I’m a writer – an author of Christian romance novels, actually – and a hopeless romantic at heart. So I always had very grand ideas of what it would be like to meet that special someone and never took even the simple act of “liking” someone lightly. I was picky about what guys I liked, and anytime I did start to like someone, I fell hard. Unfortunately for me (at least I thought I was unfortunate) none of those boys experienced the same thing. They only ever liked me for a couple weeks and then moved on to someone else. While all my friends had several boyfriends through our teenage years, I never had one.
After one too many times of having my heart broken, I was scared to develop feelings for anyone else. I came to a place where I was ready to submit my desire for a romantic relationship to the Lord and let Him work it out. But at the same time, I had developed a deep, hidden fear that maybe I just wasn’t worth a guy's time.
Little did I know that God was already writing my love story long before I released the pen into His hand.
You see, in the summer of 2009, Austin Dorow and I were both attending Crusader Camp in Lufkin, TX. He was only ten and I was eleven, but when he spotted my friend and me walking by, he nudged his best friend and proclaimed he would marry me someday.
It wasn’t until three years later, at those same campgrounds, that we actually met. At the time, he liked my cousin… as well as another girl we knew. Yeah, he was quite the “player” back then, and that made me not like him at all!
As time went on, Austin always remained on the outskirts of my life through his connection to different friends of mine, and our paths crossed on numerous occasions. But if someone had told me at any of those times that he would one day be my husband, I never would have believed them. In fact, I probably would have laughed or been appalled at the idea.
But God has a way of bringing two people together, even if we never would have expected it ourselves.
In 2014, I walked into our church sanctuary on a Sunday morning and spotted none other than Austin Dorow sitting with his family towards the back of the room. As it turned out, his family had decided to start attending our church. That in itself I never saw coming! But what followed later was far more unforeseen.
In January 2015, I got wind of a rumor that Austin liked me. I panicked, thinking that the friendly ease I felt around him by this point had come across the wrong way. I was not interested in the least, and in my immaturity, the only thing I knew to do was avoid him. Completely. From then on, I scarcely spoke to Austin.
Strangely though, I retained a secret soft-spot in my heart for him, even if I never would have admitted it aloud. I didn’t think I was interested in him romantically, but I did think he had grown up to be a sweet, handsome, talented young man. I also had this unexplainable conviction that God had a special plan for Austin’s life. I could see, even though I still didn’t think Austin was right for me, that he was actually pretty special. There was just something that set him apart from the other guys in our youth group.
Then everything took a sudden and drastic turn. On March 18th, 2016, we had a church cleaning day–a super romantic place for our love story to officially begin, right? I had signed up to clean out the very hot, perpetually cluttered upstairs storage room. Our pastor’s son, Logan, and my sister volunteered to help me, but Logan said we needed someone else to help with the “heavy lifting”--so he asked Austin to join us.
The whole evening, something seemed off. Different things that happened got me thinking that maybe Austin liked me again, but I shrugged it off and told myself I was overthinking.
The next day, I took my senior pictures, and after the photoshoot, I changed my Facebook profile picture to a shot from the day. Much to my surprise, Austin commented on the picture–soemthing he had never done before. “Very pretty.” That was literally all he said. But somehow, that was enough for me to know.
He liked me again. Perhaps had never stopped.
Unlike the last time, I was not repulsed by this knowledge. Just shocked. And flattered. And totally at a loss for what to do about it. Because also unlike last time, I knew what it was like to be blatantly rejected. Just the past summer, I had been humiliated by a guy I had liked for a year, and it had dealt a severe blow to my self-esteem. I knew what it was like to be hurt, and the very last thing I wanted to do was hurt this guy that was no longer that "player" from youth camp, but had grown to be a very sweet and sensitive young man.
I confessed my discovery to one of my best friends, and she was as shocked as I was. When she asked me if I ever thought I would like Austin back, I said, “No, I don’t think so.”
