Someone once told me that my story would be magical, simply because it was my own. I think they were right.
My side (right) of the story:
(April 2009) I remember the first time I ever talked to Layne.
She asked me a LOT of questions. I was prompt to answer them.
We were in Hawaii.
I once had her phone and read her texts.
One said, ” Ahh I want to kiss him.”
The first time I ever thought I could love her was June 18, 2009.
We were sitting on a bench at the YWAM base in Kona overlooking the ocean.
She said to me “I think I’ll miss you”.
I said, “I’ll miss you too”.
We spent the next 3 months apart. She was in Panama (bleh) and I was in South Africa. (Yippee).
We both love Cape Town and the surrounding area, and it would be the place where our love would soon grow.
After Layne arrived in South Africa on Sept.12, 2009, I delayed my flight home to Canada by 1 week, just to spend that much more time with Laynie. We spent that week “dating”, hanging out, exploring, kissing, just being with each other.
At the end of the week, nothing had been said to make our “relationship” concrete.
At the airport, just about the board my flight home, they asked for volunteers to stay back one more night (free hotel, 3 meals, and a 500 euro flight credit) so I happily jumped at the chance to see Layne one more day/night.
I surprised her the next morning.
We again, spent time exploring, talking kissing and on a rainy train platform, I asked Layne to be my girlfriend, and told her I could see myself marrying her.
I think her response was a smile and a kiss.
After a 4-week stint in Canada, raising support and seeing friends, I went back to Africa to volunteer again. (With a short trip to Kentucky en-route to meet the famous Bernice Greene.)
During our first week together in South africa, these words were said:
I said “I love you”
She said “………..”
*kiss kiss kiss*
Later that night,
She said, “I love you too”
I said, “I know.”
We bopped around Cape Town for the next 3 months, both working with YWAM in our respective ways, but still finding/making the time to connect and be with each other.
Layne eventually left me in January, 2010 to continue with her team to the Middle East. I was sad and I knew from the moment I left her at the airport, I was going to marry this girl!!
As Layne would say “in dramatic form”, 3 weeks later I flew to Egypt to surprise her once again.
I had a ring.
but she didn’t.
It turns out she didn’t need a diamond, she just needed space.
I ended up eating a LOT of rice and beans in the ensuing months to pay for that disappointing trip.
We spent the better part of 3 months apart, rarely talking or emailing, still planning on being “friends”. I knew in my heart, this wasn’t the end.
We met up in Ireland on my way home from South Africa again. It was April 2010.
(I chased this girl around the world apparently.)
It was magical, a dream of mine. Five days driving around the whole island with 3 friends (One of whom I was madly in love with.)
That summer Laynie planned on going back home to Kentucky to work her little butt off. When you volunteer for YWAM, money can be pretty tight.
We met up again at the end of May in Chicago/Minneapolis for our dears friends’ wedding.
According to Layne, we weren’t “dating”.
The groom, DP, told Layne, “This guy is great, what’s your problem?”
I worked at Circle Square Ranch camp that summer as their video/photo guy.
We skyped consistently, talked on the phone often, sent packages to each other.
One friend from camp once said to me “Jon, why don’t you just marry this girl, she obviously loves you”.
I said, “I’M TRYING!” Haha.
At the end of the summer, in August 2010, I flew Layne up to Canada for a City and Colour concert (her first concert ever), and right away, I knew I still loved her.
After getting Starbucks in Toronto straight from the airport pickup, Layne kissed Jonathan on the street and said, “This doesn’t mean anything yet, we need to talk”
That was love. (At least our version)
Once again, we were “dating”.
Once again, we spent months apart.
Once again, it was hard.
But, we both knew.
Layne and Catherine (Layne’s younger, and brilliantly beautiful sister) came to Canada for that 2010 Christmas.
Then, once again, we spent months apart.
Layne was in Kona, Hawaii; I was in Canada working.
We got the privilege to photograph our friends’ wedding, Matt and Kayci in Nashville.
This short time together only lasted 3 days.
Layne didn’t know, but I had a new ring to propose with by then.
Layne didn’t know, but I was planning on surprising her/proposing while she was in California the next month.
When I got home, I was layed off from my job, and wasn’t sure about being able to see her.
I scratched together whatever money I could, worked for friends, and ended up flying to Sacramento on May 23, 2011.
My original proposal plan went down the drain. It was Friday.
The next day we drove up to Redding, California.
My chance to redeem the day before.
We drove, walked, drank wine, laid on a blanket overlooking a pristine lake and mountains.
Then it rained.
We walked back, sat in my car, talked, kissed (sort of, I was distracted by the pending question), and after two trips to the bush to pee,
I went on both knees in the mud and asked Laynie.
She sat on my lap, cried and said yes.
This is the start.
We happily got married October 23, 201l and are happy to cease those terrible seasons of “goodbye.”
Being married is The Best.
This is long, but Lindsay says it doesn’t matter, that we should stay true to what happened.
The first time I saw him, I knew I needed to kiss him. Immediately. And not stop for a long time.
I wrote about it in my journal.
All epic tales have beginnings and that’s ours.
He was dating someone else, but the first time we talked, I knew we would end up together.
Oh wait, that’s the beginning.
We met in Hawaii in the spring; it seemed like the thing to do.
He broke up with his girlfriend shortly thereafter; it really was inevitable. We spent three months on the island together, loving Jesus, bopping around the campus, playing ultimate frisbee, listening to music, asking the hard questions and talking. We talked a lot.
