Friday, March 17, 2017

"Love is just a word, until someone comes along and gives it meaning"

Okay, so here is the rest of the story from the time Bradley and I started talking, up until we got engaged.

To check out my post on how we met, click HERE.
To find out how we actually started talking, click HERE.

Now on to the story!

So, from March 10th on, we emailed back and forth at least once a day.
It was such an amazing time, just getting to know one another, on a less intimidating level.
Yes, we talked about serious things all the time. 
But there was no pressure to move faster than either of us felt ready.
Very few people in my life even knew I was talking to him, because I didn't want a lot of outside "voices" and "opinions" flooding my ears and mind. People mean very well, but this was such a new experience for me, and I was SO scared and SO excited, I just needed to be able to focus. I know that doesn't work for everyone, but that's just what I needed.

In June, Bradley ventured out and asked if he could call me. 
On the phone! 
He knew I was not a phone person, so that's why he didn't ask sooner, even though he was dying to!
This was one of many times, 
where I knew God was in control,
because I was actually pretty 
excited about talking to him!!
I'm serious, people, you could ask anyone in my family....there are only a few things in the world I hate more than talking on the phone! 
This was HUGE for me!
So on June 6th, I got my first phone call! 📱
And I received a phone call pretty much every, single day after that
(I can count on one hand, the number of days we didn't talk! And all those were usually my fault!)!!
At that time, it was just another wonderful level of getting to know each other, and definitely drawing our hearts closer together.

After people started find out that we were talking, lots of them asked throughout the entire time "are y'all serious?" "do you think he's the one?"
and all kinds of things like that. Honestly, I didn't know. I knew that on any given day during that time, I was doing what God wanted me to do for that day. I knew that it could be different the next day, so I didn't want to borrow from the future by thinking and dreaming.

I wasn't sure what God's ultimate plan was, and I didn't want to get in the way.
People say that long-distance relationships are hard, and they DEFINITELY are!! 
I would be the first to raise my hand about that!! 
But really, with God all things are possible, and I cannot even put into words all of the amazing, miraculous, wonderful things that God did in and through this relationship for me! For instance (although this is pretty minor and my mother may or may not readily admit to this), I feel fairly positive that she was very worried about my communication skills. She really had good reason, because honestly, I didn't have good communication skills....AT.ALL.
E-mailing and talking on the phone to Bradley seriously helped me!
I'm no where near where I should probably be, 
but I am SO much better than I was!
And this, again, was all of God!

I feel like because we had to communicate very clearly early on, that was a huge blessing for both of us, that we didn't even really understand at the beginning, but it's something we are SO thankful for now. When I say we talked about everything, I seriously mean that you probably wouldn't even want to imagine all the things we talked about! 
From super serious, to positively stupid, we probably covered it! And when that is coming through an e-mail, you have to really think hard about how to say pretty much everything, so that it is interpreted in the right manner. And you also have to be vulnerable enough and have enough courage and character to say "hey, I'm not sure I understood what you were saying here. Can you explain?". 
Talking on the phone was no different, although maybe a tad easier when you can hear the other persons tone of voice. But either way, communicating was huge for us, and we did a LOT of it! 
And we still do!

Anyway, for all of June and most of July, we e-mailed and talked on the phone every, single day!
It was awesome!!

In mid-July, he decided to really venture out and asked to come for a visit.
I was scared to death, and elated all at the same time! It was crazy!
I wanted him to come, but at the same time, I kept thinking "great, now he's gonna realize what I'm actually like, and he's going to hate it." But if he didn't like me for who I am, then that would be a problem! I wasn't going to change, just to make him happy, and end up giving him a false impression of who I really was. But what if he didn't like who I was?!!

During that summer, I was very much into running as much as I could. I just loved it, and it helped me relax and  de-stress.
I ran 3 miles, every day, the entire week leading up to his visit!
We had a lot going on that weekend: Kaleb's graduation party on Saturday, a family reunion on Sunday with lots of family coming in for that, and Katrina and I were leaving for Church Camp that Monday. So it was a whirlwind weekend, but turned out great!
He got to meet a lot of my extended family. I felt like I got to actually meet him for the first time, since I was oblivious to the entire world around me in January! 
Plus, his mom, one of his sisters, and his niece and nephew were with him, so it was nice meeting all of them as well!
They arrived on Thursday evening, and he came over to our house for just a few minutes, really. It was late, but neither of us wanted to wait until Friday!
We went on our first date Friday afternoon, which was quite an amazing feeling!
The whole weekend was just an amazing time, and so good for both of us!
I was still greatly proceeding with caution, at that point, but was catching myself feeling so comfortable around him.
From day one, he has always been so attentive and caring. And he always made sure that I was okay with every new step we took, and everything we did. He didn't want to put me in a situation that I felt awkward in.

They had to leave Sunday morning after church, and I had to hurry to our family reunion that afternoon and then head to camp the next day. I had no Internet or phone service from that Monday afternoon, until Friday afternoon, so that was a pretty long week for us!
Bradley says that Sunday afternoon, he realized that he was feeling more than "good"!
He says that's when he went from "liking" me to loving me. He didn't tell me that until much later on, but I just thought that was very sweet!

He tends to move faster on these things than I do! I remember thinking that I really did like him, and I had a great time. And I knew that I was doing what God wanted me to do that day. I didn't know what He had for me the next day or next week. And in the back of my mind, I was living in fear that it was all going to end one day.
Being forced not to talk or text or anything for about a week following our first visit together, was one of the best things for me. I needed to know for sure if I was just doing it because it was fun, and he was nice. Or because I had deeper feelings as well.
By the end of that week, I was SO ready to hear his voice again!!!😍

By now, it was August. We still talked and talked, every day! Which means our hearts grew closer and closer every day! And that's what I had prayed...if this was God's will, then I prayed that He would draw our hearts together like only He can. I knew my emotions and feelings were all over the place, and completely unreliable, but thankfully the Lord does not operate on feelings and emotions!

