The twenty-two year old version of myself spread the black-and-white profile sheets across my carpeted floor. “Here is who I will be working with.” My cousin and my sister perused through the photos of the volunteer missionaries in Taiwan. My cousin pointed to the profile sheet of the boy from Minnesota and said, “I bet you’re gonna kiss that one.” I laughed, startled by her suggestion. Christina was sixteen and of course that was where her mind was. But I won’t lie. I was curious to meet the bleach-blonde boy from Minnesota who “loved Jesus, played soccer, and enjoyed canoeing.”
Months later and halfway across the world, my new boss said to me during volunteer missionary orientation, “You remind me of Toby. I think you guys will get along well.” A few weeks after that, in a Texas Chicken fast-food joint, I met the boy from Minnesota. He road up on a blue, crotch rocket motorcycle, late to join the rest of us. He didn’t talk to me that day, but that didn’t matter, I was hooked.
We started to hangout here and there – at coffee shops, in the volunteer office, or on our way to the train station. I got to ride on the back of his motorcycle and he’d take me around to all the best food joints and city events. I quickly realized that my boss was right, we got along well. I liked him a lot.
I spent the next two months fighting what felt like the beginnings of the stomach flu, which turned out to be persistent butterflies in my stomach. I had never felt that way before. And I couldn’t get rid of the discomfort. The fluttering palpitations moved all the way up to my throat. It was distracting! I was completely obsessed with the boy from Minnesota. And I found that the only cure for all of this nonsense was to do exactly what my prophetic sixteen-year-old cousin had suggested from the very beginning – kiss him.
Now, for those of you who have only ever known Toby as a “Minister of the Gospel,” as defined by his federal tax profile, then you are probably quite disturbed by the idea of your future pastor being the object of my deep affection. So, to respect your sensitivities, I will omit the juicy details of our love story and end my story with this conclusion: I met Toby in the same manner as every other love story goes – when I least expected to. And I ended up marrying my best friend.
Toby, my Midwest sweetheart, I love you. And I look forward to continuing this crazy journey together.