If you need to catch up, here’s Part 1: Snapshots Of The Rollercoaster: Introduction and Part 2: Snapshots Of The Rollercoaster: So How Did You Two Meet??!
And so the next stage, written about…18 months ago…Wow, what a lot has happened!!!
Already, a year on, everything is starting to get a little blurry. It’s funny – you’d have thought with a story this important, every single detail and thought would be firmly imprinted on my mind. But it doesn’t appear to have happened that way. Oh, sure, some things are (I’d defy any girl to forget the first time she held hands with a man, or heard him say he loved her) but the minute detail of everything that happened – that’s fading. Which is one reason I’m so grateful I started writing back then, just after we’d become an ‘official couple’, rather than now. I’ll admit it would be quite easy now to think how simple it all was. After all, with hindsight, God’s plan is so clear I doubt we’d have ever managed to miss it.
But I wrote those blog posts before hindsight had managed to cloud my memory and before I fell head over heels in love with Joel. And I’m glad I did because the story, and articles, I’d write now would be very different.
Yet, at the moment, we’ve only updated you all as far as Joel sending that first, life-changing, completely shocking email. Rather than try and remember what happened next, I’ve gone back in my diary. And, well, you’ll see how much prayer and worry (yes, they should be oxymorons, I know!) went into the next few months!
So an email arrives with the words ‘courtship’ and ‘marriage’ in it.
From a guy I barely knew.
And my poor dad was still in bed when I came in with a printed copy and handed it to him in silence. To which he calmly replied “I was expecting something like this”.
To which I replied, “WHAT??!?!!?!??!?!”
I will admit (or at least, my diary admits) that I’d been praying either this guy would stop commenting on my Facebook status’ or he would step forward: You’d have thought by now I’d have learnt to be careful about what I pray for. So I prayed that if anything was to come from Joel it would be before I went away. Ok, so a part of me is wishing I hadn’t prayed that now ‘cause maybe everything would have coasted along nicely then. Well, You already know that – knew everything that was going to happen. It’s still knocked me back. An email suggesting a courtship….I can’t say a straight no but neither am I convinced…I can’t imagine – why me?! Well, Lord, I’ve got my answer – what happens now???
Yes, a girl who clearly knew her mind…riiiiiiiiight…
And this is where it all starts nicely merging into chaos. I am an independent, stubborn girl but this threw me into panic and I turned to my parents. I am so impressed that they didn’t just step in and declare this was absolutely not going to happen. They didn’t know Joel at all – all that had happened was a guy discovered their daughter on the internet and started talking to her then followed it up with the suggestion of A Relationship. So they asked what I wanted to do.
And I mean prayed.
There was no peace about just saying “No, nothing doing. Sorry. Bye.” But neither did I feel a courtship with a man I barely knew was ever an option. I wasn’t in love with him. I wasn’t even a good friend of his. How were we supposed to build a dating relationship out of that??
So Mum, Dad and I had several deep conversations and decided to see what on earth Joel meant and how he intended to do it. And my initial response, let’s see where this leads. Still not feeling a no so I’ll walk down this path as long as You lead me down it. Lord, we’re all seeking Your will in this and I’m asking, please, make it clear. I wanted what God wanted. If this crazy idea was somehow a part of His plan, I wasn’t walking away from it.
I should probably say that I am not a diarist, so my writing is based on memories, and therefore less detailed, as well as probably less accurate.
So… what does a fellow do after sending an email to a girl asking if she’s interested in a relationship with him?
He waits. And prays. And waits. And prays. But mostly waits.
Every time he opens his computer up and checks his email, he’s worried that she won’t have responded yet, but paradoxically terrified that she will have.
She didn’t reply.
Her dad did.
“Hi Joel, can we talk???” You can imagine the general gist of it.
Looking back – how my parents had the faith to let me walk forward, I have no idea. It must have been God. Because it doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t.
I then set off for Kiev to visit my best friend and tried to forget about it all (whilst my parents and Joel carried on talking). I went out with the idea I’d come back knowing what to do. I came back still as clueless as ever but convinced God had some plan in it. What that plan was – well, I couldn’t wait to find out!!
So, I talked to Andy and Heather. By email, or rather many emails. Over the course of the next couple of months Becky’s parents and I sent each other a lot of emails, asked a lot of questions, and got to know a lot about each other. And of Becky herself – the girl in question – there was no trace. Not a peep did I hear from her.
So picture the scenario. Lonely single guy has plucked up the courage to approach female, and she’s disappeared off the scene and been replaced by looming parents. Disaster!