I had peace about it all, but I was struggling with myself over it, at the same time. 
Bradley is SO good at expressing how he feels. And I'm not. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to communicate to him how I felt, in a way that he would understand. Therefore, he would probably think I don't even care! But I did! I just didn't know how to say that! He could say lots of nice, sweet things that made me blush like no red beet you have ever seen! But I sometimes tend to think on the negative side of things, and I do live in fear about some things, so I was afraid he was just saying that to make me feel good, and to flatter me, whether he meant it or not.
So again, bringing up the fact that we talk about everything, we literally had that conversation one night! And you can say that this is dumb, I don't care, but it was important to us!
I still remember the way he said everything! In a very calm, matter-of-fact, yet sweetest way EVER, he basically told me exactly how he felt about us!
And that he loved me!
(That was September 2nd, in case anyone wanted to know)

(pardon me, I'm gonna have to take a break here, and let my keyboard dry out...I don't know what's going on, but it's filling up with water!😭😉)

Anyway, Bradley came up for another visit over Labor Day weekend.
I was still nervous, but nothing like the first time
(I think I only ran once or twice that week, so that should tell you something!)!!
Again, it was great! We didn't have really anything going on that weekend, so our families spent a lot of time together, and it was just awesome!

With work and life, we didn't get to see each other again until the end of November.
That was hard. It was 81 days between those two visits,
and I was still working through, and processing a lot of things.
During this time, though, I began to realized that I was falling in love with this man.
It didn't happen in a day for me, or in a week. It was softly over the course of months, until I finally admitted to myself that, yes, this is happening, Karissa, and it's good!
We became quite thankful for FaceTime during this time as well, and talked that way a few times.

Thanksgiving weekend finally came!! We went down to visit dad's family that weekend, which is only about an hour and a half from Bradley and his family. So we spent every single day together from Thursday evening, until Sunday evening! He was able to meet more of my family, I was able to meet his other sister and her husband, plus his grandparents.
It was a wonderful time, that naturally didn't last long enough!

But thankfully, we didn't have to wait that long, because he flew up here less than two weeks later, and we celebrated Christmas together! I'm sure you've guessed by now, but yes, it was fabulous!!
We had a great time, and moved up to another level of communication! After that visit, phones were old-school and FaceTime was the new way to go!! Every, single day!!

With very short notice, he was able to get off work again, was here for several days during the week of New Year's.
That used to be by far my least favorite holiday ever, normally, but that year was pretty amazing!!

   At that point, it was looking like the end of February would be our next time to be together.
So while he started the process of getting time off work, making all the plans and all that, I was quietly making my own plans! Kaleb went with me, and together we drove down to South Carolina one weekend in January. His family new I was coming, but he had no clue!! We were able to make it just in time, and I randomly walked into his work! It was great!! I'll never be able to pull it off again, because it was SO hard to keep that secret, but it was totally worth it!!

Around this time, we started talking more seriously about some serious things.
Things like that.
Now, I am NOT a dreamer. Growing up, I never let myself day-dream and conjure up expectations about life, really! Relationships, marriage, weddings...anything like that, I just didn't think about it. And therefore NEVER talked about it!
But when Bradley slowly started talking about things like that, I oddly found myself very much okay with that. Which had never happened to me before in my life! Seriously, even me and my sisters never sat around talking about anything like that! That's just not how we are!!
So again, this might sound dumb, but that was just another way of God showing me that He was in control of this!
Bradley is very much into details. I could care less. I get lost in the details, so I generally stay with the basic facts, and that's it. 
Which has turned out to be AMAZING, I must say!! 
I always said that I didn't want to have this set-in-stone list or expectation of things I had "always dreamed of" because what if the guy I was marrying cared about all that kind of thing?
Turns out, I was right!!
So we talked about things. Some things in general...some things in detail!

He came back up again the weekend of my birthday in February.
We celebrated our first Valentine's Day together!
Are you ready for this?
It was.........Awesome!!!!!!

After that, Bradley and his family booked their week of vacation up here for the end of April/beginning of May. Which was GREAT, except that was 2 months away at that point!
My family's vacation, however, was the end of March, and since I already had those days off work, I thought it would be very frugal of me to use some of them for a trip down there! And plus, from our condo in Virginia, it was like a whole 2 hours closer to him, anyways! Of God, people, I'm telling ya'!!!😉
He did not want me to drive all that way a lone, and mom and dad weren't thrilled about that either, so they ended up taking that weekend out of their vacation time, and going down with me! I felt bad that they were doing that, but I guess not too bad, because it's not like I cancelled the trip out of guilt or anything!
It was Easter weekend, and I so excited to spend it with Bradley!!

Now, Bradley is pretty much the planner and detail-organizer of our small gang of two, and he didn't really tell me much about that weekend. I mean, he would say things about the weekend, and even some details, but not like we were going to do this, and go there, or anything like that. Which was totally fine with me, because neither of us felt the need to be constantly going somewhere, or doing something. 
However, earlier in March we had discussed a very possible wedding date. We decided that we would wait and tell our families when we were altogether over Easter weekend. 
That may seem insignificant, but it will make more sense later on!

So, that's our dating story!
Not out of Hallmark, but it's my favorite, anyways!!!

I hope you enjoyed it!
Please join me back here on March 26th for our engagement story!

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