Boy Says I Love You

Alternately titled, Girl Needs Pants.

Part One

Part Two

In June of 1999, I was working as an intern at First Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas and was slowly but surely wading into the waters of forever with Lee.  Toward the end of the month, he came for a visit and during this time we met up with my family in Branson (where I learned that my future husband, Mr. Super-Athlete-Who-Can-Play-Any-Sport-Like-A-Pro, cannot, in fact, water ski.  He looks like gumby when he water skis and I will confess that it brings sweet joy to my soul to know that there is one thing I can do better than him.)

As we drove back to Conway, we had the official moment when Lee laid out his intentions for our relationship.  I’ll never forget what he said as we twisted and turned through the dark hills.  “I just want you to know that I plan on pursuing this relationship to marriage.  Are you okay with that?”

Um, yeah.  I’m good with that.  Totally.  You’re hot. We’re good.

Some of the details of my summer in Conay are murkey.  For example, I can’t remember if Lee came once or twice to visit.  I know that at some point Fourth of July happened, you know – like it happens every year.  And my parents came to Conway to meet Lee’s family.  I can’t remember if this was the same trip as the Branson visit or a different one.  I do remember that the night of July 4th, Lee was goofing around and through a fire cracker at me and it popped right at my feet.  And my dad was standing right there watching.

Bad move, dude…

The other thing I remember is the obssession that Lee and I had back then with roller blading.  In fact, I’m fairly certain we roller bladed the entire town of Conway at 1:00 in the morning the night before he was to return to Waco.  From Texas, he would be leaving to Germany for a month to play basketball.  So the night before he left, we stayed up until the wee hours talking, laughing and enjoying the energy that comes with youth and new love.

Around 3:30 that morning, we said good night to each other and went to our separate rooms.  I climbed into bed exhausted but ecstatic.  And not five minutes after I laid down my head I heard a little knock on the door.  It should be noted that I was wearing nothing but a small t-shirt at this moment.

“Can I come in for a second?” Lee asked.

I pulled the covers up to my chin.  “Okay,” I said, assuming that he just wanted to say something quickly before heading back to bed.

He walked in the room and turned on the light.  Then he grabbed the desk chair and pulled it to the side of the bed and sat down, leaning forward to put his elbows on his knees.  And I did not move or sit up,  but stayed firmly planted beneath the covers with the blanket pulled up around my chin.

“I just wanted to tell you something before I leave tomorrow,” he began.  His eyes were all serious and I sincerely wished I had asked him to wait a minute so I could have gotten dressed before he came in.  “I have really been praying about this and I want you to know that I don’t take these words lightly.  I fully understand their meaning and I wouldn’t say them if I didn’t mean it with all my heart.”

At this point I’m thinking, Crap! But I’m not wearing any pants! 

“Kelli – I love you.”

*awkward pause*

For the few agonizing seconds that I made him sit there in silence, I ran through my options.  Stick out one arm for a brief hug and thank him?  Nah.  Sit up and pull the blankets around my waste and say it in return?  Nah – because not only was I not wearing pants, I wasn’t wearing undergarments…and the shirt was white.  I was ready for bed, people!

So I said the only thing that really made sense. “Um…could you go stand in the closet for a second?”

Lee’s eyebrows furrowed.  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the response he hoped for.  “What?” he asked.

“Just for a second.  Go stand in the closet.”

He stood up and walked slowly to the closet.  Poor guy.  I could see the worry in his eyes.  I leapt out of bed and got dressed as quickly as I could, then told him it was okay to come out now.  He opened the door and stepped out and I grinned.

“I love you too,” I said.  And we hugged.  We did not kiss – not yet.  I wrote about how long it took my chivalrous husband to kiss me here (and about how terribly I tempted him).

“What was with the closet?” Lee asked as we embraced.

“Well…” I said, “I wasn’t wearing any pants.”

