Thursday, April 14, 2011

Our Love Story

Picture taken by Shannon Morgan Photography

When I was a young girl I remember my mother once telling me:

"Andria, you never know when you'll meet the man you're going to marry. Your car could break down on the side of the road and he could be the stranger that stops to help," she said.  It's funny to me that she said that. Funny because that's almost exactly how it happened. Only it wasn't my car that broke down it was my motorcycle...

It was September of 1997. I was serving in the military stationed near Pearl Harbor on Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
I'd arrived only a few weeks before and was living in the single/enlisted barracks on base. My household goods shipment had arrived the day before and in this shipment was my passport to freedom. My motorcycle.

Well, I called it a motorcycle but really it looked more like a moped. Technically speaking it was a 1968 Honda 90. I'd driven my little moto all over my southern California neighborhood back in high school and now my little motorcycle was joining me on my journey in the Air Force.....

-Chapter 1 -
A Helpful Stranger

"Great!" she thought. "It won't start. Now what am I going to do."

She looked around for anyone that might be able to help but the dorms were like a ghost town this early in the morning. She tried reconnecting the battery cables and checked to make sure it had gas. She'd even hit the engine a couple times with a wrench. Nothing. It just wouldn't start. A wave of disappointment came over her as her plans for the day slowly crumbled in her mind.

"I'll have to call my Dad." she thought. "Maybe he can tell me how to fix it."

Frustrated, she headed back to her room to make the long distance call.
Just as she reached the stairs she saw a guy walking over to a row of motorcycles parked on the other side of the lot. The thought crossed her mind to ask him for help.

"If he drives a motorcycle, maybe he knows how to fix them." she thought. "Maybe it's something simple that I overlooked." She approached the stranger cautiously as he was putting on his helmet and gloves.

"Um,... excuse me..... Do you know anything about motorcycles? My bike won't start." she said.

He looked at her through his visor. There was a twinkle in his eye as he stepped away from his bike and took off his helmet..

"It's over there," she pointed.

He followed her over to the other side of the parking lot and tried a few things on her bike but still it still wouldn't start.

"Let me go get my tools," he said, "I'll take a closer look."

With that, he turned and headed toward the stairwell to go back up to his room. She waited patiently, enjoying the beautiful Hawaiian morning. The sunlight streamed down through the branches of the trees. The dew still glistened on the grass. After a short time he returned.

She tried to look interested while he fiddled around with the engine. "Your battery is dead," he said. "Do you have a charger?"

"No,.... I don't." she answered.

He looked down at his watch, then back up at his room. Without a word he knelt down and disconnected the battery from her bike.

"I've got one up in my room. How about I put it on my charger for a few hours and when I come back I'll hook it up for you."

A look of relief swept over her face as she smiled at him gratefully.

"Thank you." she said.

With that, he grabbed the battery and left as she gathered her things and headed up to her dorm room to wait.

She saw him next a few hours later, working on her bike in the parking lot. She headed down the stairs to join him.

As she approached him, he looked up at her and asked, "How long has your bike been sitting?"

"About a year", she replied. "I was stationed in Texas before I came here. It was parked back home at my parents house while I was away."

"That's what I thought. he said. "Your battery is toast. You'll have to buy a new one."

There was a long pause as she racked her brain wondering how or where she was going to get a new battery.

"There's a Honda shop right off base." he offered. "I can take you there if you want."

"Uhhhhh," she stammered.

It felt foolish to accept a ride from a complete stranger. But what else could she do?

"Alright." she finally said.

He wrote down the model number of the battery and pointed to the other side of the parking lot. "Go get your helmet on, I'll meet you over by my bike."

She ran up to her room and grabbed her helmet and jacket. Before she left she roused her sleeping roommate.

"Amber." she whispered. "I'm going off base to get a battery for my bike. Some guy is giving me a ride over there." Her roommate mumbled a sleepy response.

She'd never ridden on the back of a motorcycle before. This was one of those racing bikes too. The thought of going fast scared her but she tried to put it out of her mind. He started the engine as he gave her instructions on passenger basics:

"You'll have to put your arms around my waist" he said. "Don't flinch or jerk around when we go into a turn, just trust me and move your body with mine." He paused a moment seeing the nervousness in her eyes. "If I'm going too fast for you just tap me on the shoulder and I'll slow down." he added.

Those were his final words.

With that, he mounted the bike and revved the engine. She awkwardly placed her hand on his shoulder and hoisted herself up wrapping her arms around his waist. He was strong. She hadn't noticed before but she could feel the firmness of his body when she touched him. She blushed with a little excitement, feeling nervous and a bit reckless. He backed up the bike then moved forward slowly out of the lot. As they approached the road he sped up a little unexpectedly. Her helmet bonked into the back of his. Embarrassed, she yelled out "Sorry" but it was drowned out by the sound of the engine.

A short ride later they were at the Honda shop. He found the right battery then walked with her to the register. After she paid they got back on his motorcycle and headed back to base.

