It's been six wonderful years since we stood before God, our family, and our friends to recite our wedding vows to each other. When I think about how much I love Brian today, and then think back to our wedding day, I can't believe how much we've grown in our love for one another. I have always wanted to put our love story in writing so our children can read about how much their mom and dad trusted in the Lord to work things out for His glory. So read along if you'd like.....
Most stories begin with how a couple meet. Ours begins two months earlier in two different countries. Studying in Vienna, I was two hours away from leaving on a train for Paris when I got a phone call from the States. It was a woman named Carol Maass from Voyageurs National Park. It turns out that an application I'd filled out for an internship had been accepted. This was an unpaid position so I couldn't say yes without first talking to my mom about the financial aspect of it. I told Carol I was very interested, but would need to call her back. I quickly gathered up enough change to call home and explained the situation to my mom. I really needed to get to the train station so rather than put my mom on the spot I told her to think about it, call Carol when she'd made up her mind, and that I'd call home when I returned from my trip in 10 days. Who knew my entire future was tied to that decision. God knew and that is what is so amazing about it. He knew that by my mom accepting the internship on my behalf I was destined to meet my future husband. Meanwhile, Brian and his friend, Troy, were backpacking across Europe. They visited many of the same places I did and even rode on a train with classmates of mine. (They were talking loud enough that Brian learned they were students studying in Vienna. After the fact, we put two and two together and it had to be my classmates traveling to Barcelona.
When Brian returned home to Minnesota he packed up his belongings and started his second season at Voyageurs National Park. He'd been offered a position At North Cascades, but he decided to take the position at Voyageurs instead. On June 1st, 1998 - the day we met - we both stood with the rest of the volunteers, rangers, and staff who had assembled for seasonal training in the Lake Kabetogama Visitor Center. I remember Brian as the guy wearing an ugly baseball cap and tattered flannel shirt. On the tour boat, seated kitty-corner behind me, he dined on muffins made by his girlfriend, Sara. It was a summer to remember. I made lifelong friends and learned a lot about myself. There is something about living in a cabin in the woods surrounded by God's beautiful creation that brings me close to my Savior. The way the schedule worked out - Brian and I often spent our workdays at the same visitor center. When you spend nine hours a day with someone, you really get to know them. It was Brian who shared the same days off as I did, and it was Brian who helped me with my new puppy, Conor. We talked about our faith and past relationships. That summer I read the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Years later Brian says he still remembers me telling him about the guy I was hung up on at the time. "He's worth waiting for." and "I'd move to Montana for him." What I remember from those conversations about dating was that I knew that until I had my life figured out, I wasn't going to be messing up someone else's. I was focusing on my relationship with the Lord and letting Him take care of the husband finding. God has quite the sense of humor! My future husband was right in front of me the whole time!
Soon, it was almost September and I returned to Illinois for my final year of college, but not before a tearful goodbye. He had stuck a card in my glove box and told me to read it when I got home. I, of course, only waited until I got 1/2 mile down the road and was so touched by his words that I turned my car around and raced back to give him the hug I should have given him the first time I said goodbye. We kept in touch while I was in college. He even drove 5 hours to visit me once. We exchanged letters for the next eight months until we both returned to Voyageurs the following spring. (I got paid this time) It was a perfect summer. The staff that year gelled and we all became friends. We enjoyed our jobs, hung out after work - all while living in a beautiful National Park. Others would probably say that it was obvious that Brian was interested in me, but I didn't notice. Sure, I noticed how great he was and often wrote my friends saying, "He'll make a wonderful husband for someone, but not me."
Even our boss noticed and changed the schedule so we wouldn't have the same days off anymore. His theory was that if it didn't work out we wouldn't have to work together as often. (We have a running joke that we got married just to spite that silly man.) We often sat up late after watching a movie, talking about anything and everything.