Once he sat outside my window and played his guitar for hours. This is a true story.
We said goodbye at the end of June; he was going to South Africa for the summer and I was going to Panama.
The night before we parted ways, we hung out one last time.
My stomach got a case of the jitters as we sat under the vast inky sky.
Note: my hands may or may not have been already tangled in his hair when he told me he liked me.
“I like you too…like 65%…ummmm, 62%!” I often feel the need to explain things in a scale, life makes more sense that way.
I followed him to South Africa in September; he changed his plane ticket so we could spend more time together.
The first time we kissed, it was under a thousand singing stars in the middle of a rocky path in the heart of South Africa.
Every first kiss should be that magical.
At the end of that initial week back together, on a train platform somewhere near Cape Town, in the rain, Jonathan held my hand and ask me to be his. “I want to date you; I want to marry you.”
He has always been a simple man.
He was always so sure.
We spent that fall (spring in South Africa) exploring the world together.
Note: I was b-tchy almost every day in that lovely, terrifying season.
Love is so scary.
I saw the worst sides of myself and Jonathan did too.
He loved me anyway.
I didn’t respond when he said, “I love you,” the first time. I wanted to make sure I meant it, that it was real.
When I finally said it later, he said, “I know.”
I left him in January, to travel through the Middle East with the power-team of photographing girls to whom I had committed the next 1.5 years of my life.
I asked him to wait until he was out of debt to propose; that was my way of saying I needed time.
Note: I should have stuck to my general plan of being forthright and just said, “I’m not ready.”
Three weeks after I left him in South Africa, he (dramatically) flew up to Egypt to propose.
(He lived on rice and beans for months to afford the plane ticket and lost ten pounds.)
He took me out to a romantic dinner on the Nile River while my friends and teammates set up a surprise engagement party we would never attend.
The details of that night have long remained vague, but let’s just say we broke up the next morning.
I decided it wasn’t fair to stay with him when he was so d-mn sure, and I still had so many questions.
We wept together for the rest of the week.
There was a lot of silence between us in the ensuing months, but my heart was exploding with the confusion of what love is supposed to look like. Anne and I had bedtime talks every night, attempting to sort out the nuances of the heart.
This is a seemingly impossible task.
Jonathan stopped and saw me in Europe on his way home from South Africa. I cried for half an hour on his shoulder at a pub in Ireland. He was just so kind. (Note: Jonathan has maybe seen me cry more than any other person in my life. Note 2.0: I am a hideous cryer, not cute like those girls on the movies.)
He drove 7 hours to pick me up from the airport in Chicago in May when I flew in for a dear friend’s wedding–a plan we’d agreed upon months before.
We drove up to Minneapolis for the wedding and spent a day or two in Chicago at the end.
We became pen-pals that summer, while he worked at a camp and I was home in Kentucky, working at the bookstore, an old college job.
He used all his air-miles to fly me up to his hometown in Canada at the end of last summer because he wanted to take me to my first official concert.
He arrived at the airport hours early, willing me to show up.
I met his family and most of his friends that weekend.
Oh, and apparently (the details are fuzzy but he loves talking about it), somewhere along the streets of Toronto, I grabbed his arm and told him I needed to kiss him, telling us both it didn’t mean anything.
It actually meant everything.
We started dating again that September. Those long-distance months were hard (brutal, awful, sad, Really Hard) but were peppered with visits.
Once he spent a week with me in Kentucky at the end of that summer. He got up early each morning to walk me to work, brought me lunch each day, and came back each evening to pick me up.
He made dinner every night and wouldn’t let me touch the dirty dishes.
Once, on my way back to Kona, he came with me to visit my dear friends in California.
Once, over Christmas, Catherine and I made it out to Canada for a week on air-miles.
Once he drove 22 hours to see me for 3 days when I was home for another wedding.
And once upon a time Jonathan flew out to California to surprise me in May of 2011, when I was touring up the west coast with my team.
Jonathan wanted to propose the day he took me out on an all-day date, but decided the timing wasn’t perfect enough.
So he took me out the next day, on a simple picnic by the river.
When it started raining, we hung out in the car for a couple of hours.
Talking, talking, talking.
Note: I peed in the bushes, twice.
It was still raining a bit when we got out of the car and he got down on both knees and asked me to let him serve me forever and ever until death do us part.
I said YES between tears to being the luckiest girl in the world.
Thirty four months, six countries, road-trips, holidays, tears, hard conversations, some dramatic moments [ok maybe many dramatic moments], a couple of kisses, emails, questions, answers, prayers, presents, and laughs later, Jonathan remains the biggest surprise and gift of my life.
The other day he asked me when I fell in love with him, when I finally Knew.
And I told him it’s been bit my bit, every day since we first talked.
I fell in love with him when he didn’t say a word but gave me the bigger cup of coffee, when he helped me execute Mama’s surprise birthday party, when he kept a journal for me in the long months we were apart. I fell in love with him over a sudsy sink and as we talked along a craggy path somewhere on the edge of the Pacific in faraway Africa. I fell in love with him when he wrote me messy notes and cleaned up the poop exploding from Mama’s pipes. I fell in love with him when I watched him hug my sister and knew she was his own. I fell in love with him when he let me walk away because I needed to breathe and when he came back and let me cry on his shoulder in that mystic Irish pub.
Oh wait, that’s just the beginning.
I can’t wait to fall in love with Jonathan every day for the rest of my life. He is the best man I’ve ever known.