Meeting Daniel + falling in love with him has truly been the most delightful gift and the worth of it is not lost on me. Especially because I've waited so long to meet a guy just like him. Prayers upon prayers prayed for years upon years are being + have been answered right before our very eyes. In the most specific, unbelievably special, extraordinary ways. It takes my breath away. I never, ever knew falling in love would be so delicious. And at the risk of sounding dramatic [who me? dramatic? never. ;)] the only word I can muster to describe this season is: magical. Sparks. Dreamy. Splendid... and very, very happy.
Part of the reason Daniel + I want to share out story is because it is such a gift, and nothing short of a miracle. It is really a testimony - not to how awesome or faithful we are, not at all - but to how endlessly good the Lord is. Looking over our shoulders at the last handful of years is sobering - both of us have experienced deep heartache + trials, broken dreams, disappointed hopes. We've separately walked bumpy, confusing roads of brokenness, loss, disillusionment. 2013 was the most difficult year in my family's life in our history - by December when I met Daniel, I had rushed into an emergency room at midnight gasping + racing at the shock of nearly losing one of my people. I'd held onto a gurney + begged God to spare life. I watched a person I love more than anyone suffer the worst kind of loss, sharp betrayal, severe pain. I buried one of my dearest held-onto dreams. Things I could not share here on this little blog, because -well, they were not my story to tell. By the time I met Cowboy.... I felt withered + weary + weak + misunderstood + alone + numb. Sitting on my bed at night, staring; at the end of last year I could not even feel or cry or journal or pray articulately or smile anymore. Daniel, too, knows pain + sorrow in the most acute sense. He's suffered more physical loss than I can imagine: holding + loving on + praying for + caring for + watching as his beloved baby brother Joel slipped from this earth to Jesus' arms, fighting a painful battle with cancer. Daniel knows mourning like I've never tasted. He battled with severe depression at one point in the past few years. The kind of depression that makes one feel heavy + despairing, immobilized + dark. The kind that made him forget what he enjoyed... that made him forget how to tie his shoes.
The joy + answered prayers of this season? Are not lost on us. We are in love. We are living a God-written story. And we keenly appreciate the pure happiness of it all, because we have both tasted bitterness, sat down with disillusionment, listening to her tell us her lies, we've walked hand-in-hand with heartache, and grief has been our friend.
On a wintery Sunday evening. January 29th, 2013. Our lives were about to change forever.
He slipped on brown boots, a black coat, a scarf. Back home at his family's Oklahoma farm for the Christmas season, a plan was made to go ice skating for the evening with his siblings [by the way, he has twelve!] His mama [a blogger at www.weloveyoujoel.blogspot.com] asked the older boys in the house to line up + she snapped a picture of them. Off they went. She posted the photo to her Instagram:
He also reasoned, No.. this couldn't work out. I don't know her! I live in Maryland, she lives in California. And despite his sweet family's (and mama's) prodding, he was cautious. But... he decided "to give it a try."
I, on the other hand - missed all of it. Because, randomly that evening, one of my Instagram followers 'liked' every single one of my photos. And [apparently] news feeds only show a certain amount of comments, likes, new follows, etc - thus, Amy's 'tag' on his mama's photos was so far down in the news feed, I did not ever see it. What I did see late that Sunday evening as I was brushing my teeth + turning on the shower with one hand, while holding my phone and scrolling through Instagram with the other, was a new follower... His handle? @daniel_t_m.
his account profile read. My Instagram account is not private, and because I'm a public person/blogger/writer, I network often and most of my new followers are strangers to me. Yet, this guy seemed so out of the blue - he wasn't a blogger and, in a quick check through his profile, I noticed we shared no mutual followers or follows.
He's handsome. I thought. And plays violin? Woah. Never met a young guy who does that.
And, full disclosure? As I scrolled through the snapshots of this random guy's beachy, musical, [sometimes shirtless] photos, my other thought was: Nice abs.
