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"...That Let Me Straight To You"
September 2002. I was really confused. And yet, it was clear. God was leading me to be with Stephanie Campbell. And somehow, I knew. Somehow, I always knew. From the first moment I had seen her back in 2000, I knew that something was different about her. I'm not making that up, either... I mean, what was I going to say when I first met her? "I'm going to marry you one day, Stephanie"? She'd run very very fast, which is a lot to say, because she hates running.
In Bible study, I told the guys that I was praying about going out with Stephanie Campbell. As in, for real. I knew that if we dated, that would be it. We'd get married. Needless to say, the guys were estatic. Tom, Ty, Shawn and Michael all had big smiles and were totally pumped about it... Michael even came to me afterwards and in a classic, Michael-being-emotional moment, said "Hey... I just want you to know that I'm really excited for you and Stephanie, and I love both of you alot and I'm really just pumped about what God is doing and..." and he rambled on lovingly for a few minutes. This is why we love Michael.
My 10 year high school reunion was upcoming... Samson has a big party for the 5, 10, 15 and 20 year graduates during the football season of the anniversary year. I invited Stephanie to my high school reunion weekend, and she accepted. So, we went to Samson, Alabama, for the weekend, and it was great to get away. No Deuce (one of those rare, rare times when 'no Deuce' is a good thing), no Birmingham, no pressure... just two good friends attending a party with one of those friend's high school friends.
It was the weekend that I look back and peg as "it"... as in, the weekend that I knew Stephanie and I would be together forever. At the game, she got to meet several of my friends I hadn't seen in years, some since the day we all left graduation. The next day was a cookout at Stan McDuffie's parents house, and we were all there together. Everyone kept pulling me aside and asking if she was my wife, or my girlfriend, and if not, why not. Tammy Thomas told me bluntly, "You need to be dating her. She is just precious. I really like her." Not that the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with depended on what a half-drunk Tammy Thomas thought, but she had a point.
It was just fun to watch Steph interact with Tammy and Stan and my best friends from high school, Chris, Greg and Tonya, and also Jennifer Lambert and Stephanie Phillips and Leslie Morgan and such... while I re-hashed the Seniors '93 Spring Break Cruise with Susan Ward and Joey Stephens, I watched Steph listen to Felicia Farris and Tammy Ward tell her stories about me and such... its like that scene in the movie "Hellraiser", when the cube just finally clicks, and all the pieces just... well, fit. Well, without the hooks flying out and ripping my skin off, but you know what I mean.
A few days later, I called Stephanie late at night. I then proceeded to tell her all the things that bugged me about her. Her stupid baby voice she liked to use (she doesn't use it anymore). Her idiosyncrasies that bothered me. The way she did stuff that made me really, really annoyed. And after all this, when Steph was like "what the crap?", I then told her that I was falling for her. And I wanted to see where it went. I was going to give it another few months before I totally committed.
I was really delaying the inevitable, because I knew at this point She Was It, but I still put it off for a month or so. I mean, if I was going to commit to one girl and give her the rest of my life, I could wait until November to do so, right?
Of course, Stephanie was really annoyed by this. And she was even more annoyed when I elected to go to Sybil's fall retreat (including the infamous "7 Degrees Celsius" tobyMac dance) instead of coming to Steph's niece's birthday party. Apparently, her sister Angie, whom I still had not met, was married to Randy, and had two kids, Madeline and Benjamin, and Madeline had these elaborate birthday Disney themed parties, with the family dressing up as different characters. This time around was Peter Pan, and Stephanie was going to be Captain Hook, and she wanted me to be Smee... I was going to the retreat. This didn't sit well with her.
She also invited me to come to the beach with her family that November, to which I also declined. Apparently, her family goes to the beach every year for Thanksgiving, but not only did I have to work and didn't have the vacation to spend on it, I didn't relish the thought of spending a week with her family that I had never even met. This didn't make her happy either, but in hindsight, even she admits its probably a good thing I didn't come.
Christmas 2002, and A Very Deuce Christmas party was our biggest Deuce party ever, with close to 70 people walking through the door. I spent much of the night bouncing around the room, making coffee for people, talking to guests--including girls--and didn't spend alot of time with Steph. This was the night that Amy Vos told Stephanie how wonderful she was, and how she needed to just move on from me, that God has another plan. (funny, because this came a few days after Laura DeGarmo informed me that there's no reason why I shouldn't be with Stephanie, because "she's so pretty and godly and wonderful and..." to which I told her we were dating, and she smiled and hugged me, for whatever reason).
She invited me to her big family Christmas, which is two-fold... first, a big gathering of one side of the family, then a big gathering of the other. I don't remember which side I met during the first one, but I remember getting lost in Greystone trying to find her house, then walking in the front door to stares of people standing there, then introducing myself as being with Stephanie. Seems like the whole family was excited that Stephanie had a boy with her. She's not gay!!
Shortly thereafter, I was invited to her immediately family Christmas steak dinner, also a yearly tradition. This was just wonderful, because not only was I totally smitten and falling for Stephanie, I just fell in love with her family too.
This is how God brought us together at last. A few months later, in January of 2003, I was sitting in the Mt. Brook Starbucks with my pal Katy, talking to her friend Kerry Walls, whom later became my friend too. Kerry told me of this Starbucks "Job Fair" they were having to staff a new location Vestavia Hills, and I immediately thought this would be a good idea, because I needed the extra money... if I was going to pay off my credit card and other debt, plus buy an engagment ring, I had to have extra money... and it didn't hurt that Kerry was smokin' hot, so Starbucks seemed like a good idea, you know, for a part time, short term thing.
And you can see how the rest turned out...