Category Archives: Long Distance Relationship
I look at my watch. Again. Five minutes. I only have five more minutes until he has to leave. Again…
This happens every single time. He comes to visit for a weekend and it’s absolutely wonderful. But at some point the weekend ends. At some point our time runs out. At some point he has to leave. Again…
I wrap my arms around his waist and lean close into his chest. I’ve learned that if I grit my teeth and look away, I’m less likely to cry… He wraps his arms around my back and leans his cheek against the top of my head. I grit my teeth harder and will the tears farther back.
This is how it always ends.
This is how every goodbye begins.
Standing beside his car, still trying not to cry, I decide that talking might help me change my pattern of thinking. If I can get my mind off of the inevitable goodbye, off of the negative time between, and onto the next visit, the next time I’ll see him, maybe I can get through this with a little more grace than I typically do.
“It’s only three weeks this time until I get to see you again!” I say in what I hope is a light, happy tone. Of course, in my head I’m thinking, Three weeks. Three weeks of long distance. Three weeks of feeling like half of me is missing. Three weeks… “That’s only 21 days and that’s shorter than our normal four weeks apart.” Sigh. 21 days is so short until it’s the 21 days he’s not here…
“I know,” he responds as he hugs me tighter.
He’s always so much more positive than I am. It’s like I have this root of negativity in my mind that pops up whenever it pleases, which is often. I’ve been praying about it…
“I’m gonna miss you, Brandon. A whole heck of a lot.” There they are. I feel the tears stinging the backs of my eyes, begging to be loosed. Deep breath.
“I’m gonna miss you too. A whole, whole heck of a lot.” He pulls away and looks at me. He’s so serious, but a smile is playing at the corners of his mouth.
I smile up at him as a tear finally falls down my cheek. How swiftly he wipes it away and another follows. Dang it. I was going to be good this time. I wasn’t going to cry! I think to myself. Granted, I think those things to myself every time. It only rarely works.
“I love you,” I say, trying to smile and keep the wobble out of my voice.
The answering gleam in his eyes is enough to pull me over the edge. I tuck my head back into his shoulder and squeeze tight. “I’ll see you in three weeks. Not long at all. You’ll be back before we know it.” Even I’m not convinced… The wobble in my voice gives me away even when my face is hidden.
I look at my watch. Again. Two minutes…
“You need to go,” I say against his chest.
“I don’t want to leave.” He squeezes tighter again.
“I know. I don’t want you to leave either but we’ll be together again soon. And one day I’m not gonna have to miss you so much. One day you won’t have to leave me and I won’t have to leave you.” Please let that day come soon, I silently pray.
He pulls my chin up and forces me to look at him as he says, “236 days.”
“236 days,” I echo. “Then I’ll be your wife. Then I’ll be able to see you everyday. Then when we say ‘goodbye’ it’ll just mean that I’ll see you later that day. I can’t wait to marry you. 236 days.” So. Far. Away…
“I can’t wait to marry you either,” he says as he puts a hand on my cheek and wipes away the tears that are quickly replaced by new ones. “I have to go.” His words are so at odds with what I can see so plainly in his eyes: I want to stay. He kisses me one last time and pulls away. “I love you.”
It’s strange. The moment he pulls away it truly feels as if a piece of me is left there, with him. “I love you too,” I whisper as he turns away for the millionth time to get into his car to drive away for the millionth time. I wipe at my tears.
I’ve endured five years of this. Five years of waiting a month to see him for a weekend. Five years of making the most of the time we have together and trying not to fall to pieces when we’re apart. Five years filled with so many goodbyes…
I hate goodbyes. Hate them. Especially when they happen so often. Especially when they are filled with so much emotion that you can’t even think straight. Especially when they mean so much.
He turns his car on, rolls his window down, and tells me again that he loves me and will see me soon. I return the sentiment and give him one last kiss before he pulls out of the driveway.
I stand on the porch, tears streaming down my face, as I watch him back away. Just before he leaves, he holds up the “I love you” sign and smiles through his window. I sign and smile back through my tears as he drives forward… Away from me… Again…
Every single time he leaves, I watch until I can’t see him anymore. Until he rounds a corner or gets too far for me to see. Sometimes I wait there for a while. Sometimes minutes, sometimes longer. Most times there are tears. Most times the tears come more quickly and forcefully after he is out of sight… But there’s something about watching him leave me. Again. And again. And again…
Sometimes I catch myself thinking, This isn’t fair! What did I do wrong? Why does everyone around me get to enjoy their relationship all the time and I only get monthly visits? Why do we have to suffer this over and over again? For years! Why didn’t my friends have to wait this long? Why do they get to love each other so easily while we suffer again and again?
No! I would NEVER wish this on anyone. It sucks. A lot. Knowing that someone is your husband and knowing that you have to keep waiting and keep being apart is awful. I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through this. I’m thrilled my friends didn’t have to wait 6 years like I will. I’m so happy that they are able to love their people as often as they can. And I know that I also have friends who haven’t yet found their person and I know that is extremely difficult: to watch everyone else experience what you are dreaming or praying or hoping for while you still can’t or aren’t. And I know that there are so many other people out there waiting longer and traveling farther. No, it isn’t fair, but as a wise woman once told me, “Life isn’t fair. Fair only comes once a year.”
No one’s life is easy. No one’s life is perfect. If you think that it is, you’re either wrong or blind to the imperfections in your own life. Sometimes it’s just harder than others…
I have to remind myself each time Brandon leaves that God has a plan for us. And not only does God have a plan for us, but that this is His plan for US, not other people. That God wants us to be in this exact situation at this exact moment for this exact amount of time. I have to remind myself that the Lord is the only one who can help me get through the negativity, and the depression that comes with it if I don’t surrender my negativity to the Lord, when we are apart. That may sound dramatic, but it’s the honest truth. When we are apart, Satan uses any bit of negativity and turns it into something I fixate on if I am not careful to keep my eyes on God. It is in those moments that I have to remember that regardless of what I want or think I need, God knows best and He has it all under control.
So, here’s to 230 days until our monthly goodbyes become a thing of the past and something we thank the Lord for teaching and guiding us through. Here’s to 230 more days of learning through the distance and loving across the miles.
If you would like to read the rest of our story, you can find the highlights of our four year journey up to this point here.
