I know today is Valentine’s Day, but in our house it is better thought of as “the day we made plans”.
Yes, we had heart pancakes for breakfast, but for the most part I don’t think of Valentine’s Day as the day we celebrate love and hearts. For me, it’s the day that Chris and I decided to become “the Rollings”.
Let’s back track about 8 years…
Chris and I started dating in September of 2005. I had already quit my job as a youth pastor and booked my plane ticket to move to Haiti to work full time with Clean Water for Haiti (I always feel like this point needs to be emphasized because I don’t want to be thought of as one of those girls who made a life altering decision for a guy!). The day before Valentine’s Day 2006 I made a comment that it was V day the next day, not anticipating anything. It was more of a realization that the date was on the calendar. I’ve never been one of those girls that made a big deal about it, and Chris didn’t strike me as the type that would go all out either.
When I mentioned it he said, “Well, we need to go do something!” and I tried to let him know I wasn’t expecting anything and it wasn’t a big deal for me. He informed me we were going to go out on a date and do dinner etc. Okay, I concede.
The next day was funny. In the morning some new to the area missionaries that I had already met called to see if they could stop by and meet Chris on a trip to St. Marc and he told them to stop by. Late morning he told me he was going to take off on his motorcycle for a while. I asked about the visit and he told me he would meet them some other time. I tried to remind him that they were coming to meet him, but no cigar.
Then, he was gone for hours. I had no idea what was up. It was so out of character for him. A friend of ours stopped by late afternoon to use our internet and Chris came back. He realized, when he got home, that he had forgotten to tell the cook that we weren’t going to be there for dinner, so she had made food. I suggested we just put it in the fridge but he insisted that we eat, and just go for dessert. I insisted it wasn’t a big deal and we didn’t need to go out. He insisted we did. I mean, really insisted.
I started to get ready to go, and realized that he had gone in his room and was taking forever to get himself together. You need to know that this is the guy who, when we go out, literally walks into our room and pulls off his t-shirt and throws on a button down shirt, which he’s still buttoning as he’s putting on his shoes. He takes a nano second to dress himself to go out. 45 minutes, was not normal. While I was getting ready there was a very brief, fleeting moment where I thought, “Maybe he’s going to propose!” which was quickly followed by, “No way. He’s not that kind of guy. We’re going to need to date for at least a year before he gets there.” This would probably be a good time to mention that he was the person who, when I told him I loved him for the first time he said, “Don’t say that!” at which point I reminded him that he couldn’t dictate my feelings :)
(This is making me giggle to myself as I write and remember all of this…)
So, we got ready, and went out. We ordered a bottle of wine and the only edible dessert the restaurant had – flan. Rather than sit in the normal restaurant area we chose a table on the beach where we could watch the sunset. And the rats. Or, long tailed squirrels, as we decided to call them that night so as not to ruin the ambiance. These things are important.
We talked and drank our wine and ate our dessert. I could tell Chris was acting a bit funny, but kept dismissing it.
Eventually he said, “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Okay. What do you want to talk about?
“I think we should make plans.”
My first thought was, “Okay, he want’s to talk about summer vacation!” Because I had wondered if we would leave around the same time and plan to spend some time together while away.
“What kind of plans?” I asked
“Long term plans.”
Again, I’m thinking summer. Because apparently when you’re 27 four months down the road is long term…
“What kind of long term plans?”
“I think we should get married.”
And I go quiet. Because I wasn’t expecting that. Nope. Not at all.
And then the tears started. And I smiled. And he looks at me.
“Is that a yes?” he asks while holding his breath.
And he exhales.
“I was worried you would tell me you needed more time.”
“When do you want to do it?”
“This summer? I don’t want to wait a long time, and we could do it when we would normally take a summer vacation.”
“That means I’m going to need to go home for a while to plan stuff.”
And that was the point where we started thinking as “us” rather than “me” and “I”.
Later that night I asked him when he knew I was the one. He told me that when he said good-bye to his parents at Christmas that the next time he saw them we would either be engaged or broken up. There was no middle ground, and if it was going to happen, it was going to be sooner rather than later. And, he hoped it was the former :)
Four and a half months later, to the day, we became “the Rollings”. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Has it always been easy? Ha. Do you know my husband? He is intense and has a deep sense of right and wrong. He doesn’t mince words. He is stubborn. And so am I. And we meet in the middle and rub each other the wrong way sometimes. But it works for us.
I tell people all the time that we’re like oil & vinegar – they push away from each other, but when you shake them up they make really good salad dressing. We can be polar opposites in so many ways, yet we compliment each other so well that one of the comments we often hear from people is how good we are together. Our gifts and personalities fill the spaces in the other. Since we got married I feel like I’ve learned what God meant when he said that the two shall become one.
And I feel grateful. Last night when we crawled into bed I thanked Chris for being the type of man who, from the very start of our relationship, told me that communication would be everything because we would be doing life under a microscope here. Everyone would be watching us to see if we did marriage differently. They would watch how Chris treated me and vice versa. They would see how we treated our adopted daughter compared to our bio-logical son. Any tension in anything within our home would spill over to the mission and our relationships with everyone we work with. We needed to guard and protect and work hard at all of it. And those weren’t just words for him.
Do you know what made me realize there might be something to Chris that was more than any other guy I had been interested in? He wasn’t easy. No, not that kind of easy. The kind of easy where I knew he would challenge me, and be a challenge to be with. Not in a caretaker sense, but in a way where I would have to hold my own. I had a strong leadership gifting, and predominantly found myself in those roles in life and ministry. Most of the guys I knew were great, but would eventually not challenge me enough and I worried that I would have a life that would be boring.
Not long after I met Chris we were having a conversation about missions he said something about too many people making excuses for not going out into missions work. I got defensive because I was in that place where I wasn’t ready, but God was starting to tug at my heart. I challenged him on it. And I never did that with a guy. I would have normally just pulled away and thought him arrogant, but not Chris.
And you know how some people just have this vibe around them that lets you know there’s something there and it’s deep and well, kind of indescribable? That was us. For two years, whenever we were together, just as friends, people would pull me aside and ask, “What’s going on between you two???” And I would shrug my shoulders and say, “I have no idea.” Because I didn’t. And it wasn’t until months after I committed to coming to Haiti that Chris knew I was the person he needed to put the effort in with. That was no small thing, considering that both of us had decided years before that we wouldn’t pursue a relationship unless the person was the marrying kind. Neither of us felt it was a good use of our hearts and what not to be involved in something that was obviously not going to go the distance.
The years have not been easy on us. We have literally been through things that would normally rip couples apart. That would break down their communication and find them questioning if they were ever meant to be together. But not us. And I’m so grateful. We’ve both had to grow and bend and change a lot to make this work. Like I said, oil and vinegar here.
We are partners in this whole life thing. We compliment each other and we’re strong for each other when needed. We’re getting better at all of it every day.
So yes, when I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of the commercial expressions of love, but more than that I think of the real expressions. The commitment and the willingness to jump into something for the long haul. When I look at my husband, I see that commitment lived out every single day and I feel so grateful to be called his “wifey”.
Happy Heart Day!