Yet, I moved on. I didn't follow him back. I just hopped in the shower and went straight to bed.
Monday morning. December 30th, 2013. Sun streaming through my white eyelet window curtains, I woke up. Pulled myself up in bed and grabbed my iPhone from my bedside table. Rubbing my eyes and yawning, my hair a hot mess on top my head, I mindlessly clicked on Instagram. WHEEWWW did I have a lot of notifications.
What are all these comments? I wondered, when I saw more than a few long comments pop up on an old post from a few weeks prior. I was puzzled. So I looked through my feed and noticed “@Cindy1962” had left me 4 or 5 comments. What on earth? I wondered. Thinking it was most likely a woman asking for advice, sharing her heart, asking about my book, or telling me how thankful she was that I wrote about purity because her daughter was touched… typical comments I received often on Instagram. But no... what was this? I quickly scanned through her words, not really reading them - my eyes moved through the sentences, just trying to get the "jist" of it. And before I really read through her comments, my heart began pounding and I felt.... dread. Noooo. I cringed. This person is trying to match me up with some guy? OH GREAT. I rolled my eyes.Twenty-seven year old Christian women - who also happen to blog all about waiting for Mr. Right - very often get "matched up." It's just how life works. I can tell ya the horror stories. Everybody + their uncle Fred at church, in the family, and on the Internet [so sweetly!] tried to play matchmaker with me + their "precious grandson," "adorable cousin," "godly son," or "cute brother." I always appreciated their efforts, but one thing was certain in my heart of hearts: yes, I am a blogger but no, my future husband will not be found on the Internet. I ALWAYS quickly + graciously turned these down without blinking an eye.
Good or bad, I also very easily [and at the snap of a finger] had a pattern of "writing guys off."
And the following recipe: 1 ex-boyfriend + some good guy friends I sometimes fell for + many "group dates" + awkward coffee dates + a handful of "real dates" paired with standards as high as the Empire State Building - combined with a very upfront online ministry where my "standards" and heart for waiting were plastered all over the Internet = created the perfect storm for my dating life. Couple this with a semi-closed off heart, fear of being hurt, and a perspective that "98% of men out there are not the kind of man I want to marry so why waste me time?" Come December of last year, I was left in a very guarded, rather unattainable, closed-off, sometimes-overly-careful, and very picky state of mind.
His mama, though. As I took a deep breath and more carefully read through her comments, I smiled. Spontaneously. I just could not help it. And despite my prickles on the outside, in that moment - my heart melted. Warm, sweet, genuine, open, humble. Not 'too much' as many matchmakers before her 'came off' to me. Not pushy or creepy or weird as people on the Internet could sometimes be. Just pure, plain love for her boy...her son, and the Lord - just seeped out of her words like cream cheese out of the middle of a toasted bagel.
The most palatable sense of peace literally washed over me in that moment as I sat up in my bed in the sunlight, holding my phone... and shaking. Something was different about this matchmaker. And I could feel it in my bones. Deep breath. Her eagerness to share (with me!) her wonderful, lovable, faithful, godly, servant-hearted, gifted, and amazing-in-every-way son took my breath away. And I could not not respond. Yet, in my heart of hearts: I was afraid. Afraid I would fall, get attached, get hurt.
