I am so thrilled to offer you this gift for Valentine’s Day– A STORY.
A story of love done right…of love that lasts…of love that grows more beautiful with time.
A love story about two opposites brought together to create a whole family of passionate Jesus followers.
Because isn’t that the story we all wish for? work for? hope for?
May God keep your hope alive as you read what He did not so long ago for Jay and Michele.
Theirs is a love worth waiting for my dear friends.
From my heart,
Our Love Story
We were young, passionate, idealistic, and complete opposites. Jay was quiet. I was outgoing. He was laid back. I was the strong leader. He was composed. I wore my emotions on my sleeve. He was the youngest. I was the oldest.
And our backgrounds just highlighted the fact.
Jay lived in the same house his entire childhood. I moved nine times before leaving college. His parents have been happily married for 42 years. My parents drug my brother and me through a three year divorce that was a living hell. He grew up in a home full of Jesus followers. I was raised in a Catholic/Italian family where church was a box we checked, mainly out of respect for my grandparents. He grew up in a family that was budget conscious and always able to provide. My mom worked two jobs and lived off food stamps with no help from my dad.
But then again, you know what they say about opposites….
In pursuit of a degree in Intercultural Studies, I set off to Ecuador to work for HCJB Global my summer of junior year in college. I was hoping to gain experience on the mission field and ask the Lord where he wanted to send me in the future. I was focused, determined, and hopeful that he had a future for me in his creation. I was ready to learn a new language, help coordinate short term teams for the summer, and ready to find my place on the mission field.
It was funny. I hadn’t yet stepped foot in Ecuador and all the buzz was about some cute girl from my same university. All the missionaries wanted us to meet – a forced “chance” encounter. It was the last thing on my mind. I was headed to Ecuador to work and to serve the Lord. And the last thing I wanted was to be set up by some odd missionaries.
Before I get to the part where I actually met Jay, I will just say that I had lots of opportunities to have met him before. We both went to the same University in Los Angeles. We had mutual friends. Even a bunch of the missionaries I had corresponded with had mentioned him to me. My prideful self just brushed him aside. I was out to seek the Lord for my future on the mission field, not find a guy. Well…so I thought.
The first “Michele sighting” was a blur. It was a fleeting moment, but I still remember it to this day – standing in the reception room of HCJB Global. We were both on our own orientation tours, and it didn’t take long for us to realize we should spend some time together.
I was setting out on a year-long commitment in Quito. No friends. No acquaintances. Just me. I quickly realized just how lonely the mission field could be. And yet there, right in front of me, was a girl from my school – fun, outgoing, friendly. It was platonic. I could easily convince myself of that. Just a great friendship. A travelling buddy.
And Michele was in no better situation. She was surrounded by other students in the same internship program – and yet not one of them held her same interests. She needed a friend almost as badly as I did.
We spent the entire summer together learning the ins and outs of an international mission organization. We practiced our Spanish, explored a new culture, and slowly learned a thing or two about one another. It was an adventure of a lifetime. Living in Quito allowed us to experience high mountain Andean life and culture. Yet, a short bus ride away and we could easily find ourselves lost in the rainforest, swimming in the Amazon River, flying into the same remote villages where Jim Elliot set out to share the Good News, or exploring beautiful beaches.
( enjoying Andean cuisine … aka: guinea pig)
And although we’d stay up late talking about our families, dreaming about our futures, and learning just how different we were, the “us” topic just never seemed to come up.
And so, after ten weeks of incredible adventures together…I left.
I went back home to Northern California. I told endless stories of the adventures I had, how the Lord expanded my awareness of injustice and poverty, how I got to worship in remote tribal villages, praising the Lord in three different languages, worshiping one true God, and….
How I met the man of my dreams.
But that was it. I was pretty sure I would never talk to Jay again. I had no intention of emailing or keeping in contact with him. If he wanted a relationship, he was going to have to pursue me. (Finally my pride was serving me well!)
I’ve always been slow. The last to catch on. The last to take action. So it was no surprise, laying in bed, two days after Michele had taken off – back to the U.S. – that I realized my mistake. What did I do? Did I seriously let her leave?
I had nothing to complain about while she was there. She had become my best friend. We did everything together. We knew everything about each other. But anything further? My mind hadn’t even gone there. After all, I had what I wanted. I had her. But now she was gone. I was a wreck and I had to do something. So, as the great romantic, I sent her an email.
