Stephen’s Story (Part 2): A Deepening Friendship & Surprising Messages

an inside look at what he was thinking throughout our 7 year friendship

the timeline:
Part 1: CollegePlus and first meetings
Stephen’s Story: Part 1 – Noticing a Proverbs 31 woman
Part 2: Second meetings and big decisions

Part 3: When 1,935 miles apart gets cut down to 15
Stephen’s story: Part 3 – Becoming an Arkansan
Part 4: A boy, a girl, and a ring
Stephen’s story: Part 4 – Proposal and a Resounding “Yes!”
Part 5: How I orchestrated our own engagement pictures
Part 6: Our Wedding
Part 7: Our Honeymoon

Stephen’s Story 

February-August 2016

It was February 20th when I sent you that email after my 6 month hiatus. I gave you a quick update on what was going on in my life and asked how your last handful of months had been. I told you that I was still working through a few of the articles you had given me to look at in our study and that I would reply again as soon as I finished studying them.

On March 6th I sent that follow up email with the additional study material. I still hadn’t heard anything from you and wasn’t sure if I ever would… The next day you replied! You said that you had almost finished replying to the other email, but would finish going through everything I sent and combine the two, so the emails didn’t get confusing. I was thrilled that you were at least willing to respond!

Just over two weeks later, on March 22nd , you sent a full reply (more like a book actually, containing a whopping 9533 words! For context, that is about 2.6x the size of this blog post)! You updated me on how things had been going for you, how you had been dealing with some serious health issues, what your family had been up to, etc. In addition, you had done some very impressive Bible studies and were very honest and open in looking to see what the Scriptures had to say. It wasn’t what you thought or believed, it was simply “does the Bible teach this?”

Honestly, I was very surprised that you had spent all that time in studying and replying to me. I remember thinking again that you were an extremely Godly, special young woman that would make some man very happy and blessed when that someone would win your heart, which was something I had also told your Dad after receiving your refusal in December of 2014. This is what was going through my mind for the next couple emails, and I had come to accept the fact that the fortunate man wouldn’t be me.

After a couple more emails, you sent me an invite on April 17th to the Youth Lectureship here in Conway that was coming up in July, which included the following paragraph;

“And because I respect you too much to not do otherwise, I wanted to thank you again for our continuing friendship, and offer this invitation in return for that. And who knows, Lord willing, this could possibly be a good time to study our current topics in person rather than trying to interpret meanings over written word. :)”

I did not know what to do with this…I saw you as a friend and dear sister in Christ, and would have loved to see you and your family again, however, I had just gone through 6 grueling months of trying to let you go and wasn’t sure if I would regress if I came to visit. I was confused by the invite. Was your mind changing from what your Dad had sent me over a year ago? Were you just being nice to me? In addition to all of this, I was also in the process of growing my other relationship. This was still in the infant stages, however, I didn’t see it being appropriate to come see you. I spoke to Mom and Dad and my sister about it a lot over the next week, and ultimately replied saying that I wouldn’t be able to come.

Just to make sure that I didn’t misinterpret your invitation, and for my own sanity, I wanted to know three things: what you were thinking, whether or not your mind had changed at all from where you stood, and what you saw in me. Plus, it just happened to be your birthday, so I was able to wish you a good one (you told me in your reply that you had requested an apple kale cake…Of course, Elijah wasn’t too high on that…I love you Girl!! ;). You replied the next day with the following:

I really appreciate you wanting to understand my invitation in the way I meant it. As of right now, yes, that is still where I am at. But I will also say that I am more open to the possibility than I was at the time my Dad sent the email.

This really threw me for a loop…because now I didn’t know exactly what you were thinking and I had already come to the conclusion that you would never be my Mrs. Johnson. I was dealing with a boatload of conflicting emotions. I replied simply saying “I see. Thanks for your honesty.” And I did my best to continue on as if your mind would not change. Why? Because it was the only way I knew how to preserve myself emotionally. I couldn’t go through having to let you go…again.

We continued our monthly(ish) emails/short stories to each other, where we continued not just sharing our lives and discussing important topics, but also studying various Biblical topics together. I had to re-evaluate some of my beliefs, and you realized you had to change some things. We both sought to simply look through the lens of God’s Word and align ourselves to that Holy Standard.

We basically came to a point where we saw things the exact same way doctrinally, which looking back means so, so much to me. Because we did this looking at the Scriptures, trying to rightly divide the Word of Truth, apart from emotion. I wasn’t trying to impress you, nor was I looking for anything from you as a result of our study, because I already knew where you stood on us. Through all of this, I was doing everything I could to keep you at an emotional distance, even so, I did notice that I was looking for your emails more and more and was excited whenever I saw your name in my inbox. However, I was still almost positive that your mind would not change, because I kept telling myself it wouldn’t.

