Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine Love

This post is coming a day later than I had planned, but that's kind of our life at the moment: I make a plan. Life happens. My plan flies out the window. I adjust and make my next plan.

And the cycle repeats itself.

Sometimes though, I appreciate my plans being changed. Take this past weekend for example. My weekend looked like it was going to be filled with the excitement of cleaning and laundry and working out and a recipe blog post which I have been meaning to put up for way too long now.

Instead, my weekend morphed into something far more adventuresome when my sweet husband came to me on Friday and said he was whisking me away for the weekend in celebration of Valentine's Day. 

But before I get to the where, let me share a bit of our love story to give you a little background on the "why" this place is significant to us and our relationship. 

Some of you already know this story, but for the rest of you here it goes. 

Rewind back to the summer of 2007. Luis was broke, without a contract, stuck in Europe because he didn't have enough money to fly home, but hopeful that God would somehow still make a way for him to play soccer in Germany. (And He did!) 

I was a semester away from finishing my bachelors, trying to figure out my next steps post college. I was also on a cruise with my family, sailing around the Mediterranean, totally captivated by the charm of Italy, the beauty of Greece, and the history of Turkey.

After years of an on-again-off-again relationship, Luis and I were just friends and had been for a couple years.  

Luis knew that my family was going on this cruise and knew through our conversations, which were quite regular thanks to him consistently calling me, where our last stop would be. Knowing that he wasn't going to be able to see me in the States that year, he thought it would be a great idea to surprise me by waiting for me on the dock as I got off the ship.

But we were just friends of course.  

Luis waited as one person after another came off the boat. He waited as the mass of people slowly began to dwindle. And he waited as finally, people stopped coming off. 

Thinking that maybe he was waiting at the wrong boat, he asked the controller if I was on board. He confirmed that yes, in fact there was a Cara Youngblood on that ship and offered to take a note up to my room for Luis. 

Meanwhile, we had debarked from the ship directly to a water taxi which took us into the city.

My cousins and me
That's a hint right there as to where we are if you're one of those people who likes to figure out the end of the movie before the end actually happens.

While Luis was anxiously waiting, I was being completely romanced by the charm of an old European city, completely unaware that a real romantic gesture was being made on my behalf. 

That is until the gondola ride.

Okay, it's pretty obvious by now where we are. But in case you're one of those people who absolutely won't let themselves figure out the rest of the story until the rest of the story, I'll hold the suspense just a bit longer.   

When I say my family was on a cruise I mean my grandparents, aunt and uncle and cousins on my Mom's side, in addition to my parents and sister. All together there were twelve of us. Which meant we had to take two gondolas. 

There is photographic documentation that the second gondola was behind us. In fact, as I was going through the pictures, there are several taken throughout the ride that show my aunt, uncle and cousins behind us most of the way. 

At one point, however, I turned around and instead of seeing the faces in the above picture I saw this face. 

That would be a girl Luis and I went to high school with. Noticing that the people in the gondola in front of her kept staring, she finally made eye contact with us.

After getting over the shock of  running into each other on a gondola ride through the narrow canals of Venice (Oops. Secret's out. We're in Venice. ) I think I said something like "What are you doing here?!?"To which she replied, somewhat confusedly "We' yoou ???" 

I probably looked equally confused because she followed up with "There wasn't someone waiting for you on the dock when you arrived?" 

To which I replied "Nooooo, we didn't get off on the dock." To which she said "Ooooh, cause someone came to surprise you." Me, being a semi-intelligent girl and knowing there could only be one person who would drive down to Italy, with Grace, to wait for me on the dock when I arrived cautiously asked "Luuuis?" 

Turns out Luis had called Grace, who was playing softball in Italy at the time, because he would be driving through her town on the way to Venice. When he told her of his plan to surprise me, she decided that she and her friends would tag along since they'd never been to Venice. The plan was for Luis to head to the dock to find me, Grace and her friends to tour around, and everyone meet up at the Piazza San Marco at 4:00, me included.  

Dancing in St. Mark's Square with my sweet cousin Kiersten
As you can tell though, it didn't quite go that way. We continued on our tour and Grace and her friends went on her way. 

After waiting three hours at the dock, Luis gave up waiting and went in search of me through the city. He ran all over, winding through the narrow streets, hitting every tourist spot possible. 

The Rialto

At one point he had to stop at a store to buy a new shirt because he was sweating so bad from running around everywhere. He bought a new shirt and just left his old one there. Poor guy, it was so hot that day!!! 

When he met up with Grace later in his spiffy new shirt, she told him that they had seen me. Luis decided he didn't drive all that way (it's about ten hours by car from where he lived to Venice) for nothing, so they caught a train home and he headed back to the boat to try one last time.

Knowing that Luis was there but not knowing how to find him, I decided I would try and call him. Just as I was picking up the phone to make the most expensive phone call of my life (phone call on a cruise ship + dialing an international phone number = ridiculous cost) my sister ran up waving a note shouting "He's downstairs Cara!!!" 

