Thursday, August 27, 2009

Here's the Scoop

I am sure that you all are hoping to hear the whole story about how Phil and I met and what brought us to the point of our engagement.
So, I will delay no longer....here you go!

Phil has been attending our church for a couple of years now.
He remembers the first time we met...it was the first Sunday that we brought Brown Sugar and Lil' Cowboy to church. They hadn't even been in the U.S. for twenty-four hours!

Quite a few months after Eric died I had a few people ask me if I would be interested in Phil. My answer was always yes but he wouldn't be interested in me for obvious reasons: I am older than him, I have six children, he has never been married, etc.


One Sunday in February we were sitting across from each other after our church's fellowship meal. I asked him how his schooling was going (Phil is working on his PhD in Philosophy of Religion). He started talking about Schleiermacher who is a wacky German theologian of whom he had to read in preparation for his PhD exams. I was interested in what he was learning and he became interested in me.
He started sitting next to us every Sunday at the fellowship meals and by the end of March I was getting suspicious of his intentions. There was one Sunday that we fondly refer to as the Steve Taylor moment. We were sitting across from each other, surrounded by friends, when our conversation turned to Steve Taylor and how much we both loved his music. At some point I felt like time had stopped and it was just Phil and I talking and laughing. It was at that moment that I knew that there was something there at least on my part. I called a mutual friend and asked her if I was imagining his interest in me. I asked her specifically to kick me in the pants if I was incorrect in my assumptions. She said she wouldn't kick me in the pants and then told me to see where God takes this. Neither one of us knew at the time that
Phil had been talking to her husband about me.

The next day I had a message in my Facebook inbox from Phil. He told me that he liked me and wanted to get to know me better. Of course I agreed and thus started a two week correspondence by email. We were able to talk with each other on Sundays as well.

Because I am under the supervision of the Elders of my church I felt it was only right that Phil contact my oversight Elder and let him know that he was interested in pursuing a relationship with me. But, I didn't want to tell him to do this...I was hoping he would think of it himself. The next day, without me saying anything (just praying), Phil contacted me by email and let me know that he had indeed let the Elders know of his interest. I was excited to see God work out this simple detail and was impressed with Phil. Something to remember...neither Phil nor I have ever done the whole courtship thing. And, for that matter, neither have our Elders. This is all new territory!

By week three he asked if he could call me. We were both a bit nervous but were pleasantly surprised that the conversation flowed so naturally. We ended up being on the phone for four hours that first call. Mind you, the phone call started at 9pm so that I could have family time wrapped up and the little ones in bed.

That first phone call started a wonderful trend. At first he only called me once a week. Then he moved to twice a week with each phone call lasting between four and five hours. We have now gotten "smart" and talk every night for about three hours! We never seem to run out of things to talk about and we have found out that we are very much alike.

I was starting to dread my upcoming trip across the United States but decided that I must continue with my plans. I realized that this would probably be the last time for me to take such a trip with the family that God had given me that past year. By this time I knew in my heart that Phil was the one that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But, I wasn't sure about his feelings towards me.

We talked quite often while I was on the road. I sat in hotel exercise rooms, back porches, and out in the van. In fact, one of my favorite memories was when we were in Tennessee. Our dear friends at our sister church in Centerville teased me endlessly about our phone calls. They had very little reception...only a few bars if I sat out on the back porch. One evening they came out periodically with a chair and glass of wine, a tray of food, a blanket, and even an extension cord for me to charge my phone! To the Stouffers and Bradshaw families...you are the dearest!

Over that six week period of traveling our friendship blossomed. We had the ability to talk about anything and everything. He made me laugh and was there on the phone with me when we were sitting in the back of Target waiting for the tornado to pass. We sang Psalms together over the phone and encouraged each other. It was a long time to be away from each other but it allowed me time to spend with my children and it gave him time to study for his upcoming exams.


The weekend after we came home was a huge one for both Phil and I. The reunion was sweet! His parents came out for the carnival my friends were hosting and spent the weekend with us. Phil had told me that his mother was praying for us and that she had gotten to know me through my blog. I was so nervous but now wonder why. Bob and Joan are just plain wonderful! It wasn't long after that I met his older sister and her family and his younger foster brothers. I couldn't believe how accepting they were of me and my situation. How many families do you know that encourage their son to pursue a woman who has six kids!?! I must mention that I had been lurking on his younger sister's blog for the past three years and yet did not know that it was his sister until he had mentioned her early on in our relationship. Who would have thunk! She is as encouraging and excited to have the kids and I join their family (Hey there Nan!)!

