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part 1-Beginnings
part 2- Olive loaf and demerits do the trick
part 3- Bravo’s, Barnes & Noble, and toilet paper?
part 4- an unforgettable 21st birthday
part 5-a 12 hour torture session
part 6- Here goes…
part 7- he says, “I love you.” she replies, “thank you.”

It was the Friday before Valentine’s day weekend and I was halfway through student teaching. Which means I was exhausted, but excited that it was the weekend and I could get some rest. After finishing Friday’s classes I sped back to campus to go to the computer lab and work really hard to get some work done before going to Wal-Mart with Dan for our Friday night outing. Wal-Mart. Fun.

I was having printer problems, so my work was taking longer than I thought it would. All of a sudden Dan (and I think Roxanne was with him?–Rox, can you verify?) surprised me by finding me at the lab and saying, “come on, let’s go”.

I was all, “um, I’m still wearing my school clothes, and I have to move my car or I’ll get a ticket”.

And he was like, “just leave it, let’s go”.

And I was all, “nuh-uh, I’m not getting a parking fine for going to Wal-Mart!”

To which he replied, “I want to get to Wal-Mart before it gets crowded (it’s THE place to go on a Friday night).

I saw the validity in that, wanting to get in and get out so we could get our weekend started. (I think I gave the Love Shep’s keys to Roxy so she could move my car and avoid a parking ticket…) then I hopped in his car and we were on our way to Wal-Mart. I was chattering away about my day and realized that he was awfully quiet. So I kept talking. And he kept driving…right PAST where we were supposed to turn for the Mart of Wal.

I said, “hey, where are you taking me?” He just grinned and said, “it’s a mystery date”. (Which is something we had learned about in marriage prep class–to keep the relationship fresh and new, take one or the other on a mystery date every now and then)

I was instantly suspicious. So I said, “come on, where are we going?” as I slapped him on the thigh (feeling to see if there was a ring/box in his pocket) Nothing.

Again I tried to wheedle a clue out of him, and this time I poked and tickled him (surreptitiously patting him down to see if there was a ring/box in his windbreaker pocket) Nothing.

I relaxed, looking forward to a nice mystery date night out with no expectations of a surprise proposal since there was nothing in either of his right-hand pockets (since he’s a righty).

I asked what tape was playing because I was loving all the music that corresponded to dates and memories we had together. He got all flustered and said, “uh, it’s a new one” and turned it off without popping it out of the deck. He said, let’s just talk and ride without music for a while. Which was WEIRD. If you know Dan, you know there is ALWAYS music playing.

So, I started chattering away again about student teaching. We were driving for quite a long while. I was hungry, so kept bugging him on how much longer it was going to take, where were we going, etc.

We ended up driving to downtown Cincinatti. Which, of course, I loved because (1) we had our first kiss there and (2) I spent a glorious summer there doing my internship and loved the city very much.

After parking in a very random and pretty empty parking lot, we walked down and sat by the Cincinnati river. We were sitting there musing, remembering, contemplating, even just sitting in silence (except for my growling, hungry tummy) at times enjoying being next to each other. I linked my arm through his (we each had our hands in our pockets because it was a little bit windy and chilly) He started saying things like, “we have the best talks”, “we have so many great memories together”, “you and I get a along so great”, etc. and I started to PANIC. All I could think was “he’s breaking up with me. He drove me all the way to Cincinnati to break up with me. And we’re going to have to drive 2 hours back to campus after breaking up…how awkward is that going to be?”

All of a sudden he untangled his arm from mine and was down on a knee in front of me with a little black box cracked open with what appeared to be a 27 karat, princess cut diamond ring peeking out from inside. I smiled and focused on his face and listened to what he was saying (well, I tried really hard. The ring was totally distracting me and kept sucking me in…) as he told me he loved me and asked me to marry him.

The ring by you.

I remembered to say “yes” immediately, and he put the ring on my finger. We kissed very, very quickly and wrapped our arms around each other. I said “I love you” to him for the very first time OUT LOUD and wanted to continue hugging (*ahem* etc), but he abruptly broke out of the hug and declared, “we’ve got to go. We have a plane to catch.”

Whaaaat? I was so completely dumbfounded. He said, “we’re going to New Jersey. We have to get to the airport and get going so we don’t miss our flight.” To which I replied, “but I don’t have a bag” (meaning, I don’t have any clothes, toiletries, accessories, necessities, etc…)

He said, “it’s in the trunk.” I didn’t move. I robot-like repeated, “I don’t have a bag.” He laughed and said, “come on, let’s go. I’ll explain in the car.”

We flew up the hill and hopped in the Phishmobile (aka the Luminator) and again I told him, “I don’t have a bag”.

hearts 003 by you.

He then commenced to tell me that everything had been taken care of. My friends had packed a bag for me–they had gone into my apartment and packed everything I would need for the weekend (even my roommate’s deoderant! Oops.) We were going to be flying to New Jersey where our parents would meet us at the airport. Then we would go back to my parent’s house overnight, then go to his parent’s the next night for an engagement party etc….

