A Love Story

Do you want to hear a love story?

Good, because I’m going to tell you one.

Today is our anniversary.  Seven winters ago today, David and I vowed before God that we would be together for the rest of our lives until one of us dies.

My mind still cannot wrap around that, even though I can’t imagine life being any other way.

Since we were first introduced in an international airport, I’ll have to give you proper resumes.  So you’ll be able to understand how two people from opposite sides of the continent who met in a baggage claim ended up clasping hands in a courthouse in the deep South two years later, pledging their lives to one another.

David grew up in a small town in Northern California (about ten miles from where we live now).  Since he was a little boy, he had a deep sense of honor and a love for gadgets and technology.  When he was a young man of about 24 years, he was wearing Silvertab jeans and Sketchers and a pleather jacket.  He was working as an independent web developer in the latter days of the dot com era while serving as a youth pastor in the small church where he’d attended almost all his life.  In the winter of 2004, he loaded his ‘94 Mazda MX-4 and headed to the midwest, where he spent six months as an intern at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.

I wish I could tell you every fascinating and downright unearthly turn of events that led him to board a plane to Atlanta, Georgia the fall of 2004, but the short story is that while in Kansas City, he was asked to use his computer hacking skills to help start a new House of Prayer in Atlanta.

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Then, there was me.  The directionally challenged 22-year-old who was annoyed at being asked to pick up a couple of strange guys from the airport.  I was living at home at the time, breaking from school between my junior and senior years to serve at the House of Prayer. How I ended up there is another story for another time.  But it was definitely not part of my five year plan to graduate with an MBA and travel Europe, I will say that.

If I had known I was about to meet my prince that day, I might have worn a cute ball gown (or at least curled my hair and worn my cutest pointy heels and acted very casual) instead of a baseball cap and a sweatshirt.

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I was introduced to him as “Alsbury.”  He was wearing an orange striped polo shirt and we stopped at the Taco Bell drive-through on our way home, which is all I can remember from that.

Over the next year, I have hardly any real memories of my interaction with David, though he lived right below me in my parent’s basement for five months.  I probably saw him every day, multiple times a day, including every evening at dinner time.  We ate together, drove places together, socialized together, wore Sketchers together, listened to CD’s together, prayed together…every day…for months.

And I have very few memories of this, which is embarrassing.

In fact, he returned to California for a short period of time before re-locating permanently to Atlanta.  He asked if I would drive him to catch his plane.  Which I did.  Then I called him a week later with a computer question.  Kind of forgetting that he wasn’t, you know, in town.  Never mind that he was 1.) GONE. 2.) IN ANOTHER STATE. 3.) I HAD DRIVEN HIM TO THE AIRPORT.

Oh, yeah.  That’s how not on my radar he was.

I mean.  He was the skinny guy who removed viruses from our family desktop and hung out late at night with my brothers .

Although I thought he was remarkably easy to have deep conversations with and was probably the funniest guy I knew, that’s about as far as it went.

Except it wasn’t.  Because he was remarkably easy to have deep conversations with.  And the funniest guy I knew.

I started to consider him a pretty decent guy.  Unlike most guys I knew, he never tried to flirt with me or play mind games.  I helped him shop for clothes a couple of times (bye-bye Sketchers and Silvertabs).  We confided in one another about people we were interested in.  At Thanksgiving, we ended up talking for hours on my Aunt’s porch.  I mean, he introduced me to Gmail, which has got to say something significant about our relationship.

A little over a year after we met, I’d decided to return to school to finish my studies and took a mind-bogglingly boring cubicle job in medical coding.

So I did what any 23-year-old in a mind-bogglingly boring cubicle job (back when Facebook statuses said things like “at work”) would do, and checked my Hotmail.  A lot.

One day I got an email from David Alsbury.  He was looking to staff the technology department at the ministry where we worked and asked if I would join his team.  I politely declined for obvious reasons: computers and technology.

