(Sorry this is really long. You don't have to read it. I needed to sit on the couch and reflect on some memories and you're welcome to join me!)
Amazing how much your life can look so different in a small handful of years...
I think I just realized that it was about five years ago this weekend (or thereabouts) that I met Matt. Whoa. Have I told you the story about how we met? It's a good one...at least we think it is. ;)
If you've read this blog long enough, you may know - or have figured out - that I left Michigan about five years ago, having no idea exactly where I'd end up, for how long, or anything. I mean, it was a well-planned and well-executed move; it's not like I woke up and yelled, "ForGET it! I'm getting the heck out of DODGE!" and hit the road. I just slowly started to crumble during that past year for a variety of reasons. I was working nights and unable to sleep for beans, even when I took Ambien AND three Benadryl. The NICU had been crazy-busy and the number of babies I took care of and watched die was starting to creep up into two hands' worth of fingers instead of one (and I had only been there for a few years). I was in a relationship that was suspended in that frustrating "ummm...is this EVER going to go ANYWHERE?" status for at least three years. So to say I was tired and disillusion would be putting it very lightly. I decided that A) I could probably find a way to work as a nurse AND be outside - that's where I came up with camp nursing!, and B) if I pulled up my anchor and let my boat pull away from the dock, the boy from said relationship could either watch me pull away with his hands in his pockets, or jump in and swim after me. Well, it quickly became apparent that that would never happen. I was broken-hearted, but I had my answer and knew I made the right decision.
My dear, sweet Alero has a clipping from a (National Geographic Adventure! *sobbbbb*) magazine taped in it that says, "Home is where the car is." There's another one that says, "Your entire life should be an adventure." My car would soon be my one earthly constant. My stuff was in storage. I was headed to this random place in the San Juans called Sonlight Christian Camp for the summer. After that...who knew?
Summer ended...camp was over...I had no job. I was mildly freaked out but not too badly yet. I had a friend with whom I could crash in Los Angeles, who was a travel nurse there. I made the drive to southern California alone...crashing on a couch (of someone I had met that summer) in New Mexico; relaxing in Flagstaff, AZ (which was comforting, I had just lived there the year before); and making that long journey on I-40 through hours and hours of desert and heat.
I arrived in LA and within minutes was acutely aware that I did not fit in there. I was in Orange County and had taken an exit and was sitting at a stoplight surrounded by luxury cars - Lexuses, Beamers, Mercedes, etc etc etc. Not one American-made vehicle that I could see in my mirrors. I was driving a loaded-down Olds that had a summer's worth of dirt caked on the sides (I'm not joking) from living in the middle of the mountains, with a dirty mountain bike racked on top. I felt like a total loser...and I hadn't even put my car in park yet. I was like, WHAT am I DOING here? Have I made a royal mistake?
Life in LA did not pan out. I slept on my friend's floor for about a week. We did head up the Pacific Coast Highway and went camping at Big Sur (amazing!), but all the while I was frantically on the phone with my recruiter, and with other companies - both local and national - trying to find a nursing assignment. No dice.
And then my recruiter told me about an opening in Walnut Creek, in the San Francisco Bay area. Three days later, it was nailed. I felt more peace than I had felt in months at the thought of it, like I was actually going home...even though I had never been there, knew no one, had no address.
It's a no-brainer to say that clearly God was firmly keeping shut a door that I was reeealllly trying to pry open. I'm so grateful he answers some of our prayers with a firm *no!*
So this is where Matt comes into the picture. I met Matt about two weeks after I showed up in the Bay area. The weekend I got there, I went straight to church at a little place called Valley Vineyard. Immediately I was invited to a Bible study-type event that took place on Sunday evenings at someone's house. Starving for normalcy, I went, and to my dismay, was surrounded by married couples...not that I was scoping out the scene or anything, I just wanted to make friends with other singles and not feel like the outcast that I felt like in West Michigan. But this dear, dear couple immediately took me under their wing that night, giving me maps of the East Bay (where I lived), inviting me to dinner and movies at their house (with their five darling little kids), inviting me out for coffee on their date nights (who DOES that?). Already God put me in a family, just like He promises to do for the lonely.