He turned the cassette tape back on again–it was a tape he had made specifically for our engagement. He had to stop it at a certain point because some of the songs were significant to our dating relationship up to that point, and the rest was for after we were engaged and filled with wedding/marriage songs.

He began to tell me that this whole weekend had been in the works for months and everyone had been in on it–both sets of parents, my brother Andrew (who was at Cedarville at the time as a student) all my “girls”…no one let on a single thing and I didn’t suspect a thing. I just couldn’t believe it. No one can EVER pull a surprise off on me, so he got me, and he got me GOOD.

We sat on the plane in complete shock and giddyness. I just stared and stared at my gorgeous ring. And sometimes at my gorgeous guy, but mostly at my sparkly new ring.

Engaged! by you.

Our parents met us at the airport with balloons and gifts–one of which is a pillow Dan’s mom quilted just for the occasion. We sat down at the first table we could find so we could tell the whole story. It was all so unreal!

The surprises just kept on coming. After brunch the next day, Dan told me to get dressed in the “dressy outfit” the girls had packed for me. We got gussied up, hopped in my parents’ Jeep and headed into New York City. I found myself on Broadway to see Titanic, the musical. Seriously, my life is a movie.Titanic in NYC by you.

After the show, we headed back to his old high school where his entire family was attending a basketball game. We saw everyone. And I mean everyone.  We showed off my ring and told our story and posed for a bazillion pictures before heading back to his parents’ house for a family dinner and engagement celebration.

What a whirlwind weekend! We flew back to Cedarville on Valentine’s Day. Again, the surprises were not done. When we arrived at the airport, we walked out of the gate to a huge “Congrats” sign with all of our closest friends underneath anxiously awaiting our arrival to whisk us off to coffee and dessert so we could tell our engagement story and all about our weekend.

Needless to say I arrived to school on Monday slightly less prepared to teach than I usually do, but all I did was tell this story over and over to each class all day anyway. I could not believe Dan Scott had asked me to marry him.

I still can hardly believe it to this day.

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part 1-Beginnings
part 2- Olive loaf and demerits do the trick

part 3- Bravo’s, Barnes & Noble, and toilet paper?
part 4- an unforgettable 21st birthday
part 5-a 12 hour torture session
part 6- Here goes…

…all of a sudden his face changed and I knew something BIG was coming. He started to say, “I need to tell you something…” and immediately my mind raced to the “let’s just be friends” thing. I steeled myself to take it like a man. But instead I heard,

I love you

I was shocked. I was NOT expecting that at all. So, I didn’t say anything in response. And if I did say something, I’m sure it was very polite and probably a “thank you”.

I spent a fabulous summer living it up in Cincinnati sharing an apartment with three other pro-writing apprentices–Heidi, Joy, and Kelly. Joy was engaged to be married, Kelly was going steady with her guy, and Heidi and I were both in budding romances.

LoveStory 007

The majority of my contact with Dan over the summer was via hand-written postcards and letters in the mail. We basically got to know each other the old-fashioned way.

One letter he wrote me said, “We’re apart but together and inseparable joined by the miles between our hearts. I miss you. I’m going around the room looking at the photographs of us and simply missing you. Honestly, though, I think we’ve done pretty well this summer. It’s been rough. I can tell I’m not in the best of moods lately and I think it’s because you Jenna, my completer is 10 hrs away. I know I’m rambling, but my heart does that.” (Dan would want me to note that that second-to-last sentence was a *wink*–Jerry McGuire reference– and not a serious attempt at waxing poetic)

I surprised Dan with a plane ticket out to Cincinnati for a weekend visit. (My internship paid $12/hour. I was making BIG bucks.)

As romantic and fabulous as I thought the weekend would be, it was not. We were shy, awkward, quiet, and nervous. We still liked each other, but the only kiss that happened was an almost obligatory “kiss goodbye” peck at the airport.

Once we were back to college for our senior year, things got a lot more solid. We had survived the summer and could start throwing out the “M” word again.

Even though we were not engaged, we enrolled in the “Fit to be Tied” pre-marriage counseling program the school offered that fall. We had to take personality tests, visit weekly with a (much older) mentor couple after each session, and we were the first couple EVER to score a 0% on one of the compatibility tests (in the area of finances–we scored 100% in the area of…um…let’s call it “physical expectations and intimacy”) All you need is love, right?

Since all of our already-engaged friends had claimed each and every summer of ’99 wedding Saturday (and one was even double-booked by two friends, causing a scandal and a choice for all other friends involved who had to decide which one to attend…), I assumed maybe we’d wait ’til Christmastime for a wedding. Ergo, I was expecting a ring on or around Christmas 1998, because everyone needs at LEAST a year to plan a wedding, right?

