This is the continuation of our story… to read how we met, read here. For Part I of The Rest of the Story, read here, and Part II here…
|Exchanging pictures became one of our favorite pasttimes
Months flew by as if I were racing toward a finish line, and in a way, I was. I knew my life was about to drastically change. I was getting ready to leave the life I had grown comfortable in – my roommate and dear friend,… our cute and cozy house nestled on the outskirts of New Orleans,…. My teaching job, and any plans of fishing my masters degree at the seminary… My youth group i loved leading weekly,… My family… American luxuries… CC’s Coffee Houses…. And my sporty little Civic.
I was leaving it all.
One weekend, in preparation for moving, I had a garage sell at my parents’ home in order to drastically downsize my belongings. I would only be taking a few trunks to Asia, so much of my clothes, books, and other trinkets and ‘stuff’ would only be taking up storage space for no telling how long.
On the morning of the garage sale, I got a phone call. It was Jeffrey, and I was happy about the rare chance to hear his voice. He had made a way to call me that day because it was June 22nd- exactly one year since the day we met.
We talked about how things were going for each of us, and then – for the first time ever – he told me he loved me!
|Our Training Center provided lots of ‘Get Alone with God’ spots
Before I could blink, I had moved out of the house in Metairie and sold my car and was boarding a plane for Virginia, where I would acquire some ‘Job Training’ and preparation for 8 weeks before loading up my trunks and heading overseas.
|Our Training Center sends out people to work with people groups all over the world
My time in training was one of the hardest and best seasons of my life. Each day, God was stretching me, and stripping me of selfishness. It was a season rich with fellowship -both with the Lord and with like-minded believers who also had a heart for this work. We became like family.
|By the end of training, strangers had become sisters
Throughout my training, Jeffrey and I kept in touch. We knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d be there on the ground with the rest of the team, and we would get to see each other again. This made things both easier and more difficult. I had grown weary of the distance between us.
|Trying to pose for a good ‘Prayer Card’ pic
And we still didn’t know what the future held. Jeffrey’s term on the team was scheduled to end only one year into my term. So he would be returning to the States while I still had a year to serve… We had talked about marriage, but it looked like it wasn’t going to happen for a few more years…
The logistics of our relationship would occupy my thoughts as I walked from my dorm building to the cafeteria or from training session to computer lab. Somehow in my heart I knew God would work it out.
The eight weeks of training was passing more quickly than I could have imagined, and I was delighted that my parents were flying up to attend my commissioning service. Then we would fly together back to Louisiana, and I would have about a week to pack my trunks before leaving the country.
|Me with My Parents the day of my Commissioning Service
The morning we left the training center, the shuttle picked us up early to carry us to the airport. I had very little sleep the night before, as I stayed up late into the night saying goodbye to friends who had become like brothers and sisters. We had a common bond, and excitement was high as we all prepared to branch out all over the globe for one united purpose.
The flight to New Orleans passed quickly as I drifted in and out of sleep. I awoke as we began our descent, and leaned forward to see swamp beneath us as we were nearing the airport. My thoughts again turned to that tall, rugged man I’d come to love. In just over a week I would finally see him again. It’s hard to be patient, I told the Lord. I’m just ready to be with him… It’s time.
We filed off the plane and I took the lead in front of my parents, heading towards baggage claim, since I knew this airport well. The three of us each pulled a small rolling carry-on luggage, and Mom and Dad seemed to be walking so slowly. I was in a hurry. Exhausted, all I could think about was getting our luggage and getting to my Dad’s truck so we could go home and I could sleep.
I kept looking back at them, trying to figure out why they were so leisurely lagging behind, and tried not to be impatient with them. Just ahead of us were glass doors and I knew we had to go through those doors and then walk just a bit further to reach our baggage claim area. Glancing at the doors, someone on the other side of them caught my eye– probably because he was tall, and had the same hair color as Jeffrey.
Sneaking another quick glance at the man, I noticed he did look a lot like Jeffrey.
I looked away, suddenly growing nervous. What if…?
No, I chided myself. I must be really tired and delirious.
We were getting closer to those glass doors, and closer to the tall stranger, who was looking more and more like Jeffrey, and I noticed he was looking my direction, and holding a sign with a name on it, I couldn’t yet make out…
My heart started beating wildly and suddenly I slowed down. My parents caught up with me and and I walked slower and slower, not wanting to meet the stranger’s gaze.
Surely, it’s not him! I’m just delirious. In fact, I’m probably dreaming. I’m still asleep on the plane and any minute now I’ll wake up as our plane is landing…
A few more steps and I could really make out his face… I just couldn’t believe what my eyes were telling me. I read the sign, which I could tell now was in Chinese characters: ‘mu lan’.
I could hardly catch my breath, and I’m sure by now my Mom and Dad, who were in on this the whole time, most likely had huge grins on their faces.
I couldn’t feel MY face. Or my legs for that matter.
I was in such a state of shock that I just hoped my legs would carry me the rest of the way to him.
And then, just like that, the space between us was gone. I was standing right in front of him- the handsome tour guide I’d met over a year before then… The rugged hiker from across the world… The man I had come to love.
All kinds of things ran through my head: I can’t believe it; I can’t believe you’re really here… This is the best surprise of my life- how did you pull this off?…. I’m so happy to see you!
But the only words my faltering mouth could form were, “why are you here?”
Yep. That’s what I said. Seriously romantic.
He grinned and said, “because you’re here.”
And then I had to sit down, or I just might have passed out.
Thankfully there was a bench nearby, where we both sat down while Mom and Dad went on to baggage claim, probably giggling the whole way.
There on the bench, in the middle of the airport-in the middle of oblivion– I’m fairly certain we just grinned at each other for a solid five minutes and then fell into a long, sweet hug. Those were the arms I’d been waiting for so long.
And this was the best surprise of my life… But I was about to be hit with a few more surprises….
(to be continued)