It was during a conversation after a movie on August 23rd that things changed forever. I don't remember the details, but I do remember hearing the words, "I love you." My reply was anything but romantic and we both ended up in tears because I didn't feel the same way about him. It was an awkward and horrible week until I could finally be honest with myself and admit I had feelings for him too. August 30th, 1999 we shared our first kiss (initiated by me - I mean I shot the poor guy down just a week earlier. ) My job at Voyageurs was suppose to wrap up that very day, but two weeks earlier, I had been asked to stay until the end of September. That extension gave us 4 wonderful weeks together. We studied the Bible by the fire in a 1930's cabin, we soaked up the beauty of the Northwoods in autumn, and we tried to forget that our idyllic lifestyle was about to end. I didn't have a job to go home to so I decided to tour as many state parks as I could before the weather turned cold. My original plan was to make it a solo journey, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to spend as much time with Brian as I could. So on October 1st we packed up my Chevy Malibu and made a whirlwind trip around the state to check out 16 parks. We spent two of the nights camping with Brian's family and their friends (a tradition we still continue 8 years later).
We had yet another tearful goodbye on October 14th before I returned home to Wisconsin. Brian made the 5 hour drive to visit a few times, but mostly we talked on the phone and sent letters. One of the many things I love about Brian is his sense of humor. He was always saying or writing things that made me laugh.
Brian's brother, Gary, was getting married December 3rd that year and I was invited to come along - to Alaska. Who would have thought Alaska in December could be so beautiful! Brian made a comment the night of Gary and Laura's wedding about how he would go about planning his own wedding, and without thinking I replied, "Not if I have anything to do with it." One week later, while visiting me at the Mall I worked in, Brian wandered into a jewelry store to price some engagement rings. The pushy sales lady managed to talk him into buying a ring on the spot. There are two very significant things about when and where he bought my ring. One - without knowing it, he bought the exact ring I wanted (I'd been admiring it on my way to my job at Eddie Bauer, 4 stores down from the jewelers). Two - I hadn't even told him I loved him yet. I was planning to that VERY NIGHT. Talk about a leap of faith! Just goes to show that God's timing is perfect.
We attended my church Christmas program that night (Dec. 10th) and later, while sitting by the wood stove I presented him with a tiny box that contained my gift - or at least a letter that explained my gift.
There are so many things I wanted to get you for Christmas, but you know I can't afford to spend very much. I wish I could spoil you like you spoiled me with my winter coat. So instead of something from your Christmas List, I'm giving you something else you wanted. My gift to you is all my love.
Things were beginning to fall into place for us. I would be moving to Minnesota to live with my Aunt and Uncle who had a baby girl nine days before Christmas. (I would spend the next 5 years as Elsie's nanny.) At this point I was still in WI with my mom and sisters. To spend Christmas with the family we braved blizzard conditions to make it to Minnesota. We were suppose to arrive at my Grandparent's home by mid-day on the 23rd so I'd have enough time to have dinner with Brian , but that didn't work out. Instead Brian came over in the morning of the 24th and we went for a drive. The front seat of his, Chevy Lumina wasn't the ideal place to exchange Christmas gifts, but we didn't care. He opened my gift and then he brought out a photo album that he wanted to show me. Being a picture lover, I thought it was sweet of him to want to show me pictures of his childhood, his family, and one of us taken at a wedding reception in September. Then he asked me to close my eyes and I played along. When I opened them and saw a ring, I blurted out YES!! I didn't even give him a chance to pop the question first. :) If I'd have given him a chance to, he was planning to say, "The pictures in this album represent the first 27 years of my life. So while I can't give you the first 27 years, I'd like to give you the rest. Will you marry me?"
Pretty sweet don't ya think?
If anyone is doing the math, yes, we hadn't even been dating for 4 months when we got engaged. When you are going to marry your best friend time doesn't matter. We'd been friends for over a year and planned a long engagement. We waited 17 months before I walked down the aisle to meet the man of my dreams at the alter. Brian was going to make a great husband someday. Only the Lord could orchestrate a coming together of two people who are so right for each other. We don't have a perfect marriage by any means, but we work at it every day. It is my prayer that our children will find spouses someday that are as loving, generous, forgiving, and romantic as their father.
Happy Anniversary Brian! I love you!