join us on 06.01.13 for love, laughter, & happily ever after
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-Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets
Like any good story, ours has had its “ups”, “downs”, and everything in between. Sometimes messy, other times beautiful, it has always been distinctly us. We hope you smile, are encouraged, and enjoy reading!
Amid the craziness of freshman orientation at Westmont College and the swirl of new names and faces, I don’t remember the exact moment that Madi and I first met (alas, for love at first sight!). It wasn’t too soon after, however, that Madi made a major impression on me. We lived in brother and sister sections (basically suite-style dorms adjacent to each other): she lived on the bottom floor, right down the open-air staircase from me. Like half of all freshman, Madi and I took Perspectives on World History our first semester and would study in her room with other classmates, talking about Ghengis Khan and the Soong Dynasty until late at night. During one such study group for the first midterm, something happened: as it grew later into the night, the group became smaller and smaller, until it was just the two of us alone. After closed hours, we migrated to the common lounge area, where we studied and talked until the early morning. We ended up on two couches right next to each other. I distinctly remember wanting to hold her hand (and later, she admitted wanting to lay her head on my shoulder). Something about that night was magic. The joy I felt talking, laughing, and even learning with her was palpable. Finally, the morning janitor eventually came in to clean, and (much to my regret) I decided to go to sleep instead of staying up with Madi for the sunrise. That night changed the way I thought and felt about her permanently.
After that, we continued to spend time together, but always informally: at dinner, in study groups, at Res-Life events. It wasn’t that I was exclusively committed to her at this point, but that I really, really liked her. That fall, before Thanksgiving break, the Westmont community experienced a traumatic and campus-altering event. A fire in the hills above campus spread throughout the Montecito area, scorching many homes in the community and burning much of the campus. Thankfully, nobody was harmed; however, we had to evacuate to the gymnasium on lower campus. It was surreal seeing all of my friends crammed in the gym like refugees, covered in smoke and unsure if we would make it through the night okay. It became pretty clear who I wanted to be with in that time… and it was Madi. Throughout the night, I would bounce between my cousin Jesse (who was a sophomore at the school) and my roommate (and, now, groomsman!) Jonathan, but I would always come back to Madi. Madi had found a little corner of the gym that she had made hers and she didn’t leave it all night. She was strong, but I still wanted to take care of her, bringing her food and a mat to sleep on. Things were different that night, too- I had, in a sense, already chosen her.
I left that night with my clothes and computer bag. Everything else in my room burned. The campus was shut down, so Jonathan and I ended up going with Jesse to my aunt and uncle’s house. Lo and behold, Madi and her roommate (bridesmaid Amelia) were staying at a friend’s house in Simi nearby! Jon and I went to go see a movie with them, and it was there that we hatched a plan: go to Disneyland together! We ended up driving to Anaheim and stayed at Amelia’s aunt’s house. It was like being in middle school. We played cards, made Key Lime pie, explored the neighborhood… and the whole time, I was thinking about Madi. While we didn’t end up going to Disney (we got called back to campus to search through our charred room for anything that might have survived the blaze), I got to be with Madi for an extended time outside the context of school. And even though the circumstances were difficult, we had fun.
The rest of the semester went by like usual. I moved into a new dorm, still near to Madi, but far enough away that I couldn’t just “pop in” on my way somewhere. I had to intentionally make an effort to get there. By the second semester, I was going over to Madi’s room all the time. I had “Madi-vision;” wherever I was, at chapel, the D.C., or passing by her room, I would hope to see her. When I studied at the library, I would walk through the entire building to see if she was there and if there was a place nearby where I could study. We spent a lot of time there too, at desks with the backs facing each other, so that we could study near each other. Many nights, we would study until the library closed, and we would walk back to our dorms together. At some point, I offered to carry her book bag, and from then on, I always did.
Everything was right: we laughed, we connected, we agreed spiritually, I was attracted to her, we were cute, and all of our friends were waiting for me to make a move. And waiting….waiting… waiting. I was afraid to commit and never did anything to solidify all of the good things that we had. To progress, we needed to become official, we needed to “define the relationship,” we needed to date!
