Our story is definitely not your typical love story. Goodness. It's quite crazy, in fact and definitely one that would take way too long to tell if no details were left out as it covers a near 5 year period. Yes, 5 years.
I believe it was circa 2004. Our home church at the time hosted a summer program for all the youth on Tuesday's called "Lazy Haze Tuesdays" where we would all gather up at the church and hang out, play dodge ball, eat pizza and hang out with the youth staff and interns. One Tuesday in particular I happened to be in the balcony with a former youth intern (I was 16 at the time) as all of the others were playing dodge ball downstairs and we were watching from above and choosing the music in the sound booth. Ben and his friend, Rafi had come in earlier and began playing and they were annihilating everyone in the game, naturally. Former intern began asking me "who I liked" to which I firmly replied "absolutely no one". This was always my response. I was never the typical swooning teenager. I didn't have time for that and was far more concerned with much more "important" things, whatever that may be. I had never dated anyone before.
She started naming different names and pointing out guys in the crowd while I just laughed and rolled my eyes. She then pointed her finger at Ben and said, "Amber, HIM, he's cute!" and then yelled "Hey Ben! This is Amber!" as she pointed to me. I was hot faced and could feel my cheeks turning red as I fell to the ground as to not be seen by anyone. How could she?! I was extremely upset. I felt really embarrassed especially since I had shown no interest and thought, "he must think I'm an idiot!" Little did I know, he was instantly intrigued and began asking questions about me to certain friends of mine. It's funny because now when we talk about that day, he literally remembers what I was wearing! So cute.
I went on about my business and kind of forgot about the whole ordeal- didn't really think much more about the situation except for maybe the fact at how stupid said intern made me feel and look. I was and still am easily embarrassed.
Not too long after, I was at cell group and a friend called one of my friends and asked for my cell phone number to which she replied "why?" and he said, "I have a good friend who needs it". She gave my number to him and I honestly didn't really know who it was that wanted my number. I was of course, flattered but a little suspicious.
The next week, I went to Panama City Beach to stay with my grandparents in their condo on the beach for the weekend. One night I received a phone call and the number was unknown and looked like it was maybe an international call. It certainly was.
I answered and said "Hello" and heard a nervous voice on the other end say "hey".
"Ummm, hey." was my reply. "who is this?"
I started putting all the pieces together. He was the one who was wanting my number after all!
He called me from Barbados with a few of his friends and I think it was a dare thing. We talked for a bit and yes, it was a little awkward but a good conversation nonetheless.
I told my sister, Ashton about the whole thing and we just laughed about it and went to bed.
He got my AIM screen name. Remember those, anyone? I remember an unknown screen name notifying me of a conversation someone was trying to have with me and I accepted. It was of course, Ben. We chatted for nearly 2 hours.
He started hanging around all of my friends and the first time we really hung out, we went and saw Napoleon Dynamite with my friend, Meagan and our friend, Sam. We texted a lot and hung out in groups A LOT, yet never alone. I was really scared of going there, honestly. I didn't want to give false hope or anything like that and was really unsure of what my feelings were. The attention was great, the attraction was there and the mystery intrigued me but I was terrified.
I ran. He chased.
We got to a point where we developed a substantial friendship and made emotional attachments but I still was not ready to commit after months and months of him pursuing me. he did the sweetest things in the world- brought me thousands of flowers, took me on a candle-lit picnic in the park downtown, would leave my favorite candy on my doorstep along with a sweet card, would bring me my favorite soup when I was sick and was always there to talk and laugh with. He truly treated me like the most important person in the world and pursued me for months only for me to say "I'm not ready". I've never in my life seen so much persistence. It blew my mind. I really put him through the ringer =/
As time progressed, he worked up the courage to talk to my parents and let them know that he wanted their permission to continue pursuing me and we had our first "real talk" at star bucks the very next day. I'll NEVER forget how nervous and antsy I was. I felt sick the night before from the nerves. I knew what was coming and was so scared of what to say and do. He was so cute and nervous too and pretty much just told me how he felt and how he would like to begin a relationship with me. I, of course was scared and so I said something along the lines of "Not right now but I definitely see potential there." Goodness, I can't believe he didn't give up right then and there. He didn't.
