Sole mate

Several years ago, a couple from my church invited me to their home for dinner. They were friends, so naturally, I agreed to a nice, home cooked meal. During the course of the evening, the conversation turned to asking me about my, at that time, non-existent love life.

“What is it you’re looking for in a woman? Obviously, aside from her being a singer.”

They had assumed that since I was a singer, that this was some kind of “must have” for me. Not only was that not something I wanted or needed in a mate, I actually preferred that she wouldn’t be a singer. As much as I enjoyed singing, and it was a huge part of what I did, it wasn’t and isn’t who I am. It doesn’t define me. It wasn’t and isn’t some kind of foundation for a relationship.

All along, God was molding my desires. Not only what I do want and need, but what I don’t. 

Fast forward to present day.

In God’s infinite and undeniable wisdom, He has given me a woman who is precisely what I need for life. In short, her strengths are my weaknesses. At the same time, I have strengths in areas where she is somewhat vulnerable.

I have had conversations with single people about the topic of soul mates. Is there one person out there who is perfect for you? Is there more than one person who is perfect for you, and it’s just a matter of finding one?

I honestly do not know. What I do know is that I’m a month shy of my 49th birthday. I’ve never been married. I have had numerous relationships in my life, but obviously, we were not perfect for one another.

Perfect. There’s a word. You might be reading this and thinking, “well no wonder you’ve never gotten married. You’re as flawed as a marble boat. How can you expect to find perfection, never mind attract it?” Good question. I look at Facebook, and I see so many spouses touting their mates as “the most wonderful in the world”. Is that hyperbole? How can hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of spouses all over the world be “the best”? That’s impossible. There can only be one best. And by what standard is this measured?

The key is finding “perfect” for me. And I have. Obviously, we have each been in other relationships. We were fundamentally the same people we are today. But we have each experienced excruciating heartache, and we have each broken the hearts of others. But in each other, we have found ‘perfection’. I certainly am anything but perfect. Good grief. I am riddled with flaws. But I have qualities that make me the exact right fit for her life. And she has qualities of which I am in awe.Picture-Quote-about-Love

Speaking for myself, this is not to say that those from my past are bad people. They are not inferior in any way. It’s just that we weren’t right for one another. I have no bad feelings about those in my past. I wish them unbridled happiness. It’s simply that I have found the one who, from the very beginning, understood me in ways that others who have known me for years don’t get.

Whether there are 1 or 100 “soul mates” for me out there, I have found my sole mate. No one has ever spoken to my heart, mind and spirit as she does. No one has confronted my deepest fears, and filled me with the strength to face and overcome them. No one has ever seen me so vulnerable, and responded with even more love.

It’s been a long time. There have been many heartaches. Being patient has cost me some life experiences that I wish I could have had. But I’m so thankful that I didn’t settle for someone for whom I was not right, and who was not right for me. We are all better off with the way things are turning out. No regrets.

God saved his very best for last. Sarah-Jane is absolutely perfect. For me.

How do I say thank you?

For the past week or so, I’ve been sharing some of the most personal posts I’ve ever written. Doing so comes at some risk. Criticism being chief among them.

Just yesterday, I received a series of text messages that were very critical of this series of posts. I was told that I was making a fool of myself, and that it was embarrassing all the detail I was posting. It should be noted that these messages were coming from a woman I dated very briefly more than four years ago. So it could be said she had some misguided agenda.

With that very insignificant exception, there have been so many positive comments and “likes” on Facebook and here on my blog site. Many are friends of mine, and many are friends of Sarah-Janes, most of whom I have not yet met.

No matter. You have all blessed me so much, and I know Sarah-Jane is also moved by your support and encouragement. I don’t know exactly what I expected in response to these posts. But certainly nothing like what we’ve experienced. I was a bit hesitant, and by “bit”, I mean “completely”, to admit that we met online. But I can’t even imagine the whopper of a lie I’d have to come up with to explain how I met the Love of my life in Rhode Island. Shockingly, I’ve received universal acceptance. Even some testimonials and confessions from others who have found love by this method.

