Happy Valentine's Day, friends! In honor of this day I thought I would go ahead and post our love story on the blog. It's been posted as one of our "pages" at the top of the blog for quite some time, but I know that not everyone knows they exist or visits them very often...so here it is as an actual blog post! :)
Our love story is a bit on the non-traditional side. You see, we dated long distance the entire time. When I say long distance, I don't mean that we lived in different cities. We lived in different states. States that were very far apart from each other. Thankfully, we were in the same timezone!
Lets start at the beginning...
In October of 2008 I received an email from a dear friend who lived in Indianapolis. She had just finished serving on Faith Quest with Stephen and had a revelation. In her email she explained that there was a sweet spirited guy that she has known for some time but never thought about introducing me too because their paths did not cross often. Well, they crossed at Faith Quest and she thought of me. She asked if I would be interesting in getting to know him and assured me that he loved the Lord, was passionate about missions and came from a wonderful family. I responded to her and in short told her that I did not think I was at all interested in a long distance relationship, but that I liked meeting new people and having more friends to stay with should I take another cross country road trip. (I really liked road trips at this time) She emailed him a similar email to the one she had sent me and within a couple days I had a friend request from Stephen on FB.
After a little bit of FB stalking I accepted his request and we began chatting. We chatted about things from my love of Gator football and his love of the White Sox to our combined love for the Lord and desire to serve him through different ministry opportunities. The day before Thanksgiving 2008 I gave him my phone number and told him he could call whenever since I would not be on my computer much over the holiday weekend. I remember feeling so anxious awaiting and wondering when he would call. The call came on Thanksgiving night. It was so good to finally hear his voice! We began our "phone dates" at that point and talked every night. Our conversations always grew deep and soon we both knew that we needed to meet face to face.
In December we made plans for him to travel to Florida. Stephen was leaving on a month long mission trip to Nigeria the beginning of February so we knew he had to come in January. I remember not being able to sleep the night be bought his ticket and just being so over the moon excited to finally meat this person that I had connected with on so many levels through our constant phone calls and emails.
The last week in January, Stephen flew to Jacksonville, Florida on a Friday night. In fact, his flight landed at midnight. I had the weekend entirely planned out from picking him up at the airport to dropping him off, but at the last minute plans changed. Suddenly I was not picking him up with some friends, but I was going alone. At first, I panicked. I had the options of taking my Mom with me, or my best friends brother. In the end, I prayed and the Lord gave me peace. I already knew Stephen and I already trusted Stephen. I would pick him up from the airport on my own.
That entire weekend was a blast. We had a great time getting to know each other in person and spending time in each others company. We had breakfast with my parents, went to St. Augustine for gelato (yum), walked on the beach, and climbed the lighthouse to watch the sunset (see above picture) It was beautiful. So beautiful.
He left for Indianapolis on Sunday and I felt saddened by his absence. He would be leaving for Nigeria very soon. Our phone dates continued and we talked about what he needed to pack and plan for in Nigeria. I had planned on sending things with him, including pictures of me and of us from his trip. I sent him a package before his departure that included several cards that were numbered with dates on them indicating when he could open each card. One card was to be opened on Valentine's Day. He has since told me how much those cards meant to him and picked him up just when he needed it. In true Emily fashion, I sent some funny pictures too. Pictures like me swimming in a cooler as a toddler and dressed in head to toe hot pink as a 6 year old who was too cool for school. Little did I know that these pictures of me growing up would be just what he needed!
Once he returned from Nigeria in the beginning of March we made plans for another trip to Florida. We talked about his time in Nigeria and both mentioned having some epiphanies or revelations. I could not wait for him to get in Florida! In April, we had a weekend full of CamiCake cupcakes, movies at my house and trips to the beach. On this trip, 6 months after we began talking and 4 months after meeting for the first time; we had our first kiss. During Star Wars: Episode 5. Let me tell you; it was nothing like I would have imagined. Actually, I never would have imagined that I would EVER watch Star Wars to begin with BUT, love makes you do crazy things. (I have since watched all the Star Wars movies and actually enjoyed them to my surprise!) That same night he also told me that he loved me with the sweetest words. At that point in my life, it was the greatest day ever.
Several more trips ensured over the next year. I traveled to Indiana and him to Florida almost every month. This became expensive. We had begun talking about marriage but there were so many unsures about it all. Where would we live (what state) was the big one. We began praying about this and trusting that the Lord would work everything out.
The proposal occurred in March 2010. You can read all about that here.
At this point we still had no idea what our future held but we were okay with that as long as we were together. We began praying more and more for God to open doors and make his will clear to both of us. I was living in Orange Park, FL and working in Jacksonville, FL at a job that was horrible in almost every way. I was unhappy and left work for the hour drive home in tears almost everyday. I knew that I could not and would not be able to keep that job even if we did live in Florida. Stephen began searching for employment at this time. Mostly in Florida. I was searching in Florida and Indiana, praying something would work out. Praise the Lord, for he is good! In July I had an interview with Biomet, Inc. Well, actually I had a phone interview and then a face-to-face dinner interview with someone from the department the next day. Within several weeks I was offered a job in Indiana!
Things started coming together very, very quickly. The wedding was basically planned and all the details worked out. Stephen had found an apartment for us to live in and I had a start date of September 14, 2010 at Biomet. I was terrified to move away from all my family and friends in Florida but knew this was what I had been praying for. We had prayed for the Lord to open a door and make his will clear and the door was opened in Indiana. Over Labor Day weekend we packed up my Florida house with the help of my family in Florida and Stephen's parents who had flew down to help and drive the truck to IN, and were on the road to Indiana together. We left while it was still dark outside and I cried until the sun came up...somewhere in GA. I am not kidding!
While I was heartbroken because of leaving everything I knew and was used to, I was so happy because this was our future and our life. It was the beginning of "us"!
After moving in, unpacking, and starting a new job we were headed back to Florida for our October 2, 2010 wedding and following honeymoon.
The rest is history :)
Now we have been married for over 2 years, have adopted the sweetest puppy, bought our house that we love, purchased a car together (this Florida girl needed 4WD for these winters!), and now we are waiting for the arrival of our very love little girl Lilly. God does amazing things when you trust his plan and his timing!
Happy Valentine's Day Stephen! Louie, Lilly and I love you so much!