Today is our thirty-first anniversary. I don’t normally post on a Wednesday, but I decided to share my real life love story.
I lay in bed that Saturday night on a pillow wet with tears. It had been a wretched day—I’d just broken up with my current boyfriend for what felt like the umpteenth time. I knew it wasn’t a healthy relationship, but his compelling arguments and seemingly sincere desire to change always enticed me to return. Tonight I’d ordered him out of my parents’ home before I caved. But I knew tomorrow the pleading would begin again.
I was finally at the end of myself and I began to pray, asking God to give me a reason to stay strong—to give me a reason to continue to say no.
Sunday morning dawned bright and for some reason I woke refreshed and renewed. As I got ready for church, I continued to pray, once again asking God to give me a concrete reason to hang onto what I knew was right.
At church, I was soon caught up in seeing friends and getting into my choir robe. Our small church only had one service and one choir, made up of youth and adults. I enjoyed it immensely—in no small part because it was something my dad and I did together. I sang soprano and sat in the front row and my dad sang baritone and sat right behind me.
We processed in and I took the opportunity of a familiar hymn to scan the small congregation in front of me. I was surprised to see a good-looking young man in one of the front pews. Our family had moved to Northwest Arkansas seven months earlier and quickly joined this church. This was the first time I’d ever seen him.
He looked up and I quickly looked down, pleased to have caught his eye. I’d caught a slight twitch to his lips and a twinkle in his eyes—perhaps a hint of a fun sense of humor? His dark wavy hair curled slightly over his collar and I couldn’t seem to keep from sneaking quick, and I hoped, subtle glances his way. About half-way through the service our eyes met . . . and he winked. Immediately I felt my face flush. I looked away and fought to keep a grin off my face. I tried to look at him without making it too obvious, but he was waiting for me, a sweet grin on his face. When our eyes met he winked again.
The electricity was immediate, and I didn’t try to hide my answering grin. Even though I’d never met him, this brazen young man was a hero. I saw a lifetime of possibilities in those few looks and knew I didn’t want that chance to pass me by. I had my reason to stay strong. God had used him to answer my prayer.
A Month Later
It had been four weeks since that handsome young man had winked at me while I was singing in the choir. After church I’d rushed to get my choir robe off and hung up, expecting to have someone waiting. But I’d been disappointed when he hadn’t found me and introduced himself. Still, just his interest had been enough to help me weather the storms of ending a bad relationship.
Now a month had passed, and I still hadn’t met my hero. I’d about decided he was just a visitor God had used to set my life back on track. Today my dad and I joked as we donned choir robes and I entered the choir loft with a smile. It widened into a grin as I caught sight of a familiar stranger seated in the front pew. He had returned—and he was grinning back at me.
Church went by in a blur, anticipation giving unexpected wings to the hour. Surely this time we’d have a chance to meet.
Once more, I hurried out of my choir robe and went to hang it up. But before I could get free of the choir room, he was there, standing in front of me. Even with that infectious grin in place, he’d managed to introduce himself to my father and somehow get his permission for me to stay with him for the church luncheon that day.
We got acquainted during an eclectic meal prepared by some of the best cooks in the county. Even in the middle of the crowded room we felt like we were alone. The time sped by as we shared conversation, dreams and laughter. All too soon I was seated in his 1976 Olds Cutlass as he delivered me home.
He walked me to my porch where we stood awkwardly for a few moments before He said he’d call and turned back to his car. As I watched him drive away I found myself hoping that wouldn’t be the last time I saw his car parked outside my house.
I’d been married to my hero for almost twenty years. We were well on our way raising our three boys and I’d decided to return to my passion and my calling, writing. Before we’d had children I’d worked as a full-time technical writer, but when the kids came along I’d opted for full-time motherhood. While the boys were moving from baby to toddler to school-age, I’d done some dabbling, but nothing serious. Now, with all three in school I had time—and energy—to get back in the game.
I had no urge to go back to a corporate writing job, I wanted to enter the world of freelance and eventually move into books, specifically Christian books. God had given me so much—gifted me with so much—I really felt He wanted me to use my gift for His glory. But I knew there’d be a steep learning curve. I began attending writing conferences, joining online and local writing groups, as well as amassing a library of writing books. I also began to sell an occasional article and speak at a few women’s ministry events, but nothing that could keep up with the expenses of learning the craft of writing.
I began to feel guilty about the outlay from the family budget for what appeared to be an expensive hobby. I flirted with giving up the dream. I was discouraged and felt like maybe I’d misunderstood God’s calling.
That’s when Kirk gave me a gift I still cherish. We were out on a date night and I’d begun apologizing about even considering another writing conference. He stopped me and took my hand. “I’ve watched what God has been doing through your writing. You truly have a gift and I believe in it.”
“I would be more than happy for us to pay for you to return to college.” That grin I never could resist broke through. “That’s the way I view your writing conferences and classes. This is your college education.”
I couldn’t help it, tears began to collect in my eyes. “But what about when college is over? What if I still don’t make enough to pay for the classes and conferences? Should I give up then?”
“Of course not. Lots of careers require ongoing education. I’m in this for the long haul.” His eyes twinkled. “How about you?”
if you're reading this, I hope you know how much I love you. Words can't even begin to express what you mean to me. You are now, and always have been, my hero.
This story first appeared on Shannon Vannetter's Inkslinger blog