Ok, so I never realized how hard it would be to find time to sit down and write out the story of Nat and I from my perspective since that is, after all, the title of my blog! I have a few moments now, and thought I would snatch them while I could:). I most likely will get very wordy because that's just the way I am, so my feelings won't be hurt if you don't have time to read through this whole post today!
[By the way, I've searched high and low for pictures of Nat and I and I've come to the conclusion that the only pictures we have are from our engagement day. Hmmm, we'll have to work on that!]
Because I love irony, I think it's great Nat and I have the same birthday ~ February 1st. So yes, that makes Nat exactly 5 years older than me and I like to think we're going to be very efficient in our birthday celebrations since they're on the same day and all:).
Nat came to my church about 4 years ago and came on church staff right away, so I saw him on a daily basis and became friends with him. When I first met him, I thought Nat was a nice guy and was really impressed with his consistent character and pleasant demeanor. At the time, I never really thought anything more about him, outside of being a friend. That's one really good thing about not dating ~ everyone seriously can just be friends with everyone without pairing off.
In April 2008, Nat and I were chaperones on a high school trip to Illinois. I'm not sure why, but something clicked in my mind on that trip and I suddenly realized Nat was a very godly man who loved the Lord. I began to sporadically pray about Nat and wonder to the Lord if Nat could be "the one." After that trip, I took a friend into confidence and told her what I was thinking. It just so happened that around that time my Pastor was preaching a series of messages on accountability and the importance of being accountable to someone, so I asked my friend if she would keep me accountable regarding my thought life. I didn't want to think about Nat or begin to dream, as girls are so prone to do! I praise the Lord for my friend who did a great job in asking me "how are you doing?" when I was at weak and struggling moments. My friend kept me accountable for over a year and was truly used of the Lord in my life.
In August 2008, I headed back to Thailand to help some missionaries ~ completely excited and thrilled to be following the Lord's leading! Two months later, Nat came to Thailand with a small group of men from my church and then stayed an additional two weeks after the men returned home. As I watched Nat interact with the missionaries and my co-workers, I liked what I saw.
Once he returned home, Nat began to chat me on IM about general things: the office work in Thailand, church happenings back in PA, etc. Years ago, I went out to breakfast with a friend who was telling me about how she and her husband got together and toward the end of the conversation Jenn said, "Let the guy you marry pursue you, Anne. There's nothing sweeter!" I remembered what she said and determined not to initiate a chat or an e-mail with Nat. I figured if he was the guy for me, he was going to have to pursue me:).
When Nat first started chatting me, I remember praying and asking the Lord to make him stop chatting me if his intention was to just continue being friends, since hope was stirring in my heart. Such an eloquent way of putting it to the Lord, right? "God, make him stop!!!!!" I wasn't aiming for eloquence, I was aiming for my heart to stay in one piece:). Nat kept chatting and I kept going to the Lord in prayer with, "Um, Lord? Make him stop - I don't want to get hurt!" Somewhere along the way, it finally dawned on me that God wasn't making him stop and I thought, "hmmm, that's interesting." *Sigh* I'm a little dense:).
I remember coming down to prayer meeting one Friday morning in April of this year. My housemate - Carolyn - was sharing a gem she had read in the Word of God ("ye have not because ye ask not") and then hit us with the challenge to ask God specifically for something. I thought about what Carolyn had said and the next morning I asked her about it. We ended up talking for 3 hours about how God wants us to ask Him and take Him at His Word! From that point on, I began to ask the Lord to pretty much put me on Nat's heart.
I don't think I can ever totally convey the spiritual aspect of this journey because it was so deeply personal and very refreshing to get so alone with the Lord. I had a peace that the Lord was going to orchestrate all the details out regarding Nat and I and that I could quite frankly just sit back and enjoy the ride;).
During this whole time, I was thoroughly loving every moment I got to be in Thailand and was plugging away in the office having a wonderful time:). People in the States would often ask me what I was going to "do" when I returned to the States and I would give out an answer somewhere along the line of, "Well, umm, yeah, I, uhh, umm... am not exactly sure." Real definite, right? :D Well-meaning people would come along and offer suggestions - I got everything from helping in a girls' home in Illinois to teaching ESL (English as a second language) in Hong Kong!
Even though I couldn't just explain it this way to people, in the back of my mind I knew the peace I had from the Lord and was waiting on Nat to express himself. All those months we were chatting, Nat never came out directly and said, "I'm interested in you, Anne" but his actions shouted it rather loudly in different ways. I laugh now as I think back to my year in Thailand, because outside of my mom and sisters, Nat was the one who communicated with me the most on a regular basis. In fact, I knew more of what was going on with him than I did with some of my closer girl friends:).
During one of the times we were chatting, Nat casually mentioned he was looking for tickets to come back to Thailand. What was initially going to take place in February got pushed back to June and then to August. I was really looking forward to Nat coming, but I'm so glad (now!) the Lord didn't allow him to come in February or June because he would have been a distraction for me:).
Nat did come to Thailand on July 31 - one of the longest days in my life! Lest you think it was because I was waiting with anticipation to see Nat again, it was actually because I was baby-sitting 4 young kids from the wee hours of the morning until late at night:). I wasn't even planning on going to the airport with the rest of the team to pick up Nat since I was going to keep the kids all weekend, but one of the little girls had a meltdown around 8 PM that night and really, really wanted Mommy (who had just given birth to baby #5!) and Daddy. Their Daddy decided the kids should come back to him (in the kids' defense, they did very well all day being with someone who was practically a stranger!), so Bro. Tom suggested we drop the kids off at the hospital on the way to the airport to pick Nat up. I'll admit that my first reaction was not very sweet since I had gotten the kids in their pjs and *I* was in my pjs ready for bed, but I saw the wisdom in going along to explain things to the dad.
Wow, this looks like a good stopping place for now:). Hopefully within a few days I'll be able to write out parts 2 and 3!