Friday, February 13, 2009

Our Love Story

I thought this was as good a time as any to jot down how "Joel and Deena" came to be. I preface by stating that I am not out to make any more enemies, ( I think my old piano teacher is at the back door..) but our story has a rather strange beginning and I have to include the details....sorry to those who now are embarrassed of how they behaved. My sister Dawn and I used to say growing up, "I just love to love love, don't you?" to make ourselves laugh, and truthfully we do love love. I LOVE Valentine's Day. (sorry singles!) I LOVE heart shaped boxes of candy, flowers, red everything which is my favorite color....I love LOVE! I love the emphasis on couple's, dates, and telling your spouse that they mean the world to you.

I like being romantic even though I am a bit corny with it. In college (and here the stories begin..) traveling in a singing ensemble we had some time to kill and were at Wal-mart over Valentine's week. A friend and I were in the Valentine's isle for two reasons, 1) It seemed like a great place to hide while my two friends attempted to get the wad of gum that I had somehow gotten stuck in my hair out. and 2) We wanted to "OOO" and "AAAHH" over the heart-shaped boxes. I vaguely remember the guys trying to give suggestions on how to get the gum out......"Peanut butter," "No, use baby oil..." and then "Y-A-N-K!" My so called "friend" just yanked it out AND a clump of hair. And yes those who knew my group, I will let YOU try to guess whom left me a bald patch .... We finally made our way back to the van where our Chaperon was waiting taking a snooze, which he usually did while we went shopping. :-) As we filled in the van he asked us how it went. I tried to be funny (mistake number one) and also tried to wax eloquent with a phrase I had heard somewhere else. (mistake number two. ) I told him we were "Mooning in the candy isle over the heart-shaped boxes of candy." I have never seen him sit up so fast and spin around to look me in the eye to make sure he heard me right. Unfortunately he did. And so did everyone else in the van. Never did understand that "swooning" and surely never got the "pinching and mooning." Seems to me like you should switch the order...."mooning and then pinching?" Listen I am no Anne of Green Gables and I learned that right.there.

So fast forward a few days and my sweet thoughtful Chaperon decides that he would make a plea for me, during chapel, to get my very own first heart-shaped box of candy. I still could crawl off the blue chair and slink away thinking of it...... Well funny as it is, it worked! I had a box on my desk from a kind gentleman just in time for Valentines. Mint meltaways...... what a memory. So see I am enthralled with Valentines and decided to spend this one remembering how Joel and I became life-long partners in this wonderful adventure on Haywood.

My friend Heather and I were serving for yet another banquet and after cleaning and setting up we headed out of the kitchen greasy, smelly, and hair everywhere. We ran out knowing we only had a little over an hour to shower, bum a dress off of Marcy and make our hair look somewhat 80's. Then we saw him. Standing by the trophy case with his suit and overcoat, holding his Bible with a beautiful corsage in a clear case on top of it. We just melted. "Who is that?" I asked like some red-neck with front teeth protruding.... "That's Joel Royalty, " Heather replied. "Wow," replied both of us.

I knew of Joel, and knew he was a Pastor's son and smart and a real gentleman. He dated some friends of mine and one of them had a roommate whom I was close with and when she was gone, we would read all the cards he gave her!! Yes it still is funny! I remember when I tried out for ensemble Joel kept asking me if I made it. Everyday he met me at chapel asking me if I knew if I made the group. At the time I thought for sure I hadn't. I was failing Math at the time, and at the time it seemed as if Mrs. Wright's Math class was the center of the Universe to me. I did make it and Joel and I became good friends. I didn't realize that he grew up only an hour from me and knew the Barth's, who I had gotten to know very closely only the year or two before college. We talked and talked and each had gotten out of a serious relationship in the not too distant past so we were just good friends. And then it happened. One ensemble trip the "girls" cornered me in a hotel room just before we were to meet the rest of the crew for dinner. One of them made me "promise" I would "never like Joel." At the time I didn't "like" him and wondered why she was so strong about it. She went on to tell me all of the things she found frustrating in him, (wasn't she a piece?) I guess in hopes I would not even speak to him anymore! Long story short, he had hurt a friend of theirs and they were like bees swarming to get some much sought after vengeance.