It goes without saying that the days, weeks and months ahead are going to be interesting,thank-you to say the least. As much as is appropriate, interesting, and serves a bigger purpose than an online diary, I will be posting updates. And of course, there is more to share about our experiences up to this point. But I just wanted to take this opportunity to write a “bonus post” to say thank you. You have all been so kind. I’m humbled, and all of this outpouring has only served to fuel my determination.

But ultimately, I thank God. I thank Him for his blessings that go well beyond my merit. We don’t deserve blessings. He gives liberally to us because He loves us. We honor Him and those who bless us by our gratefulness and loyalty.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.   ~Luke 12:48b

 

I have been given much. And your love and encouragement serve as love notes from God. It’s in these good times, and the difficulties, when you really learn who your friends are. I have much to live up to. Because of what I’ve been given and been entrusted with, I must remain humble, mindful and diligent to give my very best with each day.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

 

I’m shipping up to Boston

With thousands of hours of talk, email and texting in the books, it was clear we had to start looking at the calendar to see what dates would be mutually ideal for me to fly to Boston to visit Sarah-Jane. In my mind, there was never any question that I would be the one to travel. Even though I would never do anything to bring her harm, naturally, I would never dream of putting her in a position of such vulnerability. She is a mother, daughter, sister, aunt and dear friend to a great many people. I couldn’t allow her to be in a position where that many people could be concerned for her safety, flying coast-to-coast to meet a man she and they have never met.

It didn’t dawn on me until just now, as I went back through my emails to see when I bought my plane ticket, that I did so on September 11. I’m glad I didn’t think of that at the time. That might have been a little ominous. Anyway, my flight would go through New York City, then catch a connecting flight to Boston on October 10, 2013. It was a done deal. The clock started counting down.

One month of waiting.

At first, there was great excitement. As the days counted down, the excitement grew. But there was also a measure of uncertainty.

Will it be awkward? Will she be attracted to me in person? Will the chemistry we have on the phone carry over in person? 

Of course, she had similar questions about my interest in her. During that month of waiting, we had many conversations in which we had to remind each other, and maybe even ourselves, that there was nothing in the superficial realm that could or would change what was happening in our hearts. We prayed every single day, together and on our own. There have been a couple of high profile instances recently of people using the internet to misrepresent themselves to others for a variety of reasons. It is quite common. Yet, I had no reason to believe Sarah-Jane was anything other than what I knew of her. None. But weird stuff creeps in your mind when you’re on the cusp of a potentially life changing moment.

There are very few events in a lifetime when you can literally count down to a singular moment when you know your life will change forever. We each had an app on our phones that literally counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until my flight was scheduled to arrive in Boston. Each day, and sometimes several times per day, we would send one another screenshots of the countdown. Anticipation mounted. Focus on work, or anything else, got increasingly difficult. I likened it to the two week period that leads up to the Super Bowl. There just comes a point when you’re sick of all the talk and you just want the game to get going. It was that same type of frustrating anticipation, but multiplied by a million.

I opted to schedule a red eye flight. Due to business, I didn’t want to take too many work days off. Also this way, I could work all day, then catch a flight that night, and arrive the next morning with most of the day ahead of us to spend together. I didn’t want to burn a precious day flying. Fortunately, I had a very busy day with work. The hours raced by. When I got home, I had several last minute tasks to take care of before driving to the airport. This was intentional. Sitting around, I would be checking the clock every other minute. So I kept busy. Then, it was time to go.

Being a red eye, Sarah-Jane was already fast asleep. It was almost 3 AM in Rhode Island by the time I took off. I was able to get a few hours sleep on the plane, but my heart and mind were racing. My plane landed at JFK about 8 AM. I immediately texted her to let her know the first leg was completed safely. She enthusiastically responded with relief and excitement. I had a two hour layover. We talked on the phone for a while as I waited for my flight to Boston. Then, it was time to board.

The flight from NYC to Boston is only about 40 minutes. In all honesty, I have to admit that I was battling pessimism. I went from worrying about what she would think, to wondering what I would think. I knew I was attracted to her. I knew I loved her heart. Her humor. Her mind. There was nothing I could think of that was a mystery to me about her. But at the same time, there was a nagging doubt. Perhaps it was simply a safety mechanism trying to keep my hopes from getting too high so it wouldn’t be devastating if there weren’t sparks.