In no time he had her new battery charged and connected to the bike. She thanked him sincerely after he successfully started up the engine.

"Hey" he said. "Are you going to take this thing off base?" "I don't think you should drive it on the freeway."

She felt a little defensive of her bike but she knew he was right. The fastest it had ever gone was 60mph and that was driving down hill with the wind at her back.

"If you ever need to go somewhere off base, like the mall, just let me know and I can give you a ride," he offered.

"Thanks," she said.

He nodded then paused for a moment before walking away.

"Can I ask your name?"

"Oh,... uhhh, it's Andria," she answered. "What's yours?"

"I'm Aaron, Aaron Laws."

-Chapter 2-
Motorcycle Man

Weeks went by before she saw him again. She was eating dinner with her roommate at the dining hall on base. As she slurped up her peaches she noticed a guy sitting alone a few tables away. He was sweaty and wearing a sleeveless shirt. She could tell he'd just been working out. He seemed comfortable sitting alone. Other guys around him were talking loudly at nearby tables as they watched the game on the big screen TV. He looked up from his food and saw her watching him. Quickly she looked away bringing another spoonful of peaches to her lips. There was something familiar about him. She couldn't quite place it. She searched her mind for a few moments without success then looked up again stealthily glancing in his direction. At that same moment he looked up too. His blue eyes locked with hers and a familiar twinkle gave way to a warm smile. He nodded his head and lifted his hand from the table in a casual wave. Her heart did a little somersault as her cheeks flushed a warm pink. Now she remembered.

"Amber," she whispered to her roommate a moment later. "Do you see that guy sitting over there in the corner? He's the one that helped me fix my motorcycle."

Amber looked up from her food and casually glanced behind her pretending to look at the clock on the wall.

"Girl", she said in her Latino accent. "That boy is fine."

"You think every guy is cute," Andria replied.

"No I don't," she said defensively. "How come you never told me he was hot."

"I don't know," she said, "I guess I didn't really notice."

A moment later he got up and walked past their table on his way to leave.

"How's your bike running?" he asked.

"Uh, good." she answered, trying not to blush as he looked into her eyes.

"Thanks again for fixing it." she said.

"No problem." he replied turning to leave. "I'll see you around," he said.

After that day, she did see him around. A lot. She saw him at the chow hall at mealtimes. She'd see him in the hallway coming back from the laundry room. She saw him going out to his motorcycle when her VanPool brought her home from work. Sometimes she'd smile and say hi. But usually they'd just exchange friendly glances.

Then, one day coming home from a swing shift, her roommate met her at the door.

"Hey,... your motorcycle man came by today."

"What?" she said.

"Yeah he came by twice......I told him you weren't getting off work until 8pm. I'm pretty sure he'll be back."

"What does he want?" she asked nervously.

"I don't know. He said he had a question for you."

Quickly she changed out of her uniform and put on her running clothes. Maybe if she was fast enough she could take off for a run before he arrived. She grabbed her Walkman and reached for the door just as a knock pounded from the other side.

She looked around at her roommate helplessly.

"Just open it," she said.

She waited a moment then opened the door.

"Hey," he said. "How's it going?"

"Good." she replied.

She walked through the doorway closing the door behind her. "I'm heading out for a run" she said, plugging in the headphones as she placed them in her ears.

"That's actually what I wanted to ask you," he began. "I see you running on base all the time and was wondering if I could join you. I've been meaning to get more cardio into my workouts but I hate treadmills."

"Sure." she answered.

"Are you going now?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah. But I'm running out to Hickam Harbor. It's kind of far,.... for most people.

"I think I can handle it." he said with a smile.

From then on he joined her for a run once or twice a week. And while they ran, they talked. And as they talked she learned more and more about this motorcycle man.

He was a computer network engineer. He'd joined the Air Force just a few months before she had. He'd picked his specific career field before he came in knowing it would be a good career for him when he got out. He'd planned to get his degree in computer science while he was enlisted and was currently taking classes at HPU after work.

She was impressed by his drive and ambition. Most of the guys she'd met in the military only seemed interested in drinking and partying. The more she learned about him the more she liked. Soon a mutual respect and friendship began to grow.

A few weeks went by. One day she was on the stairmaster at the gym when she saw him lifting weights on the other side of the room. She hoped he didn't see her. She looked down at her magazine pretending to read. For her entire workout she'd catch herself stealing glances at him while he worked out. She felt incredibly guilty watching him with such pleasure. He was handsome, and strong and she could feel herself growing more and more attracted to him. She distracted herself, turning the pages of her magazine until she found an article worth reading.   She knew they could never be anything more than friends.

But he didn't know that. And it wasn't long before he'd asked her out on a date.

"Do you want to go to a movie sometime?" he asked one day coming back from their run.

"I can't," she said, I'm working a set of mids."

"Well, when you're done with mids let me know and we'll go."

"Okay," she lied.

She knew she'd never go out with him. But she didn't have the courage to say it to his face.

A few days went by.

