For those who don't know us, here is a quick rundown of who we were and what we did before we met....
Peter...was born in Michigan, the second son of parents who changed careers when Peter was 4 and moved their family to Bolivia and Peru when he was 8. He grew up as an "MK" (missionary kid) and developed some great friendships and memories during his eight years in South America. When he was 16, his family returned to the States and he completed high school in East Tennessee before attending Word of Life Bible Institute in upstate NY. After a year at WOL, he transferred to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago before moving back to East Tennessee to complete his college degree at MBI's aviation branch in Elizabethton (Moody Aviation). He was 21 when he moved to TN.
Carrie...was born in Tennessee, fifth and last child to Oklahoma transplants who moved to the mountains of East Tennessee in 1975. She was homeschooled K-12 and had a unique childhood as a "late arrival surprise" - which meant that she was like an only child with a large family! When she was 5 years old and starting kindergarten, her closest sibling was 18 and starting college. She grew up with parents who opened their home frequently to missionaries, and she was continually exposed to missions work around the world. As a child, Carrie did a lot of traveling with her parents and at 12 she joined them on a trip to visit Israel. She was 14 when Peter moved to East Tennessee.
Which brings us up to the point when we met...
I think I have to blame this whole thing on my parents. ;-) My folks were in the habit of "adopting" starving college students and their friends and taking them out (or inviting them to our house) to eat. When Peter's older brother asked if he could bring Peter, freshly arrived from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, to lunch one Sunday, my folks readily agreed. We met Peter at church...a firm handshake over the back of a chair.
My first impression of Peter? He had great hair and an infectious smile.
Peter's first impression of me? More than likely a stuck-up rich girl. Dad was a medical doctor, we lived in a large log home, and I didn't say much when we met.
This picture was taken the first time Peter (with his brother and another friend from Peru) came to our house for lunch. Never thought he would stick around and become part of the family! :-)I turned 15 a few days after we met AND got my braces off. What I remember most is that at the next Sunday lunch, Peter was the only person to notice the loss of brace-face. It made a big impression on me that he would be so perceptive after meeting me only one or two other times. Nice guy I thought. Only much later did I learn that my mom actually said something to him which is why he said something to me. Oh yes, even in the early days my mother was plotting to get him as a son-in-law! :-)
Not too much happened that first year. Peter worked in the spring of 1997 to earn money for college before beginning his final "round" of schooling at Moody Aviation in May. I finished up my freshman year of high school and then volunteered for my third and final summer of camp cooking at a local Christian camp (Doe River Gorge).
This was the first birthday Peter celebrated with us (#22) in May 1997
That fall I started 10th grade while Peter went into his third year of college. We begin to spend more time together in group settings (mostly on Sunday afternoons at my parents house when a whole group of Moody students would gather to eat and relax and study). To our surprise, we discovered that despite our 6.5 year age gap and very different upbringings, we had a lot of mutual interests and a very similar sense of humor. We quickly became good friends and really enjoyed spending time together (with others around). There was truly no interest due to the age difference, but this made it very safe to be friends with no expectations of anything deeper developing. And I will add that this is something for which I am forever thankful! It made it so easy and relaxed to really get to know each other - no pretense, no nervousness, no falseness, and no surprises when we finally did get into a relationship! Besides...if you would have asked him, he would have said that a 22 year old guy going after a 15 year old girl only happens on daytime talk shows! ;-)
So...this is longer than I thought it would be, but I wanted to get through the meeting and the first year. I'll end by explaning the picture you see above. It was Christmas Eve of 1997. I was downstairs with my pajama clad sisters watching some Christmas movie (probably "Little Women" AGAIN!) when the doorbell rang. A few minutes later my mom calls down the stairs that there is someone to see me. I'm in a flannel nightgown and socks, so my sister gave me some sweatpants and a sweatshirt to throw on and I run up the stairs (no idea who it is). There stands Peter with a box wrapped in Christmas paper. I was surprised, but was no longer worried about what I looked like. He handed me the box and told me I had to promise not to open it until Christmas day. Well, that was hard for me because once I get a gift I want to open it right away, but I promised him. He said "Merry Christmas" and left. I put the package under the tree, ignored my mother's Cheshire-cat grin, and returned to my movie watching (and prying sisters!).
The next day, Christmas, I opened my other gifts and then opened Peter's box last. Inside was a lighthouse (I'm holding it in the picture) and when I plugged it in, the light blinked. His initials were on the bottom of the lighthouse which made me think he had done quite a bit of work to it. My family got pretty quiet and my oldest sister finally said, "He must like you a lot to make that." I turned red and laughed...we were just friends! He made this for a friend...and he paid attention to the fact that I loved lighthouses (which reminds me of another part of this story that I'll tell you next time!). I called to thank him and he told me he had painted it and wired it and just thought I would like it. A few days later he and some other guys came over for a meal and my mom took a picture of the two of us. I was 16, he was 22, and that Christmas was the beginning of a lot of changes, tears, excitement, stress, anger, and a whole lot of fun! :-)
I hope you're not asleep yet, and if you're not bored out of your mind, stay tuned for the next installment sometime in the next few weeks! :-)