Okay, I’m gonna be that one cheesy person that everyone rolls their eyes at when talking about their season of dating. So prepare yourself now. You ready? After just my first date with Mikey I knew I would marry him. It took us both only one week of dating to know we were in love. I know it’s SO CHEESY. (Who doesn’t love unhealthy amounts of cheese though?)
Dating Mikey was never going to be a casual thing because we just knew we would get married one day. Disclaimer: please know that I am not discouraging going on casual fun dates, I encourage it actually! It just was not part of God’s plan for mine and Michael's relationship. Dating Mikey was blissful and really so much fun. I truly believe our season of dating was so sweet because we kept Christ in the middle of our relationship. Which is oh so important!
Was our relationship perfect? Absolutely. Did we make mistakes? Never. Did we ever fall into temptation? Not a chance. KIDDING! Although we had a wonderful time dating, our relationship was far from perfect. We both had to learn how to love one another in a healthy manner. Meaning, we loved Jesus more than we loved one another. We didn’t want to place our worth and happiness in one another because if we did, we knew we would let one another down time and time again.
Fast forward several months into our relationship: we’re as comfortable as an old couple sitting side by side in rocking chairs, we love Jesus the most, we worship together daily, and we pray for one another daily. Man, this relationship is perfect right? NOT. We didn’t do one very important thing for our relationship. We did not put in place any physical boundaries and before you know it…we were pregnant…at 16. *insert nonexistent big gulping emoji here*
What the world saw as this awful thing, a teenage couple getting pregnant, God saw and said “You’re still my children and I still love you.” Let me preface the rest of this by saying, although we got our happily ever after, it was not easy. Getting pregnant at 16 is not something I would recommend for anyone. It was very difficult and takes more patience than most 16 year olds have. Do your relationship, and yourself, a favor and discuss what your physical boundaries are and most importantly, place God in the center of your dating life. But also know that if you do mess up that you are never too far from His infinite grace and redemption.
Thanks to God’s redemption, when Mikey and I felt like we deserved His harshest punishment, He instead redeemed us. Through that redemption we were given the most beautiful little girl, Arabella Grace. Beautifully enough, we have always taken credit for naming her but we now know that God named her to represent the grace He gave us.
Why was His heart beating so fast? I thought to myself as Patrick gave me our normal goodbye hug. He gently pulled me away and, well...there is just no better way to say this, gazed, yes gazed into my eyes.
Why is he looking at me like that? Oh my gosh He is going to kiss me. He is going to kiss me right here in the middle of this church parking lot. Guilt overwhelmed me, not kidding!
We can’t kiss in the middle of a church parking lot! I shifted my eyes from side to side to see if anyone was around.
My heart began to pitter patter, matching the pace of his. I was in full on freakout mode and Patrick was going in.
And there, in the middle of an empty church parking lot, as the sun was setting, surrounded by the noise of a busy city I uttered the most romantic words I could muster, “So uh, are you going for it!?”
“Just shut up,” Patrick said as he leaned in and gave me my very first kiss!
Our first kiss story is pretty much the epitome of our dating story.
I was a hot mess of emotions at all times as Patrick calmly helped me navigate the unchartered waters of having a boyfriend. It wasn’t that I was anxious as much as it was every emotion you could ever dream up all packaged in a tightly wound little, who am I kidding, big, gigantic ball inside of my body.
I knew I liked Patrick, heck after date 3 (which was a sweet picnic in the park) I was convinced he was to be my husband. But no matter how certain I was of the fact I was in love with Patrick Jeffrey Perryman I could not get my brain to temper my wellspring of emotions.
And, though I couldn’t seem to stop the human side of me from freaking out and stumbling my way through our dating journey (which at least made for some funny anecdotes later), my spirit always brought me back to reality with this truth: Patrick loved Jesus.
Patrick lived a life for Jesus and made me want to love Jesus even more. He was, and is, kind, gentle, steady, smart, and courageous. He encouraged me, loved me for who God had made me to be, and challenged me to live out the story God had for me. Patrick pursued me in the most God-honoring way. Patrick was by no means perfect, but he was perfect for me.
God spent the 8 months of our dating journey teaching me and reminding me that this man, Patrick, was who I had been waiting for all this time. Patrick didn’t fill up some lonely hole inside of me (only God can do that). He didn’t make all my insecurities go away (again that’s all the big man upstairs). But He did pursue me in a way that made me better understand how Jesus pursues my heart on a daily basis-which, to this day, is one of the best gifts Patrick ever gave me.
