Now that you all know a little bit about who we are....I wanted to give you all some insight about how we met. Just a disclaimer, I LOVE telling stories about how we met so this may get a little lengthy :)
This story begins in 1997. Neal and I were both in the third grade. We went to two separate elementary schools. We lived in the same county but lived at two separate ends of the county. So...how did we meet? My parents were looking for a new church. My older sister, Kati, and I were friends with two sisters who went to a church...Neal's church. They invited us to church and Kati and I went with them several times. Finally, my parents saw how much we loved this church and thought that this might be "our" church. So...at the end of my third grade year my parents started attending this church also. We fell in love with the people at this church. There was a group of kids, five to ten of us on any given Sunday, who were all the same age and we clung together very tightly. Of course, Neal and I were both kids in this group :)
Neal's family was VERY involved in this church. His grandparents had attended this church for the majority of their married life. His Mom had played the piano at the church since she was 17, led the youth choir, led the children's ministry, helped with the youth, and about a million other things that would take up this entire blog (she's THAT awesome!). His Dad sang in the choir and taught Sunday School. His Uncle was the youth pastor. And the rest of his family all attended the church and was active in a variety of ways.
My family started to become very involved also. My sister was in the youth group at this point. My Dad helped teach an adult Sunday School class and ran the van ministry. And my Mom taught the two-year old Sunday School class. This began to feel like home to us.
As Neal and I continued to grow up in the church we also grew closer. Neal grew to have a little crush on me and would ask me out every so often. I always said no. Poor guy. Haha. The youth group at our church began when a person entered seventh grade, so after knowing each other a few years we'd grown pretty close and we entered the youth group eagerly together. Our youth group was VERY active; we had activities at least four out of seven days of the week and Neal and I both attended almost all of them. This led to us spending A LOT of time together.
Neal continued to ask me to be his girlfriend. I kept saying no. Well, with the exception of one time. We were in eighth grade. I finally agreed to "go out" with him. I was his girlfriend. Now, keep in mind, we didn't live near other, we didn't go to school together, the ONLY time we saw each other was at church. I don't even recall talking to him on the phone. So...this lasted for about two months and then I decided I wasn't really feeling it. So, poor guy, I broke up with him.
Side note! When Neal and I dated in the eighth grade he gave me this card for Valentine's Day. It was one of those homemade on the computer cards. On the outside it said, "Some people prefer roses...." On the inside it said, "I prefer tu-lips." Hahaha. So cute, right? He didn't get a kiss. Despite his desperate attempt. I was a cruel girlfriend, huh? :)
Anyways, so we entered high school. This is where things really changed. Neal, being a teenage boy, was VERY interested in girls. I, on the other hand, could have cared less if I had a boyfriend, and quite honestly, I didn't want one. It just seemed like too much drama and stress. No, thanks! In high school Neal was what I referred to as a "serial dater." He went from one girlfriend to another. But, really, he just dated the same girls over and over.
This is where things get kind of complicated. Though I turned Neal down over and over, it wasn't because I didn't "like" him. I did. I thought he was cute and he was funny and we always had SUCH a good time together. But I just wasn't ready for a boyfriend. I wanted to be ready and I wanted it to be right. Also, my best friend moved here our ninth grade year and pretty much immediately fell in love with Neal. Now, what kind of friend would I be if I just stepped in and dated him. Not a good one, that's for sure. So, I didn't. Well, we were now in tenth grade. My best friend, Rachel, now had a boyfriend. I thought maybe this was my chance. Neal was single. I was single. One night we went on a double date with my best friend and her boyfriend. Guess what happened that night? My first kiss! Yes, people, Neal was my first kiss and he will be my last kiss too :) So stinkin sweet, right? I love it. Well..we hung out for a while and were "talking" but after all was said and done we just agreed that the timing wasn't right.
As high school continued Neal and I grew closer and closer. When he had a girlfriend I didn't see much of him but as soon as he was single again we were the best of friends. Well, let me rephrase that. We were never NOT best friends. We just didn't talk everyday like we did when Neal was single.
We were heading toward college now. My parents had agreed to pay for all of my tuition and fees, anything beyond that (books, meal plan, dorm) was on me. I didn't want to graduate from college with thousands upon thousands of dollars in student loan debt so I decided to live at home, work part time, and attend a local university, Christopher Newport University. Neal decided to attend Old Dominion University, about 40 minutes from my parents' house. The funny thing about this is that we both only applied to one college. There was no possibility of either of us to go away to school. We both stayed local. Usually, when people go off to college they lose touch with most of their friends from high school. Neal and I were an exception to this. We talked probably four or five days out of the week. We talked on the phone, we i.m.'d, we Facebook-ed each other. We just really enjoyed each other's company.
Well, during college Neal was actually single. What?! For those of you who know him you know that this is a shocker. Haha. This was the best thing he could do for himself, to stop dating. I was thrilled that he was single. We began to hang out with each other, one-on-one. This never used to happen, well, rarely. We usually hung out with a group of people.
So..how did we start dating, you ask?
It was the summer between our sophomore and junior years in college. One of my good friends was leaving for a mission trip to Brazil. I went with his family to take him to the airport....in Norfolk...where Neal goes to school and was living that summer. Well, lo and behold. We got lost. So, who do I call? NEAL! He just happened to be within like 2 blocks of where we were. He told us to meet him at this Church's Chicken and we could follow him home. So, I jumped out of the van I was in and jumped into Neal's truck with him. We were stuck in traffic for almost 2 hours. We talked the WHOLE time. He was on his way back to Gloucester. For what? To go on a date. Ha. So, he dropped me off at my house and told me he'd call me after his date. I SERIOUSLY doubted he would actually do this. Another one of my friends had come over to hang out with me. Then, much to my surprise, Neal called me at like 11 o'clock at night and told me his date went terribly and wanted to know if he could come over and talk. I said yes.
Neal came over, my friend left, and we just sat up for HOURS talking and watching movies. After a while, Neal leaned in and kissed me. WHAT?! I hadn't kissed him since the tenth grade. I knew something bigger was happening here. It freaked me out. Scared me. But excited me to no end. A few weeks of this went by. We continued to hang out and talk and he took me on a few more dates. One night I drove all the way to Virginia Beach, after work, just to meet him for dinner. I was crazy. Haha. Now, usually it's the girl who asks this question, but I will never forget, one night after hanging out Neal drove me home. We were in the driveway and he said, "So, Annie, what are we? Are we dating? Are you my girlfriend?" I said, "Um, yeah, I think so." And so Neal+Annie began!! Hahaha.
Thanks for reading all of this...assuming you actually made it to this point :) Next, I will share with you all how we dated and ended up engaged. I also LOVE this story so it'll probably be another long one. You have been warned :)
Thanks for sharing in all the days of our life!