But Christmas came and went with no ring. And I knew Dan had not yet had “the talk” with my parents. http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/1555/PreviewComp/SuperStock_1555R-88075.jpgI returned to the 1999 school year slightly frustrated with my very laissez faire boyfriend drooping under nose-diving expectations about when we could start planning our future together.

January passed. I was slightly freaking out. Dan KNEW how much I hated the pressure of Valentine’s Day, and that if he popped the question on that oohey-gooey day, I’d most likely say no out of pure disgust at the banality of an unimaginative and cliche proposal. He also knew how much I hated birthday proposals. So I knew February was out of the question for getting a ring. *sigh*

In the words of Joe Jackson, I was stuck wondering, “How long must I wait for you?”

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part 1-Beginnings
part 2- Olive loaf and demerits do the trick

part 3- Bravo’s, Barnes & Noble, and toilet paper?
part 4- an unforgettable 21st birthday
part 5-a 12 hour torture session

Saturday, March 28, 1998 (6 weeks after meeting Dan) my diary reads, “I swear I am living in a movie!”

We drove to Cincinnati to try to find somewhere cool to eat. On our way to eat we ran in to a theater to see what was playing.

On a whim we bought tickets to see “Rent”, because Dan had been wanting to see it. Watching the show I felt like country mouse in the big city. I was wide-eyed at the fantastic costuming, lighting, amazing music, compelling lyrics and characters. I was swept away. Not to mention the serious hand-holding that was happening as we experienced our own little “no day but today”.

After the musical we wandered around Fountain Square (where the Junior/Senior banquet had been held the previous year). Then we wandered up on the sky-bridge that connects the Westin hotel to Convention Center, Carew Tower, and Tower Place Mall offering us a romantic view of Fountain Square lit up at night.

We stood at the railing watching people below, letting the warm breeze blow over us with arms around each other’s waists thinking our own private thoughts. I looked up at him and we “bonked” foreheads. Then he gave me “the look” and I knew he was comin’ in for the kill.

I closed my eyes, tilted my head left (hoping I was going the right direction) and felt his lips lingering on mine in a soft, warm caress. I also felt a few strands of my hair that had blown across my lips at the last second. (How do movie stars keep their lovely locks out of the way during those intimate moments with the wind machine whipping things all around?)

We pulled back and I smiled. I’m sure I said something dumb like “I think my hair was in there”, and he replied, “was that O.K.?” I nodded, or said yes and that was all the permission he needed. He leaned in again and this time we put on a show. We had lip, tongue, and potential tooth-chipping action going on.

As we pulled away, I started to giggle at our shocking public display of affection (PDA) until Dan cupped my face in his hands and moviesquely said “I’m so happy, Jenna”.

Just a week after our first peck (followed by our second super-steamy kiss), Dan gave me a card that made my jaw drop. It wasn’t the quote on the front that said “Love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”, but what was written inside that stopped me in my tracks.

LoveStory by you.

Jenna~

Hold on tight. I can’t help it; I’m falling in love with you. You amaze me. This is your fault, though. You make me feel this way. Thanx for the ride.

Love, Me

A few weeks later I was still floating on the ripples of our earlier lip-locking, yet consumed with decisions about my professional writing internship. A classmate and I were hand-picked to interview against each other at MYCOM, Inc. located in Cincinnati–the top internship being offered for technical writers that year.

I spent an extremely memorable Easter break at Roxanne’s house (Daddy, Daddy…watch the lamb…) in Michigan after interviewing and waiting to hear the final results regarding my internship. While talking on the phone with Dan one night I brought up my concern about being apart for the entire summer. Dan said not to worry about it, because in his mind “3 months is nothing when you’re looking at a long future ahead together.

After knocking my socks off with that one, he threw me another curve ball in the form of a “hypothetical situation”. He asked if we “hypothetically” got married in the summer after we graduated, and if we were both student teaching that summer, would I want to get married before or after student teaching (us double majors were challenged to cram it all into 4 years).

Thinking the phone was jacked up or that I couldn’t hear him too well, I told him we’d have to wait and finish this conversation when we were back on campus together face-to-face. I couldn’t believe that I was hearing him correctly.

I received the internship in Cincinnati for the summer. Dan was headed to England for a summer missions trip then back to NJ to work. I was afraid I had made the selfish choice–choosing me and my career over him and our relationship.

May 3, 1998 (3 months into our relationship) my diary reveals that, “O.K., I’m scared. I think Dan and I might be slowing down to a stop. He’s scared, I’m scared. Dan thinks we need to slow down, not talk about marriage until after this summer is over because we need to get to know each other, not just talk about this stuff (marriage).”

There were some awkward times after that. One night when I planned the evening and we were driving to McDonald’s to get a bite to eat then see a dollar movie, he insinuated that it wasn’t a very creative plan. I nearly pulled over to the side of the road to let him out so he could walk himself to a “funner” date…

As the days drew closer to say “goodbye” for the summer, we seemed to get more and more distant. After a conspicuously frustrating evening together, we were standing by a waterfall just contemplating. I could tell he was antcy and asked what was wrong. He wasn’t cracking, so I had to keep cajoling and digging. Finally, I asked if he needed to tell me something (fearing a break-up might be imminent). I asked him if it was about this summer. When he wasn’t budging, I kissed him a few times to try to butter him up and get him to talk.