Yet for two weeks, I wrestled with the knowledge of Austin’s feelings for me. At first, it was because I thought I didn’t like him and I didn’t know how to let him down easy. Then it was because I was paying more attention to him now, analyzing everything I knew about him and beginning to see that he wasn’t so opposite of what I said I wanted in a guy after all. He was actually so much more than I had given him credit for. He was kind, sensitive, talented, handsome, selfless, generous, had a great sense of humor. The list grew longer every day.
During this time, we were both asked, along with a couple others, to help in a kids’ class on Wednesday nights for a couple months. Now I had no choice but to be around him, and every time we were together, I realized more and more that I wasn’t so uninterested in Austin after all. In fact, I realized there had been little breadcrumbs leading me to him for months. Thoughts about him, the desire to go find him at church and talk to him. Every time those things had popped into my head, I had told myself I was crazy and firmly pushed them away. Because this was Austin Dorow I was talking about! He was a year younger than me (I had been certain I did not want someone younger) and completely different from the imagined picture of my future husband in my head. I had told myself that he was all wrong on so many levels…
But what if I had been mistaken in this assumption, all this time?
At last, I admitted to myself that I had been wrong… I did like Austin Dorow, much more than I had thought.
And with that admission came a rush of peace!
But then fear swooped in. I had just barely recovered from my heart being badly broken. I didn’t want to go through it all again. I didn’t want to fall for Austin only for him to change his mind and move on while I was left pining away in misery. I couldn’t do it. I begged God to please, please, PLEASE put an end to it all NOW if Austin and I were not meant to be. If it was only going to end in heartache or humiliation, I wanted nothing to do with it. I only wanted the real thing, not some passing fancy.
But no matter how desperately I begged God to take away my feelings for Austin, they wouldn’t go away. They only grew.
At that time, our youth group did something called PROMise Night as a prom alternative, where we would dress up formally and go to a fancy restuarant. Word got around to me that Austin was going to be asking me to be his date. I found out that he asked my dad about it, but I didn’t know when he would ask me. Then on April 19th, one month exactly from the day I realized Austin had feelings for me, while eating dinner with my family, our doorbell rang. My stomach leapt because I just knew it had to be Austin.
Sure enough, there he stood on our doorstep with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers in his hands–the first flowers I had ever received from someone other than my dad. He asked me to be his date and I enthusiastically said yes. But even after this, I still had a lingering fear that this wouldn’t last. After all, Austin had yet to actually tell me himself that he liked me.
The following Sunday night, we had a street service in our community. The service had to be cut short because of a rain storm, and Austin offered to escort me to my mom's car. He carried an umbrella for me through the drizzling rain and when we reached the car, he stopped abruptly and turned to me. Standing there in the rain beneath the umbrella’s shelter, he finally told me the truth–he had strong feelings for me, had actually admired me from afar for years, but always thought he wasn’t good enough for me and that I could never be interested in him. My heart melting, I told him I liked him, too – a lot, in fact.
After I got in the car and we drove away, I just sat there trying to take it all in. Not only had I just experienced a total book-worthy romantic moment, but I now knew that the whole time I was thinking I wasn’t worth a guy caring about, someone had been secretly caring about me on the sidelines. And I had been completely blind to it.
Over the next two months, my relationship with Austin grew by leaps and bounds. We began texting nearly every day and I grew to trust him and honestly consider him a best friend. In May, I graduated high school and he came to my graduation – with flowers and a gift. At my graduation party the next day, he gave me even more gifts – one for every day I was going to be gone on my senior trip to Disney World with my family. The vacation was made all the sweeter by these fun little Disney-themed gifts I got to open every morning. And each day, I fell a little harder for the one who gave them to me.
On June 11, the big night finally arrived – PROMise Night! I will never forget the moment Austin walked into the church and saw me in my navy and red gown. His eyes went wide and he breathed, “Wow.” It was a real life Cinderella moment!