He replied something. (Funny, probably).

I replied something back.

This originally unremarkable exchange somehow turned into an interesting and humorous conversation between two friends, which somehow turned into an embarrassingly long string of flirtatious chat between people who seemed like they might be interested in being more than friends.

I think The Email Affair must have lasted for a few weeks, because in the middle of the whole thing, he walked into the front door of the house where I was living and I was suddenly struck with the shocking reality that I like David Alsbury.

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An interesting chain of events was set into motion that December whereby we went on an unofficial date, I met his parents (that’s a whole other story), and he officially asked me to coffee.

Now, for those of you who are not familiar with the “dating” scene amongst the youth group goers of the Josh Harris era,  you know that being asked to coffee is the same thing as being asked out for a drink.  It’s a youth group classic.

It can also be an unofficial marriage proposal.

(Now would be a really good time to view this.  You are welcome.)

We met at Panera after work one late December evening.  I was wearing a fluffy, white Gap turtleneck sweater, black tights, a green corderoy mini skirt and black boots (duh).  Sitting across from one another with steaming, ceramic cups of hot cocoa in hand, he told me not only that he wanted to date me, but looked me right in the eye and asked if he could pursue me with the intention of marriage.

This man, who’d never had a girlfriend in his life, never kissed anyone, and who had waited twenty-six long years for the perfect woman to walk through his door was trying to say he wanted to marry me.

In the words of Mulan’s Grandma, “A guy like this doesn’t come along every dynasty.”  

I felt like I’d been struck in the heart with Cupid’s arrow and hit in the face with a two-by-four all in the same moment.

The next few days were a blur.  Yesterday were were friends.  Today we were an item…a couple….a potential marriage.  

Christmas morning I sat straight up in bed in what can only be explained as an utter panic. I curled up in a ball under the covers and ugly-cried my eyes out.  The gravity of what I was saying yes to hit me.  Oh, God. I’m supposed to be a single, independent woman whirl-winding around the globe…not some guy’s wife!  This whole thing was a huge mistake.  

Nothing like ruining someone’s life on Christmas Day.  I wiped my eyes, went downstairs and and pretended as best I could to play Christmas.  When David arrived to celebrate with our family, my heart sank to my feet.  I simply could not look him in the eye.  Oh, please, dear God, if only one of us could disappear.  

The day was record-breakingly awkward.

Through hurt and confusion David handed me a Christmas card.  I knew if I opened it, I was liable to find the most beautiful, romantic and authentic love letter anyone had ever written me.  It would have to be. I could hardly bear to read it knowing I was planning ruin a perfectly good friendship and smash the heart of this honorable man into a trillion pieces on Christmas Day.

“Be patient with a weak man as he falls for a very beautiful woman.”  -David Alsbury

(Slams card closed.)

So naturally, we went out “to get egg nog” and I broke up with him in the CVS parking lot, staring at a brick wall.

After we were pulled over by an angry cop (that’s another story for another time), I went home and contemplated how quickly I could leave the state.

Only to end up moving two houses down from him a few weeks later.  And only to receive a letter in the mail from the University stating that my graduation application had been denied and that I would need to enroll for three final credits, thwarting all my plans to leave the state in the summer.  (Naturally.)

Plan B.  Ignore him and avoid eye contact like the plague and pray things like “dear Lord, please make the last two months be deleted forever and ever and no one ever know about this. Thank you God, Amen.”

Yes, plan B was crap.  But it was all I had.  Because he would not go away.

So that is what I did for seven months.  While David did the following:  install a stereo in my car, help me move, try to ask me out again, open doors for me, pull out chairs, send me funny emails, appear everywhere, show up at all my prayer sets, smile at me, be super awesome, bring all the girls in our house ice cream and soda for Valentine’s Day, compliment my hair when I chopped it off, and other highly irritating and endearing things.

