When I pause to think about how I, the nerd, and our lovely children have made it to this place in our lives, I am fully convinced of the reality of God's plan in every Christian's life. Growing up in a Christian home meant that I heard frequently of how God had a special plan for each Christian's life. It also meant that I memorized that verse in Isaiah in which God says that "my ways are not your ways." Even still, I figured as a young teenager that I had that plan all figured out already. And here (so I thought) was God's plan for my life: go to a Christian college to study to be a Christian school teacher, meet amazing handsome guy during sophomore year, begin dating, and get engaged by senior year. The wedding would naturally follow soon after graduation, and amazing handsome guy and I would move back to Pennsylvania to live near my family while I taught elementary school. After a few years, we would have a boy and a girl (red-haired, hopefully) and live happily ever after.
So. . . yeah. it didn't quite happen that way. At first, it seemed that everything was going according to plan. (my plan anyway) I graduated from high school and headed off to Pensacola Christian College in the fall of 1998. My major? elementary education, of course. Other el. ed. majors encouraged me to take Bible as my minor because it was the "easy" route. Never one to do things the easy way, I decided to make Spanish my minor for no real reason except that I liked a challenge!
Life was good. I was doing well in my classes, getting excited about becoming a teacher, and making friends. By sophomore year, I was starting to look around for that amazing handsome guy I was supposed to meet. In October, my brother Andy (who was also attending PCC at that time) called me up and wanted to know if I would go to church that evening with him and a few of his friends. I agreed, and was surprised to discover that "a few" meant 20 people! I ended up sitting several seats down from my brother between two guys I didn't know. Brothers, actually. I struck up a conversation with the "nice-looking although shorter than me" one on my right and discovered that we didn't have very much in common. Still, I kept on talking (a habit that's gotten me in so much trouble over the years!) and started to really enjoy our conversation. By the end of the service, he had me convinced that I should meet him at the Sports Center that weekend so he could teach me how to play racquetball.
My roommates of course made a big deal about the occasion - how Jeanette was going on a date with a guy that was shorter than she was, how much did I actually like him, blah, blah, blah. I insisted it was not a date and that I was just going to learn how to play racquetball. Besides, I didn't like him that much anyway. Apparently, after whacking the ball against a wall several times(oh so much fun), we discovered that we really enjoyed each other's company and thus began a wonderful friendship. I lamented to him that no cute guys ever asked me out; he consoled me as he worried about asking another girl to a formal event. When the computer refused to cooperate in producing an important paper, he helped me solve the problem. Did I mention he was a nerd? Yes, it was very beneficial to befriend this guy! :)
Near the end of that sophomore year, I began to think that there was more to us than just friendship. I found myself looking forward to his phone calls and eagerly reading campus mail from him in the evenings. Like a typical girl, I analyzed everything and tried to read between the lines. Did he have feelings for me too? Should I say something or let him say it first? The semester ended, and we parted ways, with me heading back home for the summer in PA and the nerd going to his home in Oregon. We promised to write, call, and email often throughout the summer. As soon as I got home, I sent out the first letter. And another. And another. I called him and emailed him. But he never responded. His mom would answer the phone with a vague "Oh, he can't talk to you right now" and my mailbox remained empty. At first, I was hurt, and then I got angry. This was not supposed to happen this way! By this time, we should be dating (according to the plan, remember?) And if he didn't feel that way about me, couldn't he just man up and tell me?
Junior year began, and I returned to college much more serious and very very irritated. After a few weeks, he finally called me and asked if we could meet for dinner. I agreed (though I fully admit I probably did not use a pleasant tone of voice). Over dinner, he "explained" to me that we had spent way too much time together the past year and that his friends thought we were dating. Since he wasn't ready for this step yet, he thought it would be a good idea if we only got together every once in a while, say once a month or so. I was furious and made it clear that friends shouldn't ignore each other for a whole summer and then plan on only spending time together occasionally. I said some pretty horrible things, including that I never wanted to talk to him or spend time with him again.