Later that morning, Amy sent me a private message on the Instagram app. She told me how carefully she chose to 'tag' me & Daniel in that comment. She is not a silly or a teasing or flippant lady by any means. We haven't met face-to-face, but I knew all the same - she is careful, wise-hearted woman. And so I knew - the very fact she would think of this young man as a potential 'match' for me? It would be unwise, unkind, and just plain stupid of me not to at least be *open* to the possibility (which, as I've said - was quite difficult for me in the season I found myself last December)
That afternoon, I drove Mom + Dad (in a super nice car I was reviewing that week, thanks to Drive STI) to run their monthly Costco trip and while they shopped, I sat down at a small, wooden table at Starbucks. I ordered a grande caramel macchiato with soy. And opened up my laptop. Spending the next 2 hours on Daniel's mama's blog [which, by the way, you should go read... their family story is awe-inspiring + encouraging.] I read about their family's desire to honor + follow the Lord. Tears fell down my face as I read the story of sweet Joel. His battle with cancer, and how their family and his parents faithfully cared for + fought for his life, until he passed away at age three. Coffee grinders grinding + people chatting.... and I sat there, engrossed. And I knew: these people are the real deal. I "stalked" Daniel on Google, finding his YouTube channel. That coffee shop. That moment when I first pressed play on his video + heard + saw his music. Someday, when I am old + sitting in a rocking chair somewhere, reminiscing + musing on the best days of my life, I will remember that moment. I clicked on his videos, one after another -beautiful viola + piano. I sat with my earbuds in + the volume turned up. I listened. I played it again. And my heart? Entirely overwhelmed. I had to turn it off. I pressed pause. I sat + tried to breathe. I turned it on again.... his skill level: like a virtuouso. And his heart? Oh, I could feel it. Later that night, I wrote in my journal:
"It is something about the way he plays. With so much expression and passion and feeling. I cried. I said aloud: 'This is too much to handle.' I watched him play, with so much feeling... more than anyone I had ever seen. The song went on and on, passion pouring from his fingertips onto the keys."
That night, I watched more videos on my laptop. I wept. Healing. It was healing, somehow.
And in my faithful journal, I wrote:
"... and here is something about his eyes. They are beautiful and sad and wild and life. Like they hold the whole history of the world in them. I have never in my life seen someone with such beautiful, deep, expressive, pure blue eyes. Ever. I could drown in his eyes. I am NOT KIDDING."
I replied to his mama's comments. I couldn't help myself.
New Year's Eve came. A kind response from his mama. And no word from him.
Hmmmm.I thought. I guess nothing will come of it, after all. Never a pursuer of guys, myself, I knew that if we were to talk at all - he would need to be the initiator. Hmmm, that Daniel Morris. On my mind.
He initiated. New Year's Eve, 2o14.
Commenting on Instagram, on one of my older photos. He was calm, cool, friendly, not creepy, + obviously kinda interested.
[The perfect combination, I say!]
He wrote to me?!
Immediately, I called Sister. She was shopping at the grocery store with Dot [our grandma.]
I told her everything. I sent her pictures of him I found on Facebook. I sent her a screen shot of his comments.
She hesitated for 3 seconds and then she very purposefully said:
"He is a TEN. He looks exactly like Robert Redford and he is a cowboy!" and then loud and clear through the phone, I heard her speak [in her most serious, bossy voice I know she only uses when she means business + you better listen up]
"Sis.... Do NOT screw this up."
So.... I replied. Openly. Kindly. Friendly. And he replied. We talked of music. And life. My book. His viola, his album.
I spent New Year's Day at a very summery, warm Malibu beach. With a latte in hand, a journal in the other, and my family by my side. We were on opposite ends of the country.
We chatted for a few days on Instagram. And then? He asked for my email address.
I just knew: 2014? It was gonna be different. And really, really good. He spent NYE 2013 in Times Square, New York City. He posted this on his Instagram: "Cheers to 2014 being the best year ever." Oh, darling. Little did you know then. It has been.
His first email popped up in my inbox on January 2nd, 2014.
He wrote... "Hey Erin! It's Daniel. Well, I guess we can e-mail now haha...." And went on to tell me all about his adventures in New York City on New Year's Eve.
Jane Bennett once said of her Mr. Bingley [Jane Austen fans, can I hear ya?!] "He is everything a young man ought to be...." And so was Daniel. Kind, respectful, intentional, thoughtful, gentlemanly, clear, and NOT creepy. Somehow, he was all those things rolled in one. I could tell. I was surprised. He was detailed + told me things. He asked me things. And something that really, really struck me about his first emails? He talked less about himself + asked more about me - which is a selfless qualities I had never, ever seen in a young man I'd spoken to before. The guys I dated before.... they didn't care about me. They didn't care about a girl's passions or dreams or music or plans. Or my heart. My mama was floored when I told her about his emails. Sister - flabergasted. She showed our Grandma Dot, and we all swooned at his care, detail, attention, and maturity.