The following week when I went to the Bible study I showed up late...I grabbed my food and strolled into the living room to find a seat, and there was this smiling, kind-looking guy sitting there. He was in my little discussion group (yippee! I thought) and seemed like the most gentle person. His name was.....Matt. :)
I went home. I thought about it for a couple of days. I pulled out my journal, and wrote to God, basically, I think I'd like to date someone again...and far be it from me to offer suggestions to You, but if I may, that Matt guy seems like he'd be a good start. I mentioned to the Lord that I needed someone to pursue ME instead of the other way around this time. I needed someone to show me that I was worth at least that much.
The next week: I show up to the group again. Matt sat by me when we all ate. He even shared dessert with me (and you KNOW that the way to my heart is through my stomach!). Bible study ended a while later...I was waiting...waiting...will he ask me out??...waiting...everyone's leaving, only a few of us left....argh....okay, never mind, guess I misread all those signals...g'night. I left. My foot was in the door of my car when I suddenly heard, "JENNY! Wait!!!" and I kid you not, there's Matt, running across the yard after me. I think I actually said to myself, "Son of a jackal, that man is literally pursuing me." He asked me out on a date...I was skeptical as to whether it really was a date in the next weeks leading up to it - what if he was on the church's Welcome Wagon committee and it was his turn to take out the newbie???? - but he wanted to take me up to the Napa Valley, where he was from, for an afternoon drive. It would be October by then, and the grape leaves would be turning color and you could smell the crush...and he thought it might remind me of fall at home.
But was he the church creepy dude who stalked every new girl? I had to find out. Thank God again for the dear family who had adopted me...I was able to call them and get some insight and have my mind put at ease.
We had our first date after church two weeks later. I wasn't sure what to think.
He took me for a hot dog at Costco.
His truck had Spongebob Squarepants floor mats.
I was like, oh my.
The following week we didn't really talk, we just had made plans to go hiking on Mt. Diablo after church again. I wrestled with whether or not I really even wanted to go, and what would I say? I had conflicting feelings about getting into a relationship, if that's where this was headed.
I can't really explain what changed my heart on that Sunday, but it did. We dirted our plans to hike on Mt. D. and headed up Valley to see Matt's dad's family, who were having a big cookout that afternoon. Again, I'm like, how can this be? I've barely been here for a few weeks, and I'm going to a cookout? In the Napa Valley? With a big family? Huh?
But I think that's when I realized, that day, that I could really start to love Matt. He was fun and gentle and kind and thoughtful. People clearly loved him and thought highly of him.
We had a blast dating...I wanted to do all the fun touristy things that he had never done even though he lived there. We shopped at Union Square and took the trolley to the Embarcadero and ate huge sundaes at Ghiradelli Square and did the "spooky" night tour of Alcatraz. We hiked in the Marin Headlands and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and biked in Monterey on Sunday afternoons. He was an assistant t-ball coach and we went to games and cheered our friends' kids on.
Four months later, Matt was willing to *gulp* ask my dad for permission to marry me...on the same weekend that they had just MET. But he did just that, waiting for our table to be called on the balcony of the Cheesecake Factoryin downtown San Francisco.
Seven months after that we got married.
And now we're gonna have our first little baby.
Oh my goodness. I'm so glad I took that leap of faith and drove across the country in my little Alero. I'm so glad the guy didn't jump in off the dock and come after me. I'm so glad the gig in LA didn't work out after all. Because if any of those things had or had not happened, I wouldn't be married to the dearest man on earth!!! I'm not gonna lie: our first year was rough. We barely knew each other, really. We were prideful, set-in-our-ways people. We spent that first year in counseling. It didn't help that Matt lost his job and we lived in three different states in a very short amount of time. But God has been faithful to grow us and connect our hearts.
Tomorrow is our four-year wedding anniversary. I can't believe how much we've both changed since then...and by the same token, we still have some of the same struggles we had our first year...and we might have those same struggles 20 years from now. Marriage hasn't made our life perfect. It hasn't made our lives complete, either - only Christ can complete us, we firmly believe that. We don't meet every single need that the other has, because only Christ can do that, too. But it's good. Every year is better than the one before it. We're on a great adventure together!!
Who knows what the next five years will bring...but I'm praising the Lord that we're in it together!!! I love you, my Matt!!! Love, Your Jenny.