Last year during the winter of my life… literally it was freezing cold in Chicago and I had had enough of Chicago Public Schools… I decided to pack my clothes, my paintings, my daughter’s toys, and car up. I ran from Chicago and convinced myself that I would never return. I simply was not happy. After living in Chicago for three years there was an emptiness inside of me. I was going through the motions of life but I wasn’t happy and my faith in God was slowly fading from my soul whose faith was so unfaltering strong when I first moved there from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I felt like the giant cold city had jaded me and somehow I felt as if I was losing the best of me. I had changed and I did not recognize myself anymore.
I dropped my cat, Kyla, off at my mom’s said goodbye and drove off in the dead of winter to Florida. I flew Ari down before Christmas so that she would not be stuck in the car for three days. It was a good decision because while I was driving through Kentucky I felt like something was wrong with my car. I was on the phone with a friend from Carolina who told me to pull over and check it out. I did and the next day I found myself renting a little hotel room near Louisville, Kentucky. I was a bit angry at God and wondered how he could have let this happen. I would be stuck in the middle of nowhere for a week while the car had a part replaced. I couldn’t wait a week! For me and my fast paced life a week seemed like eternity and I was starting classes in Florida soon. I walked around a little country shop angrily holding a grudge against God… when I finally felt some peace come over me like a veil. I felt like God was telling me to slow down and come back to him.
Later that day I actually made a wonderful friend! I spent the week with this friend and while they were working I would go to the health store that sold books, smoothies and lots of other contraptions that fascinated me. The owner and I quickly became friends and it turned out he also owned a toy shop! Ever see a spinning lollipop? Well, he gave me a bunch of them to bring home to my daughter! Walking through Louisville was a special treat as well. Louisville was the vacation my mind needed. Funny how we think it’s the end of the world when God is really just trying to help us grow and show us more about life and ourselves.
I left Louisville with a smile and drove down to Nashville, Tennessee. I met a lot of people in Nashville and completely fell in love with the city. I was seriously considering moving there after the first day. I loved the people there, the bushwackers, the music, the karaoke, the dreamers, the coffee shops, everything about Nashville. I even ended up at a charity event where the band Journey got up on stage to sing, “Don’t Stop Believing!” Well, I finally did leave Nashville but told myself I’d be back. It was time to head down to Florida. I needed to study and I missed my little Ari.
The days went by in Florida and I prayed heavily every night. I tried to come to terms with all of the emotions that I had been running from for so many years. I ran down the highways everyday. I studied till my eyes were sore everyday. I took Ari to the beach, the park and the botanic gardens any chance I could. We had tea parties and she played while I consumed myself in books about biology, chemistry and mathematics. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I wanted to still help people. I wanted a challenge and I wanted to make sure I would never need anyone to take care of me. I truly gave up on meeting a man. I had a lot of heartbreaks… not even heart breaks… my heart broke so badly I questioned humanity. I didn’t want to be lied to, cheated on and worse, abandoned. I told God that I was fine with being alone and if that’s what he wanted from me then I was accepting of it. I figured he had another destiny for me that did not include the family I had always dreamed of. I finally felt grounded and my relationship with God had grown so much. I did surprisingly well in my classes and picked up a part time job as a cocktail waitress. The hours were late but I did love the music and enjoyed the company of most of the girls I worked with.
Now fast forward a couple of months and it’s Saturday night. The night before Easter. It was a slow night and I had a section outside. I was incredibly bored and just wanted to be home with Ari or making her Easter basket perfect. I saw a group of men come in and sped to the door. I figured if it was going to be slow in my section I might as well fill it up myself and this group seemed like they were fun. I asked them if they wanted to sit in my section and they said, “yes”. I’m blushing while I write this! I’m going to try to put it down though… There were five men. They all had brown eyes except for one who had blue. The blue eyed one said that one was his cousin and the others were his brother in laws. I assumed since he had blue eyes he married into their family. As the night progressed though it did not seem like he was married anymore and he asked me a few questions about myself. I was getting really confused and finally said, “Who is married in this group!?” The cousin was married. One brother was married to his younger sister. One was engaged to another little sister and the other one was dating his youngest sister. It all made sense now and I went over to talk to this blue eyed man more. He asked me if I had been out to any of the restaurants in Naples and I said, “no”. I really hadn’t gone anywhere and my life revolved around trying to do well in my classes and spending as much time as I could with Ari. The more I spoke with him the more I realized how gorgeous his eyes were.
