Christina had spent her twenties watching her college friends, cousins, younger siblings, and even former students get married before her. At 32, in a spirit of boldness and radical trust, she called upon the Lord to make her vocation crystal clear should she meet her future husband soon. In a move straight out of the Jane Austen playbook, Christina's mom employed a little matchmaking, and Kristian soon walked into her life.
In Christina's Words: You know how people always say that God's timing is perfect? When I was going through the doldrums of singleness, well-meaning friends and family would say stuff like, "God will bring your husband at the perfect time" or "It must not be time yet." That's all well and good and true, but it doesn't help much when you feel like God's been making you wait for years for your vocation to be made clear.
In any case, I'm now going to be that annoying person who says to all of you single ladies reading this: God's timing really is perfect. Yes, you may end up waiting until you're 32 (like me), or 39, or 45 or what have you until the right person comes into your life. But let me tell you: it is far better to wait on the Lord's timing than to try to force things to happen on your own time. I have several failed relationships and the accompanying unpleasant memories to prove it. I hope that my story of how my fiancé and I met, began dating, and soon after got engaged, will be a helpful reminder that God's ways are not our ways, and that is a very good thing.
The day before I met my future husband, a relationship I had desperately been trying to make work finally ended. It was difficult to let go of, even though God made it crystal clear that my ex wasn't the one for me. I remember crying out to the Lord that night, saying something like this:
Lord, I'm so tired. So tired of trying to make relationships work. Tired of passive men who don't know what they want. I'm just...tired. So, if you want me to get married, then you're going to have to make it really clear when the right man comes along. I need him to pursue me with conviction and without holding back. Otherwise, I'd rather be single for the rest of my life. Amen.
Some of the wording may have been slightly different, but that was the basic gist of my prayer. I was trying to take a page out of St. Therese's book and show some "holy boldness" in my relationship with the Lord. And boy did he listen.
The next day, I get a phone call from my mom. I was in San Diego with a dear friend and we were wandering around the gift shop at the Hotel del Coronado when my mom called. "Christina," she said breathlessly, "I met the perfect guy for you after Mass today!!" I started laughing incredulously--my mom has tried to set me up before with no success--and asked her to describe him. She told me a mutual friend of ours had introduced Kristian to her after Mass that morning, and that he was really cute and really Catholic and seemed actually normal and sociable.
Okay, I thought, this guy already sounds too good to be true.
Mom went on to tell me that she talked to him for about two minutes before she asked if he was single. He was. Then, she told him that she had a daughter who was 32 and single (that's me) and that she thought he would really like her. He smiled at her and laughed a bit, because he was no stranger to being set up by eager Catholic moms. Then she said something that, according to Kristian, convinced him to at least look me up on Facebook: "She's not desperate. She told me the other day that she's only going to date someone if it's really clear that it's God's will."
At this point, I was cracking up trying to imagine what Kristian was thinking as my mom was going on and on about her wonderful, amazing daughter who is TOTALLY NOT DESPERATE. My mom continued her story in spite of my laughter, saying that she really thought Kristian would contact me (Suuuure he will, I thought to myself) and to let her know if he did. I told her I would, but that she shouldn't get her hopes up; he was probably just humoring her.
After driving back to Phoenix from San Diego, I opened up my laptop to see that I had a friend request from Kristian. I accepted his friendship and promptly checked out his photos. I immediately noticed that he was indeed cute. Like, really cute. Five minutes later, he sent me a message introducing himself. In an attempt to play it cool, I didn't respond right away. Apparently this made him nervous, and a few minutes later he messaged me again apologizing if he had creeped me out. I took pity on him and messaged back and we had a pleasant "conversation" for about ten minutes before he asked me for my number. Wow, I thought, that's unusual. Still skeptical, and still reeling from the fact that all of this was happening the day after I prayed that prayer, I gave him my number and figured maybe he'd call in a week or so.
Kristian called the next day. We chatted for about 45 minutes and I found myself wishing we could've talked longer.
He mentioned that he might call "later in the week," and my skepticism persisted. Two days later (Wednesday), he texted and suggested that we Skype, so we did. It was clear on Skype that we were both attracted to each other, but Kristian impressed me even more by proposing that he come visit me in Phoenix that Saturday. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. We solidified our plans, I found a place for him to stay, and I picked him up from the Phoenix airport for our first in-person meeting on the morning of February 6, 2016--one week after my mom called to tell me about him and after Kristian first contacted me.
Remember that prayer I prayed the night before I first heard about Kristian? The one about sending me a proactive man who would pursue me with conviction?
Never have I received such a clear--and quick--answer to prayer in my life.
Kristian later told me that as soon as he saw my photo on Facebook, he had a strong intuition that I was "the one." That conviction only deepened when we met in person. Thus, the Lord answered another one of my prayers without me even asking: I'd been praying for years that when I met the right man, he would know first.