Then it came. And it was not what I expected at all…

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part 1-Beginnings
part 2- Olive loaf and demerits do the trick

part 3- Bravo’s, Barnes & Noble, and toilet paper?
part 4- an unforgettable 21st birthday

Remember the demerits I gave Dan that would be “null and void” if he went on a TWIRP date with me? Saturday, February 28, I made him work off those demerits with a 12 hour long date (which was slightly tortuous).

Torture #1- I picked him up and made him listen to Hanson’s “I Will Come to You” (because he had never heard it before… (wonder why?)) on our way to John Bryan Park.

Torture #2- I brought along a big, fat picture album and made him sit at a picnic table and look at every page while I described my family, friends, and see some of my collegiate experiences thus far. He graciously looked, laughed, and listened all the way through. God bless him!

Torture #3- went to BP station to fill up with gas and get a car wash. Go through car wash. Slightly awkward for a new couple. Definitely not as exciting as I had thought it would be when I was planning out the date.

Activity #4- Max & Erma’s for burgers, onion rings, and milkshakes. (This was only tortuous for me because I had to pay for it. You can depend on the fact that there was exactly 15% tip left as I am quite…thrifty)

Torture #5- went to a roller skating rink and rented (icky brown) skates for some Starlight Express action. There was no hand holding during said skating session. Just a lot of skating next to each other while listening to really bad music with a bunch of hick high schoolers. He kept (nicely) saying, “man, I wish I had my roller blades”… Diary quotation,

“Next, we went roller-skating, and I loved watching him just dance and ham it up. He really is a very sexy guy and I just couldn’t believe that he was with me. Wow!”

Torture #6- bought tickets to “Great Expectations” at the dollar theater…almost an hour before the show started. Went to Mc Donald’s and got ice cream sundaes to fill the time. (I had strawberry and he had caramel) That only took 10 minutes. Drat!

Torture #7- went to the mall to walk around and try to fill some more time before movie.

Torture #8- watched “Great Expectations” on a second date. Quasi-awkward. Not because we didn’t like the movie, it just had some quite sensual scenes in it–was rated “R” for language and sexuality. Also, neither of us would have the guts to tell our parents we went to see it. (Until now, I guess.)

Torture #9- got back to campus 30 minutes before curfew. We went for a walk and I gave him a Dr. Seuss calendar with Ps 90:12 written inside it and a sheet I had made using clip art to depict the main activities on our date. (Think screen beans, people)

Poor. Dan.

However, five days later finds me blissfully perched on the bench seat of his sa-weet white, Chevy Lumina (plastered with Dave Matthews and Phish stickers) cruisin’ around town. This was when and where we had the DTR (Defining The Relationship) conversation.

I asked him what I should tell people when they asked about us, were we dating, seeing each other, a couple, friends…? In a moment of sheer panic and desperation, I did everything short of turning on the tear faucet and told him I really liked being with him and that I had no desire to date anyone else. He said he felt the same way, and added that he wasn’t dating me just for fun, but he was serious about this going somewhere.

I was so excited about our being boyfriend and girlfriend that I asked if we could hug. So he pulled over, we hopped out of the car, and met by the driver’s side door (I was way faster at unbuckling my seatbelt and jetting around to get my hands on that boy) and had a good, long squish.

We started sitting together in chapel after that (which is the Christian version of moving in together).

That Friday was a “girl’s day” with all my precious girlfriends. It was the first time in my life that I attended an entire girls day in body only, ’cause honeys, my mind was definitely elsewhere.

At the end of girls night I was snuggled up in PJ’s in Roxy’s room with the girls listening to wedding music and talking about girly things when a phone down the hallway pealed. Heidi Jo ran down the hallway screaming, “put something on, he wants to see you. He missed you so much he couldn’t stand it and wants to see you right now, what do you need?”

I learned my lesson on my birthday outing, and added a bra underneath the sweatshirt I threw on. We ran (Chariots of Fire-like) to meet each other on the road between our two dorms and met at the stop sign where we hugged like no RA’s were lookin’.

In the coming weeks there were a few more encounters, walks, and one day there was an e-mail hinting at a kiss (who do you think sent it–him or me?)

The night the kiss e-mail was sent, my phone rang at 12:30am and we talked for quite a while about how we both felt on the subject– that it was too early in the relationship, we didn’t want to ruin the fun we were having thus far, and according to my bullet-point list I needed to be able to walk away from this relationship at any point (1) not having any regrets and (2) not having to recover emotionally or suffer while trying to un-attach (aka go into make-out withdraw).

