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The Story of Us



The Prank


I don't remember the exact first time I met Sam, but I do remember one of my first "encounters" with him. I was hanging out with some friends, practicing photography with a bunch of mannequin heads that one of the girl's sisters had from cosmetology school. At the end of the day someone suggested we play a prank on one of the neighbors who had just started attending our church. I thought it would be funny even though I hardly knew the family, so I agreed to take the pictures while the others put mannequin heads all over their front yard. I just want to mention that it wasn’t something like 5 mannequin heads, it was aver 20 of them. We posted the photos on Facebook and tagged Sam and Jesse, but I forgot about it shortly after. I didn't actually put it all together and realize it was Sam until after we started dating 6 years later. It was hilarious and mortifying all at the same time.

Sam's Move to Texas


Spring break 2012, I went on a mission trip to Mexico that changed my life for the glory of God, but that fall, I had to move from California to Texas and leave my supportive friends. I dreaded becoming a “red-neck” and even got a job at a camp nearby so I didn’t have to move right away.


My parents had started going to Magnolia Bible Church, a church that we had looked at on one of our previous visits. I remembered the genuineness of the people there and how much they praised God during times of struggle, hardship and even death.


At this church was a young woman named Jessica, who loved the Lord fiercely. I remember the first time I was introduced to her and her friends in the youth group. At the time I didn’t even have a clue that this silent girl would be my future wife. I was still recovering from my old lifestyle and had a lot of growing up to do. God used the youth pastor there to challenge me, stretch me and pour into my life.


How We Met


I officially met Sam in youth group shortly after he and his family moved to Texas in 2012. We often hung out in the same friend circles and interacted at a lot of group events. Honestly I remember thinking he was funny, but a little too loud and kind of annoying. He seemed like a little punk.

He graduated earlier than I, but I got to know him a little better when we started serving together in the Jr. High youth group. My friends and I often got a group of people together to go country dancing and Sam was usually there.


Sam’s Side:


I graduated the following year, moved out of my parents’ and started working. I wasn’t allowed to keep going to the high-school youth group that Jessica was still in, but we both helped with the junior high students. It was then that I started to really notice her. I saw her heart to serve God and for missions, and thought, “She is an amazing woman of God, but I don’t know about all that mission stuff.” (Ha! Little did I know…) We got to hang out in the same groups and went out to the dance hall several times. I always admired her but didn’t want her to know. One time I even told her about a crush I had had on someone else and totally friend zoned myself.


One day Jake, my roommate asked me why I didn’t ask Jessica to her prom since she was a great girl and needed someone to go with. I thought it was a great idea. I made up my mind that I would, but decided not to pursue a relationship with her because she was going off to college, and I did not want to distract her. But then another man swooped in and took her to prom.


I was raging mad and insanely jealous and worried and crushed all at the same time. I remember storming into the church and telling some people off and needing some counseling from friends. So at this point, I figured out that I “liked her”. I used to literally pray “God, if it’s not her, please bring someone like Jessica”


Parting Ways


I was pretty clueless in High School in regards to boys and was pretty unaware that Sam had his eye on me. I was pretty focused on missions and getting into school and boys were pretty low on my radar. I do remember dancing with Sam right before I left for college. He was asking about school and my plans for future mission work. I suspected for a minute that Sam might have had hidden feelings. But not too long before, he had told me about having a crush on one of my friends, so I dismissed my suspicion. I moved away the next week.


Life Apart; Sam’s Perspective


I kept working. I kept growing up. I eventually heard the call to use my skills to support Bible Translation on the mission field. When I was just about to come to Papua New Guinea, I got a text from Jessica of all people. She asked me if I had joined Wycliffe Bible Translators and said that some people from Wycliffe had come to her school to share their stories. We talked for a bit and I said we should catch up soon but that I had to get on the bike and go somewhere, she said, “Ride safe.” That was it for a number of months.


Jess’ side


The years that followed led to a lot of growth and change. I learned so much while at school. God was stretching, shaping, and growing me in many ways. Hard ways, but good ways.


Fall of my Jr. Year a Wycliffe representative visited my class and was trying to recruit new members. I remembered my mom mentioning Sam and Wycliffe in passing during a random conversation and I considered texting him to see how he was connected. I decided that would be weird and random and might send a message I didn’t intend, so I didn't. The recruiter was persistent and showed up in several of the classes I was in and every time I felt prompted to contact Sam, but was adamant I wouldn’t.


Eventually, after a few weeks of this repeated exchange—the recruiter’s visit, the idea to ask Sam about it, and the hesitation—I gave in and sent Sam a quick message after class. He mentioned that he was headed to PNG soon, but would love to catch up. I didn't think anything of his request, but wasn't really interested in filling him in on my difficult and messy semester. I told him I was interested in hearing about his trip, asked him if he would be sending newsletters, and requested to be put on the list. Life got crazier and messier, Sam went to PNG and we fell out of touch once again.


