I thought I'd share a poem that I wrote one night when I couldn't sleep. It kind of shows my heart on this whole matter. Ahem...
'Tis true there are plenty of fish in the sea,
but there's only just ONE fish who's the right fish for me.
I'll not have a boyfriend, no try-him-out dating;
when my husband arrives, he'll find a faithful wife waiting!
I'll not give my heart to just any nice boy,
my heart is a treasure not a cheap little toy.
So I'll guard it, protect it, save it for ONE.
I'll not trade my heart for some temporary "fun".
This is one fish I'll not cast my line after;
in the story of my life I'll let God write this chapter!
So I'll sit on the bank with my eyes tightly closed,
until God puts this "fish" right under my nose.
(insert copyright thing here)
So we left off with my being Dusty McPherson. This went on for awhile and I found some sort of strange comfort in the character of Dusty.
Meanwhile, I was having a harder and harder time being around this Philip fellow with the cool hair, and not letting myself start to like him just a little too much. I mean, he was really, really likable. And good-looking. And the more I got to know him, the more ways I discovered that he was everything I wanted in a husband. I mean, when he was a young teenager he told his mom that he guessed he would have to marry an Amish woman, because no other girl would want to have as many kids as he wanted. And while all the other teenage boys were drooling over sports cars, he unashamedly declared that his favorite was a station wagon because you could fit the most kids in it. Ok, maybe that doesn't do anything for you, but I thought that was wonderful. ;)
Philip was also determined to guard his heart, and really careful not to do anything to get my hopes up. For instance, he would sit down beside me in church, but then be sure to whisper: "Don't be defrauded, ok?" I'm not sure how effective that was, but his heart was in the right place. ;)
People started teasing me more about Philip, and after awhile it wasn't even just teasing. Adults that barely knew us would see us both at the same event, not even so much as speaking to each other or hanging out, and comment to my mom that Philip seemed perfect for me. I would mention Philip's name in passing, and people who had no idea who he even was would say, "Ohhh, he seems perfect for you! Do you think he's 'the one'?" Everywhere I turned I was being bombarded by people with the idea that Philip and I were perfect for each other.
It didn't help that we often showed up at church in totally coordinating outfits! People used to joke that we must have planned our outfits ahead! Week after week, we'd walk in, glance at each other, and have to laugh and shake our heads. It was almost ridiculous.
At one point, some people from our church went on a mission trip to Ukraine. Then a bunch of us became interested in Ukraine, including Philip. I didn't want to seem like I was copying him, so I quietly gave up any interest I had in going to Ukraine, and instead privately turned my mind to El Salvador. I didn't tell anyone, but I was starting to really set my heart on taking a trip to El Salvador someday. Well, one day, out-of-the-blue, a bunch of us were talking about Ukraine, and Philip announces: "I actually really want to go to El Salvador." *Gulp*. I was genuinely irritated by this, because now I knew I didn't dare mention my own desire to go to El Salvador. I guess I could have just been like, "I want to go to El Salvador with you. Don't be defrauded, ok?" but I just didn't think of that at the time.
I don't remember exactly when it was, but somewhere in the months leading up to our engagement (Oh shoot, I just gave away the ending!) I was going grocery shopping alone. I pulled into the parking lot, and the song "Go Light Your World" sung by Chris Rice had just come on the radio. I had heard bits and pieces of it before, but I wanted to hear the whole thing, so I sat in the car and listened. For some reason, much to my complete shock, as I listened to this song I started to sob...and sob...and sob. I had absolutely no idea why I was sobbing, and I didn't feel sad. It was more of an overwhelmed sob, and I somehow knew that this was a very special song that was going to play a very special role in my life. The song ended, and I dried my eyes and did my shopping, still very puzzled but really loving that song.
This whole time, I didn't really have a clue as to how Philip felt about me. I mean, I knew he enjoyed my siblings and me, but for all I knew he thought I was hideously ugly and would be horrified at the thought of marrying me. (I had self-esteem issues, ok? ;) ) In fact, I drove my poor younger sister crazy saying things like, "I don't think Philip even likes me". She would just roll her eyes and say, "Oh brother". I was very confused because one week Philip would be really friendly, and the next week he would hardly speak to me. What I didn't realize is that he was also fighting to guard his heart, and struggling to keep his emotions in check. I later found out that he prayed about me for over a year before speaking to my dad about me.I'll have to see if I can get him to share his side of the story sometime. It's incredible to see the ways that God was leading us both at this time.
My list of character qualities had, over time, sort of morphed into what I called my "MAN-equin", the model I would try men on to see if they fit. (Clever, I know. ;) ) My MAN-equin was named, of course, Marshall Grant.
Finally one day in June or July, Philip had been hanging out with my family over at my older sister and brother-in-law's house. We were going to be leaving soon, and we noticed that Philip followed my dad out to the van and hopped in with him before we got out there. It never crossed my mind what he might want to talk to my dad about. (I'm slow, ok?) We were getting ready to take a trip up to Alaska (Oh, excuse me! I mean ALASKA), and I guess Philip was freaked out that I would go back up there and reconnect with someone and be stolen out from under him. He at least wanted to get his word in before we left. He asked my dad if he would pray about allowing him to court me, and my dad said that he would.
