And There Have Been Fireworks Ever Since.
The following is a true story and also a repost from last year when I first published it. I apologize that I have not edited anything out... but in this case, every detail came together for the cause of the greater good: Dougee and me. :)
I wasn’t always, however, although I was born into the church. When I hit my late teenage years and unspeakable disaster struck my family life, I rashly decided to venture out into the world and tackle life (or just throw it all away, depending on how you looked at it) on my own.
Big mistake. But then again, at the time, I really didn’t care what happened to me; as far as I was concerned, life had taken on a whole new meaning: absolutely none at all.
.…Several chaotic, awful, and deadly years later I found myself in the middle of a nasty divorce. I was married to an abusive, philandering, drug addict. We had been together on and off for almost eight long years.
Well, now I was a mommy and I simply had to make a change. Though I had taken the gift of my life for granted for years, I most certainly did not anymore. Jaeden was a little, tiny, HUGE miracle.
Yes, the Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. In this case, He knew exactly how to bring me “back to life.” He simply gave me another life to look after!
My Then-New Life
Fast forward a few years. Jae was now almost 4 years old. I had changed my life to what I knew God wanted for me.
At the time, Rob wasn’t married yet, so even though we were both LDS, he went to what is known as a “singles’ ward,” while I went to the local family ward.
(A ward is made up of church members, grouped together based on demographics, mostly involving where they live. Sometimes a single church building, like here in Utah where there are lots of Mormons, houses multiple wards, and they all meet at different times in order to maximize the use of the building.)
The Low-Down on What was Up
Since most single young adults in the area were undergrad students at Weber State University, most did not have children yet. Therefore, the singles’ ward did not have the facilities - like my family ward - to accommodate children (such as Sunday School and “Primary.”)
It was for this reason that—even though Rob and I were the best of friends—we each had our own ward in which we belonged and felt more comfortable.
After all, how was Rob going to meet his match in a ward full of “newlyweds and nearly-deads?” (Ha! Yeah, I know it sounds horrible. But it was an apartment complex, so lots of young families and elderly people.)
And I absolutely loathed singles’ wards. The very concept of being “out there” (as George from Seinfeld would say) again made me want to crawl under a rock.
I was sure I had had enough of romance for one lifetime, thank you very much.
So, while I drove up the road at 9 o'clock each Sunday morning, Rob drove to the campus, where his church building was located, at 11. Why is this factoid important, you ask? Hang in there, you’ll see. J
(By the way, throughout this intricately woven love story, you’ll see many underlined phrases. Take note of them; they are some of the unbelievable facts that led me to my destiny.)
The Incredible Coincidence.... or Was it Coincidence, After All?
Well, one fateful June day, Rob and I got a huge (and strange) surprise: we were each asked by our own bishops… in our own wards… on the same Sunday... to accept the same calling!!!
(A calling is the Mormon term for a position of responsibility within the church, such as a Primary President or Nursery Leader, and there are well over 100 callings within each ward.)
Mind you, our bishops were in no way affiliated, except, obviously, that they were both LDS.
So. Robbie and I were both called to be Gospel Doctrine Teachers for the Single Adults. For him? That wasn’t so out of the ordinary; his fellow parishioners were all single adults.
But for me? Dude. There were like 4 or 5 singles in my entire ward! My bishop had “just decided” to create a new niche, and place me in charge of it!!!
Seriously. What were the chances?!
Upon hearing one another’s news after church that day, we just looked at each other and laughed out loud, shrugging our shoulders at the mysteries of God.
Little did we know how grand was His design!
The Perfect Storm
Since I hated singles’ wards with such a passion and had always declined his former invitations, Robbie jumped at the chance to have me join him for a day.
We decided to be there for one another’s first class, for support.
We prepared our lessons all day and into the evening Saturday, Rob all calm and stoic, and myself all giddy and nervous. I remember I even sat up late that night painting gifts for my new students.
