Love Story chapter 7: Epilogue and Acknowlegments

There is no doubt in my mind that Matt and I were meant to be.  However, as I’ve retold this story, it struck me more than ever before how important the other players in the story were.  I need to acknowledge their goodness and influence.

  1. First, I’d link to thank you– my readers/blog friends– who, by your interest and enthusiasm, reminded me how remarkable our story really is and made me enjoy even more the retelling of it.
  2. As strange as it may seem, I need to thank KK.  He and I were perfect together “on paper,” but he recognized that something was missing– something that couldn’t be identified because it had never been felt.  Without that experience, I may not have given Matt the chance he deserved because, on paper, he wasn’t at all what I thought I was looking for.  He was a convert, from a small town and a broken home who loved to ride motorcycles and shoot stuff and had practically never left the state of Utah except for his mission.  Matt likes to say that if my dad had known him in high school, he would have rather had me marry Ozzy Osborne because at least he was financially stable.  But something– the acknowledging and encouraging hand of God (through His Holy Spirit)– was there when we dated, and that made everything more than enough.  It made it right.  I will forever be grateful to KK for knowing what I didn’t, and for teaching me that a “list of requirements” for a future spouse is only secondary to God’s blessing and will.
  3. I so appreciate my mother’s role in all of this.  As I look back through my story from beginning to end, I am amazed by how spot-on all of her counsel and encouragement was.  The advice she gave me when KK broke up with me literally became prophecy fulfilled as the Matt story unfolded.  She was clearly in touch with the Spirit and had a deeper understanding of God’s plan for me than I myself had.
  4. I’m thankful that my dad was as supportive as he was when, truly, this all happened so fast and would have been so easy to doubt.  When Matt asked him for his permission to marry me, my dad said, “You know Matt, we hardly know you at all, but we trust Stephanie.”  (He also said that if Matt ever abused me in any shape or form, he would pursue the full course of justice both within and outside of the Church, but that’s another story.)
  5. How can I not be grateful to Sarah?  She was a dear friend who for many years supported me through turbulent dating and unsurpassed drama.  She had cried with me and been sincerely happy for me, even when it hurt.  While Matt and I were dating, he encouraged a mutual friend of ours to ask Sarah out on a date.  He eventually did, and they were married the next Spring.  They now have two beautiful daughters.  I love how much he cares for her and treats her kindly.  We still stay in touch and see each other whenever our travels allow it.  I’ve probably never told her how much her friendship influenced me during those critical decision-making years of my life, and I should.  I will.
  6. And thanks to my children, who systematically broke me down from the glamorous girl of my dating days to the haggard woman of my profile picture in ten short years, and who have convinced me that I love and need Matt even more now than I did then.
  7. Finally, to Matt.  (Let’s see if he reads this.)  Thanks for having the courage to ask me out and the courage to stick around when things got rocky.  Thank you for loving me almost as much as God does, and for making these ten years as wonderful as I imagined they’d be when we dated.

From my journal, April 24, 1999, written on the plane on my way to Spain:

“Matt always loves me.  He is thoughtful and patient.  I have been on an emotional roller coaster these past couple months, and he has held my hand, and listened to me cry, and offered me support, and told me how wonderful and beautiful I am even when I didn’t believe it was true.  I am amazed that God could ever offer me someone who is willing to love me so much.  I don’t think I’ve ever given enough love in my life to deserve this kind of love in return.  He quietly supports me in everything I do.  It’s amazing to me— truly a miracle. . . .  He loves so unconditionally that it almost surprises me.  It does surprise me; it almost frightens me that I may not be worthy of it.  That, in itself, makes me love him more because I realize that, without asking, he makes me want to be so much better.  I’m so, so lucky.”

(Deep breath. Big sigh.)  Thanks again, readers.  I feel like we’ve all just hung out at a big slumber party and we shared our best stories and gasped and sighed and smiled together.  Thanks for “listening.”  Just in case I decide to turn it into a book someday, I’d love to hear your suggestions for a title.  What should I call our Love Story?  Someday when I’m a world-famous author, I’ll credit you in the acknowledgments.  🙂


Love Story chapter 6: The Providence

  • prov·i·dence
  • Pronunciation: \ˈprä-və-dən(t)s, –ˌden(t)s\
  • Function: noun
  • Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin providentia, from provident-, providens
  • Date: 14th century

1 a often capitalized : divine guidance or care b capitalized : God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny


Sarah’s clarity and blessing was more proof of Providence in our ever-intensifying relationship.  Matt and I began to spend every free moment together that we could.  I continued to be amazed by his patience and kindness.  He worked nights so we tried to meet most days for lunch.  One day, when he picked me up at my office on campus, we ran into KK as we left the building;  I had no regrets about the company I was with.