With my traveling behind me we continued to talk on the phone and only see each other on the weekends. He works for his dad as a plumber's assistant in the bay area (about an hour away) and then studies the rest of the day. His studies became more intense throughout July until he headed down south for his exams.

We continued to talk on the phone during the two weeks he was away for those exams but this time apart was harder on me than I expected. I was diligently praying for him during this time and tried to keep our conversations more focused on his exams and what was going on in his life. I began to pray for him in other ways....if he was the "one" that the Lord would begin to intertwine our hearts together and ready him for the jobs of husband and father.

Phil came home from his testing on August 1st. As I write this I am kinda shocked at how that was only a month ago. It seems like a lot of time has passed! We had quite a few plans that we had purposefully made in August. Plans that included the whole family so as to help us all get use to the idea of this new family that God seemed to be forming. One of those plans was a "family reunion" of sorts for his family. We were invited to spend the night at his parents home and meet some of Joan's extended family.

Although we both were enjoying our time at his parents there was an email that was lurking in the back of our minds. My oversight Elder had sent us both an email that encouraged us to move out of our courtship and into an engagement. His reasoning was accurate. Courtship is for the sole purpose of finding out if this person is the one God is directing you to marry. If this is decided in the positive then staying in this "place" leads to a dating relationship which is what we try to avoid.

That night I read the email and spent the rest of the night praying and crying. Over and over again my heart kept repeating "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.".
I knew what I had to do. I had to trust God and talk to Phil about our relationship. I saw only two options: we either move backward or forward. Moving backward would mean not pursuing a relationship at this time. Moving forward would mean engagement.
I had no idea that he was wrestling with these same issues that night as well.

The next morning I asked the Lord to provide time for us to talk. He had to go to work with his dad and the following weekend was full of activities with his older sister and her family. Only God would be able to give us the few moments we needed to talk this through...and He did.
I was up early and Phil came over to his parents house early. We sat and talked and I cried as I willingly trusted God and told Phil of the options. I honestly thought he would take the first option of going backwards in our relationship.

We decided to go for a walk and get some fresh air. He told me to give him a week. I told him that if we decided to break off this courtship that I would walk away from our relationship knowing that I had found a kindred spirit and good friend in him. In my heart I kept praying that God would help me be content in whatever Phil decided.

We walked up the hill together and then he took me down a side street. We stopped at the top of the hill and the next thing I knew he was on his knees asking me to marry him. Of course, my answer was yes. We both just stood there crying, hugging, and saying "I love you". I am sure that those on their morning commute were wondering what was going on! On the way back down to his parents house I could not believe what had just happened. I don't think Phil could as well. He told me that as we were walking up the hill he decided that he could not imagine walking through the ups and downs of life without me.

In taking that step towards trust I was able to see God's faithfulness yet again. He had turned an interest into a fast growing friendship that was quickly moving into a mutual love for each other. A love based on similar lifestyles, interests, and commitment to God.

When we got back to his parents we gathered all the kids and Phil told them that he had asked me to marry him. The kids were all so very happy! The rest of the morning was kind of surreal. Phil asked if I would be interested in wearing his grandmother's ring or if we should go ring shopping. I am sucker for heirlooms and when I saw the ring he was talking about it was decided. The ring is a beautiful 1930s set. For the next couple of days his mom and sisters would tell me stories about the lady that wore the ring before me. I am truly honored!

We took the kids bowling that afternoon. What a fun memory! Miss M took a picture of us waiting for the bowling scores to come up on the board which I posted on my FB. Within a half hour I had a couple of people ask about the ring on my finger! I didn't even know you could see it in the picture. Too funny!
The next twenty-four hours was a whirlwind. Phil needed to call my parents so I was not able to post it on here or on Facebook. But, I did post that I was happy and blessed...of course, I have posted that same status probably six times over the past year. But, my dear friend Kendra posted that she had a secret that was not hers to tell. Now how some of you Facebook friends figured out something was going on with me...I have no idea. I mean really....she could have been talking about anyone! But, the news (that wasn't news yet) was rather contagious! My other dear friend Lisa, wrote just that on her Facebook status.
As soon as my parents were notified we "spilled the beans" on Facebook and confirmed everyone's suspicions. And, now you, my blog readers, are informed as well.

So, now you know the reason why my blogs have been so few and far between! The only thing that I really wanted to talk about was my relationship with Phil! But, I had determined that I would not share our relationship with the blog world until I had a ring on my finger.
In my next blogspot I want to tell you all about my fiance. He is an incredible man who I will soon be blessed to call my husband.
~Heather


18 comments:

kristi said...

Yay! I have been pestering Steve for details but he says he thinks I'd rather ask those kind of questions :) But you answered most here and I'm so excited for the two of you and your families!!