Allow me to set the scene for you: I was sitting on the couch and Brandon walked into the room. It was such a typical, mundane act and yet it filled me with a shock of joy that I couldn’t contain. Before I was able to suppress it, a brilliant smile broke the stillness of my face. As he walked toward me, Brandon cocked his head and a slow smile spread across his face as well. “What?” he asked. “Nothing” I responded. But then I really allowed myself to think about it. As he sat beside me, I leaned my head onto his shoulder and quietly said, “I’m gonna marry you one day.”
Now, this happened about a year ago, and whereas it was most assuredly the first time I had spoken it aloud with such confidence, it had been a topic of quick conversation and much thought over the years prior to that moment. However, even though Brandon and I had discussed it, the idea of actually marrying him and spending the rest of my life with him didn’t fully sink into my consciousness until that moment. Until I saw him walk into the room and realized that he was indeed the man I would one day marry.
‘Maybe I’ll marry him one day‘ was nothing more than a fleeting thought in my subconsciousness that continued to make itself known time and time again, with more frequency the longer we were together. But, me being me, I always tried to push it away and I never truly let it become a solid reality. Instead, I would quickly follow thoughts of my future with things like, ‘but anything could happen! Who knows what God’s will is for us. Maybe it’s too good to be true and He’s just using this time we have together to prepare us for our separate futures…’ All completely valid thoughts!
If you’re thinking that I’m insane, especially after three years with the guy, then you would agree with pretty much everyone else I talked to. Needless to say, that way of thinking didn’t last forever. However, when I came to the realization that Brandon was indeed my future husband, things got rough.
I knew he was “the one.” I knew I would marry him one day. The problem was, we weren’t at all ready at that time for the next step in our journey: engagement. So, the days went by as if in slow motion and my heart ached for the day we could finally move forward in our relationship because I was so tired of everything seeming so stagnant.
It was during this time that the Lord confronted me and tested my faith in His timing by helping me to overcome the quick, bitter pang I felt each moment I scrolled through social media and found another of my friends engaged or married, or even just moving forward in their relationship at all. It took some time, but God is good and, thankfully, He is also patient. I turned my bitter spirit, covered by a facade of happiness, into a true joy for those around me who had finally found the person they would love forever. Then, He helped me to see that their joy in that moment and my prayers for them could fuel my joy in the waiting. Don’t ask me how it makes sense, because it doesn’t in my mind; but God is greater and He helped me to see that in this particular season, just as I had numerous times before.
Almost a year later, I am happy to say that the Lord heard my prayer and has answered with more blessings and joy than I could have imagined!
Brandon and my friend Katie literally had to drag me to look at engagement rings. And when I say drag, I mean that they lured me to the mall and then casually shoved me into a jewelry store against my will… They’re the best… (note the sarcastic undertone) But, I eventually warmed up to the idea and found a general style that I liked. The thing is, I absolutely refused to pick a ring myself or even narrow it down too much, even though I had one in mind. I wanted Brandon to pick my ring, and boy did he pick it! Literally. The exact one that I couldn’t get out of my mind.
On October 22nd, Brandon surprised me with a visit and also picked up my ring (which was the cause of the surprise visit). Yes, I knew he was getting my ring, I just didn’t know which one it was at the time. I was actually the one who carried the bag with the box with my ring in it from the car into the house. Where it sat. In my room. Taunting me. All weekend… He’s nice like that…
So anyway, I knew he had the ring. I knew I would say yes. Now all I had to do was wait. But praise the good Lord in Heaven above because I only had to wait a little while!
And so do you! Next time I’ll tell you all about the proposal, but for now you’ll just have to wait!
Haha just kidding!!! I’ll go ahead and tell you now.
On November 5th, my friend, Kayla, got married and she ever so lovingly allowed me to be one of her bridesmaids. (Congratulations Kayla and Chad! You’ve officially been married a week now!!) Brandon came up for the wedding and we were able to dress up and have a fun night celebrating with everyone at their wedding (for future reference, some of those in attendance included: my best friend Katie, her boyfriend and my good friend Coryghan, my sister Lauren, and her boyfriend Josh). Brandon even asked me to dance for the first time! It was perfect, I was shocked, and the song was A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.
Katie, Coryghan, Lauren, Josh, Brandon, and I had all planned to go to dinner together the following day. One thing you need to realize is that we aren’t the kind of people that typically dress up and go do things. We’re more of a ‘let’s just be comfortable’ kind of group. So, later that evening, when Coryghan told me to make sure that I dressed nicely for our triple date, I began to get suspicious…
My next moment of suspicion came when Brandon decided that we would ride to dinner with Coryghan and Katie, but we were going to make a pit stop (which just so happens to be WAY out of the way) at camp to see Lauren and Josh beforehand because Coryghan wanted to hand out there for a little while. (Brandon did really well. He made sure every piece of the plan came from someone other than him, but because I knew it was coming, I was suspicious.)
First off, remember, we aren’t really people who dress up just because. Second off, no one ever dresses up at camp unless they’re trying to impress a boy they have a crush on or they’re at a wedding or other event. In this case, neither was the cause. Or, at least, that’s what I was supposed to believe. I didn’t. I knew then that Brandon was probably going to propose that day at some point. Besides, where better to start the next part of our lives?
Brandon and I met at Camp Chula Vista in June of 2012.
Brandon asked me to marry him at Camp Chula Vista on November 6, 2016.
From the moment we stepped out of the car, I saw a picture that begged to be taken. So I grabbed my phone, walked down the hill, and almost laid down completely in the grass just to get the perfect picture of the swing. Then we moved closer to the lake and I started taking pictures of Katie and Coryghan as well as Josh and Lauren as we meandered around the lake.
There were many fantastic pictures taken that day, but my favorite one wasn’t taken by me. It was taken at four different angles, with four different cameras, by four different friends. It involves the man of my dreams on a knee, offering me a ring as a symbol of his love and devotion; as a symbol of the long life we will have together. It involves a proposal, not only of marriage, but of trials and difficulty and a promise to stand together no matter what we face. It involves a boy and a girl, ready to face whatever this life gives them with Christ leading the way. This is that picture.
He took me back to where our story began. And so, the next chapter in our story begins much the same way as the first: a guy and a girl at camp, led by the grace of God, surrounded by friends, destined to love each other more tomorrow than they thought possible today.
