This time next week will mark 6 years since I joined Justin, his parents, his brother and sister, and his four best friends for dinner at Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse to celebrate his 17th birthday. It was December 2009. Snow had fallen in record-breaking amounts and after being trapped inside the house for 4 days with nothing but movies and cookie recipes to entertain me, I was eager to get out of the house! Just the day before, Justin had actually driven by to say hi and I was too embarrassed to come outside because I was in my neon green t-shirt and fuzzy pink sweatpants I’d been wearing for two days! Yikes…! It’s probably better that I didn’t come outside, haha!!

I remember texting Justin that I wasn’t dressed and couldn’t see him and feeling SO bad but so shy! (It’s so funny to think about a time that I was embarrassed around Justin… because it rarely happens now!) I told him that day that I would just see him tomorrow at his birthday dinner, which I remember being so flattered and excited that I had been invited to. Justin and I had been hanging out consistently outside of school (where we had every single class together) for about a month at this point and I can just feel the butterflies again thinking back on those early dating days. Days of not knowing if I should take the plunge and give my best guy friend a chance… and not knowing if I could EVER even fathom kissing Justin someday (LOL). This was a boy I had grown up with since I was a little girl. We had braces together, graduated middle school together, and went through awkward ugly duckling phases together… during which Justin actually thought I was a boy. Not kidding. But sometime during sophomore year, something changed.

The two of us went to a very small private Christian school where we had, at most, 15 other people in our grade. The same group of kids were around and went through the years together leading up to the start of 10th grade when sadly, pretty much all of my best friends left. Two went to public school, one switched to another private school, and one moved out of the country! By Christmas of 10th grade I was a really lonely 15-year-old. The guy I had been infatuated with for four years broke my heart the summer before this school year began and it was HARD being in the same classroom as him 8 hours of every week day. The truth is, I often felt so isolated and alone, especially after my best friend moved to Costa Rica in late December of 2008. I’m sure part of it was my fault, moping in the corner by myself, but there were days when no one would sit down next to me at lunch and I would eat in the bathroom by myself (seriously). But guess who started sitting next to me that January after we returned from winter break? Justin.

From the beginning he just wanted the best for me. He made me come and sit with him and “his friends” (laughable because there really weren’t many people in our high school altogether so I’m not sure how these groups existed, but they did) and he made me feel included. We took an after school college math class together that spring and I remember loving that extra little bit of connection I had to him. We were the only people in our grade taking that class, so I was the only person Justin could text with questions about homework and I loved it. It was truly the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Justin made me laugh so much during that class that we started sitting next to each other in our other classes during the school day, too. We actually were separated more than once for giggling at God knows what but it was all the more hilarious to me when we had to sit on opposite sides of the classroom like we were back in kindergarten. I think I started to fall in love with him long before I realized what was happening, and that just made it all happen so fast once we returned in the Fall for the start of our junior year. I always joke that Justin “got his braces off, grew 6 inches, and completed p90X with a set of six pack abs” over that summer and as funny as it is, it’s really kind of true! Haha. It was the first time I looked at Justin and really didn’t see him as the boy I grew up with anymore. The first few months of the year I harassed Justin about giving me and my sisters a ride home from school (I didn’t have my license yet, only my permit, so we took a taxi in the mornings) and he would always without fail oblige. And then somedays it was just me needing a ride home and we would end up heading to Tropical Smoothie and then over to his house to “say hi” to his mom and then I’d be over there for hours at a time watching T.V. or doing homework together before finally heading home for dinner.

It wasn’t quite clear yet what our relationship was going to be… but I knew when I left for a week to head to Indiana for Thanksgiving that I really was going to miss Justin. I remember posting on his Facebook wall the day I left, “An entire week without me? Whatever will you do?” ;) Only a month later, we’d find ourselves sitting next to each other at dinner around a teppanyaki grill surrounded by what would soon become my second family… four new best guy friends and all.

After dinner that night, we all headed back to Justin’s house to watch a movie and I somehow ended up sitting pretty close to Justin. The Hangover wasn’t exactly the most romantic of movies but I had butterflies in my stomach the entire time I pretended to be paying attention when really all I could think about was how I could feel his heartbeat through his chest. It was strange, being so close to someone I knew so well but had never known in this way… a physical closeness that lit my heart on fire and made my heart beat twice as fast. I was nervous and a little uncomfortable but overwhelmingly happy and excited all at the same time and when we found it was just the two of us left alone I quickly spilled out the words that I had to get home before it got too late and that I would see him soon. I don’t remember exactly when “soon” was but I know we must have hung out at least a half a dozen times that winter break before school started in the new year. And sometime during that first week we were back at Christ Chapel in class together, Justin asked me to go to homecoming with him and on the evening of Saturday, January 9th we danced our first slow dance after being crowned Homecoming Prince and Princess and I think it was just a sign that so many other people saw what we hadn’t admitted to yet… that we were two best friends who were falling for each other.

Oh there’s so, so much in between those moments we spent dancing in slow motion that dreamy winter night and the December evening I’m now spending here, writing to you dear reader about how the love of my life swept me off my feet. There are so many sweet memories that would probably seem so insignificant to someone on the outside but were so invaluable to the weaving of our love story. Like that time we got into our first fight or the first time we broke up or the year Justin had to be reminded of my birthday and the first Christmas I realized I forgot to give Justin a birthday gift because it was just 6 days before December 25th. These moments aren’t part of the typical fairytale stories you might hear, but they are moments that showed me that what we had was real because we fought through it. Love never fails… and it never stops trying to be better. Oh we’ve learned so much. And I know we have so much more wisdom to gain as we approach the start of a new chapter of our life together… marriage!!!!

It’s been a long, longggggg 6 months since we announced our wedding date, but the first 6 months of our past year of being engaged truly flew by. I kinda miss the days I didn’t have a countdown because time went by so much faster! I know these next 165 days are going to come and go just like any other season of my life has. Somedays the wait feels unbearable and other days it feels like that amount of time just isn’t enough to get “ready” for everything that is to come. BUT. God. If there’s one thing we’ve learned this past year, it’s that He always provides. And oh is that a comforting thought. So without further ado, I give you…

OUR WEDDING WEBSITE!!! :) 

(More details regarding wedding weekend plans are coming soon! But for now, here is where you can view all of our engagement and save the date photos, read more about our love story and the proposal, meet the beloved members of our bridal party, view our wedding registry, and book your hotel room for the weekend! Woo hoo!!!)

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