Love Story (Courtney's version): Part One
I truly love our story. Reflecting on our journey reveals to me the goodness of God and the reality that love is not always the fairytale that I grew up thinking it would be. I had a specific idea of what would happen when I met my life partner. I thought he would fit all of the requirements that I had on the list I made as a teenager. Growing up in church, I was told repeatedly to make a list of the qualities that I wanted in a mate and that God would certainly honor that. If the man I was seeing met all those qualities, then he would certainly be "the one."
Imagine my continuous disappointment when I would meet a man, he would seem promising, but then, over time, I realized that he did not check off all of the items on the list. I got discouraged and put the list away for years. I got to a point when I told the Lord in prayer, "The next man I want to date is my husband, so, until then, I'm done." I know for a fact that the Lord heard and answered my prayer because I was single for an entire decade, minus the man I was in a relationship with for exactly 30 days. While I watched my friends and acquaintances get married from the pew of the church or as a bridesmaid, I started to wonder if it would ever happen for me. It surely did not help that so many people started conversations with:
"So, don't you want to get married?"
It was as if I was responsible for not having something that I wanted to have in my life. It made no sense. Eventually, I got tired of worrying about it and decided to live my own life. Of course, the backdrop of my love life was my own family drama and trying to figure out where I fit in my career and in the world in general. With all of these things swirling in my life, I would eat to to find enjoyment. I am an emotional eater through and through. I could be happy or sad and food was my way of celebrating or coping. In early 2017, I realized that I needed to make a change after eating what I wanted and doing no exercise for 6 months straight.
My jeans were too snug on my waist and I did not feel good in my body. A dear person in my life had just begun her own health journey and encouraged me to consider a trainer to help guide the process. It made sense to me to get help because I had no idea what I was doing or how to make the changes I wanted to make last. I looked into my local gym and set up an appointment to jumpstart improving my fitness and lifestyle.
I walked into the gym in April 2017. I was nervous and felt so out of place with all of those fit people in cute clothes walking around and sweating on machines that I had no idea how to use. I met with an associate who went over all of the details of my membership like how much it would cost me each month and the additional cost of having a personal trainer. In case you did not know, a personal trainer is SO expensive. However, I decided to invest in myself and I'm so glad that I did.
After a few minutes more of talking, she looked and pointed in the direction behind me and said:
"I've decided to pair you with Damien because I think your personalities will match well together based on our conversations over the phone."
I remember looking back and seeing Damien for the first time. He was laughing as he was talking to another person and I thought to myself:
Wow, he's cute and he would never be interested in me.
I could tell that he was a lot younger than I was and, in my mind, the likelihood of him being attracted to me was little to none. I thought I was too old for him.
Great. Another guy who will just be my friend.
I didn't think about him again until we met for my first session a few days later. He made working out fun. I noticed that I was not nervous with him at all and that we talked like we knew each other, never mind that I almost died the first session. My endurance with the workouts got better with time and Damien laid out a food and exercise plan that I followed to a tee. He would always tell me that I could reach out to him if I had questions and, one day, I did. I had a few questions actually and reached out to him. He text back the answers to all of my questions and then text me again.
How are you?
I remember pausing and feeling excited and getting nervous at the same time. I wasn't sure if I was reading too much into things, but I was hoping that this wasn't just a regular how are you. It turns out that it wasn't at all. We started texting back and forth that day and kept going. It has been (almost) 4 years and we are engaged to be married. It sounds so romantic and perfect, right?
Well, I'm here to tell you that this is Part One for a reason. There is so much more to this story and so much more to tell about the journey to get to this space in our lives. It has been a beautiful ride and it has not been without heartache, trial, and work on our part. The funny thing is that with all of what has transpired and even with bumps in the road, our story still feels romantic and perfect.
There were a lot of steps on our path. There were times when I did not know what would happen next. I prayed. I cried. I wrote Scripture. I prayed Scripture. I begged God. I disobeyed God, then I obeyed God. I learned. I grew. My faith grew. My confidence grew. My relationship grew. My belief in real love grew.
I also had myths about love debunked. I didn't know from day one that he was the one. I honestly did not know for a bit of time and kept waiting for a magic sign . I thought it happened instantly, like in the movies or in all the cute couple stories you hear from a lot of people. Remember that list I mentioned earlier? He did not check off every box on it. He did, however, add some new things to it. We broke up for a period of time, too (we'll tackle that in Part Two), but it was not the end of your story.
An end to something does not always mean the end of something.
The road to this space was slow and steady. It took time and many conversations about our expectations and our future. When we did realize that marriage was a definite, we still took our time. We did not rush into engagement because of how old I was or because we knew it was coming.
My point is that your journey will be different from mine and others. That is OK. You may be older, just starting out in a relationship, and in no rush to hurry up and get married. That is OK. You may be at a bump in the road and not believe that any good can come from it. That is OK. You may not know your next step and want to take your time because you're not ready to move just yet. That is OK.
In everything you're facing or in the middle of, please know that there is more to the story. You can go at your own pace. Your life is not a race. It is your journey to get you to where you were meant to be, to where you were created to be. I encourage you to not let anyone take that away from you. It's your life, your love, your decision. The only approval you need is the Lord's, so listen to Him and He will guide you. I am a witness that He will.
I'm so excited to share more with you next time. Until then....
Take good care of yourselves, friends,