"Hey, your motorcycle man keeps coming by looking for you." her roommate teased.

"Yeah,... he wants to go to a movie."

"Then why don't you go?" she asked

"Because that would be a date and I don't date guys that don't go to my church."

"Oh brother! She moaned. You've got to be kidding me!"

She knew her roommate wouldn't understand, and that was okay. She didn't expect her to.

For the next week she purposely avoided him, hoping he'd forget about the movie, but he didn't. One evening as she was heading out to her bike he was coming back from the dining hall.

"Hey,"he said. "I thought you said you were working mids?"

She was caught. Now he'd know she was lying.

"Are you trying to avoid me?" he said with a smile.

"Uh,... No," she lied again.

"Yes you are," he answered back. "We don't have to go to a movie you know, I'd actually like to take you to dinner. Would that be okay?"

She sighed and turned to face him. She knew she'd have to tell him sooner or later.

"Well, it's just that,... you're not really my type." she said cautiously.

"What do you mean?" he replied.

How was she supposed to explain this to him? She paused for a moment before responding.

"I don't date guys outside of my religion."

There, she'd said it.

He raised an eyebrow, a little surprised to be rejected in this way.

"You're discriminating against me because I don't go to your church?
  "I believe in God." he said.

"That's not enough," she answered. "You wouldn't understand." She put her helmet on and started up the engine. "I'll see you around."

She left him standing there in the parking lot as she drove off down the road.

-Chapter 3-
Caught in a Storm

"Can you give me a ride somewhere?" she asked one day.

"Sure, he said. "Where do you want to go?"

"I need to go to BYU Hawaii, it's in Laie on the north shore," she said.

"Wow, that's quite a drive. Why do you need to go all the way over there?

"I need to buy something at the bookstore on campus."

"Must be pretty important," he said.

"It's a set of scriptures. I need them for a friend of mine from Texas. He was just baptized and I want to get him a set for Christmas."

"Okay," he answered quickly. "How about this Saturday?"

" That would be great. Thanks," she said. " I owe you."

Saturday arrived and she hopped on the back of his bike for the long ride to Laie. She had no idea how far of a drive it was going to be. After a while her back started to ache. She shifted uncomfortably on her seat trying to keep the circulation flowing in her legs. He pulled over when they got to the north shore.

"This is Sunset beach, he said. "This is where they hold those big surfing competitions. I was out here a while ago with my roommate watching them, it was pretty cool."

" That's neat," she said.

"Here, let me get a picture of you. You can send it home to your parents" he offered.

"Thanks," she said.

She crossed her hands in front of her and smiled as he snapped the picture.

"I'll take one for you now." she said reaching for his camera.

"Okay," he said. "Thanks."

They got back on his bike to continue their drive. She hoped they'd be getting there soon. This winding 2 lane road seemed to go on forever.  After a few minutes she saw a sign for Laie. 35 more miles. This was going to be a long ride. She tried to distract herself from the thought as she felt the discomfort settle in again. Her back ached from leaning over so she tried to sit more upright in the seat. But after a while that made her sore too. Taking her gloved hands off his waist she scooted back on her seat then pushed down on what her fingers thought was the seat in front of her. Doing this she was able to hoist herself up in a semi standing position. It felt good and brought the circulation back to her rear. Little did she know that the "seat" she was grabbing to hoist herself up on belonged to him.

When they finally arrived. He pulled into the parking lot on campus and dismounted from his bike. Taking off his helmet he looked back at her with a crooked smile.

"You kind of surprised me back there," he said.

"What?" she answered.

"I didn't know you were that kind of a girl." he said with a hint of sarcasm.

She looked at him with a perplexed face. Genuinely confused by his comment.

"When you goosed me back there," he revealed. "That kind of surprised me."

Suddenly it all connected.

Utterly horrified she realized that the firm seat in front of her was his rear. She grew hot with embarrassment.

"I, ....I'm so sorry, she stammered. I thought I was pushing on the seat."

"That's okay," he said with a wink. "I kind of liked it."

This made her even more embarrassed. She ran into the bookstore, not knowing what else to say or do. He followed after her.

When she'd found the right scriptures she brought them to the register and paid for them. After that they grabbed a bite to eat before heading back out to the parking lot.

"Those clouds look dark." he said. "We might get rained on."

She looked up at the sky, nodding in agreement. She only had on a light jacket and he only had a thin flannel shirt.

The sun was setting as they left the parking lot. Soon the sky grew dark with black clouds. He increased his speed as he hurried home trying to beat the storm. But soon the rain fell, whizzing by them in torrent sheets. It wasn't long before they were both soaked.

It was dark now, and she was getting cold. They were 20 miles from home but it may as well have been 100. Shivering under her wet jacket, she tightened her arms around his waist then slid up closer to him on the seat, pressing herself to his body for warmth. She knew this surprised him by the way he moved in return. But it didn't matter to her. Everything was dark and wet and she was freezing cold. Soon her head was resting on his back. The glare off the road from the oncoming headlights blinded her. She closed her eyes, not needing to watch the road. She trusted him to bring her safely home .

