Sunday, April 13, 2014

Our Story- Dating

What a crazy story we have!  Since it's listed on the side, I want to get our whole story down.  You can click on the link on the right to see the proposal.  The wedding will be forthcoming.  And warning, this sucker is LONG.

So in January of 2006 I walked into Sunday School and my teacher said, "You're going to Cuba with me."  I asked him when the trip was and he told me it was in March, during Spring Break.  I agreed to go.  So trip #1 we went to a camp.  Little did I know that this spoiled little American girl (ugh.  I despise my attitude on that trip now that I know better.) would encounter her future husband for the first time.  As a CAMPER, y'all.  Since the men in Cuba do military service time, Chile, though 7 months older than me, was still in college.  So he was at the camp.  He remembers meeting me then.  I don't.

Here's our group of rookies from that first trip.

I fell head over heels in love with Cuba.  I had to go back.  My desire to live there was strong.  And my pull to the people and the island was nearly insatiable.  I went back just a few months later, in late May/early June 2006.  This time we worked with only students from Havana.  I do remember Chile from this trip, but he was far too busy with other, ehm, American interests.  He was a naive college boy, "in love" with an American girl he just met.  I was a naive second year teacher, in love with an island, a people group, and all things ideal.
There's me way over in the far right in my A&M grey elephant walk shirt. 
Chile is that skinny brown face peeking up in the back left.  

The following summer I went back, this time leading a trip to the summer version of the camp we had done the first time.  It was an insane trip where pretty much everything went wrong.  But here was this guy again and this time met his little sister, who was now of university age.  He had graduated and was helping run the camp.  And this time I was pretty preoccupied with my own Cuban "love".  Ha.  We were so ridiculous.

Chile and his sister Cuqui 
(pronounced similar to Cookie.  
Not her real name, but for some reason his family names everyone after snack foods).
He still loves that shirt, though he has a "newer" version of it.  Friends, he has it in the US.  It's banned.

Summer of 2008 I returned to Cuba, this time working with a new group focused on high school.  This time Chile & I became good friends.  This trip was entitled "God Humbles Jen".  Here's the link to the itinerary for the trip.  I actually blogged the whole thing, but it's on a private and locked blog.  If you'd like to see it let me know.  In summary, I was there nearly a month, but my bag never got there.  I wore the same clothes the whole time.  Pretty much everyone washed and/or saw my underwear hanging to dry.  The taller guy in the picture below walked in on me in the bathroom.  Oh, he also washed my underwear.  And he had to go to his in-laws house to get me unmentionables because it was THAT time of the month and my bag (with supplies) never made it to Cuba.  Humbling with a capital H.  But Chile I and got close on that trip.  Elmer suggested he become my "African prince".  But he was like my brother.  Ew!  

Being dropped off at the airport

Seriously people, just friends.  Apparently foreshadowing.  And look how skinny we both were!!

After that I went to Cuba two more times.  To prove that I didn't think about him that way and he didn't think of me that way, I have zero pictures of the two of us on either of my 2009 trips.  We stayed in touch via email, and remained good friends.  But that was it.  

Fall of 2009 found me in Egypt.  Lots of things happened.  I met new people, fell in love with travel and the world, and my relationship with God really changed.  I was getting to know myself and who I really was outside of an evangelical, Bible-belt setting.  It was destructive.  It was beautiful.  And I don't regret it for one minute.  

Fast forward to the summer of 2010.  Let's call this the summer of rebellion.  I had some worldly fun (not too much, those Bible belt roots still had some hold on me).  And I traveled a lot.  After Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Portugal, I found myself sitting in Kenya with Trena working in the baby house.  I was detoxing from my summer behavior and finding the real me again.  One day I was sitting on the couch at her house.  It's one of the moments in life where I literally cannot explain, but it's like I audibly heard the voice of God.  What I heard was, "You need to stop worrying about your husband.  He's in Cuba."  And then Chile's face flashed through my mind.  I was stunned.  I didn't know what to do with that.  I told Trena and one other person in bafflement.  I mean, he was just my friend.  And this was a weird thing that just happened.  And he was just my friend.  But then again, he was a seriously good guy.  I'd be lucky to marry someone like that.  But, weird!  He was just my friend!  So I did what any logical person would do.  I went back to Egypt, brushed it off as me making things up in my head, and started dating another guy.  

This other guy went to my church in Egypt, but it turns out that not all guys who go to church are good guys.  Or have good morals.  Or share your important beliefs.  So that was not really a good thing for me.  And I knew it.  But I was making excuses.  So one day I emailed my good friend Chile.  Why?  I needed advice.  From a godly guy, who wouldn't judge me, would answer me honestly, and would support whatever he said biblically.   I told him all about this relationship.  I asked for help and advice.  He answered.  It was everything I expected from him.  Direct, honest, and biblically sound without being judgmental.  And there was this one little line: "You're so special to me, sometimes I wonder if you're not the woman God has for me."  People, I read this little line IN THE MIDDLE OF TWO PARENT CONFERENCES.  I was floored.  And hopeful.  Cause I remembered Kenya.  So I emailed him back and mustered up all the courage I possibly had and told him about my "vision" in Kenya.  And sent it and freaked out and trusted God all at the same time.  

I was really at peace with what I had sent, which made ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE.  But I realize that I was because his response to me started with "Sorry it's been so long, I wanted to be sure what I was gonna tell you."  And I looked at the time stamp and realized it had been 8 days.  And I wasn't freaking out! So here's a summary of his email:  I prayed about it and talked to people and do you wanna do this?  
And here's a summary of my response to that:  Yep.  Let's do this.

That was December 15, 2010.  That's how it began.

So that began nearly 2 years of dating ALL THROUGH EMAIL.  People.  EMAIL.  Do you know how hard it is to tell tone from an email when you're talking to someone who shares your first language?  And how hard it is when you don't share the same first language?  It's a miracle we made it to the wedding.  The first 6 weeks were elating and terrifying as they ended with the Egyptian revolution.  We first said I love you in that time through MY MOTHER.  Uh huh.  

That summer, after dating for 7 months, I headed to Cuba.  At this point we aren't spring chickens, and this trip is "Either we are going to get married or we are going to break-up".  This trip had its moments friends.  MO.MENTS.  Good, bad, and in between.  But it ended with a proposal, not a break up.  So then I headed back for my last year in Egypt to work, and also to work on immigration paperwork.  The immigration stuff is tedious and horrid, and takes way more time than it should.  But I ended that last year in Egypt and moved back to Houston (July 2012).  Then I visited Chile, and we eagerly anticipated his interview with the American Interests Section to approve his visa.  We spent the whole last night I was there organizing and gathering paperwork and putting it beautifully into the binder (with tabs and labels) I had brought with me for the task.  And I left to come back to Houston and start my new job.  

He went to the interview (they were amazed at the beautiful binder by the way) and got approved for his fiance visa.  So we thought he'd be in the US about 30 days later after getting his exit visa from Cuba.  Yeah.  No go.  Cuba couldn't (read: wouldn't) let him go.  After many prayers (of others because I was just ANGRY) he finally made it to Houston on October 19, 2012--- one month exactly before our wedding.  

I'll save the month for the wedding post.  That was an interesting one to say the least!  

If you made it here you deserve a cookie.  But I'm 28 weeks pregnant with twins, and the chances I'm going to make you cookies are super duper slim.  So do yourself a favor and make these chocolate chip cookies from the Savory Sweet Life blog.  They are the BEST!  My magic is to lower the heat to 350, only cook each batch for 10 minutes, let sit on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, and then transfer to the cooling rack.  Soooo worth it.