Four days after arriving home, I received an email from Jay. I was beyond ecstatic by the fact that there was an email from him. But I was more excited to read what he had to say. After much nervous joking in the email, he got to the nitty gritty. He said, “I think those feelings…yes I have them…are finally kicking in. I miss you. For a long time I haven’t really known what I thought of us. But for the first time, in a long time, I think I do. I miss you and I know we had something special. Should we consider this a little more?”
Is that romantic or what?
Right. Not romantic at all. But at least I got her attention. And she was willing to give our relationship a try.
We were in new territory now. I still had 8+ months left in Ecuador. Michele had a year and a half left of school in Los Angeles. We’d have to make things work long distance. So, I stocked up on international phone cards and settled in for the long-haul. I was beginning to realize, this girl was definitely worth the wait.
We dated long distance for three semesters while I, along with 4 of the best girls in So Cal lived in a two bedroom dump in Orange County (infested with bugs). This was the home of some of my most memorable moments in college. Jay would visit every few months as he travelled back and forth to Ecuador. And living only 5 minutes from the most magical and romantic place on earth, we’d visit Disneyland often. But then he would leave and I would have the time of my life with my friends, soaking up all that school had to offer.
Post graduation, Jay was finally back in the States. He had taken a position with Luis Palau in Portland, and I knew I would have to take a chance and head north if we wanted to see where this would go. So, my roomie/friend and I journeyed up to Portland for a new adventure…and in hopes that Jay and I would get engaged.
We both knew why Michele moved up to Portland. It was the next logical step. And now the ball was in my court. Although she might claim I drug my feet, the majority of my time was spent on trying to find the perfect ring for my soon-to-be fiancée. And on March 17, 2004, I successfully surprised her with a picnic lunch and a proposal for marriage at Portland’s Rose Garden in Washington Park. Now it was just a matter of how quickly we could plan a wedding.
Although Jay was everything I could have dreamed of, in my heart I really struggled to believe that our relationship would last. How was I to believe that we were any different than my parents? How was I to ensure that we wouldn’t be divorced in 10 years?
Because I can’t conceal my emotions even if tried, Jay asked me what was going on in my heart. I told him my concerns. With all the love that he could muster up, he sat me down and said: “If you cannot believe that my proposal of marriage is forever then I am afraid we are not going to be able to proceed forward with our engagement. I will not marry you with doubt in your heart.” He left my apartment. There really wasn’t more to discuss.
That night I poured my face into my pillow and cried out to the Lord. I wanted so badly to believe him. I wanted so badly to trust Jay at his word and I wanted so badly to do things right. I repented of my fear. As John Mark Comer says, “Anxiety is temporary atheism.” Did I really believe God to be who he says he is? That in spite of the ugliness that life may present to our marriage did I not believe that God would win out? That he would get us through any struggle that would come our way? That at the end of the day, he would be the restorer and healer of the brokenness that I came from?
That night the Lord changed my heart and I made a choice to not believe the lies that Satan would like me to believe and to be held in bondage of fear of all the what if’s in life.
I choose to believe! That Jay would be a man of his word, that God would protect us, guide and warn us when we were going astray…just as He had for so many years to the Israelites.
And so with the help of our amazing families and friends, we married on August 20, 2004 in California and also had an Oregon reception in Portland put on by Jay’s parents.
Jay and I have now been married for 7 years and have two beautiful boys, Carter (4) & Elliot (2). Jay works still works with Luis Palau, now as the Creative Director. He is also the co-owner of an up-and-coming publishing company. He is passionate about the written word. I get to be a stay-at-home mom and together we are devoted to raising a generation of God fearing men.
I still look at Jay sometimes and wonder how in the world did I ever get to marry such an amazing man of God? He is faithful, patient and continually points me back to Jesus. I run to him with my failures and he reminds me of the grace that Jesus has showered over me. I run to him with my dreams and he reminds me who created them. I would never have imagined marriage could be so gratifying.
And yet, I know the truth. I so won out on this deal. I could have never expected to marry someone as amazing as Michele. Just as I ground her in truth, she grounds me in love. She challenges and encourages me to no end. And she is filled with grace.
Was it all worth it? We feel like we’re bragging sometimes. No doubt it was worth it. And the best is yet to come.
Jay and Michele