As I landed in Boston, I texted her. She was just arriving at the airport, as my flight arrived about 15 minutes early. I was in seat 1A, so I was able to be the very first person off the plane. Yes, I did that on purpose. I went through a door near my gate, went down one flight of stairs to baggage claim. I got there way before the luggage could be removed and transferred to the carousel. Meanwhile, she was texting me telling me she had finally found a parking spot and was trying to find her way to baggage claim. My heart was not racing as I had expected. Perhaps my pessimism was keeping me calm. I repeatedly looked in the direction from where I knew she’d be coming. Finally, I saw a figure coming from outside to the double doors to baggage claim.

With God as my witness, what I’m about to tell you is 100% true. The door to baggage claim from the parking lot was a good 75 feet away. But the instant I saw her, from that distance, I felt all sense of doubt completely disappear. Instantly. I felt an absolute peace.

40s-airport-kissIt had nothing to do with her outer beauty, though I find her amazingly attractive. It was simply the peace of God that I was in the presence of “her”.

Years ago, I came to a significant place in my life. I had been asked a million times, “what are you looking for in a woman?” People have their little shopping list of qualities. That’s natural. But I got to the place where I simply gave up my list. God knows how He wired me. He knows not only what I like, but what I need. I just asked the Lord to help me recognize “her” when I meet her.

In talking with Sarah-Jane for the thousands of hours that led up to this moment, I knew she had every quality, and so much more, that I could ever dream of. She has qualities that I didn’t know I even needed or wanted.

In that moment, as she walked through those doors…I recognized her. Not from pictures.

But from my prayers.

Bread crumbs

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.   ~Romans 8:28

In my previous post, A new hope, I shared with you the story of how I met Sarah-Jane. It’s a fun and great story. But now it’s important to add some texture to the story that helps you see there is much more to it than two people “connecting” via an internet website.

First of all, the most fundamental part of my life is my faith as a Christian. Having everything in the world in common, without this, would be pointless. With that in mind, the website I used was a Christian-themed service. However, just because it has Christian in the name, it doesn’t mean everyone there shares your beliefs and values. So finding a pretty face and an engaging personality wasn’t going to be enough.

While on the surface, being 3,000 miles away is inconvenient, to say the least, it does force you to really get to know one another without distractions. Of course, I would say nothing negative about the conventional method of dating and getting to know one another. But there is something about the way Sarah-Jane and I are wired, as well as difficult experiences from our past, that lead me to believe this was absolutely the perfect way for us. Besides, how else was I going to find the perfect woman hiding out in Rhode Island, of all places? We are each very deep feelers. What I mean by that is that we are very emotional people. As such, we are each vulnerable to getting carried away with emotions prematurely. But the distance really gave us no other choice but to talk about everything.

In doing so, we discussed our spiritual beliefs and values in great depth. We discussed just about everything you could think of. Money. Church. Ministry. Goals. Dreams. Disappointments. Heartbreaks. Families. We laughed…a lot. We even cried. We dealt with our fears, both real and imagined. We discussed very difficult topics. Even awkward ones.

In every single detail, we found incredible compatibility. There has never been a single thing in which either one of us have said, “I disagree, but we can work that out.”

In all the topics we covered, among so many other “little” things, I found everything leading straight to God. I call them “bread crumbs”. From things that, in and of themselves, don’t determine compatibility, to very deep and personal things, everything left a trail straight to the feet of our Lord. The first of which is her name. Sarah-Jane. As I mentioned previously, my mom’s first and middle names were Sarah Jane. Does this detail mean we’re meant to be together? Of course not. But it sure is something more than a coincidence. Let me share with you why it’s significant to me.

The day my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, we knew she only had weeks to live. As I sat alone with her in her hospital room that day, I was staring at the TV, but really, my focus was a million miles away. I thought Mom was asleep, but then she stirred for a moment. As I turned my head, I saw that she was looking at me. Then she said these words to me.

Who will pray for you when I’m gone?