We did meet a young man while we were up there, and after we got home he was very upfront about having an interest in me. I directed him to my Dad, and they started emailing back and forth a bit. He was a really nice guy, and it was very exciting to know that there was at least someone who didn't find me hideous or gag at the thought of marrying me. On the other hand, the more I thought about marrying anyone other than Philip, the more the thought made me literally sick to my stomach. I still hadn't let myself give my heart to Philip, but it was like I knew deep inside that there was no other person on the face of the earth that was right for me. I even had nightmares where I was about to marry someone else, in my wedding dress and everything, but feeling totally panicked because I knew it was wrong because it wasn't Philip. From this point on, it became harder than ever to not let myself fall totally in love with Philip. On the other hand, he was acting weirder than ever, and at times would hardly even look at me. In my mind that settled it. He was obviously repulsed by me. I didn't know that him and my dad were having secret meetings this whole time, and that the poor guy was just trying to guard both of our hearts.
This struggle went on for months. In January, Philip did take a trip to El Salvador, much to my dismay. I was sure he was going to go there and find some godly, beautiful El Salvadorian girl and marry her and never come back. I ended up being slammed hard with strep throat as soon as Philip left the country, and was so sick that I literally spent almost the entire 2 weeks that he was gone, in bed. I was so miserable that I had nothing to do but lay there and pray. So I prayed for Philip. I prayed and prayed and prayed for him. At one point as I was praying, I suddenly felt like God filled me with an unselfish love for Philip, and suddenly I felt like, if he did find some godly girl there in El Salvador, and that was the right thing for him, then I could be happy for him. This lasted all of... maybe a day. My birthday was in January, and I had, as is the tradition in our family, made a nice little list of my birthday desires. It was a simple, short list. A Newsboys CD, a Newsboys T-shirt, a pair of cute cowgirl boots (from the catalog that I got Dusty McPherson's picture out of) and... Marshall Grant. I got the CD, I got the shirt, and I got the boots. But no man. Philip even sent me an email from El Salvador on my birthday, telling me that he hoped I had a happy birthday, and he hoped I got a visit from Marshall Grant. Well, the fact that he was in El Salvador and hoping that Marshall Grant came to my house proved to me that he obviously wasn't thinking of himself in that role. In reality, Philip was in torment wishing my dad would give him an answer and desperately hoping that Marshall Grant was nowhere near me. ;)
While Philip was gone in El Salvador, my dad flew to Colorado for work. Finally they both came home, I was over my strep, and life returned to normal. Shortly after Philip came home, I was babysitting for some friends of ours. The kids were relentlessly teasing me about Philip, asking me when we were going to get married and stuff. I was so frustrated at this point, and this whole saving my heart thing was really getting harder every time someone mentioned Philip to me. The kids were at school during the day, and I was reading my Bible and just pleading with God to please at least show me some sort of a sign, let me know if there was even any hope of Philip being the right one, and caring for me. I don't remember anything particular that I read, but I just remember all of a sudden finding myself on the floor, on my face, totally overwhelmed with the Sovereignty and awesomeness of God. I don't think I had ever felt God's presence so real before. I finally stood up, and left to go pick up the kids from school. Only minutes after asking God for a sign, as I was driving along I passed a church. They were apparently going through a study of the book of Philippians, because they had a scripture reference and a topic written in big letters on their sign. In big, bold letters, this is what it said: "PHIL. HE TRULY LOVES YOU." Again, jaw-dropping awe. I had asked for a sign, and that was definitely a sign.
I think it was the next night or so, and it had come to a point where I was just miserable. I knew I couldn't go on like this, fighting these feelings, trying to keep from giving my heart before it was time.I had almost decided to just go to my parents and tell them what I was going through, in hopes that they could help me somehow. I was laying on my bed, again just begging God for help. I decided to look up some verses, and when I opened my Bible I saw the word "wait" so I started looking up verses with the word "wait" in them. I started reading verse after verse that I had read before, but they felt different, like it was God speaking right to me. Psalm 69:3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. Psalm 69:6 Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed... Psalm 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. The more I read, the more excited I became. Then finally I read Isaiah 64:4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. When I read that verse it was like I could feel God's excitement, as if He was standing there, clasping His hands in excitement, saying: "Hang on!! Just hang on a little bit longer!!! Wait until you see what I have coming!!!" I remember actually gasping out loud, and wanting to squeal into my pillow. I really didn't know what it meant, but I was filled with such excitement and joy and delight, and I knew that God was completely sharing in my feelings at that moment!
The next Sunday, the Litterals had invited us (as well as my older sister and her family) and some mutual close friends of ours, over to have lunch with them at the barn where Philip worked training horses. We had never been there, and they said they thought we might like to see a little of what Philip did. Saturday night, I was getting my clothes ready to take to the barn the next day and my Mom said to me: "Why don't you wear jeans with your new boots?" I was like, "Mom, I'll look cheesy, like 'Oh, I'm going to a barn so I'm going to dress up like a cowgirl!'." But she encouraged me again to wear my jeans and boots, so I, being the good little daughter that I am, complied.