In the darkness all she could feel was the warmth of his body pressed against hers. She felt strangely comfortable and safe. In that instant she found herself slipping into the romance of the moment. She let her thoughts travel with no reservation to a place where she'd previously never gone. In her mind she imagined that he was just a boy and she was just a girl with nothing keeping them from being together. Nothing in her way to stop her from loving him. This sweet, kind guy. So handsome, so strong. He'd been so helpful and protective of her these past few months. How could she not be attracted to him? She knew she'd never let herself really love him but for this moment she allowed herself to swim in the romance of these passing thoughts.

The next morning, Aaron was helping a friend work on his car out in the dorm parking lot. He wiped the grease off his hands as he saw her approaching.

"Where are you going?" he asked, "You look nice."

" I'm going to church," she said as she saw her ride pull up.

"You go every week?"

"Yeah, she replied."

Can I come sometime?

"Sure,.... If you want," she answered as she opened the car door.

He smiled as he watched her get into the car. She waved goodbye as the car drove away.

-Chapter 4-
Making his Move

A few months later she ran for Dorm council President. Not because she cared about the dorms but because the president got her own dorm room and she was tired of her roommate bringing home drunk Marines that spent the night on her floor. She won the election and Aaron (who had run for vice president) won too. Soon they were seeing even more of each other as they worked together with the dorm manager and council members at their meetings.

One day after a dorm meeting they walked over to the chow hall to get dinner. As they walked together across the lot her hand brushed past his.  He reached out and caught her hand in one fluid motion.  She nearly pulled it back, embarrassed at this forward motion, but she couldn't. It felt so warm and comfortable. She decided to let him.

Later that night when he walked her back to her room he asked her a question.

"Hey," he said. "I'm kind of confused."

"What do you mean?" she asked innocently.

"What am I to you?"

"You're my friend," she replied.

He paused, obviously disappointed by her answer.

"You mean you don't feel anything more for me?"

"No," she lied.

"Well, do you think I could ever be more than a friend to you?" he continued.

Now this was starting to make her uncomfortable.

"Well," she paused, "No."
She'd answered him honestly. She knew she'd never let it turn into more.

"Why not?" he asked in pleading tones.

"Because I can't date you...... You're not what I'm looking for in a guy."

"Oh," he remembered. "The church thing right?"

"Yes," she said.

"Well what if I joined your church, then would you date me?"

"You don't understand," she said. " It's not like that. You can't just join a religion for me."

"But what if I wanted to?"

She shook her head. Frustrated that she had to have this discussion.

"I have plans for my life." she said. "Goals..... things I've been preparing for since I was a little girl." She went on, knowing he wouldn't understand but she needed to get it off her chest.

"I want to be married in the temple, to a priesthood holder, a returned missionary." she stated.

He looked at her with confusion, not understanding what on earth she was talking about.

"Never mind," she said.

"Why won't you give me a chance," he said. "Why are you discriminating against me because I'm not part of your religion?"

She tried to explain but nothing came out right.

In a last attempt he looked at her and said, "How do you know that God isn't looking down right now and saying: 'He's the man I want you marry'."

The light over her door had burned out and she was glad. The darkness hid her impulsive reaction as her jaw dropped in shock.

How on earth could he possibly think he'd be the man I've waited for my whole life. The nerve of him!

She grew hot with contempt.

When she didn't respond, he ended with a final blow: "I feel like the popcorn around a present you got for Christmas." he told her, "Like I'm just here to pass the time until you meet your prince charming."

She paused before responding, reflecting upon what he'd said. That was exactly what she was doing-using him to pass the time until she met "Mr. Right." She had no intentions other than to enjoy the pleasure he gave her while in his company.

Suddenly she realized how unfair she'd been. She'd been using him. He was good for her ego. This handsome guy, taking care of her. Driving her around the island, always at her beckoning call for anything she needed. It felt nice to have him pursuing her but she knew in her heart she'd never return the affection in the way he wanted.

"I'm not going to give up," he said. "We're meant to be together, I know it."

She was impressed by his persistence, but didn't want to encourage him.

"You should give up," she said. " You'll only be disappointed." With that she went inside her room and quietly closed the door.

-Chapter 5-
A Dream Come True

A few days later she had a dream. She dreamed that she was at church with Aaron and he was saying the sacrament prayer over the bread. She was awakened from her dream by a knock at the door. She looked at the clock it was 12:16pm. She had just got off a mid shift at 4am. The room was dark from the drawn blind. She fumbled around for the lamp switch. Grabbing her robe she went to the door and opened it.

It was him.

"Good morning," he said. "Did I wake you?"

"Yeah, but that's okay, I needed to get up anyway."

"I was headed over to the chow hall for lunch, do you want to come?"

"Okay, give me a minute to change my clothes," she said.

When she opened the door again she saw his smiling face. She was reminded of her dream and thinking aloud she said, "I just had a dream about you."

