Twenty-Three

Oh, My Scotty, saying that we have been together for twenty three years seems both impossibly long (how can we be old enough?) and yet… it is equally difficult to remember not loving and being loved by you!

I guess I can begin by saying Thank You. For choosing me 23 years ago when nobody would have thought you should if you’d told them your thoughts and intentions. Now that I think about it, thanks also for not including anyone else in your decision making process back then. HA! All humor aside, you have chosen me every day of the past 23 years, and I know not every day is easy. Thank you. I won’t list all the things we had to go through in those first two years before you put a ring on it, but since this is an open letter, and i’m sharing this celebration with others, I’ll do the briefest (HA!) of recaps:

In mid March of 1999, Scott and I had known each other for eight months, and it was very clear that I had a crush on another boy in our youth group at church. That was the baseline state of things from, essentially the night we met. But, just as the entire youth group was fixin to come for me for “lying” about whether I liked him or not (seriously, they were planning some sort of intervention style confrontation about my dishonesty in not admitting that I liked this boy- talk about some clueless self righteous teenagers…), Scott, with his own motives, decided to take things into his own hands before they could all make a mess. *smirk*.

He called this guy up, and basically asked “Do you want to date this girl?” the boy said no, though, we both believe 100% to this day that he actually did, but was afraid of all the drama being with me would cause (I refer you to THIS POST) and, truly, Thank GOD he was such a wimp about it, really, because…). Scott then made the best and boldest move I’ve ever heard of a sixteen year old boy making, romantically. He invited this boy to come over to my house and have a sit down with me, and friendzone me face to face. On paper, it still makes me laugh- especially because Scott called me to make these plans and I went along with this! “Sure, invite the boy I think I want to spend the rest of my life with and have even talked about kids with (but he “didn’t like me”) over to my house to break my heart, and please, you come and watch him do so. That won’t be at all humiliating.” What.

But, suddenly, Scott was on my doorstep, and the other boy (we will call him…JW), was not far behind him, nervous as heck-100% more nervous than me, and Scott cool as a cucumber, his plans coming together like Hannibal Smith. The element nobody saw coming was my *mother* deciding to *literally* pull up a chair and observe as well. We laugh about this every time we tell this story, but, really, now that I think about it, as awkward as it was at the time, she actually had a more legitimate stake in this than Scott did. Why *was* he there? The conversation went better than anyone expected, with JW telling me he really liked being good friends, blah blah blah, and me, with my low self worth and fear of confrontation causing the loss of him entirely, just being okay with rejection. I mean, nobody in my whole life had ever loved me enough to be on my side or choose me when it was hard or unpopular, so why should this be any different? Insert the GIF of the dog in the room on fire:

THIS IS FINE.

Over the next week, Scott called me twice to check on me- which was really kind, but had me asking, both internally, and out loud, *why do you care so much about this?* In my journal from the month between that sit down and Scott and I getting together, there was a lot of “okay, scott is saying these things, and I don’t want to read into them like I did with (JW)…” and I was just generally very confused, because I knew i was fragile and didn’t want to let myself feel things for Scott and get my heart broken again.

Feelings for Scott weren’t a new thing, though- they had just been overshadowed by my big feelings for JW, because I thought he was IT and anything I felt for anyone else was just chalked up to distraction or the fact that I have a really big heart and love my people really big. I can, now, pinpoint several very intense “moments” Scott and I had in the eight months before the sit down with JW, that I just shrugged off, including our first ever hug, in September 1998 that really threw me for a loop because of how *right* it felt to be held by this guy who I barely wanted to be friends with at that moment. I had also brought a friend to youth group with me in early October of 98 who knew I liked JW but was emphatic that Scott and I should be together after meeting him. It was a crock pot simmering for a long time.

The Sunday following the big sit down with JW, our whole youth group went out for lunch, and Scott and I sat together, at the opposite end of the table from JW, who was flirting HARD with one of the only two other girls in our youth group, and we only really talked to each other, in very soft voices and whispers, mostly about my feelings. In a particuarly gutsy move, for me, I directly asked him “Why are you so involved in what’s going on with me and my feelings about (JW)?” And Scott, not quite willing to lay his cards on the table, but willing to let me figure it out, redirected the question to me: “Why do you think?” and I, with my own fear of hoping, answered, “Because you care about me?” Scott, dripping sarcasm at this point (entirely on brand, then, especially,)said “Because I care… right.” and that was that. We had more conversations that should have made his feelings clear to me that day, but y’all, I was NOT letting myself read into anything ever again!

The next Sunday was Easter. I’m sure Scott called me a couple times again that week, but the big moment came at the Sunrise service on Easter morning. He almost couldn’t have planned it better, because JW was out of town that week, so he would have my full attention, and not the sad puppy energy that I was fighting hard not to give in JW’s presence. I remember walking up to him and asking how his week was, and him responding “It was pretty good. I spent most of my free time writing a letter.” I was like, “Oh, cool!” and completely floored when he added, offhandedly, “Yeah, I’ll give it to you later.” Umm, wat? Me?