At church that day, Philip was totally unfriendly, and again would hardly even look at me to say hi. When we got to the barn, he was brushing and saddling up a gorgeous, black Friesian. I noticed that Philip was really spiffied up himself. Cowboy hat, crisp, button down shirt, cowboy jeans... I was surprised, because he's not usually the type to want to make any sort of a show of himself. I thought it was kind of weird that he had to dress like that just to show us how he trained horses.
We were about to start eating lunch, when we were all called into the arena to "see what Philip does". First, though, Philip had a birthday present for me. He handed me a big gift bag, and told me to open it, right then, in front of everyone. I reached inside, and I pulled out, to my total surprise, the very same shirt that "Dusty McPherson" was wearing in the catalog. Then I dug a little deeper, and pulled out, to my even greater surprise, the very jacket that Dusty McPherson was wearing in the catalog. Everybody was laughing, and I exclaimed "Ha ha! Dusty McPherson's clothes!!" but inside I was thinking, "He had better NOT be giving me all this and expecting me to NOT be defrauded!!!" Everyone insisted I go try it on, so I went and put on my new Dusty outfit. Good thing I was wearing jeans and my new boots, it would have looked awfully stupid with the bright green warm-up pants and tennis shoes I was wanting to wear.
I nervously came back into the arena, kind of feeling like something weird was going on. We all stood back to watch Philip's demonstration. The arena was silent for a moment, and then as Philip began to ride a song started playing over the loud speakers. Go Light Your World played as Philip rode a beautiful pattern right to the music. At this point I definitely knew something was going on. As the song finished, Philip slid off his horse and led it over to right in front of me. He knelt down in front of me, and said: "Clara, I do this on the full authority of your father. I can't go on another day without you knowing how I feel about you. I love you, Clara." He said some other beautiful things and then ended with: "Can I be your Marshall Grant?" I wanted to throw my arms around him and scream "YES!!! YES!!! I LOVE YOU TOO!!" but instead I came up with this poignant and powerful response. I said: "Sure!" Then, I guess out of habit, I turned to my dad and, half laughing, half crying, asked: "Can he be my Marshall Grant??!!" Yeah, I'm kind of known for saying just the right thing at a moment's notice. (ha.)
So after happy tears and exclamations and hugs all around, my Dad proceeded to tell his side of the story. After praying about Philip for 6 months, my Dad said that he knew in his head that Philip was everything right for me. But that wasn't enough; he wanted to know it in his heart, straight from God. So while Philip was in El Salvador, my dad was flying home from his working trip to Colorado, not even having a thought of Philip at the time. He decided to listen to some music, so he put on his headphones, and the song that came on "just happened to be"... Go Light Your World. As my dad listened to the words, he thought to himself: "Hey, that's kind of like what Philip's doing over in El Salvador", and at that moment he began to cry as he was filled with a peace, and a love for Philip like he hadn't had before, and God just sealed it to his heart that this was right.
Then Philip told his story. The day before my dad was flying home, Philip was in the back of a bus in El Salvador. He was thinking about how amazing it was that even though he only spoke a few simple words in Spanish, the Lord was able to use that. He thought of the portion in Isaiah 6 where it says "Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone; because I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, [which] he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:And he laid [it] upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." He was marveling at how God uses us unworthy people for His glory. As He was thinking about these things, a song came to his mind. He didn't even realize that he knew the whole thing, but there alone, in the back of the bus, he sang quietly to himself the entire song, "God Light Your World." As he thought about the words, he thought about the whole situation with me, and completely gave it over to the Lord. He committed in his heart, that if I wasn't the right one for him, he was going to accept that, and he would serve the Lord full time as a single man.
I felt completely like I was in a dream; I was afraid I was going to wake up and feel really stupid. As we headed in to eat lunch, Philip handed me a beautiful ring. I had always thought that I wanted an engagement ring that had a row of little diamonds inset in a silver band. Then just a week or so before, I had changed my mind and decided that I actually wanted one with just a single, bigger diamond inset in the middle. I had never seen one like it, though, so I figured they didn't exist. Well, it turns out Philip had bought 2 rings to try to decide between. One had a row of little diamonds inset, and one - the one he decided to keep and give to me - was a silver band with a single, bigger diamond inset in the middle. It was exactly what I had pictured. :)
Oh yeah, and the whole thing was videotaped. And yes, my cowboy was wearing tight jeans. ;)
We managed to eat lunch (actually, I don't remember if I ate anything at all. I probably did, because my appetite is pretty much indestructible) and then it was time to head back to church for the evening meeting. On our way, we passed the church that had the sign out front before. The sign was still there, but apparently they had moved on in their series, because they had changed the words on it. Now, in big, bold letters it said: "PHIL. LOVING ONE ANOTHER".
In 6 months we were married. The first wedding plan we made was to have 3 tiers of donuts for our wedding "cake". The girls all carried beautiful bouquets of orange Daylillies, we had an adorable little group of "flower children", and after we were pronounced man and wife, we shared our first kiss, and walked down the aisle together as a song played. You guessed it. Go Light Your World. :)