Nan said...

This was so fun to read even though I did have the running inside scoop all along (even from over a year ago when Phil first mentioned you to me.). I love hearing you talk about my brother like this! Every time I talk to him now he sounds different than ever before.... Happier and more confident and just more like his true self! You complement each other well. God is so good!

Jonathan Hunt said...

some similarities there with my experience. our first phone call was the same, 9pm for four hours!

J

Rose said...

CONGRATULATIONS! I am so happy for you. I hope that the kids like him, and I'm sure that up in heaven, Eric is smiling in approval. May GOD bless you both.

Erin said...

What a great, crazy story! I have been reading your blog since Eric passed away. Found you through a friend of your friend, Kendra.
And, strange, but true, I have gone to church with Phil in the past. Was it SFOPC? Did he attend there about 10 years ago?

Lazy D Ranch said...

Erin,
Yes, Phil used to attend the SFOPC. I attended the Modesto OPC about the same time. We now attend Central Valley Presbyterian with Kendra and even a few families from the chapel associated with the SFOPC.
Dr. McIlhenny is hopefully going to give the charge at our wedding in December.
Such a small world! Thanks for reading and keeping up with our family.

Sandy Olsson Kientzler said...

That was so fun to read!!! It is such an AMAZING thing when we KNOW God hand-picked our spouse for us!!! When we wait on Him, and His timing, and trust that He will guide and work in the other's life as well... Such an amazing feeling... You, of course, are already my sister in Christ (!), but I'm excited to call you Sister-Sister!!! :^)

ROSIE said...

Heather,

I'm so happy and excited for you and Phil, and the wonderful God has ahead for both of you as husband and wife--and for Phil and the children as he becomes father as well! You are all in my prayers,

Love,
Dianne

Vanderpolclan said...

Congratulations Heather and Phil. Your story is an amazing story of obedience and faith. Thanking God for His providence in your lives.

CIndy in Canada

E.T.'s Mom said...

Congratulations! I'm thrilled for you.

Yvette said...

Congratulations Heather! =) It has been neat to watch this unfold!

God is good!

SarahF said...

What a beautiful story, Heather! Thank you *so* much for sharing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
With love,
Sarah Fiodorova.

Deborah said...

Dear Heather,

I "found" you right before your late husband had died through Patriarch's Wives. I have stayed with you this entire time and you have been my one and only blog that I have kept up reading.

You posted the song, Cry Out to Jesus soon after Eric died. I had never heard the song before. Your willingness to "be real" throughout this time kept me...well, I guess I could say, "intrigued," but also very prayerful for you. I would cry for your struggles and rejoice in your victories!

Jump forward. After having Lupus for 15 years, a year ago in went into my brain. (lupus cerebritis which is one of the hardest places to treat). I have been struggling to survive for several months. I have been bedridden for a while now and I am NOT resonding to treatment as of yet and I don't know what the Lord has in mind. But I find myself continually........
"CRYING OUT TO JESUS."

What amazing connections in life! You were in your valley and you have been lifted up! I am in my valley and I KNOW I will be lifted up. Just don't know when, where or how.

But your beautiful love story of God's amazing provisions for us is such a testimony of enduring the crosses God has some of us to bear. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your journey. I, for one, will never be the same because of it.

CONGRATULATIONS HEATHER AND PHIL!!

Deborah (a stranger? yes, but a sister in Christ!)

Anonymous said...

I'm so thrilled for you Heather. I have been following your blog since before Eric died. Your faith in our God has been beautiful to me. May you continue to feel God's blessings in your new life with Phil! Thanks for sharing, and I pray that you will still feel led to let us in on your walk with God occasionally! Looking for wedding pics! emily

Anonymous said...

Heather,

What a thrill it was for me to read your blog, to see our Lord give you a husband, and for the love you always seem to have for him. Thank-you for being so honest and sharing your story. I am a romantic at heart but your story tops them all.
Much love to you and your family.
Becky

Home School Dad said...

My wife told me of your blog when I got involved in blogging this year. I am very excited about your engagement. I especially was moved by the courtship model you are following, specifically, the way your church elders are stepping in the parent's role. (I have long been interested in writing a book about relationships and if it ever comes to fruition, I would love to use some of your story.)

Your blog is beautiful, and your transparency adds a genuineness to your journey.

anika said...

so joyful with you Heather...
just soooo soooo joyful :)
you are loved darling sister in Christ :)
blessings to you and your future husband in this GREATEST of adventures :)

<>< anika

timbuck2mom said...

Congratulations, Heather. I had not been by your blog since early summer. I'm so happy for you.

The wedding's just around the corner.

Elisabeth