Warning: This is long.
I’ve wanted to write this down for months, but the task is daunting. I mean really, how am I ever going to explain the movement from just friends, to better friends, to agreeing to take on life together forever??? Nobody believes me when I tell them face to face… Nevertheless, here I go!
How it all started:
Sam and I met (though I don’t remember him) for the first time something like 7 years ago. We’ve been more or less friends ever since. Yes, I still would have included him among my friends even when all we ever did was argue.
Okay, so really: Mama, Daddy, and Luke had gone up to stay with the Evans the week or so after we got back from Florida (end of September-ish). During that time, Mama learned that they could really use some help around the house, so she offered me. About a week later, I was headed up to help out for about a week and a half.
If I’m perfectly honest, I didn’t really want to go. I wanted to be home. I wanted to be at my church. I wanted to be with my family. But hey, it was only for 8-10 days. I could handle that, right? Besides, I loved helping other families out. I’d been scheming about how to help out a couple of the families at Heritage, so why not be willing to help families outside Heritage – especially such great friends as the Evans, right? So, it didn’t take too long for me to become alright with the idea and even grateful for the opportunity to serve.
The first couple of days were a little rough for me, just being a bit homesick and whatnot. After that passed however, it was amazing. Sam, Grace, and I stayed up way too late many of those nights. We discussed all sorts of topics, and I soaked it up! It had been a while since I’d had a good, not forced chance at long, edifying conversations.
Then it was the day or two before I was scheduled to go home. Things were crazier than ever. I decided that it would be better and easier for everyone involved if I offered to stay longer. That was a rough decision for me since it would mean I’d miss Heritage’s Reformation Celebration for the first time since the year before we joined!
The next few days had various sicknesses going through the Evans household, and made me more grateful for my decision to stay. Then there was the Providence Reformation Celebration. That Saturday was when I first became suspicious that Sam might have been possibly thinking of me. He shadowed me. Constantly. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, I couldn’t shake him! Not that I necessarily wanted to, but I knew there was already some talk/teasing about the two of us, and I didn’t want to fuel any gossipy fires when, as far as I knew, there was nothing there but friendship!
It was that afternoon that I emailed Daddy asking if he knew of anything going on. In that email I actually said that if there was, I was completely fine with it, and even admitted that I thought I could spend the rest of my life with Sam. Fortunately for Sam (since it threw me off the trail completely!), Daddy said nothing had been said to him, and to guard my heart, to be careful where I let my mind stray, etc. So, I assumed I was wrong, and continued to interact with Sam as a friend, with nothing else in mind. At all.
Sickness continued to run through the Evans’ household, so I again extended my trip. During this extension I got to participate in newsletter day at Samaritan, hiking, and ice skating (possibly one of Melissa’s amazing feasts was here too; I don’t remember the exact date…). The ice skating was the next event that should have clued me in to some of Sam’s thinking, but, since I’d been told no by Daddy (and, for that matter, by Sam in the first couple weeks of my trip…), it didn’t.
Sam got up a game of tag while ice skating. I was very opposed to that since it was only the second time I’d ever been on the ice, and I was in constant danger of falling down – forget trying to go fast, cut corners, and tag someone! Still, it started, and, despite all my best efforts, I was constantly tagged. By Sam. Yeah, the sneaky boy was in cahoots with his sneaky siblings! I’m pretty sure now that he was hoping I’d fall down so that he’d have to help me up.
The other thing that probably should have clued me in during this time (but again, didn’t) was this:
Yes, we actually played Draw Something for several days, and yes, he did just write the word several times! It’s very lame, so trust me, this isn’t an endorsement. It was the only cross-platform game we could find that would actually load on my ancient 2nd generation iPod touch! We also played dots and tic-tac-toe several times throughout the weeks of my visit, yet I never suspected… Call me blind; I do!
And on my next to the last Lord’s Day in IL, Peace and I were sitting together at a table, enjoying some conversation (and popcorn, I think), when Sam moved from the men’s conversation at the main table to our little corner:
By this time, I was begging to stay on just a little longer. As I looked at the Evans’ calendar I saw things I really wanted to participate in! So, yes, this one was completely selfish. And this time, Mama, Daddy, and Luke came up to make sure my time in IL wouldn’t get extended any further.
Once they arrived, Daddy told me something I was not expecting at all. Earlier that week, Sam had emailed him asking to have a conversation. Sam was not home that weekend, but Daddy knew what was coming. He talked to me about it Saturday evening (after talking with Mr. Evans for a while that afternoon), and from that moment on, I got practically no sleep, ate next to nothing, and lived on coffee. I was a wreck.
When Daddy asked for my thoughts on the matter (you know, that life-changing deal of marriage… No biggie.), I already knew what my answer was. Of course I was ready. Of course I would marry Sam. It made perfect sense. I had complete peace. Still, I cried some, and I was terrified. I always am at something so utterly unknown, and I knew that that was the most life-changing decision I would ever make.