"You did?" he asked with interest. "What was it about?" There was a twinkle in his eye.

"I dreamed you came to church with me."

After she said it she felt a little silly.

He turned to look at her with a serious face.

"Do you want me to come to church with you?"

His sincerity surprised her.

"Only if you want to," she said.

"Okay. I'll go this Sunday."

For three weeks he came every Sunday and genuinely seemed to enjoy it.

"I've never met so many nice people," he told her after church the first week.

She'd talked to the missionaries previous to him coming and told them not to bother talking to him.

"He's probably just coming because he wants to date me." she told them. " I don't think he's really serious about learning our beliefs."

Then one Sunday evening a few weeks later her phone rang. It was the missionaries. Over the next few minutes they pleaded with her to let them approach him about taking the discussions. "He really seems interested," they said. "You should have heard the questions and comments he made in Elders quorum today."

"All right." she said. "Go ahead and ask him."

The following week he had an appointment set for his first discussion.

"Will you come with me when I meet with the missionaries?" he asked.

"Of course." she said.

Three discussions went by and she attended each one. It was surreal hearing them teach him the things she'd grown up believing all her life. But what was even stranger was how he was accepting these teachings so sincerely and with such genuine interest.

Not long after that he came to her door with some news he'd been waiting to share all day.

"I'm getting baptized next month," he proudly stated.

She wasn't surprised.

"He's golden." the missionaries would tell her. "He's so ready."

"Congratulations," she said, genuinely happy for him.

The morning of his baptism arrived.  She could hear the rain falling outside her dorm room when she awoke.  A wave of disappointment fell over her.  She wanted this to be a special day.  Rain was not in her plans.  A thick storm cloud hung over the island making it much darker than it should have been for that time of morning.  Aaron put the top and doors on his jeep so they wouldn't get wet on the drive over.  They'd planned to have his baptism at Bellows Beach on the other side of the island.   20 minutes later when they got through the tunnel on Pali Highway they noticed off in the distance a small ray opening in the clouds where a beautiful ray of light was bursting through.  They joked that maybe their prayer had been answered.  

With each mile they drove the break in the clouds seemed to widen and they realized it was in the same direction they were traveling.  The closer they got the more their hearts were warmed as they realized that in fact the break in the clouds was perfectly positioned over Bellows beach.

"Thank you Heavenly Father," she said  softly as a tear fell from the corner of her eye.

Dressed in white he stood on the soft, cool sand. The morning light glistened on the waves as they approached the waters edge.

As they waded out to a deeper spot a prideful thought entered her mind, "Another baptism Andria,... this is becoming quite a trend." She remembered the young man in Texas who'd also been baptized. No sooner had this thought entered her mind then the spirit reproved her sharply.... "This is our Day," the voice sounded in her mind. "This is between me and my son."It came so strongly, she felt ashamed thinking that this had happened because of her. She'd been chastised, and rightfully so. This was not about her. How selfish and arrogant for her to think so.

She watched him out there in the water standing next to Elder Woodward. The sunlight streamed down upon them. The missionary's hand raised powerfully to the square as he proclaimed the words to the baptismal prayer. As he rose from the water she was immediately flooded with a wave of emotion. The spirit washed over her bringing a feeling of love and peace. Unexpected tears streamed down her cheeks. This was one of God's sons. A faithful man who was taking a very important step in his life. He wasn't doing this for her. She may have been the motivation to listen, but his conversion had nothing to do with his feelings for me. It was a startling and humbling realization.

When he came out of the water she saw him in a new light. A newfound respect grew in her heart and she began to see him for the man that he was. A man that she was growing to love.

-Chapter 6-
A Growing Romance

He'd planned their first date down to the last detail. But more importantly he'd planned that before the night was through he was going to kiss her.

He'd requested a table right on the water and timed their dinner reservation so the sun would be setting over Waikiki beach as they ate. It was perfect.

After dinner he suggested they take a walk along the water. They left their shoes hidden in the sand and walked under the twinkling lights of the waterfront hotels. The sand felt soft and cool beneath their feet. The sound of the tide breaking in the distance and the rush of the ocean echoed in their ears. They walked for a while, hand in hand down the beach. When they reached the long pier that stretched out over the water, he suggested they walk to the end. It had been a wonderful night. Perfect...romantic.

As they reached the end of the pier she paused for a few moments looking out at the water. He'd tried to kiss her weeks ago but she'd artfully dodged his advances.  She turned back toward the beach thinking that they'd head back down the beach but he had other plans...

When she turned to walk away he pulled back on her hand and tightened his grip.  She turned to face him and with one fluid motion he pulled her into his arms and pressed his lips to hers. Her body tightened in surprise, then relaxed in his arms as the warmth of his kiss spread through her body.

He'd kissed her, and he'd kissed her good.

The whole walk back she blushed every time she thought about it.

She was falling in love with him.  Unable to resist him any longer she opened her heart and let it happen.

