(In Tracy's words, written in September, 2004)
On the evening of June 27, 2004, I checked my mailbox on Christian Cafe, an online dating service, expecting the worst and feeling disgruntled about the whole process of online dating. When I opened my mailbox and saw an email from someone I hadn't heard from before, I clicked on it unenthusiastically... and then I started reading. His words just grabbed me. He said that this wasn't a typical "I'm interested in you" message, but that he had read in my profile about my boyfriend, Dan, dying of cancer, and that he was a cancer survivor himself and wondered about my experience loving a man with cancer. I remember so clearly how he questioned whether, given his own medical history, he should even be looking for a relationship, and how that struck at the very core of my heart.
If anyone knows the value of real, pure love, no matter what the circumstances, it's me. My heart felt so heavy to read that he might even be questioning his "right" to a love relationship because of his health, and the more I read, the heavier my heart got. I went and read his profile and just became more and more filled with this overwhelming desire to share my thoughts with him, to tell him that everything I was reading told me that he was a wonderful man with so much to offer, and even if his health history would be a consideration to a woman, the right woman would realize that loving him was a risk worth taking. I know that it was God prompting me to share my heart with him, because I told him things in that reply that I had never really told anyone before. I just felt such a strong desire to connect with him that it can only be explained as a "God thing".
We ended up messaging back and forth for the next month, talking about all of the deeply personal, serious things that had so shaped our atittudes and lives, things like his cancer experience and my experience with Dan, and matters of healing and faith, and my arthritis, and depression and purpose... It was all so extraordinary, and by the time he asked me to meet him for coffee or dinner sometime, I already had a strong feeling that God was telling me that he might be "the one". I tried to ignore that, because that was crazy -- we hadn't even met face-to-face! But truth be told, I was halfway in love before I ever laid eyes on him.
On Wednesday, July 28th, we met at Milestone's in Abbotsford for dinner. I was so nervous! I already had feelings for him, and I wondered if this meeting would spell the end of it all -- what if we had no chemistry? what if I couldn't think of anything intelligent to say? what if he wasn't what I expected?-- or if it was the beginning of something really significant. I had no idea! I can't say I got over my nerves completely that evening, but after we'd talked for a few minutes I started to feel comfortable and we had a really nice time. At least, I thought we did. I didn't know what he was thinking -- I found him really hard to read. But when we got up to go, he asked me if I had seen the fireworks in Vancouver, and I was pretty sure he was going to suggest going... so somehow I ended up actually asking him out because when I found out he'd never seen them, I asked if he wanted to go sometime.
That Saturday, he picked me up in the afternoon and we spent the rest of the day together, walking by the seawall in Stanley Park, having dinner, and watching the fireworks. I have to laugh, looking back, at some of our conversations that day -- like the conversation we had about my impulsive sister and her now-husband Roman talking about the names of their children on their first date, and how they had already decided after just a couple of dates that they wanted to get married. I told him firmly that I was much more conservative than that and had always believed that a couple should date for a year before getting engaged. Cough, cough.
On the drive home that night, he asked me if I'd like to go to Mount Baker on Monday, which was a holiday. I happily said yes, and so that Monday afternoon we drove down to Mount Baker together (at the border, an inquisitive customs officer asked if we were dating, to which Anthony replied "Apparently so" while I blushed furiously) and spent a little time walking around once there. We were heading back towards the car and saw a bench with an incredible view, so we sat down to rest and talk for a while. I'm sure that neither of us expected our conversation that day to end up where it did -- with him telling me he loved me. We had a very intense talk about some of the painful losses and difficult circumstances we'd both experienced in our lives. When I told him some more about Dan, I started to cry and he took my hand and just held me as I let it out. And somehow, out of all of this conversation, as he sat there holding my hand, we started talking a little bit about us and how we were feeling about the way things were going... and then he told me he loved me. Part of me was dumb-founded, because I knew he was cautious and conservative, like me, and I didn't expect that so soon. The bigger part of me, however, felt so happy to hear that he was feeling the way I had been too.
Unfortunately, at that point I hadn't been able to really admit to myself the depth of my feelings, and I was scared. Being with him was wonderful, and I already knew what an extraordinary person he was and how much I cared about him; but for me, love was a very complex experience. My time with Dan taught me that love could be as much -- or more -- about pain than about happiness and joy; and that love doesn't conquer all. So that day, I told him that I wasn't ready to say I love you in return, but he, as is his character, seemed completely accepting of and okay with that. He has always shown me the utmost respect and has always honoured my feelings and my fears, and didn't press the matter. He just said he wanted me to know that. And my heart was filled with so much joy at hearing it!
