Our story begins with chance. I was asked to be a groomsman by my close college friend (and groomsman) Grant Williamson and I was honored to accept. Two days later I was asked to be a groomsman by my closest high school friend (and groomsman) Elliott Jetton and I was honored to accept. What I didn't realize is that these weddings were on the same day, at the same time, in different states. I was unaware of this when I had accepted each role and the challenge of having to choose one over the other was one of the more challenging decisions I have had to make in my life. Little did I know that the decision I made would change everything.
Emmie emphatically denies that this ever happened, but I vividly remember the first time we met. It was the night before Emily and Elliott's wedding and the bridal party had just finished our walk through at RT Lodge, the venue where Emily and Elliott were to wed. The bridal party was congregated, chatting and trying to stay warm. Directly in front of me was my future wife. End of story.
This was Emmie's actual response when I read what's above to her.
I'm back for more. Voluntarily, of course.
Alright, so I'm standing in front of this beautiful stranger and I was pretty sure that I had awkwardly walked directly behind this person on the way into RT Lodge that night. Being the suave dunce that I am, I decided to lead off with that. "Hi, are you the person that I walked in behind tonight?", I asked. At this point, Emmie (an Ohio native, mind you) could have snapped back with "How would I know that? Do I look like I have eyes on the back of my head". Instead, love was clearly in the air and Emmie politely said, "I do not know". I'm no expert, but I think at this point she had fallen in love with me.
We introduced ourselves to each other and might have chatted for 30 seconds before the bridal party was shuffled elsewhere. During our brief encounter I remember learning her name and that she was a veterinary student.
The next time I saw Emmie was the day of the wedding, really the night of the wedding. At one point we were all on the dance floor. I seem to remember myself putting on a clinic and teaching most people what real dancing looks like. At some point the music slowed down and I noticed Emmie leaving the dance floor and asked her to dance with me. I like to think that I gave her a choice and she accepted, but I might have insisted that she dance with me. We awkwardly enjoyed two slow dances. It was magical, you guys.
Here is one of 4,432 photos that my mom took the night of Emily and Elliott's wedding. Look close and you can see it is Emmie and I's first photo together.
Emmie and I didn't see each other on the dance floor again that night, but the bridal party ended up going to Cotton Eyed Joes. The night was hectic and filled with laughs as friends danced and rode mechanical bulls. At one point Emmie and I chatted for what I recall being a lengthy amount of time. Professional Bull Riding was playing on the TV in front of us and we both stared at it as we tried conversation. I got to learn a little bit about Emmie that night and I was over the moon about it. The night ended and we went our separate ways. I messaged Emmie on Facebook that night and told her that I thought she was a very interesting person and that I really enjoyed chatting with her. I was living in Boulder, Colorado at the time and was slated to leave 2 days later.
I returned to Knoxville on December 23rd for Christmas and was scheduled to fly out of Atlanta on January 3rd. I had plans to spend NYE with Grant Williamson, his wife Jessica and their friends downtown, but rain altered those plans. At this point I decided to attend a gathering that Jacob and Callie Duncan were hosting. I arrived at the Duncan's house and I caught a glimpse of Emmie as I walked in. Like an elementary school child with a crush, I spent a majority of the night keeping my distance.
At some point I mustered the courage to sit next to her and start conversation. Two hours passed as we sat there and had great conversation about life, our friends and travel. At some point I asked Emmie to get coffee with me the next morning and she accepted. That night ended with Emmie and I moving our conversation out to my car as everyone was leaving the Duncan's and it was raining outside. We talked for another 30 minutes and then ended up calling it a night.
I picked Emmie up the next morning at 9am and we went to Gourmet Market (check out our Things to Do map). It was at Gourmet Market sitting at a little table where I fell in love with Emmie. For two hours we sat there leaned in towards one another with our elbows on the table and our chins resting in our palms. We talked about everything under the sun and I continued to be amazed by Emmie's stories, struggles, victories and morals. I walked out of that date and called Taylor Diegel (my co-best man) and told him that I had just gone on the best date of my life and that I was going to marry Emmie.
I asked Emmie if we could do dinner the next night and she declined (she had another date). We ended up doing breakfast again, this time at Panera Bread in Cedar Bluff. I showed up, still on cloud nine, and was greeted with the following question, "What are your intentions?" "To marry you", I replied. Feeling that I most likely made Emmie super uncomfortable, I nervously smiled and laughed and begin to explain what I meant. I told Emmie that she was an incredible person and that I genuinely enjoyed being around her and that I wanted to continue to see her. The idea of starting a relationship with someone that lived in Colorado while she committed herself to her studies was not ideal and Emmie decided that it was not in our best interest to pursue a relationship. Long story short, she broke up with me on our second date. I remember feeling hurt, but I also remember this hurt feeling miniscule compared to the love that I was feeling.
