Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Early Days

Everyone always thinks they have the best love story, so of course I think the same. For the past three years, I have been falling in love with one of the most amazing men God decided to put on this earth. The main reason things have worked out so well between Ben and I is that we decided early on that God needs to stay in the center of our lives. This is the best advice I can give to any young couple just starting to date-if God isnt the center of it all, things will rapidly go downhill. He is the glue that holds everything together.

I can't remember when Ben and I first met, because we've gone to the same church since he moved back to Yankton in second grade. So naturally, church is where we met, became friends, and began dating. One of the first things I remember about Ben is his truck...his 1981 tan Toyota truck. This thing stood was a two seater truck that was more rust than vehicle, but I loved it. I took my first ride in it after youth group one night when a few of us decided to go get ice was one of my first experiences with Ben, one I will never forget.

The summer of 2008 was one of the best summers of my entire life. Our youth group started hanging out pretty much every day...going to the beach, playing sand volleyball and mini golf, watching countless movies, and just enjoying each others fellowship. Ben was there much of the time, and we became pretty good friends. My mom would always hint about Ben, saying that he was such a nice young man. I totally misunderstood Ben at that time, though. He was the sweetest 16 year old boy I had ever met, but I just wasn't used to how he treated me and the rest of the girls in our group. He was so respectful, always opening doors, actually listening to what we had to say, and just being a good friend like his dad taught him. However, we just weren't used to boys being so nice, and I thought if I was too nice back, he would think I liked him, and at the time I didnt. So I spent a good deal of that summer making sure he didnt get the wrong impression...until the unthinkable happened! I started falling for Ben...

One week in July, my sister Katie went away to Honor's Choir, and it seemed that everyone else in our group was gone too. For the first time that summer, there was nothing to do and no one to hang out with...except for Ben and his little sister Samantha. Ben kept asking me to go fishing with him sometime that week, which freaked me out because I still wasn't sure how I felt about him and I didn't want him to think I was agreeing to go on a date with him. But soon I got so tired of saying no and I really had no excuse not to go, I finally said yes. I drug my little brother Matthew along so it wouldn't feel so much like a date. We were all piled into his little truck when Sam came riding home on her bike from babysitting, and I spontaneously asked her to join, which she did. I could tell Ben was not happy about this...did he really want this to be just the two of us?

Ben made me bait my own fishing hook, which grossed me out. I hadn't been fishing in years and was so concerned that Ben would think I was just some sissy girl. I was terrible at casting and could feel my cheeks flush each time my cast flopped three feet in front of me. Ever the sweetie, Ben never said anything. (Until we actually started dating...then he would make fun of my pathetic cast, no problem!) A few hours later, I had not caught anything and it was time to get going. I slowly pulled my line in...and wa-lah! I had a catch! Ben helped me reel in my bass, small mouth or large mouth I can't remember, but it was so exciting! Not only had I caught this big fish, but there was a smaller fish on the line too, and I had kept both my worms! Totally a natural. I couldn't help but wonder that night as I lay in my bed if Ben was impressed by my fishing skills...and if was after this night I knew I was falling for this sweet boy.

We began chatting on MSN that week a ton, because my sister Katie wasn't there...she usually had the computer at night because she was older. Each time we chatted, I learned something new about Ben and I began to like him more and more. This continued when school started a few weeks later, but I also knew that Ben and Katie chatted quite a bit too, which bothered me. They were in marching band and concert band together and got to talk quite a bit at school too, which really bothered me. And the icing on the cake...Ben asked Katie to prom! I was a year younger than Ben, and I was crushed. But, I never said anything and tried to hide my sadness about this.

Even as this was happening, Ben and I kept chatting at night and would hang out at church all the time. I was going through a rough time at school and was struggling with some things on my cross country team, and Ben invited me to go fishing with him to talk through some stuff. I was thrilled, but knew my parents would not agree to this unofficial date. I wasn't allowed to date or hang out alone with a boy until I was 16...not for 7 more months. So I sort of snuck out and we went on a "forbidden date." I was sick to my stomach the whole time, because my parents didn't know about this and I felt so naughty! But it was a really fun day. Ben brought a radio, it was a beautiful September day, and we were comfortable with each other. We ended up spending the entire day together...our youth pastor Jeremy called Ben and invited him to go to a friend's grandpa's funeral, so we awkwardly went to that. Later, we took a walk through the old Wal-Mart building that our church bought and was remodeling to become our new church. Ben had spent the entire summer working on it, which really impressed me. He worked on cars with his dad, and could do construction stuff too?? I thought this was adorable.

Going home was...awkward. My dad and I had a chat about how I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16. He straight up asked me if I liked Ben, to which I immediately blurted "No!" I walked to my parent's bedroom where my mom was watching tv, and told her I had just lied to my dad...I really did like Ben. This was the first time I had ever said this out loud. I was so confused...because sometimes it seemed like he liked me, and other times it didnt.

