It’s her hair and her eyes today
that just simply take me away
and the feeling that I’m falling further in love
makes me shiver but in a good way
All the times I have sat and stared
as she thoughtfully thumbs through her hair
as she purses her lips, bats her eyes and she plays,
with me sitting there slack-jawed and nothing to say
’cause I love her with all that i am
and my voice shakes along with my hands
cause she’s all that I see and she’s all that I need
and I’m out of my league once again
These lyrics from the song “Out of My League” (Amazon MP3 | iTunes) by the band Stephen Speaks have always described the way I look at my beautiful, amazing wife Jennifer. Early in my relationship with Jennifer I felt like many of the words from this talented band were words from my own heart, as if they were written to speak the way I felt. I once emailed the band to ask them where they got their name, since no one in the band is named Stephen, and they explained that, like me, the band was named after Stephen from the Bible. Stephen lived out his faith and spoke God’s truth, no matter what the personal cost, and he became the first Christian martyr. If there was not already a band named Stephen Speaks, I probably would have given my website the same name. Their music has always been special to Jennifer and me as our relationship has grown.
In fact, when I proposed to Jennifer in December 2006 at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN, I sang “Out of My League” to her before I popped the question. It is our special song, and the weeks leading up to the proposal, I practiced singing the song over and over again at work. The company I worked for had thousands of boxes of old files that were stored in about 7 large self-storage units, and they were preparing the files to go to a professional storage company that would deliver any of the old files upon request. My job that fall and winter was to re-box/relabel/organize these tens-of-thousands of files to prepare them for professional storage, so I spent several hours a day (often in the cold) working by myself at the self-storage place. This allowed me to practice singing my proposal song while I worked, and there was no fear of embarrassment since no one was around to hear me.
I was listening to Stephen Speaks yesterday as I was getting ready for our 8th anniversary date, and it brought back all of my and Jennifer’s wonderful memories together. I am taking this chance to write about how our love story began.
THE TIME I ALMOST MOVED TO TEXAS
Texas and I have a history of almosts. Like me, both of my parents were born and grew up in Memphis, TN, but they both graduated from Baylor University in Waco, TX. My dad’s early insurance career carried my parents from Memphis to Dallas, to Baltimore, MD, back to Dallas, back to Memphis, to Atlanta, GA, to Nashville, TN and finally back to Memphis for good. All 3 of my siblings were born in Dallas, and my parents moved back to Memphis a couple years before I was born. If my dad had transferred a little bit less, I could have easily been a Texas baby as well.
Then when I graduated from Lipscomb University in May 2006, I had big plans to move from Nashville, TN to Abilene, TX to go to seminary at Abilene Christian University. I was enrolled in 2 online classes for the Fall 2006 semester, and I was moving to Texas in January 2007. While I had been planning grad school for months, including spending my entire senior spring break in Abilene, when school began in August 2006, I suddenly was overcome with this feeling that all these plans were no longer a part of my future. Something had changed, but I did not understand what.
Through much prayer, I just knew that I was not supposed to move to Texas, and instead I was supposed to stay in Nashville, TN. If you have known Jennifer and me the last few years, you would know that we have moved… ALOT! Think of the the Chris Tomlin song “I Will Follow (Amazon MP3 | iTunes).”
Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow you
The song refers to Exodus 13:21-32, when God was leading Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness.
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (NIV)
God gave the Israelites signs and guidance when it was time to keep moving, and similarly Jennifer and I have fully embraced the different doors that God has opened for us over the years. Including our recent move back to Guntersville, AL, we have lived in 7 different homes (apartments and houses), 5 different cities and 3 different states during our 8 years of marriage. We are all about the “GO” when we feel God leading us, but in August 2006 when I was getting ready to go to Texas for the next 3-4 years, I had to listen to God telling me to “STAY.” It was one of those weird moments where everything in life changed on a dime, but I knew that for whatever reason, I was at peace about it knowing that God was in control.
THE DAY MY LIFE TURNED 180º IN AUGUST 2006
Then things happened very quickly, with all the dominoes falling into place in a short 24-hour period, I talked to ACU and un-enrolled from their graduate school (with no financial penalties since classes were just starting that week). Even though they were already 1 week into classes, I was allowed to apply to the Hazelip School of Theology at Lipscomb University (where I had just received my Bachelor’s Degree 3 months earlier). So that day I filled out the application, wrote the application essay, had the medical forms filled out by a doctor, had 3 letters of recommendation written for me by professors and ministers, got accepted into the program, applied and received financial aid (a combo of scholarship and student loans), registered for classes (late) and bought my books. If something is the right thing, it is never too late! For the rest of my life I will never forget how God made all of that happen in just a day, but at the time I still had no idea why God wanted me to STAY in Nashville instead of GO to Texas.
What I did not know is that on the very same August day when God turned my life 180º, there was a beautiful 21-year-old woman moving from Birmingham, Alabama to Hermitage, Tennessee (suburb of Nashville) to start her new court-reporting job in downtown Nashville. God had recently opened the door for this young woman to leave her previous plans behind in Alabama and move to Tennessee. She had literally just signed a lease on an apartment in Birmingham only a few weeks before she got this great job offer in Nashville. She accepted the job on the spot, broke her apartment lease and left everything behind for an exciting, new start in Nashville. Everything happened very quickly for her, and while God had told me very clearly to STAY, God told Jennifer very clearly to GO. Not so coincidentally, with God carefully controlling all these moving parts, Jennifer moved to Nashville literally the very same day God gave my life a new purpose and direction in the very same city that I almost left for Texas. Ironically, the band Stephen Speaks, whose music is so special to Jennifer and me, was formed in Abilene, TX at the same school I nearly went to just before I met Jennifer.
One month after that fateful day in August, Jennifer and I met and very quickly fell in love. We were inseparable, and we stayed up late every night talking, which was huge for Jennifer who values sleep more than any person alive. When my car broke down in the ghetto 2 days after we met, I met a car-guy who worked at Autozone, and he did some repairs for me. Jennifer and I joke that we fell in love in the Autozone parking lot because we spent many hours that 1st week just sitting and talking there on the curb while Byron (car-guy) worked on my dying Nissan Pathfinder. In mid-December, a mere 83 days after we met, I took this amazing young woman on a hike at Radnor Lake, stopped by the water at a secluded spot, sang the ever-true words of “Out of My League” that I had practiced so hard (As someone without a great singing voice, no amount of practice could make perfect, but A for effort, right?!), got down on one knee and asked the girl that I loved more than anyone in the world to spend the rest of her life with me. She said yes!