I've been meaning for awhile now to write about how my fiance Kristian and I met, but since we got engaged a few weeks ago, it's been a whirlwind of family reunions, celebrations, wedding planning, and marriage prep. I simply haven't had the time to sit down and give our ongoing love story the proper telling it deserves. Today, I finally do! Here goes nothin'.
You know how people always say that God's timing is perfect? When I was going through the doldrums of singleness, well-meaning friends and family would say stuff like, "God will bring your husband at the perfect time" or "It must not be time yet." That's all well and good and true, but it doesn't help much when you feel like God's been making you wait for years for your vocation to be made clear while you watch all of your college friends and cousins and siblings and even former students get married before you. In any case, I'm now going to be that annoying person who says to all of you single ladies (and gentlemen) reading this: God's timing really IS perfect. Yes, you may end up waiting until you're 32 (like me) or 39 or 45 or what have you until the right person comes into your life. But let me tell you: trying to rush the process or make it happen on your own will only make things worse, as I know very well from experience.
The day before I met my future husband (still getting used to saying that!), a relationship that I had desperately been trying to make work finally ended. It was difficult to let go of, even though God made it crystal clear that my ex wasn't the one for me, and I remember crying out to the Lord the night before I met Kristian, saying something like this: Lord, I'm so tired. So tired of trying to make relationships work. Tired of passive men who don't know what they want. I'm just...tired. So, if you want me to get married, then you're going to have to make it REALLY clear when the right man comes along. I need him to pursue me with conviction and without holding back. Otherwise, I'd rather be single for the rest of my life. Amen.
Some of the wording may have been slightly different, but that was the basic gist of the prayer. I was trying to take a page out of St. Therese's book and show some "holy boldness" in my relationship with the Lord. And boy did he listen.
The next day, I get a phone call from my mom. I was in San Diego with a dear friend and we were wandering around the gift shop at the Hotel del Coronado when my mom called. "Christina," she said breathlessly, "I met the perfect guy for you after Mass today!!" I started laughing incredulously (my mom has tried to set me up before with no success) and asked her to describe him. She told me that a mutual friend of ours had introduced this guy, Kristian, to her after Mass that morning, and that he was really cute and really Catholic and seemed actually normal and sociable. Okay, I thought, this guy already sounds too good to be true.
Mom went on to tell me that she talked to him for about two minutes before she asked if he was single. He was. Then, she told him that she had a daughter who was 32 and single (that's me) and that she thought he would really like her. He smiled at her and laughed a bit, because he was no stranger to being set up by eager Catholic moms. Then she said something that, according to Kristian, convinced him to at least look me up on Facebook: She's not desperate. She told me the other day that she's only going to date someone if it's really clear that it's God's will.
I'm going to interrupt this story at this point to say y'all: my mom. She's amazing. Totally the Mrs. Bennett of our time. Thank God for her boldness and candor and insight, without which I would not be engaged to my beloved. Back to the story.
At this point, I was really cracking up trying to imagine what this guy was thinking as my mom was going on and on about her wonderful, amazing daughter who is TOTALLY NOT DESPERATE. My mom continued her story in spite of my laughter, saying that she really thought Kristian would contact me (Suuuure he will, I thought to myself) and to let her know if he did. I told her I would, but that she shouldn't get her hopes up; he was probably just humoring her. Shows how much I know.
After driving back to Phoenix from San Diego, I opened up my laptop to see that I had a friend request from Kristian. I accepted his friendship and promptly checked out his photos. I immediately noticed that he was indeed cute. Like, really cute. Five minutes later, he sent me a message introducing himself. In an attempt to play it cool, I didn't respond right away. Apparently this made him nervous, and a few minutes later he messaged me again apologizing if he had creeped me out. I took pity on him and messaged back and we had a pleasant "conversation" for about ten minutes before he asked me for my number. Wow, I thought, that's unusual. Still skeptical, I gave him my number and figured maybe he'd call in a week or so.
Kristian called the next day. We chatted for about 45 minutes and I found myself wishing we could've talked longer. He vaguely mentioned that he might call later in the week, so my skepticism persisted. Two days later (Wednesday), he suggested that we Skype, so we did. It was clear on Skype that we were both attracted to/interested in each other, but Kristian impressed me even more by suggesting that he come visit me in Phoenix that Saturday. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. We solidified our plans, I found a place for him to stay, and I picked him up from the Phoenix airport for our first in-person meeting on the morning of February 6, 2016.
For those of you keeping track, here's how the timeline went:
Mom calls: Morning of 1/31/16
Kristian contacts me on FB: Evening of 1/31/16
Kristian calls for the first time: 2/1/16
First Skype session: 2/3/16
First meeting and date: 2/6/16
Remember that prayer I prayed the night before I first heard about Kristian? The one about sending me a proactive man who would pursue me with conviction? Never have I received such a clear (and quick) answer to prayer in my life.
To make a long story short: our first date was lovely. I immediately felt at home with him (and was super attracted too, which is always nice). We went hiking, to lunch at a favorite cafe of mine, to Mass, to dinner, talked for hours about faith/philosophy/theology/traveling/relationships/healing, and it took every ounce of self-control for both of us not to kiss each other (I'm glad we didn't, for the record). Before the weekend was over, he asked if he could fly out the next weekend to take me out for Valentine's Day. I said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I could say SO much more about the godly man that the Lord sent to me a mere six months ago. I could tell you all about our Valentine's Day date that he planned perfectly (even though he'd only known me for a week) and how a month later, he cut his trip to Israel short so he could come to my family's celebration of Easter in DC. I could tell you about our magical first kiss and our difficult first conflict and how much my students loved him when he came to visit my classes at the end of February (it was during one of my classes as he was patiently answering my students' questions that I realized he was the man I was called to marry). I could tell you about how natural the progression of our relationship felt, every step of the way, even though we got engaged a few weeks shy of our six month anniversary.
I could tell you a lot of things. But the most important thing is this: God wrote our love story. He is writing our love story. That much has been clear to us from day one. Neither of us could have ever predicted, created, or forced this. It was 100% gift from heaven and we still marvel at how generous God is. The timing, as annoying as this might sound, was perfect.
My students used to ask me how I would know when I met my future husband. I always gave them the same simple formula: I'll know when I meet a man whom I want to marry who also wants to marry me. I never thought my mom would introduce us. Or that we would do long distance for the first several months. Or that I would move back to Texas without a job just to be closer to him. Or that we would be getting married less than a year into our relationship. But God's ways are not our ways, and for that, I am grateful.
PS After we started talking seriously about marriage, Kristian told me that as soon as he saw my photo on Facebook, he had a strong intuition that I was "the one." That conviction only deepened when we met in person. Thus, the Lord answered another one of my prayers without me even asking: I'd been praying for years that when I met the right man, he would know first.
PPS There's NO WAY Kristian and I would be engaged if it were not for the prayers of so many dear friends and family (you know who you are and we are eternally grateful). Also, therapy. Therapy REALLY HELPS y'all.