The next day was possibly the worst day of my life to date. In a weird, good sort of way…
I knew Sam didn’t want a courtship; he’d made that pretty obvious in those conversations we’d had a few weeks before. Daddy had made it sound like courtship would be unnecessary. Now all that was left was for them to have a conversation, and for Sam to ask me, right? The conversation occurred as we were on our way to fellowship at the Blick’s. I wish I could remember more from that day than my tense misery because I think it was beautiful there, and I am certain the company was top-notch. Unfortunately I was in too much of a tense, expectant state to notice much of anything. And Sam had a horrible migraine. What I did notice was that Sam didn’t ask me anything. In fact, he barely even looked at me. Pretty sure we were both miserable.
I thought we were headed back to Tennessee the next morning, so I left the Blick’s with a dreadful, sinking feeling. I think I would have cried if I could have relaxed a little. As it was, I couldn’t, and instead worked on packing my things and unsuccessfully attempting to sleep that night.
Remember, remember, the fifth of November:
The next morning I stripped my bed, and headed downstairs to attempt to continue life as usual. According to every report I’ve gotten, I failed epically. I spent the morning washing dishes, editing pictures, trying not to read anything into Grace’s grin, and helping Faith with her phonics.
Then Daddy took me to lunch. Or rather, he had lunch, and I had coffee. He talked to me about the conversation he’d had with Sam the day before, and then, finally, we headed to Samaritan. Getting lost a couple times on the way. It was torture.
Once we finally got there, Daddy left me with Sam. We took a walk, and he asked me to marry him. I said yes. And from that moment on, I have been indissolubly bound to him. I never expected to be able to so completely transfer myself from Daddy to my husband, but I was able to, and almost immediately!
A few hour after getting betrothed.
How and why we did it this way:
“What? No courtship?” In response, I can only ask, why court? We’d known each other and each others families as friends for 5+ years! What would courtship have accomplished for us? Not much other than to make us both feel incredibly awkward, I think. Also, the more we think of how courtship is often handled in our circles, the less we like it. I’m not saying it doesn’t or won’t work, but why? What is the purpose? In our thinking, why would you want to place the stresses of a relationship (“but it’s not a relationship!” Right, then why are you both acting like it is? and why is it labeled? If it’s not a relationship, what is it?!) on a friendship you are attempting to explore? I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I know for myself if my friendship with Sam had been labeled with “courtship” during my trip to Illinois, I would have clammed up and been totally stiff. I no doubt would NOT have been myself. I definitely would not have let myself interact with Sam in the same carefree, friend way that I was able to do when, for me, friendship was all there was. The step from good friends to best friends isn’t too hard. The step from mere acquaintances to best friends, in my mind, is going to be quite difficult when there’s the stigma of the “potential relationship” label.
Betrothal versus engagement. I use the terms interchangeably, but I suppose, for those plugged into that sort of thing, our way was a betrothal. We both considered ourselves essentially married once he placed that diamond ring on my hand. We considered our agreement so binding that it would have been the equivalent of a divorce had we called it off. So obviously that wasn’t happening. We were, just as we are now, committed to making this work, no matter what it takes. Thankfully, we haven’t had any reason to even really struggle. Far and away the hardest part was the self-doubt that we both felt occasionally during the times of longer separation we had before the actual marriage ceremony.
Hands on or hands off? During the 7 or so weeks there were between our betrothal and the marriage ceremony, we chose to do a hands on approach. I find describing it this way amusing because it’s, oddly enough, generally looked down upon in our circles. Why? I mean, in every other area of life a hands on approach is promoted. Why not betrothal? Anyway, I’m a huge proponent of hands on now! I acknowledge and honor boundaries, but I believe that a betrothed couple ought to hold hands, give hugs, sit next to each other, etc. Gosh, I’ve rarely been through anything more stressful than wedding planning, and if Sam hadn’t been allowed to give me a hug, or put his arm around me, I don’t know what I would have done some days! I’ll say that, but I also believe a hands on approach requires a couple things (forgive me if this sounds a bit dogmatic; it’s not meant that way.): First, that the couple be absolutely committed to their marriage from the first moment of their betrothal; if the commitment’s not there, the hands shouldn’t be either. Second, the betrothal needs to be short.
Chaperons. During our betrothal, they were not necessary. We were allowed to take walks, drives, and be in rooms alone. On top of that, our emails, chats, and texts were kept private. Our parents, as much as we did, viewed our betrothal as a commitment to each other forever. They treated us then pretty much just like they treat us now. We are both extremely grateful for our parents’ support and encouragement throughout our betrothal. That said, most of our activities during our betrothal were still group activities. We still interacted with our friends, though we did it more as a couple, just as we do now. Also, I think the requirements I listed above for the hands on approach apply here as well.
So there you have it. Our story and some of our convictions. Of course, this is only written from my perspective; perhaps someday I can convince Sam to write up his thoughts during the month before our betrothal. I’m sure that would be a very interesting read!
And to close, I want to add that this is just our story and our thoughts (and only from my perspective!). I am in no way trying to say that this is the only way or even the best way to do it. I do believe that it was the best way for us. I believe that it’s a good option for many to at least consider, but I do not believe that it is even close to the only way. Just wanted to make that clear.