September-October 2016

On September 26, 2016 you sent me an email, I was clearing snow and ice in Edmonton and quickly scanned through it in between two of our sites and found this section nestled neatly in the middle;

So, over the past year I’ve gotten to know your character a lot more, and it has greatly impressed me. I’ve been thinking and praying a lot over the past few months about our friendship, and I just wanted to let you know where I am at. I don’t know whether what we have is just a really great friendship, or if it could be something more. But I’m willing to find out. If you want to just keep it at emailing, that’s totally fine too! For all I know, there may be someone else you are talking to. I haven’t really given you any hope in the past several months. But I know I would enjoy the chance to get to know you more on a daily basis, rather than our almost once a month emails. 🙂 I also know that you are very busy, and that you had mentioned your family possibly moving to the states within in the next few years. I’m also willing to wait until that gets settled before trying to get to know you better, if that’s better for you. Lucy has been talking to me/asking how I felt about moving out of state with her and possibly moving to one of the western states. So personally, I’m at a point where I could be making some life-changing decisions in the near future. So I wanted to let you know where I stood and check with you to see where you are at in all of this before I make any big decision. And feel free to take your time to answer this question!

WHAT!? I couldn’t believe it, I read it at least a handful of times before we finished up our snow clearing responsibilities. You were letting me know that you’d like to get to know me better and were about to make some possible life changing decisions and you wanted to know where I was at. What was I reading!? I had let you go, I was moving on in a different direction, and now I see this…My head and my heart were in a battle of the wills. My heart was excited, which I thought had been put to rest. However, it was clear now that it had been simply hiding under the surface for the last year and a half without me even knowing it. But my head was trying to disregard it. What about the relationship I had been pursuing over the last 8 months? You weren’t interested before, what had changed? Were you simply settling on me, and wouldn’t ever be truly happy? I was scared and my head was in flight mode trying to preserve me emotionally. I was praying all day and evening and I spoke to Mom and Dad when I got home. I replied late that night and didn’t sleep much, because I couldn’t get my mind to settle down. I said;

“This was quite unexpected, and it has caught me a little off guard. Honestly, when you invited me down for the Youth Lectureship back in April and then followed up by saying that you were more open to the idea it kind of threw me for a loop and I wasn’t sure what to think. For I had understood that you weren’t interested in anything more than staying friends. I have been praying hard over the last few years and the last year specifically for guidance and wisdom in my Bible studies and in my decision making, asking that doors would open and close as He sees fit. All that being said I would be lying if I were to deny my excitement about the opportunity presented from your current question.
I just want to ensure that your father is both aware and approves of this request?
If so, would you be willing to speak further about this over the phone, instead of through email?”

I had to get to the bottom of this to understand exactly what you were thinking and what it meant for us. I didn’t think you were doing anything behind your parent’s back, I just had to be sure. Whether anything was going to happen or not, I wanted to make sure it would be done in a manner that was above reproach. You replied the next day;

Well, you know girls are usually pretty famous for changing our minds 😉 but in all seriousness, I just wasn’t ready at that time to think about anything like this. And through lots of prayer as well, I’ve come to the point that I’m at now.
And yes, both of my parents and I have been talking about this over the past few months, and are in the loop and approve. 🙂

Uh huh, you’ve got a pretty great sense of humor there, Girl 😉 (When I showed Mom the email, she thought at first that your response was what I had sent to you, and she said that I was pretty gutsy 😉 Again, I was shocked. I didn’t know any details, however I did know that you had been in a relationship that fell apart shortly before I had contacted your father originally. Did this mean you were ready again to pursue a lifelong relationship and it wasn’t just that you weren’t interested in me previously? I was encouraged that you had been considering and praying about this for a number of months and that your parents had been a part of the process all along behind the scenes without me even knowing it. Did we actually have a chance!? You gave me your number, which I texted the next day. We set up that coming Saturday evening as the best time for both of us to be able to talk.

October 1st came and the whole day I had those same knots in my stomach I had when I met you that first evening on the camping trip…and they were getting worse as the time drew nearer. I believe I made my way downstairs around 6:15 and just prayed and tried to relax for the next 45 minutes, because it was bad! 😛 I wrote down kind of what I was thinking and what I wanted to ask you. Good thing, otherwise I probably would have drawn a complete blank once you were on the phone! 😉

Once we figured out who was calling and what number to use, my phone rings, I answer, say hello, and I hear the most beautiful voice on the other end of the line “Hi, it’s Caitlin” and a big smile swept across my face 🙂 I updated you on our family plans, saying we were planning on moving down to Texas the next summer, Lord willing, and not in a couple of years as we had thought originally. I also quickly explained where I was at in the relationship I had been pursuing and working on. You expanded on where you were at and how you wanted to take things slowly, especially with the distance between us. Then the rest of the time we just caught up a little more on life in general. Before ending the call, I said that I would have to speak to the other girl and her family before going any further, and that I would like to think and pray about how we should proceed in this new dimension of our friendship, and then get back to you on it.

Ending my other relationship wasn’t easy, however within the next week it was done. It was hard for a number of reasons, a big one was that I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I also didn’t know what was going to happen with us. However, whether things would ultimately work out between us or not, I knew that I would always regret not trying and living with the “what if”, which wouldn’t have been fair to her, even if I had turned you down like my head had tried to convince me to do at first. This was the only thing right thing to do.

