(If you’re looking for links to other parts of the story, scroll to the end of this post.)
One spring evening after the other, walking and talking with warm cups of tea, led into summer weekends spent by each other’s side. On Canada Day, we drove to the city to meet a few of Randy’s friends and spent the afternoon sprawled out in a park playing board games and frisbee. In the evening, Randy and I went for dinner with his brother before sneaking away for a little time to ourselves.
We walked hand in hand along the Olympic Village waterfront as the sun set. I took my iPhone out from my back pocket and switched it to the camera. Randy stood behind me, wrapping his arms around me as I pressed the button for a selfie.
The streetlights illuminated the darkness as we made our way back to his truck parked a few blocks away. Once inside, Randy leaned across the console and grabbed my hand. “Today was amazing. I love you, Jamie.” I reached over and held his hand with both of mine. “Thank you,” I whispered. Randy lifted up the console and moved his body closer to mine and suddenly, our whole world was in the front seat of that truck. Feeling his breath near mine, listening to his words, feeling his hands on my waist. Our lips drew near to one another, close to meeting until I turned away… thinking, not yet.
I turned out the light beside my bed later that night, grabbing my phone to look through the photos from our day together. As I flipped through each selfie, I studied our faces together. It felt so strange and wonderful to see a photo of us. A photo of me and my… boyfriend. Randy.
We were together. It was a good thing. It finally felt like a good, content thing. Good enough to open Instagram and subtly post, “Loved spending Canada Day with this guy,” (no name, no details) announcing to the “world” for the first time (after three months of going on dates) I was ‘dating.’
The following weekend, I traveled to shoot a wedding on Vancouver Island and Randy snuck a note in my bag before I left. Leading up to the weekend, I didn’t want to commit to a certain level of communication… it was a work weekend after all. I was going with a friend, I wanted to spend time with her. I was, in many ways, still desperately holding onto my ‘singleness.’
I’ve never been much of a talk-on-the-phone kind of girl, but after returning to our motel after the rehearsal, I picked up the phone to call him. I’ll keep it short, I thought, just touch base and tell him a bit about my day. Five minutes turned into thirty minutes and into an hour before I could even look at the clock. I was laying on my back on the couch, feet up, giggling the whole conversation through.
“I watched that video,” Randy said on the other line.
“Hmm… what video?”
“The elopement you posted.”
Earlier in the day, I had shared an elopement video on my Facebook profile – I was obsessed with the song playing in the background and the couple’s wedding day, vows and emotion of the film was too good to keep to myself. I loved watching love… and celebrating falling in love! Part of me wanted to send it directly to Randy because I loved sharing things with him, but I was afraid of what kind of message sending the video directly to Randy would say. I knew Randy’s heart was ahead of mine. I didn’t feel what that couple was sharing in their vows for him yet.
I took a quick breath in. ”Oh, that one. Right.”
“It’s amazing. I loved it so much. And you’re right – great song.”
I quickly changed the topic of conversation, not wanting to wade into emotional territory. When we said goodnight and my friend and I had some girl talk, it was over an hour later until we were ready to sleep. I opened up my phone to check my email, knowing Randy was in the habit of sending “p.s.” notes. There was one.
“Can’t stop listening to that song and re-watching that video. Thinking about you. Hope you have a good time tomorrow.”
I exhaled. I knew Randy loved me – it was a fact he had verbalized for months now. I also knew he saw me as his future wife, by now… Although he had never verbalized any of that. He knew better. I was it for him. He didn’t have to say it – every mannerism and look oozed commitment.
I was a few steps behind.
Randy worked hard to emotionally give me what I needed – space, time, freedom to be me. He held back his emotions, while trying to remain true to himself. When I asked him to stop saying, “I love you…” he tried to listen. It was all too much, too soon. But with time and patience, when Randy’s eyes locked into mine and he said, “You’re so incredible” twenty times over the course of one date… the words were almost endearing over terrifying.
Ever so slowly, Randy’s “I love you’s” made a come back.
When saying goodnight, when hanging up the phone, when looking over to the passenger seat of his truck. He never asked for a response and I could tell he genuinely didn’t need a response. Randy’s love wasn’t given with strings attached. It was simply given. A funny thing started happening in my heart when “I love you” came around. I didn’t feel panic anymore and… I didn’t write it off as “just a silly emotion he’s feeling at the beginning of our relationship.”
I began to trust his words. They even felt… safe.