After I got home that night, and throughout the next couple of days at work, I kept thinking about him and his "I love you", and I realized that while I might be afraid to vocalize my feelings for him, my heart felt what it felt regardless of my fears and my inability to articulate those feelings -- and what my heart felt was love for him. On Saturday, I cooked him dinner and wanted to tell him then that I loved him, but the fear got the best of me that night. I was so touched by him that evening, though; he had brought me a huge bouquet of roses and after dinner we had gone for a walk down by the inlet and ended up sitting out on a bench there for a long time, just talking and being together, and the way he looked at me and took my hand when we walked, the way he showed me his heart and shared the things of his life with me, I just felt so privileged to be the one he loved. When he left, I felt sad that I hadn't been able to tell him what I was feeling, so the next afternoon when we met up after church and were having coffee in the Abbotsford Starbucks that afternoon, I knew I had to tell him, no matter how scared I felt. I got choked up, but I managed to explain to him about my fears, and about how my past experience had taught me as much of the painful side of love as the beautiful side, and that that was why it had been hard for me to tell him how I felt at Mount Baker; but that now I needed him to know that I loved him too.
The next Saturday, he and his brother Danny, along with Tara and I, spent the day together driving up to Hope and going to the Othello Tunnels. That same weekend, I went to church with him for the first time and met his parents, and shortly after that I met the rest of his siblings. A couple of the girls at work were cocking their eyebrows at me and saying, "This is moving pretty quickly, isn't it?" to which I had no good response! One of them said he'd have a ring on my finger by the New Year and I just laughed -- even I didn't anticipate what the next few weeks would hold.
Another week passed, and we drove down to Seattle so he could meet my parents. (We had another inquisitive border guard on that trip: this one asked if we were married, and Anthony's reply this time was, "Not yet!") We had a really good visit with them that Saturday night, went to church with them on Sunday and had lunch afterwards, and then drove home; and on that drive home, I remember feeling more contented than I could ever remember feeling in my entire life. Partway home, he suggested that he could move the armrest in between our seats up so that I could slide over and sit in the middle, right beside him. Nothing sounded better to me, so I scooted over and spent the rest of the drive resting against him, with his arm around me, feeling like God had just given me the most precious gift in the world and all He wanted was for me to enjoy it.
That night we had a long talk about our relationship. Conversation had taken a bit of an unexpected and (to me) slightly jarring turn as we neared home that day, and so when we got back to my place we ended up talking about how we were both feeling, and although I felt like I unintentionally pushed him into that conversation, it turned out to be a good thing. He asked me how I was feeling about our relationship. I thought for a while before replying, just remembering the ways that God had been showing me over the preceding weeks that Anthony was His best for me -- from finding and praying over Jeremiah 29:11 only to have my mom use that same scripture in reference to my relationship with Anthony a few days later, to receiving no more messages on Christian Cafe, ever, after Anthony and I had our first date, to the responses from family and friends. It was overwhelming. Finally, I told him that I'd never been so sure of anything in my entire life. He looked surprised, but it was true. I felt an absolute certainty that could only have come from the Lord. I shared some of God's confirmations with me, like the experience with Jeremiah 29:11, and he began to share some of God's confirmations to him, too. For example, he told me about the devotional that he'd read the day that we went to Mount Baker, the day he told me he loved me -- a devotional titled, "A Helper Fit for Him", which came out of the blue in that devotional book. It just seemed more clear than ever that God was reigning in every single moment of our relationship. We loved each other, and it was His will that we should be together... and so, we essentially made a commitment to each other that night, believing fully in God's plan for us -- together.
The next night he emailed me and told me he had felt such an amazing peace all day. I had felt it too. It was just one more confirmation from God, to both of us: that complete sense of calm and joy about the commitment we'd made to each other the night before.
That Wednesday, he took the day off work to go to a hand surgeon with me, since he knew I was very anxious about the appointment and could use the moral support. I almost didn't know how to accept that kind of gift of his time and love, because I felt like I'd been doing things alone, being necessarily independent and self-reliant for so long that to have someone just want to be there for me, even when I didn't absolutely "need" it, because they loved me... it was so precious. After my appointment, we went to lunch and then it all started to sink in, that our relationship was "for keeps", as we started talking about when we should get married. Sunday I had been so overwhelmed by the mere idea that he wanted a future with me that my heart and mind couldn't contain or process more than just that much; so by Wednesday when we started making actual plans for our future, making the surreal so very real, I almost thought I'd burst just trying to contain my happiness and excitement!