To me, that was probably the result I hoped for most – it showed that Becky was a girl who respected her parents’ opinions and appreciated the love and care they had for her, and that her parents were worthy of that respect and were going to protect her interests and her heart. If I’d had a straight no, I’d have been disappointed, of course, but if I’d had an immediate yes, I think I might have been more worried that perhaps my impressions of Becky as a sensible, mature, godly girl were not as accurate as I thought. So we exchanged a lot of emails, and eventually, when Becky returned from her exile in the Ukraine, she knew a fair bit about me already, and we were able to start, admittedly hesitantly (and amusingly stiltedly, looking back), building up a friendship-plus.
Emails flew back and forward and I tried to raise every single objection I could think of (of why he wouldn’t want a relationship with me). I thought I’d finally managed it when I sent one calmly (or not) stating that I felt clearly called to adopt or foster. I was not handling him with kid gloves, that’s for sure. I didn’t want to gain this man on false pretences. Anything I thought could come between us, I raised it, sure that I’d scare him off.
And I failed.
I may have scared him, but I didn’t scare him off.
We just chatted on Facebook, sent each other fairly regular emails, and just talked about everything and anything as it came to mind. Deep future related things, silly shallow things, and everything in between. We discovered that we had a fair few shared tastes, and a lot of opposites too. And yes, quite often things came up in chat that, if I’m honest, wouldn’t have been part of my “planned” future. Like the idea of adoption. Like caring for family members with SEN. Like having to be very careful about what was said when Wales was playing in the 6 Nations. However, there was nothing that was a no-no. There was nothing that clashed with where I believed God was leading me. There was no reason why the family I wanted shouldn’t involve adoption or fostering. There was no reason (outside of my own total lack of experience and terror of getting it wrong) why caring for SEN kids wasn’t something God had for me to do (especially if I was marrying someone who had the experience I lacked). There was no reason why we couldn’t watch the Welsh-English rugby matches in different rooms…
Thinking about the whole situation – there was no reason why I should have initially have spotted the infamous post about Mexican food, or why it should have caused me to look again at this girl I barely knew, or why I should then have not been able to get her out of my head, or why she or her parents should have given me a second thought and ever said yes to this relationship. There was nothing to stop me getting a bit scared of the whole idea, deciding that this whole idea would be more trouble than it was worth, and bowing out more or less gracefully, apart from a growing and unignorable attraction to a girl I was learning more about and a real belief that this was perhaps the plan God had for me, and that I should pursue further and see where He led me. I wasn’t in love yet. I hadn’t even met her face to face since the first email – all I had to go on was what I knew from Facebook and emails. The picture painted by that was certainly a good one, but we couldn’t really go about progressing from being glorified pen-pals until one of us visited the other.
So months of emailing and eventually my parents tentatively suggested we actually met up (which we had done once before – about three years previously at a houseparty where we’d got on well but Joel had been interested in another girl then so obviously, no sparks). Of course, I’d known we’d eventually have to meet up but honestly? I felt sick about it. I mean, what if we got on great by email and didn’t face-to-face? But for all that, I wanted to meet up because I was beginning to feel my guard slip and I didn’t want to fall for him on paper and not be able to love the actual man.
A date was set: Wednesday, 8th August, 2012.
So waiting for him to arrive and trying very hard to curb the temptation to run and hide somewhere. I know, how cowardly, right? I was being so calm an’ all but right now I’m a nervous wreck…
My poor sister had to convince me that running off to my hills was not going to help. How Joel felt driving to the home of a girl he’d met once and yet had asked out…I can’t imagine!
It was something that had to be done, so I just got on and did it. 243 miles due west as the crow flies (by complete coincidence, although Becky’s house was 243 miles west of mine, it was only about 120 metres north). After a 6 hour drive, I arrived at the house, and this very nervous girl greeted me. We ate dinner together, and she stared out the window the whole time, and barely said a word apart from the traditional “how was your journey” kind of thing. Don’t worry though – things got better.
And writing this down, I’m even more amazed how it’s worked. It’s crazy. It shouldn’t have worked! Yet God’s hand is so clear in guiding us this far. It had to be Him. There is zero other way it could have happened. Why did I put that comment up on Mexican food? Why did it stick with Joel? Why didn’t I say an outright no when he sent that email? Why didn’t my dad get the shotgun out and start polishing it…? (ok, maybe not the last one). I dunno – he may not have got the shotgun out, but I was invited to go and help cut some trees down with him. Still not sure if I was helping him or being shown that this man had a chainsaw and knew how to use it… So many whys. So many reasons it shouldn’t have worked.
But it did.
God has proved, yet again, that His plans are not our plans and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Basically, He’s just proved Himself sovereign, again. In case we ever doubted.
Continued in Part 4: Snapshots Of The Rollercoaster: Another Stage Of ‘Us’