As you can imagine, I said yes.
Your prayers would be very appreciated. A long distance relationship is rough, but a long distance engagement is sure to test us beyond what we have previously known. Planning a wedding while in school and working will be difficult as well, but we believe that this timing is of the Lord and we are confident that He will provide all of our needs and supply us with abundant joy and strength to face each mountain in our path.
Thank you so much to everyone who has helped us and encouraged us over the years. It means the world to us and we pray the Lord blesses you beyond all measure! Y’all are awesome and you have blessed my socks off with the level of support you have offered us. So thank you. A million times. Thank you.
Have you ever had a crazy encounter with the Lord?
You’re sitting there, minding your own business and you feel the nudge to go grab your Bible or a devotional or just take a moment to pray. When you’ve fought with yourself long enough to realize that no, it wasn’t just you having a random thought, it really was the Lord nudging you to move, you get up and go find a quiet place and obey.
Then He hits you. Hard.
This happened to me in the beginning of August. The third day of August to be exact.
I was minding my own business when I felt the Lord nudge me to find a quiet place and do the Bible study I was working through, Believing God by Beth Moore. So, after a moment of soul searching, I knew that I needed to obey and I needed to do so right then. So I did. I’ve learned over the years that if the Lord tells me to do something and I don’t listen right away, or at least as soon as I can, then I’m in big trouble.
I settled down with my Bible, markers, and study in hand and opened the page to see that the topic of the day’s lesson was Joshua and Jericho. “Okay,” I thought, “I know this story. It’s a great story and I’m sure God has awesome stuff to tell me today.” Little did I know that what He had to tell me that day wasn’t something that I could shrug off. In fact, it took me 3 whole weeks to complete the task He set before me that day…
If you have never heard the story of Joshua when he faced Jericho, you can find it in Joshua 5:13-6:27.
Joshua encountered an angel who told him that the Lord had a message for him. That message included God telling Joshua that He had given Jericho into his hands; in other words, God was telling Joshua that he already had victory over the city of Jericho, which also happened to have a massive wall around it and gates that allowed no one in or out. God also told him the plan for victory: walking around the city. Not fighting or preparing a sneak attack. God simply told them to walk around the city once per day, for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day with the priests blowing trumpets and then give up a final shout. Then, after all of that, the Lord told him that the walls around the city would fall in so that Joshua and the Israelites could rush in.
When they obeyed and carried the ark of the covenant around the city once per day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day and offered up a shout, that is exactly what happened. The walls fell in and Jericho was taken.
The reason Joshua and the Israelites were faced with Jericho was because it was directly in the way of their promised land. To get to the promised land, they first had to get through Jericho.
As I read through the lesson, I was prompted to take a moment and ask God what my Jericho was. So that’s exactly what I did.
I put the Bible study aside, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. Then I saw it. I was standing high upon a cliff overlooking a vast, desolate wasteland. I searched the desert for a city surrounded by a round wall (because that’s how I envision Jericho must have looked). I looked, but saw nothing. I even tried squinting my eyes, but again saw nothing.
Then, suddenly, the Lord was standing on the cliff by my side. I asked Him to show me where my Jericho was; to point out the city and then name it for me. I knew my Jericho wasn’t actually a city that I needed to walk around. Instead, I figured the city I would find in the desert would be a symbol of something else and the Lord would name the city with what it was that I needed to pray circles around.
The Lord stretched out His hand and pointed into the distance. I looked, but I saw nothing but the desert laid out before me. He continued to point and said, “Look right down My arm to the point of My index finger and see what I see.” I leaned over; so close that I could see straight down His arm. He was pointing into the distance, beyond the vast desert before us. I could see mountains in the distance, but that was all. “No, Gentry, not with eyes of man” He said, “Look with eyes of faith! See? See it My way!”
Then I finally saw it.
The mountains weren’t just mountains, they were my promised land! Those mountains represented a previous vision the Lord had given me: when Brandon and I kneeled to pray, closed our eyes, and then arose from our prayer as an elderly couple, years into our marriage. “That is your promised land,” the Lord said. “This vast, desolate desert you see before you is your Jericho.”
Yes. the entire desert. As in all of it. As in a wasteland.
“Lord, how in the world am I supposed to circle the entire desert?” I asked.
I opened my eyes. I knew exactly how to circle a vast desert.
I found a piece of cardboard, a sharpie, a ruler, and a box cutter and I went to work. I measured the piece of cardboard and cut it into a 250mm x 250mm square. Then, I labeled it, “Jericho: a vast distance: 250 miles.”
That desert in my vision was indeed a vast, desolate wasteland, but that wasteland represented the vast distance between myself and the man I love. The distance which has been in place for more than four years and seemed to desire to stay that way for many more years, that was my desert. It had plagued me. That distance of 250 miles caused me so many days of worry and anxiety and stress and even depression at times. It was the source of so many problems, and yet I knew the Lord had that distance in place for a purpose. But I had gotten to the point of being so completely done with the distance between us and I was more than happy to circle that distance in the hopes of it crumbling.
I had grown so tired of the distance. So tired of only seeing Brandon for one weekend out of each month, save those nice times when we were at camp or able to visit after three weeks or even two at times. I had prayed so many prayers outlining just how tired I was of the distance and asking God to lessen it. And it seemed in that moment that He may have finally heard all of my prayers and finally decided it was time to let the distance crumble.
I was dedicated. For three weeks I laid that piece of cardboard on the floor and silently walked around it as I prayed in my mind for six days and on the seventh, I walked around it seven times while praying aloud and claiming the victory of my promised land even in the face of my Jericho.
During that time, God gave me a very specific prayer to pray, which aided in my circling. That prayer had to do with asking the Lord to hasten the day that Brandon and I would finally be able to be together. At the time, it looked as if we would have to wait another three to four years to be together because of school and work and the insanity of life. So I gladly prayed the hastening prayer that the Lord gave me.
At the end of those three weeks, the Lord answered my prayer for hastening and cut the projected time we would have apart in half. Praise Jesus! He opened doors and opened our minds to see His plan for us. He opened our eyes to see with eyes of faith, rather than simply seeing what was placed before me in this life with the eyes of man.