I could not believe that for the first time in my whole life, I might actually have a date on Valentine’s Day— and with a boy I was fast falling in love with.  My roommates and I went out to dinner the night before, and when I came home, it looked like the Valentine Fairy had blown up in my room.  Normally, I would find such a display of affection a little annoying if not downright nauseating.  But everything about this was different.  It was different because I felt like I almost didn’t even deserve him, and to see him give so much attention to me felt unreal.  There were a dozen red, long-stemmed roses, a bouquet of balloons, a teddy bear, a box of chocolates, Martinelli’s and goblets, potpourri, a mug and Hershey’s kisses, a dozen velvet roses, a pink rose and two white carnations, and a card that began like this:  “I just wanted to show these flowers how beautiful you are,” and ended like this: “This is one step into the darkness that’s not hard to take.”  The middle part would melt your guts out.  Trust me.

Our Valentine’s Day was magical.  We spent most of the day studying and just spending time together, and then I went home to get ready for our date.  When he showed up to get me, my roommate Lisa took about two dozen pictures of us posing in sundry locations around our apartment like we were going to our first prom or something (see photo above).  We played along, but couldn’t wait to be alone and talk.  I quote from my journal:

“The night was so good.  We played the question game in the car, where we could ask each other any questions and had to answer them honestly.  We talked about our first loves, embarrassing moments, life stories, some dreams and hopes, the future . . . everything.  I felt so close to him and, like always, at peace with him.”

Matt’s journal account of the same event says:  “The steak was good.”  Okay, there was some mushy stuff, too, but I just wanted to clarify that not everything about this story is all fairy tale.

We took road trips to meet my grandparents and some of his family.  We mostly relished the time together in the car to talk and talk and talk.  The more we spent time together, the more I felt deeply that I loved him.  We had talked marriage, talked future, talked feelings— all without fear.  We each felt like it was a privilege, an unworthy honor to be with the other.  We felt blessed.  It wasn’t all roses and Martinelli’s.  I wanted to die of humiliation the day he took me to Snowbird and tried to teach me how to ski.  It took me three hours to complete one run.  On my butt.  And he had to spend several hours laying on his living room floor staring at the ceiling mumbling to himself that he could never make me happy after he had accompanied me to one of my favorite pastimes– Latin dancing.  We talked through these things.  It was okay that I would never be the svelte ski-bunny that I was afraid he’d dreamed of all his life, and he would never be the hip-swiveling Don Juan that he feared was my greatest desire.  We convinced each other that we loved each other anyway.  And we did.

I’ve only briefly mentioned my upcoming departure.  We didn’t like to bring it up then, either, but I had accepted a job as the Assistant Director for BYU’s Study Abroad program in Madrid and I was scheduled to leave at the end of April.  I would be gone for approximately eight weeks, which happened to be as long as we had dated.  We shopped for engagement rings a little, but at my father’s encouragement, we decided to wait until my return to do anything official.  In those previous short months, I finished and defended my thesis, completed authoring two Independent Study courses, deferred or turned down the five schools where I had been accepted into the Ph.D programs, graduated with my masters degree, and began interviewing for some local jobs.  None of this was as huge or risky as it sounds; I had never been so sure of things in my life.  I felt like my priorities were right where they should be, and I could feel the blessings raining down.

I had sensed the hand of God so powerfully in all of the circumstances of our dating, but I had never really asked Him directly if I was supposed to marry Matt.  One day my parents happened to be in town (read:  my parents frantically bought plane tickets to fly out and meet this lunatic who had caught up their daughter in a whirlwind romance and changed all her life’s plans in the blink of an eye), and we all sat around the table together at Matt’s house, where they asked us every question they could think of.  We told them the whole story about how we had arrived at where we were in our relationship.  Matt made some comment like, “so we figured as long as we were talking about marriage, we might as well get to know each other.”  My mom laughed and laughed.  I don’t remember my dad laughing.

When I was eighteen years old, I had received a patriarchal blessing that promised me I would know when I had met my future husband.  I expressed to my mom how scary that was to me because how am I supposed to know if he’s him or not?  My mom said, “You’ll know.”  I asked, “How?!”  She replied, “You’ll just know.”

Then she asked me, “How do you know the Gospel is true?”

“I just know.”

“But how do you know?”

I shrugged and immediately said, “Series of events.”

