No matter where I start the story, it's complexities rival that of the workings and mechanics of the finest watch! It is truly amazing.
I had been, for years, trying to build a career in the world of photography and independent film making. That was a passion and skill I had. It’s not always easy finding the people to pay you to do it though. So when a man, whom my father knew, informed him he was trying to start a studio and needs someone to operate it, great!..... Oh….. It’s in California. I’d have to leave my community and friends of 10 years and start all over. I had real friends there, not just the superficial “hi, what’s happening?” friends, but the kind you’d take a bullet for. But here I had an opportunity to do what I loved, and so the wheels for transitioning into a new chapter in life started moving. It was the first time living, and working, away
from home and there were a lot of un-knowns. Like that fact that I would be visiting the church of my wife-to-be!
We first met on September 28, 2013. The Olssons were the first family to introduce themselves to me after church, and the easiest for me to interact with, being very welcoming on top of being the closest thing to acquaintances I had at the time apart from my new boss. They made a point to invite and involve me in activities and make me feel like apart of the community. Some might think this odd, but it was something my family did with young men back home and was a normal part of my life, the only difference was I was now on the receiving end. I soon found Mallory was a great source of conversation, sharing many interests and loved to talk about photography and discuss policy. Our interaction was friendly and natural. Being new to my job I was of the mindset that I needed to focus on it for a while and had the notion my purpose was not to find a wife at the time. So why after only about 8-10 weeks in CA did an unexpected shiver roll down my spine the first time I heard the possibility that the Olssen family might move for a job??? God was laughing at me now.
That shiver told me I needed to step back and contemplate what was going on. How deep was I? What were the odds of “us”? Would Mallory go with them if they moved? Would she stay? The whole way I thought of our friendship had just changed.
Even before all this I really enjoyed spending time with her and her family. Not having any family within several hundred miles, I spent that thanksgiving with the Olssons and went out to San Francisco for the first time with them that weekend. Then the hammer fell, Phil had got a job in IL and the family was moving! Thing just got more complicated…… At least in my mind. Mallory was going to stay for the time being and continue her work and studies of midwifery, the form of which is illegal in IL. I could still casually get to know her better at church. Then as always, just when you think things are difficult, the first week of December a bigger hammer fell. I was pulled into my boss’s office that Monday and in a matter of minutes was informed that tomorrow was the last day I would be paid to work for the studio’s contracts and the business relationships had grown sour.
I set out to wrap up my loose ends at the studio and endeavor to find employment, praying the whole way for direction. That weekend would be my last in CA and the irony is I was helping the Olssons pack up and move! God had a sense of humor now!!! But I didn’t laugh. My mind was running a NASCAR race trying to process the situation. But this much I knew, I wanted to know Mallory better. But leaving California wasn’t easy to do like this.
After returning to Texas I set out to find employment. During those 2 months I was back home I spent much time praying for wisdom and direction, and analyzing the situation from every direction for how best, if/when/at all to proceed with a more formal relationship. I, as the man initiating the relationship,
wanted there to be a strong level of commitment to see it through unless something very wrong or unexpected happed. Which brings us to the “big elephant in the room”, baptism.
This wasn’t a major concern for me at the time as I knew of, and have seen couples from both camps marry and have happy, God honoring relationships. It did however bring a new level of uncertainty to the outcome of the relationship that would be very hard me, a man who analytically likes to predict how the chips will fall and have his ducks all in a row. Would she be willing to submit to where God currently had my convictions? Or would this be a make or brake battleground? This had the potentially to be a very hard letdown, but I had never met a better suited woman to be my helper, so I accepted this and prayerfully handed this unknown to God and His providence, knowing I could not, and would not, change my convictions out of convenience.
So in mid February I asked Phil about pursuing Mallory, fully knowing where she currently stood on the topic of baptism. He informed me that theirs, and Mal’s, only reservation or hesitation at the time was the our differences on the subject. But they were not going to say “no” to letting us get to know each other formally at this time. This being a very defining subject I didn’t want to broach it any other way then in person for fear of miscommunication over phone or email. So much could go wrong this way! So I waited till mid March when I would make a trip to CA to help Mallory shoot a wedding. The last thing I wanted to do during this time was appear to, or give any idea, that I wanted to change Mallory or her convictions. We talked several hours that week on multiple accessions on the subject, one of which her pastor was a major contributor, and at the end of which he left me with some big thoughts for my consideration. But we had defined where we agreed, and where our theology split paths. It was at the end of this conversation in which I realized how thin of a thread we were hanging on, and this greatly disturbed me. I spent several hours praying that night asking for peace and direction for days ahead. Very few times had I prayed so fervently.