Okay now a lot of people had asked me out in the past, I am a young woman after all… so I let the invitation go through one ear and out the other. I was definitely not interested in anyone and didn’t want to be either. I had no trust in love or relationships and did not want to care about anyone romantically. While I continued the night working his brother-in-law kept coming up to me and asking me if I was going to show up to the date. I said yes and he said, “please don’t stand him up.” This really hit home to me and I decided I definitely would not stand him up. The blue eyed man gave me his number after paying for their drinks and later texted me that night with his first and last name. I tried to remember after he left how beautiful his eyes were. The night carried on and the boredom set in again until one of my friends came in at 1 am and popped open a bottle of champagne and vodka right in my section. It was incredibly random but a great way to see the night end after meeting Nick. When it was time to get off of work my friend invited me to their pool party and even though I said I would make an appearance I ended up filling plastic Easter eggs and an Easter basket full of candy and chocolate until 5 am.
The next morning I woke up exhausted but determined to make sure I spent time with Ari before I had to go back to work on Easter Sunday. Monday rolled around and it was the day of my date with Nick and also my test on acids and bases. I studied all day in a coffee shop at Mercato. Nick had called and texted but I was in a study group all day. Finally I got a free moment and texted him back I was starting to feel bad for blowing him off. I told him that I would have to reschedule for another day but he suggested that night. I told him I didn’t get out of class until 9 pm but he was willing to meet me after. I finished the exam early (I got a 100 on it by the way!) and felt a bit frustrated. I was so tired. My hair was a mess and my eyes hurt from reading all day. I really wanted to reschedule but I figured I would be nice and meet Nick out. I thought at most I would gain another friend.
I met him at the Ritz Carlton and had Japanese food with him. The more we talked the more I realized I was really starting to like him! This was a bit terrifying. I felt like we had a lot in common when it came down to music, food and traveling. He was starting to seem perfect and suddenly I felt self conscious and nervous. It was too late though I definitely had a crush on him when dinner was finished. We walked around the pool which was beautiful and then made our way to the beach and sat on the sand. We played music for each other and tried to guess the artist of the song. Around 1 am I think… we parted ways and I was immediately sad when we said goodbye but really excited. It was the best date I have ever been on. I saw a shooting star on my drive home and felt like a little kid. I immediately wrote every detail down in my journal. I felt so silly. The following week was amazing as well. His friend Jim came to visit and the three of us spent each day together.
I was getting to know Nick more and Jim as well. Jim turned out to be one of the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. His faith in God inspired me and he answered many of the questions that I myself had about God. I teared up a few times speaking with Jim but it was rare that I felt like someone could actually see me for who I really was. It was also rare to meet someone who truly lived out an authentic Catholic lifestyle. He truly seemed to love people and care about them. When Jim left he gave me a necklace with Mary on it and told me to learn more about her. He also gave me a book that I want to share and hope that you read!!! It’s called The Shack http://www.theshackbook.com/ I love God but I am also very curious and I question everything, living a life of: What ifs, Why nots and How? One of the questions that I have asked myself and others so many times is, why Jesus looks to the sky and asked God, “why have you forsaken me?” The book offers an explanation and it made me cry as I read it. I still ask questions and pray to have a better understanding of God. It’s hard to understand something so infinite when I only know my short existence. Getting to know Nick and the people that he has brought into my life has furthered my relationship with God. He’s made me want to be a better person and I just love him more and more every day. I didn’t even know that was possible but I really do fall in love more and more everyday with him. Meeting him was sort of the resurrection of my own heart.
And there it is. That is the long version of how we met. I added the sad parts because for me it was truly a testimony for me to see that God can turn any situation around with obedience and trust in him. In the past I was reluctant to trust God completely and I tried to live life by own immature free will. Although in some ways we always wish we could have met the person we love sooner I know that God did not allow me to cross paths with Nick earlier because of the work he needed to do in me first.
I love my life with Nick and Ari in Cleveland. I love the people who are in my life now. I love our garden, our date nights, our nights in, our amazing travels to places I never even knew existed, I love learning more about Catholicism, I love our little family and having someone who inspires me everyday and loves me even through my stubbornness and insecurities. I thank God for my life now because I could never have even imagined my life being this beautiful.