Greg's Side Of Our Story

It all began at church camp – middle school camp, to be exact. It could’ve been her smile, or how popular and loved she was by every other girl in the building, or it could’ve been the way we caught eyes more than once in the cafeteria. Needless to say, I was mystified and captivated by what I saw. Her hazel eyes and brunette hair – beauty seemed to just come naturally for her. It felt like it would be inappropriate, and I was sure people would say something (they always do, regardless of intentions). But all that didn’t matter, because Gretchen Jones was the most beautiful middle school counselor I had ever seen.

I’d always wondered what it would be like to meet the person I was to marry. Would it be one of those freak accidents, where I would run her over with a shopping cart in the grocery store and we would fall madly in love? Or maybe it would be more dramatic, where I would rescue my damsel in distress from a tree that she had ventured to climb too high. The possibilities were endless. Fortunately, God had a much greater, dramatic, and incredible story to write.

We met in a basement. She had come from work and was tired, and that’s when I first heard about her (and my future) niece-to-be, Kate. Not much else happened that night, so I’ll breeze past that part.

Then, through our jobs at Long Hollow, we both ended up at student camp. I was doing all the lighting, and she was a middle school intern (it’s probably pretty clear who’s job was harder). It was here that we had our first real conversation, and it was so wonderfully awkward (my bad). It was also here where I heard her testimony for the first time, and got to see the real Gretchen. I got to see her passion for teenage girls, and leading them in becoming true women of God. She ended up staying for both middle and high school camp, so I was able to see (from my perch in the middle of the room) even more how intentional she was in investing and praying for the girls. Never before had I paid attention to how I actually ran lights, but believe me, I was doing it in the most attractive and manly way possible.

Though not much happened over the course of the next few months, I was able to continue to get to know Gretchen and be around her. Things like a surprise birthday party, touring Nashville with her friends, Madelyn and Whitney, and dinners at Kabuto all allowed me time to get to know her first as a friend. (Side note: The dinner at Kabuto was actually a set-up double date that Gretchen was unaware of by Clint and Stephanie Lamberth. You should have them as friends. They’re incredible people.) Gretchen ended up getting a job at Long Hollow, which was major point in my prayer life. Now my prayers turned from uncertainty into possibility.

Finally, in September I had my first opportunity to really be a friend and show her how much I cared about her. I knew that true love was displayed through serving, and thankfully God placed opportunities right in front of me to put this love into practice. Gretchen had gotten sick and been out of work. I knew she wasn’t feeling well, so on a whim, texted her to ask how she was doing. After hearing that she was still sick, I offered to bring her something to eat. So an hour and half later, I showed up at her door with tomato soup, a box of Kleenex, orange juice, and Zebra Cakes. (Don’t ask. I don’t know.) It’s an incredible feeling when you want to serve somebody, and they graciously and thankfully receive it. She usually gives me a lot of credit because I actually brought her the soup, but I think much of the credit should actually go to her because of the way she was so encouraging in allowing me to serve her, which of course made me want to do it even more.

In October, we went to a Needtobreathe concert in Chattanooga. We were picking up friends in Nashville and decided to carpool from Hendersonville. (Convenient, right?) On the way down, she asked if she could ask me a random question. Of course I said yes, not having any idea what was to follow. She then proceeded to ask if people had been asking me about “us”, and then told me that she just wanted to be friends. Then I told her that she was wrong and that we were going to get married. (Just kidding, but I was thinking it.) Naturally, that set the stage for uncertainty in my mind. After having felt so good about the direction we were headed, I now had so many questions and so few answers.

The night proceeded onward with our two friends, who were apparently oblivious to my pain and agony, and we ended up at the concert. Before it even started, Gretchen started to feel very sick and had to stand in the back the rest of the time. Of course, I stood back there with her the whole time. I mean, that’s what friends do right? I just hoped she wouldn’t judge me for my rendition of “Girl Named Tennessee”.

Also in October, I started helping in iMom, a class offered at church for “intentional mothers” – get it? Anyway, the only reason I volunteered for this job was so I could get closer to Gretchen (she was there for work, not the class). I vividly remember the evening that Steve Jobs died, and in upon telling her this fact, she replies with “Who’s Steve Jobs?” This was not a high point in our relationship.

A couple of big things happened in November. First, we moved into the same apartment complex. (I moved first. She followed me.) This was great, though, because I was able to use my incredibly large muscle mass to help her move things like her bed and shoe collection into her new place. Towards the end of the month, we went to a Thanksgiving Party at the “Fab Pad” in Nashville. I again was able to impress her with my creativity – I dressed as an ear of corn instead of a pilgrim or Indian, like everyone else. Through all of this, however, I got to see her for who she really was – a woman of God with a sweet and gentle spirit, something I had been praying for in a wife.

One of the most difficult things throughout the whole process was the waiting game. Typically, I don’t have much patience – I like to get things over with and move on to the next one. But I knew the time wasn’t right, so I continued to pray for wisdom. This is when Proverbs 19:11 jumped out at me – “a man’s wisdom gives him patience”. Thankfully, God knows exactly what we need when we need it.

Finally, in January, I felt like I had come to a point to where I could pursue Gretchen. The only problem was, I didn’t know how. Talking to her probably wasn’t going to do the trick – I’m not exactly what some people would describe as “eloquent”. But I knew I needed to get her attention. So I began praying James 3:17 – “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” I knew that however it happened, it would have to be in a way that showed I respected her, wanted to honor her, and show her that I cared deeply about her. Not long after, the Lord planted the idea in my heart to scrape off her car windows. In all honesty, I didn’t know this would have the effect it did. I just wanted to serve her and show her that I cared for her. Day after day, I would drive by her apartment on my way out and make sure there wasn’t a bit of ice left on her car windows. After finally figuring out that it was me, she started to send me thank you notes and texts that told me how no one had ever cared for her like that. This is when I realized that, like when I brought her soup, she was a woman that would encourage and support me in the way only a wife could.

On the glorious day of February 4, we had our second set-up double date with Clint and Stephanie (again, wonderful people here). Of course, we carpooled. After dinner, on the way to a friend’s house, we had “the talk”. She prompted it by asking why I had been cleaning off her windows. From this point, I knew there was no way to answer without telling her everything I had been feeling.

From that day on, it has been nothing short of a whirlwind. We had both agreed that if we were to start dating, we would do so in light of marriage in our future. Not that we were committing to it by starting to date, but only to express that we were serious about it and weren’t in it to play games. It’s truly incredible to see the way that God worked in both of our hearts over the course of time. Even though it may not have been the timing we planned or intended, God was sovereign over all. Now as we see a definite date of marriage in our future, we can constantly fall back on that sovereignty because of everything He has done for us.

I’ve had more fun than I could ever imagine coming up with surprises, dates, and ideas to show Gretchen all the ways I love her. She loves surprises and my stupid jokes. She is always encouraging, even when I’m not really in the mood to receive it. She is patient and caring, tender and strong. I cannot wait to learn more about her, experience life with her, and grow more deeply in love with her. So for the rest of my life, for better or for worse, I’ll be celebrating this story that we so graciously get to be a part of.

Above photo taken by Nancy Ray Photography