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Last summer, a childhood friend of mine wrote into my blog to share her dating story. I remember reading it and smiling. Her name is Ashley. She’s gorgeous, smart, funny, clever and… how do I put it… young. We’re talking early twenties, folks. Fresh out of the womb. Just out of diapers. Officially potty trained, but may still drag around a pink blankie. So even before I finished reading her words, I’d already reached my conclusion about her story — it is just “cute.”

You see, I write this blog from my seasoned, thirty-something point of view — my experienced, wise, responsible perspective. So when I giggle under my breath at someone else’s story, it’s not because I’m laughing at them. It’s just because they obviously have no clue what real life is all about. I am here to enlighten them. They should feel blessed.

Well this past weekend, my bubble was officially burst.

Maybe I should start at the beginning and let you form your own conclusions. And when I say beginning, I mean a long, long time ago, in a magical land far away called New Jersey.

When I was a few years younger, I was a Sunday School teacher at my home church. It’s a small church — the kind where there are no “rules” or “training” around who is allowed to shape the hearts and minds of children. So I made the cut! I started teaching at an incredibly young age — I believe I first became an assistant teacher at 11. I was highly adept at moving a cut-out of Moses around the felt board and sticking gold stars on the memory verse chart. Because of these mad skillz, I quickly advanced to becoming a full-fledged teacher.

In one of my first classes as “Miss Ruthie,” in walks the 4-year-old version of Ashley, along with the equally young version of Roland (the lad she’d been dating when she wrote into my blog). Talk about cute kids! Ashley with her blonde hair and big smile, Roland with his skinny arms and shy laugh. I should have seen back then that one day they’d date one another. But I was more concerned with developing their spiritual awareness and maturity, people!

Over the years, I worked a lot with Ashley and Roland in Sunday School, kids’ choir, youth group, youth retreats, etc. Basic church stuff and a lot of it. I saw them mature into fine young people — smart, creative and kind. I moved away from The Garden State, but always kept in touch. And then Ashley — a talented writer herself — decided to send her story into “I Kissed My Date Goodnight.”

Her story started as most good stories do — in the shower. She had a sudden epiphany, at age 14, to begin praying for her future husband. So right then and there, with suds of Pantene Pro-V in her hair, she prayed. And continued to do so for years to follow.

You see, Ashley wasn’t the dating type. She’d read the bestselling book I Kissed Dating Goodbye and mostly agreed with it. She didn’t want to fool around. She wanted to find the right man and settle down.

Shortly after that bathroom revival, Ashley decided to name this future husband. (Both creative and creepy, if you ask me.) His name? Joshua McSun. She prayed for him. She dreamed of him. She wrote songs for him. She waited to become Ashley McSun. And when she met a guy that she thought could be this elusive fellow, she’d ask God if he was “the one.” In her words:

It was like a child waiting, seeing a present all wrapped up for her, but with Daddy telling her she had to wait to open it. And He only told her that it’s what “she always wanted.” So she would take guess after guess, believing that everything she guessed could actually be what she always wanted. And each time, He would just smile and shake His head saying, “No, Ashley. It’s something way better than that.”

So she waited.

A couple days after her 16th birthday, the youth group was over Ashley’s house. She saw Roland there — the same guy she’d seen every week for who knows how long. He was part of the youth group, part of that church family. But tonight, she saw him differently — perhaps as her “perfect match.” It seemed like a sign from above, but Ashley fought it. She recalls being angry, thinking that this was not her Joshua McSun. She just didn’t feel the spark or the chemistry.

A month rolled by — one filled with heartbreak, letdown, and a slew of 24-hour crushes.

So I prayed. I got a ring that looked like a wedding band and told God to forgive me for insisting on my own way and that I didn’t want to think of any man ever again except for the one I was going to marry. And, immediately, I thought of only one person… guess who? =)

So at 17, Ashley started dating Roland. She started to see him in a new light. She still wondered, she still doubted whether this was “the one” for her. But in the midst of it all, a relationship started to grow, slowly but surely. “I like you,” turned to “I really like you,” turned to “I love you,” turned to “Will you marry me?”

And last November, she said yes.

And this past weekend? You guessed it. I attended their wedding on a blissful June afternoon in New Jersey. As I sat there and watched the two kids that I’d once forced to dress up in Ukrainian garb and recite Bible verses in front of the congregation, I smiled. They were all grown up. And they were, indeed, in love.

And now they’ve got their lives ahead of them — to love each other, to love others, to change the world. And I smile knowing I played a small part in shaping the beautiful people they’ve become — the kind of people who trusted God to lead them to find true love.

The morning of her wedding, Ashley did something I’ll probably do: she blogged!

I have about fifty thousand butterflies in my stomach as I look at my wedding dress and realize that the next time I see Roland, I’ll be walking down the aisle, ready to marry him!! I’m shedding a few tears (happy tears) as I think about today…

Lesson learned by yours truly: Everyone’s story is important. Everyone’s story means something special. No matter how old, no matter how different than my own. My sister who got married at age 19. My brother who got married at 35. My friend who remarried after a painful divorce. My 45-year-old friend who is rockin’ the single life every single day. My friend and mentor, recently widowed in her late fifties.

All their stories are special. All of them deserve to be told.

Congrats to Ashley and Roland. A beautiful story, a beautiful couple, a beautiful world because they’re both in it.

~Ruth

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed Ashley’s story, why not follow her blog?

Photo credits: (1) Cherryville Photography; (2) Ruth Rutherford; (3) Hosney Jeudy