The letter was sixteen pages. It was great, a lot about what he saw God doing in our youth group, how he wanted to join God’s work in that, about his ideas for a band that he wanted me to be part of, and…what he saw God doing in *me*. As I read what he wrote, I was very moved, because I had only had experience of people telling me where I was flawed, sinful, broken, falling short, and here was this boy telling me that “like the caterpillar in the cocoon, God is transforming you into something unspeakably beautiful.” Oh, wow. At the end of the letter, he made it very clear that I was expected to write back.

And I did. I am going to guess that my first letter back (and most of them after that) was longer than 16 pages, and filled with every little thing my heart was feeling. I don’t recall a lot of what i wrote, other than that i dotted all my “i’s” with a heart, which i had been doing since i was about thirteen, but Scott thought was all for him. *smirk*. He called me at least twice that week, and a pattern was starting to form.

We had youth group that Sunday night, and when I walked in, Scott patted the chair next to him, and said “come sit by me, Sunshine.” A nickname? I love to give people nicknames, but rarely have i been given one (JW christened me Cover Girl, but he never actually called me that, so that tracks), let alone one that was clearly so complementary! my internal monologue was on FIRE after that *Don’t read in, don’t read in…”

Over the next week- Scott’s turn to write- I believe he called me three times, and he was telling me how he felt like he was about to “turn over some apple carts and upset the delicate balance in our friend group”, and I had no idea what he was talking about but assured him i had his back. If I *had* known what he was talking about, i would have been blown away and even more enthusiastic with my support. That Sunday he gave me a thirteen page letter, that had, about 1.3 pages in, this discussion of our earlier conversation about why he was all up in my business:

Your answer: “Because I care.” And your answer was right, it just didn’t go far enough. My answer: Because I *love* you.

Oh ok. *Throws letter across the room.* Kinda hard to read too much into that, right? He had just been through that whole JW thing with me too, so…he knew I wasn’t one who played around with feelings. He and I had also had a conversation back in February where I flat out told him that I was never going to date anyone that wasn’t someone I thought I could marry. He knew what he was getting into. So, does this mean I have a boyfriend? That afternoon, maybe three hours after i read the letter, the phone rang, and my dad answered in his room, and called out that it was for me. I wanted to go get on the other extension, but i knew that would make my dad suspicious, so I went and picked it up on my parents’ room. “Hey, did you read my letter?” Scott asked, and, I responded with a breathless “Yes!”

“Okaaaay, so what did you think?”

How do I answer this sitting right here in front of my dad?

“I *agree* with everything you said.”

“You *agree*? Are your parents right there?”

“Yup.”

“Okay, well are you coming tonight? I can come get you if I need to. I really want to talk about this.”

That night was evening prayer meeting at church, and usually my family went, but my mom was out of town, so I knew my dad wasn’t planning on taking us- but I had to ask.

“My dad says no. he says you can’t come get me, either. I have to stay home and clean because my mom is coming home from her trip tomorrow. I’m sorry.”

*cue two very sad and frustrated sixteen year olds.*

We did get to talk on the phone twice that week, though, and that helped.

I promised to not chronicle all the drama in this post, so I won’t. Suffice it to say that, particularly in the first six months of our relationship, nobody made it easy on us. His parents didn’t approve of me/us and did all they could to get in the way, my parents had some crazy rules, and our church friends were a mess. But we knew what we knew. About five months into our relationship, Scott’s family stopped coming from Richmond to Virginia Beach on the weekends and found a church local to them, and we were heartbroken. Our already long distance relationship just got a lot harder. The compromise that was reached was that he could come spend one weekend a month in VB, and that is how often we saw each other from October 1999 to December 2000. 48 hours a month we were in the same town, and we spent as much of that time together as my parents allowed.

January 2, 2001, I moved to Richmond, to live with a family from Scott’s new church, and by mid March, we were very motivated to get married ASAP, which brings me to the second significance this date has for us.

On April 18, 2001, our two year dating anniversary, Scott put a ladder up against the house outside my bedroom window at sunrise, and proposed to me. It was my dream proposal, with my dream ring, and after a last minute attempt by a few people to break us up, and that day was a huge moment in me beginning to believe that I was worthy of being chosen.

It’s taken another twenty one years to truly believe in that worth, but Scott has rarely faltered even for a moment in consistently showing me how valuable I am, and I become more grateful for him with each passing day.

They told us that our love was puppy love, that we were young and it wouldn’t last. They told him I wasn’t worthy, that he didn’t need to take me on. They told us we couldn’t possibly be ready to get married-let’s revisit that a month from today.

Scotty, you didn’t listen to any of them and you’ve believed in and chosen me over and over for 23 years, when it was hard and harder. Thank you. I would not be who I am, or, honestly, here at all, without you. I probably would not have lived to finish high school. That sounds so dark to say on a happy day, but, Babe, you saved my life with your love, over and over. imma spend forever thanking you and being your biggest fan.

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