Emails were exchanged, daily. My heart lept into my throat every time I heard the ding! and saw his name in my inbox. His sister-in-law tells me he typed every one of those e-mails on his phone, curled in a corner of a room - writing for hours. Those e-mails... long + wordy + warm + then, a little flirty.
Guys often asked me, "Soooo... you blog + are a freelance writer? What is your real job?" It always felt like a slap in the face because....um, that was my real job. My dream. That I was sacrificing for + moving-home-with-my-parents-for, and not making loads of cash for but working-my-tail-off-for. But Daniel? He asked gingerly, sensitively. "How amazing that you have a blog! Is that what you do full-time?" His carefulness + respect for my dream-chasing? Meant alot to me. Spoke volumes about his values, his heart, his sensitivity.
And then he asked for my number. And it was all over when I heard his warm, shaky, excited, "Heyyyy..." colored with a Southern accent. It was like I'd known him all my life.
And yet, so sudden + thrilling + new. Made me feel like I could fly!
Oh, I can't wait to tell you about our first phone date.
And our first texts.
I can't wait to tell you about how we talked once or twice a week, late into the wee hours of the morning. And found we were kindred spirits.
How one day, he didn't text or call at all because [later I found out...] the poor man hurt himself on a construction job. And how I had a meltdown on the bathroom floor [with faithful Sister on the phone] at the thought that maybe this guy ["after I'd been SO CAREFUL to not get attached to anyone for three freaking years!"] I am falling for from afar hurts me or takes off or doesn't ever follow through? What if it is all too good to be true?
And how it really, beautifully was not too good. It was even better.
How one day, I had to sit down when I opened his text. Because he wrote, "Erin, we have to meet. I'm coming out there."
So dust off your highest hopes. "
I can't wait to tell you how he assumed + misunderstood something I said right before we met; how he thought I planned a chaperon to accompany us every moment of the trip. How he spent two plane rides from Oklahoma to Colorado, to Los Angeles in agony. [we didn't ;) ]
How that week could have been a full-on awkward disaster. He flew across the United States to meet a stranger + stay at my family's house! But it was truly the most perfect seven days two strangers have ever spent together.
I can't wait to tell you all about our first day together in person. Spent in balmy, dreamy Malibu. How we hiked + laughed + walked two miles on a beach through paradise. How he took my hand to help me up the steep parts, and.... *butterflies!*
How he picked a little yellow flower + slipped it in my hair.
I can't wait to tell you all our wild + free adventures.
Like the time we rode bikes all day in pristine Santa Barbara. How we stopped at a quaint narrow, wooden-floored flower shop that smelled like heaven. How he bought a heart-shaped box of sea salt caramel chocolates + stood with me beside our bikes, laughing + flirting + popping them all in our mouths. How I loved the way his eyes danced and nose wrinkled when he really, really smiled.
How [completely unplanned!] we caught each and every beach sunset that week.
Or when he took me to my favorite seaside spot, Laguna Beach, + whisked me out [just in time for the sunset] to a jagged rock out far past the shore. How we stood, barefoot + jittery with all-consuming, head-to-toe, "spark" + romance - on that rock. It felt like we were in the middle of the ocean. Waves crashing wildly around us! A hot pink round sun + a pale yellow and baby blue sky all around us, painted by God's very own hand. How he whipped out his alluring viola + played love songs for me.... and how he had to hold me up - my legs went weak + would not work, for swooning. How he took me to a fancy dinner + bought me a special little necklace, "As a token. So you know I am coming back to California."
I can't wait to tell you about our first kiss + how dreamy it was to step back + both say.... "That was my first kiss ever. I have saved it all these 26 + 27 years... for the right time, the right one." | "ME TOO!!!"