A little light switch flipped in my brain, and I literally saw an image in my mind like a wormhole that my thoughts traveled through, and it carried me back to several weeks ago when Matt and I sat in his room that very first day when I went over to study at his house.  We were discussing the miraculous circumstances that seemed to push us together, and in our conversation we had used those exact same words: “Series of events.”

And that’s how I knew I knew.  The knowledge became as sure to me as my own testimony of the gospel.  And there was no turning back.

When I returned from Spain, he proposed within a few days, surprising me with a ring I had found in Madrid and pointed out to my brother who was visiting.  We spent a few more short weeks preparing for a wedding, and we were sealed for time and eternity in the Provo Temple on August 14, 1999.  I almost said it was the best choice I ever made, but really, it was the best choice that God ever made for me.

SCAN0010Engagement Photo




The end (of the beginning).

Coming next…. Chapter 7 (last one):  The Epilogue and Acknowledgments

Love Story chapter 5: The Confrontation

There’s something you need to know about me.  I hate conflict.  I was blessed to be raised in home that, other than the normal bickering of siblings, was anger-free.  I was never accustomed to yelling, rage, or even heated argument.  In short, any ambiance of discord literally made me feel ill.  My throat would tighten, I’d feel a knot in my stomach, and my guts would squirm.  I was the child in elementary school who, when two boys would fight on the playground and other children would watch and chant “Fight! Fight! Fight!,” would yell, “Stop it!  Stop!” and run into the circle and try to pull them apart.  I couldn’t stand it.  So this, the present, was my most dreaded moment.

I blurted out, “I don’t think you’re stupid.  I don’t think you’re stupid at all.”

To be honest, my emotions ran so high that I remember very few details of the following conversation.  I remember she began by asking questions, and we went to her room and closed the door.  I remember we both cried.  A lot.  She felt hurt by my secret, and offended that I thought she’d be mad at me if she knew.  I swore to her up and down that her friendship had been my top priority from day one, and that I had been so concerned about handling the whole situation the right way that I prayed constantly, and I did it all the best way I knew how.  Up until the past two days, I had not allowed myself to do anything with him at all.  For four weeks.  I explained that from the moment he asked me out I had a feeling that maybe I should date him, but I did not want to compromise our friendship.  And only as those feelings became more and more intense did I realize that I had a huge choice to make.  I was so, so sorry about how the whole mess made her feel, but I really, really thought I was supposed to give this a chance, and neither Matt nor I felt like it would be right to not see each other.

This was one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. The weight of it all pressed my emotions and my strength.  I was almost limp, and it felt like some of my heart had collapsed on itself.  Yes, she was embarrassed about the blatant fact that Matt didn’t like her and he liked me instead, but that wasn’t what her pained reaction was about.  She felt humiliated by the secrecy, but even more than that, I think it was the last straw on the camel’s back of a long line of social disappointments.  I knew what that felt like.  We were the same age and had both struggled through fruitless relationships and tried to maintain some faith that maybe something would eventually work out.  I think this one disappointment was the limit for her; she hit the wall, and at least for the moment, felt a loss of hope.  I wished I could make it better, but I couldn’t.  As I went to bed, I could hear her sobbing through my bedroom wall for most of the night.  It was horrible.

The next day, I was exhausted in body, mind and spirit.  I told a few close friends about what had happened and I continued to cry.  I avoided my apartment because I didn’t want to cause her any more pain.  At night I drove to Matt’s work.  We sat in the empty cafeteria and I spilled out my heart, and the tears kept coming.  He held my hand and listened and tried to comfort me.  It helped.  I had slept five hours total in the last three nights and I’d lost seven pounds in a week, so I was really worn down, but he was so kind and concerned about me, and it made me remember why the whole crazy thing was worth it.  He reassured me of the things we had already discussed; We both continued to feel that God wanted us to be together.  I told him there would still need to be a waiting period out of consideration for her feelings; I had no intention of rubbing anything in her face.  Although he wouldn’t agree to leave me alone, he conceded that it would be right to be considerate and discreet.

I believe that it was the very next day that Sarah called me downstairs as she arrived home from work.  We went into the sitting room off the main entrance and she closed the french doors.  “I need to tell you something.”  There was the knot in my stomach again.  I swallowed hard.  “Today while I was at work, I kept thinking about you and Matt, and a feeling of peace came over me.  I want you to know that I think you should date him, and I’m sincerely excited for you.”  I stared at her dubiously.  “I’m totally serious,” she said, “You guys need to date.  I’m fine with it.”

