from the beginning….
Last August, I moved to Uganda, not to be mother to orphans, but to be a nurse. Within weeks of arrival I had twins. I love being a mom….I feel more alive as a mom. As Mandie and I dealt with their health issues, we debated who would adopt them, thinking as we talked….this is not how it should be. These kids should have a dad. Though I wanted to be Eli and Ellie’s mom, I knew they belonged to someone else.
Heartbreak #1: I have to give up these children I love as my own.
Heartbreak #2: I live in Africa. How will I ever meet someone who loves the Lord and family and understands this crazy life I’m currently living?
In the meantime, I was talking daily with Gwen, a friend from nursing school, an Army wife with a husband deployed and a daughter the same age as the twins. We swapped kid stories and advice and lamented the lack of a dad around the house.
In October she emailed me and said, “I can’t help but tell you that I shared you and Mandie’s blogs with my brother in law back before you guys left for Africa and he’s been reading them faithfully ever since. He’s working for the Army organization in charge of Africa so he already has a vested interest in the country. It’s kind of been driving me nuts because I wish I could introduce the two of you…you’d get along beautifully.”
I wrote her back and said I’d love for you to introduce us…thinking that like all other blind dates and matchmaking schemes, it would end before it started and let’s face it…I’m in Africa.
Much to my surprise, two days later, Mandie and I got an email from said brother in law, J2. Mandie promptly friended him on facebook, but was in cahoots with Gwen and wouldn’t respond to his email…saying that’s my job. It took me a couple of days to respond, but I did eventually and thus begins a casual email correspondence. We talked about twins (he’s a twin to Gwen’s husband), work, Chinese (my love and his minor in college). On his end, it was apparently not so casual. He waited exactly five days to respond and tried to keep it light and informal in order not to lead me on (which I appreciate). We corresponded until November, when he let it slip that he was flying into Savannah, GA just before Christmas to visit friends and Gwen in GA, FL, and SC. Now Savannah is my home airport and I was home for a wedding and was leaving just a few days after he got in….so I then had to figure out how to let him know without just boldly asking to meet him. Whether or not I did it right, he suggested we meet for coffee. I was excited about meeting him, but I told a mentor of mine who was asking about interests, that I had no idea if he was interested in me and even if he wasn’t, he hadn’t led me on in anyway and I was excited to have a friend that spoke Chinese and was interested in Africa. I think she smiled and nodded at that point and didn’t believe a word I said.
With a change of plans in his work schedule, he ended up driving through on Saturday night around 10pm and spent the night in the apartment attached to our house. Poor J2. He drove up to our driveway full of cars, wondering which door to enter, knowing that my WHOLE family was home for Christmas. A friend of Rebekah’s was living with us and came home to find him standing in the driveway and offered to bring him inside. He walked into the living room where we had just finished taking a family picture, which means everyone is still around, and thus begins the awkward introduction. We got over the initial awkwardness and ended up staying up till 2am talking and getting to know each other. He came over the next morning and we went for coffee, where we continued our conversation until it was time to leave for church.
Now…I’ve grown up in the same church and everyone knows me and though I tried to warn him, he still agrees to go with me. Only a couple of people came right out and asked what our relationship was (which at that point, had not been clarified), but we managed to get into our seats without too many moments of awkwardness. We stood there singing and I thought to myself at that point, that I was comfortable there with him and really hoped he would declare interest. We had a couple good conversations with friends and then left for home to eat brunch with my family. His favorite food is breakfast…and my family eats breakfast after church every Sunday, so why not stay and eat?
And then he left….without saying anything other than, “I’ll be in touch.”
Gwen was online (waiting for him to arrive) and immediately asked me how it went. I said I thought it went well, but then he didn’t say anything. I heard later from her that he had talked a lot about me during his visit with her and that I probably would hear from him. She did get on my case for not getting any pictures with him…but how was I supposed to get a picture with him when I didn’t even know if he was interested.