We decided that, given the new turn our relationship had taken, we should get all four of our parents together, so we made plans to have dinner with the four of them on Saturday, September 4th. We went to his parents' after dinner for coffee, and as they sat there visiting, our mothers both gabbing away and our fathers chiming in here and there, we both sat silently, waiting for a lull in conversation so that Anthony could explain why we wanted them to meet. Finally, my mom said she thought it was time for them to go! Anthony asked if they had a few minutes, because there was a reason we'd brought them together... and then he started to tell them the story of how our relationship had developed, how God had been working, and how we felt about each other. By the time he was done, all four of our parents had tears in their eyes. When he finished by asking my parents for their permission and blessing to marry me, my dad answered very quickly with a very enthusiastic"Yes!" Our parents shared with us and each other about how they'd all prayed for us... and how all of the things they prayed for, God had now answered. There Anthony and I were, together, so happy and in love, hearing that we both were answers to prayer. I felt so blessed by Anthony and his love, and not worthy or deserving of it; and yet his parents were saying, no, you are exactly what we prayed for. And that's what my parents were saying of Anthony. We wound up the evening by praying together, for our future, and thanking God for His goodness. It was a truly extraordinary evening, and I was so grateful to Anthony for caring to include our families in such a special way as we embarked on our future together.
Two weeks later, on September 19th, Anthony made it official by proposing to me. I was so blown away by the way he did it, knowing the thought and work and obvious love that went into it, and just feeling so... amazed that such a wonderful guy would want to marry ME! He arrived at my house on that Sunday morning with an absolutely enormous bouquet of gorgeous pink and red roses, and then he handed me a wrapped box. I opened it to find a beautiful mahogany box he'd made himself inside. Both the outside and inside of the box lid contained special messages to me, along with a symbol of his love for me in the form of a heart-shaped leaf on a piece of velvet inside. I was so wrapped up in the special messages he'd written and the leaf that I didn't initially realize that underneath the sheet of velvet that the leaf sat on was a ring box! I pulled out the box, opened it, and saw a beautiful white gold diamond solitaire ring nestled inside... and then Anthony got down on his knees in front of me and asked me to marry him. Obviously, I said yes!!!
That night, we had a beautiful, romantic, candelit dinner at White Rock and it was just the perfect end to an amazing day. I kept looking at him in that candlelight, at his tender eyes, seeing his love in them, and I simply felt overwhelmed by how much I love him.
Every day I love Anthony more, and every day we grow closer. I truly don't know why God has blessed me so richly, but He has. Anthony is so much more than I could've ever dreamed or imagined. I just pray that God will help me to be the woman he needs and deserves! I deeply respect and appreciate his faith and integrity, and am so thankful for his desire to be a spiritual leader in our relationship, encouraging us to pray together, wanting to build a strong, Christ-centered foundation for our marriage... It's a privilege to be with someone who loves the Lord like he does. I love his big heart, his tenderness and his emotionality, his sensitivity and thoughtfulness towards the people in his life. I love his obvious love of family, and the importance he places on family relationships. I love the way he just seems to want to take care of and be with me, the way that he cherishes me and loves me, flaws and all. I love his humour and the way we have such fun together. I just love him, in every conceivable way. I can hardly wait until we're married! I want to have a beautiful, Christ-centered wedding; and then to start our lives together, to wake up together in the mornings and share every corner of our lives with each other, learning more about each other and going through the ups and downs of life together, facing challenges and moments of great joy, and all the while deepening in our love for each other. I know that marriage isn't always easy, but there's no one I want to share my life and my heart with more than Anthony. I want to know him and to love him, and to be all the things he needs me to be; and I want to enjoy the incredible love he gives me, and to appreciate every moment we have. I know all too well how extraordinary and precious this gift is, and I never, ever want to take it for granted.
The LORD your God is with you,
Our relationship has shown us more than ever how God delights in us and in doing wonderful things in our lives, and how He gives us his peace and rejoices in our happiness. Thank you, Lord!
Update: May 11, 2005
We did it! We tied the knot on April 2nd, and our wedding was wonderful. We'd love to share some of the excitement of the day with you.