Status: Just Friends
I met Russ when I was 15. It was November 26, 2002.
My brother Kurt was a freshman in college. Russ was in his dorm, and they were quickly becoming best friends. My family went down to visit Kurt for Thanksgiving. Russ was definitely the most unique individual I had ever me, and honestly, I thought he was a bit crazy. His thick, dark hair was in desperate need of a haircut, he was wearing sandals (in November!! oh the funny the details we remember), and he did crazy stuff like eating the sugar cookies I had made for Kurt’s buddies–right out of my hand.
The next spring (March 8th and 9th – 2003) Russ came up to visit my family with Kurt for a few days of their spring break. I had just turned 16. I distinctly remember every detail that happened during those two days, from what we ate to the color of my socks to the games that we played. Russ taught my family to play the card game Canasta, and, as he was my partner, I can honestly say that he was the first guy to ever ask me to “go out.” The sparks were flying, but I was so young and it was all so innocent. We were both initially attracted to each other at this time, but we didn’t admit to ourselves, let alone each other. The day he left, I felt down, kinda like you feel like the day after Christmas.
Over the next few years Russ became like another big brother to me. We would often talk on the phone (although usually it was a three or four-way call with my brother and my mom.) There were often times when we teased about a relationship, but neither of us considered it seriously because of the 11 1/2 year age difference between us.
I graduated from high school and joined Kurt and Russ down at Ambassador for my first semester of college in the fall of 2005. By this time I was 18. Russ and I remained close friends, but I began a relationship with another young man, with plans for engagement and a marriage in the summer of 2006. This young man and I planned to give our life as a couple to reach out to military families by working as missionaries with Armed Forces Baptist Missions. As our relationship grew, I prayed daily that God would kindle within my heart a desire and burden for military families.
My relationship with this other young man put a strain on my friendship with Russ. He did not approve of the relationship, for many reasons. But I took his caution as interference and wouldn’t listen to his suggestions to take things more slowly. However, in time, I realized that his concern was not without cause. This relationship quickly ended in heartbreak.
My friendship with Russ continued to be strained in the months after my breakup, mostly because I didn’t want to hear “I told you so.” But, Russell’s friendship was constant, and over the next few months I started to allow him back into my life.
Status: It’s Complicated
As our friendship returned to “normal” Russ continued calling our home and talking to whomever chose to answer. In May of 2006, Russ was talking with my mom. She told him that he should come up and visit us. Russ responded with a joke by saying “I’ll come on one condition – if when I leave, I can take Aprille with me!”
But when my mom responded “come get her!” Russ was taken aback. Phone calls started flying back and forth between my mom, Russ, Kurt, and I. For the first time Russ realized that my parents would not keep him from pursuing a relationship with me. He also realized then that he was, and always had been, very attracted to me. We began talking on the phone consistently for hours, as friends but considering more…and my heart was growing fonder of him with each call. After two weeks I felt like I needed to be honest with him about my feelings. However, when I told him how much I had come to care for him, he in turn told me that he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with “the situation” (as he called it…) He was afraid making a mistake with me – I was the first woman who had really cared for him in that way. And as a 30-year-old single man, my “offer” of a loving relationship was rather attractive. But it all felt TOO easy for him. He knew that I was young (19) and fresh out of a bad relationship, and he didn’t want to take advantage of my heart when he wasn’t sure that I was even sure of my feelings (even though I was sure that I was!) Russ decided that it was best to take a step back from “the situation” before it escalated to a relationship that neither of us were ready for. He treated me with decency, tenderness, and respect; I was deeply disappointed, but not hurt.
May 2006. When this picture was taken I distinctly remember that I was thinking about Russ and starting to realize that I loved him:
In hindsight, I realize that Russ acted wisely, and that he was right yet again. I still needed a lot of time to heal from my previous relationship. While he had promised to keep in touch, Russ unexpectedly dropped all communication with me. In spite of the confusion regarding our relationship, I managed to have an amazingly wonderful summer. God really began to do a work in my heart – to heal me from heartbreak and rekindle a hope for true love within me. I didn’t know what God had in store for me as far as a husband was concerned, and I still had feelings for Russ, but I was trusting him to reveal HIS plan for my life in HIS time, not mine.
