Brad was one of the first friends I made at Northeast Mississippi Community College. I met him the first day of my freshman year. He was a grown-up sophomore (ha!) and he made it his mission to help me get involved. I was extremely shy and quiet back then and he would always invite me to go do stuff with his group of friends and encourage me.
We met at the Baptist Student Union, and actually became a couple at the same place, even though it wasn't planned that way. It actually wasn't planned at all, at least not by Brad. Heh.
Honestly, I was really hoping that our friendship would turn into something more but I didn't want HIM to know that because I wasn't sure how he felt and I was a big chicken.
One night in September we had gone out for ice cream with a group of our friends and then we went back to the BSU to hang out. We were all standing outside talking and Brad had his arm around me. There was this guy named Bam Bam (pretty sure that's not actually what was on his birth certificate but that was what we all called him.). Anyway, Bam Bam, God bless him, noticed Brad's arm around me and in the typical blunt fashion of teenage males, he said "Are y'all going out?" Awkward much?!? I just did my best impression of a deer trapped in headlights because I sure wasn't going to say yes because Brad hadn't asked me out and I wasn't going to say no because I didn't want him to think I didn't want to go out with him. So after a long, awkward pause, Brad looked down at me, shrugged casually, and said "It's alright with me if it's alright with you." And I nodded my head, and that's how our relationship began. I know that seems really improbable, but everyone reading this who actually knows Brad is nodding their head in agreement right now.
Our relationship got off to a good start, but it wasn't without its issues. For our first official date, Brad asked me to an Ole Miss football game. Again, if you know him at all, no big shock there. I readily agreed but my parents wouldn't let me go unless they got to meet Brad first. What can I say, I was 18 and living at college but my parents didn't play...more about that in just a minute.
So one night during the week prior to the game we rode to my house so my parents could meet Brad. Everything went smoothly and they gave their approval for us to go to Oxford that weekend. I breathed a sigh of relief had after biding my parents good-bye we headed on back to Booneville.
I had left my car parked at the BSU, so we had to stop back by there before we parted ways. We got to the BSU but sat and talked in Brad's Blazer. Now let me say, I had my very first cell phone at this point but it was 1999 and cell phones aren't what they are now. For crying out loud, texting hadn't even been invented yet. Wow, I feel old. So anyway, I had a cellphone but I only turned it on when I needed to make a call. Truly, I think my parents only bought it as a tracking device. It was basically only used to call my parents and let them know where I was and that I was okay. Have you picked up on the fact that my parents were a smidge overprotective? Yeeaaaah.
So while Brad and I sat there chatting, my parents were calling my dorm room to make sure I had gotten back safely. And of course I wasn't there. They tried calling my cell phone, but of course it wasn't on.
The longer Brad and I sat there and talked happily, the more anxious my parents became. While I chatted blissfully, they sat out to LOOK FOR ME!
Brad and I had no clue, so on we talked. And when we finally ran out of things to say, we shared our very first kiss. It was sweet, and innocent, and very meaningful to me. And when I pulled back, my parents were parked next to us, glaring.
I'm not even kidding. Remember Enoch in the Bible? He walked with God and he was so righteous he didn't even die, God just carried him on up to heaven and suddenly they couldn't find him on the Earth anymore. I seriously prayed very hard for that to happen to me in that exact moment. Alas, God said no to that one, because I'm still here to tell the tale but if dying from embarrassment was a real thing, y'all would not be reading this now. (Quite possibly I'm not righteous as Enoch.) For real though! Can you imagine? There we sat and Brad still had his arm around me, and he said "Who is that?" and I said "Um, my parents..." and he jerked his arm away from me so fast I 'bout got whiplash.
So I tried to act like it was no big deal while still frantically begging God to go on and rapture just me RIGHT THEN. I told Brad I'd get out and see what they wanted and he told me to call him later and let him know if everything was ok.
So I got in with my parents and heard the whole lecture about "we thought you were laying dead in a ditch and here you are kissing a boy in front of God and everybody right here in the BSU parking lot" and on and on and on.