I found my Jericho. I circled my Jericho. In reality, I still am circling my Jericho, but victory is already mine and I can see my promised land looming on the horizon.
Now it’s your turn. Take some time and ask the Lord what is standing in the way of your promised land. Identify your Jericho and then circle it until the walls shatter into oblivion. You might just be surprised by what He shows you, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.
As awesome and incredible as my relationship with Brandon is (at least in my eyes, anyway), we have had more than our fair share of rough patches. There have been a couple of times that we’ve come close to ending everything and walking away from each other forever. This post is about one of those times.
If you want to read our story, you can find the entirety of our rather long story here.
A couple of months after I was diagnosed with VEDS, my friend, Katie, and I went to Chic-fil-a after prayer. We started talking about different things and somehow we got on the subject of my relationship with Brandon. Things went South quickly…
I questioned everything. I mean, it’s not like I hadn’t done that before. I had. I’ve had many conversations with the Lord, asking whether He was sure that Brandon was the right guy. (Don’t judge me. Every girl has their doubts. Even girls who are blessed with young men who don’t tuck tale and run when their girlfriend is diagnosed with an insane genetic disorder with more problems and future complications than could ever be noted… I know. I’m insane.)
Allow me to describe myself while in this type of mindset. I worry that I haven’t heard the Lord correctly and I question every decision I’ve made concerning Brandon. I worry that I have fabricated God’s blessing for our relationship over the last years. I worry. I doubt. I don’t trust. In other words, I allow Satan to whisper lies in my ears and I choose to believe them over what I know the Lord has told me.
So, there we were: Katie and I were sitting across the table from one another in Chic-fil-a. A few others were seated in various places around the restaurant, but we were far enough away to have a conversation without worrying that we would be overheard by our nearest neighbors. Because of that, our conversation flowed for a while and then moved on to the terrible subject of long distance relationships and my doubts.
I didn’t know what the cause of this incredible and sudden onslaught of doubt was. I couldn’t pinpoint where the overwhelming feeling that I had to break up with Brandon came from. All I knew, is that after spending an hour or so in prayer with our prayer group, I felt this burden and I felt that it was from the Lord. It terrified me. I felt as though the Lord was telling me that I needed to break up with Brandon. No reason given. Just a heavy burden that weighed heavier with each passing moment.
Of course, we had problems. Every couple has problems. Our main struggles consist of distance and a love language barrier (on top of me being an overly emotional person), but it isn’t like we wallow in our struggles and allow them to consume our every thought. We had difficulties. We still do. But in that moment, it seemed as though every trial we had ever faced rose up before me and would not allow me to ignore them or pray them away. Instead, the mountain of never-ending trials threatened to overshadow everything and plunge me into a despair so strong that I would never be freed from it.
However, the most peculiar aspect of it all, is that it seemed to come from God! It didn’t feel like a temptation. It didn’t feel like doubt. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, it felt like a test.
Talking with Katie, I came to the conclusion that God was asking me to break up with Brandon to prove that I loved God more than I loved Brandon. But this wasn’t just a ‘break up with you today and date you again tomorrow’ kind of feeling. It more along the lines of a ‘break up with you and never see you again’ kind of thing. So, with a heavy heart and tear-stained face, I walked to my car and sobbed a prayer on my drive home. I begged God to show me what His will was. I begged Him to ease the weight I felt in my soul…
He didn’t. The weight clung heavily all the way home. It worsened as I texted Brandon the most dreaded words: “we need to talk.”
Later that night, when Brandon got off of work, he called me. My heart hammered and I was crying before I was even able to say, “hello.” I must have said, “I don’t want to do this” and “I love you” a million times in that conversation…
I told him that I felt like God wanted me to break up with him. I told him that I had felt unloved and unwanted by him because he still didn’t speak my love language, even after multitudes of conversations about what that means and how to do so. I told him about my doubts and worries that I had heard the Lord wrong when He gave me the blessing to date him. I told him all of it. Let me rephrase that: I sobbed my way through attempting to explain everything that was chaotically clanging about in my thoughts. I’m pretty sure the whole, “let’s be friends” thing was even stated and explored for a while.
When I finally gave him time to speak, he was calm. (That freaked me out more than anything.) His voice was quiet. He listened to each word I said and simply replied in a manner of acceptance. He didn’t seek to change my mind. He never once raised his voice, he simply said, “if you feel like this is what you need to do, then I understand.”
There was no fight, no anger, no frustration. There was simply an acceptance of the inevitable end.
And in that moment, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t bring myself to hurt this young man I loved so completely. That was the thing, I still loved him! It wasn’t like I was fed up with him and he had frustrated me to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore. I simply felt like the Lord was calling me to do the one thing I never wanted to do. So, regardless of my feelings and desires, I was determined to do what God asked of me.
I have never identified so completely with Abraham than I did in that moment.
There is a man in Genesis, named Abraham, who was told by God to sacrifice his son as an offering to the Lord. Not like, give him up, but sacrifice, as in kill on an altar. Abraham obediently took his son, Isaac, up a mountain with everything needed for the sacrifice except an animal. Once they reached their destination, Abraham tied Isaac to the altar. Then, just as the knife in Abraham’s hand, poised to kill, came slashing down, and angel of the Lord stopped him. The angel called out to him and showed him that the Lord had provided a ram stuck in a thicket for the sacrifice so that Isaac didn’t have to die. The hard part is, if Abraham wouldn’t have tied Isaac up and raised the knife to sacrifice his beloved son, he never would have been shown the ram.
The willingness to sacrifice our own desires has to come before the Lord’s provision and blessing.
That’s what I learned while on the phone with Brandon that night. Only after I had come to the point of being willing to end my relationship with Brandon and had actually attempted to do so, was I able to see the provision. As soon as I had told him that I had to break up with him because I honored and loved God more than I loved him, the weight seemed to lift.
This simply confused me even more. First, I felt as though God wanted me to break up with Brandon. Then, only a short while later, I felt as though God was saying that I didn’t actually have to break up with him, I just had to be willing to do so. I had to show where my loyalties lie. I had to prove who I loved more and who I truly served.