The summer ended and I transferred to another Bible college (my third school in three semesters, which is a long story in and of itself). I was secretly hoping that my Someone was there waiting to sweep me off my feet. But, it didn’t happen. In fact, Mr. Right seemed absolutely no where in sight. I was growing impatient, yet also growing much more self-aware. I began to wonder if I would ever find the kind of man who would truly understand the way I thought and felt about things, and understand how the trials I had faced in my life affected the way I viewed life. My thoughts continually turned back to Russ. He seemed like the only option, the only one who could ever complete me. But he was a closed book for the moment, so I didn’t know what to do other than wait and pray. And so I did. I began to pray in September (2006) that IF God wanted me to marry Russ that He work in his heart to turn it toward me. I didn’t pretend to know God’s will, but I knew that I still deeply cared for Russ, and only a miracle could bring him back into my life.
Nothing happened for six months, but I never stopped praying. Russ kept in contact with Kurt so I was aware of what was going on with his life, but we had no contact. I chose not to initiate contact because I didn’t want to step ahead of God’s plan – especially when I didn’t even know what God’s plan was.
By the beginning of 2007, I had really given up in my heart. I really didn’t see how Russ could be a possible mate because absolutely nothing was happening between us. I had reached a point where I had completely surrendered my desires for marriage into the hand of God. Convinced that He had a mate waiting for me, I tried to relax, enjoy life, and wait for that time to come.
At the end of January, I began to once again feel a strong burden for the lost within the ranks of our military. I pushed it away, thinking it was just a continual struggle to let go of my previous relationship. But the thoughts persisted. My mom encouraged me to pray about it. Perhaps God used that whole situation to prepare me for military missions or maybe even being a military wife. I didn’t see how this could be, but as a step of faith I began to pray. Within a week I began to wonder if God indeed was working. In the middle of February I sent an e-mail to Armed Forces Baptist Missions asking them if there was anything that a single college-aged girl could do to help reach our military for Christ. I also felt burdened that I needed to go on a missions trip that summer, possibly to a Spanish-speaking country. I started looking into mission boards for trip opportunities.
Within a week AFBM called me with an opportunity to send me to Heidelberg, Germany to work with an English-speaking military church and play the piano for them for a month that summer. This REALLY began to make me think. Maybe my mom was right, and God WAS preparing me for military missions – or maybe even to be that military wife! I knew that my husband was no where in sight, so I once again became overwhelmed with visions of a summer romance with Prince Charming – only this time he was going to be wearing combat boots! I began raising support for my trip and was filled with excitement about all that God was going to do in my life that summer.
What happened far surpassed my girlish dreams.
Russ called me out of the blue on Friday, March 2nd 2007. He was calling simply to pass a massage on to my parents about a separate matter, but he couldn’t get ahold of them so he called me. He told me the message, hung up, and that was it.
Or was it? Russ immediately called Kurt and asked him, “Why is it that when I talk with your sister I get this tingling feeling in my chest?” To which Kurt responded, “I dunno…” (Translation: It’s not that hard…Why don’t you think about it?!?!?)
A few minutes later he called back, but I was unable to answer. He left me a voicemail saying that he wanted to “catch up like decent human beings” and that he was sorry he “hadn’t given (me) that respect.” We played phone tag for about three days and finally got to talk to each other on Sunday night. We talked for a long time, and he apologized for avoiding me and cutting off contact. I told him that I missed his friendship above all. He agreed to be my big brother/friend again and keep in better touch. I was so excited. I really tried to keep my emotions in check, because he told me I wasn’t allowed to get “boy crazy” about him. Tough assignment…
Especially when he called me on Tuesday and we talked for 20 minutes. And then again when he called on Thursday. By this time I was starting to get confused emotionally. Because every time my phone rang I would get so incredibly excited that he was calling but upset too! I wanted to say “STOP CALLING ME!!” because he was stirring up the love that had been lying within my heart for the last nine months. I didn’t want to become attached to him only to have things not work out…again.
All the while, I was trying to keep everything in perspective and remember that God seemed to be leading my life AWAY from Russ and onto something else with this military missions trip to Germany. On Thursday, I went to Walmart with my roommate, and right before I was going to check out, I looked over into the women’s department and saw a T-shirt that said ARMY on it. I said “Kimmie, I HAVE to buy that shirt!” I tried to push thoughts of Russ out of my mind and remember that God was working to lead me into a life that was going to reach out to the military. “Forget Russ, I’m going to Germany this summer and I’m marrying a soldier – remember?!?!?”
