Here I am, blogging a story that I never thought I would be able to call mine. It’s a story that I never saw coming. But it’s one I’ll forever treasure and cherish, not only because it’s mine, but because it clearly has been one of my biggest blessings from God. The best stories are the ones with unexpected endings, and if you had talked to little ol’ me back 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed a word you said. But here it is. It’s a story that has just started, really. But here’s where it all began.
Don’t miss Stephen’s half of this story:
Stephen’s story: Part 1 – Noticing a Proverbs 31 woman
Stephen’s story: Part 2 – A deepening friendship & surprising messages
Stephen’s story: Part 3 – Becoming an Arkansan
Stephen’s story: Part 4 – Proposal and a Resounding “Yes!”
Who is this guy wearing a big red coat with a snowy background? I was online taking a break from my studies through College Plus and browsing the online forum that the students used to connect and give study help to each other. I logged on to the forums October 5th and saw I had a message from a guy I hadn’t ever met before. All I could see was that he was standing in a whole bunch of snow.
You had introduced yourself and if I remember correctly, asked for some help on a debate thread concerning Biblical matters. If it wasn’t that, you were simply thanking me for the posts I had done on another debate thread concerning baptism. I honestly don’t remember. But I didn’t have too much contact with you after that initial message you sent me on the College Plus Forums.
The next time I remember having any contact with you was when I had posted on the Random Thoughts thread (where all the students went to just have fun and lighthearted conversation) saying I was done with all my college courses and would be graduating soon. After hitting post, a message popped up in my inbox from you. “Congrats! What are your plans now?” That little message started something that has grown into a friendship that I never would have expected. You were all the way in Canada, and I’m the girl who’s never planning on leaving my home town.
That one simple question became a running conversation that went on for several months. Looking back now, I find it funny that we apologized when our reply was a day or two after the message was received. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say why that’s funny. So keep reading. I found out that people in the northwest US thought you guys had penguins and polar bears running around in Edmonton. You found out that I knew very little about what cold and snow really was. Each message got longer and longer as we shared things that we liked, things that were happening in our family, and funny stories.
Then Christmas rolled around. The forums we had been using to communicate were closing down for the month to allow us students time to focus on our families. You sent a message saying, “Oh, I almost forgot, the Forums are closing down on the 13th… If you want to, here is my email address. Otherwise talk to you in the new year! Have a great Holiday season!”
I knew I would miss talking to you for a month, so after I talked to my mom about it I sent you an email titled “Just Now Getting Back to You…” I never knew how accurate that title would become over the next couple years. Instead of a couple days between emails, we were now stretching the time between emails to 2 weeks, then 3, and finally 4-5. Our lives were getting busier. You had moved to Florida and were working full time. I had started a job at the local university and was very slowly getting my photography business started.
I started getting the vibe that you might be interested in being more than friends, and I didn’t know exactly what to do. I liked talking to you, but I wasn’t sure if it could go anywhere.
One Saturday evening, my Dad called everyone to the living room and sat us all down. He began by saying “I received a letter from someone.” My mind is racing and I’m thinking we’re about to hear some bad news. Because these “family sit-downs” hardly ever happen. He continues, “who’s interested in getting to know Caitlin better.” Almost immediately I knew who he meant. And tears started welling. At this point in my life, they weren’t tears of joy. I was still healing from a previous relationship and I was in no way ready to even think about starting another. I was scared. I was terrified. I was building a wall around my heart and I wasn’t ready to stop. Just thinking about opening my heart to someone else turned me into an emotional mess.
But I also knew I didn’t want to lose you as a friend. And I still knew you were a good guy that had expressed interest in me. So Dad spent the next week preparing a letter that didn’t say an outright no, but also tried to get the idea that I wasn’t interested in going any further than friends. Another roadblock that I was hanging on to was the distance. If I couldn’t even manage a relationship in my own hometown, how in the world could I protect myself from hurt and get to know someone well enough to know if they were someone I could spend my life with? At the time, I was also a little leery of the fact that you hadn’t even met me in person yet and you were serious enough to send my Dad a letter. I thought, “All he knows is how I type. And I could be making myself to be someone completely different over the computer.” And this just didn’t sit well with me. But I see now that you saw the most important part of me. Your opinion of me started with who I was inside. Not what I looked like or those quirky mannerism I have, like making silly faces all the time. The inside of who I am was the part that you decided on first. And this is exactly what I wanted. I just didn’t know it at the time. You saw who I really was, from the inside out.