But it wasn’t teaching that was making me nervous; I had taught before. It was the fact that I truly, truly did not enjoy the idea of stepping into a church full of single guys just waiting to spot some fresh meat. (Yes, I had a bit of a bias going. But I was a 27-year-old divorcée with a little girl!)
Sunday morning at my ward went without a hitch. My class was an apparent success, and I had the unique opportunity to introduce my friends to my little brother (who, by the way, is 6’5”.)
And then the dreaded time came.
You see, it wasn’t just that I didn’t like singles wards; it was also the 4th of July that day. Which was the would-be anniversary of my ex and me.
Independence Day ....Ironic Name for It in My Case, No?
I say “would-be anniversary” because a few years prior, my ex and I had gone to Vegas to get married on the 4th. Please refrain from the obvious judgments. I know it was kitschy. But I was desperate to make things work at the time.
Well, instead of marrying me, my poor ex got roaring drunk and blew all our wedding money at the craps tables. Our adventure was deflated—along with my already hammered self-esteem—and I drove us home with nothing more than the gas money his father wired us.
Then, as if I hadn’t had enough torture already, I ended up marrying him anyway. We got hitched at our favorite ski resort back home in Utah, just 10 days later. I know. I know. We literally lasted less than 3 months after that.
Needless to say, of all the days in the entire year, July 4th was not my favorite day. Don't get me wrong, I loved my country and all. I guess it was just the whole association thing, you know?
And above all, I was NOT expecting to meet anyone. I would go along, hang tight with Rob, and then get the heck out!
An Unexpected Twist
Robbie and I parked quickly and ran inside to set up. Once in the classroom, though, I realized that I had left my scriptures in the car, so I quickly made my way back down the hall towards the entrance doors…. (aaahhh, I know you can feel the big moment coming!)
Without warning, I spotted this incredibly good-looking guy with intensely dark features. He was standing in front of a picture of Christ, just looking at it. (Pondering a picture of Christ! What incredibly good-looking guy with intensely dark features does that? Does it get any more perfect than that???)
No one else was in the hall. He looked at me as I came his way, and then he smiled….
I thought, that smile and those eyes will stay burned in my memory forever. I had no idea how right I was.
I smiled back my most enticing-yet-demure smile possible, J turned the corner, and lightly hopped down the steps to the parking lot. I admit, I threw an extra little spring in my step in case he was (hopefully!) still watching me.
But then he wasn’t in my brother’s class. And when it came time for the Sacrament meeting in the Chapel, Rob and I ended up sitting right behind him…and the girl who was apparently his reason for being there.
Dang it all to heck! (Can't swear in church haha.)
Oh well, I thought, I wasn’t here to meet guys anyway, right? What was I allowing myself to consider, anyway? Especially on the 4th of July.
It was Fast & Testimony Meeting during Sacrament that day.
(Fast & Testimony meetings are where the whole congregation is usually fasting their meals that day. Then we donate the money we would have spent on food, to the poor. In the meeting, usually several members—whomever feels inspired to do so—also go up to the pulpit and share their testimony, their conviction that God exists and loves us.)
I have never been one to fear public speaking (I know, I'm weird,) and I was stricken with sudden inspiration: If I was here in a building full of innocent young singles, then wasn’t it my duty to warn them?
Didn’t they deserve to know the cold, hard truth about what could happen if they weren’t careful about whom they chose to marry?
Pouring My Heart Out, with Nothing to Lose
Up I went, leaving Robbie sitting there completely nonplussed (our family is full of weirdly outgoing public speakers.)
On my way up, I was definitely feeling that unmistakable penetrating stare from behind me, the one we've all felt before. Upon reaching the podium, I was surprised to realize it was Intensely-Good-Looking Guy.
I thought, He’s not a very nice boyfriend to her, checking me out like that!
Although, I didn’t really like the thought of her as a prospect for him, either.
Here he was a Christ ponderer, and she sat the entire time staring at her freshly manicured nails as if they were the most engrossing thing she had ever seen. Totally shallow. What was he thinking?
J Anyways. I introduced myself to the congregation as Rob’s sister, and then gave a brief lowdown to my audience on the significance of this day for me.