As the weight lifted, and the confusion set in, I had to talk it out with Brandon: the one person who was completely fine with me breaking up with him… (I personally think that is a whole other problem we should probably address…)
In the end, through every sob and change in thinking, we ended up staying together and promising to pray it through to determine what exactly the Lord wanted us to do and then reevaluate where we were and whether to continue our relationship or end it when he visited almost a month later. Praise the good Lord in Heaven above that the final decision was to stay put, together, and really strive to focus on Christ, keep Him at the center of everything, and listen to how He wants us to live our lives and then obey.
So here we are, still together, and still waiting to see where He takes us next.
After I got diagnosed with VEDS, my relationship with Brandon took a negative turn. If you want to read the beginning of our story, you can find that here.
A few days after I was diagnosed, as I was driving to work, I prayed that the Lord would give me something to hold onto while I grappled with living with VEDS on top of every other thing I was dealing with.
So He did.
I was sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face. I was praying. Asking God to give me something, anything to hold onto. I felt like I was drowning. I felt like this new knowledge that I did in fact have Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome was going to send me into the darkest pit of despair. I needed something to cling to; to keep me from falling into the pit that threatened to ruin my life and steal every ounce of joy I had ever known.
So I pleaded with the Lord to give me something. Anything.
And then it happened. In my little two door car, trying to see past the tears that filled my eyes, hearing the cracks in my voice as I cried out for help. I saw it.
It was about five years into the future. Brandon and I were married and we were in our room getting ready to go to sleep. We walked over to the bed and he reached out his hand to me. I took his hand and we knelt down beside our bed with our clasped hands between us on the quilt. We closed our eyes and started to pray. Just like we did every night. When I opened my eyes, our clasped hands were old and wrinkled. We had the hardest time getting off of the floor with our old knees. But we still knelt beside our bed and prayed together every night. Just like we always had.
I was frozen.
That was it. That was my hope. That was my promise. That was the thing that I could cling to for the rest of my life. When my world started to crumble again, I could remember that promise that came straight from Heaven.
I had been given visions before and I’d had dreams that I knew were from the Lord, but nothing had ever compared to this. It was so vivid and I knew it was just for me in answer to my prayers. I had asked God for hope. I had asked Him to give me something to cling to; to keep me from slipping into the darkness. And He answered me. He is so good.
He gave me hope. But not just a fleeting hope. This vision that He gave me filled me with joy and hope and peace. It has continued to fill me with joy and hope and peace. Through every trial and every temptation to give up and sink into despair, this vision has been a reminder of God’s plan for me.
Just because a doctor says that my median life span is 48 years doesn’t mean that I can’t live to grow old and kneel with my husband in prayer every night. Just because a doctor says that I’m at an incredibly high risk of rupturing anything in my body at any moment doesn’t mean that I can’t live a full life. Just because a doctor says that it’s really risky for me to have kids doesn’t mean that I can’t adopt the sweet kiddos that need someone to love them. Just because a doctor says something doesn’t mean that God can’t turn what he says into a new dream, a new blessing.
Just because I have VEDS doesn’t mean that I can’t live a long life with the man of my dreams. It doesn’t mean that I have to live in fear. It doesn’t mean that God has turned His back on me and I have to walk this road alone. Actually, it means the opposite.
Being diagnosed with VEDS has opened my eyes to just how near God is every single moment of every day. The vision He gave me has reminded me of that more times than I care to count. Chronic pain and a different issue every day makes life a little more insane. But it also makes me a little more thankful for each day I see and each moment I get to live. It makes me realize how incredibly blessed I am to have a man like Brandon who is more than just willing to walk through this insane life with me. He wants it. He is actively choosing me, with all of the crazy complications that come with a life entangled by VEDS.
He chooses to stay with me instead of walking away like most rational people would. He chooses to help me through the nights that I’m plagued with negativity. He chooses to hold me when the tears overwhelm my joy. He chooses to pray for me when I don’t know how to pray for myself anymore. He chooses to pray with me and help me to see the good all around me. He chooses to point out the positives and remind me of all of the blessings the Lord has given me. He chooses to walk with me through each of the painful moments, letting the Lord lead us on this crazy path that we call life. He chooses to love me, in the rare good moments and the frequent bad ones.
So, Brandon, it means the world to me that you actively and presently choose me, regardless of every problem we have faced and all of the craziness I’m sure we will face. You are my sunshine. Truly. When skies are gray and all I can see is the negativity, you help me to see the sun hiding just behind the clouds. You remind me that the Lord is still there and He is ready and willing to carry my burden and give me joy. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. And I pray the Lord never takes you from me.
This post is going to serve two purposes. The first is to take a look back at a year ago, September 17th 2015, when I was diagnosed with VEDS (which in turn, led to this blog). The second is to continue my story with Brandon as it relates to that fateful day. If you would like to read the beginning of our story, you can find it all here. If you would like to know more about VEDS and how I explained it, you can find that here.
One year ago today I was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, otherwise known as VEDS. When I walked out of that doctor’s office, I knew my life would never be the same. One year after that day, I can say that I was definitely right.
The doctors gave me so many limitations: don’t lift more than 20 pounds; don’t exercise with any repetitive motions or heavy weights; don’t run; try not to do anything that makes your blood pump harder in your veins; oh yeah, and if you ever get pregnant, it will immediately be a high risk pregnancy and you have a 50% chance of passing VEDS to your kids. Just to name a few. They even threw in a median life span around 48. Have they stopped me? No. Did they give me pause? Heck yes.
The thing that gave me more pause than anything else had nothing to do with me. It had to do with my mom and Brandon.
First, let’s talk about my mom.
She’s literally one of the most incredible women on the planet. I’m pretty sure she knows everything and I’m not the only one who would say that. She is asked about anything and everything, unless it’s sports. But I don’t have to defend her to you. If you know her, then you know how fantastic she is. If you don’t, then you are missing out on knowing an amazing woman of God.
When the doctor told us that based on the data they had, VEDS patients had a median life span of 48, my first thought was, “I can’t lose my mom. That would only mean a few more years with her. That can’t happen.” I held it together in the doctor’s office, but trust me, I had more than my fair share of tears over that thought when no one was around.
Yes, it was an awful thought. Yes, I cried over it. And yes, there have been many prayers over that whole situation. But a few months later our suspicions were confirmed when my mom’s dad was also tested and diagnosed with VEDS. Considering that we have some semi-distant cousins who also have VEDS, we are also assuming that my great grandmother and her sister also had VEDS. Why is that important? They both lived to be in their 90s. My grandfather is currently in his 60s.
