Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Once Upon a Courtship (part 3)


It had been a long and life-changing six months in Bolivia, overflowing with both trials and blessings. On January 3rd, however, I was at last on a plane bound for Texas! I couldn't wait to see my parents again, to breath the air of America, to revel in the beauty of our lovely house, to eat favorite foods, and to play our piano to my heart's content! Soul-weary and in need of refreshing, I was excited beyond words to return home. Truly, there is no place like it!

My first day back was just like I had dreamed it would be every day while so far away in South America. Mom and Dad met me at the airport where there was much hugging, picture snapping, tear wiping, and the usual non-stop chatter that accompanies such a joyful reunion! Then, while Dad returned to work, Mom and I spent the day at home catching up on all the news as well as much needed rest in the form of afternoon naps for both of us.

After dinner that evening, Dad announced that he and Mom had something to give me and asked me to join them in the living room. "Does this gift have to do with Christmas?" I asked, since the holidays had so recently come and gone. "No," my dad replied. "This has nothing to do with Christmas. It's something that's been in the works now for about two and a half months."

My curiosity was immediately piqued by this description of the gift. What could he mean by two and a half months? I didn't have to wonder long because Mom soon came in carrying a giant scrapbook. On the cover were pictures of flowers and on each page inside she had glued special memorabilia of milestones from my life and people I had touched. Suddenly, I understood my dad's description! For the past couple of months, Mom had been cleaning out closets and de-cluttering the house in preparation for home renovations like new carpeting and a fresh coat of paint on the walls. In the cleaning-out process, she had come across all this memorabilia and wanted to preserve it for me in a meaningful way.

I was quite touched by her sweet efforts and enjoyed paging through the book, oohing and ahhing over each item she had thought to include. She followed the flower theme all the way through, decorating each page accordingly, based on a special conversation we had had while I was in Bolivia. When I reached the last page, there was a letter with my name on it tucked inside a pocket of paper. Naturally, I assumed the letter was from my parents, although I did find it strange that it said Miss Katrina Rebsch in computer calligraphy since my parents never use my last name when addressing a letter to me. I also thought it strange the way they were smiling at me. I couldn't exactly put my finger on the reason why, but their smiles prompted me to think that something mysterious was going on...

I slit the envelope open and immediately noticed that the letter was not from my parents. The handwriting was completely unfamiliar. It began with these words:

"Dear Katrina,
You do not know me, but I hope you won't let that stop you from reading further."

Well, I did stop momentarily, but only because I was so utterly stunned! In a flash of understanding, I realized that the letter I held in my hand was from a young man. A quick glance down the page revealed his name: Nathan Britton. My dad's comment about this gift being two and a half months in process, my parents' smiles...it was all starting to make sense. A handwritten letter from a young man like this presented in such a way by my parents could only mean one thing in my household.

I gulped and kept reading.

Dear Katrina,

You do not know me, but I hope you won't let that stop you from reading further. You never know what you might find with the next stroke of the pen (and I actually am using a pen!).

Let me introduce myself. My name is Nathan Britton. I am just a regular guy with a spectacular God. For as long as I've known them, my parents have been involved with ministry in Michigan where they raised me, my four brothers, and three sisters. I moved to Texas in August of 2009 to work toward a Master in Theology degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. Yes, they have a Houston extension site. Oh, and I am single. :-)

Currently, I continue the studies while working full time at First Baptist Church of Katy as assistant to the pastor. My desire is to serve the Lord with every aspect of life; to be wasted for the purpose of His glory. I have a call to ministry, specifically as a pastor, and one day would like to train pastors in places where they do not have easy access to such training.

Enough about me, I want to hear about you! Unfortunately, the paper isn't talking back to me. I suppose, though, you're wondering why I'm writing you; perhaps you're even asking why I even know who you are? Well, that's simple. You're famous! And besides that, I go to church with the Hebert family who decided that I should meet you and, thus, put me in touch with your dad.

Since then, I have been so encouraged by all of the things that I have learned about you (fyi: your blog is quite good!). Your heart for missions is truly inspiring, and your desire to live a life of ministry is very rare these days. The display of Christ in you is very evident, and the character of God beautifully shines forth in your life. Though I have never met you, it seems as if I know you, at least a little, and have been praying for you often.

Let me be blunt. I would love to meet you, Katrina! I have nothing further to ask in this letter, but that you would prayerfully consider allowing me to be another flower in your life whatever that may look like (in the end, it is in the hands of our God).

Katrina, welcome home! I pray that the Lord will richly bless you with an ever-growing understanding of Christ Himself, and that He will keep you safe as He leads you forward.

I hope to meet you in person soon! (From all I've learned, I know you'll be way more interesting to talk to than this piece of paper.) :-)

Sincerely and in His Grace,
Nathan Britton

P.S. You can thank your sister for the gerber daisies

At that point, my mom hopped off the couch where she had been sitting beside me and hurried out to the garage. Within seconds, she came in carrying a vase that contained four, beautiful pink gerber daisies; a gift from Nathan to accompany the letter. (The post script indicated he had been in touch with my sister in regards to my favorite flowers - and delivered accordingly!)