And the best part is, Patrick has yet to stop pursuing me!
So don’t settle for anything less than God’s Earthly love story for you! Don’t settle for the boy, when God has made you for a Godly man. A man who will pursue you the way you were meant to be pursued. A man who will love you, honor you, support you and encourage you to be all of who God made you to be. A man who will point you back to Jesus and make you want to know your Savior even more. This man, He won’t be perfect, but He will be perfect for you.
You were created for so much more than what the world has for you. You were designed for a God-sized love story. Your Heavenly Father wants nothing less for you than to be pursued in the way you were made to be pursued.
But at the end of the day it’s up to you, to us! Will you settle for the world’s story for your life or for God’s?
“It’s time,” he said to me as he placed his hand on my shoulder.
I paused, looking back at him and wondering if he really needed to point out it was time for me to go to basketball practice...he’d been walking me to the gym door after school the previous few weeks, and, yep, pretty much at 3:05, it was “time” every day.
Not what he meant.
The clarification followed, and no confusion could be had: “Would you, Stacie Gooch, like to be the girlfriend of Lucas Taylor?”
Ah. That time.
Believe it or not, despite his super suave moves, I did actually want to be his girlfriend. So I said yes. We hugged, and I proceeded casually to practice, anxiously waiting to word vomit and tell all the girls the big news. ...Have I mentioned we are high school sweethearts?
In case you can’t tell, yes, we were babies when we started dating. Now, I’ll give us some slack and say we were both relatively mature 16 and 18-year-olds, but we were babies nonetheless, and I’m grateful for all the growing we got to do together because of this reality.
And because we were such babies - growing babies, but babies - when we started dating, there’s a phrase that often comes to mind when I think of how Lucas and I dated. So often, in so many ways, I feel that God protected us in spite of us.
In spite of our immaturity, in spite of our selfishness, in spite of our naivete in some regards, He protected us, provided for us, and prepared us for our marriage.
One of the primary ways He did this, I believe, is by placing us in a long-distance relationship for 3 ½ of our 4½ years dating (we got to spend the last year of engagement in the same city - thank you Jesus). Anway. There are SO many reasons this helped, rather than hurt, our growing relationship.
For one thing, it made it a lot easier for us to “be our own people,” rather than becoming an inseparable entity long before God ever intended. I did my normal routines, he did his own thing at college, and we’d see each other a weekend or two out of each month. Did I hate that 80% of the time? Absolutely. Am I grateful for it now? Absolutely.
Another benefit from those once- or twice-a-month visits was that we were forced to use our time more wisely. Was it worth spending the only 24 hours we might have together being petty or giving him the silent treatment over something goofy that had made me mad? No. I mean, not that I didn’t try that a few times...I just quickly learned it was worth more to value the time we had together, to enjoy one another’s company.
Another way God protected us in spite of ourselves through this long distance stuff was that we didn’t have nearly as much time on our hands to make poor choices physically during the years when we probably would’ve been most likely to do so, before we had more mature understandings of intimacy and more security in our individual intimacy with God. Of course, we were never perfect and we still had to fight temptations, but God was so, so kind in protecting us and it has made our marriage all the sweeter for it.
And the last hidden gift God gave us through our long-distance years was this: dating long-distance is not easy (for basically all the same reasons that make it helpful). So if you’re going to do it, you’re going to be in it for the long haul. Our commitment to continue dating when Lucas went off to college - then when I went off to another college - communicated to God, to others, and to one another that we were serious about our relationship, serious about growing together toward a God-honoring marriage.
You know how people say you find The One when you stop looking? I can’t say this is always true, because I tried to forcibly make myself stop looking so I’d find him and I never found him in the past… but at 23, it happened for me. After some toxic relationships that left me shattered and broken-hearted, I knew for sure I never wanted to date anyone ever again. But God had a different plan.
My brother was attending college out-of-state, and called me off and on for months trying to get me to come visit to meet his friend, Anthony. Anthony was his mentor through a campus ministry, and I thought: yikes. No way. I didn’t have a good impression of campus ministries in college, so no thanks. Not my type. He was probably judgmental and very loud.
