Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Love Story: To Courtship

"She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man." ~ Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice

 And, then, a beautifully warm February rolled by with a short visit from Nolan. 

 A week before his visit, I remember taking a long walk outside of the gated neighborhood in which I lived. The afternoon was mild and a slight breeze rustled my skirt as I walked in the quiet of my own thoughts. My heart was filled with much pondering and questions. I sensed that, a week from that day, life would look very different. I knew I would have an answer, but what would it look like? I sat down on a bench at a park and breathed a simple prayer to the Lord, asking Him for the clarity, thanking Him for it, and verbally expressing that I was laying it down into His hands. I felt a small, but renewed confidence that the Lord would guide Nolan faithfully to make the position of our friendship clear. 
February 16th seemed a pivotal moment. The weeks leading up to his visit were filled with the most intense prayers. The first evening of his visit, he came to have dinner with me and my family, as well as my cousin, Alexis, and her husband, Eric. In anticipation of being around him again, my excited nerves had driven my stomach crazy all day long. During the enjoyable evening together, I noticed that Nolan barely made eye contact with me, as I was trying to act as "normal" and "relaxed" as possible. Because it was the weekend before my birthday, my cousin had brought some gifts for me and Nolan then told me he had small gifts for me in his car. After the evening came to a close, my sister and I walked with Nolan on the way out to his vehicle, which was a short walk to the guest parking in our neighborhood. At this time, it was already late at night. In fact, February 17th had dawned upon us as it was past midnight as we strolled into the brisk, cold air. There, he presented me a book titled, A Divine Invitation: Experiencing the Romance of God's Amazing Love, by Steve McVey, as well as a CD mix he put together with carefully selected songs. He asked if he could walk both me and my sister back to our house and we, thankfully, agreed. Then, as we walked together,  Nolan, with only a small hint of nervousness, asked if he could express something to me. Even with my sister present, I knew what was coming and quickly gave consent for him to do so. It was a freeing release - to finally hear him voice his care, admiration, and love for me! It was soon followed by us mutually sharing the private thoughts and prayers that occurred on both our ends for the past 2 years since our first meeting on Facebook. It means so much to me that my sister was there to share in such a moment - to see the fruit of her prayers for us. Before we said goodbye for the night, Nolan led the three of us together in prayer to acknowledge gratitude for the story that the Lord was scripting through our years of friendship and, now, this evening of revelation in both of our hearts to each other.
 The next few days of his visit seemed scripted as we both enjoyed long conversations, a winter sunset among the red buttes at Papago Park, and a humbling time of worship at my church. Nevertheless, it was also a difficult time as well - and this was a glimpse into the trials that would be woven into our lives. During that weekend, my sister was rushed to the ER in the middle of the night due to kidney stones. In addition, there was a set of family trials surrounding this time that brought sorrow to our hearts. While I must be general in regards to these trials, it cannot be understated that there was a deep grief and pain in my and my family's hearts that we knew Christ could only heal and renew.

 Upon Nolan's return home to Albuquerque, he placed a transfer with his job to Phoenix. However, once again, we found ourselves submitting to waiting and learning contentment in a long-distance courtship. The next few months were filled with many long phone conversations, questions, learning about each other, reading books together, and growing more in love and trust. Just as we had become more rested in this season, an unexpected door was open for Nolan's job transfer and move by May - which occurred over a 3-week time frame! May 12 was the day of his move here to AZ, where, for the first month, he lived with his friend, John. The weeks leading up to his move found me inspired and busy with song-writing. The words and music flowed seamlessly and it was my joy to bless him with a song on the day of his move. I look back and see how fitting and true this song was for our journey and for the days of hardship and waiting that was still to come. My song for him was based on 2 Corinthians 3:18, walking from one degree of glory to another, and about the heart of Christ that I had seen through his life and knowing the devotion and promise he has given to me will be a difficult, but sanctifying path. 

To finally walk out courtship in person was the largest joy and blessing - a happiness that held us through a long summer. No matter what we were going through on any given day, we were there for each other. An important part of our friendship has been to play the "thankful" game with each other, in which each of us counts the things that were grateful for to remind us of how rich we are in Christ. Such moments together held us through the hard days. 

June passed with a healing, restful, and significant visit to Nolan's parents in New Mexico. A visit in which my sister and I were richly blessed by their hospitality and kindness. 

My sister took a real first photo of him and I together during a long hike with his family on a Colorado trail.

During that visit, Nolan and I grew in trust and communication and were unexpectedly prayed a blessing over by a pastor who had been Nolan's former Junior High teacher, who had made a lasting impression on Nolan in his youth. It was a sweet moment. His former teacher-now-pastor, expressed genuine wishes of joy for us and even affirmed us for specifically regarding ourselves as in a "courtship" and not merely "dating."

 That weekend, my sister, Nolan, and I biked with his parents through Durango, had epic ping-pong tournaments, walked through Berg Park, enjoyed a bonfire beneath the stars, and I got to look at photos of "little Nolan," which his mother was so kind and willing to share. I felt gifted with a second family.  
Shortly upon returning home, Nolan moved out of his friend's home to his own place to be closer to his job. 

Over a long and hot summer, Nolan had been to me an expression of the Father's heart. His consistency and strength supported me through trials that marked my life during this season. Because my father was not present for the time of our courtship, I experienced a great loss and sorrow (and still do) from not having my father near and the foundations of my family life crumbling. The both of us made every effort for my father to be involved long-distance (he was receiving help at a ministry in Kentucky for 7 months) as much as he could be. Perhaps, to outsiders, it would have seemed inappropriate to have entered into a courtship while my father was away. This did make me nervous and I wasn't sure how things were going to work out. Yet, I saw that it was the Lord who brought it about, which inspired in Nolan the ability to protect me, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, during a fragile time of my and my family's life.
 Time and again, Nolan spoke to me the words of my identity in Christ. He travailed in prayer, not only for me, but each member of my family. He gave me gentle reminders of how much I am loved and favored - especially through the days when my attitude, words, emotions, and actions were anything but lovely or beautiful. His love has been that of a gentle pursuit, a tireless seeking to wash me in the Word, to guard and to protect, to challenge and exhort, to be faithfully given to my sanctification. He showed me a heart that weeps and grieves when I weep and grieve. And, he rejoiced when I rejoiced. Always, he expressed a devoted heart to wipe away my tears from hurts and burdens. With each passing day, I was given a greater revelation of the love of Christ through this man who so humbly expressed care for my life and heart. It made me aware that our relationship was about something so much more than just the two of us. This journey we have been placed on is an expression of the Father's heart for all souls. And that is the love that has kept and continues to keep us. And I keep on falling in love with Love all over again. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this one too. The "thankful" game is so sweet, and the respectful romance, with your own music!