In the months that followed they spent all their time together.  They hiked to Sacred Falls on her birthday where he gave her a locket with their pictures inside. They snorkeled with sea turtles on the north shore, ate hamburgers at The Shack on their way back from Hanauma Bay. Boogie boarded at Makapu'u and went shopping at the Ala Moana Mall. He attended church with her each week as the conviction to his new faith grew stronger each day.

Months went by, things were getting serious. She knew his intentions.  She'd known all along.  He wanted to marry her and one by one he was climbing over the hurdles she'd placed in his path. There was one more hurdle left, and he knew it. After his baptism he'd learned that he'd need to wait a year before he'd be worthy to take her to the temple.  It's what she'd always wanted, and he knew how determined she was to reach her goals.

It killed him to have to wait a whole year to be with her, but he knew she was worth it, and he wasn't about to give up now.

So, he waited.

-Chapter 7- Decision Time

She was grateful for the time. Grateful that she had months before she had to think and pray about this decision. She'd been enjoying this new romance. Enjoying how it made her feel. It was unlike anything she'd ever felt.   She'd been in love before but it had never been so deeply or completely.

She knew she loved him but there was a part of her that still didn't know what to do.

All of her life she'd dreamed of the man she would marry. She'd even gone as far as to write down a list in her journal of qualities she'd wanted him to have. She'd set goals for herself trying to live a good life so she'd be worthy of such a man. Through the years she'd made some revisions to this list, adding qualities that past boyfriends had lacked, but at the top of this list there were things that had never changed. Things that (as a convert), he could never be.  The problem was that despite everything he was, he didn't fit the cookie-cutter ideal she'd created in her mind of the man she promised herself she'd marry and this led to a growing confusion over what to do.

She felt torn. Torn between two possible decisions, with each potential outcome she felt she stood to lose.

If she did marry him she'd have to give up her pride and let go of that "ideal" in her mind. This would not be easy to do. She'd come from a family that had placed a great deal of importance on outward appearances and although she knew it was wrong, she still placed a great deal of importance on those outward "signs" of worthiness. Her oldest sister, (who she'd always looked up to), had married the son of a stake president, an Eagle scout, a returned-missionary. She knew if she married Aaron she wouldn't have any of those "titles" following after his name. She wanted those things, not just for her own security but to satisfy her vanity and pride. She felt she deserved them.

And then if she didn't marry him she knew her heart would truly break. She wanted more than anything to be with him. In all other ways he perfectly fit her ideal of what she was looking for in a man.

She wrestled with this problem for weeks. She knew she must decide but as hard as she tried she couldn't make this decision on her own.

One night on a midnight shift at work, she grew increasingly troubled with this dilemma.  It was a quiet shift with not a lot going on so she escaped from her duties on the operations floor, to study her CDC's in the pit. It was quiet down there, no one was around. She went in and out of thought pondering this decision in her mind.
It tormented her.   A dark cloud of confusion clouded her thoughts. She didn't know what to do so she began to pray in her mind, seeking guidance from God.

She trusted Him. He'd always been there to hear and answer her prayers. He knew what would bring her happiness, and she trusted Him to guide her to it. She always knew she'd include him in this decision but now more than ever she needed his wisdom and guidance in her life.

Finally, in desperation, she cried out to Him in her mind. "I just want to know....Please, tell me what I'm to do", she prayed.

It was a moment of honest, and heartfelt submission to His will. She'd decided in that moment of desperation that no matter how hard it might be, she'd do what He directed. If it meant breaking up with him, she would. If it meant throwing away her pride and lofty ideals, she would. In her deepest moment of desperation, her heart let go of her will as she firmly resolved to follow His.

And just as strongly as her conviction to follow Him was, so too did His answer come.

It came with strength and it came with peace.

An immense feeling of warmth flooded into her soul. The spirit pressed upon her with great strength as clear, distinctive words formed in her mind.

"He is your eternal companion,.....He is your eternal companion,......"

Tears of peace streamed down her face as these words were spoken over and over again in her mind.

Like the sun breaking apart the clouds, of doubt all the confusion she'd once felt melted away from her mind. Things that once tormented her no longer seemed important. They were washed away, bathed in the peace of His spirit.

For two days this overwhelming feeling of peace remained with her. She woke the next morning and it was still there. Strong and constant it remained with her assuring her that this was real. God had answered her prayer. She couldn't believe the change in her heart but she welcomed its peace and basked in its warmth.

Without a shadow of doubt she now knew what she would do.

If he asked, she would say "Yes."

-Chapter 8-
The Proposal

He carried the ring from Tiffany's in the pocket of his leather jacket.
He'd made a reservation for dinner at Duke's on Waikiki beach. His mind flashed back to their first date over 6 months before. After dinner they walked the beach again heading for the pier. It was their special spot now and they walked hand in hand with great love in their hearts.

As they reached the pier a warm rain sprinkled from the sky. He said a quick prayer hoping it would stop. A moment later it did.

They neared the end of the pier waiting for the other couples to leave. She wanted him to kiss her again, in their special spot. And he, knowing what he was about to do, sought privacy for this special moment.