Life went on, although the plan was starting to really fall apart. I dated a guy for a while later that year, and he broke my heart (on a voice mail, no less!) Senior year came, and I was too busy trying to survive my Spanish classes and do my student teaching to date anyone. The past two years had been miserable for me - I had bitterness in my heart and knew it. I told people that I had forgiven the nerd for hurting me, but I knew I hadn't. The nerd finally approached me during our senior year and asked again for my forgiveness. Not only that, but he told me that he had been doing a lot of praying (working a graveyard shift at the local print shop) and felt that we should start dating as well. Right. Sure. I can be incredibly stubborn at times ( it's a tragic family trait) and refused on the dating bit. I did forgive him, which was such a relief and balm to my spirit, but I only spent time with him when we were in a group. At this time, I was trying to figure out what God had next for me. I scrapped the whole "amazing handsome guy" part of the plan and focused on becoming a Christian school teacher. Ideally, I would be teaching fourth or fifth grade at a Christian school in Pennsylvania, I decided. I interviewed at several schools in the PA/NJ/MD/NY area. On a whim, I also applied at a school in Massachusetts. By the end of that week, I had received four offers from various schools, one of which was the school in Massachusetts. The principal of that school called me and told me he felt that God's plan for me was to teach eighth grade at their school. Ha! Geographically and grade-wise, this did not fit in with the plan, and I politely said no thank you. He was very persistent however, and I finally agreed to fly up and see the school. Immediately I felt that this was to be my new home (and freaked my parents out a little when I told them I was going to be teaching EIGHTH grade and high school Spanish in MASSACHUSETTS). :) I graduated from college (summa cum laude, baby!) and got ready to move to MA.
Meanwhile that summer, the nerd and I had started to email and chat on the phone occasionally. I saw him as a good friend and enjoyed my conversations with him. In August of 2002, I moved to MA and settled in with a couple of other teachers. That was the most intense, crazy, exhausting, ridiculous school year I have ever had! I had 18 eighth-graders all day (eleven of them were boys!) That class made me laugh and cry and smile and want to tear my hair out. Many times, I found myself driven to the phone to call my good friend in Oregon to vent about my class or cry about some students going astray or share a supremely funny story. (Sometime I will have to share a few of those stories here) In November of 2002, my parents called to let me know that they would be spending the holidays in Korea with my older brother and his family. My roommates had Christmas plans of their own with their families, and I wondered how I should spend my Christmas. Then the nerd's mom called me up one day and told me she had found out that I didn't have anywhere to go for Christmas this year. She invited me to come visit them in Oregon for Christmas. Having never been west of the Mississippi River and not being eager to spend Christmas alone, I boarded a plane to Portland, OR in December 2002.
At this point, here's how God's plan had unfolded for me: go to college, study to be a teacher, learn a lot about heartbreak and getting over yourself, make good friends, stay single, go teach in Massachusetts. Oh yeah, and it's a bunch of rowdy eighth-graders. Good luck! Ha Ha. I arrived in Oregon and immediately started getting to know the multitudes of relatives of the nerd. Christmas Day came and consisted of a constant stream of relatives and friends coming in and out of the house. When at last the busyness subsided, I sat down on the sofa to relax and catch my breath. The nerd sat down beside me, and we talked. We talked about our families, my class, sports, the weather, everything you could possibly think of except the one thing that was dominating both of our minds and hearts. Finally Chris (yep, he's the nerd) said, "So what are we going to do about us?" I looked at him, really looked at him, and realized that I did not want to spend the rest of my life with him as just my friend. I wanted to be his best friend and love him forever. You know how people talk about love at first sight? Well, it wasn't for me - it took me five years to realize I was really in love with this guy! (Hey, I already told you that I don't like to do things the easy way). Chris told me that he had loved me since sophomore year of college. I thank God that he was(and is!) such a patient guy. :)
More bumpy roads lay ahead, as we navigated the perils of a long-distance relationship. The 1 1/2 years we dated, we only saw each other face-to-face for six weeks. I knew it had to be God's plan when we survived that! After a funny and romantic proposal (I'll have to save that for another post, this is getting too long!) Chris and I married on June 12, 2004. Three babies and my own home art business later, i have come to realize that God's way is best. It surely doesn't always make sense. And when my stubbornness and human nature get in the way, God has to work AROUND those things to eventually work out His plan.
Our fifth wedding anniversary is tomorrow. I am truly amazed and blessed at how God has worked in our lives.
And I know that this blog is mostly about the kids, their cuteness, their destruction, and other humorous anecdotes. Unfortunately the nerd rarely gets mentioned. Please don't think badly of him after reading the account above. He is the sweetest, kindest, most giving man I have ever know. He is my "amazing handsome" guy I had always looked for. And hey, he has been doing the dishes for me every night so that I can focus a little more time on my business! Yep, he's a keeper! :)