Some have said the story of our love should be turned into a book. Many have said it is a story unlike they have ever heard. We have yet to write it all out, but here, at least, is a start.
(Grab a snack and drink should you choose to read this post. It is not a short read- but I pray it stirs up, in whoever should read it, a hope and belief in true, God-orchestrated, divinely calculated, love.)
Praising God today and feeling romantic, fully confident that this story will never, ever end.
Our Love Story
We met each other when we were only thirteen and fifteen years old. My father was teaching in Hawaii on a military Air Force Base and so my two brothers and I spent most of our time on base, surrounded by military kids and attending the schools they attended; And for only one year, my older brother decided to join the Pearl Harbor football team. He had never played on the team before, and he would never play on the team again.
I can remember sitting on the metal bleachers, watching his team practice. At the time, I had my eyes set on a different boy on his team, nonetheless, I can remember when I first saw my love.
He ran fast. He hit hard. And after taking a man down, he would walk back towards the huddle with a spring in his step, but never with a smile. He was always serious on the field. In fact, he was so serious and his eyes so fierce on that field that he was intimidating, too intimidating and too serious for me, at least I thought. Not to mention his hair. It was long and dark with tight locks that would fill with sweat and spring out, like a lion escaping its cage when he pulled off his helmet while walking off the field.
Oh, I had definitely noticed him, but it wasn’t until he started to notice me that I really started to fall.
And I can’t remember the exact moment I fell, but I can remember eagerly signing up to be the water girl just so I could walk a little closer to him on the field. I can remember my heart skipping a little faster when he would take water from my hands. I can remember his deep gaze into my eyes and slowly, but surely, the ground was falling from under my feet.
It fell faster when he told me that he just happened to only be in Hawaii for one year. He had never played on that specific team. He would never play on it again. He had simply taken, with his parents’ blessings, a once in a lifetime adventure to live in Hawaii during his sophomore year in high school and stay with his sister and her husband, who just happened to be stationed on the very base where my my father and I happened to be.
And the bottom fell out when he asked me, “Do you remember talking to me?” My mind raced back to a phone call earlier that year from our mutual friend, Reynaldo.
“Hey, it’s Reynaldo. My friend just moved here. I was showing him some pictures and he wants to talk to you.”
I wish I could say I remember the rest of the conversation and all that my love said, but I don’t. I know he did not say much, but I do remember the sound of his voice. It was beautiful. And I remember Reynaldo asking, after my love had handed him back the phone,
“Well, do you like him?”
And I remember my answer,
“I don’t know. I don’t even know him.”
I remember hanging up the phone thinking, “What was that?” And never really thinking about it again, until that question,
“Do you remember talking to me?”
My heart clung to his words, recognizing and remembering the sound of his voice.
Looking back on it, to think that he had seen me, and called me, and heard me, before I even knew who he was, leaves me in awe and reminds me of our greatest love, the Lord Jesus Christ, not that we knew him, or thought about him much at all back then. No, that came much later. That came after years of distance and heartache, searching and wrong choices, failed love after failed love, but lessons learned nonetheless.
But at thirteen years-old, I knew, without a doubt, that he was the one. Everyday was like Christmas, unwrapping and revealing the many things about him which to this day I adore.
My love is and was beautiful, soft spoken and mysterious, generous, and romantic, athletic and courteous, a good listener, and a faithful friend. His laugh still makes me laugh. His voice still calms my heart and when our hands touch it still feels like two magnets, and I still have no desire to fight the force. He still has big dreams and unbridled ambition. Above all things, he still loves with all he has.
Our year in Hawaii seemed to fly by and I knew he would have to return home. And though my parents had been divorced for a short time, I did not know that I too, would be leaving Hawaii at the end of our year together.
Within months of his departure, my father moved my brothers and I to the “mainland.” He moved back to Panama, the country he was originally from.
Behind us we left memories that I could not and will not ever forget. I can still see him and I, walking and talking together, hand in hand, past trees filled with red hibiscus. I can still remember sitting next to him, day after day, on the school bus ride back to his sister’s house and the face of the girl who talked to him and flirted with him in a way that made my blood boil. (Funny, how it still does a bit.) There were football games, and times with friends and family, but my favorite times were when it was just him and I.
He would drive me around in his brother-in-laws’ van. It was far from cool but I didn’t care. It never mattered to me where we were, all that mattered to me was that he was there. So we drove around in the big van, I would sit in the passenger seat laughing at his crazy jokes and faces. I had very much come to find out, off the field he had a hilarious, spontaneous, crazy side. But it paled in comparison to his romantic side.
