Plus, I figure that maybe if I start it now, it'll be done in time for Valentine's Day... maybe! :) At the rate I'm going this year, this just may be Chris's Valentine's gift!
I guess if I were to start at the very beginning, I'd have to start at a church retreat I attended my junior year of high school. My family had just joined a new church. I knew I needed to make some new church friends, so going on the retreat seemed like the natural thing to do. My curiosity was also particularly piqued, because the topic of the retreat was dating, and since I'd never so much as been on a single date before, I wanted to be sure and get some good advice about how to start the whole thing off right and in a God-honoring way. I'd also never been on a retreat before, or even to youth camp, so the whole experience was very new to me! By the end of the retreat, I came away with the following:
* Some great new friends, including one who is still one of my closest friends to this day: Sara E.! :)
* An awareness of the importance of bringing oodles of my own snack food to such things, since I generally hated whatever food would be doled out in mass quantities.
* A strong desire to attend a Christian college. Up until that point, I had planned on going to Vanderbilt. I refused even to give any serious consideration to any other school. Well, the leaders at that retreat were two couples (I think one married and one engaged?) who had met at their respective Christian colleges, and I just thought they were pretty much the coolest people ever. When we broke off into small groups with the girl leaders, they would share stories about their fun experiences, Christian professors, sorority traditions, etc., and I was just absolutely in awe. The more I was around them, the more I wanted to be just like them, and I could see how God had greatly used their entire Christian college experiences to shape them into the amazing young women they were. Plus, they had met their amazing husbands at school, which was also a nice perk. That retreat wound up being a huge turning point for me in shaping what I was looking for in a college experience.
* A theology (albeit a very immature one) of dating. Always managing to stay super busy in my honors and AP classes at school, not to mention dance and piano, I had never really given dating much thought. Plus, there wasn't really anyone in my life at the time that I particularly wanted to date -- except maybe a super secret crush here or there that came and went before I even admitted to myself that it was a crush. In my break-out group at the retreat, I casually mentioned that I had never dated before, which positively shocked the girls in my group -- not because I was particularly dateworthy, I'm sure, but more so because I was a 16-year-old girl in 2000 in America. After that retreat, I decided to become an expert in the field of dating, so that I would be fully prepared when the time came, and so that I'd be able to give some quality advice to friends in the meantime. I know this is really making me sound like a huge nerd (and I know that I was/am), but I read Boy Meets Girl, Passion and Purity, And the Bride Wore White, I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Lady in Waiting -- you know, all the "it" Christian dating books around at the time, just trying to take in as much as I could. But truly, I was still pretty clueless about the whole thing. I was largely unimpressed with the guys I knew, and whenever a guy would come along that I halfway liked, I instantly melted into a big goofball who was absolutely the opposite of charming.
* A list. Yes, I made a list. You know the ones -- where you enumerate everything you want a prospective spouse to be. The nonnegotiables. Things you can't live without. I am very sad and most humbled to say that I have no clue what happened to that list. Some lucky individual probably found it and is probably still enjoying a good laugh about it at my expense. In college, I even kept The List in my wallet, as an extra incentive not to lose it! Now there were many good and respectable qualities I included on the list, like loyal, honest, polite, respectful, compassionate, smart, funny... and there were also some hilarious things too. Here's just a sampling of things that I remember were on the list -- and I'm only sharing a few, because it really was embarrassing:
- Must come from a large family. (This is because I'm an only child, and I wanted to be sure any future children of mine would have aunts, uncles and cousins.)
- Must be athletic. (Interesting, since I'm totally not.)
- Must be outgoing and friendly. (I tend toward the introvert side of the spectrum, and even then I knew I needed someone more extraverted than I.)
- Must have beautiful eyes, nice hair and a gorgeous smile. (Well of course!)
- Must be someone I'm not embarrassed to be seen with. (True story, y'all.)
Somewhere on The List was a note about the importance of having a good story -- I really hoped it would be a good one. All told, the list took up the front and back of a page I tore out of my journal, and it basically painted a picture of someone that looked kind of like Brad Pitt but with the spirituality of Billy Graham. Whether you agree or disagree with making a list like that (and I'm not even really sure where I stand on the issue nowadays), I must say that it gave me a vision and defined the parameters of what I was looking for, and it certainly helped keep me from dating guys I had no business dating in years to come.
* A strong desire to be pursued and courted. By "courted" I don't mean courtship vs. dating. (Is that still a thing? I know it was like a huge thing o' controversy back in the 90s!) What I mean is that I wanted to be courted, you know, impressed, taken on actual dates, treated like a lady. Early on, I determined to be hard to get but worth every bit of effort that would go into pursuing me.
* A renewed resolve to pray for my future husband.
I never could have guessed it at the time, but only a couple of months after that retreat, I would actually meet my future husband -- although it would take me years to realize it!Part 5