Reconnecting


Sam: My first few months in Papua New Guinea were great. I loved my job and life and was determined to not be in a long distance relationship. After finishing a six sermon series by Louie Giglio called “Boy Meets Girl,” I was convicted that I did in fact need a woman in my life. I began to grasp God’s design for man and woman and the way marriage reflects His glory in this life. I prayed that God would spark a passion in me for His glory in His marriage design and asked Him what He wanted me to do. I went to bed thinking that there was no one God wanted me to pursue any time soon, hearing that clear “no” that I had heard before about some other relationships I had been in.


The next morning, I received an email from Jessica (who was in Uganda on a mission trip) in response to my newsletter from a few days prior. I knew that this was no coincidence, but I was still not convinced. We wrote a few emails back and forth until I got up the courage to just let it all out and tell her how much I "amen" what God had done in creating her and that if she was ever sitting alone somewhere wondering if anyone other than God thought the world of her that she could count on me being a fan.


I forced my hand on that send button and just thought, “There. She will shut me down, and I will be free of this pull I have had on my life towards this person and can go on as planned with my life.” Or maybe, just maybe, God would do something extraordinary. Maybe God would respond to that prayer with something like, “No my son, There are none like Jessica, I made her fearfully and wonderfully unique and for my Glory. Is this not what you asked for all that time?”


The Newsletter; Jess’ Perspective

Months later, I visited Africa to fulfill my childhood dream of serving in an orphanage. The trip came after an extremely painful and difficult semester and served as a time of much needed healing and rest. It was during this time that I received Sam's first newsletter. I briefly replied:

"Sam! I was so pleased to receive your email. It's awesome to hear the work you're doing. Keep pressing on my brother. God bless!"


He responded in hopes of catching up. I remembered how I had dropped the ball on that and sent a quick apology for not catching up months before. Honestly I didn't think much of the exchange, and a relationship was certainly not on my radar.


During my weeks in Uganda I journaled daily. There was one night specifically that I journaled, asking God to bring me the man who loved Him as much as I do. At the beginning of the year I had closed my fists around my heart and shut down the idea of any relationship for the foreseeable future. During this time of prayer I decided to open my hands and I told God I was willing to let go of my desires for control of my life. I felt God very specifically asking me to leave doors open and leave room for Him to work. I told God I was willing to wait till God showed me who He had for me. I agreed not to close any doors on the idea of relationships, but would wait till God brought a man who was obviously wholeheartedly seeking after Jesus with his life and who was willing to be intentional and do the pursuing.


It was the next day when Sam sent an email expressing his feelings for me. I was shocked and hesitant.


The Reply; His Version:

She responded with a rollercoaster of not shutting me down but also not jumping straight in, then leaving the door open, then not getting my hopes up, then wanting to continue communicating. We started writing emails, long emails, which I don’t normally write. This lead to encouraging each other on a daily basis with the work we had before us for the day


The Reply; Her Version

I panicked. I had no idea that Sam had felt this way, and didn't know how to respond. I really respected his honesty, vulnerability, and initiative. I tried my best to carefully craft a response. I didn't know him well enough to have feelings, but I had just told God I'd keep my doors open. I didn't want to lead him on, but I also didn't want to shut him down (because God had just asked me not to). I did my best at explaining that I wasn't interested in a relationship yet, but that I was willing to work on building a friendship again. I was confused, flattered, and a bit nervous.


We began by exchanging emails, catching up and getting to know one another again. It was awesome to see the growth that the Lord had done in his life. Eventually I came back from Africa and we began to talk more consistently. We began talking on Skype and on audio FaceTime calls, which I normally avoid by every effort. Our conversations were such an encouragement to me and the more I saw the Lord in Him, the more I realized I had undeniable feelings. His friends started calling me "Sam's not girlfriend" and mine started accusing me of "the Sam smile" in the days after our calls.


Defining The Relationship

Sam: A few months later, I went to the Pacific Orientation Course on the coast. During training people, caught on that I was communicating with a woman. She became my “not girlfriend.”


On March 15, I Skyped her mom, got the ok and blessing, then asked Jessica “Will you join me in an exclusive relationship with the long term purpose of bringing God glory and the short term purpose of marriage?” And she said yes.


A few weeks later, I left to the village with little communication where we grew even more and were stretched very much. I would go for a one mile walk sometimes to talk, send a text or try to say “Hello, can you hear me?”


In the free time we had, we studied God’s word together, sent literally tens of thousands of texts and spent hours talking on the phone. We have laughed together. We cried together. We fought together. We pushed through hard things. We studied the meaning of marriage. We have learned ways we can sacrifice for each other. We have praised God together.


