Friday, September 07, 2007

One Year Ago...How Niels & I Met

I've had several requests for this story, and since today marks the one year anniversary of Niels in my life, this seems the perfect time to tell it.


In contrast to those who say that God will send Mr. Right when you have your life in order, my life had to first get complete un-ordered. One year ago...

• My heart was broken from a relationship that didn't work out.
• My adopted family had moved to China.
• I lost a job I loved because my post-head injury health never got back to a point where I could no longer work full time
• I realized that because of the above point, I'd have to sell my house.

Happy times, eh?

I knew I needed a change of scenery to start the healing process. In August, I spent a week in Ohio where, oddly enough, where my ex lives, handing out with some new friends trying to figure out a new life plan.

For reasons I couldn't articulate, I had felt God leading me to move to Ohio. When I first sense to prompting, I was dating someone there and the move made sense. But after our breakup, the leading didn't go away, thus leading me to a very frustrating time of questioning my ability to discern God's will.

I decided to pursue the, move until I sensed a closed door. But I moved slowly visiting for a week a month, for several months. During my second visit, in September of last year, I was staying with my friend, Becca. One night, we drove up to Cleveland to go ballroom dancing. Unfortunately, the place had cancelled the lessons...without updating the website. We drove an hour for nothing. On the way back, we were talking about guys (She had also just broken up with her boyfriend). I was telling her about and that I was starting to browse but not sure my heart was ready for anything yet. When we got home I logged on to show her how it works. I did a search of guys in Cleveland, "if, for example, I wanted to find a guy to go dancing with."

Niels' profile came up and laughed when I read the part about "I'm looking for someone who won't mind that her in-laws will live half the world away." I learned that up until a few years ago, he lived in the Netherlands. He loved to read and travel and his profile made me laugh. I moved my mouse over the "wink" icon to show my friend how that works (at that point, I wasn't about to initiate any conversations). I logged off, went to bed, and didn't think anything of it.

Turns out I had clicked "wink" when I showed Becca the site. Niels got my wink and checked out my profile. As a good Dutchie, he knows all about Grand Rapids--in fact, it was the first US city he visited--and has "adopted" family in Holland, MI. So we started writing...then talking on the phone...and then he made plans to visit me in Michigan.

As he tells it, he was smitten from the first time he saw me (about two weeks later). It took me a little longer, and because he came on so strong, my messed up heart got confused. But he was amazingly patient and won me over.

When we first met, my comment to friends was, "I've never been a fan of the idea of having a guy as a best friend, but with Niels, I can see the appeal." He's smart, fascinating and I love spending time with him. But I don't think my heart knew how to accept real love, so I was unsure of my romantic feelings.

In October, while in Ohio, I was rear-ended. Niels drove from Cleveland to Canton to check up on me. But the first romantic spark came for me later that month when he was visiting me in MI. I was still pretty sore from my accident and I needed to go to Chicago to get my visa for my upcoming trip to China. Niels took a day off work (making me feel special) to drive up to GR, and then take me to Chicago. The night before we left, Bailey needed to go out. Niels saw that I was finally comfortable on the couch so he took her out. She went #2. Niels didn't have a dog, but he came in, got a little baggie and got the do. I saw him go into the bathroom to flush it, and heard him gag as he did. But he never said a word or complained about it. At that point I thought, "There's a guy who's willing to love sacrificially"

We had a great time in Chicago the next day. He impressed me by driving to Chicago for the first time and finding the consulate without once referring to a map. (He had Googled directions before coming to MI). We were able to take care of business at the consulate by noon, and spent the rest of the day enjoying the great city. We had a great time and on the way back we had an amazing conversation that really turned my heart to him.

Shortly before I went to China for Christmas and he went to Holland we had a really good talk about what a future might look like together. We didn't have any timeline in mind, but we liked the overall idea. My heart was still afraid he might change his mind...after all, there are plenty of non-head injured, employed, thin American girls for him to choose from. Fortunately, he was undeterred. He wanted me. :-)

Two days after I arrived in China, there was an earthquake in Taiwan, which destroyed the internet cables connecting mainland China to the rest of the world. I was there three weeks, and never had a connection to US sites. But, after a few days, I could connect with Niels because he was in Holland. So it was a trust exercise for me. He was my only connection to the US.

So he was checking my email and telling me if I got anything interesting. Dad sent an email telling me he was going to Israel and had a layover in Amsterdam. I hadn't told my parents about Niels yet, so my comment to Niels was, "That's not fair that Dad gets to go to Holland before me!." That led Niels to the Net where he found a cheap flight to get in Amsterdam the same day as dad.

In January when we got back to the States (I was starting to live with a family in Ohio at this point), we decided we never wanted to be apart that long again. We started talking dates, again, kind of as a joke. I said that my COBRA expired in November and he's at a point where it would be cheaper for him to get a green card than face the legal fees of the next step in his residency process. From there, we knew that the Kennedys would be in the States in July, and my friend Jen was due July 9. So we called Lakeside Banquet Center, recommended by friends, and they were free July 27 and 29. When I realized that July 29 would have been my mom and dad's 40th anniversary, we decided to redeem the day.

Things went pretty fast after that. I help Niels buy a house in North Canton in February. We went to Europe in March. I met his family, he met my dad, and on March 20, he proposed to me in Paris in a garden at the foot of the Eiffel Tower (sigh)...

We had a hectic but wonderful four-month engagement, and on July 29, 2007, I became Mrs. Niels de Jong!