it has been eight years today since i stepped gracefully into loving my sweet love. forgive me if this post gets a bit more lengthy than i usually write, there is a lot to our story.

in october 2001, at a whopping fifteen years old, i attended a church conference with my mama and uncle russel. when we sat down, i did the required survey of the seats around us and took note of nothing too exciting. a bit into the service, i got incredibly bored with what was going on, took out the notebook i carried everywhere and started doodling and making little notes to myself. i turned around to see if i could find a clock, as i was ready to go home at any point. the world ceased spinning when i noticed that sitting behind me, just a few rows back, was the most darling and handsome boy i had ever laid eyes on.  he was by himself, and had a mop of the curliest, messiest blonde hair spilling into these intense, tender blue eyes. he was wearing a blue tshirt, grey old man pants, and a pair of converse sneakers, sitting cross-legged in the maroon, terribly uncomfortable church chair. my first and only thought in that instant was that this was the boy i would marry and have a family with. i turned around far too quickly, and furiously scribbled “cute guy alert” in my notebook and elbowed my mom a bit too hard. she then made one of the most embarrassing mom moves she ever pulled and screeched “WHERE?”, while whipping her head around, and then looked at me and grinned really big and nodded. she may have even done a thumbs up, it was so over the top. for the rest of the service, i tried my hardest to keep my head straight ahead, but there was no way. i dropped my pen repeatedly, dug around for non-existent items in my backpack, and then gave up at attempting to be suave and basically stared with my head turned around, pretending to look at anything else when our eyes met. i will say for myself that he didn’t take his eyes off of me, either. during the meet and greet portion of the service, i turned back to see if i could muster the courage to say hello, but he waved the sweetest and most inviting wave in the history of the world, and i melted. in retrospect, i totally rolled my eyes and looked like the meanest girl, but i was simply overcome with excitement that i almost squealed, and i had to gain some kind of composure. when the service let out,  i told mom i would meet her at the car and she and uncle russel laughed at my lame attempts at excusing myself to follow “some boy”.  sadly, i followed him to the men’s restroom, and i waited outside of the door for quite some time, until someone i knew came up and started talking to me and he slipped out while i was distracted. i will never forget the dejected way i walked across the parking lot to our car, i believe i even dragged my backpack behind me.

fast forward to january 2002, and i went to a friend’s birthday party. my little group of friends had been talking about this guy named brady who was supposed to attend, and i was curious to meet someone with such a great name. especially since they were full of stories of how quirky and weird he was, i thought we might get along pretty well. i was sitting at a round table, talking to some friends when he walked in. he stood in the doorway and reached his arms up to the doorframe and kind of gently swung back and forth, i glanced over and saw him, and his hair, and my heart did a double flip. unfortunately, i couldn’t place where i’d seen him before and was frantically scanning my brain for some kind of recognition. some time later, i placed it and squeaked out some kind of nonsense about the seeing him at that conference in a barely audible voice, which he couldn’t have understood sitting next to me, much less from across the room. he looked at me with this expression of amusement and curiosity, and when i finally got my point across, he nodded and smiled a most darling smile. he came and sat near me, and we started talking. we talked about all kinds of things, but neither of us wanted to bring up age, as he was obviously older than i was. we both knew if either of us said it out loud, our conversation would be over. eventually i caved, and when he said 18, i deflated a bit. that signaled the end of our chat, and he popped up and wandered away. i watched him the rest of nite, and when my dad came to get me in the morning, i called out  “bye cool hair guy”. he was sleeping on a church pew and he looked up kind of dazed and did a little wave and his patented ‘see ya’. i doubted i would ever see him again, and got really upset with the universe for taunting me.

we would randomly chat on AIM, mostly teasing and sending random links to websites or bands. one time he sent me a message that only said “growing up sucks, i would advise against it”. i thought he was terrifically cool, wise and mature and mostly, oh so dreamy. i can recall laying in bed at nite, playing out these ridiculously romantic scenes of us falling in love. there were hundreds of unsent emails confessing my undying love and admiration. in the summer of 2002, i all but gave up on ever being his gal. he was going to cornerstone and turned 19, i went to kathmandu and turned 16, i think we only chatted a few times, very short and terribly unfamiliar. yet i could not shake him, and he was consistently in the back of my mind.