About our road-trip. Oklahoma to Kansas to Colorado to Utah to Nevada and back to my home of Los Angeles. How we got to know each other real well. Spent time with family + friends. Through rolling fields of wheat, flat prairies, red dirt roads, snowy Rocky Mountains, dry + painted western deserts + all the way down to the blonde sandy dream beaches of California.
How we spent the entirety of April eating cinnamon rolls + Mexican food, splashing in warm waves, + exploring vineyards + coffee shops + restaurants in Santa Barbara. Beaching in paradise, along with his kind twin brother + his darling, fun little family.
How we started talking + being more open. How we realized we feared being totally open-book genuine and talking about hard things. How it was hard, but we pushed through it... to telling secrets + shedding tears + doing real life together + seeing each other's brokenness + weakness + fears + strengths ... and how all wrapped up: the beautiful + "swoony" + romantic + ugly + weak + messy ... it is all even more beautiful, and better together.
I can't wait to tell you our epic day at Disneyland. How we watched the spectacular fireworks show. And then he walked me through Sleeping Beauty's Castle - reading her story as we climbed stoney stairs and familiar fairytale music played. How he took me out to the drawbridge forecourt. Sitting before the stately, lit-up, enchanted thick walls + pointed towers. I felt like a princess when he said, I love you... for the first time. And I burst out, Oh I love you too! How we kissed and cried and danced in under the arch, overlooking the moat. My favorite song played. The song my great-grandparent's dubbed as "their song" fifty-plus years ago played right then.
Sometimes I stop + think, How can this be real? And so so wonderful? I don't deserve this! It's all too good and too amazing and dream-like. Yet, it is real. And it is ours.
All due to a very kind, graceful God who loves to answer big-hearted, wide eyed, impossible prayers of little girls + boys who love Him. Who fail + fall + wander + wonder. But who trust Him + look to Him + ask Him very specifically for good gifts, in His time + way. I am blown away - in every sense - by God's goodness to us. Every doubt or question through my years of waiting.... those dark moments of, What if He is not good? What if He is not who He says He is? I don't understand His ways. I don't know..... I always knew He was good. But, I have never seen His goodness so palpably. So right-before-my-very-eyes. I know mama's feel this way when they hold their new baby. Lovers feel this way when they say "I Do!" Dreamers feel this way when big dreams come to pass. Grievers feel this way when they see a sign and know their lost loved one is still there. Worshippers feel this way when His presence just falls + it is all okay.
If there's anything I've learned through this season of falling head-first, fearlessly in love is this: do not give up hope on your dreams. Keep praying the very-big prayers; the ones haters hate on + make fun of you for. Keep waiting + saving your heart + soul. Keep not settling for second best. Keep saving those first kisses, + everything else's - for the right 'one.' Keep trusting in a big, good, mysterious God. In darkness + depression + loss + failure + dry waiting deserts .... He will not let you down. I promise. Whether all your plans work out and dreams come true or they crash down - He is good. He works all things for good.
I can still taste the searing ache of waiting - I remember it, and I always will. Girls, there are good, strong, godly men out there who will woo + win + romance you. Know that. Don't settle for anything less. I didn't - even though at times I was mocked, questioned, misunderstood, + pitied for it. Now, oh how worth the wait.
Never in my life have I met a young man with such strength of character.
I love him. His kindness. Passion. Love for the Lord. Sensitivity. I love his tanned + strong, veiny, rough + hardworking, skillfully talented hands. His chiseled jawline. His sandy hair. Those sky blue, make-my-heart-melt eyes. His strong, firm arms and chest that tell of many hours and years of working construction and helping out on the farm in Oklahoma. I love how his face shines + lights up when he plays music. He is imaginative, wild, disciplined, patient, calm, joyful, deep, vivacious, smart, careful, optimistic, courageous, hardworking, spontaneous, funny, compassionate, faithful, + gracious.
For this man I prayed. For this man I am grateful.
And that is how I met him.
More to come.... someday. Soon.