About a week ago, we were out with my cousins for a post-dinner snack (okay, more like a second dinner) when one of my cousins ordered a cup of hot water, lemons, and honey. She started chuckling as she put her drink together, saying, “Every time I make a cup of honey lemon tea I think of you guys…” My husband and I looked at each other with a little sparkle in our eyes, remembering the simple cup of sweet and citrusy hot water that brought us together.
Some of you may already know the story of how two unlikely-to-meet-each-other people met and fell in love, but I know there are also many who I am meeting through this blog who have not heard of our story. And everyone loves a good love story, right? So here is ours…
I heard about my husband before I met my husband. I actually first met my now sister-in-law when she started attending my home church in Southern California the spring of 2011. As I was getting to know her, I learned that she had a younger brother who had just moved from South Korea and was in the middle of a somewhat messy, serious relationship. Right away, I said in my mind, “Well, I’m probably never going to meet him or talk to him so there goes that guy.”
Okay, so confession – at that point in my life, I had graduated from undergrad and was beginning to feel the “it’s time to start dating and hopefully find ‘the one’ in the next couple of years” thing. Nobody was giving me that pressure (except maybe my sweet grandma) and I was honestly enjoying my post-graduate adventures. But I’m the planner-type. I had graduated, I was working full-time, I was in the middle of graduate school…and…that’s about as far as I had planned. What was a girl to plan next?! Except that you can’t control getting married if you haven’t met a guy that you want to marry. So what’s a girl to do? Start making a list. Yup. The almost impossible list of what that ideal guy is going to be like…his faith, his character, his personality, his looks…
So, a guy straight from South Korea who probably doesn’t speak an ounce of English, who was also in the middle of a serious relationship? Yeah, no…not on my radar.
A few months later, we were hosting our summer Power Encounter retreat and as the coordinator of registration, I had heard that this “not-on-my-list” guy was going to attend. His sister had strongly encouraged him to come, knowing that he was in a really difficult place after ending the messy relationship he was in and was needing to encounter the Lord. As I was busy checking candidates in to the retreat, I looked up to see that we had reached the last person in line – the guy. And of course, handling myself with ultimate poise and elegance, I said, “Wow…you’re really…um…tall.”
“Wow…you’re really…um…tall…”?!?! Really, that was the best I could do?!
What I really was thinking was, “Wow…you are REALLY good looking…” but I couldn’t bring myself to coherently process that in my brain, nonetheless say it out loud.
I somehow fumbled through checking
out in this cute guy into the retreat. The whole time, I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, you are pathetic. This is so NOT you! Get it together!” Thankfully, the retreat kept me busy enough to the point where I honestly was not staring at this guy every hour (okay, maybe I peeked once…or twice).
At the end of the retreat, several of the leaders gathered together at my pastor/uncle’s house to share testimonies and celebrate what the Lord had done at this retreat. Of course, cute guy and sister were invited to come. Great. And as cute guy started to share what the Lord had been doing in his heart to heal him and restore his life…well, it was pretty undeniable to everyone in the room that a 180 degree transformation had taken place. Great…even better. Why couldn’t I get a hold of that fluttery feeling in my stomach?!
Fast forward several months, and cute guy is now attending my church and serving on the worship team. He was very kind and polite, but oh-so-very-careful around all of us girls. He made it clear that although he wanted to serve us as his sisters in Christ, he was at church to meet Jesus, not girls. What a novel concept. Thus, we only really exchanged conversation within a group of people. We didn’t even have each other’s phone numbers, let alone text one another or contact one another throughout the week.
Every weekend as I drove the 45 minute drive to my uncle’s house to serve at church (clearly I was living in So Cal, the only place where you measure distance by time and not miles), I would start getting the fluttery feeling in my stomach as I got progressively closer to my end destination. I had never really “fallen” for a guy before, and I couldn’t believe that this guy was the one I was falling for. I couldn’t understand why I liked him – we barely talked to one another, he didn’t seem to have any interest in me, and there was a language and cultural barrier between us. But I couldn’t deny it. I wasn’t just falling for him, I was like nose-smashed-into-the-pavement falling for him.
It was another one of those weekends where I was again wrestling with why I liked this guy so much, when I was making some honey lemon tea for everyone who had come over to my uncle’s house after a day spent outside. It was somewhat chilly, even for Southern California, and the tea was quickly being consumed by everyone. Cute guy grabs a cup of tea, takes a drink, and said, “Wow, this tea is really good, Stacey. Thanks!”
What. Just. Happened. “Did cute guy just compliment me?!” After that, let’s just say I found random excuses to make honey lemon tea often, especially when cute guy was around.
This goes on for several more months until one day, cute guy announces that he will be moving back to Korea somewhat indefinitely. His family needed him back home, and he was eager to share with them his testimony of how the Lord had touched his life .