Soon the other couples left and he kissed her tenderly in the moonlight then led her to a nearby bench on the side of the pier. They sat quietly looking out at the water as she snuggled into him. He pulled her close.

"I have a present for you," he whispered in her hear.

He drew a small turquoise box from his pocket. TIFFANY'S was written on the front. For a moment her heart did a little flip wondering if he was going to propose.

"It's not what you think," he said, not wanting her to be disappointed.

She smiled curiously. After all, it was still a gift. She loved that he always bought her such wonderful things.  She untied the white ribbon and lifted the cardboard lid. A bottle of perfume was nestled inside.

As she opened the lid to smell the fragrance from the corner of her eye she saw his hand reach back into his pocket. In the same instant he slid off his seat and dropped down on one knee presenting her with a stunning diamond ring.

"Tiffany's was having a sale", he said sheepishly.

"Buy one bottle of perfume....... and get a free diamond ring."

Then in a serious tone he looked into her eyes and asked her if she would marry him and be his eternal companion.

"Yes." she said softly, feeling silly that she couldn't think of anything better to say.

He slid the ring onto her finger as tears streamed down her face.

They kissed and excitedly walked back down the pier officially engaged.

He was going to wait until October to propose but he was being deployed soon and he wanted that ring on her finger while he was away.

Every time she looked down at it she was filled with pride, especially after learning that he'd sold his motorcycle and taken out a loan to pay for it. He was such a classy guy sacrificing all he had to give her the best he could.

When he returned from his deployment at Christmas they only had four more months to go.

-Chapter 10-
Happily Ever After

As they planned their wedding they knew precisely when and where it would be:
One year from his baptism date and in the Salt Lake Temple.

There was a temple in Hawaii, but she couldn't be persuaded to marry there. It didn't matter that Salt Lake City was an ocean away. She would never consider anywhere else, and he didn't mind. Because he knew exactly why her heart was so set on this temple.....

Many years ago she'd made a promise to herself and she intended to keep that promise.

One summer her family had taken a trip to Yellowstone National Park. On their way home they'd stopped in Utah to visit Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

She walked on the grounds surrounding this magnificent edifice, gazing at the beauty of its spires. They seemed to reach up toward heaven but they also reached into her heart. She walked past the statues and fountains with a quiet reverence. She felt that she was standing on holy ground. There was a peace and serenity here, she didn't want to leave this beautiful place.

Sitting on the stepping stone in front of the temple she'd asked her older brother to take her picture. Moments later a newly married couple approached the same spot. They stood there posing for their wedding picture.

"One day," she promised herself, "I'll come here to be married too. I'll return to this very spot with the man of my dreams standing by my side." She knew she would never settle for anything less.

...and she hadn't. She returned with Aaron on that April morning.

Kneeling across the alter, inside this holy temple she looked into his eyes. The same twinkle was there, the one she first saw when he was just a guy helping to fix her bike. A smile spread across her lips as a tear welled up in her eye.

A long awaited promise was being fulfilled. It hadn't come in the way she'd expected, but it had come nonetheless, and it was everything she'd hoped it would be.

The words of the covenant were pronounced and they were sealed for time and eternity as husband and wife. They passed through the beautiful temple doors and walked down the stone steps into the warm spring sunshine as husband and wife.

After having their pictures taken in the temple gardens there was one more place she wanted to go.
She led her husband across the street as the photographer followed closely behind. She walked with reverence as she approached the familiar stone step, remembering the promise of her youth.

Standing where she had once stood years ago she looked into his eyes and smiled. He pulled her to him kissing her lips as a gentle breeze caught her veil and sent it swirling into the air. A promise had been fulfilled. A covenant made, and happiness found.

Together they lived, sharing their lives and their love for many years to come.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What would you do?

This letter was taped to my door tonight. It's from Jacob in regard to his brother. In case you can't read it I will rewrite it here:

Dear Mom,
Why won't you let me beat up Joseph? Push-ups are way too easy now that we're older. Besides when you give him the punishment he doesn't get the idea to stop. But when you let me get him he learns to be afraid of me and to actually stop. It's your choice if you want fighting to stop. My ways best.

Love, Jacob

Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly refereeing these two boys trying to keep the peace in our home. Joseph loves to aggravate and irritate Jacob and usually Jacob is very good about controlling his anger but sometimes he loses it and will take off after his brother with me intervening before any harm is done. Aaron suggested recently that I should let Jacob beat him up one time so that Joseph would learn to respect his older brother and stop "provoking him to wrath." So recently, I decided to give this method a try. One evening after repeated provoking I didn't intervene when Jacob lost his temper and chased after his brother. It wasn't long before he caught up to him, pinned him down and started punching him in the back and face while Joseph yelled out for me to "call him off."

Reluctantly, I held back trying not to intervene. I felt unsure about this new approach but I was at my wits end. I let him continue for no more than a minute or two until I saw a pool of blood spilling out of his nose onto the hardwood floor. I told Jacob to stop and came running to Joseph's rescue. There was so much blood I started shaking and crying as we cleaned it up. "What have I done, " I thought.

