveling Teams". Teams of five young missionaries, each representing a different mission agency would travel around the country speaking to college groups (InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, etc.) or college classes at churches. We would talk a bit about the history of missions, the opportunities, the facts that there were so few missionaries in areas of the world that had never heard the Gospel. Since my visa was delayed in coming I was asked to join a team, to travel the Fall of 1987.

19 of us met in Sterling, Kansas to train for the three months ahead. We learned how to present missions through personal testimony and skits, how to keep the financial books for our team as we traveled, and how to travel and relate as a team. We were driving Ford vans across the United States. Four teams, Five on each team...But that makes 20 and there were only 19 travelers. The team I was on only had four travelers. We were cool with that since that meant we had more room in the van. Our team was to travel the Northwest - beginning in Kansas we started in Wichita and made our way west through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and ending down the west coast in San Francisco.

So our first stop was Wichita at a church called Eastminster Presbyterian. Only our leader, Sid, knew that a young man, named Dave, would be there, who had planned on joining Caleb Project staff but was asked by the head office to join our team, since we were a team member short. They thought this would be an excellent introduction for Dave into the work of Caleb Project. But they also knew our team had bonded together for the past three weeks so they didn't want to impose on us. They said our team needed to decide whether "Dave" could join our team or not. So after our presentation with the college-age group, after meeting one-on-one with various students, Sid gathered us together and made the proposal, "Do we want this guy joining our team?" Everyone was cool with the idea except I had to bring up one point, to remain honest and an open team-member, "Uh, you know, that means less room in the van!" I did vote for Dave joining us, but it was also known what I honestly thought about his addition. And now I see that as a little foreshadowing - since he's been taking up room in my life ever since!

Now our team comprised of another single gal (Katrina), representing Wycliffe Bible Translators, and a married couple (Sid and Kris), representing Overseas Missionary Fellowship. While traveling we would usually get one day a week off for personal time. This was usually spent writing letters, sight-seeing, laundry, whatever. Sid and Kris, naturally would spend their days off together, away from the team. No one complained. It was expected. Katrina was very much an introvert, so she spent her days off on her own. That left Dave and I to roam the streets of Eugene, Portland, Seattle, and Moscow together, as we shared a passion for exploration, coffee bars, and U2. We talked a lot. We shared our dreams and visions. We learned a lot about each other - how much we loved to travel, we loved anything foreign, new, out-of-the-ordinary.

By the time we reached Seattle (about 2 1/2 months into our 3 month trip) I knew my feelings for Dave were more than for a teammate/brother. I was planning to go as a single missionary to a Muslim land. I was bound and determined to embrace my singleness proudly and almost defiantly. I didn't need to be married in order to be a missionary overseas! But my feelings for Dave were also revealing I wasn't being honest. I did want to be married. When I finally admitted my true desires, if I recall out loud to Katrina, it was as if a weight had been lifted. This hardcore expectation I had placed on myself was gone. I felt free to say what I really wanted, and to not be ashamed. I wanted to be someone's wife. Plain and simple.

By the time we reached Oakland, CA my visa had arrived and my team, already in place in Pakistan was ready for my arrival. But I had to make one of the hardest phone calls of my life -- telling my team leader, who was a friend, that I was not coming and didn't know if I would ever be coming.

It was obvious to those who knew us that something was going on between Dave and me. There was a strict rule while traveling that no guy/girl relationships were to take place. And we abided by that. But come our return to Pasadena, we began seeing each other regularly, exclusively and often. He began working at the office and I worked in Personnel with Frontiers, while finishing up my Bachelor's degree.

It was Thanksgiving. On the Friday after Thanksgiving in Pasadena there is the Doo-Dah parade. It kind of mocks the Rose Parade. A lot of ludicrous marchers, some profane, some tame. I invited Dave to join me and my family. While we were walking back to our car he grabbed my hand and held it the entire 10 block journey. My heart was palpitating much quicker than normal. Questions were swirling in my head, "What does this mean? Is this normal behavior for him? Let's not overact and assume too much here!" So he held my hand but said nothing about it. I was confused.

Dave was new to the area. I grew up in the area. So it was natural that I would show him the town, invite him to group activities, movies, etc. We spent A LOT of time together. Finally we had "the talk" and opened up about our feelings. That was November. Dave was planning to travel again with Caleb Project that Spring. He'd be away for three months but traveling the Southwest, so part of the time he'd be in Southern California. We talked about every other night on the phone.

