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First, a confession: I’ve been keeping some pretty big secrets from you. But I’m not sorry. 😛
I’d like to introduce you all to someone very special today. Friends, meet my fiancé, Ryan Burkholder!
Yes, I am getting married – on February 17th, 2018, to be exact. 59 days. I don’t keep track of the minutes and seconds because I’m not that desperate (‘specially not now…bahaha). In 59 days I will be marrying my miracle. Why do I call Ryan my miracle? I hope to show you that right now!
How We Met
The first weekend of April, a stranger showed up at my church. He was good-looking, and the first thing I noticed about him was his classy shoes. I love when guys dress up for church, and the vast majority of them seem to have lost the art these days. “Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder who that is and what his connection is to our church.” During the course of the morning, I heard whisperings that this handsome stranger was in medical school in Florida, which piqued my curiosity further. He obviously had dedication, drive, and a fair amount of brains if he had made it through 8 years of college. “But,” I thought to myself, “He’s probably just a ladies’ man. College student, good looking…I wonder how much depth he actually has.” I’m an optimist by nature, obviously.
While I was interested in who he was as a person, my interest was more along the lines of curiosity, not love at first sight. Our first words were exchanged when he came up the stairs to our youth Sunday school class. There weren’t enough chairs set up, so I grabbed him one from the stack against the wall and made some sort of wisecrack about it being more his size than the smaller, little-kid chairs stacked alongside the adult chairs. (Ryan remembers this encounter vividly and was apparently impressed with my presence of mind and the fact that I wasn’t bashful, so much so that he mentioned the incident in an email to a friend a few days later.) Our Sunday school class that morning was fairly interactive, and I noticed that the visitor had good thoughts to share; he obviously had more than a few things connected in his brain.
After church some of us youth were practicing some songs for a fundraiser event coming up, and I asked one of the youth guys from my church to invite the visitor to join us because all of the youth were downstairs singing and I didn’t want him to think we were avoiding him and not being sociable. Ryan did indeed join us to sing, and believe it or not, he actually had a pretty decent voice and appeared to be able to read music. (+10 points) Unfortunately having this educated, handsome stranger in our midst unnerved me more than I liked to admit, and I remember kicking myself afterwards for being obnoxiously loud and commanding. (He obviously wasn’t scared off.)
I went home with my family, had my typical Sunday afternoon nap, then went back to church in the evening for a time of food and fellowship. (It’s not just a Baptist thing; Mennonites fellowship around a table more often than not as well…haha.) Whaddya know…the guy was still around! He had changed out of his white shirt and black dress slacks, but he still looked classy. Not that I was looking. I carried my cheesecake past him and over to the dessert table. (It was the first try at what became this Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake, and it was a little dense.) Before too long, I started talking music stuff with some of the youth at one end of a table, and the Med Student seated himself across the table and started talking to some of the other youth nearby. “Are you in school? What do you do for a job? Is this your sister?” That kind of thing. He talked with my sister Katelyn for awhile, then turned to me and asked, “And what do you do?”
I’m sure I blushed, because I do that often, especially when strangers ask me awkward questions. When you blog for a living, it’s hard to explain your job. When you’re passionate about entrepreneurship and have put a lot of effort into building a brand, it can be frustrating when people listen to your job description and don’t realize that what you do is actually a paying job and not a writing-diary-entries-in-my-pajamas-and-sponging-off-my-parents gig (although to be fair, I’ve done a bit of both in my day). So imagine my dilemma when a handsome, hard-working, educated young man asks me what I do for a living. Depending how much he knows about the current blogging world, he might think that I’m just too lazy to get a real job. I sat in silence for a few seconds, grasping for a balanced answer, and thankfully my friends jumped to my rescue and explained to him that my occupation can be hard to explain. His interest was piqued, he asked some intelligent, probing questions, and our conversation quickly spread to other topics. I soon found out that he already knew who I was through my blog. In fact, he was very familiar with my trip to South Africa in February. (I’m used to being recognized, but usually by middle-aged women, not young men in their mid-twenties. Oh well…small detail, easily dismissed.) We discovered some mutual friends and I found out that he had gone to music camp in Ohio the year before I did. By this time we were going through the food line together, then ended up sitting together, of course. Our conversation bounced from one thing to the next – his field of study (Internal Medicine), his upcoming graduation from UCF in May and subsequent residency in Louisana, my time in Africa. He was so easy to talk to! (And he even liked my healthy cheesecake.) My dad was preaching in Missouri that weekend, so the people at church jokingly told my mom she should keep her eye on me because the conversation seemed to be moving pretty well. I enjoyed myself immensely but wasn’t about to let myself think he was interested in me. As far as I knew, I wasn’t going to see Ryan Burkholder, for that was his name, for the rest of my life after we parted ways that evening. Instead of fantasizing about the what-ifs, I decided to just enjoy the conversation of the evening and leave it at that. How mature.