At least once a week, a friend would take me off to a corner and speak in hushed, serious tones, saying things like “You have to know David Alsbury is in love with you.”

Yeah, guys.  That’s why I was trying to leave the state.

It wasn’t until the day that a good friend actually declared me an Ass, that I began to reconsider my stance on David.

It went something like this:

Her name was Pam and she was a psycho-therapist from Long Island, New York.

There we were (living in a house with six other girls) talking girl talk on our Ikea couches.  For the millionth time, the millionth friend just HAD to ask:

“So what about you and David Alsbury getting together?”

Being the millionth friend, for the millionth time, I was weak.

“Oh, fine.  If I tell you something, you have promise not to tell anyone.”

She promised.  (Psycho-therapists honor.)

“Okay.  We dated once.  For three days.”

Who dates someone for three days?  She demanded proof of this nonsense.  When someone demands proof of something in a Long Island accent, you don’t deny them.

I did have proof.  I jumped up and ran downstairs to the box in my dresser drawer and pulled out… the Christmas card love letter.  You know, the “be patient with a weak man as he falls for a very beautiful woman”  one.

Oh, you know, just the love letter from the guy I’ll never, ever get together with in a million, billion years, just hoarded away in a secret box in my dresser where I read it five times every time I open the drawer.  No big deal.

I handed it to her and waited sixty, agonizing seconds while she read it.

That is when she looked at me over the top of the card and said:

“I mean this in the most loving possible way (LONG, DRAMATIC PAUSE), but YOU. ARE. AN. ASS.”

There is also something about the word “ass” said in a Long Island, New York accent that is especially moving.

In that moment, the truth of her words pierced me.  She was right.

I knew I would regret not saying yes to him…for the rest of my life.

Then I imagine I did something like jump up and hug her and whirl around the room shouting, “I’m an ass, I’m an ass and I don’t care who knows it!”

And then I was in love.

David accepted my humble, giddy apology ten short days later.  True to his word, after five months of dating, he proposed to me on the beach at St. Simon’s island under an enchanted November moon.

We were married February 24th, 2007 at 7:00 in the evening at the Gwinnett County Historic Courthouse.  (Yes, that’s four months of engagement.)

My wedding day was magic.

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The media’s favorite thing to do is portray virgins as hopeless, socially crippled individuals, while glorifying first-time sex between seventeen-year-olds at high school football games as being the ultimate romance.

It’s embarrassing now, but I almost bought into that lie so many times.

We were able to wait until our wedding night to be together.  I wish I could say we were both virgins.  David was. I considered myself a “technical” virgin at that time, but I don’t anymore, if I’m honest with myself.  I had relinquished my purity in some dumb situations I got myself into in my later teens, which I deeply regret.

By the mercy of God, I escaped that relationship.  By the mercy of God I found David.  We were neither seventeen nor socially crippled individuals when we said our lifelong vows to each other that day.

I’ll say it and say it often: thank God my “best days” were not in high school and oh, please don’t let yours be either.  (They were about the worst, actually.  But again…another story for another time.)

I know…you think we’re weird, and too extreme and dorky.  I’d be lying if I said we weren’t!  I mean, who in the world has a four month engagement? (Us, that’s who!)

Weird as we might be, it’s true what they say.  True love is worth waiting for.

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It’s been a great adventure, these past seven years.  I am married to a humble, loyal man who loves and values women and works together with me as a true partner in a life shared.

(You can read a couple of them here and here).

Yes, there are trade-offs for being an permanent relationship with someone.  Yes, there are “rights “we give up (we both have) in order to invest in something greater than ourselves.

Culture tries to tell us (especially women) that self-sacrifice is weak, even wrong. But I am here to say that in eternity we will understand fully that love and self-sacrifice will be the most valuable thing we could have done with our lives.

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Our only regret is that we wish we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon…but we think maybe that can be remedied sometime in the next fifty years.  [Update, it was remedied the summer after our 10th anniversary!]