Monday evening he called and apologized for how he left things. (Later on I found out he almost turned around and came back to clarify). Our conversation was brief, but he said, I’m interested in you and I’d like to pray for two weeks about starting a long distance relationship with you. I said I’d like that. And that was it.
the two weeks…
I left to go back to Uganda on Tuesday and we didn’t email hardly at all. Christmas day I received an email from him that described his Christmas activities with his family and ended with him quoting John 1. I think it was at this point that I decided I’d like to marry this guy. Most people read Luke 2 on Christmas, but John 1 is my favorite Christmas passage and that’s what he put in his email (without knowing how I felt about it).
I headed from Jinja, where friends had been taking care of the twins, up to Masindi, towards the end of the year. I spent New Years by myself with the twins in a hotel room while I waited for my house to be fixed from the ceiling falling in from the bats. I got an email from J2 asking if we could skype on January 3, exactly two weeks from his phone call.
the first skype date….
We talked for two hours on skype about everything under the sun. I was still in the hotel room, so I sat on the floor of the bathroom while the twins slept, laughing and chatting until I could hardly stay awake anymore. When I finally said I should go to bed, he asked if we could just have a few more minutes to talk about where we were headed. His memory is better than mine…so he may end up correcting me, but his words went something like this:
“I admire your love for the Lord and your love for people. And I think you’re beautiful. I don’t know exactly what a long distance relationship will look like, but I would like to start a relationship with you.”
And thus began our skype relationship. We talked three or four times a week for hours upon hours….about everything, from favorite peanut butter brands to daily life to books
we were he was reading and things we were learning.
We finally couldn’t wait anymore to see each other, so May 19, he arrived in Uganda for a glorious week. We took walks, ran errands together, moved from Masindi to Jinja, saw the Nile, and sat and talked. We didn’t go on safari, or do anything exciting, but enjoyed every moment together. The first time we met we spent maybe 12 hours together, so a week seemed like a treasure. In that week, we had our first conversation about getting married and love was declared under the Southern Cross constellation. The week, of course, flew by, and the last evening we had together I cried over not knowing when I would see J2 again…at which point he promised to come to my family reunion in Colorado, in August.
Colorado and the proposal…
We counted down the weeks on skype till we could see each other again and he met me in the Denver airport on August 4th. We spent every day with my family hiking and tubing and some more hiking.
People keep asking if I was expecting him to propose….here’s the thing: we didn’t have any plans to see each other again, we knew we wanted to get married, and my dad was there for “the conversation”….so it made sense. After a week of being in Colorado he had not proposed and I began to think he wasn’t going to, maybe because I didn’t know when I’d be able to leave Africa and we had talked about not having a long engagement. Friday, the 12th, was the first day that everyone went off on their own. J2 suggested we climb Mt. Werner, the ski mountain. We had been hiking every day and the thought of another four mile hike was not overwhelmingly appealing, but off we went. By the time we got to the ski lodge at the top, I was worn out and really didn’t want to go any farther, but J2 convinced me to go along Vista View, saying “it’s flat and it’s less than a mile!”
So continue on we did, till we found a rock outcropping overlooking the valley. We sat out there for a while and talked and J2 whips out his iPod. Months ago Ruthie, my sister, had posted the song “Africa,” by Toto on my facebook wall, but I had never been able to listen to it because of media being blocked in Uganda. J2 remembered that and had downloaded it. We laughed through the cheesy lines and then listened to a song a little more appropriate to our long distance relationship. We sat there when it finished enjoying the view and each other’s presence. At this point, I’m thinking this would be the perfect time…but all J2 said was, “ready to go?”
As soon as I stood up though, he got down on one knee and said “I love you Rachel. I want you in my life, as the Lord allows, for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?”
And I said yes.
And he gave me a ring that he and his cousin designed together. I’ve never seen anything like it and it’s absolutely perfect. And inside is engraved the Southern Cross, as a memory of when we first said “I love you” to each other.
He went back to Italy the next day and I had a week at home before I left to come back to Uganda. We are praying that EH and AR and Mandie and I will all be able to go home in October.
We hope to get married at the end of the year and then I’ll have the privilege of joining him in Italy for the next five or so months until we move Stateside…where is yet to be determined by the Army.
PS I’m back in Africa…I promise to start blogging again about the babies. 🙂