[fast forward to spring break]

Since both of our families live in New Jersey, we got to meet over spring break. And meet each other’s families. There’s a picture of us (still hanging on my grandmother’s fridge to this day) at my parent’s house sitting on the couch–with at least 12 inches (aka room enough for a KJV Bible) between us!

Meeting the families went well. I thought his family was “loud” and he thought my family was crazy and hilarious–which they we are. It was hard to judge what we were feeling for each other so “out of context” being away from college.

I put my emotions on hold over break and enjoyed my family as much as I could all the while wondering if we would get back to school and want to pick up where we left off, or if it had just been a fun ride…

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part 1-Beginnings
part 2- Olive loaf and demerits do the trick

part 3- Bravo’s, Barnes & Noble, and toilet paper?

On my 21st birthday, I woke up to an e-mail from Dan. He had sent it shortly after 12am on February 24 so he would be the first person to wish me a happy day.

I got to chapel early and immediately buried my nose in my planner so I would look all busy and important. All of a sudden I heard “Happy Birthday” from behind me.

I turned around and there he was. I could hardly breathe. Dan handed me a card with my full name on the front and a cassette tape.

Birthday card 1998 by you.

I was so surprised that I was shocked into silence.

As soon as he walked away, I opened the card and just beamed at the words I could not believe I was reading. (Mainly because his handwriting is gorgeous)

Jenna- Happy Birthday!

Am I allowed to tell you that the past week and a half has been amazing? Oh, shoot. I think I just did. I hope you have a wonderful day…and many, many more

~Daniel

Seriously? A mix tape made just for me and someone who thinks me being in his life makes it amazing? I was in a swoon.

Later I picked up the package my parents had Fed-Exed me thinking it would be a “little” birthday something to tide me over ’til I could go home for spring break. But when I opened it there was a Titanic CD from my big brother, Ben, and a sapphire and diamond necklace from my parents. It matches the ring they gave me for high school graduation, and for some strange reason I named this new necklace “the jewel of the Nile”.

My grandparents, who live in Ohio, drove down to take me to Cracker Barrel for my birthday dinner and quizzed me about this new “special friend” they had heard something about. Like they had to twist my arm to talk about the new guy turning my world upside-down…

After getting back to my dorm, I had bunches of work to do.  I changed into some comfy clothes that I may or may not have sometimes slept in.

My phone rang waking me from my studious reveries, and a not-so-sinister voice told me to stay in my room until “the girls” picked me up. I figured they were taking me to my old roommate’s (Laura Jo) house for cake or something, so the comfy clothes would be appropriate. Do I recall a blindfold in this scenario as well?

However it happened, we ended up at Beans-n-Cream (a dear little coffee and ice cream shop in downtown Cedarville) where some of my most cherished friends (Laurie & Aaron, Heidi Jo, Roxanne, Sarah Martin, Cindy) were sitting around a table. All of a sudden the door opened and everyone at the table turned around with goofy, expectant grins on their faces. I had been bamboozled. Guess who walked in? Dan Scott! I was excited and embarrassed all at once–I was practically in my pajamas! (and I am 98 percent sure I was not wearing a bra…)

"The Gang" by you.

I drank a mocha latte and I think Dan got some ice cream-vanilla?. Even though Dan was a newcomer to our group, he fit in beautifully. Even Aaron, who kept a big-brotherly eye out for me in regards to guys I dated, thought Dan was cool.

The most poignant memory I have from this gathering is that all of a sudden underneath the table Dan’s leg and mine touched. And neither of us moved. We sat there and just let things sizzle

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part 1-Beginnings
part 2- Olive loaf and demerits do the trick

file000261261681My next e-mail from Dan contained a piece of trivia. If I could answer the question, I could win a prize I wanted more than a 4.0 mug. It said, “take ya to dinner if you can tell me the album and group that sings “A Day in the Life”.

Panic set in. That track wasn’t on any of my Disney CD’s, my Steve Green CD, Jurassic Park, Beach Boys, or my roommate’s Rebecca St. James CD! Ack. After a few frantic breaths, I geniusly turned to the vast knowledge of the internet.

I figured out that the song was by the Beatles, but I guessed the wrong album twice before getting it right. Thank you, Lord, for second and third chances. (my “quickly over quality” Achilles heel could have proved the death of this relationship that day)

Friday, February 20, 1998 we went on our first date to Bravo’s Italian Kitchen. He picked it because it was pretty far off campus so we wouldn’t run into fellow students there. (Did he not want to be seen with me? Oh crap!)

Of course, while we are waiting to be seated we spot a gaggle of drama girls also waiting for a huge table. All of them spot Dan and start batting their eyelashes at him, drawing him into conversations etc. This didn’t bode well for poor lil’ ol’ me. Thankfully we were seated pretty far away from them–0ut of (my) view at least so I could settle down a bit and retract the claws.