Once again, word got to me that Austin might ask me to be his girlfriend that night. I was excited but also a nervous wreck. We went to the aquarium restuarant in downtown Houston and nothing happened. Then we rode the train at the aquarium and nothing happened. We rode the ferris wheel and I got horribly motion-sick. Then we decided to take a carriage ride through downtown, and the rest of our friends insisted on joining. We ended up with the only backward facing seats, directly behind the driver. The man was smoking, and it was blowing right in my face, only further upsetting my still churning stomach. It also didn’t help that the carriage was constantly jostling me, and it was about ninety degrees outside and I was wearing a formal dress with my hair down… I truly feared I was going to get sick and throw up all over my date! That was the longest thirty minutes of my life!
After this less than perfect evening, Austin still hadn’t asked me. When we arrived back at the church, I walked slowly by his side in the parking lot, hoping he would finally say something. At last, he turned to face me and launched into a long, sweet speech about how he felt about me. I wish I could remember it, but all I do remember was him ending with, “So what I'm asking is, would you like to make it official and be my girlfriend?”
Of course my answer was yes! And even though it turned out that Austin had wanted to ask me earlier in the evening, the mishaps along the way had thwarted his original plans; I wouldn’t change a thing about how it happened.
It was only two weeks into our official relationship that we realized we loved each other. Like with everything else about the beginning of our relationship, this happened differently and quicker than I had expected. I never believed you could know – like bone-deep know – that you love someone so soon. But it was a truth I could not deny, even if I couldn’t explain it. People aren’t lying when they say, “When you know, you know”!
Austin and I both knew very quickly that we wanted to marry each other one day, and started discussing marriage after only a few months together. It was our hope to get engaged by the holidays of 2017. But when that Christmas night came around and an engagement seemed nowhere in view, I felt discouraged and disappointed.
My family and I went to Austin’s parents house to exchange Christmas presents that night, and when it came time for my final gift, Austin told me it was too big to wrap, so I would have to meet him outside. He hurried out to get this present ready, along with his brothers and best friend. A few minutes later, Austin’s mom blindfolded me, and together with the rest of the family, we made our way across their property into the woods. I had no idea what to expect when the blindfold came off. The best I could come up with was maybe it was something big for our future house (we had already bought a tiny house to start building out for our future at this point).
When the blindfold was removed, "Without You in My Life" by Jim Brickman began to play, and I opened my eyes to find myself standing in the woods. Candles and Christmas lights sparkled all around, and directly in front of me, hanging from the arched branches of two trees, was a backdrop that read:
“Every once in a while, right in the middle of ordinary life, love gives you a fairytale.”
I gasped, realizing exactly what was happening. Then I turned to find Austin beside me, love and tears shining in his eyes. He took my hands and once again launched into the most beautiful speech that I can’t remember a word of but wish I did! All I could do was cry and laugh at the same time, I was so shocked and overwhelmed with joy.
Our dream of getting engaged by the end of the 2017 holidays wasn’t so impossible after all! And like the beautiful backdrop said, right in the middle of my ordinary life, love – or rather, GOD – had given me the perfect fairytale. A love like I had read about in books and wrote about in my own stories wasn’t just a fantasy any longer. God had seen the desire of my heart and had been writing a story for Austin and me all along. It had not happened at the time or in the way I expected. It happened out of nowhere, when I least expected it, with the man I had least expected to fall in love with.
Even after five years together, including three years married, I still marvel at how God has blessed us in bringing us together. Austin is truly my best friend, my one true love, and I fall more in love with him year after year!
If there’s anything I can say to other girls and women dreaming of finding their “prince charming” and living a fairytale of their own, it’s to trust God to write your personal story in His own way and time. He is the Master Storyteller, and he will bring your hero onto the page of your life at just the right moment. And don’t be surprised if he’s not who you expected him to be, yet he’s perfect for you! The way you fall in love with that hero will be perfect for you as well.
Every line, every paragraph, every chapter of your story, you can trust the Lord to write. And believe me, it will become your favorite story of all time!
**All pictures by Infallible Proofs Photography**