I was challenged recently to write the story of how Erik and I met, so here it is:
In the Spring of 1996 I was 20 years old, full of ideals and ideas, eager to serve the God I loved, and anxious to get married! I had just been accepted to a school of missions and midwifery in the Philippines. But one of the things that always strikes me as I look back on my life is that the opportunities we don't take play as much of a role in our future as the ones we do. And so in the Fall I found myself, not in Asia, but at a small Bible school in McMinnville, Oregon. It was orientation night and as I made my way across the courtyard I stopped to speak with the director of the school. He introduced me to Claud and Michele, friends of the school, who had attended the same Bible college that my parents had when I was young. Having that in common, he stepped away and I was left chatting with Michele. She was kind and friendly, with twinkly eyes and a genuine interest in the students. She mentioned that she would be teaching a quilting class for anyone interested and I verbally enrolled on the spot! I had been wanting to learn to quilt and wondered if I would ever find a group of women to do it with.
Soon Bible classes were underway, and so were weekly quilting lessons. More than just a teacher, Michele became a dear friend, often having me and the other students into her and Claud's home. More than anyone I'd ever met, she seemed to take seriously Saint Paul's mandate that the older women teach the younger women. She not only showed us how to ply a needle, but she exposed us to world missions, canned peaches with us, and gave classes on becoming a godly wife and mother. I was often in their home and soon learned that they had a daughter and a son, Erik, who was attending seminary in London, England. Of course I didn't know it then but Michele had been telling him all about me and had even sent him my picture!
The school year came to a close, and with the Spring Erik came home to see his parents for two weeks before going up to Alaska to work for the summer. We met briefly. Claud introduced us one night at a coffee shop, we saw each other at church, and I ran into him at a fabric store, where he was trying to convince the employees to give Michele a discount since she brought so many women in to buy fabric for quilting! One day toward the end of summer I got a letter from Erik. He said that from what his Mom had told him, he was interested in getting to know me and wondered if, when he came home, he could take me out for juice or tea. I wondered then just how much he knew about me since he seemed to know I didn't drink coffee. I wrote him back and said that yes, I would go out with him when he came back.
So, Erik returned to McMinnville and took me out for tea. We sat in a diner booth and talked for a couple of hours. He says I didn't finish my tea. I don't remember that but I do recall thinking that our time together had flown by. He asked if he could take me out again before he returned to London and I agreed. So we went out one more time and also spent a day with both sets of our parents at an art show my Dad was doing. I remember writing in my journal about him, something along the lines of "We had a good time talking. He's very nice and seems mature. I'm sure that he would never be interested in me." He went back to London and I started school again. I had enjoyed our time together and felt like he was admirable, but we were also both quite awkward around each other and I didn't think anything would come of it.
Over the next four years we were both busy and all over the world. We would occasionally write and would see each other when we were in the same place. Erik was back and forth between London, Oregon, and Alaska and spent some time teaching English in Yemen. I finished Bible school and travelled to Liberia, moved back home with my parents, and then spent nine months in Thailand, India, and Nepal reaching out to western travelers. Around the same time that I moved back home Claud and Michele ended up moving to the same area as my parents which meant that Erik and I now had the same "home base". When we were both in town he would come by my parents' home and we would visit. Erik says he really began to get interested in me through reading the letters I wrote when I was in Asia.
When I returned to the U.S. in the Spring of 2001 I didn't know what to do next. I had been busy for years with school and various things and all of a sudden I had no idea what to do. I was almost 26 and very anxious to get married! Most of the time when I would meet men I could almost immediately tell that they would never do for me, but with Erik I could never really say that. I always wondered if he could be the one, and he says that I was always "an unanswered question". But apart from that, there was still a certain awkwardness between us. When I got back he came to visit and something was different than it had been before. We could talk for hours and were very comfortable together. He started coming over a lot and I would go over to his house (where Michele would conveniently leave us with big glasses of iced tea under the apple trees in the back yard.) Next thing I knew he was taking me out to watch sunsets and asking if he could court me!
It's hard to explain what had changed. We'd known each other four years and spent some time together but suddenly there was a spark that had never been there. Erik was scheduled to fly out to the Middle East to study Arabic for two years that fall. I was torn up about it- why had God waited so long to bring us together only for us to be separated for so long? At this point we had never even discussed marriage but both knew that God had brought us together and had a plan for us. We prayed and prayed that God would show us what to do. He went back and forth with his Mission board, asking their advice and permission to marry. We had the approval and support of both of our parents but he had made a commitment and and felt it necessary to go through the Mission as well. I thought that it would be best if he stayed home until we could get married and then go study language together, but I felt that I was not to persuade him to stay, but trust God to lead him. I fasted and prayed and asked God to show Erik what to do and to give me peace about his decision. One warm summer night I stopped by to see him and he took me in his arms and told me he had returned his airline tickets and was going to stay home! Needless to say I was ecstatic. Erik says I actually jumped for joy!
A few weeks later we went out to pick blackberries together. After filling our pails he took me up to a hill overlooking the city. It was a beautiful evening. We walked along, hand in hand, until we came upon a picnic set under an oak tree! I was astonished to see it all laid out, right down to red-checked napkins, all sorts of good things to eat, sparkling cider, and my favorite chocolates. We sat down and he pulled a gift out of the picnic basket and said "I got this for you in London". I opened it up and found a beautiful brush and comb set, made of ebony and inlaid with silver. He then said that he'd bought this for the girl he would marry someday! I looked and inside the box was a ring! As I pulled it out he asked if I would marry him and told me, for the first time, that he loved me. The story wouldn't be complete without saying that I gasped in surprise and said "Really?" instead of "Yes"!
I loved that he waited to tell me he loved me until he asked me to marry him. It meant so much more that way. And I loved that he planned this elaborate picnic with my sisters and had his Mom wrap the present and that when we got back to my house I didn't have to say "Guess what!" because my family had all been in on the planning. And I loved that the peace of God was so very present in the whole thing and that His hand on us was so evident. And, needless to say, I loved Erik!
And I still do. We were married on a cold winter day a few months later. There was a rainbow in the sky, a symbol of God's faithfulness. And In the presence of God, our families and friends we vowed to love and honor and cherish each other.
And we still do.