Coming next…. Chapter 6:  The Providence

Love Story chapter 4: The Secret

I deleted Matt’s call from the caller ID, and determined that I would make no mention of it to Sarah or anyone else. The secret was both a burden and a pleasure; it was dangerous and thrilling all at the same time. Our two apartments continued to do some things together, initiated by our unknowing roommates. I felt badly for Matt in those circumstances because he now recognized that he had previously unintentionally encouraged Sarah, and he struggled to politely distance himself so that he would not continue to misrepresent himself to her. Sometimes he would arrive a couple hours after his roommates did and stay only briefly. We would exchange glances and quick understanding and try to seem as casual and normal as we possibly could. Maria was the only one who knew, so she was helpful when conversations or attentions needed to be redirected.

One Sunday night, after Ward Prayer, we invited Matt and his roommate to ride around with us and listen to some of our fun, latin music. I sat in the back next to Matt and we drove around and laughed and all talked together until midnight. Now that I watched him through new eyes, I knew that I did like him, but I was still resolved to stand by my decision. At one point in that conversation, Matt mentioned the difficulty he was having in making a decision about a job change. He had prayed about it, but didn’t feel he had a clear answer. I told him I loved a quote by Brigham Young that talked about how the Lord is bound to bless us when we make a choice and act in faith even after our prayers seem to go unanswered. He liked the quote and I mentioned I could give him a copy of it. At the end of the night, we exchanged email addresses.

The next day I emailed him from my office on campus and sent him a copy of the quote. That began a covert exchange of emails that went back and forth. He wrote that he was fascinated with me. Because of the way situation began, we were kind of forced to be very honest with each other from the start, and I found myself being much more bold than I normally would be. I started to feel really attracted to him, and wished that we could do things together. I had no Internet at our apartment, so I could hardly wait for the chance to go up on campus and check my email. When there was a note from Matt, I was so excited that I was almost dizzy. He would ask over and over again, “Can I take you out yet?,” and I would answer over and over again, “Not yet.”

Sarah, I think, had noticed a difference in his behavior and began to question his interest. She talked about it a lot, the way any of us who have been part of a confusing relationship would do. It was very hard to listen to, not in a selfish way, but because I knew more about his feelings than she did. Finally one day, when she mentioned something about him maybe just wanting to be her “buddy” or something, I seized the moment to influence her perspective. I sincerely wanted to protect her, and I spoke as honestly and non-specifically as I could. “I think he might be interested in someone else.” “Really? Why?” “Well, when we talked last week, he mentioned that he liked someone and that he had asked her out for that Saturday.” It was true. He did like someone. And he did ask her out. I didn’t feel like it was necessary to mention it was me. She was disappointed and felt and expressed discouragement over the next few days. It was a hard time for me, too, because I felt indirectly responsible for her hurt feelings, but I was earnestly praying the whole time to handle things the right way. My entire decision had been based upon trying to preserve her friendship and protect her feelings. I did the best I could to do the right thing.

And the days and weeks went past.

One Saturday, Matt called and I answered the phone. This was four weeks after his initial phone call. He asked what I was doing, and I told him I was studying for one of my exams and working on grading and my thesis. He wanted me to come to his house. I said no, that I needed to study. “Come study here.” I paused. “I can’t.” He told me that if I had to study, it didn’t matter where I did it. I said, “If I go, I am really going to study. That’s what I’ll do.” He agreed. I said goodbye to roommates and told them I was headed out to work on my thesis and grading. I felt a little weak in the knees– part nervous, part excited, part guilty, and part adventurous.

I sat in his living room and did my studies. Matt sat in his bedroom and worked on his own assignments. This went on for three or four hours. When I felt burnt out, I walked to his bedroom door to tell him I thought I was done. We started to talk. We asked each other questions. We discussed the strange sequence of events that seemed to have brought us together. We shared some scriptures and thoughts together and it was a real spiritual experience. I felt comfortable and at peace. He told me about his life story and conversion. It was amazing. We moved back out to the living room and sat on the couch. He turned on ESPN and I put my head on his shoulder. He smelled good, and he held my hand, and it just felt so comfortable and happy. I drifted off to sleep until I heard his roommate come home, and I got up to leave. Ten hours had passed since I arrived at noon.  He gave me a hug goodbye when I left and I knew that something big was happening.

The next day I was scheduled to meet my brothers at a fireside devotional at the Marriott Center. I told him where we would be if he wanted to join us. He held my hand there, and my brothers gave him the evil eye. When it was over he walked me to my car and we had a discussion about how it was important to trust in the Lord and not fear. He knew I had plans to leave in April (less than three months away) and then possibly pursue a Ph.D. in the Fall. He said he was scared about that. We made plans to do several things together. I honestly felt the Spirit every time we were together and, at this point, I just knew that I was supposed to date him.  He kissed me before I left.