And that, folks, is the day my husband told me he loved me for the first time…

Girl Meets Boy

Lee and I are just months away from our 10 year Anniversary (July 22).  Last week, I purchased our tickets to Milan, Italy for mid-September where we will spend ten days driving through Switzerland, Austria and Italy (we may even try to swing through France if we have time) to celebrate.  As we ramp up to this big milestone in our marriage, I will be recording some of the favorite memories of our life together beginning today with when we met…

scan0003It was March of 1998.  I was a 19-year-old sophomore at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  One of the things I did with my free time was volunteer with a youth discipleship organization called K-Life.  Our two area directors were getting married and moving on, so they brought in a new guy, who would start serving as the Waco area director in the fall.

His name was Lee Stuart.

He came to one of our leaders meetings and the memory of that night is seared into my brain.  He was sitting on the floor, against the wall next to the front door of the K-Life house.  He had on a baseball hat, shorts and a T-Shirt and I thought he was adorable.  I tried not to be too obvious with my staring…

Did I mention that I was dating someone at this point?  Yeah – I should mention that.

We were split into groups to write monologues for an upcoming Easter Cross Talk where people would portray different characters from the crucifixion.  Lee was placed in my group and we were assigned Peter.  He laid on a bean bag behind me and we contemplated what Peter must have been thinking and feeling during that long night.  I fought hard not to be a silly, giggly girl.  I was being all aloof and cool.  I wasn’t going to be that girl who fawned all over the new guy, even though my heart was racing… 

After the meeting was over, I stood talking with a couple of the other girl leaders about the new guy.  “My only fear with him,” one girl said, “is that all the female leaders are going to see him as someone to date and he’s going to be a distraction.”

“Oh yeah, totally,” I agreed.  “Hopefully people can remember that he’s not here to find his wife but to lead the ministry.”  I said this while envisioning myself in a wedding gown.  Nice.

It should also be noted that Lee does not remember this first meeting.  Boys! *eyeroll*

Lee left the next day and I went about my business at school, dating my current boyfriend and planning for my next semester, which would be studying abroad in Kiev, Ukraine.  I went on a tour with my choir in May to Spain, then came home for a little downtime with my family.  During that time, I found out that Lee was working as the Program’s Director at Kanakuk Kamps, so I did what any self-respecting girl who had a little crush would do.

I wrote him a letter.

You see, I had worked at Kanakuk the summer before and I knew what kind of girls were there.  Cute girls.  Athletic girls who loved God.  The kind of girls that would  be very attractive to someone like Lee.  And he was quite the catch so I didn’t doubt at all that girls would be after him.  I knew I had to get my name out there before some other girl swept in and stole his heart.  And yes, I was still dating someone else at this point – but I was keeping my options open.  Clearly…

So I wrote Lee a letter telling him how excited I was to have him come to Waco and that I was praying for him as he prepared to move and change jobs.  I was completely shameless and my motives were anything but pure. 

I headed back down to Waco in June for a semester of summer school and while I was there, Lee and the other director, Dana, came down for a couple of days to meet some of the kids.  I met up with them for ice cream.  I laid on the charm and sent Lee on his way, confident he would be thinking about me at least for a little while.  Turns out he was pretty smitten by the time he left Waco. 

I’m good, folks.  Really good.

A week later, my boyfriend and I broke up.  I really liked that guy and I was very sad to see the relationship end, but I was equally relieved because I had a feeling, deep down, that Lee was the man I would end up with.  It’s the terrible cliche that you always hear, but in my case it was true.  I just knew.

I would see Lee one more time the night before I left for Ukraine.  I went to the K-Life house where a group of the leaders was hanging out.  Lee and I tried swing dancing together.  We were flirting terribly, but both trying not to be obvious.  I’m not sure we totally succeeded.

The next day, I left for Ukraine and I wouldn’t return until January.  And the first time I saw Lee upon my return is a pivotal moment that both of us remember…

To be continued at a later date…