We remained friends but talked every.single.day and of course there were feelings there so we were kind of dating without dating.
I remember being so confused by what others were telling me to do and I subconsciously allowed their opinions and advice to sway and cloud my thinking. I've always cared way too much about what other people think but I've come a LONG way since I was 17, I tell you.
Sweet Ben remained as patient as ever and did not give up after nearly 9 months of this chaos. There are many, many details that would take much too long to convey here but my goodness, he wins the award for being the most patient guy in the world. No one had ever gone to the lengths for me that he did and sadly, I didn't know how to show my true appreciation and left him feeling pretty bummed. I feel horrible about this.
Finally, the day arrived where I made the decision to "go with it". What did I have to lose? If anything, he had proved how much he cared about me and I cared deeply for him. We were basically together anyway, why not put the title on it? So, we made it official after nearly a year.
We (or I...haha) had an extremely moral approach going in to the relationship in the physical aspect. We had never been physical with each other and after making it official, I wouldn't even hold his hand for the first 3 months. Horrible. I'm so cruel. I didn't mean to be, I just wasn't ready. Again, I had never explored this territory before and just didn't want to rush things. He was so sweet about it and never complained about it (not to me at least...haha).
The first time we held hands was precious and something I will never ever forget. He was so cute.
Things were going good and then began going downhill. Mainly because of me. I've always had a hard time communicating verbally. I internalize my feelings and don't open up enough about really important issues and this became a huge roadblock in our relationship as well as some other things. We were so young and while I loved him to pieces, I was still so unsure and scared of everything.
I think we went through quite a few "breaks" and then in May of 2006, officially ended things.
Goodness. So hard.
He wanted to work things out but I just couldn't. I had to do it and I knew that I did. I had A LOT of growing up to do. We both did, really.
So, we were apart for 3 1/2 years. I always cared about him and wanted the best for him but never saw us getting back together in the future. Although, I compared every guy to him. No one ever treated me with so much respect and admiration as he did and has. He was my first everything. Everything. And I still had deep emotional attachments to him.
We both happened to move to Louisiana in the fall of 2006 as the Bible college we attended relocated there. It was weird. We did not talk and in a class of only 60, we saw each other nearly every day. No communication whatsoever. I thought he hated me, quite honestly. Now I know that this wasn't the case...at all. We've talked about it since we've been back together and it's crazy to see where we both were with everything during the last 3 1/2 years. We really missed each others lives as we didn't stay in close contact but we remained civil toward one another and were up to date on what each of us were doing.
So, how did we get here? After 3 1/2 years?
Well it all kind of began with my family's big move to Charlotte, NC late last year. He always stayed close with my family. They loved him and vice versa. He helped us move on the big day along with many other dear friends. That very day, my friends, Beth, Alex and Danielle were helping me pack up a few remaining items in my bedroom and we came across my "box". This box contained every single letter he had ever written me along with pictures and special things I kept to remember certain events. (I keep EVERYTHING). They freaked out and started rumaging through it without my consent and I freaked out because I knew he was right down the hall!! I quickly shut my door and locked it and demanded that they be quiet! I was so scared of the possibility of him hearing the ruckus. Alex (my sweet, beautiful, sentimental, hopeless romantic Cuban friend) began crying as she read and look through pictures. She looked up at my with tears streaming from her eyes and said "Sweet Amber, what happened?!". It was at that every moment that I began to feel something inside of my heart and it FREAKED me out. I quickly gathered everything together and tucked them back into the box and continued packing and going about my business.
Later on that day, Ben, Beth, Matt, Jesse and I had to make a few trips to a storage unit down the road as moving day was hectic as ever and not everything fit into the truck. I was delighted to be around Ben and went on each occasion.
