April 2015: I was a wreck. The past winter and spring had been the darkest time in my life. I had gone through a terrible, relationship a few months before and I was struggling with fear, doubt, anger, bitterness, depression and anorexia. God was calling me into a deeper walk with him but I was too consumed with what had gone wrong in my life to reach out to Him. Not that I wasn’t doing my Bible study or going to church because I was. I was just a mess inside. My family struggled to understand me and I struggled to understand myself. I wanted the abundantly full life that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10. I longed to feel happy again down to my very soul.
People seem to think that in times of darkness and times of hopelessness that it’s a joke to say “God will get you through this”. I know I thought that. But even in my doubt and in my sorrow and self-pity God had a plan. He loved me still. Even though I was clinging to my hurt like it would somehow comfort me, even though I was stubborn and refused to let joy in my life because I was afraid of moving on, even still, Jesus saw me and smiled.
Easter Sunday at 10 am I walked down the aisle to take my usual seat in the second row of church. One of my guy friends from church had brought a friend with him and wanted to introduce him to my family and I. I remember in slow motion this young man turning around to face my brother and I. He had deep sorrow in his brown eyes. Dark hair, a bit taller than me and a smile that was covering up something on the inside. His name was Dylan. After he introduced himself I remembered our mutual friend, Quentin telling our prayer group on Tuesdays that he had a friend in need of prayer and support and I knew immediately this had been the friend that he had spoken of.
After church my family was having a party at our home and we invited Quentin and Dylan over. They ended up coming and staying late into the night. Dylan was so overwhelmed by the love and friendship that was shown to him by all of our friends and family that he kept coming over. We saw him most weekends and even some week nights. He had dinner with the family and we played games outside and watched movies with him.
At that time, Dylan had previously (2 days before Easter) had his wife leave him. He was 21, she was 18. They had been married but because of her age it hadn’t been legalized yet. They were married 9 months before she ended up leaving him. Because of this, Dylan was also in a very dark spot in life.
Dylan and I had both been through hard times in relationships and at the time disliked guys (me) and girls (Dylan). I had taken the liberty of creating my own “5 Year No Romance Plan”. I was not going to like, admire, or even consider any men for 5 years because of the last encounter I had experienced.
I was excited to get my life back and jump headfirst into ministry.
I had planned to go to southern California for 3 months that summer to take a youth counseling position at a family retreat center then head to Calvary Chapel Bible School for 2 years that fall. I had big plans.
May 2015: Over the next couple of months Dylan and I got to know each other as friends. One time, about 3 weeks before I left, Dylan and I sat on my family’s lawn under the mountains on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee and petting his dog, Jefferson. Dylan and I opened up to each other that day and talked for hours about our lives and what had just transpired over the last few years. We talked about our families and our struggles. I remember it being very significant because I had never in my life had such an amazing friend in a guy. I had never opened up like that to anyone outside of my family before. I was so happy to have a friend again. I could see Christ working in his heart even in the short amount of time that I had gotten to know him. His face had lightened a little and he didn’t look so down anymore even though he was still hurting.
After that day I wasn’t able to see Dylan again. I left for California and wouldn’t be able to talk to him. Neither of us had the other’s phone number and I was going to school in the fall and wouldn’t be back till Christmas. By the time I got to my new home, I had forgotten about the boy from home. I was caught up in working 24/7, 6 days a week with 90 minutes of free time and working with 42 new people I had never met before. The first month was brutal. I missed my church, and my family.
July 2015: I remember thinking about Dylan a couple of times over the summer and wondering how he was doing.
Also, every single time I called home, Dylan was at our house. My mom even said “Dylan has totally taken your place in the family!” I was so confused but at the same time happy for Dylan. Why was he always at my house? He must really like them I thought. Then I began wishing I were home for all the camping trips and pool parties with my family. It was a slow progression of something that God was doing in my heart.
I wish you could read my prayer journal from this time in my life. I felt God tugging on my heart and telling me to go home. Go home?! No way. I was going to Bible school, sure I missed home but I couldn’t give up on MY plans. I would study counseling and I would write a book, get involved at a church there in CA, meet someone and get married, 5 years from now. “That is the plan God!” I did not want to go home and give up on my super spiritual plan!
Wrestling with God is exhausting because you know you can’t win. Why do we even try?
I ended up “praying” (more like arguing) about going home for the next 2 months and finally decided to trust God. It was probably one of the hardest things I’d done that summer. He wouldn’t leave me alone about going home! I didn’t know why but I knew I had to obey. I told myself it would only be for the winter semester and I would go back in the spring. I called my family and told them I was coming home.
August 2015: On my 21st birthday my family rolled into Santa Cruz to bring me home to Montana. We spent a couple of weeks vacationing all around California then headed home. I would like to say that was the happiest time for me all summer but I was throwing a fit on the inside. I didn’t want to go home. Going home meant going back to that dark place in my life, back to depression, back to resentment and loneliness. I was terrified and upset. Why was God telling me to go home?