The youth had some more singing practice after we ate, and Ryan joined us again. When he made a move to leave and was talking to some people (my mom among them) in the foyer of the church, I found an excuse to slip back there because I wanted to say goodbye before he left. It seemed a shame not to after getting to know him that evening. He turned toward the door, and as he turned, he caught my eye, smiled, and motioned me to follow. I still had no idea what was up. (I’m not normally that naïve.) As I followed him out onto the porch, having no clue what he wanted, I said, “So I never did ask – what brought you to the area?”
He shut the door behind us, looked me in the eyes, and said, “You did.”
Inside I was an odd mixture of incredulous and slightly amused at the whole situation. On the outside I was quite proud of my composure. 😛 He went on to explain that he had seen my blog, was intrigued by some of my articles, and decided to drive up from Florida that weekend to meet me. (I live in South Carolina.) He had called a few people for references on me first, but apparently he liked what he saw when he got there and asked if I wanted to go out for coffee the next day to get to know each other better. He wasn’t asking for a relationship at that point – just another conversation. I asked him if I could give him an answer the next morning because I really did want to ask my dad about it first, even though it was just coffee. (One thing he hadn’t found out yet was that I don’t like coffee.) Of course he agreed, we exchanged contact info, and I beat it to the van, collecting my mom and siblings as I went, telling them that we needed to get home, pronto. I was sure that if anyone saw my face, they’d have some questions about what had happened to me because I was feeling “considerably rumpled up in spirit.” (Kudos if you caught the quote.)
Yes, I liked him and thought he was nice, but I didn’t know him from Adam! I had always vehemently declared that I wouldn’t date someone I didn’t know. Too risky. Now I had to reconsider. Did I have to give him a chance? What were his personal convictions like? What rock did he crawl out from under?? And he’s a doctor? I mean, the money’s nice, but I don’t need money and that’s a pretty brutal schedule to put up with! All these thoughts were whirling through my head as a whole new world opened in front of me. I called my dad that night, and he did not feel comfortable with my meeting up with someone that he had never met and I had no background on. I let Ryan know the following morning and basically wished him a safe trip home, giving him an easy way out if he didn’t want to go to the trouble of pursuing anything further. Very quickly he responded with, “Is it OK with you if I call your dad and ask to meet him when he gets home?” (My dad was flying home that day.) I felt bad that the guy had driven all the way from Florida and thought we should at least give him a chance if possible, so I gave him my dad’s number. To make a long story short, they talked, a huge storm came through Monday afternoon, our power went out, Smokey was born Tuesday morning, and Ryan came to visit Tuesday afternoon. 😛 I introduced him to the horses, he had supper with my family, and we talked for several hours after supper during which we swapped family information (he was the oldest of 6; I am the oldest of 4) and talked about our hobbies. He drew me a map of Florida and taught me some geography and history; I told him about my blog and cookbook and explained in further detail what I do for a living. He was so intrigued with my business pursuits and asked all kinds of questions, even taking a stab at guessing how many books I had sold. (He was way off.) His interest in my work really meant a lot. I learned that Ryan had been born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Ontario (where his family still lives), and went to college at the University of Alabama and medical school at the University of Central Florida.
By the time Ryan left that night, I was very interested in pursuing a relationship with him, but when we said goodbye I didn’t know if I would ever hear from him again. Fast forward to the end of the week and he had already called my dad asking what it would take to move things to the next level! A decisive man who doesn’t beat around the bush is highly attractive to me, and that is Ryan all over. Being a doctor has definitely honed his decision-making skills, and his wasn’t a wimpy personality to begin with! (This is very important, since I once told my mother that I wouldn’t marry someone who can’t control me. I will do my best to submit, but submitting will be a whole lot easier if I’m married to someone who can stand up for himself and tell me when I’m getting out of hand! I want that kind of leader.)
I was still pretty skeptical about this guy because I didn’t feel like I knew him very well, but my dad talked to some of Ryan’s references and they all gave very positive reports, even specifically addressing some questions I had without my ever voicing those questions to anyone but God! I talked to a friend of Ryan’s who gave me a very balanced viewpoint on what it’s like to be married to a soon-to-be doctor. Everyone I talked to encouraged me to give it a try, including my parents. My mother has viewed Ryan as her answer to prayer from day one. Apparently she had really stepped up her prayers for a good man for me not too many months before this, and she felt from the beginning that Ryan was God’s answer! I sought God’s will myself, and in the matter of a few short days I went from feeling extremely skeptical to completely at peace and confident in God’s leading, and there has never been a doubt in my mind since then that Ryan is the man God has chosen for me.