The day my family moved was extremely difficult for me. Extremely. I was a complete basket case as I had to say goodbye to them and my dear home of many years. Beth and Ben were my saving grace. They spent the entire day with me and every day after that for weeks. I could not have done it without them by my side.
Of course there was some communication between Beth and Ben about me and vice versa. She was kind of like the man in the middle. I wasn't sure what was taking place and I was afraid of allowing my vulnerability to take me to a place that I didn't need to go so I refrained without really refraining. We continued hanging out and he did the sweetest things for me. He would drive all the way over to where my work was just to meet me for lunch and then one day asked to trade cars with me and took mine to clean it and detail it. So, so sweet.
I was thoroughly enjoying his company and loved that we were back in each others lives but I wasn't sure what was happening. We talked on the phone for nearly 3 hours one night and caught each other up on what all had occurred during the past 3 and 1/2 years.
I was freaking out. Seriously. Freaking out.
Poor Beth got earful after earful of my craziness but I couldn't have had a better person to listen and give me advice.
We went out to Fish House one night (my favorite restaurant) and had a really good conversation. I think it was then that I told him that no one had ever treated me with as much respect as he did. He has told me since how much that stood out to him and meant to him.
I mentioned in this post and this post about the most beautiful gift that he made me. He basically comprised hundreds of pictures from my entire lifespan and collaborated them into the most gorgeous (and massive) collage ever set in a beautiful custom made frame. I have never been given anything more precious and thoughtful in all of my life. It will always be a most prized possession. He said he did it because he knew how badly I was missing my family and the nature of the gift was geared toward my family, as well as my friends and things that were important to me in my life. Little did I know, I would find a hidden message just a few weeks later that he had etched on the back. Basically him telling me about how he has felt towards me after all these years as well as the lyrics to a song that best described our situation and story- "All We'd Ever Need" by Lady Antebellum...
"I should've been chasing you
I should've been trying to prove
That you were all that mattered to me
I should've said all the things that I kept inside of me
And maybe I could've made you believe
That what we had was all we'd ever need"
I cried my eyes out upon discovering the letter and lyrics. Such a sweet and romantic thing for him to do.I knew from past experience that he wasn't going to initiate and address the situation as early as I wanted him to as he knew how slow I was in taking things such as this. So, one night I brought it up. It's funny to talk about it now because he tells me that he was absolutely SHOCKED that night. I brought it up though, I did. I knew we needed to talk about it and I had learned a lot about communication and being up front and honest about things. I knew we had to talk about it. So, we did. He took me to what one of our regular date spots used to be. He took me there the night we had our very first kiss so many years ago. The Yacht Club. A beautiful piece of land overlooking the bay and a dock that we used to walk out on. We sat under the moonlight on a swing from a tree and looked out onto the glossy water as we had one of the most wonderful and open conversations I have ever had with anyone. I will always treasure that moment. It was the beginning of something...
A few days later we drove up to Charlotte together to see my family for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time. His family was close by and they came and met up with all of us that weekend. Our familes get along so well and they've always loved the idea of us two together. Before we got back together, our moms were already scheming. Shame. ;)
We became "official" for the second times in our lives on December 14, 2009 and have entered into a more mature relationship than before. We've both grown so much since the last go round and this time is just different. Are there flaws? Absolutely. You find that with every relationship though, right? The difference now is, we're open about it (well, I am- he always has been). and we're working toward improvement. It's a growing process. Things are progressing and its as if no time has passed. We're so happy and excited about the future.
I really believe that God allowed everything to happen for a distinct reason and though we both went through heartache, confusion and pain- it has brought us to the place that we are now and it couldn't be more beautiful and perfect.
Ben is the sweetest, most caring, loving and precious man to ever enter my life (other than my Dad ;) ) and I can't say it enough. I've never been treated better or felt more respected in all of my life. I am so blessed.
There are so many more details that were left out but there is just absolutely noway that I could add any more to this and I'll be shocked if you even made it this far!