Two days later I was in Atlanta headed to the airport and I saw that I had a text from Emmie. She wanted to talk and asked me to give her a call when I had a chance. I called her as soon as I got through security and our call lasted until the flight attendant made me hang up the phone so we could take off. Two things. One memorable and one important:
- I don't remember exactly how this played out, but at some point during our phone call I started (jokingly) singing a song to Emmie while sitting on the plane and she was begging me to stop. I said "I should probably stop, the guy next to me probably hates me." The guy next to me chimed in and said "I actually really like that song."
- During our lengthy phone call in the airport Emmie expressed that she was open to the idea of a relationship, but that she did not want that relationship to begin with long distance. She said that she wanted to pick me up the next time I flew into Knoxville and that she did not want me to call or text her until I had booked my ticket. This stipulation became known as "Emmie Rules".
The flight attendant won the battle and I hung up the phone. The lights of Atlanta began to fade into the night sky and I was beaming from ear to ear. I had discovered a loophole to "Emmie Rules". I turned on the light above my seat and reached for my notepad (a groomsman gift from Grant Williamson). I began writing a letter to Emmie. It wasn't a call and it wasn't a text message, but I knew it would show Emmie that I was thinking about her. Emmie had her rules and I had mine. My one rule was that she was not allowed to open the letter until she was with me next.
I want to say that 2 weeks went by and Emmie had received 10 letters from me. At the time, I was reading Love Does by Bob Goff and The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J.M. Nouwen. I had a routine where I would read from each book and then write a short letter to Emmie. One of my favorite things to do was head up to Estes Park, CO and read/write from a coffee shop surrounded by the Rockies.
One memorable letter involved Taylor Diegel and was shamelessly copied from Love Does. There is a chapter in which the author, Bob Goff, talks about his pursuit of a love interest (now his wife, Maria) and her lack of interest in his courtship. He details how he would make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day and leave it on her car. I had to give it a shot. I called Taylor and explained the plan to him. I mailed him a letter to pack with Emmie's sandwich and he delivered it one night under the cover of darkness. Emmie woke up the next morning to a homemade PB&J and a note under her windshield wiper. This very same letter introduced Emmie to a website that I was building as a fun side project. HiEmmie.com
I'm not sure exactly when this happened, but I remember one Sunday I was leaving a church in Denver and had a 45-minute drive back to Boulder. I boldly broke "Emmie Rules" and decided to give her a call. Three hours later, I'm laying on my back looking up at the ceiling and still talking to Emmie. During that phone call Emmie booked a flight to come to see me for a week in March. I remember being blown away by the boldness of that decision.
Around that same time I scheduled a meeting in Chattanooga for February 3rd and booked my flights to Tennessee. At this point we began talking on the phone daily for hours at a time. We learned so much about each other and it was such a sweet and unique time in my life. Falling in love with someone that you have only seen a handful of times while being a thousand miles apart is not typical, but we embraced it and loved it.
Letters were still going out to Emmie and the last letter I sent before leaving for Chattanooga ended with me asking Emmie to be my girlfriend. I arrived in Chattanooga and Emmie had planned to drive down and pick me up the next morning. Just before she picked me up I went to the nearest liquor store and bought a miniature bottle of champagne. Emmie arrived, we awkwardly hugged and we got into her car. About 30 minutes into the drive, she asked if she could read the letters. She pulled out a bag of folded up letters and began reading them one by one. We were approaching a visitor center just as she was opening the final letter, so I pulled in for the big moment. She finished the letter and I asked her to be my girlfriend. She said "yes" and I reached under my seat and grabbed the bottle of champagne. It was February 4th, 2017 and we were in the middle of nowhere drinking champagne on the side of the interstate as boyfriend and girlfriend. I remember Emmie asking "what are we doing?" and stating "we are crazy".
Our story is one of chance. It is by chance that we met and by chance that we met again. Our story is one of "what are we doing" and "we are crazy". Every new adventure we go on, every new pet that we get and every obstacle that we face is a reminder of this. Our story is one of pursuit and humility. We continue to grow closer and we painfully challenge ourselves and each other to put Christ at the center of our lives. Emmie is nothing short of an angel for putting up with my persistence, stubbornness and impatience. She makes me want to be a better person and simply being around Emmie makes me a better person. I am undeserving, blessed beyond belief (sometimes I actually can't believe it) and incredibly excited to share the rest of this life with Emmie.