As the weeks and months passed I DID like Joel. And that just infuriated not only the girls, but some of the guys and even some of the Chaperons. In the year we travelled, they did all they could to make our lives miserable. One time we were playing ping pong and the girls got the guys to agree to empty the room so that we were in their alone and they could get us in trouble. (sad, seriously sad but that is the tip of the ice berg) Joel was in charge of giving the Pastor's a gift from the College on one particular trip and to spite him one of the guys placed the gift behind the back tire of the van, so that when Joel moved the van it would be crushed......and it was. One Chaperon thought he was particularly cute and when a sweet church found out it was my birthday and got me a cake, this Chaperon decided to make everyone sing to me calling me Joel's old girlfriend's name instead of my own. The Pastor eventually stopped him because HE felt bad! On and on it went. We would write letters and put them in our pillow cases and switch them when we got to the place we were staying for the night. One Lady Chaperon just about caught on, but I think we fooled her. Shame that we had to actually. For some odd reason, no one wanted to cut us a brake and Joel was the picture of togetherness. I remember one morning he told me, "Deena, everything will come out in the wash." Meaning, these petty people will see that this is for real and realize that they are making memories that they will be ashamed of looking back. He always told me that "God vindicates people." And he was right. He and I wanted nothing more than to be "above board" and do things the right way. We had been in failed relationships that we had made work. We knew God was doing something, and we hung in there amidst cruel jokes and teasing from even respected adults I am ashamed to say. It got to where we had to ask the Chaperones to sit in the same seat and even though Joel asked, they declined.

I traveled a year with out Joel, he had graduated and begun working with his Dad here in Ohio. We wrote letters while we were away and read I Corinthians 13 every day we were apart. Did the cruelty stop??? Sorry to say it did not. Remember the "singing Chaperon?" Well he would hold my letters from Joel and when he finally did give them to me they were written on with red pen all over them. My name was crossed out and replaced with, you guessed it, the old girlfriends, along with sweet phrases like, "I don't love you." Grown men. Yes, there must have been some deep anger issues???? Of course when Joel and his parents met us for a meeting, everyone was "peaches and cream," smiling and being nothing but cordial. One of those meetings as I said "Goodbye," to Joel to not see him for many months, a Chaperon made fun of me waving to him as we drove down the interstate, telling me that I would "never see him again." I know you are probably wondering how these sweeties ever did get their sweeties? Well God is still in the miracle working business I guess!

We struggled the first few months and years of our courtship. I say "courtship" because in looking back at old scars we have, we no longer advocate the "date everyone you see and try them on to see who fits," philosophy. We were learning that we had to be "above reproach' with people and learn to wait on God to right our wrongs. It was not right what was done to us in that year, but it was not for us to fix. That is for God to take care of. And in case you are wondering He has in many ways. As a quick side note, when I was compiling that scrapbook for Mrs. Leslie, college memories came flooding back......especially hurtful ones, and I had to forgive those girls again that had hurt me more than anyone. I wrote to them telling them and one of them wrote me telling me that "they" were wrong, and that the thought of what they had done to us brought her to tears. That apology meant a lot and was a long time coming. Another one of the guys several years ago invited us to his house, and when we were there, apologized sincerely and still does not like to share ensemble stories because he is ashamed of how he acted. Both are good friends of ours.

When God vindicates you, it is sweeter than any revenge you can think to muster.

And this was our beginning. :-) fun, huh? Our environment did not particularly lend it self towards anything romantic, and we joke that you had to be a second-year student to figure out who was indeed married to whom. It was a "we are in this together to work hard as business partners" type of atmosphere. I don't even remember one couple in 4 years walking anywhere holding hands.

