On July 4, 2002, I was married in the Rose Garden at Woodland Park by Pastor Terry Harper of Northridge Heights Church of God. Less than two years before, I had not known my bride or even that she existed. Yet, here I was making the most important decision of my life before God, friends and family.
As soon as I turned 18, I began to surf online personals. I'd always had the idea that I could meet someone (potentially a future wife) through correspondence. I'd had a penpal when I was eleven who lived in Louisiana and I'd tried various penfriend/personals projects. Generally, these penpal/personals relationships didn't work out too well as either I or the girl would cease writing due to forgetfulness and that would be that.
Through October, 2000, the longest any correspondence last was with a girl named Christy. We never were more than acquaintances. We exchanged twenty-seven letters over the course of a year and a half. She lived 90 miles away in the small town of Libby, where you must come down to Kalispell several times a year and she never made an attempt to visit me. Her most important contribution to my life was giving me a metaphorical "kick in the pants" by telling me that I needed to go to Church. It was going to the right Church that prepared me for my wife and for that I do owe her a debt of gratitude.
I wrote about seven letters to Amber Johnson when I was eleven and the rest are just a blur. No correspondence lasted more than three letters. There were two reasons I resorted to correspondence. One was that I was incredibly shy. As a youngster, I spent way too much time watching, "Saved by the Bell" (didn't we all?). I saw how the Zach Morris character on that show with ease asked complete
and total strangers out on dates because "they looked hot". That just wasn't me.
One thing I noticed about that show in its last season with the original cast (before it got new, less talented stars who recycled plots from prior seasons) was that Zach had so many girls it was unbelievable. One week, he'd be with a disabled girl, the next week it'd be a girl who wanted to wrestle, as well as having two long-term relationships. I didn't want to be constantly breaking up and then finding someone new. I wanted to find the woman for me and stick with her.
My idea was to get to know women as friends and then when I found one I liked to explore deeper and see what could be. I wanted to be careful not to throw myself fully into a relationship without thought. That's why neither Amber, nor Christy, nor any of the dozen girls I wrote to really caused me any heartache when we stopped writing. We were never anything more than penpals.
I intended to keep it at that level until my heart said otherwise. I also had a set of regulations that I would impose on myself and the woman in question.
After initial e-mail contact has begun:
1) No chatting for six months
2) No phoning for a year
3) No meeting in person for a year and a half
4) No getting engaged for two years
Little did I know, these rules were made to be broken.
Late on the evening of October 1, 2000, I was surfing my favorite "Free Stuff" website and found they'd included a new page with links to several free personals websites. It should be noted that while I longed for love and companionship, I wasn't about to pay money for my matchmaking.
Most of the sites included were of no interest to me. Some, unbeknownst to me were actually targeted mainly towards homosexuals. However, I did find one site that interested me. I won't mention their name because I don't want to advertise them. Their matchmaking system didn't work too well, as their top match for me based on my answers to their questions was a politically liberal agnostic Male-to-Female Transsexual.
However, their 11th match made more sense. "Shy Pentecostal Girl" was the title of the ad. She sounded very interesting and within my age searching range (18-25). I sent the girl a letter which included the type of information they mentioned in the ad. As I recall, my initial introduction went something like this, "My name is Adam. I live in Montana. I don't have any tattoos or body
For some bizarre reason, she wrote me back. Within a few days, her family was embroiled in legal problems that made her very nervous and unsure what to do. With my paralegal training, I was able to reassure her fears and explain what was going on.
Unlike prior penpals, Andrea (that was her name) wrote back to me. When I look back I see that even before we started chatting there was something different about this correspondence. In mid-November, Andrea broke Christy's record for most letters exchanged between a woman and I. It took Christy one and a half years to set the record and Andrea one and a half months to break it.
We talked about a lot of things, particularly religious matters, including my views on the Sabbath and how the resurrection timetable worked. She had a very
interesting personality that came across in her letters. After completing an Algebra test in twenty minutes, I ran to the Library in-between classes and proudly wrote, "I finished my Algebra exam in twenty minutes." She wrote back, "Did you turn it in blank?"