To describe to you how I felt in that moment and all the thoughts that were racing through my head as I scrambled to process what was happening...well, I'm just not sure there are words to do it justice. A young man like this was interested in me? And he had already been in touch with my dad? And he had taken the time to write me a six-page, handwritten letter of introduction on parchment paper and buy me flowers?


I was having a hard time taking it all in. Excited, shocked, blessed, curious, speechless; those might be a few words to describe the experience. It's a good thing I like surprises, because this was the biggest one of my life!

As soon as I found my voice again, I plied my parents with questions! And they, still grinning from ear to ear like Cheshire cats, were most happy to oblige!

It had all started three months previously around the dinner table at the home of mutual friends, the Hebert family. They had invited over two brothers from their church to share a meal and fellowship. During the conversation that night, the younger of the brothers, Nathan, was questioned about his relationship status. When he replied that he was "sadly single," they asked why he didn't have a girlfriend. He said that he had not found the right girl yet; someone who shared his love for the Lord, his desire for a life of full-time ministry, and his conservative beliefs/values. Upon hearing this, the Heberts immediately thought of me and said to Nathan, "You need to meet Katrina!" He mentioned that he was all in favor of meeting people! "The only problem is, she's doing mission work in Bolivia right now. But we'd be happy to put you in touch with her dad!" Nathan agreed that contacting a girl's father first was a good way to do things, and was more than willing to take that step.

At that, Mr. Hebert, who is not only a cunning matchmaker (as we have now learned), but also my dad's boss, wasted no time in dashing off an email to him - right then and there!

"How old is Katrina and when is she coming home? We found her a husband.
Stats: 25 years old, 6' 1", one of 8 home schooled kids. BA in Political Science from Hillsdale, currently doing a ThM at Dallas Seminary. Looking for a conservative woman, open to Christian work, home schooling, large family, theologically conservative."

(*Note - when I read this email much later in the story, I couldn't help but laugh! If that doesn't sound like an ad for a mail-order bride, I don't know what does! Let me assure you it was more a reflection of Mr. Hebert's humor than Nathan's chivalrous way of stating things!)

My dad immediately emailed back a favorable response with a request for more information. And so it was, that the young, handsome, and sadly single Nathan Britton left that night with the blog address of a girl in South America, the contact information for her father, and a glimmer of hope in his heart.

It wasn't long before he contacted my dad and they arranged to meet for breakfast. Dad was quite impressed with Nathan that first conversation; he seemed to be a young man of character with a good head on his shoulders and a striking amount of commonalities with the daughter down in Bolivia. However, before proceeding forward, my dad asked Nathan to seriously pray over the next two weeks and seek God's will about the possibility of pursuing something further with me. He also encouraged Nathan to read my blog and begin getting to know me as much as possible through that means.

I had signed an agreement as part of my volunteer covenant with Casa de Amor that I would not engage in any romantic relationships during the six months term of service to which I was committed. My dad informed Nathan of this fact and explained that he would therefore have to hold off from having any form of contact with me personally until I returned home, but that he was more than welcome to interact with my family in the meanwhile.

Nathan did as my dad asked. After two weeks of earnest prayer and many, many late nights spent reading every word of my blog, he was more than ready to move forward by getting to know my family. My dad made arrangements for him to come over for a meal so he could meet my mom and my sister, who, it turned out, had surprised everyone by flying into town for November birthdays and Thanksgiving. A good friend of mine was also present for that lunch. They all enjoyed meeting Nathan, and bombarded him with dozens of questions during lunch (naturally!). They liked what they learned and he, in turn, enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with my family.

Somewhere in this process, my dad had another private conversation with Nathan during which time he asked him all the tough questions he asks any potential suitor. It's part of his screening process and gives him a good indication of where a young man stands morally and if he has the ability to support a family or not. Nathan passed this part of the "Dad interview" with flying colors!

The next challenge my dad issued forth was for Nathan to make phone calls to various close friends of our family to ask questions about me and continue getting to know me indirectly until the time would come when we could meet in person. Never one to back down from a challenge, Nathan did as my dad suggested. Perhaps a peek into their email exchange at this point will give you a glimpse of what was transpiring, while I was busy caring for children in Cochabamba!