Jessica’s Side


I spent weeks praying and seeking advice over these new feelings and this potential relationship. I was definitely not a fan of the idea of another long distance relationship. But every time I stepped back, the Lord urged me to step forward, whispering "trust me". I kept trusting, praying, slowly and carefully taking steps towards Sam.


By the time he asked me to join him in a relationship I was delighted and confident. Of course I said yes.


Sam's time in the village was tough. It was a month of poor to no service and a TON of partial conversations seeping with "hello? can you hear me now?" We spent the time after his return from the village in constant communication; learning more about one another, learning how to communicate better, and pursuing the Lord together. It was crazy seeing how constructive even conflict could be and it was fun learning how to combine our strengths and weaknesses in order to love each other well from a distance. It was hard, but so good. I could see ways in which God was using Sam to grow and challenge me.


The Reunion


Sam: God opened the door for me to come home in numerous financial and logistical ways. We needed this time to be personally with each other and spend time together with our families. I needed to get down on a knee and ask the big question.

We plan to use our lives, together through the love and power of Christ in us to spread His fame and glory among the nations.

This is our story.



The Engagement From Her Perspective



Sam and I had talked a bit about marriage in the months leading up to his return. When he was coming to visit over my winter breaks I knew he intended to propose. I knew he had already purchased a ring (which I hadn’t seen) and had it sent to his parents in Texas.

When Sam came to visit me in Indiana over thanksgiving and the week before finals I was completely unsuspecting. I was enjoying our time together and trying to finish my semester well.


My parents came to visit for our Silent Night game, a Taylor tradition, and afterwards we all went to my grandma’s to spend time together before they traveled back to Texas and finals-week began. We celebrated an early Christmas with my grandparents. Sam got a remote-controlled helicopter (this is a relevant detail, I promise).


My former classmate Samantha requested we get together and I said we could probably do a sort of "triple date" of sorts. By the time it came around to making plans I asked Samuel to work it out, because I had to study for my tests. Sam told me they decided to try to go sledding in the Indy area. I was stressed, but thankful they had planned it, so I geared up and prepared to go sledding.


December 10, 2017 I was participating in the Dressember campaign and tried my best to bundle up appropriately for playing in the snow despite my dress. I forgot my heavy coat at school, so I layered as best as I could. I finished the outfit with my grandma's oversized coat and my snow-proof hiking boots (shout out to mom for convincing me that I didn't need my snow pants).



By the time we got to the park the snow was practically gone, so I figured sledding was a flop. We were still going to meet Samantha and Austin in the park to go for a scenic walk. I really had to pee, so when mom said she was heading for the bathroom as we pulled in, I headed that way with her. I was a little confused when Clayton started to head towards the restroom as well, but changed his mind and turned around, I was too distracted to think much of it.

When I walked out of the bathroom Sam told us that Clayton went to use the bathroom after all. Mom said she would wait for him and sent us to walk on ahead.


So Sam and I went walking up the trail. I was looking for Samantha and Austin. We passed a pretty dock, but I kept walking, thinking they were waiting for us on ahead. Sam pulled me towards the dock, explaining that they were going to meet us here. He proceeded to pull out his toy helicopter, explaining that he was going to attempt to fly it over the partially frozen lake. I was pretty sure this was a terrible idea, but didn't want to nag. It was windy and cold and there were some picnic tables pushed up to the left, so I walked to the other side of the doc and sat down, waiting for Samantha.


Mom and Clayton started walking over in the distance and about the same time Samuel called me over to watch him fly the helicopter. Sam had been on his knee this whole time and when Clayton and mom walked up with their phones out I realized what they thought was happening. I turned towards them and called them over to ease their suspicion and made a comment to Sam "Haha, Sam! They think you're proposing because you're down on one knee!". He laughed it off around the same time my mom walked up. I explained that Sam was planning to try to fly his gopro on the helicopter over the lake and she pretended to take a picture in case he lost it in the lake. In that moment Sam pulled a ring box out of his camera bag and asked me to marry him. I was shocked. I said yes of course.





Sam and Austin, and my good friends Caitlin and Madi came out of hiding to congratulate us. We all celebrated with lunch in Indianapolis and good company.


Grandma cried, Grandpa and Sam high-fived, and I celebrated with the rest of my friends back at the dorm with a school tradition called a "ring down".





Our timeline can be a bit confusing and people usually ask how everything lines up, so I’ll just insert a little timeline here for you:


December 10, 2017: Our Engagement

From December on, we did some organizational training and stayed with my parents as we built our partnership team and worked on getting back to Papua New Guinea. We moved here to Papua New Guinea August 8, 2019.

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