Thirteen years ago, I was sixteen. I had just opened for Confederate Railroad at an outdoor concert held at the Wilmington Airport in Wilmington, NC. A gentleman walks over after my performance and says that he knows a group of young men in their 20's who play in a band and that he'd like me to meet & sing with them to broaden my stage presence. He exchanged contact info with my Mom and a couple months later, we're in the car driving to a show. I hopped on stage with the band, Johnny Dollar, and sang three songs. I didn't know how to perform with a live band, I didn't know how to take the microphone off the stand, and I didn't know that my future husband was standing only a few feet away from me, holding a guitar.
Skip ahead about three years, I've graduated high school and found myself going to college in the very town that the Johnny Dollar band was based in. It wasn't long after that I would start making regular appearances with the guys at shows in downtown Greenville, NC and surrounding areas. Being on stage with the guys is where I truly started to develop my stage presence. Soon, those professional relationships evolved into friendships, especially between John and I. We bonded over our love for music and being on stage and we quickly became buddies who looked out for each other. Sundays nights became a ritual hangout together with our mutual friends.
John offered to give me guitar lessons and during our weekly lessons, I realized that I was starting to see John as someone I'd like to know as more than a friend. During that time, I'd leave our lessons and go home where I'd play around on my guitar. It was then that I penned, "Fall in Love With Me" for John. It would take moving to Nashville two years later when I'd play it for him and tell him that the song was written for him. There was something so cool about John, so confident yet down to earth and humble. I thought, "This guys deserves a really special girl." But, I never though that girl would be me. I didn't think I could be that girl. John is seven years older than me. I was a wild-child college junior living for Friday nights and Saturday tailgates. He needed to find someone like himself - someone grounded, someone driven, someone really smart, someone more mature. All of things that I didn't think I was. I was also too afraid of what would happen to our treasured friendship should we ever cross that line and it not work out. So, I buried those feelings for him and did everything I could to help him find that girl. I'd give him advice about girls when he asked for it - genuine, advice that benefitted him and what he was looking for, not what I so badly wanted deep down inside. I'd see a pretty girl while we were hanging out and I'd introduce them and encourage him to take her out. And even though it pained me a little, I knew it was best for our friendship.
In the spring of 2009, We were hanging out one night with friends when our mutual friend, Mark and I found ourselves talking to each other. Mark asked me, "Are you seeing anyone right now?" My response was no. Then, he said, "'I've got a friend who'd like to take you out sometime." I was excited because I hadn't been out with anyone in a while and yet I was confused because Mark and I had very few mutual friends. So I asked him, "Mark, who do you know, that knows me, and wants to take me out?" I will never forget the feeling that came over me when I heard him answer, "John."
That was a Sunday. I waited two days, which felt like an eternity, before my phone rang. It was John calling to ask if he could take me out that Friday. I was excited and yet I'd never been more scared in my life. What would we talk about at dinner? We already knew everything about each other. Would he try to hold my hand? Would it be weird because we're friends? Thousands of questions rolled around in my mind. Then, Friday came. He picked me up and we drove to the nearby town of New Bern, NC where we had dinner at a fancy, yet quaint restaurant surrounded by historic buildings and horse carriages. I had worried myself over all the "what ifs" for nothing. Everything felt right. We had so much to talk about. It was like any other normal night hanging out with my friend, only at the end of the night, we'd seal it with a kiss.
We dated for a year and a half before John popped the question. He recreated our first date and it was so special and sweet. During that time, we also took our first trip to Nashville. It was my 21st birthday and John wanted to take me away. "We can go anywhere" he said, and I told him I'd always wanted to visit Nashville. So, we booked the flights to Music City and spent a few days there. On our last night in town, we were sitting in a honkytonk when I looked at him and said, "I need to be here. I need to come here and try this..." and he said, "Then, let's do it." Our flight home was cancelled so we rented a car and made the 9hr drive back to eastern North Carolina. The entire ride back, we planned our move and what our first steps would be once we settled in to our new town. I had a few months left in school before I graduated and we'd make many trips back and forth to Nashville before we actually moved. In January 2011, two weeks after I graduated from college, we made the move.
In a snow storm.
10 years of friendship + 8 years as a couple + 6 years in Nashville = 5 years of marriage. This week we'll celebrate five years of marriage. In those five years, we've seen ourselves and each other change. Grow up. Toughen up. Soften up. We've experienced highs and lows, career growths and setbacks. We've picked each other up when the world's tried to knock us down and we've hung out in the trenches together too. We've made goals and crossed them off our list when we've accomplished them and we've laid the groundwork for dreams we're still waiting to see unfold. We've come to know each other better because we're getting to know ourselves better. Over time, we've learned that unless God sits at the front of the class in our marriage, we'll never make it. And you know what? It never gets old. The conversations. The every day routines. Playing music together. The traveling. The struggles we face together in our career. Our every Friday night at the pizza place down the street and "pancake Saturdays". The same Leo Sayer song that he turns on when I'm having a rough day. Waking up each morning and seeing the same person there. It never gets old.