Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Valentine's Day love story...

Old photo from Fall 2005

David and I got a Valentine's day date this Saturday night. It almost didn't happen. We'd arranged to swap babysitting with a friend. She and her husband were supposed to go out on Friday night, and we would have Saturday night. Well, she got the same cold that I have, only worse, so on Friday afternoon, I found out that wasn't going to work. Never fear! I turned to Plan B. I told David that Kristi cancelled on us, and that we were going to have a special "family outing" instead. I didn't mention that the "family outing" involved splitting up the family by dropping Seth at Chris and Mandy's house on the way to dinner. =) My cover was blown on Saturday afternoon when Mandy called to tell me that her son was running a slight fever, but I kept it up until then. Being the bad parents that we are, and in the absence of any other symptoms of sickness from Ryan, we decided to take our chances. (Hey, Seth didn't get sick with my cold, and I've been sneezing all over him all week.)

We dropped off the munchkin, and then we headed to... Pizza Hut in Dunn, NC. But wait, it's romantic! This was the site of our first date, on Valentine's Day 9 years ago. We haven't been back since. We went to college in the middle of nowhere, rural NC. There were two Pizza Huts within 20 minutes of the college... and very few other restaurants. We usually went to the other one, but for some reason, we ended up at the Dunn Pizza Hut for our first date.

But let me take you back to a simpler time... flashback to Valentine's Day weekend, 1999. David and I had been friends for several months. I got to know him through mutual geeky clubs and through our involvement in Student Government together. He had a house that he rented with a couple of guys, and I would hang out there with other mutual friends from time to time. But by this point, our relationship was moving away from friendship. Initially, I'd viewed David like a great brother figure. But that was changing, and that scared me.

I guess the reason it scared me should've been a good sign, but I didn't see it that way at the time. I was scared to date David because I was afraid that I would date him, things wouldn't work out, and I would break his heart. David had never dated anyone before, and I'd had a few boyfriends. At that point, I cared about him more than I've ever cared about them, because I was thinking more about the consequences for him if this went south than I was about what would happen to me. But I wasn't aware of that; that's hindsight talking.

I'd gone home for the weekend to do some soul searching, and I told David I'd come by his house when I got back. We were in the strange no-man's-land stage of Interested But Not Really Dating Yet. So I wanted to take some time to pray about the direction our relationship should take. That Sunday morning, I went to the church I'd been attending for the past couple of years when I'd come home from college on weekends. I'll never forget the sermon.

For one thing, the bulletin had a poem entitled "Risk" on the cover. The sermon itself was about the children of Israel as they camped on the edge of the Promised Land. Joshua and the spies went in to check out the land, and they reported back that it was a great land, but that the people in it were like giants. Quickly, the Israelites turned chicken. God had promised them that He would be with them to take the land, and they were supposed to have it. But they were too scared to go in and capture what God had promised to them. As a result of their cowardice, they got to wander in the wilderness for 40 more years, and they never got to enter the Promised Land. The pastor asked us to consider what God was offering us. Were we afraid to reach for His promised gifts? Did we really trust Him to do what He'd said He would do for us?

I felt like God was speaking directly to me that Sunday morning. And I knew what I thought He was saying. David was the best guy I'd ever known. He had a heart for Jesus and a strong walk with Him that made me love and respect him. And this amazing guy wanted me? What in the world was I holding back for?

Still, I was hesitant. I wanted to be completely sure that was what God wanted. So I decided to lay down a "fleece." =) I prayed, and I told God that I would date David if He arranged it that David gave me 6 yellow roses as a Valentine's Day present. I didn't think that David would be getting me anything for Valentine's Day, much less roses, so this seemed like a pretty safe bet. I didn't know it at the time, but David decided at the last minute to buy me roses. This was a really big deal for him, since he certainly hadn't ever bought a girl flowers before.

When I showed up at his house on Sunday evening, he presented me with six roses. Problem. They weren't yellow. They were pink and purple. I didn't know quite what to do with that. I'd gotten 2/3 of my fleece. Hmmm. So I decided on a 2/3 solution.

David and I ended up at Pizza Hut. As we sat there, enjoying our food and conversation, I dropped the bomb, my perfect 2/3 solution.

I said, "David, I've decided that I'm willing to date you... nonexclusively." Da da da dum. (Expectant silence.)

David, being the brilliant and confused guy that he was, said, "So, does that mean we can date other people?"

I hadn't thought of this. So I said, "Well, yeah, but I'd rather we didn't plan on doing that." See, in my mind, this nonexclusive thing was a way for me to honor my fleece and get my feet wet without diving in. I wasn't expecting questions...

David: "Hmmm... so does this mean I have to pay for dinner?"

I laughed. And that's when it hit me: "I have never been more comfortable with someone in my entire life. This could be it." That moment was one of those mile markers in my journey to becoming Mrs. David that stand out. It meant something important, and it branded itself on my heart.

I still have a mental picture of that laugh we shared then frozen in my mind. I see David's smiling face in the corner of the booth. I see the edge of the window behind him... and I see a glimmer of my future in his face.

When we went back to Pizza Hut this Saturday night, it seemed like we were in a time warp. The Pizza Hut in Dunn hasn't gotten an update. Same cheesy '90s music playing, same yucky carpet, same glass lampshades over the booths. And we didn't seem different. We still laugh at stuff that wouldn't be funny to anyone else, and we still try to share our breadsticks evenly. David got me the biggest box of Whitman's that they make this year because he knows I have a family history of feeling loved by the big box of Whitmans. Mom always got a bigger one than I did, and I pouted. So he knows that giving me the big box says that I'm numero uno in our family and in his heart.

I know that's where I rank. There's no doubt. I've always been number one for him, and I've never questioned that, not for a single second. I hope he knows he's always been number one in my heart.

When you go back to the place where you started, you reminisce. We talked about the little details of our courtship, and while they wouldn't be fascinating to anyone else, they were completely enthralling for us. This is our history, the history of our family, the history of the biggest blessing God has given us on this earth.

It's been 9 years since we sat in that Pizza Hut booth. We're very different people now than we were then. We've grown, and the best part is that we've grown together. We've shared the same good and bad experiences, and we've learned from them with a united heart. We've walked the same direction, hand in hand. And when we walk back through the door and sit in the booth, we sit there as one heart, united, and not as two, tentatively taking steps to become one. I think this Valentine's Day tops that one, for so many reasons. I thank God for the giving us the first one and every one thats come after.

So if you ever go to Pizza Hut with me, and you notice I get a sentimental gleam in my eye, indulge me. It's not just the breadsticks.

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