Know what that means?
We are defying the odds and making the doctors eat their words! Life span of 48?? Ha!!
There is so much peace in knowing that the Lord has been watching over my family with VEDS for decades. He has been helping us defy every odd that has been placed in our path. That, my friends, is one of the many ways I know that God is good.
Now let’s move onto the second thing that gave me pause: Brandon.
Before I was able to walk out of that doctor’s office, it was as if moments of my future life were flashing before my eyes. The problem was, they weren’t very nice ones… *insert dramatic blur to dream vision* I was in my 30s sitting in yet another doctor’s office and he had no answers for why this was happening. I had to visit what seemed like a hundred doctors each year because of all of the problems I was having. I was being wheeled into the emergency room because a major organ had ruptured and they were going to try to save my life, but the likelihood of them being able to save me was minimal. I was slipping away while giving birth to a child, realizing that I would be leaving my husband wifeless, perhaps childless if the baby didn’t make it, and that baby may have the same disease that caused me so many problems if he or she made it… A life of pain. A life of heartache. A life of frustrations and trials and worries… *insert blur back to reality*
Needless to say, I had a lot on my mind.
My brother, Parker, was diagnosed with VEDS a couple of months before, which is why we were tested for VEDS at that time. Since Parker had already been diagnosed, we knew what to Google. We knew what the geneticist said about it and we had some resources to look at, so the 6 weeks between when the blood work was taken and the results came in were filled with learning more about VEDS and how it could potentially affect us for the rest of our life.
Brandon and I had talked about the fact that I was in the process of being tested for VEDS. (Granted, I waited a few days to tell him that my mom, sister, and I had gotten tested… He wasn’t too happy about that…) So when I called to tell him that the blood work had come back positive, it wasn’t a big surprise. We had been planning for that.
I’m sure that Brandon wasn’t too thrilled when I basically told him that I thought it would be better for him if he let me go and found someone else to be with. His life would be better. He would’t have to deal with all of the doctors and medications and bills and problems. His life would be easier and probably a lot simpler without me in it. So I offered him an out. I gave him a way to leave without guilt and without any hard feelings. I didn’t want him to be stuck with me and VEDS for the rest of his life. He deserved better than that.
The problem with that whole conversation was that he didn’t agree.
A year ago we were 21. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many 21 year old guys who hear that their girlfriend has a progressive and chronic genetic disorder with many limitations and still decide that they would rather live that life with you than leave you for anything or anyone else.
That moment made me realize how much Brandon really did love me. It wasn’t that he felt obligated to stay with me or anything like that. He had prayed about it and thought about it deeply. He actively chose me, knowing everything that came with that choice. He chose me knowing how many sacrifices he would have to make. He loved me not only in spite of all of those things; he loved me because of them.
Here are a couple of the things he told me after I was diagnosed with VEDS:
“Let me be your leg to stand on when you can’t stand on yours. Let me be your rock when you need it. I’m here for you and I’m not going anywhere, so you better get used to it because you have a long time left with me!” and “I know that there’s a lot that I’ll have to deal with in this life if I’m with you, but who’s to say that it’ll be easier without you? No one!”
Each day and each moment that has filled the last year of life with VEDS has taught me so much. But most of all, it has made me realize how short life is and how quickly it can all change. Brandon not only loved me in that moment, he loved me for every moment after that. The good, the bad, and the ugly. He held me while I cried and suffered through an insane diagnosis. He kept telling me it would all work out and God had it under control. He worked with me through one of the roughest seasons in my life and he continues to do so each day. I guess you could say he’s a keeper.
The Lord was able to take that crazy day and turn it into a blessing. It has definitely been a rough year, but I have been blessed beyond measure since that day.
However, as blessed as I was and as loved as I was after that day, I went through a rather difficult time. I felt guilty for dating Brandon because I felt like I was dragging him into a terrible life. I felt bad for the people around me who had to deal with everything too. In reality, I would have preferred leaving everyone I knew and living by myself and taking care of myself so I didn’t burden anyone else. Granted, that didn’t really work. At all. But I did still slip into a short season of not understanding why this was happening to me.
One day on my way to work, I prayed that the Lord would give me something to hold onto while I grappled with living with VEDS on top of every other thing I was dealing with. So He did.
But I’ll tell you about that next time.
Here’s the beginning of our story.
So 2013 started off with my first kiss. Even if Brandon did technically miss the first time. But that was just the beginning. As if the missed first kiss, in the dark, on the side of the road, with my sister waiting in the car wasn’t awkward enough, we were also in the most awkward position ever. I was carrying stuff in one arm, which ended up wedged awkwardly between us, and my other arm was slung around his super tall shoulder. It wasn’t super romantic, but it’s one of my favorite memories and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Can you imagine that my life got more awkward than that? Not even two full days later, I found myself in one of the most awkward situations that I have ever experienced to this day. And believe me, I’ve had more than my fair share of awkward moments in my lifetime…
Allow me to set the scene for you. We were sitting in my very small, 2-door car. It was late, and even though I didn’t have a curfew, I probably should have been driving home. But I wasn’t. I was sitting in the driver’s seat across from the guy I was very quickly falling for, talking. Yes, we were actually talking, not being typical teenagers. And then it happened. The words I never dreamed I would actually hear come out of a guys mouth when they were talking to me.
“I think I love you, Gentry…”
The words hung in the air.
I knew I was supposed to respond. I knew exactly how I was supposed to respond: “I love you too, Brandon!” But I didn’t. The silence lingered. My facial expression was probably priceless. I racked my brain for an answer. This is what I found:
“I really want to say it back, Brandon. I’ve thought about saying that a million times over the last six months. I’ve prayed about it. Literally. But I can’t. I can’t say that right now because I’m not sure that I know exactly what love is. You’re the first guy I’ve ever liked this much and I want to say that it’s love, but I’m not positive. I’ve never experienced that kind of love before and I don’t want to say it and then not really mean it because I don’t understand what I’m saying. I’m sorry. I just can’t say that right now.”
I realized I was rambling and repeating myself, so I stopped talking.
If you told someone that you loved them and they gave you that response, how would you respond? Honestly.
I expected shock or silence or something other than what I got.
