Our Story (Part 2): Second meetings and big decisions

Haven’t read Part 1 yet? Catch up here:
Part 1: CollegePlus and first meetings

February 2016

I was actually pretty excited to see that email notification. I mean, I hadn’t heard from you in 6 months. I wondered what made you send an email now. I scanned the email quickly as we bumped along in my brothers’ Jeep, excited to get back home and really read through it. You apologized for never replying and said you really didn’t have a good excuse to offer for the absence of written communication.

We started our conversations and Bible study back, and after a couple months went by, I knew that I wouldn’t mind seeing you in person again, just as a friend. Especially since we had made a lot of ground in our study. You also had told me that your family was thinking about moving back down to the States, maybe Texas or Florida. And this was a complete suprise. It also brought you closer to my home. We had a Youth Lectureship coming up that summer, so in April, I sent an email inviting you to come down and visit if you had the time. And because I didn’t want to give you the wrong impression, I said, “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 do some Bible study in person rather than trying to interpret meanings over written word. :)” I thought this was the best way to subtly say, “Hey, this invitation is only because I want to stay friends, and give you the opportunity to come and participate in some great Bible study.”

You replied saying you would like to be able to make it, but with your work schedule and currency exchange rate, it wasn’t looking like it was going to work. And then a few days later you sent this:

“A quick question for you. Your email last week was very unexpected and I just want to make sure I don’t misunderstand anything. As far as I’m concerned, your thoughts haven’t changed from what your Dad sent to me regarding valuing our friendship, but nothing more. Is that true? My intention is not to pry; I only ask to ensure your invitation is taken in the way you intended for it to be received.” It was also my birthday that day, so you managed to squeeze in a “Happy Birthday, by the way!” So sneaky.

Apparently, I didn’t do so well in my subtle message. But that’s what I love about our relationship. It’s been real and honest from day one. We weren’t afraid to ask the awkward, hard questions and get honest answers in return. I responded saying yes, I am still wanting to be just friends, but I was more open to the idea of becoming something more compared to what I was feeling the year before. But there were still a few reservations in my heart.

Your response back was simply, “I see. Thanks for your honesty.” Hmm. Ok. I wasn’t sure what to think now. Were you disappointed again, or were you not sure what to say because you had moved on? Were you asking simply because you didn’t want to hurt me by getting my hopes up? Or were you afraid of getting your own hopes up?

We continued talking, and most of our conversations revolved around Bible topics and other serious things. It was at this point that I began to really see your heart. My own heart was finally healing, and I had found my inner purpose. I was my own person, and as a Christian I was much closer to God. I had started praying that God’s will would be done in our friendship. If you were someone that God had given to me to spend the rest of my life with, I asked that He would change my heart and mold it to His will. I gave my desires and thoughts to Him, and I noticed that I slowly started changing. I began to realize you were one in a million. There were no other guys I knew that had the heart for others, for God, and the convictions to live a holy life like you did. You were willing to study anything with anyone. You knew when to speak and when to stay silent.

I noticed that I looked forward to your emails even more than before, and I always got a smile on my face every time I saw your name in my inbox. I got frustrated at the amount of time it took for our emails to get to each other. With both of our busy schedules, it was taking 4 weeks to write our reply. (Ok, maybe they were more like books than emails.) I just wanted to talk to you more often! I tried to send subtle hints that my heart and mind were changing from the “just friends” that I had communicated the year or so before. I sent my emails a little faster, and asked more questions about what was going on in your life. I had also been keeping my parents in the loop about our current course of conversation, and I had mentioned to my parents that I kept noticing your heart and that maybe I was ready to get to know you a little better. But I still wasn’t sure. I was still conflicted. Scared to step out.

September 2016

Finally, on the way to church one Sunday evening, I said it. I told my parents I was thinking about telling you I was ready to get to know you better and make our friendship a little deeper, if you were still willing. I asked if they were okay with that and they were. Now just to get the guts up to type it out and send it to you.

I hid my earth shattering revelation at the bottom of my next reply to our constant email chain. Now it’s my turn to be sneaky.

“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’m 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’re 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 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. 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!”

Can you tell I’m still a little nervous about letting anyone else into my heart? I was ready, but still a little apprehensive. I figured it would be about 3 weeks or so before I got my answer. Maybe a little faster since this was such a big revelation. So at 5:30 the next morning as I was getting ready for my morning workout, I looked down at my phone and there’s an email from you.

WHAT!?

Was I ready for what it would tell me? I usually waited until I got to work to read any emails, but this one couldn’t wait. I read it quickly, and then also several times throughout the next few days.

