You know the dress you buy in a rush (the wedding’s tonight!), and it turns out to be one of your all-time favorites.
You know the lunch you buy because you are starving (and have only a few minutes to eat!), and it turns out to be one of the best meals you had in a long time.
You know the movie you go to begrudgingly (because you declined your friend on the last 2 invites!), and it turns out to be one of the best nights of your life.
You know the guy you don’t even like (he’s too opinionated, too honest, too everything!), and it turns out you marry him.
Some of you know exactly what I mean…about the dress, the meal, the movie, and even the man.
How: Sun beating down, more than 90 degrees and humidity so thick you can cut the air with a knife
When: A random August afternoon in 2000
Where: A mowed field close to our college campus
What: Cross-country practice. Amazingly we ran miles and miles in that heat!
Why: He had approached Coach about joining the team as a walk-on. Coach agreed to it. I was already on the team.
Who: Brandon and me
That was our first meeting. I didn’t think much about a new guy joining the team. We had been practicing already for a few weeks so we acknowledged and welcomed him, along with another walk-on. But, that was about it, as far as noticing him that fateful day.
He, on the other hand, noticed me.
BUT… not in the romantic way we Hallmark-movie-watching ladies dream of.
No. Instead he overheard me cussing as some of us girls stood around, sweating profusely and heaving mightily, discussing how the run workout had gone.
What I was talking about in such an ugly way…I am not sure and still regret it today.
I mean, who wants to start a love story like that!
To the question, what did you think when you first saw your future spouse, Brandon’s response would be something like, “She was a sweaty mess with her pony tail plastered to her neck and a few dead bugs splattered on her shoulders and chest. Oh yeah…and, I thought she worked on a construction crew based on her language. Probably left practice and headed to the job site.”
My response to the same question, “Who? Oh. I don’t really remember him.”
And this is how our dislike…then like…now love story began.
See, he didn’t like me much after that day. (To be honest, I don’t blame him.)
And, I didn’t like him either!
He spoke his mind way too often and too openly at team gatherings. And he wasn’t friendly. We actually had a class together that semester. Brandon would walk in, literally have to pass my desk to get to his seat, and never look up to say hello.
Did he think I didn’t notice a cross-country teammate of mine in class?! It wasn’t like we were a D1 football team with over a hundred people on the team. We were a D2 cross-country team, 20 members strong!
Funny story, he finally had to acknowledge me one day when his roommate, who also had the class, pointed at me and said, “Hey, isn’t she on your team?” Then, his roommate smiled and waved at me as they passed by.
I secretly relished that moment, smiling to myself, because Brandon was forced to say hello finally, something he obviously didn’t want to do.
After the roommate-point-me-down day, we began to speak to one another in class. This proved beneficial because we started studying together on trips to team races.
This time together brought us from dislike to indifference. That was definitely a step in the right direction.
He still spoke his mind way too regularly and had a self-assurance that bordered on arrogance.
But our study sessions brought more conversations. More laughs. More things in common. More connections. More like for one another.
Until one day he had become my best friend. The person that when something happened—good or bad—I couldn’t wait to tell. I would find myself thinking, I wonder what Brandon wants to eat for dinner. Or, how did his run go today? Or, my run sucked! He might have a suggestion.
See, we had begun to eat dinner together most nights. I knew his roommates well. His best friend had become a friend of mine. All of this…because we were spending so many hours together.
In this time, I found out that he met 2 of my most important criteria for marriage material.
1. He drove a manual transmission. Of course, it was a 1996 Ford Escort, maroon and hatchback. God has a sense of humor! Really. Let me just say, in case your boyfriend or husband has never driven a hatchback, it is not exactly a turn on, especially if you are raised in the South where trucks are almost an extension of your manhood.
But remember the self-assurance thing, Brandon drove that little car with such nonchalance that no one questioned why this young college guy folded himself into a car made for hauling groceries and kids all the while getting good gas mileage. It was just what he did. He didn’t care so no one else cared.
Side note: In my defense for this husband requirement, my dad and grandfathers could drive anything parked in the street or parked in the barn. I wanted a husband who could as well. Is that too much to ask or too shallow?! I think not. ;)
2. He was athletic. (I know what you are thinking. This girl really had some high standards in her dream man…manual transmission AND athleticism. Whoa.) Still, sports were important to me so I wanted a man who enjoyed them as much as I did.
Don’t forget that Brandon was a walk-on runner for our college’s cross-country team. So, on a team trip to Florida, it just made sense to the captains (2 of the best runners) to pick Brandon last for a friendly game of ultimate frisbee on the beach.
Needless to say, he wasn’t picked last again. Brandon turned out to be GREAT at the game (and pretty much any other sport. Except golf. He doesn’t shine at golf.)
I noticed him that day.
Gradually over that semester, he became the most important person to me…to the point it scared me some. See, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to like, much less love, this self-assured, manual-transmission-driving, athletic man.
No matter my fear, though, I came to expect to eat dinner with him almost every night. I loved when he scraped my car’s windshield on cold mornings after finishing his runs. I looked forward to studying in the library with him nightly. Our dislike had turned to like and was slowly turning to love.
One night in February, he suddenly stopped me on our walk back from the library. He looked at me and blurted, “Will you be my girlfriend?” So fast that it took my mind a few moments to sort out the syllables he had spewed. But, when I registered his question, I said, “Yes.”
Our running friends and his roommates were excited and somewhat confused by our news. Most of them thought we were already dating, based on the ridiculous amount of time we spent with one another.
Looking back, that was time we both needed to fall in love with each other...so that our dislike moved to like and gradually transformed to love.
As always true, God knew what I needed.
God knew I needed a man that loved Him first. Loving God and believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection were on my list of must-haves in a husband. (It really was! I promise. I admit, though, that it should have been number 1.)
And that confidence that oozed from Brandon…a part of God’s perfect plan. Truth here, I often times struggle with confidence. Brandon has some to give.
He believes in me to a fault. Encouraging me along on all of my big milestones since we married…getting a masters’ degree, earning my doctorate, and pursuing this crazy business idea. (Crazy because I have no background in business. I am an educator at heart and on paper.)
With a degree in (and love of!) accounting, he whipped up financial plans that made my pursuits doable and then pushed me on my way with…encouraging words, cooking dinner almost nightly for some seasons of our lives, listening to me go on and on about my ideas, shopping for groceries often, washing clothes when needed and without being asked, working several side jobs, and so much more.
Don’t get me wrong. Brandon is human like us all so he is not perfect. He is a sinner, just like me (and you). But to be borrow some words from an old Alabama song, “[He’s] close enough to perfect for me.” I tell him often…I don’t deserve him, but I sure will take him!
To you, thanks for reading our love story. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Without Brandon, many things I have accomplished as an adult would not have been possible without his loving support. He pushes me to be better spiritually, professionally, and physically. This post is meant to honor him as a husband (and as the silent, yet ever-present partner in Inspire to Engage).
To Brandon, thanks for sticking with me. I know I talk too much, run late often, lack high-quality cooking skills, plus so many more faults. But, I hope I offer you each day the kind of love and encouragement you have given me. I earnestly try.
And to God, thank you for giving me a man for over 14 years who has made this earthly life so wonderful. You knew I needed him. I humbly ask for many more years together.
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