Status: In a Relationship
When we talked on Thursday (March 8th – right after I bought the shirt), Russ was really quiet. I asked him what was wrong, but he just said “I have a lot on my mind…” So I didn’t pry (again – I was trying to stay emotionally detached…) I chit-chatted and hung up. But then I felt bad because we were supposed to be friends, and I wanted to reach out to him because he sounded lonely. But I didn’t feel right about re-initiating contact within the same day. So I prayed, “God if you want us to talk again then have him call me back.” I went back to my phone that evening, and I had a missed call from Russ. I began to know God was doing something – but I didn’t know what.
I called him back, and we chit-chatted for about 10 minutes. Then, all the sudden, he interrupted me and said “Aprille, I need to tell you something; when I’m done then you can ask me whatever questions you want to ask.”
“Okayyyyyy….” (I really had no idea what was going on or what he was going to say…but I knew by the way he was talking that he was going to tell me something serious. My heart started pounding…)
There was a long pause, and then…
“I love you…”
“I love you…”
And a shiver went down me from head to toe. I couldn’t believe it – all I could respond was “I don’t know what to say!” My mind started reeling with confusion. After all this time, NOW he tells me he loves me?!?!? Then he proceeded to tell me that he knew he wanted his life to count for something, which included having me as his wife and him making a change – he knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
So I flippantly responded “so whadya want to do with the rest of your life???”
And he said “I’m reenlisting…”
Again, there were shivers.
A long discussion commenced about why he wanted to go back into the military, the training he would have to go through, and the military speciality he was looking into. The word “Army” popped up while he was talking – and I’m stopped him: “wwwaitttt – I thought you were in the Airforce…”
He said “Yes, I was–but when I go back I’m going back into the Army…”
Tears started running down my face and I said, “Do you know what I just bought today?!?!?!?!?”
It seemed like everything I had ever wanted and prayed for and dreamed about was being handed me on a silver platter and God was saying, “You can have it now. You’ve waited long enough. It’s all yours… Take this from My hand.”
At first, I didn’t quite know what to do with it! It took me a few days of prayer and discussion between Russ, I, and my parents. But after a few days, I knew it was right. On March 10th, he officially asked both me and my parents for my hand in marriage. That day I told him that I loved him, and we’ve been a couple ever since.
The most amazing aspect of this story is that it was four years TO THE DAY (March 8th) from the time of our initial attraction to each other to the time he told me he loved me. (And no – he didn’t plan that. But God did!)
We saw each other on April 14th for about five hours and then two weeks later for a weekend. After that he left for Army training, and I didn’t see him again until Labor Day weekend when we spent four days together.
April 14, 2007
We hadn’t seen each other for over a year and this was the first time we were reunited since starting our relationship:
Our engagement story is far from typical. But that’s what happens when you fall in love with a man like Russ. Russ had great intentions of planning something incredibly special to give me my ring. But nothing seemed to work out. All his grand ideas just seemed silly, and the more he thought about it the more stressed out he became. He felt the pressure of society which seems to dictate that engagement be some grand affair, yet he had already asked me to marry him. Giving me the ring was more of a symbolic gesture than anything.
So, being the man that he is, he set aside the plans of grandeur aside and decided to just be himself.
I was visiting him down in North Carolina on Labor Day weekend. I knew I was going to be getting that ring sometime during the four days, but I just kept waiting and waiting for the big moment and it wasn’t coming. We were going to go see his brother, down the highway on I-40 somewhere between Winston-Salem and Charlotte. We were just talking and being sweet with each other like normal. He was asking me about my purity ring and what it symbolized, and what I would do with it once I got married. I told him that my plan was to move it to my right hand when I got engaged. Then the next thing I knew he was slipping my engagement ring onto my finger! He said some very sweet words, which unfortunately I cannot remember in detail.
It went so fast my head was kind of spinning, and I thought to myself “Oh, I guess I’m engaged now?!?! But wait, he didn’t say those magic ‘will you marry me?’ words!! So am I really engaged? Is the big moment already over?”
So I timidly said, “Russ isn’t there something you need to ask me?”
He said, “Aprille…you know I want to spend the rest of my life with you!!!!!!!”
I learned that day that it was much more important for my husband to be who he was than to say some magic words that I had already answered six months before. And that while some women would be disappointed at the lack of grand gesture, it’s little moments like these that have built the foundation for the wonderful relationship that we have now.
The thing that got me “all melty” was after he was done, he asked me, “So, does it fit?”
I looked at my hand, sized up the ring, and said yes.