When March came around I noticed our phone conversations we a little...stilted, forced. We finally got to get together when his team came through Los Angeles, and the reason for the change in phone conversation became obvious. Our relationship was moving too quickly for Dave. He wasn't sure if he wanted to be in an exclusive relationship. He wanted to "just be friends."

There it was...those devastating three words that cut to the heart...just be friends. Well, that was that. Just friends. It was over. No more exclusiveness. But he kept calling. And calling. And calling. I was confused. But he was on the road so I thought I could emotionally detach myself from him. I asked him to quit calling because that wasn't helping with my detachment. I think that kind of shook him up but he quit calling.

Now it's June. Dave's back in the office, coordinating for the next Fall teams. An odd thing begins.. he calls, he asks to go out, he invites me over, he comes over to my house...I'm confused again and finally ask, "What's going said you don't want a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship yet you're acting like I am your girlfriend and I don't know what you're really thinking!" He looks down at his feet, shuffles and says, "I don't know. I know I like being with you but I also know I don't want an exclusive dating relationship. Can't we just hang out and be friends?" I stepped back and over-emotionally laid out that my heart can't handles that. "No, we can't just be friends, if this is how you treat 'just friends', I can't be one. We can't spend time with each other anymore. Goodbye." I left. Angry. Hurt. Frustrated. Baffled. We were good with each other. We liked each other. Why couldn't he see it. It was so obvious. We were meant for each other!

That was Friday night. Saturday morning I returned, leaving them on his doorstep - too devastated to even knock on the door, the Chronicles of Narnia and Understanding TULIP books he had given me. Sunday I cried on Sandra Gutknicht's shoulder at church. Monday we passed each other on campus and I looked the other way. Tuesday he came over to the house, apologized and said, "I've been stupid. I said a stupid thing. This time apart made me realize I do want you in my life. I don't like this, being apart. Please forgive me." That was June.

In October Dave's parents came out to California. I made them dinner. It went well. Dave decided then that we were to marry but he waited until January to ask me but all the while planning the time to ask and getting the most-perfect ring. It didn't turn out as he hoped.

We had a favorite French restaurant, where I had my first crepe suzette. He wanted to hide the ring in a glass of champagne. His great-grandmother had died and he went back to Wichita for the funeral, and also picked up the engagement ring. I picked him up at the airport. It was a gorgeous Southern California day in January - January 6th. He had class that night and asked if we could drive up to Mullard Canyon to see the sunset. Standing up on the hill, looking out over the coast, Dave casually said,
"I brought you back something from Wichita."
"Oh, I know what this is", I thought.
He pulled out of his back pocket...two postcards of Wichita.
"Oh, gee, thanks," I muttered.
"Oh, and something else."
Now he pulled out a brown velvet pouch. Okay, you know what was inside...a gorgeous diamond ring.
"Will you marry me?"
"What, yes, yes,! You idiot...postcards...this is gorgeous...where's it from...yes, yes, you idiot!"

So there you have it. Our romance, the beginnings of a beautiful relationship. He took up room in my life 21 years ago and still is taking up room in my life. But I think he could say the same thing about me. And I wouldn't have had it any other way!

Now if you love reading real romance stories head on over to Sarah at Small World. Many others are sharing their romance stories during this Valentine's season. Enjoy and share to comment about your romance.


Heather said...

I love your story!! It could be a Hallmark movie!! Thanks for visiting mine too.

God Bless your marriage!

Kim said...

We have an age gap too. I answered your question:

SmallWorld said...

That was a wonderful story! Thanks for participating!

Beth said...

What a great story . . . I guess I just knew a few bits and pieces—it was great to put it all together. : )

Heidi said...

Loved, loved, loved it! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Paul Merrill said...

All women commented - except maybe "SmallWorld" ?.

I had to put in my 2c... GREAT story, Barb!

I'm so glad God brought you & Dave together.

Heidi said...

Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I answered you silhouette grouping question on my blog today. I know you were partly teasing, but it was a good question. :)

Holly said...

Great story. :)

Have a nice break, Barb!

I have stopped by...just didn't have hands free to leave a message!