Well, there was the answer. I had zero plans to live in Korea and cute guy was moving back there indefinitely, so this was clearly not “the one.” I had learned a good lesson from this – infatuation is real and I had to put on my big-girl-pants and get it together.
I moved on (or so I thought), until one day, I heard that cute guy was moving back to the States, but going to Kansas City to do an internship with the International House of Prayer. Wait, what. Well…that was just fine. Because we would still be like 1,000 miles apart so we would never see each other anyway. Except that when I would call my cousins or my aunt and uncle to catch up with them (as they had also moved to KC), they would inevitably bring up cute guy into the conversation. Hello?! I did not ask about him, but here you are (uncle, aunt, cousin), talking about him. Talking about how much he is growing in the Lord, how he has such a servant’s heart, how he was quickly becoming one of the most eligible bachelors in the IHOP-KC Korean community, etc. etc.
For the next almost year and a half, I saw him twice during retreat seasons and never connected with him in between those times. During the months I didn’t see cute guy, I was surely over him and even went on several dates with some other really great guys. But in the couple of weeks when I did see him again, all the old feelings came rushing back. What made it harder was that cute guy was still being very kind, but very clear that he was not thinking about getting in a relationship with anyone = no interest in me.
Then, during one fateful weekend the fall of 2013, one of the girls at my church and I were paired together to share a room at our church’s mini-retreat/vacation. We started talking about food, clothes, makeup, etc. when the topic turned to, of course, guys. She asked me if I had ever been interested in cute guy, and I said something like, “well, no…I mean…not really…I guess.”
She could see right through it and started telling me that most of the young people at church already knew that I liked cute guy and that cute guy also liked me. Wait. WHAT?! Cute guy likes me?! No. Hold on, please tell me all the details as to why you think cute guy likes me. You’re asking me if I’ve prayed about him? Of course, I’ve prayed about him…I prayed that God would take away all the feelings! Are the feelings still there? No, of course not. Wait, what…you can see the feelings all over my face? Oh, so I’m not as sly as I think I am? Wonderful. Now I know I have been publicly pathetic in my crushing on cute guy.
There was one thing that stood out clearly from this conversation – I was not over this guy. I could pretend I was, but that pretending had gotten me nowhere. I realized that I had to seriously ask the Lord where my heart was and if it was going in the right direction. I knew that the question of my future husband would not just be fulfilled through the Lord’s sovereignty, but it would also encompass my free will…my choice. It was going to be a delicate balance of both, as is almost all things in life.
So, on the drive back, I started praying. That prayer started out about cute guy, but it actually ended in me realizing all the fears and issues I was covering up. For the next several months, I kept praying. There were days when I was at a total loss, feeling the weightiness of the question at hand. I cried, I wrote in my journal, I read, I thought, and I processed it with only a couple of trusted people. In the midst of it, I was so very frightened about making a mistake. But now, I look back at it and see how sweet that time with the Lord really was. I was scared and somewhat desperate, so I clung to the Lord. I hadn’t had that much sweet fellowship with Him since I had first truly given my life to Jesus the summer of 2007.
At the end of that time, this is the concrete answer I received – “Wait.”
What. Lord, You can’t be serious?!
A couple weeks later, my student leaders and I were called out to Kansas City to lead another Power Encounter retreat with the student ministry there. Which, of course, meant that I would see cute guy again. This time, I was truly determined to follow what I felt convicted by from the Lord – to wait.
I got there, and as per usual, all of my feelings came rushing back. But this time, something was different about cute guy. Maybe I was being hyper-sensitive, but he was definitely also sneaking glances at me. I would turn around and cute guy was there. For two weeks while I was serving and staying in Kansas City, this went on.
My flight out of KC was scheduled for New Year’s morning, and my uncle had gotten up early to make us traditional Korean rice cake soup (what Koreans eat on New Year’s day). We had all been up late into the night, celebrating the start of 2014, so nobody was up at 8am except for my uncle, one of my students who was also flying out that day, and me.
Just as we were about to leave, we heard the pounding of footsteps rushing up the basement stairs into the kitchen. In runs cute guy, hair all disheveled from having just rolled out of bed. We all stare at him as he mumbles, “I just wanted to say ‘bye’ to you guys before you leave…”
We exchange farewells, and I nonchalantly said, “Well, this was fun. I guess I’ll see you sometime soon?” To that, cute guy replied, “Well, yeah, I’m actually flying to Korea for a month in February and I was thinking I would fly through California on my way back. You know, see some people and stuff…” “Oh, okay! Yeah, well let me know when you’re in town. It would be fun to see you.” “Yeah, I’ll text you. What’s your number, again?”
On the flight back, all I could think was, “Well, good things do come to those who wait. But I sure am ready to be done waiting!”
I didn’t have to wait long.
Check out part two to read the rest of the story!