She urged me (i.e. badgered me) to join her online club. I finally gave in around Christmastime. The site her club was on had an on-site IM feature. I just happened to see her online and debated with myself for ten minutes whether I should say hi. (Did I mention that I can be incredibly shy?)
So I said hi and Merry Christmas. Andrea, however wanted to take the conversation a little further. She asked me to switch from the site's crummy Instant Messenger to AOL Instant Messenger and gave me her IM name. Part of me
was very afraid and wanted to pretend not to have AIM as I was really violating the rules.
We chatted for half an hour. I nervously tried to pull myself away as I had just violated "the first commandment." "Thou Shalt not Chat before you've known
her Six months."
She was very concerned about her sister and that was very attractive to me. She really loved her "sissy" and was worried about her. After this conversation, I managed to avoid IM contact for a while.
The next time I remember receiving anything in terms of an Instant Message, was from Andrea's sister. She was playing the role of matchmaker, trying to make sure that I wouldn't be mean to her sister. She was concerned because her sister was shy and Carrie offered to send me a picture of her despite Andrea's wishes to the contrary. I declined the offer. I believe at this point, Andrea woke up and became somewhat violent with her sister for doing this. I thought it was sweet, however that her little sister was taking this much concern for Andrea's well-being.
Andrea and I began chatting more and more as I found her irresistibly interesting. We thought a lot a like. In addition, she sent me her novel, "Heaven's Mark" in January. It was a beautiful piece of work. On several
occasions, I was up until two o'clock in the morning reading through and editing it.
In her novel, she showed an incredible depth of thought as well as a great love for the Lord. Through my conversations and her novel, I began to fall in love with her. At first, I told myself I really liked the novel. I was deceiving myself.
If I hadn't been so shy and she didn't live 2000 miles away, and wasn't dirt broke, I might have asked her out for Pizza or something in February. But I was shy, I lived far away, and more to the point, was incredibly conflicted.
We were so similar in so many ways. We were both writers, both sensitive, both with quirky senses of humor, both could be klutzes, both could be incredibly short and blunt, and both had a prophetic sense of truth. If she'd
been born a boy, her parents would have named her Adam Ellsworth. (Adam E. just like me.) It was truly odd.
Some of her behavior confused me and made me wonder what she really thought.
She would often start arguments over irrelevant issues such as whether to eat pork or not, when I've never held that eating pork is a sin. One day, I complemented her and the next, she started three arguments in a row over matters
I never really argued or imposed on her. Only later, did I realize that this behavior was a defense mechanism.
At another time, she asked me how the Winters were in Montana and I told her that they were unpredictable but were really no worse than Ohio's to which she replied, "Good, I don't want to move to somewhere that's colder." This made me hopeful and of course the next day she started an argument.
She began introducing me to her friends, the administrators of her club. She liked me and wanted me to meet her friends. My fearful side interpreted it as an
attempt to pawn me off on someone else. At times, I was scared to death that once I was finished editing her novel, she'd want nothing more to do with me.
I became so conflicted, it was tearing me up inside. I cried for an hour while my brother was on our computer. I didn't know what to do. I felt something for her, but never having felt this way before, I didn't know how to react or
handle it. It had become even worse since she had ceased seeking out arguments, and in mid-March, I found myself divided.
Twice before, when I was really upset, I resorted to poetry to express my feeling. Once, when the baseball strike hit in 1994 and again when some old guy was hogging the television in a hotel we were staying in. The former was a simple rhyme that ran two pages, the other was a takeoff on "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. ("When will you let me change the channel to the shows that I adore,
Quoth the geezer, "Nevermore"). I spoke vaguely to Andrea about some conflict in feelings and she advised me to write a poem.