Finally, at around 10:00 pm, 12 hours after Luis first stepped foot on the dock, he had found me. 

We stayed up all night, eating gelato (for the third time that day for me by the way!) walking the streets of Venice, talking, just enjoying the time together before he had to drive back to Germany and I had to fly back to the States. 

Around 5:00 in the morning, as the sun was beginning to rise, we were sitting in this stairwell by the marina 

when I turned to him and asked "Luis, what are you doing here? Why did you drive ten hours to surprise me? What are your intentions here?"

Not sure where that came from cause I'm usually not so assertive. 

And then Luis gave the most romantic, heartfelt, poetic speech of all time that said something along the lines of since he came to Germany all he could think about was me, and that for the past few months he felt the Lord saying that I was the girl he was going to marry, and that he had been praying about it, and his parents had been praying about it, and his pastor had been praying about it, and he didn't want to just be friends any more, he wanted to be with me. Really be with me. 

As my eyes began to fill with tears, Luis' heart began to fill with pride. Thinking he had me in the palm of his hand he was more than shocked when I looked up and gave him a quiet and simple "No." 

Needless to say he was a little surprised. That was not the answer he expected, it was hard for him to hear. And it was hard for me to say because I cared about him, I always had. I just wasn't ready to be in a relationship at that time and didn't see myself being ready for one for a while. 

But God knew our story before it was even written. Even though in Luis' heart he was ready, and even though in my heart I wasn't, we were exactly where God wanted each of us to be. Luis, with his desires surrendered before the Lord, and me, focused on my relationship with my Saviour before anything, and especially anyone else.  

God used that time to prepare both of our hearts to be the husband and wife that each of us needed the other to be. And He used our story, our relationship to show us that He moves according to His time. Sometimes 99.99% of the time His time is not our time. 

And so, as we revisited all the places we'd been: 

The port that holds such meaning to our relationship, 

the train station we sat at for hours talking, laughing, experiencing a taste of what our life, unbeknownst to us, would eventually hold for us as husband and wife. 

We tried to revisit the stairs where we had "the talk" but unfortunately the port was closed for the winter. 

As we wandered through the alley ways trying to recall if we had been through it four and a half years ago, 

we were reminded that yes, God's time is not our time, but But we can always, always look back and see how much better His time is than ours.

Never could either one of us have imagined how blessed we would be by the marriage that we have. It's not perfect, because, surprise, surprise, we're not perfect. But I truly believe that we are perfectly matched for each other and that has nothing to do with us and everything to do with a perfect God who brought us together at the perfect time, which unfortunately for Luis was not in Venice in the summer of 2007! haha 

This trip to Venice was much colder than the last one.

Cold Icy Water and Snowy Boats
There was even a bit of snow.


If Luis were to have bought a new shirt this time it would have been to add an extra layer of warmth, not remove a layer of sweat. 

But regardless of the weather or the time of year, Venice will always hold a special significance to us. We have always wanted to go back, together, to create new memories, not just as friends, but as best friends, life partners, husband and wife. And Luis picked this year to be the year. 

And while this was in fact a romantic Valentine's Day trip, we were continuously reminded throughout of God's faithfulness, that even when the answer seems to be a "no", even when the path seems unclear and uncertain, He is working and He always delivers. 

It just may not come when we expect it, and in fact, most often, as Luis can testify with me finally having a change of heart about being in a relationship with him (that's a story for another day) it will come when we least expect it. But at least it comes better than we expected!

Happy (late) Valentine's Day everyone! 


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Aw, that is so sweet! I can't wait to hear the rest of the story another day! ;)

dubliner in Deutschland said... Best Blogger Tips

aw, great story!!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Cara, what a wonderful story & delightful post! Adam's & my premarried love story also spanned 7 yrs & several countries, & God's timing is indeed perfect! We got to visit Italy in Oct 2007, for our first anniversary. We bought a painting in Venice that still hangs on our wall! Thank you for sharing the beautiful way that Luis loves you. `Rachel Morehouse

Carissa said... Best Blogger Tips

Ummmm Hello!!! How adorable are you guys?! :)
Love your love story!

Jess said... Best Blogger Tips

Aw what a great story! I'm already casting the movie for it in my head. lol.

Madison Mayberry said... Best Blogger Tips

What a sweet, sweet story! Almost like a movie, if you ask me. And how fun to go back and reflect on where it began. Thanks for sharing!

The Andersons said... Best Blogger Tips

Aww.. I love it! What a neat story and incredible opportunity to relive those memories. God is so faithful! He just needed you to spend some quality time at FFI. :)

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

What a special couple you are!!!!! You are both
very blessed to have each other.
A beautiful love story!!!
Aunt Geri

Amber Masten said... Best Blogger Tips

Love this post!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

It was wonderful to read about you and your very strong love. God bless you!

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