Nathan,


Sounds like you have been on the phone. Pastor Taylor and Jim Loo mentioned your calls when I saw them at church. Not sure who, if anyone else, you have talked to but I hope you are discovering new things about Katrina. Doesn't hurt for others close to our family to get to know you also. My wife and I continue to pray for God's direction in your life.
Mr. Rebsch

~~~

Mr Rebsch! Yes, I have been learning all kinds of wonderful new things about Katrina. Everyone that I've spoke to thus far has given a glowing report of Katrina and your family. I spoke with Cindy Powell, Pastor Taylor, and Jim Loo. I left a message with the Riddell family, asking for Tara's number, but I have not heard back from them yet.

I've had some wonderful conversations. I really appreciated Mr. Loo and his thoughts and insights. It is nice to see that you have such committed and God honoring friends!

I continue in prayer! I will not move without the Lord going before me, and, of course, your permission. With that said, I certainly believe that getting to know your family and close friends is healthy and the right thing for me to do right now, and so I will continue under your guidance. Thank you so much for the prayers!

Nathan

It wasn't long before December had arrived and with it, Nathan's younger sister, Elizabeth, in town for a Christmas visit. My parents invited the three Brittons over for a meal, allowing them their first meeting some of Nathan's family. To say they had a wonderful time would be an understatement! A few days later, my parents were, in turn, invited to a Christmas celebration the Britton siblings hosted for a few close friends. At that party, they had the opportunity to see Nathan's fun-loving side on full display as he led games for the event. They were also quite captivated with the musical talent that was evident in his family as the evening included much singing and impressive piano playing ability demonstrated by Nathan's brother, Joel. My mom was especially excited to see this musical side shine forth as she has always prayed that God would bring me a musical husband!

All was going wonderfully well. Nathan's Godly character, solid faith, fun-loving personality, and likeminded views on life had convinced my parents, after several months of interaction and prayer, that he might very well be God's man for me. However, they knew nothing could be certain until we had had the chance to meet and spend time getting to know one another in person!

So then the fun began of figuring out the best way to introduce his existence to me upon my arrival home. After everyone (including my sister and her husband who had remained in contact with Nathan via email) went 'round and 'round with a host of ideas, the decision was made by joint brainstorming contributions that the old-fashioned, romantic side of Katrina would love to receive a handwritten letter. Nathan thought flowers would be a nice touch as well.

And so it was that I now found myself sitting on the living room couch, listening to this incredible story that had been unfolding for three months completely unbeknownst to me, and trying desperately to believe this was really happening!

Surreal doesn't even begin to describe it. I had never felt so honored as I felt that night. Honored, first of all, that a young man of this caliber was interested in me, without even having met me! Honored that he willingly approached my dad first, of his own initiative, in order to make his interests known. Honored (and blown away) by the fact that he was willing to call perfect strangers in order to ask questions and get to know me better. And honored by the chivalrous way he had gently introduced himself into my life. Did these kind of stories really still happen?
It was so much to absorb!

After much talk in our living room that night, including a phone call with my sister, my parents showed me pictures of Nathan, emails he had written them, and sermons of him preaching. The more I learned about this young man, the more impressed I was with him.


I went to bed that night, my thoughts spinning. I think the only reason I slept at all was due to sheer exhaustion from international travel...otherwise, I'm sure I would have laid awake all night! As it was, I spent a lot of time that evening and the next morning processing this incredible turn of events and the fact that a guy like Nathan Britton still existed in the world. Hope had been re-awakend in my heart, and I was completely in awe of God.

The next logical step was to meet this amazing young man who had waited so patiently for my homecoming and find out if he was the one for whom I had been waiting and praying all these years...

(To be continued...)

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I Love reading your story! We serve an amazing God and your story testifies of this. Looking forward to the rest of it...
May God bless you both as you serve Him!

Hannah Burnett said...

Oh my word - God is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.!!

This is unlike any love story I've ever heard before. ;) Wow, you just never know what God is up to! Lol :)

Awaiting your next post with MUCH anticipation...

Susannah! said...

Oh I hope you post Part 4 soon!!!

Myra said...

Well worth the wait--LOVE all the details so take your time with the continuations! So excited for you all . . .

Lindsay said...

Katrina, I am blown away. Wow. I don't think I've ever heard a love story as beautiful and divinely-orchestrated as this in my life. I'm looking forward to reading about your first meeting!

p.s. So happy to be connected on facebook as well. :o) I would have searched for you sooner if I knew you had an account.

Jennifer T. said...

Katrina - loving each installment of this BEAUTIFUL story! Just wanted to chime in at this point to say that I find it incredibly wonderful how your parents respected Casa de Amor's volunteer covenant even with something so exciting going on. Very sweet...and in the end made for such a special surprise, no?! :)

Anonymous said...

I love seeing how God is working in your life, and can't wait for the next part!

Bridges family said...

Katrina!

I just finished part 3 of your story (after previously reading parts 1 and 2, of course!)and am SO excited for you! We have been praying for God to bring a Godly man to you soon, and so this is such a beautiful answer to prayer! What a special and unique story you have unfolded for us so far! The Lord is the Giver of all good gifts, and we can see this so well in your story. Thank you so much for setting an example for us younger girls of loving the Lord with a passion, seeking to serve Him wholeheartedly, and being totally surrendered to waiting for His best in marriage - regardless of how difficult the decisions to stay committed to His Will might be.

We will be praying for you, Nathan, and your families as you progress in the relationship. We love you and your family so much!

~Christa

Clan of 7 said...

Katrina,
My heart was encouraged when I read you post back in June titled
"Discourse on the Word 'Calling'". I have, at times, asked myself the exact same questions that you were pondering in your article. It was nice to know that I was not the only one who had ever had such conflicting thoughts rolling around their head!

As I read your story now, my heart is again encouraged! I know if I keep Christ as the center and focus of my life, His will will be done in my life (and how beautiful and perfect His will is!). How sweet a story the Lord has written for you and Nathan!
Warmly,
Kelsey