When people ask me where Ryan & I met, a chuckle always accompanies my response. “We met at church.” Sounds so good right? Like we both were praising Jesus, looked ever at each other, met up after Bible study for a coffee, and fell smack dab in love. NOT! Wasn’t like that at all. Hence the reason for my chuckle.
We did meet at church. BUT honestly, we were both heathens (aren’t we all really?) and totally not at church for the right reasons. My Dad was the pastor and Ryan’s parents were members of our church. We were in college at the time and were both separately living lives that weren’t honoring the Lord at all. But even though we both were acting a fool, we still went to church on Sundays just to make our parents happy. I honestly don’t remember meeting Ryan the first time. He says when he met me, he thought I was a stuck up goody goody. Isn’t that sweet? Truthfully, I was probably too tired from partying it up all night to even care who he was. And he was probably cranky from partying it up all night and thought I was a snob. Romance at its finest!
But, here’s what I do remember. The story of how we fell in love and how God worked everything out in an amazing way…
It was the summer of 1999 when I decided it was time to stop messing around and return to my first love, Jesus. I was tired of my life and it was time to get real. I knew I was living in sin, doing things I knew were wrong, making one mistake after the other, and involved in failed relationships. Full of regret and conviction, I ran back to my Creator asking for forgiveness and renewed determination to be a dedicated disciple of Christ. I’m thankful for His grace. Crazy thing…that same summer God was stirring the exact same thing in Ryan’s heart. We both started attending the College ministry at our church separately, as well as the typical and expected Sunday morning service. This is when I really remember meeting Ryan…at C.L.A.Y. (the name of our College group). Created Accepted Loved and Yielding to God…very fitting to say the least. We were both broken, finding our way back, tired and worn. We were hungry and thirsty. In our pursuit to “straighten up”, we became friends. Best friends in fact.
Over the next year, we hung out consistently. My roommate, another guy from church, Ryan & myself hung out as a group every weekend and often times throughout the week. We did everything together. But there was something different about my new group of friends…we were all desiring to honor God in all we did. These friendships that were made during this time of my life mean the world to me. These people encouraged me, built me up, taught me…we learned so much and saw God move. It was a great year. Such a pivotal point in my walk with the Lord. There is no doubt in my mind that God graciously provided these friends to me in this particular time of my life. I’m thankful for His provisions.
Spring of 2000, we went to Austin – us four friends. We went to SXSW music festival and had an amazing week. It was during this week that I fell in love with Ryan. Something in me just clicked. It went from “he’s my friend” to “I’m gonna marry him one day.” Turning point for sure! After we returned home, the atmosphere was changing in our friendship and we both could feel it. Something was different. I knew what it was because I knew in my heart this was the man I was going to marry! But, Ryan wasn’t quite sure. Well…one night, Ryan broke up with me before we were even dating! He and I went to a movie together – alone. Afterwards, we were pulling up to my apartment, so he could drop me off. Ryan looked over at me and said, “I think we should just stay friends. We are too good of friends to mess this up with a relationship.” That’s my paraphrased version, anyways. And I said, “I disagree with you completely, but I’ll accept it and we will be friends.” Even though I wanted to beg him to stop being silly and wake up and see we were meant to be together, I didn’t. I kept my mouth shut, which is very unlike me. I felt at peace with this. I never doubted that God had brought us together and I still felt in my heart this was the man for me, I just needed to wait patiently. I am thankful for His wisdom.
Fast forward to the summer of that year. We continued being “just friends”, hanging out consistently, growing in our walk with the Lord, etc. We went on a mission trip to Mexico with a group from church. I continued to fall harder in love with Ryan even after he “broke up” with me. But he will tell you – it was on this mission trip that he realized he was in love with me. Then came August 20th, 2000. The day he asked me to get coffee after Bible Study. We ordered our typical espresso shake and sat on the patio of one of our favorite coffee shops. He looked over at me while I’m slurping up my shake and said, “Traci, I wanted to talk to you about something.” Hoping and praying of what would come next, I held my breath and said, “OK.” He went on, “I would love for you to be my girlfriend.” My heart was SO incredibly full in this moment! Even as I type this, I feel like a little girl at Christmas. My tearful response was, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask!” I am thankful for His perfect timing. We finished our shake, got back in the car and prayed. Prayed that God would bless this new adventure. This relationship that we knew was one that was beautifully orchestrated by Him. I am thankful for His love.
Two years later on August 20, 2002, he proposed. A little over four months later, we were married. After 8 years of marriage and 11 years of friendship, I still thank God daily for my man. My best friend. My valentine!!!