I ordered Cheese Ravioli al Forno and Dan had Penne Mediterranean. (Some people recall events by the date, I remember events by the food) Dan’s previously boring turkey sandwich was replaced with an exciting bowl of penne with lots of exotic things like kalamatta olives, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes, while I had practically chosen the Chef Boyardee selection from the menu. Conversation was a little stiff. It had been a long time since I had been this interested in a guy that I didn’t know a single thing about much less what to say or do around him.

Halfway through my meal I looked down at my plate and saw I was cutting my ravioli into concentric squares and eating very linearly. I remember mentally scolding myself, “you’ve got to leave a jagged edge somewhere, don’t let on that you’re OCD about food-eating practices, alert! alert! don’t screw this up! Quick, switch to spoon, do something, anything to show him you are normal!”

After our meal, we went to Barnes & Noble (Yessssss! A “happy place”; quiet and surrounded by books!) We learned more about each other as we walked around looking at books, magazines, movies, music, etc. giving opinions and telling stories about people and places and situations that a title, picture, or game reminded us of. This was where I first learned that Dan faithfully writes in a journal every day.

On the (kind of quiet) drive back to school I started a game of “what’s your favorite…”, which we had to answer back and forth. He came up with some doosies, like “what song would characterize your life right now?” (Gulp, what’s up with all the music questions?) I chose Allison Durham “When I Lay Me Down” and he chose something about being broken before he could be used.

As we got closer to campus, he said, “I don’t wanna take you back yet.” Good Lord, was he reading my mind? Or reading a script from the most delicious movie ever written? All I knew was that my heart was thumping out of my chest…

We went to a park and saw other couples huddled on benches *keeping warm*. We ended up on the stage at the gazebo talking about some past relationships and basically trying to analyze and feel each other out psychologically.

That darn curfew put an end to a glorious evening. When I arrived back to my dorm and entered my hallway, my girls had strung toilet paper across the hallway and hung a sign saying, “no RA’s beyond this point”. All my girls were waiting for me in Heidi Jo’s room to hear all the juicy details of the evening.

Needless to say there was much squealing, clapping, and girly giggling as I recounted the effervescent details to them. I wrote in my diary that the evening was extremely “cerebral”. Oh dear. I don’t think that was quite the word I was searching for. But seriously, this guy was turning the girl on campus nicknamed “the steamroller” into something mushier than the cafeteria oatmeal.

A few days later it was my 21st birthday. This was a birthday I will never, ever forget…

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If you missed part I of the story, be sure to go back and read it. The saga continues…

I got an e-mail from Dan before the weekend was over asking if I’d want to eat lunch with him on Tuesday! That turned me into Jell-O and tied a nice, nervous knot in my stomach.

You have to realize, in college there are different “classes” of people, per se. Dan was part of the cool, dramatic, nice-dressing, artistic, everyone knows them and they know everyone group. I wasn’t even fringe cool. If anything I was fringe-nerdy, but super nice. I thought shopping at JC Penny for clothes was “splurging”, and going to study groups and driving a ministry van was da bomb. (According to the hit show Community, I was on to something because apparently study groups rawk)

Once again, something sassy kicked in and I decided to do my best to get this guy out on a date with me. I was shooting for the moon. If nothing else, I at least wanted to be able to brag that I got to go on a date with Dan Scott.

I put my e-vil mind to work and I wrote up the demerits I had threatened him in the receiving line after the play for kissing (excessively) on campus. I put an “*” on the demerits, which stated that “if the demeritee (him) would go on a TWIRP (The Woman Is Responsible to Pay) date with the demeritor (me), then the demerits would be null and void”. For a chance at a date with the Dan Scott, I wasn’t too proud to bribe him by wielding my almighty RA power, or to pay for the date either. I shakily dropped the demerits into ICM (inter-campus mail, or is it intra-campus mail?).

Tuesday we met for lunch in the cafeteria. We were both very nervous. I made a sandwich with wheat bread, mayo, mustard, and a slice of olive loaf (also known as pimento loaf or pickle loaf). Dan made a turkey sandwich. Which I thought was boring, but safe. We didn’t talk much. Although in my diary I have noted that, “he was leaned forward (interested), used his hands (expressive) and laughed a lot (I love his smile :-)”. Who writes like that in their diary? Nerdly tech-writers, I guess.

Afterwards we walked to the PO (post office) and I scurried around the corner out of sight then stealthily leaned around said corner to watch him get his mail. I saw him pull out my envelope. Unable to play it cool and casually wait to see him open the envelope, I blurted out “did you get somethin’?”

“Yeah, demerits”, he replied looking confused and bewildered…until he saw who they were from. He stuffed them back in the envelope. But I couldn’t let him off that easily.

“Arent’ you going to read them?”, I asked.

He pulled them out and read through them chuckling in amusement. When he got to the bottom (remember the little “*” clause I added?) his face lit up like the Christmas tree in Times Square.

“I guess I’ll have to do that”, he said in response to the TWIRP date/bribe/blackmail.

“So you think you’d rather bear that than 2 demerits, huh?”, I teased.