“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.
If so, would you be willing to speak further about this over the phone, instead of through email?”
Wow. You weren’t taking any roundabout ways. You were ready to get this fully understood on both sides. I really respected that, but at the same time I was nervous. But doing hard things is the only way to make progress. So I replied and gave you my phone number and told you to feel free to text me anytime.
You sent me a text the next day and when I saw the words, “Hey Caitlin, it’s Stephen!”, boy, did that feel weird. A good weird.
We set up a Saturday evening at 7:00 pm on October 1st to make the call. I had a photo session that evening, but I knew I would be done by seven. At least, I thought I would be. My best friend, Lucy, was in the car with me as we left the location of the session, and I looked down at my clock and it read 6:54. “WHAT!!!” I yelled. I still had to drive back to the apartment and collect myself before 7:00 rolled around. I think I may have scared Lucy a little bit. But she also was laughing at me. Adrenaline began coursing through my body. I felt like I had no time to mentally prepare myself. I accidentally took the long way back to Lucy’s apartment because I was so scatterbrained. I made it back to the apartment by 6:58.
It’s kinda funny, I misunderstood and thought you were going to be the one calling me. So I was sitting in my car, and no phone call was coming through. Then, you reminded me that I would have to call you since you didn’t have US calling. We talked for an hour. The part that still plays over in my mind is when you said that the first time I told you I wasn’t interested in beginning a relationship, you were extremely disappointed, and it took a lot of prayer to get through it. You thought that you were finally over me, but when I sent the email in April, your emotions when reading that invitation told you otherwise. That gave me a lot of hope.
You told me that while at first your family had not considered moving back to the States until a few years had passed, it was now going to happen in the next year, Lord willing. You were hoping to be in the states, and most likely Texas, by the next August. So this was moving a lot faster than I ever expected. I told you that I still wanted to move pretty slow for now, because of the distance between us at this point and time. You said you wanted to pray about what our new level of friendship would look like, and that you would get back to me on that, which I completely respected. For the rest of the hour, we caught each other up on our lives, and thus ended our first ever phone call. Canada and Arkansas were now connected through the airwaves.
The next week you asked how I felt about texting day to day in addition to a phone or Skype call every other week. I was game, but again, I was nervous. But I knew that stepping outside of my comfort zone was the only way to get anywhere. We decided on Tuesday as our phone call/Skype days on every other week, because I had portrait sessions scheduled every Saturday for the foreseeable future, and we had Bible studies on multiple days of the week.
I wasn’t ready to do a Skype call, so for the next month we talked on the phone for about an hour. After those went really well, I decided to step out and offer to do a Skype call.
I love how the minute we saw each other we both started grinning. Our third Skype call I grinned almost the entire time, and carried that over into the next day. It was that third call when I finally got to meet more of your family. I had been wanting to meet them all since 2015 when you and your Dad came down for the camping trip. That’s also why I was still smiling. It made me feel so wonderful to say “hi” to the family of this guy I was beginning to appreciate and respect more and more.
Shane was the first one to visit with me regularly. Then John David came into the picture. Shane and John David hit it off immediately. They kind of took over a few of our Skype calls in the beginning. 😉 I had no idea that you could play so many games over Skype. Eventually we just came to expect that the first hour of our Skype calls would be spent with our siblings playing Uno, Hide and Seek, I Spy, and lots more.

February 2017

I happen to live with some sneaky parents, so I was totally surprised when Dad invited you to come down for our gospel meeting coming up later that month. Excited didn’t begin to describe how I felt. But I tried to tell myself that it actually wouldn’t happen, because I knew how busy you were, and honestly didn’t think you could pull it off.
Then, a few weeks later, you told me over Skype that you had done it. You made room in your crazy schedule to come down for a weekend plus the next couple days of the next week.
We were both counting down the days. When the day finally arrived, I’m afraid I wasn’t much use for the 4 hours I was at work. I left early so I could go to Little Rock and pick you up at the airport. Driving down to Little Rock with Josie and John David in tow, I was so nervous, but also excited. And they could tell. I was blasting my music and acting just a little bit giddy and my hands were even shaking a little bit. The butterflies were real. We sat and waited for your plane to arrive and John David may have been just a little excited too, as he couldn’t stay in his “hiding spot” so you wouldn’t see us.
 

It was so great spending those short few days with you, and we got to do real things together. We were each other’s accountability partner for our spiritual goals for the year, so we got to do our daily bible reading goals together each night. This was probably one of my favorite things we did together. But then you went back home. (sick, of all things, because of me…) I was still committed to making this relationship work, but I was also feeling a bit rocky. I talked to my parents about it and they calmed all my fears. I felt like I needed to see more leadership from you, because I saw it in other aspects in your life, just not with me in regards to our relationship. Dad told me that you and he talked about that very subject, and I could expect to see changes very soon.

Well, I just didn’t know how big of a change he was talking about.

Part 3 coming October 22!

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