The look on his face was purely apologetic. He started apologizing profusely for springing it on me so suddenly and saying that he didn’t want me to say that I loved him until I really meant it. He was completely understanding and never once made me feel uncomfortable.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t uncomfortable. I was extremely uncomfortable and felt like the most awkward person on the face of the earth.
So, I didn’t tell Brandon that I loved him that day, but I did eventually. I probably would have the next day if he wouldn’t have left to go back home. But he did go home and that wasn’t something that I wanted to say over the phone. So I waited a month until he came to visit again in February.
* * *
It was like a flashback in my mind. A month later we were sitting across from each other in my car once again. Brandon hadn’t told me that he loved me again since that first time a month ago. But this time, it was my turn.
My mind was muddled and my heart hammered in my chest. My mouth was dry, but I had to say it. I had to tell him.
“Brandon. I love you.”
The next words out of his mouth shocked me more than the first time he told me that he loved me.
“Are you sure?”
It wasn’t a movie moment where he kissed me or we had a nice romantic moment or he even said that he loved me too. Those three words, not “I love you” but “Are you sure,” through me for a loop. I questioned everything I had been thinking for the last month.
“Uh… Yeah.” I mean, I was sure, right!?
He looked worried. Not happy, but worried! (I’m literally laughing as I type this.)
“I just want to make sure that you actually want to say it. I don’t want you to say it just to make me happy.”
I had just told this boy that I loved him and he was worried about me saying it just to say it. That was why I loved him in that moment. That response is what solidified my love for him and my resolve to tell him. He never pushed me. He never tested my boundaries. He respected where I stood and stood beside me until I was ready to take the next step.
The best part? He hasn’t changed. He still stands beside me and respects my boundaries. He doesn’t push me to do anything that I’m not sure of. But he also doesn’t just let me stand still in life. He pushes me to be a better person and grow each and every day. He prays for me and with me and he supports me in my classes, work, relationships, and family. He really does love me. It wasn’t just three little words that he said one day. He lives it. He actively loves me. And that is one of the many reasons that I love him.
If you want to read the beginning of the story, you can read it here.
So now you know that I lived out a Hallmark movie and got my first boyfriend for Christmas in 2012. Today’s part of the story, however, is about a mere seven days later on New Year’s Eve.
It started out just like every other New Year’s Eve had over the past few years. I was getting ready to go to a friend’s house to celebrate with the girls in our youth and college group. Of course, throughout the entirety of my readying, I was texting Brandon and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I, for the first time in my life, actually had a boyfriend. What a weird word! Boyfriend. My boyfriend. Weird. Of course, I hadn’t seen him or anything like that… We do happen to live a small distance away from each other; though the distance is great enough to limit our visits to one weekend each month, except for special occasions. However, on this particular New Year’s Eve, we had yet to see each other since our first encounter, six months earlier at summer camp.
It was our one week anniversary! (I know. Gross.) However, the conversation we were having was short and seemingly one-sided. I was suspicious. It turned out that I was right to be suspicious. The boy was acting upon a plan that had been in the works for quite some time…
You see, Brandon was a tricky little booger. Well, he still is if I’m being completely honest. Remember that whole boyfriend for Christmas over text message thing? That isn’t exactly how he had planned for that conversation to go. He had talked with a few people and had already planned to come up to visit me for New Year’s Eve and that is when he had planned to ask me to be his girlfriend in person rather than over text. Which, by the way, he has apologized for profusely since that day.
So, there I am. Almost finished with the daunting task of blow drying my insanely thick hair. My sister also happens to be in the room with me, though she is standing on the edge of the bathtub to better see herself in the mirror above the sink. We also just so happened to be singing at a not so quiet volume…
There was a knock at the door. I turned the blowdryer off, we stopped singing, and I opened the door to see my mother standing there with a big grin on her face. “You have a visitor,” she trilled as she walked away.
I was in shock! There was no way that the absolutely insane boy that I had just recently agreed to start “dating” (remember that previous discussion about the difference I hold between “talking” and “dating”) actually took the time and spent the money to drive 250 miles just to see me. I walked out of the bathroom mumbling, “It better not be…”
It was. I turned the corner and there he was. He was actually there! Standing in my living room and grinning from ear to ear was the boy I hadn’t seen in half a year. Needless to say, I rushed over to him and gave him a long awaited embrace followed by a few laughs. Apparently my face was priceless or something like that.
Standing there beside him for what felt like the first time, I realized something. He was tall! I mean, I knew he was 6’4, but seeing as I hadn’t really been around him, I had honestly forgotten how much taller he was than I.
As we walked out of the house and made our way to the New Year’s Eve party, I felt every bit like an awkward teenage girl going on her very first date. I mean, it wasn’t a date. It was an ambush. But that’s beside the point. The smiles were radiant and the laughter was genuine.
When we walked into our friend’s house, everyone laughed and started talking at the same time. Brandon had brought two of his friends from home and they were waiting there for us as well. Apparently everyone had been a part of the ambush except me. I was bitter at first, but that faded away rather quickly. I guess my joy at seeing him in person and actually being there with him overshadowed my bitterness.
Now, our New Year’s Eve parties aren’t really anything like, well anything. That night we sat around the room, watched Pitch Perfect, and talked about life. There was also a toast around midnight with some sparkling apple juice and perhaps a hand was held here and there, but that’s as close to a typical New Year’s Eve party as we get. I think it’s absolutely brilliant.
We left later on that night and I got another first for the New Year: my first kiss. It wasn’t anything super romantic. Actually it was rather awkward because he just so happened to miss the first time… Got me right on the side of my mouth! He’s a keeper, I know it! He redeemed himself a moment later and met his mark. Only for a short moment, but it marked the beginning of a new year with a new guy. Actually, it marked the first year with the first guy that will hopefully be the last guy. But I guess we will have to wait and see what God has planned for us.
I know it’s been a while since my last post and I apologize to those of you who actually read this. Also, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my pathetic story. You can find the beginning of this story here.
So after the silence of October, Brandon and I picked up where we left off, but through all of it, we were still “just friends.” Of course, every singe person I know tried to convince me that we were already dating. Did I listen? No. Why? Because he had not asked me to be his girlfriend yet!