and then, the fateful weekend in october rolled around. october 12th, my sad little band was playing a ‘show’ and brady was supposed to come. one of our mutual friends asked me to send him directions. due to my complete lack of directional and communicative abilities, i end up sending an email that read “it’s by the railroad tracks and the sonic.” and something about how i was stoked to see him there. needless to say, he didn’t make it. a funny little bit i just remembered, completely irrelevant to my story.  on the drive home from that show the highway was littered with cows and we had to sit in traffic for like, 30 minutes for this farmer to round up all of them.

on the 13th, there was a philmore and relient k show i had been excited about for weeks. i was grounded though, and i cried and begged and pointed out that i really shouldn’t be grounded. i think my parents were tired of hearing me, i remember following my mom to her room, saying “buuuut whyyyyyyy” in a childish and juvenile manner. mostly ironic, but partly serious, i might add. they caved and mom even drove me and jonnie down there. we got there super early “to help set up”, and hang out with our friends. we went in and piddled around, hanging out with my friends from my band. i sat on the floor and my friend mike said “hey, lauren, i think brady’s trying to tell you something” – i about peed my pants, i hadn’t noticed brady was there. i looked around and i’m like HUH? and sitting on a very tall stack of chairs threatening to fall over and crush me was brady. i jumped up and said, “oh, hi” trying not to be too ridiculous and swoony in front of my friends. we were then told if we didn’t have some kind of fancy bracelet, we had to go wait in line outside. luckily for me, jonnie, brady and i were the onlfy ones without. so we went and stood outside for quite some time. it had just turned cold, and i didn’t have any kind of jacket or sweater with me, so i was basically freezing. but it was wonderful. we talked and joked and i christened him with the nickname “brady gravy”, which i was sure people called him all the time. as it turns out, i just had (have?) a pre-occupation with gravy. finally we convinced one of the gals i knew to give us bracelets to let us in and we gave our tickets to the folks behind us. i’m fuzzy on the details here, as i was in a state of falling in love euphoria. the only way i can describe this feeling was a complete knowing that we were going to be together forever, and a tangible magnetism that made it impossible for me to leave his side. we talked and talked through sound checks and several bands, and he said he was going to hit the road, write a book, and never come back. i remember my heart going ice cold and threatening to shatter, but then i looked in his eyes and felt such warmth; i knew that it wouldn’t happen.

we split ways for a bit when philmore went on stage and brady had to get in the ‘pit’, as it were. so i sat, swooned, and watched him from afar. he finally emerged, sweaty and energized, and complaining that someone had ripped his shoe. i remember thinking even his little pout was adorable.

when it was over, we had to wait until it was all cleaned up to leave since we were sharing a ride with some of the folks who put on the show. we went and sat on the front steps, and there was magic. it was funny how many people came up  and wanted to get the scoop on what was going on… we were almost a scandal. i believe we finally decided to help break down and clean up so we could get home faster, so i started sweeping up the front sidewalk. brady was sitting on the stairs a few feet away from me, and i looked up and he was totally watching me, so i smiled at him a most sincere smile. he grinned and said “awww yeah”… i can all but physically transport myself back to that moment, it was such a tangible and sweet time. (i feel kind of bad that i lost jonnie during relient k and don’t really remember him until we were getting in the car to go home!)

i remember the drive home, brady in the front seat and me in the back, watching the back of his head and hoping this wasn’t just the best nite ever, but the start of something big and permanent. when we got home, i remember feeling ecstatic and joyful and wanting to wake up my mom to talk to her. instead, i made a bowl of ‘oriental’ flavored ramen in a white ceramic cereal bowl with a blue line around the rim. i went up to my bed, sat cross-legged and got out my guidebook to life: ‘pray love, remember‘. i read a bit, and fell alseep feeling magical, beautiful and full of hope and promise.

from there, i remember many emails being exchanged. (all while i was grounded from the computer…i would pay or bribe my siblings to let me on during their turns. we had quite a system.)  we wrote poems, sang songs and became inseparable in a matter of weeks. to quote my sweetness:
“how long did it take for you to decide you like chocolate?” – we knew we were designed to be together, and there was no reason not to be together as many hours we could.

eight years and plenty of hours in, we love each other with more tenderness and strength than we imagined possible in 2002. i thank Jesus for my sweet love every day, what a blessing he is. lovies, ftw!


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