Randy’s work ethic and optimism constantly inspired me. Life has thrown Randy more than his fair-share of curveballs and it’s only made him stronger, more integral and more determined. When Randy was sixteen he started working full-time maintaining machines at Home Depots all over the Island. The next year, he found himself as one of the youngest managers at the local lumber mill and worked long, strenuous days overseeing a huge operation. At eighteen, he started working for a contracting company and through hands-on experience learned how to do almost every trade needed to build a house.
Within a short period of time, he learned to manage the crew of guys and was soon handling almost all of the paperwork and behind-the-scenes managerial work. After four years of working in Courtenay, Randy moved to Langley to open a new branch of the company. Through an unfortunate turn of events the second year in business (his partner decided to close the Langley company suddenly, without notice) Randy was left without a job.
So, during the same month we started dating Randy found himself in a new city, starting again financially. It wasn’t an easy place to be in, especially at the beginning of a serious relationship. It seemed like crappy timing. But if we believe God controls our days, we believe it was also perfect timing.
Looking back, I wanted to know I could trust a man who could be my husband someday with my whole life. Trust him to trust God when everything wasn’t going according to plan. Falling into anger or frustration wasn’t going to help. It was amazing to hear Randy talk so faith-filled about his situation. His reality didn’t feel awesome but Randy was thankful for the opportunity to learn from every season. I loved Randy’s heart and determination.
A few weeks into our dating relationship, Randy started his own contracting company with a vision using the financial resources we have in Canada to help others in need. The potential of his new business was exciting! But I knew firsthand, starting any new business was time-consuming in the first couple of years. I watched Randy work 60-70 hours a week and he never complained about work once. I’m serious, even once. He was open and honest – some weeks were tougher than others, he’d admit he was tired, but he never complained. Even more impressive, he regularly made time for us. If it meant working 6:00am to 6:00pm, taking me out until 10:00pm for dinner and walk, dropping me off and working 3 hours on the computer until 1:00am, he did it. He loved to take me out after a long day of work and said there was “always time,” you “just had to find it.”
Another challenge we faced together those first few months of dating was my health. I struggled with digestive issues as a baby, when doctors discovered I was allergic to both dairy and soy and my screaming, restless sleep was due to intestinal pain. There’s a long list of other issues over the next twenty years but a few months before Randy and I stated dating, I suffered a severe colon spasm and for a full hour, I was in the worst pain I could imagine. After a few years of wonderful health, I started seeing a Naturopath again to figure out why my system was upset.
For the first four months of Randy and I’s friendship (friendship defined as “when I started hanging out in groups with him” in January) I was on a completely sugar-free diet. Natural sugars, real sugar, honey, every single kind of sweetener. (And no wheat, dairy, soy, vinegar, white rice, white potatoes, etc.) When we took a February day trip to Seattle with friends, I made my lunch and dinner and packed it in a tupperware. Randy never questioned “Why do you have to eat like that?” or made fun of natural medicine instead he sought to help: asking what he could buy to keep at his house for when I came over. My energy struggled severely during the four-month cleanse as toxins were released and even after the cleanse, my energy was low. I went from running 10km on Saturday mornings without a problem and 5km almost every day after work to napping on the couch in afternoons. I was sick and it was frustrating.
The summer was difficult for me. Low energy was frustrating. Staying out too late and missing sleep would ruin my next few days. By eight o’ clock at night I was yawning. Some weeks I was on the brink of tears all day long. I felt terrible. I wished I had the energy to match Randy’s like I used to! I tried to keep a healthy perspective and most weeks, had to trust that season was ending soon. Randy always held me and encouraged me. He patiently read and responded to my lengthy paragraph texts after doctor updates with genuine interest and care. He asked questions, he daily prayed for me. I always felt encouraged (in the midst of my discouragement) by him. As I looked back on our few short months together so far, I couldn’t help but think “this is real life – losing jobs, financial pressures, health issues, chaotic work seasons,” and every week we only grew more and more as a couple.
This was real.
P.S. My health is much better now and has been for the last two years. I love Naturopaths and truly owe so much of my health to their amazing knowledge and care! Now if only universal health care would cover natural medicine… ;)
The introduction of Forge can be found here and Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Part Four can be found here. Part Five can be found here. Part Six can be found here. Part Seven can be found here. Part Eight can be found here. Part Nine can be found here. Part Ten can be found here. Part Eleven can be found here. Part Twelve can be found here. Part Thirteen can be found here. Part Fourteen can be found here. Part Fifteen can be found here. This is Part Sixteen.