I had a lot of things I needed to decide and figure out.  I knew what I needed to do, but the details were fuzzy.  When I got home that night, I opened the door and saw Sarah sitting on the couch.  She was tapping a pencil up and down on a notebook that was sitting on her lap.  She looked up at me through narrowed eyes and said, “How stupid do you think I am?”

Coming next…. Chapter 5:  The Confrontation

Love Story chapter 3: The Surprise

(For those of you just joining the Love Story, I started it on Friday in honor of our tenth wedding anniversary. This is chapter three; If you want to begin at the real beginning, click here.)

Matt seemed nice to Sarah, and I was happy for her that her date went well.  She was excited.  The whole night was good, and we were proud of our kick-off activity.  The baton was passed, and another apartment began planning the next Ward Date.  Two of Matt’s roommates had coincidentally been the dates of my other two roommates, so our two apartments started to hang out a little bit.  At one point we went to go see a movie at the theater and I felt like the total “third-wheel”  (seventh, actually) since I wasn’t a part of these match-ups, so I slipped away early under the guise of visiting a sick friend (which I really did do, by the way, because I’m not a good liar.  She was sick, but she didn’t need nor ask for my help.  I went anyway, just to follow through with my excuse for leaving).

Sarah was very happy about her developing friendship with Matt, and I encouraged her and was sincerely excited for her.  He asked her to go with him to the next ward date.  (By the way, this has since been denounced as a poor social choice that was meant to simply “return the favor.”)  In all of our minds as a team of roommates/self-appointed social experts/dating divas, these were all good signs and we rallied around Sarah and her new and seemingly positive potential relationship.  Our apartments continued to do several things together and we all became friends.  I was still avoiding the two previously-mentioned suitors, and a third one had now entered into the mix.  I went out with him one time.  It was fine.  I wasn’t that interested.  He kept asking me out.  I tried to be polite, and as obviously disinterested as I could be without being rude or making up lies.  I was annoyed by the recurring pathetic themes in my social life.  Things had been rocky enough with KK in our recent interactions that I was beginning to feel “healed” from the breakup– still confused by it, but not hurting so much anymore.  But still, judging from the three yahoos I was currently juggling, my future didn’t feel super hopeful.

I was talking to my dad on the phone one night, and Matt beeped in.  I told him I was on the other line, so could I just have Sarah call him back?  He said, “Uh, yeah, but YOU call me back.”  Oh, okay.  I didn’t think anything of it.  Maybe he wanted to ask me something about her or make secret plans for her or something.  He gave me his work number, and I finished the conversation with my dad.  I called Matt back, and we made small talk for a few minutes.  It was a fun, friendly conversation, but I kept wondering when he was going to get around to telling me why he had called.  Then he asked me out.  On a date!

I literally felt a little sick to my stomach.  Me?! I think there may have been a lot of “Um…,”  “Well,”  and other unfinished syllables, mixed with awkward pauses.  My mind was racing.

“Um, can I call you back?”  I hung up.  I needed to think.

I felt this really unexpected intense confusion. I had never even considered going out with him because I’d only seen him as a possibility for Sarah… one of my best friends of many, many years… remember?  But now that he’d mentioned it, I thought you know, he is a cool guy, and he would be fun to go out with, but what?!! This was crazy.  I was surprised that I kind of wanted to.  I felt horrible for Sarah.  I couldn’t go.  Could I?

Sarah was downstairs in the kitchen.  I called my other roommate, Maria, on her cell phone.  She was 15 feet down the hall in her bedroom.  I whispered, “Maria!  Matt just called.  He asked me out.”

“Huh?!”  (You can’t fault her for the confusion.)  I explained what happened, and we both squealed and gasped and talked as dramatically as whispering would allow.  After discussing the whole thing back and forth and probably chewing all the possible life out of the topic, she said, “Can you imagine Sarah’s face if the doorbell rang and it was Matt coming to pick you up?”  That sealed it.

I took a deep breath, called him back and said, “Under different circumstances, I would love to go out with you, and I think that we would have a really good time together, and who knows what would happen (Um, what were these words coming out of my mouth?!!), but I just can’t.”  He correctly guessed the reason and faulted himself for not foreseeing that more clearly, and was understanding about my decision.  Perhaps it was the impossibility of it all that created a weird, exciting tension.  The conversation ended by both of us saying, “Maybe later.”

Coming next…. Chapter 4:  The Secret