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Memorable Valentine's Day: February 14, 2004

Over the years, my wife and I have spent numerous Valentine's Days together. As far as excitement, anticipation, and expectation is concerned, none equal the first we had together--February 14, 2004.

Back in the Fall of 2003, I first met Michelle Joines who would go on to become my bride. We’d first gotten acquainted by going the Homecoming Dance at Belhaven College together. I’d resolved ever since then to spend as much time with her as I could. Though she’d had a decent time at the dance, or so it seemed, she was quite standoffish to most of my subsequent attempts to hang out with her or take her places. By Christmas break, I’d resolved that maybe something serious working out between us just wasn’t meant to be. It was disappointing, but not devastating. I was still in the early, just-getting-to-know-her stage anyway. The spring semester would change all of that!

Unbeknownst to me, Michelle had resolved over Christmas break while she was at home in North Carolina to be more open to me. The first weekend back at Belhaven after Christmas break, I was in the cafeteria finishing up supper, when she came in. She ended up sitting at my table and we chatted about how our breaks had been. Soon afterward, her roommate came in and sat with us. They decided that they wanted to run to the grocery store to get some chocolate ice cream and invited me to tag along.

Upon returning to the lobby of her dorm, they decided to play a game of Dominoes over their bowl of ice cream and I was invited to join in on that as well. By the time the game was wrapping up, girls were coming down the stairs talking about going to the swing dance that was happening in the student center. Some students spontaneously decided to bring a stereo over and have an impromptu dance. The three of us were interested in going and so Michelle’s roommate taught us a few swing dance moves that we could us.

We went over and had the time of our life. When the night was over and I was lying in my dorm room, I wrote in my journal how I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had so much fun. The thing that struck me the most was how unplanned the evening was. The previous semester I’d planned and planned for Michelle and me to hang out together and I was only moderately successful, but this night we’d had more fun than we could’ve possibly planned, randomly it seemed. I felt like God was smiling at me.

The weeks that followed, it seemed like Michelle and I were together more and more frequently. Michelle, her roommate and I began frequently spending afternoons watching movies in the lobby. Later in February when her sister came to visit Belhaven for several days, Michelle invited me to participate in all of the events she’d scheduled with her sister. One night, we went ice-skating. Another night, we went to a piano concert on campus. Looking back, I feel like that week was a turning point in my friendship with Michelle. Now, I felt like God was really smiling at me. But still I was apprehensive. Here’s an excerpt from my journal from February 5, 2004:

Lord, there is a very decent chance that what I’m about to write is rubbish. Maybe so much so that it’ll bring shame to read it years ahead. Maybe so much shame that it won’t even be read. But now I have to put some things on paper. Lord, remember me—the one guilty of a billion crimes and indecencies against women, both hypothetical and real, the one whose immaturity has been disdainable? I guess I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. I want to pen a poem that evokes tears of joy in the eyes of the girl for whom it is written. I want to experience the “scene” under the stars that all of the old movies portray with violins in the background.

I guess I tend to live in a dream world, ever on the lookout for Kodak moments as life goes on. Lord, ever since… the Homecoming Dance, a question has stayed with me: should I, in some respect or other, pursue Michelle or should I refrain? I have so many questions. What exactly is going on right now? What should I expect to happen?

Should I be doing anything differently? …When Michelle declined my mention of the Christmas dance, I took that as God’s leading me away, but now I’d love to doubt that….There are times this semester when things are actually smoother than I can comprehend. I’m not perplexed and challenged by how bad things are, but rather by how good. If I can best glorify you by having things get even better in this, then so be it, but if I can better glorify you by being a friend to her and no more, then so be it…

I may be totally and utterly misguided, but it looks like our friendship has kicked it into high gear this month and particularly this week….I would think that one way that God reveals his plan is through opening doors. How may doors I’ve misread before!...God, let me put down my sword and hope for only what you hope. The big question is: what now? Moods fluctuate like the weather. It’s impossible for me to look at the situation objectively.

Valentine’s was a little over a week away and I was debating whether or not I ought to ask her to go out to eat that night. Thus far, all of the hang out time I’d planned with her had been pretty subtle and non-threatening. I wanted to develop a sturdy friendship with her before explicitly bringing up romance.

Would taking her out on the most romantic night of the year cross the line? My roommate told me I should go for it, to ask her and my RA said the same thing. She’d prefer to go out with me than to be depressed on Valentine’s Day, they said. So I called Michelle on the phone later on and offered to take her out. To my surprise, she instantly said yes.

I can’t remember how we decided at it, but we ended up going to Red Lobster in Jackson. I’d been racking my brain about whether or not to bring up to Michelle my desire to be in a relationship with her. Because that was in the back of my mind, I was extremely nervous. On the way to the restaurant, I missed my exit, and had to turn around. When we got to the restaurant, I was at a loss to know what to talk about.

There was a huge line of people waiting to get in, so it took us close to two hours just to get seated. Instead of having a constructive talk with her, I wasted most of that time playing 20 Questions with her. Once we were inside, I can’t remember what all we talked about. I finally decided to not get too serious and just enjoy the evening hanging out. The next day, I wrote in my journal:

Lord, you are consistently kinder to me than I can believe. The night at Red Lobster, which turned into like a four hour excursion, was so fun. Michelle seemed to enjoy it too. She even hugged me afterwards…I’m fairly certain now about {talking to her} this week at some point. Will she be upset with me? Will everything fall through? Will she reject me? Will she postpone an answer? Will she accept me?... You give and you take away. Lately, it seems like all you’ve been doing is giving. If you decide to start taking now, then please give me grace.

I spent the next few days consulting Michelle’s friends and family to see whether I was way off base in trying to initiate a relationship with her. She seemed to enjoy my company. It seemed to make sense that we were going in that direction.

Wednesday night after BSU, I caught Michelle at the door as she was leaving and asked her if she could come with me to the student center for a minute because I needed to talk to her. I bumbled and stumbled and beat around the bush before getting to the point. I was so nervous that I took my glasses off, left them on the table beside me, and didn’t end up recovering them till a few weeks later.

I told Michelle that I felt like she deserved to know what my intentions were toward her. A compassionate smile broke out on to her face as I asked her to consider the possibility of us being in a relationship together. I was trembling, but her calmness helped to calm me some. She said it had come to her mind as well. She wasn’t in the least offended or freaked out by my bringing it up. She said she needed a week or so to give it some thought. I was nervous, but hopeful. In my journal that evening, I wrote:

Lord, I just did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I talked to Michelle, telling her face to face how I feel about her. To my delight, she was very kind. ..I commit this to you, Father. Either way, be glorified.

She ended up needing much less than a week. The next night, she found me and, with no bitterness or hostility, said, “I don’t want to do it. I don’t need a week to think about it.” I smiled and said, “That’s okay, I understand.” She smiled. “Are we still okay with each other? I mean, we can still hang out and stuff?” I asked. She nodded.

“Is this something I can bring back up soon or should I just drop it for a while?” I asked. She suggested that I lay the subject to rest for a while and then headed back to her dorm. I was okay. I guess I could take it so easily because I had every intention of bringing it up again soon. It turns out, I brought it back up about a month later, then again about a week after that. I was in love with her and basically was determined to keep bringing it up, however long it took.

Eventually, she gave in! We officially became a couple on March 31, 2004, dated for a month, broke up for about six months, reunited on October 25, got engaged on April 29, 2006, got married May 27, 2007. The rest is history.

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