When I finally got back to my dorm room I was doing what could only be termed as "boo-hooing." My sweet roommate Kelli had answered all my parents frantic phone calls and she knew I was in major trouble. I remember her saying "I got on my knees and prayed for you!" and me being so grateful for her, even though I didn't get taken up to heaven on a chariot before having to face my parents. ;)
And then I still had to call Brad. I managed to reign in my blubbering long enough to call him and try to act casual about the whole thing. Which was not easy. "Hey, it's me. Yeah, my parents randomly stalk me from time to time. I'm an only child and there's no one else to distract them. We still on for this weekend?" Ha! When we hung up I flung myself across the bed sobbing and said "He's never gonna talk to me again and it's a shame too because he's a really good kisser!"
Weirdly, miraculously, he did talk to me again. I'm not sure why, really. I think a lot of guys would've ran off at warp speed. Let me be clear--I'm not putting my parents down. They are really good people, despite their stalking tendencies. And I do have my redeeming qualities, although it was probably too early for Brad to know that for sure. I mean, I can cook, talk sports, and I know the difference between a Phillips Head and a flathead screwdriver. I think a shopping spree involves going to Goodwill and Dollar Tree. So really, I'm quite a catch. But back then I was just a silly little college freshman, and I'm glad Brad didn't jet off. He said since then it was like God had blinders on him as far as all that stuff was concerned, and it didn't even stress him. (Oh, so your parents pop up in unexpected places. No big deal. Hi Mom and Dad!) He felt that was evidence God had orchestrated the relationship and not just us and Bam-Bam.
Anyhow, here we are now and there's so much water under the bridge since that time. Some of it good, some of it bad, but honestly WAY more good than bad.
I'm so thankful for the life we have together and all the adventures we've had along the way. I'm thankful for all the struggles we've had that managed to pull us closer together rather than drive us apart.
I was talking to a young friend recently. She is considering marriage and I was cautioning her not to rush into things and to be careful for what qualities you look for in a mate. I told her that marriage is hard work, and I meant that. I'm not sure she understood, and I'm not sure 18 year old me would've totally gotten it either.
Brad and I have both made some not so great decisions and had to work through that. Autism is hard on a marriage. The human condition is hard on a marriage LIFE is hard on a marriage. But I am so thankful God has brought us this far and redeemed so much. There's no one else I'd rather be sharing this journey with.
Earlier this week we were headed to Southaven to take Korban to the doctor. Brad was going too, as he always does, which I am so thankful for. He had to run by his office to drop off some paperwork, and I was looking at Facebook while I waited on him. I saw that one of our friends was out ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at our local Wal-Mart that day. He does this every year as a service to God. Brad and I both admire and respect that. It was really cold that day, and when Brad got back in the van I said "David's out ringing the bell today and we're gonna go by and get him a coffee before we head to Southaven." Brad didn't even hesitate he immediately said "And a biscuit too!" And I just laughed and said "That right there--that's one of the MANY reasons I love you." He didn't even know what I was talking about at first. It's like that verse in the Bible that says "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two." (Matthew 5:41, NKJV) Brad's just the kind of man who goes the extra mile, and for that I'm eternally grateful. Lord knows my miles haven't been the easiest, but I thank God for giving me someone who is willing to go that extra mile anyway.
That's what I would encourage my young friend to look for in a mate. Not that I'm am expert on marriage by any means, just someone who's thankful for what she has. Don't worry about how sporty his car is or what kind of Valentine gift he can come up with. All that stuff is fun, but it won't sustain you. Look for someone who loves Jesus, who respects you and is kind to others. Look for someone who's good in a crisis, because sooner or later you will need that. We all do. Sometimes it's just the most steadfast, seemingly mundane things that mean the most. Like when you are heading home from the hospital with your firstborn and you are scared out of your mind. You'd be surprised how sexy a CPR certification suddenly seems!
Going the extra mile--I pray I'm the kind of woman who is willing to walk it. So thankful for the years Brad and I have had together and for ALL the miles we've walked together, not just the easy ones. When we first got together I used to pray all the time that God would make us better together than we were by ourselves. I definitely think He's answered that prayer--and I'm glad He answered that one and not the "Enoch me out of here already!" prayer. Grateful we serve a God who sees ALL of our path and not just what we see in front of us at the time. :)