By the end of the year, I knew that I would not be returning to Westmont. When I broke the news to Madi, she started to cry. Later that week, when I was at Madi’s room “studying,” Madi told me that we needed to talk. We went down to the prayer chapel that night and Madi told me that she had feelings for me and wanted to know what I thought about us. Basically, she just wanted some closure to our relationship, to know that she wasn’t crazy for feeling the things that she had felt. As we sat there in the dark, talking about our relationship and our feelings for each other, I was amazed at Madi’s courage and strength to initiate a conversation that I was too scared to have. I told her that I did like her, but that I didn’t want to start a relationship because I was going away (yes, I am the bad guy at this point). At the end of the night, I hugged her. At that moment, I remember feeling as closer to her than ever before. Her bold honesty was like drinking cold water- it was refreshing, but it also shook me awake. As I let go of her, I remember feeling like I had made a terrible mistake. But the words were spoken, and the deed was done.
We continued to spend time together for the remainder of the semester, including one memorable night where we just sat in the courtyard outside her room wrapped in blankets: reminiscing, talking about the future, and just enjoying each other’s company one last time. We said good-bye soon after that, and I left to go to Texas as she went home to South Carolina. The long distance had begun.
Continued in “Our Story: The Dating”!
At some point that summer, Will and I began exchanging videos on each other’s Facebook walls. He’d send one to me… and then I would wait the appropriate amount of time (about 24 hours, if you were wondering) and send one back. This was, of course, punctuated by a long Facebook chat conversation every couple of weeks. When our sophomore year began, I returned to Westmont and Will traveled to Illinois to begin the semester at Wheaton. We continued to talk intermittently as classes began.
A few weeks later, we had an epiphany: Skype! Why had we not video chatted before? And so we began a routine: Sunday afternoons, we would get to see each other face-to-face over Skype. The first night, we talked about an hour. The second time, it was closer to two. And then one October evening, I hung up the call and realized that we had Skyped for six hours. SIX hours. What I had thought would be a slow drifting-apart seemed to be going strong. Throughout this entire time, though, I assumed that Will had put aside his feelings for me, regarding me as a good friend in the midst of a time of loneliness in his life. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would take away my feelings for him so that I could learn how to be a true friend. No such luck. I vividly remember telling my best friend, Courtney (my maid of honor!) that I was terrified that I was going to drift through my college experience alone, because Will wasn’t an option, but I didn’t want anybody else.
Then, a few hours after that six-hour conversation, I received a completely unexpected email from Will. The heart of it: “I still have feelings for you, and at this point, we need to either stop talking, or move forward with our relationship. Dancing around the issue is dangerous. Let’s think about this, pray about it, and talk on Wednesday night.” It was, as you can imagine, absolutely heart stopping. And so I thought. And I prayed. And I talked to some really incredible people about it. When Wednesday rolled around, Will and I finally had that much-anticipated “DTR” (“define the relationship) and at the end, we were officially dating.
The months passed. That January, I was scheduled to travel to Thailand for a semester of studying abroad, and so Will and I planned to see each other before I left the country. By that time, it had been seven months since we’d been in the same place and we missed each other terribly. So that Christmas, Will flew to Myrtle Beach to spend a week with me before I hopped on a plane to Southeast Asia. It was that winter that we first learned what long-distance would be like.
And how could I describe our long-distance relationship? It was constant motion, trying to connect and reconnect, share our lives from afar, coming together and moving apart and then doing it all again. It was a fight, a choice, a joy. Long distance forced us to decide from the beginning whether we were going to be honest and raw and persistent, or not. There was no middle ground. And so throughout the next years, we spent thousands of hours on the phone, on Skype, even sending care packages to each other. We watched movies simultaneously, we read books out loud, we studied with the video chat on, we fell asleep while the other person was on the phone.
Being in a long-distance relationship was exhausting and, as I’ve said before, I would never wish it on another couple. But, at the same time, it was a blessing in its way. Will and I learned how to truly communicate with each other, to work through our arguments, to discern exactly what the other was thinking by a pause or a tone or a particular word choice. After months (and eventually, years) of conversation, we grew to truly know each other. When we went through pre-marital counseling earlier this year, we scored in the 90th percentile for communication and conflict resolution. Both us of laughed when we saw the numbers because we knew it was all those hours on the phone that strengthened us in such a way. How could it possibly be any other way?
