The next month was… too much for just one descriptive word. Surreal. Awkward. Wonderful. Scary. Exciting. Overwhelming. Happy.
Nathan got a job at my dad’s shop for the few weeks that he had left in Colorado. He asked if he could come down before breakfast every morning so that we could do our morning Bible study together, and those times rapidly became my favorite time of the day. We would read a bit of Scripture, then spend a few minutes praying together. That’s when I got to know the real Nathan.
There is a piece of a person that is only revealed when they are speaking to the Creator of the universe. I loved what I saw and heard there. When Nathan prays, there is a boldness and familiarity coupled with humility. The first time I heard him pray, I was taken back. With me and my family he is gentle, kind, very respectful, and often silly. But when he prays, he becomes a warrior. There is a verse (Heb 4:16) that reminds me so much of Nathan. It says: Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need.
Every day, we would have that quiet time together, then I’d run and get ready for work so we could drive into town together in Nathan’s car. It was a stick-shift, but we managed to hold hands and change gears together somehow. 🙂 Holding hands was the extent of our physical contact thus far, as we were both operating under the assumption that the other wanted to wait for our wedding to have our first kiss. That was the generally accepted standard in our circles, and we had not questioned it… yet.
We had talked to my parents about this issue of physical boundaries. In essence, they told us that we had to decide. We needed to discuss it, draw the line where we felt it should be drawn, and stick to it. Their counsel was that drawing the line *before* kissing made it a nice clear line. After that, it becomes more difficult, if your goal is to save the most intimate things for after you are married. That was good advice. Draw your line, wherever it may be, and stick to it.
February 14th, 2002 was our first Valentine’s Day! But Nathan had to leave early that morning in order to get back to TX. He was signed up to help instruct a dive trip in FL, then begin working at East Texas Medical Center after that. I was not a happy camper about him leaving, but especially on Valentine’s Day! I decided to make the best of it, and woke up at the crack of dawn to make a special breakfast. I’m pretty sure my mom helped me with that big breakfast, because I was not remotely comfortable in the kitchen at that point in my life! (Thanks for the help, Mom!)
After breakfast, we said goodbye. We hugged for a few minutes and I cried. Saying goodbye at this point stung badly. We had just begun getting to know eachother. The only wedding planning we had done was deciding on a church. I wasn’t sure when I would see him again. It was a sad day!
We talked on the phone A LOT over the next few months. Nathan moved in with a family he had grown close to at ALERT, and worked insanely long hours at the ER. He loved it! I’m sure his cell phone bill was outrageous. And my poor parents basically did not have a phone for the hours that I was home from work (sorry about that again, Mom and Dad)! During one of these long conversations, the topic of the first kiss came up. My take on it was something like “I don’t want to share that special moment with 350 people.” Nathan’s response was “OH GOOD! Neither do I!” I’m glad we got that settled! I had no idea when our first kiss would be, but felt relieved that we didn’t have to share it with a crowd.
My 22nd birthday (April 24th, 2002) was supposed to be a regular old day. Go to work, come home, probably have a dinner party with my family. Instead, I was awakened long before my alarm was set to go off. By someone coming into my room, carrying a candle, kissing me gently on the forehead and saying “happy birthday, Beautiful.” It was Nathan!! I squinted at him for a minute, trying to decide if this was real. Nathan is in Texas. I think I’m in Colorado. What is going on?? I sat up and said “what are you doing here??” He laughed at my shocked face and then told me he drove up late last night so he could spend my birthday with me. YAY! I suddenly became very aware of my morning breath. He said he wanted to take me to breakfast, so hurry and get ready.
We went out for my favorite breakfast food: cream cheese blintzes with strawberries at IHOP! After I had thoroughly stuffed myself, we walked out to my car. I pointed out the hill behind IHOP. It was just a bare hill now, recently cleared for construction. We drove up it and talked for a few minutes, enjoying the slightly elevated view of the city. And then, there it was. Our first kiss. Not just OUR first kiss, but my first kiss EVER! It was short and sweet and we both smiled like idiots for the rest of the day.
I’m sure I received other gifts for my birthday that year. But that was the most memorable one!