I asked what you thought about texting day to day and having a phone or Skype call every week or every other week. You were fine with the texting and requested that we start at every other week and go from there, which I was totally game for. We set up Tuesday nights to do our calls in between our busy work schedules and various Bible studies we had going multiple nights a week.

November 2016-March 2017

The first two or three calls we did over the phone and then you asked if I wanted to set up Skype for the next one. You hadn’t used your account since your CollegePlus days, so I actually had to give you your Skype name out of my contacts so you could sign in 😉 I remember seeing you that first time, I had this sense of joy just rush over me and I couldn’t contain my smile 🙂 I’m pretty sure John David joined you before the end of that call and then he was there for every one after that; he sure loved being a part of our conversations 🙂 Probably another month went by and then I introduced you to Shane, who wanted to meet John David. It still scares me how well they hit it off and just how similar they are in so many ways!! There were some nights we didn’t even get to talk, because our siblings were visiting and playing games for 2+ hours. 😛 It was so nice to see just how similar our families were though, and still enjoy our Skype calls to this day with everyone 🙂

Through all of this time, I was greatly enjoying becoming more involved in your life and getting to know you better on a daily basis. You were turning out to be exactly who I thought you were from our emails through the years. We talked about your personal Bible studies, your love for your family, your moral standards, your photography business, healthy living, etc. You checked off and exceeded all the boxes I had in my “Friendship Journal” that I had started back in 2012, listing what I was looking for in a Godly wife, based on the woman I read about in Proverbs 31. How was I worthy of your attention???

I was just still unsure of exactly where you stood and what you thought us, what your timing was, plus, I still had a small voice in the back of my head concerned that you were settling on me…which was kind of paralyzing.

On February 16th, your Dad sent me the flyer to the upcoming Gospel Meeting here in Conway. He told me that I could listen to them online, but he also said that he wished I could be there to hear it in person. I didn’t know if I could make the trip down…I really wanted to, though! After talking to my Dad, I was able to work it out to come for part of the meeting and I absolutely loved surprising you with this news on one of our Skype calls 🙂

On my flight down to Little Rock I was super nervous again, however not nearly as bad as the first time I had flown into that airport 😉 I knew that this would be an important meeting and I hoped to be able to get a better feel of exactly where you were at and what you thought about us. That could only come from seeing you in person in real life situations. I was just praying really hard that it wasn’t going to be like the camping trip, where we wouldn’t be able to spend much time together.

Thankfully it was nothing of the sort! 🙂 I came down out of the terminal area and was making my way through when I saw you, Josie, and John David ‘hiding’ behind a wall. 🙂
You walked briskly right over to me and gave me a big hug; I knew at that point this trip was going to be a huge success! 🙂 We went back to your house and I went outside to play H-O-R-S-E with John David while you and your Mom were working in the kitchen putting supper together. You came outside nearly right away and we played together with your siblings for quite a long time, which was a foreshadowing of the rest of the next handful of days. 🙂

The next day we went with your family out to the family property and you showed me around. You, me, and John David also worked on one of the streams and opened up a new path for the water to run. On Sunday, we went to worship and we surprised your grandparents, who had no idea I was there because you had kept it a secret. We got them really good! 🙂 We spent the afternoon with some of the closest families to you and I realized that you had some pretty great people here in Conway. That night, we went back out to the property for a bonfire and singing. You spent the entire evening by my side, except for maybe 20 minutes when you had to go be the mature, older sister looking out after your brother who was going to ride the zip line into the pond, in the dark, when it really wasn’t warm enough 😉 You even apologized for leaving during that short time. This was a night and day difference from my last trip to Arkansas, and I was loving it!! 🙂

The rest of the week went wonderfully between the Gospel Meeting, picnic lunches, Settlers of Catan, doing our Bible reading in the evenings together, a lunch date, etc. It just went way too fast… On Monday morning, I went to work with your Dad before meeting you for lunch. He asked me if I still felt the same way about you as when I sent that original letter. I said “Yes sir, and even more” He mentioned that he would like me to be closer to be able to get to know you better and so that he and your mom could get to know me better as well. He revealed that your grandparents had a room open that I could use. He also said he noticed that you seemed to be in control of the relationship up to this point and it looked like I needed to take the lead. I agreed. It was because I hadn’t known where you stood, and after spending time with you in person, you showed me that you very much did care for me and now I had an opportunity to cut down the distance between us too! 🙂 All of my concerns were alleviated.

You ended up getting sick the last couple of days 🙁 and I was catching it the day I left…Even so, you gave me another big hug before you had to leave for work Wednesday morning, then off to the airport I went to fly back to Edmonton. I knew that if you were, in fact, what I thought you were from all of our interactions up to date, that you were the girl I would marry, without a doubt!! 🙂

Now I was heading back up North to see what plans I could make to get to Conway for an extended stay so I could get to know you better in person, and essentially just confirm who I knew you to be. 🙂


continue on to Part 3!

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