She’s been gone since March 20, 2009. I lost my number one human advocate. But in trail-of-breadcrumbsGod’s unmistakeable, unmatchable way, He has given me another Sarah-Jane who has taken up the mantle of praying for me with a heart of love and devotion.

Bread crumbs to the heart of God.

Many years ago, Sarah-Jane’s grandmother told her something that has always stuck with her. Sarah-Jane’s birthday is May 25. Her oldest son’s birthday is September 25th. Sarah-Jane’s grandmother’s birthday was also on the 25th of the month. Her grandmother told her that special things will happen in her life relating to the 25th.

My birthday is February 25th, and my mom’s was October 25th.

Bread crumbs.

Yes, these things may seem coincidental in nature. Maybe they are. Personally, I am not a believer in coincidence. At least, not when they relate to big things in life. Remember, these things are not what our relationship is based on. They are simply very cool details that God gives us to show He is in those very details. Whatever it is in your life that leads you to giving Him glory and praise…it’s of God. End of story.

I also find the bread crumbs in the fact that we have this distance between us during this process. With her blessing, I’m sharing this detail about her. Due to some heartbreaks in her life, it was very important to her, even more than she knew at the time, to find someone who would fight for her. Someone who would be willing to overcome obstacles, who would battle inconvenience in order to pursue her. During this process, she has seen my determination. Something she has never felt before. I don’t say this to lift myself up. It’s simply to say that God knows what we need before we do. He knows the things we need to see in others, and ourselves, in order to receive and appreciate His blessings in our lives.

I shared a quote from Thomas Paine with her some time ago. I felt it summed up my feelings on overcoming obstacles in pursuing God’s will. And with this, I’ll close this post. Tomorrow, I’ll share with you the feelings and events that led up to our initial face-to-face meeting.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

A new hope

As 2013 began, I was in a relatively long term relationship. A few months into the year, it had ended. There was no fight or event that led to it. It really came down to two people who simply were too different from one another, and the relationship had run its course. It had very good qualities, and good memories. However, it had peaked already, and was on the downward slide. Again, there were no bad feelings or anything.

When it ended, I was convinced my best days were behind me. I know that I don’t turn heads when I’m walking down the street. Unless they’re trying to get a second look at my brightly colored shoes. I’m 48 years old, not much of a social butterfly, so the prospects of meeting and attracting someone new seemed highly unlikely, at best.

In searching for the right word to describe my motivation for what I was to do next, I felt desperation was not the word. More like…resignation. I never have been into the bar scene. I am not going to go church-hopping to meet someone. I’ve avoided singles groups like the plague. So what’s a guy to do?

Yeah…the internet.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was not optimistic at all. If anything, I had hoped it might build some confidence in me to at least be open to meeting someone and starting all over from scratch with the getting-to-know-you phase. My original time frame was one month. I’ll do this for 30 days, and before my subscription would renew, I’d cancel and at least be able to say ‘I tried’. For the first three weeks of that month, I refused to post a picture of myself. It was bad enough, in my mind, that I was even doing this. If anyone I knew actually saw and recognized my picture, I would be mortified. But when you don’t post a picture, people assume such horrible things about the person on the other side of the faceless profile.

With a week or so left in my 30 day tire-kicking period, I reluctantly posted a picture. Suddenly I started drawing some interest. However, not really from anyone in whom I found interest. On the other hand, there was some momentum in my experience. But then, my month was about to expire. What should I do?

Okay…one more month.

One day, just out of curiosity to explore some of the features of the site, I went to the tab that allows you to browse new pictures of profiles that had been posted within the last day or two. In your profile, you’re able to choose the distance radius in which you’d like your “match” to live. It could be 50 miles, it could be 100, 300, or even “anywhere”. I think I set mine to 100. But when looking in this photo section, it was pictures that were posted by people from anywhere and everywhere. That’s when I came across this picture.

IMG_0513I thought she was VERY cute, so I clicked on the picture to take a look at her profile. That’s when I saw the bad news.

She lives in Rhode Island.

Really? Could she be any further away and still be in the United States???

