Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Ah the love day! I'm sure a small fortune is spent on this day, all over the Western world. It kind of bothers me to be honest. Now don't get me wrong, I am all about love and one of my main love languages is gifts, but I like heartfelt gifts, that time and effort have gone into, or spontaneous gifts, not gifts that are expected or that the marketers have told us to get and give because of their chosen day. He doesn't need to buy me diamonds or a fancy car or anything else of high value to prove his love.

I want to share with you one of my favorite gifts of all time. This little wooden heart that James made for me seventeen years ago. I still have it, it gets transferred from bag to bag. It is a little more worn than when I first received it, but I love it, still. It fits perfectly in the palm of my hand, a little larger than a quarter. He made it, with love, but it's not just that, it's the history and the thought that are behind it.

For those of you who don't know our story, grab a cup of tea (or your beverage of choice) and I will fill you in on a little of how this British girl ended up married to an American guy. I warn you though, it may take a little time.

We met in Scotland one weekend, many years ago. I had recently finished a DTS (discipleship training school) and was back for a weekend to visit friends. A new school was about to start and I knew everyone on the leadership and leadership training, apart from James. Because the rest of us knew each other, nobody thought to introduce the two of us, so I had to take it on myself.

Before leaving Scotland, a couple of months prior, I had visited a drama ministry looking to take on more staff and they had mentioned a guy from California named James who was also interested. I asked him if he was that James and it turned out he was! Thus our conversations started.

I truly believe we were meant to meet, we were meant to be together. It is as if, for the previous year, we had been looking at the same opportunities and our lives had been on parallel paths, as one of us changed out direction, so did the other. We had both planned on attending a school south of London, we both looked at the drama opportunity, we both ended up in Scotland, Seamill, West Kilbride, at different times, granted, on different schools, but that weekend we were there together and a connection was made. He says he knew that weekend that I was going to be his wife but (very, very wisely) didn't tell me - I would have run a mile!

He was attentive and kind and funny, but not just with me, with everybody he interacted with. I know, because I was watching. I didn't feel like he was trying to make an impression on me, that's just how he was and I really liked him. Of course, it was just a weekend and at the end of it I headed back to the southern-most part of England, nine hours away. I had made many great friends during my time in Scotland and the leaving and the goodbyes had been so hard. We had all gone our separate ways, many to countries far far away and with no idea if we would ever see each other again. On my train ride home that weekend it struck me that I wanted to see that man again, I didn't want that to be it. So I wrote him a letter, just letting him know that I would love to keep in touch.

What I didn't know, until much later, was that he had felt God tell him that weekend that I was going to be his wife. In his own humanity he had felt like it was potentially easy to let his emotions, or an attraction, cloud his ability to hear clearly and so he had prayed and told God that if he was not making this up that he needed me to write to him first. He was not going to make any attempt to contact me or follow up (and as far as he knew he would never see me again). Well I mailed my letter that same day I wrote it and he received it two days later!

That's how it started, we wrote a ridiculous amount and really got to know each other. He featured majorly in my thoughts, but he was an American and would be half a world away before I knew it. Still we continued to write and then graduated to phone calls...and then I decided that I wanted to visit Scotland again, you know, just to catch up with my friends.

I was NERVOUS! I felt like I really, really liked him but dating wasn't going to work, not in the traditional sense with the distance and really unless this was going to go somewhere I didn't want to waste time. I just wanted to know if he liked me (he still hadn't said anything to that effect) or move on. He had become a major distraction and I wasn't okay with that. It needed to be dealt with, one way or another. It was scary.

So the second time we met there was a lot riding on it. It was a wonderful weekend, hanging out with friends and him of course. The Saturday the two of us had spent most of the day with some old friends of his (married with a baby) exploring a nearby island, The Isle of Arran. We had paired off on our way back and walked along the beach together while his friends took a more stroller friendly route. It would have been a perfect, romantic time for him to declare his feelings...except that I was so nervous that I barely let him get a word in, poor guy. That's kind of how that weekend went, I wanted to know if he had feelings, but the enormity of the potential of what that could lead to, freaked me out and so I couldn't allow for the space and the moment for him to share that.

I was due to head home on the Monday and Monday rolled around and he hadn't said anything so I decided that he was a wonderful guy but maybe I had just misread it all. I really didn't think I had, we were extremely comfortable together and had really clicked, but I was NOT going to force something to happen if it wasn't meant to, I was not going to be the one to bring up the subject...and then as he was about to head into a meeting he grabbed me and asked if we could go for a walk afterwards, he had something he wanted to say, he told me.

I started to freak out. I mean really freak out, I felt that I might be sick. My heart was racing. The anticipation, as I waited for his meeting to finish, was almost more pressure than I could bear. As we started to walk down the path, just a couple of hours before I was due to leave, I was shaking. So I filled the gap again with my voice. Finally he asked if I could stop talking for a few moments as he had something to say.

As he started to let me know that he had feelings for me, I stopped him and told him I had to leave and started to walk away. I just couldn't handle it. This poor man, who had drummed up the courage to finally ask me to kindly shut up so that he could essentially declare his undying love for me, was, for a moment, standing alone, wondering what on earth had just happened? Fortunately he grabbed me and brought me back and made me listen to what he had to say, all while I, unable to look him in the eye, stood staring at a tree stump as I repeatedly kicked and scraped it with my foot.

Weeks later, for some reason, that tree stump had needed to be removed and he had salvaged some wood from it and crafted for me this heart that you see at the top of the page. It is a constant reminder of how we started, it can take me back to those feelings of butterflies and fear and joy and excitement, in a moment. We have a crazy story and a wonderful love and it's a love that is real and true and has stood the test of time and that I know will last a lifetime.

Obviously you know how the story ended as here we are, married sixteen years, with three children and I wouldn't have my life any other way.

I know that for some of you out there this day might feel like a slap in the face (I dislike it too), but please don't ever settle for anything less than the real thing. This is just another day and your worth is not dictated by whether you receive flashy jewelry or chocolates or flowers or a cheesy card. Your heart is the most valuable gift and should not be given away cheaply to someone who will not cherish and take care of it and protect it with all that they have and are. If and when it is the right time, give it freely and completely, but until then, love your friends and your family and live your life fully, with no regrets.


  1. What a beautiful and romantic story!! I especially like the part about the Island of Arran and the obvious reason for your son's name...thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Aw thanks Mary, yep that's the history to Arran's name, a place with a special place in both our hearts :) Thanks for reading!

  3. I have heard this story but never the walking away from him part! What a treasure that little wooden heart is:) I am so glad you two got together and that we get to be a part of your story in this life.