Will traveled to Myrtle Beach the summer after I went to Thailand, and we spent an incredible two months in the same place. It was over that summer that I realized that somewhere along the way, I had fallen in love with him. He felt the same way. Our relationship grew as we adjusted to that knowledge; we were in love! And then we went back to our respective schools. At Thanksgiving, I flew out to Wheaton. Then a couple of months later, I went to Dallas. He came to Westmont. And then I went back to Wheaton. At the two-year mark of our relationship, Will flew to Myrtle Beach for a week, breaking up what would eventually be a full nine months apart from each other.
And then I graduated early from Westmont College. December of this past year, I found myself done with my finals and finished with college and wondering what in the world my post-grad life would look like. Will flew directly from Illinois to California to help me pack up my apartment and load all my belongings into my car. Together, we embarked on what would eventually be a thirty-two hour drive to Dallas and then back up to Wheaton. And then, as Will’s last semester at Wheaton began, I settled down in West Chicago. For a while, at least, the long-distance part of our relationship was put on hold as we both lived in the Chicago suburbs.
Continued in “Our Story: The Engagement”!
I proposed to Madi on March 7, 2012. We both already knew that we wanted to marry each other, so that in itself wasn’t the surprise, but it was the how and when that was. Madi is all about surprises, so I can’t say that I wasn’t nervous about keeping it a secret. We were both in Wheaton when I knew that it was about the right time to propose… but here is what made it a little complicated: her engagement ring had been worked on in Texas, so I had to figure out a way to get the ring and then propose to her without her figuring it all out. While I had thought of some ways to ask her in Illinois, it was still cold and wintery there and I had wanted to propose outside. So, in a burst of brilliance, I realized that Madi and I could meet my mom and sister in Tulsa, Oklahoma where my brother, Tucker, is going to school. That way it would be roughly half-way for each of us. My mom and my sister could bring the ring, and I could propose there. So, under the auspices of a little family vacation, we hopped in the car and drove about ten hours south.
When we got there that night, I still hadn’t asked Madi’s dad, Jack, for his approval of our pending engagement. So, while me, Madi, and my family were at a Barnes and Noble’s, I snuck outside and called him. He gave his blessing, and, amazingly, when I went back inside to rejoin everyone, she was curious where I was, but hadn’t figured out what was going on. The next day, everything was set. My mom had the ring, Jack had given me his approval, and most importantly, Madi and I were in the same place. The night before, after consulting Google and my mom, I decided that I wanted to propose in a park in the middle of the city. Being further south than Chicago, spring had just begun and the whole city had just begun to flower. While I had toyed with the idea of having a secret photographer, I ultimately decided that I wanted it to just be Madi and I for the proposal. So, my mom slipped me the ring and my family said that they needed to ‘rest’ before dinner. When we got to the park, I was super nervous. We walked around, laughed, and Madi, so excited about seeing green things after a winter in Wheaton, took tons of pictures of the flowers. Those of you who know Madi, know that she is one of the most perceptive people on the planet. We joke that she has a ‘spidey sense’ and can almost always detect when something is wrong with me, even if I refuse to verbalize it. Miraculously, she was blissfully ignorant of my internal anxiety. When we walked to a secluded area in the park, I got down on one knee and proposed.
In most chick-flicks, the proposal happens at the crest of the story and that magical moment seems to strrrrreeeeetch out in length and in importance. For me, the actual moment was fleeting. I knew what I had wanted to say, and once I started, it felt like it was over. Madi was in shock. She kept repeating “Are you serious?”, and then “Yes!”, and then “Are you serious?” again, and started to cry. We hugged and I showed her the ring and put it on her finger- I had tried to remember what to say so hard that I had forgotten to actually pull it out of my pocket! In the end, the proposal was “mission accomplished.” We then had a celebration dinner with my family in the city. Rather than being the crescendo of our relationship, the proposing merely reflected all of the amazing things in our relationship that had happened in the past. Already, I have a hard time remembering what I actually said to her that day, but that wasn’t the important part. What was important was that we were solidifying the great things about our relationship and making a lifetime commitment to each other. And all that was accomplished without Madi ever realizing it was going to happen! =)
After our time in Wheaton, Madi and I separated one more time so that I could go to a geology field camp in South Dakota. She traveled around California and then went back to her hometown of Myrtle Beach to wait for me. Finally, at the end of July, I flew into South Carolina and we reunited for the last time. “Never again”, we promised. And where are we now? Both of us are in Myrtle Beach. We are together and, as our save-the-dates said, we’re keeping it that way!
-Anonymous, Sooner or Later