Discouraged by the setback, I decided to read her profile anyway. In doing so, I found myself smiling, even laughing at what she wrote. It was just oozing with personality. She was brilliantly funny. But in the humor, there was substance. It wasn’t as if she weren’t taking this whole thing seriously, but she also wasn’t taking it so seriously that she sounded like everyone else.

Hmmm, should I send her an email just to say hello?

That’s when I read the following words: “Only New Englanders need apply”.

Rejected before I even had a chance to introduce myself.

In the spirit of, well, I have nothing to lose, I sent an email anyway. I had no expectation that I’d get a reply. I’m a continent away. Plus, she’s beautiful, so I’m sure her inbox is stuffed with would-be suitors. But I at least wanted to compliment her and thank her for putting a smile on my face with her creative and insightful profile. I sent it off, and figured that would be that.

Because I had no expectation of a response, I cannot tell you how long it was before I was notified of a message in my inbox. But it was the same day. Yes, she did write me back! Still, expectations were low. She was probably only responding to say thanks for the compliments.

In her response, she mentioned that it was her “first full day” on the site. Then she went on to say that she was, “surprised by the number of responses” she was getting.

Hey, at least I was lucky enough to get a personal response. But there was no way I had any chance to get to know her when I’m so geographically challenged, and she has a plethora of emails to sort through of hopeful guys. I didn’t have a chance.

But she ended her email by saying this: “I’m Sarah-Jane, btw…nice to *meet you!”

This is where things got really interesting. My mom, who passed away in 2009, was also named Sarah. My mom’s middle name? Jane. If that weren’t enough, I noticed that she ended her email with enthusiasm.

She left it open-ended…with an exclamation point!

We exchanged a number of emails over the next 90 minutes. Then it got to the point where I had to leave the house, and she needed to do some other things, herself. But in her last email of the exchange, she said, “I’d love to hear from you again…”

And she did.

to be continued…

The past is prologue

Some of you have known me a long time, some of you are brand new to my life. Others of you may only know me through Crossing Paths. In any case, welcome!

I created Crossing Paths in July of 2008. What inspired it was the fact that I was moving snoopy-writingfrom a city, church and friends that I loved very much. I named this Crossing Paths because I wanted this technological venue to be a place where our paths could always cross, even when our roads may be far apart. There is also some intended double meaning, as the cross represents God’s ultimate love and sacrifice for us, and He is constantly giving us life lessons that bring us closer to Him, bringing our paths together with His. That has always been my aim with my posts.

I am a lifelong single man. In this day and age. that typically generates a myriad of questions ranging from my sexual orientation to my desire or ability to commit to a relationship. I understand those questions. They don’t offend me. Maybe at one time they did, but I’ve never been shy to share why I’ve remained single.

Don’t be mistaken. I’ve dreamt of being married, having kids and a family throughout my adult life. During my early to mid 20s, I was really exploring life. I went to college, I traveled in a Christian band, ministering in churches, schools, prisons, Indian reservations, on television and radio, and youth camps. I worked in Christian radio and banks. I volunteered with youth groups, as well as actively participated in leading worship. As I started to near 30 years old, I really began to explore what I hoped would be the next phase of my life. Being a husband, and hopefully, a father.

I watched videos, listened to tapes, read books. I studied the marriages and lives of my friends. I learned from the successes and failures that happened around me. I had relationships, but obviously, none of them led to marriage. I know I could have gotten married if I were wiling to go with the crowd and settle. But I chose to live by the motto, “I’d rather be single than wish I were.”

I have absolutely nothing against anyone I ever dated. Breakups are never easy. Even the smoothest of breakups are, at best, awkward. Sure, you could call them failures, but I see each of them as experiences that revealed who I am, who I want to be, and who I don’t want to be. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

God makes each of us unique. We may have similarities, but we have vast differences. Our experiences will shape us, one way or the other. The important thing is to remain true to who you are, while using the lessons from the “failures” as bricks in a stronger foundation for our character.

There have been times, even recently, when I have about given up. When it seemed my best days were behind me. Humans can only take so much rejection and failure. Am I just too difficult to live with? Are my hopes and expectations too high? Am I too this and not enough that? Have I failed God? Am I going to be alone the rest of my life?

Reaching the end of ourselves is where God is just beginning.