We had to head off to class or something. I don’t remember a thing after that. I was floating and cracking my face in half with a huge smile. That night we went for a walk (that was the thing to do in college–remember all you CC-ers?) and just talked. (I promise mom, all we did was talk…)

I had laryngitis so I did a lot of squeaking at him. I felt so comfortable with him that I talked to him about all kinds of things–from what God was teaching me right then (that He’s a lamp to my path–showing me one step at a time, not a spotlight illuminating and pushing me to hurry toward my future), to feeling called to teach “kids” (high schoolers, not young ‘uns). He talked about his “secret dream” to go to seminary–which thrilled my heart to no end. In all the craziness, whether or not he was going to end up being “the one” or not, I definitely knew I had found a friend.

Will it end up being more than just friendship?

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Heidi Jo started it all…

I was a Resident Assistant (RA) in college. Heidi Jo was one of the girls in my hall who was on the forensics team and involved in the plays at Cedarville College (now University). Apparently she had been talking me up to one of her forensics buddies, named Dan. So when I (intentionally) mentioned (hoping that she might give me some inside scoop or at least an introduction) that I had the same lunch schedule as her drama buddy, Dan Scott, she jumped on it.

I spent minutes, nay, hours on the black pleather Nintendo chair in her dorm room listening to all she could tell me about THE Dan Scott. Answering all my questions. Making him sound like the man of my wildest dreams. Subtly suggesting that maybe we should meet.

She told both of us just to introduce ourselves to each other at lunch one day. And every day one or the other of us swore that would be the day, but we kept chickening out. To be honest, I was so thoroughly enamored by what she was telling me about Daniel C. Scott that I was afraid to meet him and have the beautiful picture of him that I had painted in my head shattered or ended by a real life encounter.

Finally, it was decided that we would meet in the receiving line after the play he was acting in on campus called, “Crossing Delancey”. It was Friday, February 13, 1998. I was very nervous. All the girls in my hall helped me primp and dress, and sat with me in a row during the play.

Dan had grown a full beard and a long head of feathered hair to play the part of a sleazy writer. And he was fabulous in the play– whether wooing, kissing, getting slapped in the face, or just talking. I was whipped.

After it was over, we lined up to greet all the actors and actresses in the line. When it was “our” turn, my entire gaggle of girls and I moved forward to introduce ourselves to Dan Scott. All of a sudden, I felt an icy draft hitting me from all directions; my girls had all gigglingly run away and abandoned me! I found myself standing right in front of Dan all by myself.

He took a deep breath and said, “Hi, I’m Dan”. I totally tripped all over my name…telling him my name is Jenn, but everyone calls me Jenna now…and…ack! I said the first thing that popped into my head, “I think we both have lunch at noon”, to which he responded, “Mmmm, yeah.”

Crickets…

Spunky Jenna kicks in and I say (letting him know I’ve seen him there), ” ’cause I’ve seen ya”.

To which he responds, “yeah, I’ve seen you too”.

Crickets, second verse…

I quickly move on to Heidi Jo and give her a hug–she was great in the play too. Being by her gave me the confidence I needed to look back to Dan and tell him, “Oh, by the way, since I’m an RA I’ll have to give you demerits for kissing“.

To which he responds with a big laugh and , “Well, actually, my RA’s here tonight so he can give ‘em to me”.

By that point, my knees are knocking at how much we’ve interacted already and I’m ready to let the crowd sweep me out the back door so I can get some air.

Two of the girls from my hall and I take a long walk through campus to shake off my jitters. The replay of this interaction is torturing me. What a dork I made of myself! I couldn’t stop thinking that he probably thought I was a total flake and would never even give me the time of day again.

His family was in town for his play, so he was going out to eat with them and spend time with them over the weekend. The silence and not knowing what, if anything, would happen next is pure agony for me.

to be continued…

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I just had the sweetest moment with my youngest child, the one who hasn’t asked Jesus into his heart yet. The one I’ve been praying for those solid walls around his heart to let love in and bring crashing down …yes, that one. And I might have been the catalyst to almost breaking his heart along with those walls tonight, but for God’s grace.

I didn’t have a stellar parenting day today. I snipped and snapped at my kids. Impatience abounded and my tone and my words were more biting than a wind off lake Michigan in the dead of winter.

I was downstairs at my computer trying to sneak in a little after-dinner work while the older kids were reading and the youngest was in bed. A “sigh of relief” time of day. Until I heard a very loud and suspicious “crash” noise come from the upstairs bathroom.

I sighed and mounted the stairs, my anger and frustration building with each step up. After bursting into the bathroom and asking in an accusatory and totally guilt-riddling mommy voice, “did you need HELP with something?”, two little brown eyes refused to meet mine and a little voice stammered, “I was just going to the bathroom.”

“Ex-CUSE me?”, I spat.

His tenacious eyes met mine and we did the familiar dance of the stare off. Whoever flinched first or broke gaze, lost.

He never broke gaze, but he did finally murmur that something must have fallen in the tub.