However, one weekend my roommate and I made the trip. My brother invited us to a birthday party, and Anthony would be there. When we met, I was shocked. He was the coolest person I’d ever met. We really hit it off, and laughed and talked all night… but he didn’t ask for my number! How dare he?!?!
I was furious. I didn’t want to date him anyway! But three weeks later, Anthony called. He got my number from my brother, and invited me to a wedding he was in. Even though I never saw it coming, that weekend changed my life. It was a BLAST! We danced, we laughed some more, we snuck in a garden and talked until midnight.
But after that weekend, he never called! When he finally did a week later, I answered the phone, “Long time, no talk.” He asked if I’d checked my mail, and after asking my roommate where I could find the mailbox in our condo complex, I ran to see what he’d sent. Inside the mailbox was the nicest note anyone had ever written me. Witty, sweet, sincere, funny, wow.
After apologizing profusely, I knew this was different. He was different. I’d never dated a guy who put God first, and I based my worth on my relationship status--which is one reason my relationships were so strained. Anthony is the first person who challenged me to figure out who God really is. We wrote letters back and forth, and we shared stuff we’d never told anyone else.
When I shared some negative views about myself, he asked if maybe I thought God thought those things about me. He had felt the same way, but read the Bible and discovered God loved him and had a good plan for him. For the first time, I read the Bible in context of God’s great love and discovered the same thing. I felt free and whole for the first time, and dating Anthony was the happiest time of my life.
We were married six months after the birthday party, and I worked alongside Anthony at the same campus ministry that inspired what is today Lane of Roses.
Because I wasn’t looking to date anyone ever again, it actually helped me to be myself. I didn’t feel like my worth was wrapped up in my relationship status; I was honest about the things that mattered to me without worrying about whether or not it made me look like a dork.
Faith wasn’t a part of my early dating experiences, yet it was a high value for me. For Anthony and I, our goal became to grow closer to God - and and as we did, we grew closer to each other as a result. Dating Anthony was thrilling from beginning to end, and because we still talk about what matters to us the most….
We’re still dating today.
As long as I can remember, getting married and becoming a mom were some of my biggest ambitions in life. I remember so many times thinking it would never happen to me...I don’t deserve something that good. Or it just wouldn’t work. I proved myself right time and time again because waiting wasn’t something I was good at. I tried hard to find Mr. Right, and time and time again it ended up being a total fail.
On the surface I was just dating to date, to have a good time. But in my mind and heart I was looking to something more. Isn’t that what were all really looking for?
Looking back now, I wanted a guy to make me happy. I felt if I found my soulmate everything else would fall into place. I now know (I did then, too)...a guy couldn’t fill any void. Only God can make those fears, lies, and insecurities go away. I just am thankful I finally realized it.
Well, at the ripe age of 20 (haha), I met him, my now-husband. But life wasn’t any easier. If i’m honest, it was hard, really hard. Great and worth it but man…
When Trae and I met in August of 2007 I couldn’t have imagined our life now. We were friendly and of course I thought he was cute, but He definitely wasn’t MY Mr. Right. Or so I thought. We worked together, that just wasn’t even a card to play, and we both had a lot going on personally.
Well, a month passed by and he FINALLY asked me on a date. (I say finally because, remember, I am not good at waiting). A week later I told him I loved him with no response...DID I REALLY THROW MYSELF OUT THERE AGAIN?? To have my heart broken once more??
Thankfully, he was much wiser than most men at the same age. He took his time and waited to respond, letting my feelings hang on my sleeve. But this time it was different. It was torture then, but now I am so thankful for the waiting.
Trae is patient, kind, loyal, hard-working, loving, thoughtful, endearing, compassionate, caring, and the list could go on… These are all the things God wanted me to have. If I had settled on anyone else, I wouldn’t have received the gift he had waiting for me. Even if it took three WHOLE days for an “I love you” back, after I spilled my heart out,
I am so thankful for those three days. Were they hard and uncomfortable? ABSOLUTELY. Were they worth it? 1,000,000%. I would do it all again. And probably change a few things. But a year later we were engaged, and three months after that we were married. Even though waiting wasn’t something I was good at, God showed me that He has the best laid plans. And twenty was so so young, but that was what God had for me. So in that, take your time. Love well and fiercely, but know that God’s plans are always better. Not easy, but better.
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