This much I knew, Mallory was worth fighting for. I could not just change for her, but she was worth me re-evaluating myself, and seriously studying my theology on baptism. At the end of that week I asked that we both study the topic again, not know how the Spirit might move in her's or my heart. That’s all I could do, the rest was in God’s hands. But then again, when is it not?
So began a very difficult season. I needed to guard Mallory and her heart from myself during this time. The last thing I wanted to do is lead her and her emotions on, not knowing where my studies would lead her, or I, and thus the outcome. This was my top priority. I also needed to separate any emotions I had for her and objectively study The Word.
During this whole time I was busy with a new job that had me traveling across the country to 4 different states from March through the beginning of July. We skyped about once a week and discussed all the other important, life altering topics (……Like economics, water births & foreign policy…….. ;) ) that were important to u,s other than baptism, and found little that we disagreed on. I’m extremely grateful for the absence of any pressure that I received through my time studying from all parties, my parents included. The respect for my time and space was much needed for this process.
I spent a little over four months earnestly reading and studying. Through this time I constantly had to hand any fears I had for the outcome over to God in prayer, resting in His providence. As I progressed in my studies, my reliance in His sovereignty grew, and my fears grew smaller. In between destinations for work I had the opportunity spend a few days with the Olsson’s who I hadn’t seen since last December when my time ran out in CA. During that time I informed Phil and Heather where my studies were taking me. Without going into detail as to the reasons why, at that time I was strongly leaning towards paedo, but wanted to reserve my final decision till I had a few more weeks to review and recap my thoughts, so I asked them to not inform Mallory till I had made my final decision.
Two weeks later I made my second trip to CA that lasted about 8 days. It had been almost five months since I had seen her apart, from skyping which just doesn’t cut it or do her justice. It was REALLY good to see her. At this point I had made up my mind, and would later inform my parents at the end of the week of the conclusion of my studies, when I would see them at our family reunion, at which time they would meet Mallory in person for the first time.
That week was wonderful! Mallory had all but two shifts off work in the ER. We went to Pinecrest, hiked and jumped in the lake with a group of friends one day. Went cycling through San Francisco, visiting coffee shops and doing photography another, and had time to sit, talk and spend time with friends in between. During that week I found I had no more questions, no more reservations, there was no awkwardness, no shyness, there was nothing weird about our time together. She was perfect for me. I loved her, and knew I wanted to spend the rest of my days with her by my side. But she still didn’t know about where the Lord had brought me on baptism, and I didn’t yet have permission to ask for her hand.
As the week came to a close with my family reunion I told my dad where I landed on baptism, my reasons why, and my desire to ask the Olsson’s for permission to propose in three weeks when we both would make a visit to IL to visit her family.
The next couple weeks would be very busy and exciting! =) I received my father’s blessing and a few days later got a very enthusiastic “Yes!” from Phil and Heather =D. But she didn’t know, and I wanted to keep it that way till I proposed to try and ensure a surprise. I was later informed by Mrs. Olsson that probably not the best route. So that next day, almost a week since I left her behind in CA I told her while we skyped. As I started to open the conversation her face dropped and I could tell she was bracing herself for heartbreak. That look felt good and hurt me all at the same time. It showed me she cared for “us”………… AND……… our video chat dropped……… -_- . What was she thinking? I couldn’t believe she was left hanging like that thinking the worst was about to drop on her! As we reconnected I wasted no time telling her, and her fallen face slowly relaxed and soon she was smiling as the talked more about it.
The biggest question that I had to ask myself in determining the authenticity of my decision and studying objectively was not an easy or pleasant question to contemplate, but it had to be asked and answered. “If my relationship with Mallory didn’t end in marriage would I still hold to paedo baptism?”.
Now that she knew, hopes of a surprise proposal were lost. So I set out to make “The Perfect Date” in instead of a surprise. She had all but challenged me to come up with the perfect date on asking me a couple weeks before what I thought it might look like to me. Well, not having been on one myself, and not having the liberty to say “anywhere with you” at the time, she refused to say what it looked like to her. This to me (or any other man) was a dare. Come up with the perfect date, and that’s exactly what I set out to do (without outside input). Having done the detective work on all the locations and restaurants in town I picked a general location and booked a professional paparazzi, and friend, to discretely capture the evening.
On the following week, July 28, my first date would turn out to be my perfect date. There in Peoria, sitting at a picnic table on the river after dinner, looking into her eyes filled with hope and anticipation, I asked Mallory Anne Davis my final question of her in our courtship –
“Would you take my last name and be the girl in all my country songs, the mother to my children, the one I wake up with every morning for the rest of my life, and be my Wife?”
And she said ‘yes’. =)