I can't handle that approach so I guess I'll just go back to my previous approach of trying to teach Joseph to stop provoking his brother and teach Jacob patience and longsuffering. Jacob is right though, giving his brother push-ups for bad behavior is not leading to any less fighting in our home and I'm still left wondering what to do.

Suggestions anyone?


Yesterday Lauren walked into the room with her toy phone wanting to have a pretend conversation.

"Pretend I'm at college Mama,"she said.

"Okay," I replied holding my hand up to my ear.

After a few exchanges about her "classes" and "missing home" I wondered about what she might want to study in college...

"What do you want to be when you grow up Lauren?" I asked.

After a big sigh (apparently I should have known the answer), she wrapped her little arms around my neck and said decidedly....

"I want to be a Mommy."

Her answer reminded me of a poem I found years ago when my children were very young:

I'd rather be a mother than anyone on earth,

Bringing up a child or two of unpretentious birth...

I'd rather tuck a little child all safe and sound in bed,

than twine a chain of diamonds about my carefree head.

I'd rather wash a smudgy face with round, bright, baby eyes,

Than paint the pageantry of fame or walk among the wise.

-- Meredith Gray

Although my little one's faces are not quite as smudgy or pudgy as they used to be and their infant cries have now grown into quarrels and contention. I still count myself lucky each night to tuck them in bed and kiss them goodnight. It's still with pride and great pleasure that I fill in the blank under "occupation" with the word "Mother."

These thoughts were fresh on my mind when I spent the afternoon this week in Joseph's 2nd grade class sorting through hand drawn self portraits of what the kids had said they wanted to be when they grew up. They were adorable. As I flipped through each one I couldn't help but smile at the diversity in each child's dream. I've known many of these kids for years and so it was fun to see them imagining themselves in future careers that seemed incredibly fitting to their little personalities, even at this young age.

Another observation I noted was that none of the little girls had said that they wanted to be a mother. I found this very interesting and frankly a little sad. It made me reflect upon our modern world. Being a mother and homemaker seem to be a dying art. Many people today don't view motherhood & homemaking as an acceptable occupation simply because there is no monetary gain. I worry that the joy and beauty found in motherhood will never be realized by many women because they are trained to think that there is no value in doing something that doesn't earn them a paycheck.

The greatest joys in life cannot be measured in monetary ways. Who can put a price on the joy received during a tender moment with your child or pay you for the satisfaction you feel when you see your children learning such lessons as kindness, courage and perseverance? Money cannot buy that sense of accomplishment you feel when you see your children growing into leaders among their peers or watching their talents grow and develop as a result of your personal efforts on their behalf. There is nothing like the joy that comes when you are able to offer comfort and guidance to your children as they struggle to overcome their day to day challenges.

Not only do you benefit from watching them grow but in seeing yourself change and transform in the process. I've learned more about my own weaknesses and shortcomings by being a mother than I ever thought I would. It has been a humbling and sometimes painful experience to see your children bring out the worst in you. I used to think that I had the patience of Job, until I had children and was humbled into realizing how very far I had to go.

But they also bring out the best in you including the deepest levels of our your most human emotions. I used to think that I knew what love and sacrifice was until I held my first child in my arms and realized that without hesitation I'd give my life to protect him. I've learned about going without in order that my children might have more. More of me, more of my love and more of the comfort and security that each child craves within the walls of their home. And sometimes this means there's less time and energy to do the things that I want to do but its that sacrifice that strengthens my love for them and teaches me about priorities and what's really important. Giving up my portion of ice cream so that there is more to add to their bowls has never left me feeling deprived but surprisingly fulfilled as I see the joy that my sacrifice has given them.

I've learned more about God and have become closer to Him in the process. I've learned how much I need him to do my best and be my best. I've learned that on my own I fail miserably and that I don't like myself very much when I'm left to my own strength. I've learned about the kind of love that God has for all of us and the importance of treating others with the same kindness and respect that we wish our children would treat their brothers and sisters. I've learned about how it must hurt our Father in Heaven to see us treating each other unkindly as it hurts my heart to see my children inflicting pain on each other.

I've learned of the importance of trusting in God and being obedient to his counsel and guidance because he knows much more than I do and wants what's best for me just as I want what's best for my children.

I used to think that being a mother was all about what I could teach my children. Little did I how much I would learn from them. The lessons are hard and often ongoing but the daily struggles and experiences provide me with an array of opportunities to learn sacrifice, patience and unconditional love. These lessons and what they have done for me could never be measured in a monetary way, nor could the joy that they bring ever be equated to temporal wealth but they are nonetheless something of a treasure to me as I continue in my lifelong career as a Mother.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Life with Boys...

You know you have sons when you look up at the clock to see the time and can hardly read the numbers for all the bullets stuck to its face. Apparently our clock is more useful to them as a bulls-eye than anything else.