To make a long story short, our first date was lovely. I immediately felt at home with him and was super attracted too, which is always nice. We went hiking, had lunch at a favorite café of mine, prayed together at Mass, ate a delicious dinner at one of my favorite spots in Phoenix, talked for hours about faith/philosophy/theology/traveling/relationships/healing, and it took every ounce of self-control for both of us not to kiss each other goodnight (I'm glad we didn't, for the record). Before the weekend was over, Kristian asked if he could fly out the next weekend to take me out for Valentine's Day. I said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I could say so much more about the godly man the Lord sent to me a mere six months ago. I could tell you all about our Valentine's Day date that he planned perfectly (even though he'd only known me for a week) and how a month later, he cut his trip to Israel short so he could come to my family's Easter celebration in D.C. I could tell you about our magical first kiss and our difficult first conflict and how much my students loved him when he came to visit my classes at the end of February--it was during one of my classes, as Kristian was patiently answering my students' questions, that I realized he was the man I was called to marry. I could tell you about how natural the progression of our relationship felt, every step of the way, even though we got engaged a few weeks shy of our six month anniversary.
I could tell you a lot of things. But the most important thing is this: God wrote our love story. He is writing our love story. That much has been clear to us from day one. Neither of us could have ever predicted, created, or forced this. It was 100% gift from heaven and we still marvel at how generous God is. The timing, as annoying as this might sound, was perfect.
My students used to ask me how I would know when I met my future husband. I always gave them the same simple formula: I'll know when I meet a man whom I want to marry who also wants to marry me.
I never thought my mom would introduce us. Or that we would do long distance for the first several months. Or that I would move back to Texas, without a job, just to be closer to him. Or that we would be getting married less than a year into our relationship. But God's ways are not our ways, and for that, I am grateful.
About two months after I moved from Phoenix to Texas, Kristian asked if he could plan a mini-retreat for us on. If you know me at all, you know that a day of prayer with the man I love is pretty much my dream date. He told me that this would be a necessary step in our relationship moving towards engagement, and since I had it in my head that he wasn't going to ask until a few months later, I wasn't suspicious at all.
I was actually getting antsy and wishing he would just forego whatever fancy plans he had for the proposal and ask me to marry him already! And just to give you a sense for how pathologically impatient I am: we hadn't even hit the six month anniversary mark. But I digress.
The day of the retreat rolled around, Kristian picked me up, and took me to the beautiful Our Lady of Schoenstatt Shrine in Austin, a short drive from my house. He had printed out all of the readings the Church suggests for use in wedding Masses, so we picked two, Genesis 2 and 1 Corinthians 13, to meditate on individually. After about 20 minutes with each reading, we came back together to discuss our reflections, both of which were quite different, but mutually enriching. It was a beautiful and spiritually restorative morning.
During our "retreat," we spoke openly, as we had many times before, about our desire to marry one another. Kristian continued to be vague about when he thought that would actually happen, so I still didn't suspect anything as he drove me to my favorite chapel in Austin to go to confession with my favorite confessor, followed by daily Mass at said chapel.
After Mass, Kristian went to ask the sacristan to keep the lights on in the chapel so that we could take a photo in front of the altar. I thought that was a little strange but I still did not suspect anything. When he got back, we went and lit a candle in front of the image of the Divine Mercy and prayed together, in thanksgiving for God's mercy, manifest particularly in bringing us in to each other's lives.
There was a nice lady praying next to us on the kneeler, and Kristian asked her to take a photo of us in front of the altar. At that point, I saw that he had his rosary pouch in his hand and I finally started to get suspicious. When we had taken the photo, Kristian turned me around and said, "There's one more thing."
He got down on one knee and said, "Christina Grace, I love you and I want to be a saint with you. Will you marry me?"
And of course, through my tears and laughter, I said "yes."
He slipped a beautiful ring on my finger, and I feel like I've been living someone else's life ever since then. As any woman who is single and in her thirties will tell you, it can be really tough to keep hoping that the Lord has someone for you--someone who isn't perfect, of course, but is a man after his own heart who will help you get to heaven. So the fact that 1) Kristian and I met, 2) We fell in love, and 3) We're getting married seems nothing short of miraculous to me.
A note about the ring: I told Kristian that I didn't want him going into debt to buy me a ring, that didn't want a diamond, but a pearl, and that I would love an heirloom or antique ring if possible. He totally came through with his grandmother's ring in a unique floral design, which is reminiscent of the parable of the pearl of great price, Anne Shirley's engagement ring, and a flower.
All in all, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect-for-me proposal. Kristian's original plan was to propose at the top of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in September, but the Holy Spirit kept nudging him to just do it--and I'm so glad he did. As much as I love Rome and St. Peter's, in the end I prefer the simplicity of a proposal bookended by beauty, prayer, sacraments, and laughter. We both couldn't stop laughing as we walked out of the chapel!
Before I close, a disclaimer is in order: There is no way Kristian and I would be engaged if it were not for the prayers of so many dear friends and family. Also, therapy. Therapy really helps.
If there's one Bible verse that summarizes our relationship, it's definitely Luke 1:37: Nothing is impossible for God. He brought Kristian into my life, he gave us the capacity to recognize the other as our future spouse, and he gave us the courage to say "yes" to the vocation of marriage.
And no matter what joys and sufferings the future holds for us, I know that we are both loved by the Origin of Love itself, and so our life will always be good.