You see, in my mind, we would never become anything more than friends until he manned up and asked me to be his girlfriend. Yes, I am perfectly aware that this line is not always so distinctly drawn nowadays. However, Brandon and I had previously discussed it. He and I both knew that we would stay in the friend zone until he asked me to be more and I, in turn, accepted. The thing is, he finally did…
Allow me to set the scene for you: I was visiting with my family in North Alabama and Brandon was visiting with his family in Georgia. I was sitting in the living room watching a movie with my dad and sister while everyone else in the house was asleep. Brandon was laying on the floor while his younger brother slept on the bed beside him. Christmas Eve came swiftly and soon it was around 2:oo am. Of course, Brandon and I were still texting, because that’s apparently what teenagers do…. (Note from my older self: sleep is always the better option.)
Somewhere amid the late night movie and snores of sleeping siblings, the conversation began leaning heavily toward the subject of beginning a relationship. Very nonchalant. I know. So, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, he ever so casually asked if I would be his girlfriend and I ever so casually decided to wait 5 minutes before responding. Literally. Five whole minutes. I watched each one pass on my watch before I responded with the long awaited “yes.”
I’m sure he hated me for making him wait so long, but I have a feeling he forgave me the moment he received my reply. Or at least I hope so… He has put up with so much more from me since that moment that I am sure those five minutes of waiting pale in comparison to the month of silence in October, the six months we didn’t see each other after we first met, and the years we have spent waiting a month to see each other for a weekend.
You would think that the years of waiting would teach us a thing or two about being patient. I mean, I’m sure that it has, but in reality it has just made us appreciate the short moments we have together. It reminds us of how blessed we are to have those moments. It helps us remember that God is at the center of it all and even though it seems impossible for us to last another day in this long distance relationship, He gives us the strength and ability to carry on one more hour, one more day, one more month…
So I got a boyfriend for Christmas. It’s like a Hallmark movie title… Oh wait, it really is a Hallmark movie title. One I happen to watch almost every year at Christmas time. Who knew Hallmark movies came true!? Now, don’t go thinking that Brandon planned to ask me to be his girlfriend on Christmas Eve over text. He didn’t. He actually had something very different in mind…
But I will save that story for next time!
If you missed the first part of the story, you can find it here.
I know it’s been a little while since I last posted, so I’ll give you a quick recap of my last post: Brandon and I decided to take a break from any kind of communication for the whole month of October, 2012 in order to focus more on the Lord and seek out His will for our relationship. We were not dating at the time, just “talking” and we had not seen each other again since we said goodbye at camp.
October was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It took a lot of self-control to not look back at our text messages. It took even more self-control to decide to block him on Facebook after I realized that even though we weren’t supposed to be communicating, I could still see everything he posted on social media (that was horrific by the way, especially when he posted sweet things). At one point, one of my friends was talking to him and ever so nicely came over and said, “Guess who I’m talking to!” Yes, they knew about October. Yes, it stung. Yes, it hurt. And yes, I put on a smile and laughed along with them so they didn’t feel bad about it.
You know the quote that says, “You never know what you have until it’s gone?” Whoever coined that phrase knew what they were talking about. When I woke up on October 1st, I still almost expected a good morning text from Brandon. I expected to see his name pop up on my phone at some point during the day. I expected to get a phone call that night and hear his voice before I went to sleep. I knew it shouldn’t come and it never did. But that was what I wanted, right?
I wanted Brandon to agree to not communicate with me for a whole month. I wanted him to agree to not text me, not call me, and basically vanish from my life for a month. Well, I wanted him to vanish as much as someone can when said person was constantly on my mind and seemed to come up in almost every conversation I had… The problem was, I had asked for this. I asked for the distance I didn’t want. I asked for the communication I so desired, to be cut off completely. I asked for it all. Literally. At that point I was questioning everything I thought I had heard from the Lord along with my sanity, of course.
But God is and was good and He brought many blessings and revelations through October.
When Brandon didn’t freak out about my absolutely insane request to cease communication, it was the first time I realized how serious he was about our relationship. Now, please remember that I asked all of this of a guy I had only known for three months and also hadn’t seen again in those three months. I also may or may not have mentioned to this boy that I was looking for a man worthy to marry. And he didn’t even flinch. At all. I’ve never known another 18 year old guy to react with such a calm and accepting spirit. Three months in…. I’m just praising the Lord that He has turned that 3 months into more than 3 years now. But that’s a story for another time.
October was a time that the Lord gave me to ensure that I was placing Christ at the center of my life rather than allowing myself to place a boy in His rightful place. It was a truly freeing experience, despite all of the craziness. We both learned a little more about who we were in Christ before we pursued a relationship together under the Lord’s guidance.
Now, let me just tell you that I cannot possibly express the number of different emotions that I experienced during October. It was like an emotional rollercoaster on steroids. The problem was, the highs never lasted long and the lows were lower than I had ever known them to be. However, through it all, God was right there with me. He rode with me on my crazy rollercoaster and I know that He was with Brandon as well.
The moment that we were able to talk to each other again, I got a call. November 1, 2012 at 12:01am. I know this is all about to sound like the crazy, mushy movie stuff, but I’m going to say it anyway. The moment I heard his voice, it made every single second of October worth it. The moment he said, “I missed you,” I knew that we had made the right choice. It was like that one moment made up for the month of insanity that preceded it. Hearing his voice again and knowing that he missed me and hadn’t decided that I was absolutely insane (which I definitely am) or given up on me brought so much joy. To know that October didn’t make him run screaming for the hills made me realize just how much I liked that boy.
Even though our conversation only lasted a little while that night, the days, weeks, months, and years of communication that have followed October have been blessed because of our obedience to the Lord in that time.
We decided that we didn’t need to change much about our relationship, other than truly striving to keep Christ at the center of our individual lives as well as at the center of our relationship, of course. Neither of us felt like God was leading us to start a relationship right at that moment, but we also didn’t feel like He was telling us to back away from it. So, we just kind of picked up where we left off, with our minds set on doing God’s will, not our own.
October was a doozy. It was nowhere near my idea of fun, though it definitely fit my criteria for following God when He tells you to do something even when you really don’t want to. We both came out stronger in our faith and we learned more about ourselves and each other as well. It was a blessing disguised as a trial; so I’ll just keep praising the Lord and counting October as pure joy, just like James said to do in James 1:2.