My dad gave Ryan his blessing to ask me for a more serious relationship, and a month later we had our first official “date,” although I’m not sure that some people would call it a date. He came to my area for the weekend. The first day we talked for about 7 hours straight before we decided we should probably go do something, so we went hiking. The next day we biked 14 miles, went canoeing, took a picnic lunch to a park, and went mini-golfing. It was several months until we ate at a restaurant together, which I suppose would be some people’s idea of a “date,” but I was very glad to learn that Ryan thinks outside the box and likes to be active and save money. And…*drumroll* he likes to eat healthy. He will eat practically anything and genuinely enjoys a more diverse food group than anyone else I know. I always wondered, “Will the man I marry demand mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese at every meal?” I was willing to work with whatever the Lord sent, but it sure is easier this way and I breathed many a prayer of relief that Ryan loves vegetables and doesn’t need a sugary dessert with every meal!
Why Did You Wait to Tell Us?
1) I’m a private person, and in the interest of transparency and connecting with my readers, much of my life is open to the world. My love life was one thing I wanted to savor before sharing it.
2) Just because someone is in a relationship doesn’t mean that that relationship will last long-term. I believe that marriage is for life, but the dating/courting stage is meant to get to know each other and see if you are suited for marriage. Sometimes you’re not and a break-up is necessary. Explaining to the whole world why things didn’t work out is just awkward and adds an extra level of stress to an already-dramatic occasion.
Why Is Ryan My Miracle?
1) The way he found me was pretty miraculous! Who would’ve guessed that my blog would’ve played such a key role? Not me! And when I think of how the blogging started, the story gets better. I was always planning on going to college, but I decided to wait a year after graduating high school because of my OCD. School triggered it and I knew I wasn’t ready to jump into college just yet. Soon after graduation I started blogging as a hobby, found out that I could make money off of it, and the rest is history. I quickly figured out that I didn’t need college to succeed in what I felt called to do. (Even though I still love to learn and would totally consider taking some courses in the future!) So…if it weren’t for my OCD, I probably wouldn’t be blogging for a living, and God only knows if Ryan and I would’ve met some other way.
2) Because of various circumstances, neither Ryan or I would’ve been ready for a relationship before he came across my blog in late March. I had just finished up my life-consuming cookbook project in December/January and gone to South Africa in February. I was traveling so much that it’s really a miracle that I was home the weekend he decided to come visit my church!
3) The way he just showed up on my doorstep was so outlandish that it had to be a God thing. OK, don’t take that as a life philosophy, but it was just so totally different from the way I was expecting to meet Prince Charming that it sure got my attention and I had an easier time accepting that it was from God than if it had come by more conventional means. The funny thing is that one time an observant blog reader commented here on my website and told me that if I didn’t quit working so hard and go out and meet people, my only option would be the UPS man. Now I completely believe in fellowshipping and meeting people and being approachable, don’t get me wrong, but I just thought it was kind of ironic that despite all the traveling I’ve done and people I’ve met in the last two years, the right one walked into my home church one Sunday morning. I totally believe in free will, but I also believe that God has a very active hand in our day-to-day lives…and I believe it much more strongly now than I did a year ago.
4) Ryan is a miracle because of how well he fits my personality and interests. God made him just for me, that much is obvious! He has personal experience with OCD and similar issues. He eats healthy and loves running. He has a very quick mind and can track my train of thought and all the nuances of an inside joke. His memory is impeccable. He has a keen head for numbers and business acumen. He is very well-read. He’s driven and loves his job. For those of you who are familiar with the 16 Personalities test, I am an INTJ and he is ENTJ; we have a lot in common which is necessary for such…intense…personalities, but we also have some key differences that balance each other. Ryan has a great sense of humor, which I find to be a necessity in life. One of his comments to a cousin soon before meeting me: “If she’s into volleyball, frappuccinos, and can’t find 2 Kings, it’ll be a hard sell.”
5) I get attached to things quickly if I feel they are worthwhile, and when I get attached, I fall hard. For this reason, I always dreaded the thought of breaking up with someone because I knew it would be very hard to recover and trust again. I feel so blessed that Ryan was my first and only relationship, and I am his. That’s actually even more amazing for him because he’s 26 (he’s got 4 years of wisdom and maturity on me) and has been through 8 years of secular college! I thank God for saving us for each other!
I plan to share a Part 2 of our love story very soon, so if you have questions that you would like me to address in the next installment, please comment below and ask! I don’t promise to answer, but I’ll consider it. 😉 You can CLICK HERE to sign up for email updates if you like to make sure you don’t miss Part 2.