Obeying God always requires surrender and a step of faith.
That step of faith felt like I had stepped off the edge of oblivion and was falling through a dark and empty pit. God was doing something huge in me but at the time I was blind. We can never see what God is doing until after He has accomplished His mission and we look back and say “Oh, that’s what you did that for.” This was one of those classic times.
The day we got back into Montana and rolled into our driveway, Dylan was there waiting.
He had been taking care of the house and animals while we were all in California. I walked through the door and very unexpectedly into Dylan’s arms. He gave me such a big hug and a birthday present too! I was shocked but a feeling of relief and comfort spilled into my heart at that moment. I had a friend again!
September 2015: Over the next few weeks Dylan and I struck up quite the friendship, danced in the kitchen while doing dishes, played egg toss, took long walks up the mountain with my little brother and sister during the beautiful fall season in Montana and played lots of board games and movies with the family. Everything we did revolved around spending time with my family. Dylan had become amazing friends with each of my family members while I was away and it was so cute. He even called my mom, “mom”! He was best friends with my big brother and he brought such joy to everyone he was around.
One night we were all sharing prayer requests and I asked for prayer to have joy in my life. I could tell satan was still hanging depression over my head even though I seemed happy on the outside. Immediately Dylan prayed out loud for me. He then wrote down some verses on the topic of “joy” for me. The more I was around him the less lonely and sad I felt.
During this time my heart was in turmoil because I could feel myself getting attached to Dylan.
I didn’t want to like him. I was mad at myself for even thinking about it. He was just a family friend and he was always nice to everyone-not just me. When I prayed about it I told God that I needed more time…and Dylan needed more time! Dylan needed to spend more time with the Lord, he doesn’t need another girl in his life, he doesn’t need a relationship. And I needed to get settled in at home I wasn’t supposed to like anyone for years!
All of a sudden that week God broke through all of my excuses and reasons and basically told me to shut up. I distinctly remember Him telling me, “Lisa, you don’t know what you need and you certainly don’t know what Dylan needs.” That was it. He didn’t tell me it was ok to jump into a relationship. He didn’t give me the go ahead to start planning a wedding. He just told me to stop trying to control things. So I let go.
September 21, 2015: It was a Tuesday night. Dylan had come over after work that afternoon to have dinner and watch a movie with the family. Nothing out of the ordinary-this happened a lot! We all made popcorn and sat down to watch an old cowboy film, “The Magnificent Seven” . I sat next to Dylan and my younger brother Caleb. At this point we both knew that we liked each other. I liked sitting next to him and hearing him laugh.
Half way trough the movie, I felt Dylan’s finger reach out and gently touch my pinky finger. It was the most magical moment I have ever experienced! It was so natural and sweet. God has a funny way of changing things dramatically and creating special moments that last for a lifetime. I will never forget that moment. One finger at a time, ever so slowly, my hand slipped into Dylan’s. I remember smiling so big I thought everyone could see me. I thought to myself, “he likes me!” I don’t know why but God was there in that moment, smiling too and saying, “Lisa, this is why you came home.”
Apparently, Dylan had talked to my parents and older brother about beginning an “intentional friendship” with me about a week before he held my hand. After the movie and before he went home, Dylan told me that we needed to talk and that he would come back the next night. The next day I could hardly think straight. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be in another relationship. I had so many things flying through my mind. I felt crazy for liking my best friend. What would happen if anything bad happened between us. We could never be best friends again.
Finally when Dylan came over that night we were able to get outside and sit on the porch to chat. We had had so many meaningful conversations on this porch before over laughs, tears, and lots of coffee. Now, here we were again, talking about our feelings for each other. We both admitted that we weren’t ready for a committed relationship yet. We both had more healing and praying to do. But we also admitted that we cared deeply for each other. We decided to begin an intentional relationship. We were going to stay friends with courtship in mind for a later time which God would reveal to us both in His timing. We decided that holding hands should wait till we actually began the relationship. He said that he thought a lot about whether he should hold my hand that night and that he just wanted to show me that he cared for me.
We both agree to this day that it was the most special memory we have of the beginning of our journey together.
We laid out 6 guidelines which we were to keep during this time of friendship ( I will write a separate article on this later!). We talked for a few hours, prayed, hugged and said goodnight. It could not have been more special and perfect! God knew what we both had needed. He knew I was still hesitant and had too much to get used to before we started a brand new relationship. Dylan’s words were so wise and comforting and I could tell he was a completely different person from when I left for California. He had been renewed, restored and redeemed. He was a new person and my best friend.
In Part 2 of “A Love Story Only God Could Write” I will share our dating relationship, engagement and our happy new beginning! Be on the look out for Part 2…