He showered me with gifts. He would take long walks with me in the evenings. One evening we laid in a field of yellow flowers, just gazing at the stars above and talking. The memory of that moment burned so deeply in my mind. For years all I could remember was him and I and yellow flowers. I couldn’t remember how we got there or where we went after, but that moment was never forgotten.
Neither was the moment when we, so desperate to be somewhere alone, climbed high into a tree near his sister’s house. Nowadays, whenever our kids see us exchanging a kiss in the kitchen or around the house and break out in the good ole’ song, “Mommy and Daddy sitting in the tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G…” We look at each other and smile. Oh, of they only knew…
We had one short year together and that year was like a small rock being thrown into the lake of destiny, leaving ripples that would never end.
We moved apart, we tried to stay dedicated to one another. We wrote letters and made phone calls. He even visited me in New Jersey where I had moved for Christmas the following year. But after some time we decided, because of our age and distance, we would just be friends. It was a hard decision, and one that I absolutely regret to this day because I swore in my heart (and my mother and father as well as my brothers all can testify to this) that one day we would get back together. That he was “the one.” I tucked away our letters and never let them go. They remain in our closet even now.
Distance is a mighty force to come against love. For six years we kept in contact. But towards the end of the six years the distance and the separate lives were taking their toll. We were both in pretty serious relationships and even though I had never really gotten over him, I also never really let him know that. I’ll never forget the last phone call I had made to him in that stage of our lives.
I was pacing back in forth between my bedroom and bathroom as I talked to him on the phone. I had just walked into my bathroom (for what must have been the twenty-seventh time) when he said it.
“I’m going to ask her to marry me.”
I was breathless. My knees got weak. I sat on the edge of my bath tub feeling like all of my dreams for us had just been shattered. Like Christmas ornaments falling out of a cardboard box crashing onto the floor. I was speechless.
I had hid my feelings for him in the closet for so long, he stopped looking for them. I never mentioned that I still read our letters from high school on a regular basis. I never told him that I still loved him. I hadn’t said a thing. And nothing in our conversations had lead him to know how I felt.
He knew I had a boyfriend. In fact, every time he would talk to me I would have a boyfriend. (I look back on that stage in my life and wish I would have known Jesus, but all I knew was I needed “someone.” Since the one I desired was so far away, I would just keep an “in the meanwhile” boyfriend around for company. How horrible that sounds, but it is the truth. With each boyfriend I would really try to give it my all and convince myself that perhaps the new boyfriend would be “the one”… but no one else compared. Yet all these feelings were deeply hidden, so much so that I myself refused to acknowledge them.)
Now, sitting on my bathtub I realized, I waited too long. It was over. We hung up that night and I remember being devastated. We didn’t speak again for almost two years. Those two years were filled with the worst decisions in my life. I was hurting and searching. What I found could never fill the void, but I thank God for the lessons learned and the friends I made along the way.
One day, I sat watching the talk show “Maury” and it was a show on “long lost loves.” Something inside me stirred up and I thought, “I’ve got to find him.” It was the first time in a long time that I was not dating anyone and I figured, “Why not?”
I went to my dad, who knew quite a bit about computers and he helped me to pull up a list of screen names on AOL messenger on our computer. One sounded like it maybe, possibly, was him. The screen name was spanishfly22 and it showed Florida as the location.
He spoke Spanish. I knew his jersey number used to be 22, (not to mention so was my birthday) and he always loved the number. And the last time we talked he had mentioned possibly going to college in Florida. I had no idea what the fly part was about. Nonetheless, it was worth a shot.
So, in an out-of-the-blue moment I sent a message. I wrote, “If this is you please write me back.”
Amazingly, it was. He wrote me back a very short message describing that he was very glad to hear from me and would love to talk. No part of it seemed to sound like a married man and so in a “throw it out in the wind” moment I sent him an email that I can only imagine shocked him.
I told him everything. That I loved him and that I had always loved him. That I had never stopped thinking about him. That he had always been the one in my heart. It was a risky move, but I had nothing to lose, and I could not hold it in any longer.
Then the response came. He was single. His relationship had fallen apart. He was planning on traveling and would love to come see me.
Now I wish as this point in the story I could say he felt the same, but I know he didn’t. His feelings for me had been nearly smothered out. I had left him with barely a spark, but a spark was all God needed. Though neither of us were even considering God just yet. At the time, I was considering him, and he was considering… well to be quite honest.. himself as well.
