How We Met
We met when he still had hair.
There was a Christian conference in Indiana and a bus load of young people from Toronto were planning on going to it and I thought it would be fun to go along too.
Paul was there with his family.
It was the last week of December 2000.
I was 15.5 and he was a week shy of 16.
We had some mutual friends and I believe we met through them at the conference, though the details are somewhat fuzzy.
We hit it off really well at first and spent a lot of time together talking.
By the end of the conference I thought he was a ridiculous flirt and decided that I not only did I not like him, but I couldn’t stand him and spent the last 24 hours of the conference going out of my way to ignore him.
I vividly remember sitting on the bus, minutes before our group was going to leave and watching him run by all of the buses looking for me. I ducked when he came near me.
Days later I was feeling badly about being so mean so I wrote him an email and basically told him I was sorry for being rude, but that I thought he was flirtatious and I didn’t like it.
He will tell you that he knew soon after meeting me that he wanted to marry me: this I believe because the dear man wasn’t threatened by my backhanded apology.
Thus began our long distance correspondence with him living with his family in Cleveland and me living with my family just outside Toronto. We e-mailed each other and wrote letters to each other with obsessive devoted frequency.
During this time I was finishing up high school and Paul wrote his GED and started taking classes at his local college.
In ’03 I graduated from high school with plans to spend 1 year in Nigeria, West Africa living with my grandparents who are missionaries there.
Paul had joined the Army and was to head off to boot camp a month after I left Canada.
In all this time we never defined our relationship. We never felt the need to. We liked each other. We didn’t play games with each other. We were just good friends. Who were becoming better friends. Who liked each other.
Even though we had always had a long distance relationship the distance between Nigeria and his initial Army training stations seemed like WORLDS apart. I had limited internet access and our entire communication was through letters, taking up to 6 weeks to travel one way.
The lack of communication actually brought us a lot closer. Not because of anything we were doing, but because we were both forced to hand our relationship over to the Lord. We had no way of knowing what the other one was thinking, if the other one was losing interest, if the other one was anywhere on the same page.
It was probably the hardest part of our relationship and yet it was the most defining.
That period brought us closer to the Lord, which actually brought us closer to each other without any physical or emotional bonds.
At the end of our continent-apart-distance I knew I wanted to marry him and he knew he wanted to marry me, but we had no idea that we were both thinking that.
My plan was to go away to college that fall of 2004. I registered, got the school t-shirt (still have it!) and was excited to go, although I had no idea what it would mean for Paul and me as we still hadn’t defined our relationship.
Meanwhile Paul had been stationed in Oklahoma at his permanent duty station. Summer of ’04 his sister and I went out to visit him and my last night there I felt really sick, but by morning it had passed and I thought nothing of it. I flew home and two nights later the same chills and fever came back. Then it happened again two nights after that.
I had malaria and it was hitting me every other day.
It was the oddest thing and the doctor did all sorts of blood tests and tried a variety of drugs to help me.
It took them awhile to officially diagnose malaria as it was a rather rare strain – and by the time I recovered I had already missed over a week of school. I resigned from the school and picked up a couple jobs as a nanny. I was still living with my parents.
That (American) Thanksgiving Paul came up to visit me in Toronto and we traveled to Cleveland together for his brothers wedding.
Paul proposed days after the wedding. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me since we still hadn’t technically defined us. And oddly enough that had been totally ok with me.
The day he proposed was the first time he kissed me.
It was also the 11th time we had seen each other, including the day we had met almost 4 years previous.
All in all, from the conference where we met til our wedding day 4.5 years later we saw each other 13 different times.
We relied heavily on the opinion of people we respected and quickly dismissed those who mindlessly swooned praises.
I’ll never forget that one of my older friends, of their own initiative, took me aside the first time after meeting Paul and said, “You know, I don’t know what I think about him. Be careful and give him more time to prove himself.”
Many months later (maybe a couple years even…) that same friend told me; “You know, I think Paul is a great guy and compliments you well.”
That friends cautious approach and encouraging follow up was one of the large milestones in my developing relationship with Paul.
There were many other older and wiser people that gave cautions, vouched for character and gave encouragement – they will probably never know how valuable they were to us and they certainly gave us both a respect for thoughtful responses.