Joel and I corresponded during the longest year of our lives, but it grew us and stretched us and gave us a sweet companionship with one another and with the Lord first and foremost. I love going through those letters and knowing that God was beginning something so sweet that we would spend the next 10 years wanting that for everyone else. We were engaged on Christmas Eve and married June 18th, 1999. 10 years already this June.

And now back to the tall, light-haired gentleman waiting at the display case.... My last year at college, I was dreading the Christmas banquet. Joel was surely too busy to come up and I had opted to serve with an old friend. I had to work late in the library and slowly made my way to the servers meeting. My friend kept telling me that he would bring me dinner in the library since I had to close up and to make SURE to be back to meet him to serve in a certain place at a certain time. Ok, Ok, no problem. I went to the dorm, him-hawed around and s-l-o-w-l-y made my way to the other building. I got inside, began to walk to the kitchen when there.he.was. Yep. It was him. MY him. Waiting with his suit and overcoat and corsage resting on his Bible........and this time it was for me.

PS Joel's two cents--

I am truly thankful for the experience that God brought us through. God did use some difficult situations to grow us.

It was when we both decided that we would give up the "seek and find" and "try them all out" method, that God finally showed us the perfect choice for our lives. I am so thankful for the preservation that the Lord showed to Deena and I through the years. We could truly say that we were saved for each other. Unfortunately, we both carry emotional scars from all the times we gave parts of our heart away. The lack of knowledge in this matter has certainly been motivation for training our children in the right way. I am so thankful that we enjoy a full relationship. Full of joy, full of peace, full of trust, full of fun (hey, I'm married to Deena!!)
and full of love.

We are not perfect. (Ask our kids) But I know that they see a mom and a dad that LOVE each other.



  1. WOW!!! I had no idea you both went through that. The Lord certainly does move in mysterious ways, HIS wonders to perform. I love your testimony-God Bless you both! (I know He obviously already has!) -Susanna

  2. Sadly, none of this surprises me in the least even though I had no idea any of this went on. I'm so glad you both stuck with each other. You're a blessing a individuals, but together you're absolutely amazing!

    I, too, was unendingly appalled at the behavior of the majority of the married couple's at college. It is/was the antithesis of everything God meant marriage to be, and they were considered role models. Thank you for your candidness and transparency.

  3. I knew just an inkling of your story before this post, but was amazed to read about all the cruel things that you went through. I think it says something about your character that you didn't quit!!!! It was all worth it, though, look where you are today and all that God has given you. I had to think about your "second year student" comment for a minute and then I realized that it was true. I never thought of it in that way, but I hardly ever saw any couples "together". Even in church, most of the time, duties of one kind or another seperated them. I'm surprised that you posted some of the details because I'm sure that people from college are reading this, but maybe it will help change some of that behaviour.

    On another note, I remember you telling me that Joel said he thought the little birds that you drew on the envelopes were so cute, but they were actually little hearts! :D Just so you know, I started drawing hearts like that, too!

  4. You had quite a dramatic courtship. I'm shocked how cruel people were!

  5. I like your dress Deena! Praise the Lord for His goodness to you and Joel. Your story has the happiest ending and continuing sequel.

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE that dress!!! Do you still have the pattern Tam?? Anywhoo miss you....birthday comin!!!!

  7. Ok, where was I in all of this? I was in that ensemble that year, I think???? I vaguely remember the 2 of you getting together, and I believe one other couple. I hope I was not one of "those guys". I don't remeber Wal-Mart, the chapel portion of the story, the heart shaped box under the wheel. I do remember camping in TN in the pouring rain..... :)I remember when we had a youth meeting at Joel's church.


  8. Hmmm where to begin??? Yes you were in the mix, and if you do not remember much of what happened it's probably best that we do not remind you. :) And the chocolates were NOT under the van tire....that was the framed gift to the pastor. LOL Good to hear from you.