Then he said, “No, I mean, the last name…”
Can it get any sweeter than that?!
September 7, 2007–the day we got engaged:
When Russ and I got engaged in September, we planned tentatively to get married at the end of December. But it was all dependent on where he would be stationed and if and when he would be scheduled to deploy. Russ encouraged me to plan as much of the wedding as I could so that if we had to get married on short notice we could.
I had most of the major plans done (including my dress bought and altered) by the end of October. Russ graduated from AIT school and got orders for Fort Hood, Texas. He still didn’t know when he would deploy, but was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the December wedding date. He decided to postpone the wedding.
This decision brought us to one of the most difficult times in our relationship, but also to a turning point. We both began to realize how selfish we had been up to that point, and both of us made conscious decisions to love the other selflessly – to “make the other person happy.” Since that time God has worked amazingly to bring us closer than ever.
Russ soon learned that he was deploying the following summer so we rescheduled the wedding for our anniversary date – March 8th. I was very happy at and peace with the decision. Because most of the planning was already done, I was able to relax and enjoy the holidays with my family and Russ (thanks to some miracles!) without the pressure of thinking about the wedding.
After the first of the year we began working on more last minute details. The second week of January, Russ left for California for a month of intensive training in the desert (NTC). During this time we had limited contact, and we went through some more difficulties in both our relationship and our wedding plans.
In January, one of the bridesmaids became unable to participate in our wedding. But by this time it was too late to get another dress (thank you Chinese new year!). So, I had to find a bridesmaid who would fit the teensy-weensy size 2 dress. I found one that was a size 6 and expecting a baby! Needless to say, she had to get extensive alterations, but we got the dress to fit. As her early pregnancy progressed, though, became terribly ill with morning sickness. We were incredibly scared that she wouldn’t be able to “stand up” in the wedding.
When Russ came back from California during the second week of February, he tried to put in a request for leave for the wedding. His supervisors said that he should wait. After a week or so he tried again – but this time was met with Army red tape. First it was a car inspection, which didn’t pass because he had to renew his car registration and had to get the sticker for his car. (This process took up about a week.) Then it was his rifle qualification scores (which the office had lost). They found the scores, but then he had to re-qualify anyway. (This process again is taking up about a week.) But then he couldn’t go to the range for several days.
It was the week before the wedding. Russ still hasn’t even had his leave pass SUBMITTED to be approved! Then on the Thursday before the wedding, my dad was admitted to the hospital with intense abdominal pain and fever. (A reoccurring problem over the past few years which usually requires about a week of hospitalization.) On Sunday he had his gallbladder removed which was a much-more extensive surgery than they had anticipated. The doctors were optimistic that he would still be out of the hospital and strong enough to walk me down the aisle.
Monday March 3rd. Russ STILL hadn’t been to the range, Dad was in the hospital, and bridesmaid Chrissy was still very sick. Things were not looking good. I was so discouraged and didn’t even want to think about the wedding. I was so scared that the wedding wouldn’t work out. I didn’t know what we would do if we had to move it. Flights, photographer, hall, florist–what do you do?!?!
Tuesday March 4th. Russ finally made it to the range and was able to qualify and submit the pass. Around 5:00 I finally got the text message that said his leave had been approved and he could fly out the next day!!
Wednesday March 5th. Russ flew up! Dad came home from the hospital! Chrissy was still sick but still planning on flying up. Things were looking up.
All of the activities before the wedding worked out smoothly. Chrissy flew in from Oklahoma and didn’t throw up at all on the hour-drive home from the airport. She was able to go out to lunch with me and the other bridesmaids the day before the wedding.
The wedding day arrived – cold and a few flurries but the weather was the least of my worries. I had a groom! Chrissy was able to make it through the whole day without throwing up. My dad, though, was sick – throwing up all morning. He looked very weak. He had enough strength though to walk me down the aisle and make it through the festivities. He left the reception a bit early to go home and went to the hospital later that evening.
The wedding really was absolutely, beautifully, perfect. It was amazing how everything happened.
We owe it to the prayers of people all around the US (OH, NC, SC, TX, IL, MO, AR, CA, CT, NH, FL, OK, KY, TN, PA, WI) and the world (Germany, France, Australia, and New Zealand). Thanks to every one of you.
Thanks most of all to God.
March 8th, 2008 was our 5 year “attraction anniversary,” 1 year “dating anniversary,” and our wedding day!