You responded to my Dad’s letter. And when you said that my response had left you feeling sad and disappointed, that surprised me a little. You were really serious about this. It wasn’t just a passing fancy. You told us that you were willing to make the trip to meet me if that would help anything. I did want to meet you, simply because we had been talking for so long as friends and it just made sense.
Fast-forward to a couple months later. It’s now October 2014. I had planned a camping trip for Fall break and the idea came up that maybe you could come for the weekend. Dad extended the invitation, and you responded saying you would like to, but your dad was coming down to Florida for a visit, so it wouldn’t work. I was partly relieved, partly sad. Relieved because I was nervous to meet you, knowing what I knew. And I didn’t know if you knew that I knew. (Savvy?)
Then another email came from you. Your dad was willing to come down with you to our campout. So it was really happening. When I saw how much you paid for the tickets up to Arkansas at the last minute price, I was amazed. And a little intimated. Amazed that you were willing to pay that much just to come see me, and intimidated because it showed that you were really serious about this thing.
To be completely honest, I was so nervous and scared about the whole weekend that I buried myself in preparing food, playing with the little kids, and everything else during the trip. Even my friends told me that I was not acting like myself. I’m afraid I somewhat avoided being around you. And because of this, and also because I’m sure you were just a little nervous as well, I thought you came across as too quiet for me and someone who wasn’t going to stand up and be a leader. (I was so wrong) Once we arrived back at my family’s house, things got a little better, because I didn’t have as much to bury myself in. I finally opened up and engaged in more conversation on the ride to the airport that Sunday afternoon. Our goodbye was even complete with the awkward “we’ve just met and we don’t know how to say goodbye.” I hugged your Dad goodbye, and we simply stood facing each other and remarked on how it was great to meet each other and said safe travels and goodbye.
Another confession: I fell in love with your family first. Your Dad painted pictures of your home life and I found myself wanting to meet every one of your family members. But I still was decidedly against starting any relationship with you.
After the campout, you sent my Dad another email requesting again if you could start something a little more serious with me. At this point, Dad told you that he took that request to me, and I had said I wanted to remain only friends. Then I received an email from you. You told me that you were aware of my answer, and respected that. But you still wanted to remain friends and keep emailing if I was ok with that. Wow. This showed me you were not afraid of somewhat awkward conversations, plus you still valued me and respected my decision. I replied and said that I really appreciated your honesty and your willingness to value my decision. And that I was fine with continuing to communicate through email.
I felt a little awkward continuing the emails after my refusal. So I’m afraid my emails were a little shorter and a little less involved for a while. But you still kept on talking to me. We discussed various Bible topics and we each gave each other new things to think about, as well as continuing to share daily life. You moved back up to Edmonton, and things got really busy for the both of us. But we still were exchanging emails every month or so.
Then all of a sudden, I didn’t hear from you for 6 months. I figured that you must have just decided to drop the conversation. After all, I had completely dismissed your request of getting to know each other better, and there was no reason why you should feel obligated to answer or keep talking to this girl in Arkansas. I also had an inkling that you possibly might be talking to a girl down in Florida close to where you had been living.
I thought about you every now and then, and wondered how you were doing. But I was continuing to stay busy with work and everyday life. I actually went down to Florida in February for the Florida College Lectures like I had been for the past 2 years, and ended up meeting up for breakfast with the said girl I thought you might be talking to. She had also gone through the same college program and she and I had talked previously on the forums. You were also going to be visiting this girl’s family a few days after I was leaving Florida. We were just missing each other by a few days, so I told them to say hello to you for me.
On February 20th, 2016, I was on my way home from hiking at Petit Jean with some friends, scrolling through my phone, and I get an email notification. It’s from you.