In fact, he happened to be on his way back to Hawaii in an attempt to win back his old girlfriend who was visiting there at the time , and she just so happened to leave hours within him arriving. So there he was, shot down in Hawaii, but at least with a “Plan B,” namely, me.
(Often what we call plan B is really God’s plan A.)
So he did come to see me in New Jeresy because he thought it would be “fun.” Before leaving Hawaii he went out to lunch with my mother who was still living there at the time. She told him, “When you see my daughter, you are going to want to marry her.”
To which he responded, “With all due respect, I just got out of a relationship. I am not looking to get married.”
(Parents often do know best.)
So he came to New Jersey. He flew into Maryland on a military flight. I can remember picking him up. Nervous and excited, I knocked on his hotel door, when it opened, there stood a grown man looking far different than who I remembered. He was much larger, ripped with muscles, and had gold short hair and a mustache. This wasn’t my love, at least not on the outside. And his muscles were not what I desired. I desired his heart.
He wanted me to sit with him, to stay awhile, but for the first time in a long time, wisdom kicked in and I told him it was better we got going back to my father’s house. I had no desire to give myself away, not that it would have been anything new. I had just been hurt enough in that area, with wounds too fresh to stay. So we headed back to my father’s house.
He stayed with us there and during his stay he and I took a road trip to visit a friend in Massachusetts. (Which, for the record, is beautiful.) It had been six years and now here we were, together again.
Within four weeks I had planned to move out of my father’s house and travel all the way across the country to be with him. It all happened very fast, but that is exactly what I did. I worked hard for a month, then packed up my little escort, said difficult good-byes to my family and friends and then he and I boarded my car and he and I on an AmTrack train to Florida.
Thank God for his grace. When I moved to be with him, it was not working. I wanted to get married. He did not. I was serious. He was not. We were barely getting by and things were going from bad to worse.
It had been two months and then God sent an angel. Now whether this woman was truly an angel, we will never know. But to me she always will be.
On September 21, 2001, we were visiting friends. It was evening time and dark, my love had gone out to play tennis with a buddy, Jared. Hours had passed and he still wasn’t back. I was irritated and so I took off to go looking for him.
Then I saw him, walking to me in the street-lit road. I was mad. I started my verbal onslaught,
“Where were you?”
His answer, “I was in a woman’s car.”
I was livid. He had been gone for hours and come to find out he was in a woman’s car. Then he continued,
“I was playing tennis. Jared got tired so he left. Since I got beat so bad I thought I’d hang around and practice my serve. Then I saw this older lady come out of a white car. She came up to the tennis court and just stood there watching me. I’m thinking ‘Go away lady. You are freaking me out.’ Then I hit a ball that lands by her feet. She says, ‘nice serve.’ Then she walks it over to me and the first thing she says is, ‘This is a divine appointment. I was driving home and the Lord told me to come here and talk to the person at the tennis court and this person is you.'”
He proceeded to tell me how this woman told him every thing about him that no one could know. She told him that the Lord told her to go to a certain tennis court because there was someone there that the Lord wanted her to speak to. That someone was my love. She asked him why he wasn’t married and told him he needed to be in order to make things right with The Lord. (THANK YOU JESUS!!) She asked him into her car to pray for him and read to him something from her Bible. He repented. He asked Jesus to be his Lord. He prayed to receive the Holy Spirit. Then she was gone.
I know it sounds crazy. At the time my response was, “She could have had a gun!”
But he said,
“Charity, I have decided to live for the Lord. I am done living the way I was living. Either you’re on the boat or off the boat. Either you can follow me and live for the Lord or you can pack up your stuff and go home.”
He said, “We need to get married.”
And I thought, “Well, I want to get married. So all this sounds fine to me. Sure I’ll accept Jesus. After all, that means I get the husband I want. I’ll ‘follow the Lord’ whatever that means.”
That night my husband was different. His entire persona was different. He had a calmness that was unusual to say the least. He spoke softer and sweeter. He was confidant and steadfast in his thoughts and plans. That night he was changed a change that has never reversed itself to this day.
Eight days later we were married. Twelve years later, here we are. Twelve years to the day. It has been twelve years since that “divine appointment.” There have been so many God-orchestrated, divine moments along the way. Too many to brush off as coincidence or mark off to luck.
Some may try to deny that soul mates exist, but I cannot. I have no doubt that when God crafted every ounce of my love, he crafted him with me in mind. He crafted him with our children in mind. I know we are soul mates and spirit mates and flesh of one flesh. I know that God has brought us together to discover together and share with others the greatest love of all, his love. This is our love story and I am fully confident of this: It will never, ever end.