I interrogated him ruthlessly, as if I were investigating a murder–my eyes furtively seeking the corners of the tub to verify the information about the shampoo bottle that “fell in” by itself. After verbally circling each other for a few rounds, I finally had him cornered, trapped, where he had to either admit he had done something wrong, or push my button one last time and see if I would crack and flip my lid like I usually did. He chose to tell me the truth… head bowed, eyes firmly planted on the ground, murmuring, “I did it. I pushed it into the tub. I was going the bathroom at first, then I pushed it in.”

I wanted to scream and shout and lecture. That’s my usual go-to “rut”. But strangely, I bit my tongue and thanked him for being honest…although I did throw in the jab of “but if you  need to go to the bathroom, es-SPEC-ially after you’ve been put to bed, you need to go quickly, then go right back to bed, no playing? Right? Do you understand me?” The whole time I was laying on the guilt, I was also cringing because I hated how I sounded, but it just kept coming out.

I put him into bed and told him I loved him, kissed his cheeks, patted his fuzzy head, and affirmed that he was my boy, whom I loved very much. My handsome boy, my helpful Kindergartner, my son, who tells the truth and can be trusted.

I tucked him into his warm bed and left the door open a crack. I scuttled around doing a few last things upstairs, then inspected the bathroom once more to see if he was really telling me the truth about the shampoo bottle or if it could have just fallen in by itself when I heard the sound of muffled crying coming from his bedroom. They were broken-hearted little boy sobs, and they were awful.

I walked back into his room and the room fell silent. “What’s wrong, why are you crying?” I asked. He held his breath and tried to pretend he was asleep.

I walked over to his bed and asked again. Still, no sound, feigning sleep. This time I put my hand on his arm and said his name, which felt and sounded so awkward, because this was a dance we had never done before.

I picked him up, cuddled him in my lap and kept asking him over and over why he was sad? Why was he crying? What is wrong? What’s the matter? My voice getting softer and my own heart breaking a little more with each unanswered question.

My solid as a rock little guy would not crack. I remembered my days of locking myself in a bedroom while my poor, persistent father would stand outside the door cajoling, never giving up, asking the questions over and over, gently repeating my name until I finally let him in and told him what was breaking my little heart. I did what my dad had to do all those years ago, and I kept trying.

Finally, he took a deep breath and inaudibly answered. I had to ask him to repeat himself, and it was still a whisper so quiet I couldn’t hear. “One more time, buddy, I don’t know what you’re saying.” Then the crocodile tears poured out of his eyes and his voice shuddered as he burst out, “it’s because of the bad choice I did”, and wrenching sobs of release ensued.

“Oh, buddy. I forgave you for that, you don’t have to think about that any  more. You don’t need to worry or cry about that because it’s all gone.”

And then…I got to witness to my son. And tell him the story of Jesus, through my own shaking voice and my tears dripping down my cheeks and plopping onto his head.

Trying so hard to use the words he would recognize from church, from our Bibles and storybooks, from our everyday life that would speak to his heart.

It was the most precious moment I’ve ever shared with him. And it was awful, because I started it all with bad parenting and my own “sin problem”. And I had to admit how only about 15 minutes before this incident I had yelled at his sister, I had made a bad choice. Even with Jesus in my heart, I still struggle with my sin problem. But that because I have Jesus in my heart, He helps me realize it when I make a bad choice, He helps me say the hard “I’m sorry” words to help make things right again, and then forgiveness comes and we are made right again. And God… And Jesus… And Christmas…And the Cross…And the Grave…

And after I was all done, he said he was still feeling sad.  I told him it was okay to have sad days, that in fact, I was having a very sad day today, too. I said, “let’s be sad and cry together.” So we got some tissues, and as we began to blow our noses. Then we began to giggle. Together. We blew in funny rhythms and giggled all the more. And the sadness went away with the tears and the tissues.

I asked my son if I could pray for us, and he said yes. I curled him up in my lap one more time, because I don’t know how much longer my fast-growing 6 year old will allow so much snuggling. And I prayed and thanked God for Christmas, for sending His son to take care of my sin problem. For sending me MY son, the one snuggled in my lap that I love so much. And for giving us hope and laughter, and hopefully a good night’s sleep.

And for this and all the words between the line of these words, I am beyond thankful.

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Today just felt heavy.

  • Remembering 9/11
  • Watching the President’s address about Syria
  • Suicide Prevention Week
  • Researching heavy topics for my job
  • Hugging beloved friends as they said goodbye to a parent

I penned these words on behalf of someone else, but they are as much for me as they:

“No matter the state of unrest, Immanuel—God is with us.”

The lyrics to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Our God Is With Us” kept running through my head today.

At one point this afternoon, I was overwhelmed by the words I was reading and writing, and just needed to stop. Breathe. Focus on God.

On days like today I am so thankful for technology, which allowed me to Google and watch/listen to this uplifting reminder that GOD IS WITH US. That is cause to turn my heavy heart to rejoicing.

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