To add to all the confusion, Ben's parents got a divorce. This was difficult for me, because I was so close to Ben and Sam. I hung out with Sam a ton when this first happened and so wanted to be there for Ben too, but he never wanted to talk about it. I decided to cool it with my little crush for a bit, because Ben didn't need this right now. To my surprise though, Ben finally made a move! I was hanging out with Sam one Sunday when she gave me a note from Ben(which I still have, I believe). He wanted to meet later that night to talk about something important. My heart about jumped out of my throat! It was akward telling my family that Ben wanted to meet and talk, because they all knew I liked him and that he was probably going to ask me out. My mom dropped me off at Hy-Vee, the grocery store he worked at, and gave the okay for Ben to bring me home.

I walked in from the cold and rainy October 12 night and saw him sitting in the dining area of the store...hunched over the booth, praying. He later told me that was the only thing he could do because he was so nervous. He was adorable in his white button up shirt and bright red tie...curly hair sticking out everywhere because when he is thinking really hard about something he runs his fingers through his hair. He noticed me and flashed me his adorable smile, dimples and all.(We both have dimples in the same place...our future kids are going to be stinking cute!) On the table were two Mello Yellows, his favorite pop, and Smarties, the candy the store gave out to little kids. We made awkward small talk for a while, drinking Mello Yellow and playing with Smartie wrappers, when Ben finally said something along the lines of "Um...I kind of like you...and I was wondering...if you like me too?" I remember smiling and nodding...because I was so excited I couldnt talk. Hadn't I dreamed about this all summer??? We stayed and talked for a while, then had to leave because it was getting late. Ben ran out into the rain, jumping and yelling something I can't remember.

Our MSN chats were ten times more exciting after that night. Everytime we talked I fell for him a little more. It took a while for people at church to get used to the idea of Ben and I, because there weren't too many people dating in youth group. People did warm up to it did my family. He fit right into the craziness. We made sure to tell our youth pastor Jeremy right away, so he could keep us accountable. We spent the next 6 months waiting until I turned 16 so we could actually begin to date. I felt like a princess...someone was willing to wait 6 months just to date me!

We held hands for the first time in my Senior Pastor's house! So funny when we think back on that now. That simple connection...holding hands...made everything feel real. Its one of those things that every girl dreams about. It was sweet and adorable, a night I will never forget. We began to talk about our first kiss, which freaked Ben out at first. We spent hours on the phone, dreaming about our first kiss and making a list of all the things we would do when we could finally date for real. The months flew by.

My 16th birthday fell on a Friday. We hopped into his little truck after school and swung by Dairy Queen from blizzards, then headed down to the river so Ben could give me my gift. I unwrapped an antique jewerly box, and inside was the most adorable necklace ever. A small heart wrapped in a larger one with a tiny diamond in the smaller one. Perfect for a 16 year old in love. We took a walk under the old bridge across the river, when Ben stopped and asked if he could kiss me. I of course heart pounding so hard I was sure he could see it. He took my face in his hands and leaned in to give me the most perfect first kiss ever. So sweet, just perfect. We continued walking, and this old man kept seeing us sneaking kisses. He must have seen us two or three times...and we laughed every time. Poor old guy...out trying to enjoy his walk and he kept running into us.

Now that we could finally date, we spent the entire summer together. We went fishing, watched countless movies, and got dressed up to go out on "fancy dates." We were never bored...seemed like we were always laughing and enjoying life together. When school started I began to panic...this was our last year in school together before he would go to college. He decided to go to the University of Sioux Falls, only an hour away, but I wasnt sure I would go there, or it my parents would be okay with that if I did decide to go there. His graduation day was horrible for me, because it meant only three more months til he would leave. He spent most of the summer reassuring me that he loved me, but as a normal girl I had the fears that he wouldn't have time for me, that he wouldn't ever get to come home, or wose yet, that he would meet another girl. I trusted him, I just wasn't sure what God's plan was. Dropping him off was horrible, I cried the entire way home.

Ben was so sweet and patient with me. I knew I was being a baby...but we were so close that it hurt to be away from him for even a few weeks. We started writing letters...real letters...based on First Corinthians 13, or "The Love Chapter." We wrote about the individual love characteristics and what they meant to us personally, and how we could apply it in our lives to better love each other. I saved all of mine in a little purple box, and he has his in a binder, along with every other note, drawing, and letter I gave him since before we were dating. Its so fun to go back and read all of those notes and see how we've grown.

My parents knew how much I loved Ben and didn't have a problem with me going to USF the following year. It really is a great school...its just an added bonus that Ben is there too! We got engaged on December 7, 2011, but thats another story for another night :)

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