This poem was an epic 19 pages in length. In it, I worked out my frustration and my feelings of inadequacy and fear. I let all the voices in my head speak, "Fear", "Faith", "Love", and "Wisdom" all poured their thoughts onto the open page and at around 11 o'clock, I finally came to peace. Delighted by the quality of my work, I went ahead and wrote another poem to Andrea, entitled, "The Traveling Companion".
Having written the poem, I couldn't really hide it from Andrea, but I didn't want to show it to her either. I compromised by telling her about it. She then asked to read it. I went ahead, sent it over, and awaited her judgment. Part of me was afraid that she'd be scared off and reject me because of my feelings. She didn't however, and in a few days, she admitted that she had feelings for me, too.
We had both been kidding ourselves for at least a month and probably two. Slowly but surely, we had begun to become important to each other. We were in that nebulous period of time, when we were what Josh Harris described as "more than friends and less than lovers".
We even developed pet nick names for each other. One night at 1 a.m. in the morning she saw me online and told me, "Go to bed, young man, it's late." One quickly sees some hypocrisy in that statement as she lived in the Eastern time zone where it's two hours later. I then said, "Hi, pot, this is Kettle." From that time on, we gave each other the nicknames, "Pot" and "Kettle."
Reach Out and Touch Someone
I finally called Andrea in late March of 2001, thus violating the second commandment, "Thou shalt not call her until thou hast known her one year" During the course of the next eight months, I ran up between $30 and $40 on my parents phone bill by calling Andrea. When Dialpad.com allowed me to make totally free calls online, I called her frequently. The connection was sometimes bad but we made it work. Dialpad.com had a three hour limit on calls at that time. One time, it disconnected us after three hours of conversation and then I called her back and talked with her for another two
hours and forty minutes.
I didn't want to tell her, "I love you" until I was sure that I wanted to marry her. I only wanted to tell one woman that. Still, it was tough and we managed to find every way to cheat and say it without saying it. A couple times, I muted the phone, so that I could say "I Love You." Once I didn't mute it properly and had to apologize for indirectly saying, "I love you." (I know, I was a nut.)
We had both been influenced by the writings of Josh Harris. On most major points, we agree with him.Pre-marital relationships with the opposite sex should be limited to those in which we're really prayerfully considering the possibility of marriage. Not "Saved by the Bell" romance. She read his book on courtship, "Boy Meets Girl". She became seriously alarmed at the depths our relationship was reaching, because we hadn't initiated an official courtship relationship and were technically still just friends. She didn't know what to do. Her conversation with my mom reassured her as my mom informed Andrea that books like Harris' are good but everyone's experience is a little different. Not everyone's life will match up to the advice in a book.
Andrea understood but we resolved that we should meet each other before my self-imposed one and a half year deadline. My mom, as she always is, was disgusted by the high amount of useless stuff we had lying around the house and offered me 100% of the profits if I had a garage sale to get rid of it. The offer had been on the table for several months. I took it off and ran with it. After one garage sale, however, I didn't have the money.
Andrea was heartbroken. I didn't know how I was going to get the money. But, as it happened, I got a tutoring job. A mother wanted me to tutor her dyslexic son, three days a week at the pay of $20 a day plus gas. Things were going well, and I was sure that I'd have the money in my bank account to accomplish my goals. I confidently found a ticket on Orbitz and bought it for $287! I thought that over the next few weeks, I'd get the money to pay for my motel and rental car.
Unfortunately, I received a call from the boy's father, a man who was involved in Hollywood who told me they'd decided, "to go in another direction." The way he said it made me expect that he'd offer me a role as an extra to make up for it.
The good news was that I wasn't totally out. My family has a limitless supply of junk. So I had more than enough for "Adam's Garage Sale II". In late July, I sold everything I could. Between the two sales, I made more than $300.00. In addition, while my dad was reluctant about my trip, when he found out that I was actually going, rather than allowing me to follow my plan (sleep in Andrea's family's garage), he decided to give me $400 in travelers checks, so I could get a Motel room, be able to eat, as well as being able to do some things with Andrea without the humiliation of someone else paying.