On it’s surface, our story is a string of coincidences. Of happenstances. Of unsuspected encounters along the way. Of somehow, someway, happening to be in the same place at the same time. Of brushing shoulders— so close yet so far for a number of years.
But we don’t believe in coincidence or happenstance.
“In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:16, ESV
“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9, NASB
We believe in a Divine Author who wrote each of us into each other’s stories, slowly, subtly, but steadily, until the clouds parted in a crescendo and we saw the light. As we celebrated our third anniversary I want to look back and remember our story. In doing so, God continues to call different details to mind and cause me to praise… exactly how I’d like it to be. So here’s a little bit of a much longer, much more detailed story that is ours… written by God, lived by us.
May 2010: I first saw Ben while dancing with a friend of his. Through a weird series of events I ended up working at a summer camp after I had graduated college. It was Ben’s feet, actually, that I saw first, while mid-dip with the guy I would end up dating. But though I was already entwined with someone else, both literally and metaphorically, Ben caught my attention, along with every other girl’s. He was attractive in the literal sense— effortlessly drawing people to himself with an involuntarily attraction— but he was also attractive in the “he fine” sense. Everyone, including my dance partner, was excited to see him. I found out through some discreet questions that Ben had a girlfriend and was two years my junior, so I wrote him entirely off my radar and resolved to befriend him in a little brother sense and shamelessly flirt with his friend.
June 2011: I ended up dating that friend for a year or so and the following summer the three of us ended up back at camp—both Ben and I all wrapped up in our respective significant others. Since we were such good platonic friends, Ben asked if his then girlfriend could stay with me while she was in town and if we could double date with our boos. So we did. His girlfriend stayed with me and we went on a double date.
August 2011: Weeks later we both broke up with those people. I happened to be running late and walking to my car at the very same time Ben happened to be leaving camp and heading back for school. He was fresh off the breakup and I was too. He saw me walking to my car from the road and pulled over to chat. It was then that he gave me, what we still refer to as The Long Hug. Nothing over the top, just ever-so-slightly too long of a hold for strictly platonic friends like us. And though it was at least 105 degrees, I didn’t hate it. Cue Ben Pape making his way onto my radar. I wrote the following in my journal the following day (please laugh with me upon reading this):
“August, 9, 2011: Yesterday when Ben (Pape) was being all sweet and gave me that hug, I was into it. Then I found myself thinking about him ALL day today. This is concerning to me… I don’t want to be someone who just enjoys attention, I mean, just broke up with the guy I thought I was going to marry. Lord, please make it very obvious who I should date and marry… send him my way”
September 3, 2012: Just a year later Ben and I both happened to be at the same place in Dallas, TX—him with family, me with friend, both of us passing through for the weekend—and he came up to me and in front of all my girlfriends and we made a scene, as you do when surprisingly reacquainted with old friends who you have a low-key crush on. When he left, my friends asked, “Who was that?!” to which I explained, “That’s Ben Pape, He’s the only guy I know who, if he asked me to marry him today, I would say yes.” Which surprised me more than them, since I had never entertained the thought much less voiced it.
March 2013: Six or so months later, Ben happened to be in Austin, TX with his friend John Dawson, and I, at the time, happened to live and teach there. Ben let me know he would be in town and I stayed up way too late on a school night chatting with him and John near UT’s campus.
November 2013: Eight or so months later I was driving home for the holidays and passing through Waco, TX. As was my custom, I planned to stop off at Common Grounds which and to reach out to whoever I knew in Waco at the time. I had resolved to text the same girl I had seen on my previous trip, but remembered seeing somewhere that Ben Pape was in grad school in Waco for the year, and that he was dating a friend of mine from college. So I sent him a text hopeful that we would get to catch up over coffee but he responded saying: “New number, who is this?” after swallowing my pride and introducing myself he arrived at the coffee shop 10 minutes later. He had just broken it off with my friend and I had just stumbled into something with a guy in Austin and a guy in Arkansas, so yet again we happened to just miss each other.
March 2014: Four or so months later Ben happened to be in Austin for Spring Break. I happened to be on Spring Break as well, since I was teaching at the time. Spring Break that year happened to fall at the same time as the South by Southwest music festival, and since the rest of our friends happened to be working all day, it seemed the least I could do to take Ben under my wing and show him around town until his host got off work. At the end of our week together, I thought that if Ben Pape and I were ever in the same place at the same time and both single, and we didn’t give it a chance, we would be fools and I would regret it forever.
May 2014: Ben and I had been in some sort of flirtatious communication more often than not for weeks and out of nowhere he asked if he could call me. I knew that this call would either result in him asking me out or calling off our flirtatious communication. It was the former and we went on our first date a week later. At that point in my life I had outgrown feeling nervous before dates, but I was an absolute wreck before my date with Ben. So much so that my roommate and I played flip-cup before he got there.
On our date we wove our way in and out of little shops along a popular street, we walked and talked about God and literature and everything in between. Basically, I never stood a chance at not falling for Ben Pape.
August 2014: Ben came to town to be my guest at a wedding. We danced all night to my favorite swing band and up to that point, it was the most fun I had ever had. I remember thinking that there was no where else in the entire world I would rather be than right there in that moment with him. The next day he asked me to date exclusively. The next week he moved to Austin.
November 2014: Ben came home with me for Thanksgiving and met my family. He told me then that he loved me, and that it was his intention to marry me.
February 2015: Ben and I happened to be in Dallas for a conference the same weekend it happened to snow. The streets were closed but the conference went on and Ben insisted we needed to leave a little early so that we could get to our dinner reservations on time. His sister dropped us off at Klyde Warren park, which was completely covered in snow and deserted. I was wearing a pair red suede heels and we had a ways to walk to get to “the restaurant”, so Ben piggy-backed me through the ankle-deep snow to a spot that was lit, that he insisted was the place. There he read me a letter he had written (framed in our bathroom, should you ever visit our home), I ugly cried, and he took a knee in the snow and asked me to be his wife.
Three years ago last week we stood with our family and friends and promised to love each other and choose each other come what may till death do us part.
I don’t know much, but I know that I trust God, and I trust his authorship. Reading back through my journals from 2010 to 2014 has been a tear-filled, heart breaking, hilarious experience— it’s funny thrusting yourself back into sad times and dark moments, but knowing how, at least part of the story, would shake out. If I had known when I met him that Ben Pape would one day be my husBen, I would have more than willingly signed up for whatever route would get me to him. I’m glad God wrote the story he did and look forward to seeing the pages hold for year four.
One of the most helpful things we’ve found in our marriage it weekly intentional and honest communication. Here’s list of questions we ask each other each Sunday evening to process through the week before and plan for the week ahead. We did not write these questions, but have modified them slightly and added a few of our own. We hope it is a blessing to you and yours!