Most people secretly hope they will find their soul mate in college if they don’t currently have a high school sweetheart. That wasn’t the case for us. Each year after college, we both wondered when and who our spouse would be, and the saying “you will find them when you least expect it” or “when you aren’t looking” was certainly relevant in our case. I was in a relationship when I first met my husband Brandon, but that didn’t stop my high-school friend Seth from desperately trying to set us up. Call it prophesy (I called it stubbornness), but he would not give up - not for 4 years!
Seth and I knew each other from high school, and when he went away to college at IUP, he met Brandon and was determined to get us together. Seth would invite me up to Indiana to visit him in his dingy college apartment where he roomed with Brandon, then “mysteriously” had urgent errands to run, leaving Brandon and I to kindle our forced relationship over some Guitar Hero. I would be lying, though, if I told you our loved was sparked over rounds of Even Flow on Intermediate. It was still a few years until I grew the confidence and self esteem to end a long-term relationship that wasn’t right for me and give Brandon a chance.
During that time, Seth got engaged and asked if I would photograph his wedding (because I took a shot at engagement photos and didn’t royally screw them up I guess!). With my $500 Rebel in hand, I shot my first wedding and guess who was in the bridal party? My future husband! Spending time together “on-the-job” re-kindled our interest, and a few months later I was once again visiting my newly-wed friend Seth in Indiana. And once again he had urgent matters to attend to with his new wife, leaving Brandon and I to grow our relationship, this time over trips to Walmart!
It was important to both of us that we took this relationship seriously, and I still remember standing on Seth’s porch one night, Brandon and I alone of course, when he said to me, “I want to make sure I want a relationship with YOU, not just a relationship. You deserve the be respected.” PUT A RING ON MY FINGER NOW!! Two months later, lots of trips to Indiana later, lots of sleepy, late-night trips home FROM Indiana (seriously, my dad kept a tow rope in his truck to pull my car out of snow banks when I fell asleep coming home and got stuck), we were FB official. Our first kiss was in front of Seth’s house, a desperate tactic on his part to stop me from driving home after my dad accidentally filled my windshield fluid reservoir with tire shine and my windshield was a greasy mess.
In those early days, it was important to Brandon to teach me about faith, and help me develop and grow a relationship with the Lord as we were growing our relationship with each other. Ministry has always been at the foundation of our relationship, and I started attending and serving in church for the first time because of Brandon’s example. His calling to be a pastor came young, we suspect - as young as elementary school when he was a VBS junkie, begging his mom to take him to all of the programs in town each summer. He turned his sweet, babe-luring guitar skills into something that glorified the Lord, leading worship in college ministry and then later at the contemporary service at our church. My first servanthood experience was on the soundboard after hearing his frustration with being able to hear his strings from the front pews when he played electric guitar. As we pushed the decibels up and grew closer together in faith and love, we started volunteering in the youth ministry, where we were leaders of our current pastor! How times change us all!!
I have fond memories in the church where I really found and grew my relationship with the Lord, where I learned about serving, and where we were eventually married. But as God grows us, there are growing pains as well. Our own made-up path of getting Brandon on staff was not the path God wanted to take us on, which lead us to another church in town in the Indiana Theater. Here we experienced the most amazing, life-giving support through some hard times in our marriage that led us to counseling, leaders that saw the potential in us, pulled the skills out of us and developed our gifts. To Ed and Brian I am forever grateful.
This past weekend, Brandon and I and the young kid we were youth leaders over (with a team of incredible people that are literally closer than family to me), started a church. It’s not just the same thing in a new wrapper - it’s the opportunity that has been waiting for Nick and Brandon for all these years. It’s the opportunity the three of us dreamed about back in those youth group days. It’s the opportunity for my husband to step into his calling, having been prepared so excellently by leaders before us. So proud of this groomsman from my first wedding, this guitar-hero legend, this youth group leader that proposed at a youth group concert, this now associate pastor, this soul mate.