I made a point to not to look for any reactions from a certain pew when I mentioned my previous marriage. But in the end I couldn’t help it and I looked anyway.
Intensely Good-Looking Christ-Pondering Guy appeared to be (most unnervingly) intrigued!
My heart skipped a beat.
So, being the self-saboteur that I am, I threw the one last log on the fire, plain as day for all to hear. I spoke of my precious little girl and the heartache she had had to endure due to my careless choices.
Bonus, I thought. Divorced lady with kid ought to turn him right off.
Then I concluded my quick oration with my true point for getting up there in the first place: Never once did I feel alone.
The Lord in His Infinite Goodness and Mercy had held my hand through it all.
Whenever I was down, such as on a day like today, when I was reminded of the mess I had made and the harshness of reality…. All I had to do was get on my knees and let Him wrap loving arms of comfort around me.
“I have an absolute testimony that He knows and loves me personally, and He knows exactly what’s best for me, even when I don’t.” These closing words turned out to be unbelievably prophetic.
Getting the Heck Out.... Or So I Thought!
After Sacrament, I dutifully followed my brother into the foyer to meet more of his friends and socialize for a minute. But first, he had to pee…and that left me alone in the sea of hungry sharks.
Boy, had I been wrong! Here I had been, thinking all along that telling all these nice, upstanding young men my story would set me apart from their world and make me undesirable to them. You know, too ....messy.
Instead, I spent those ridiculously long five minutes shaking sweaty, nervous hands (aw, poor guys! That was soooo sweet of them to want to meet me after all. What a jerk I’d been! I was ashamed for judging them wrongly, that they would judge me…) and answering well-intentioned questions about my little girl and my relationship with Rob. (“Yeah, he’s just my brother.”)
Fireworks in the Foyer
Just as my neck started to kink from looking up and talking with this really nice basketball player who had approached me, I felt my brother’s huge hand squeeze my shoulder.
I excused myself and turned around as Rob said, “Hey E, I want you to meet someone. This is Doug from Denver.”
Our eyes met. Again I was struck by the intensity of his gaze; those gorgeous brown eyes seemed to search the very depths of my soul.…
We talked for hours that day, went to the Harrisville fireworks with my brother and sisters, and then talked some more, on into the wee hours of the morning.
Isn’t it just so fitting to end this beautiful 4th of July love story with: There were fireworks that day, and there have been fireworks ever since.
And now, for a few words (just a few more, promise) from your incredibly long-winded sponsor:
The Story Behind the Story...
Of course, the details behind it all are uncanny. As it turned out, the girl sitting next to him in the pew was just a girl his aunt knew; but oddly enough she seemed totally self-involved to him (Aha! I knew the fingernail obsession was a dead giveaway) and he was far from interested. Never thought I’d say it, but thank heavens for seemingly self-centered women!
And remember when I said I put an extra spring in my step on the way down those fateful stairs? To this day, Doug swears he watched my every move all the way out to the car. Oops I took his attention from the painting of the Lord. How flattering!
Also, Doug had followed Rob to the bathroom after Sacrament, where he introduced himself and asked Rob if he could introduce him to me. Awwww! A bathroom miracle.
Our Plans are Just God's Way of Reminding Us Who's Really In Charge (When We Let Him Be)
Also, if the reader would like just one more incredible fact, just one more bit of proof that this was all a flawlessly-designed, grandiose scheme of our dearest, rather witty Father in Heaven…
Doug wasn’t a member of that singles ward, either.
In fact, he’d never been there before and never planned to be again. He actually lived in Colorado (apparently I really like people from Colorado) and was only here in Utah for the week.
He was staying with his cousin’s family, whose ward he had almost gone to that day.
Then his other aunt had called at the last minute, asking him to come to this one.
She wanted him to meet a girl she thought he might like. A girl who, by the way, never showed up.
I can honestly say, Thank You, Dear Lord.
Because you brought me Doug on the most celebrated day of my independence... and there have been fireworks, ever since.