I met JoAnn Durgin at the 2011 ACFW Writers’ Conference in St. Louis and adored her warm, enthusiastic spirit! JoAnn is the author of “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe” available here.
I met my husband, Jim, on a blind date back in the mid-1980s in Dallas, Texas. Then a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, he’d sworn off blind dates when he’d been set up with a runner-up to Miss Texas (gorgeous, tall, blonde…you get the picture) a couple of weeks before. Mutual friends had invited them both to dinner in their home after which Miss Runner-Up pushed away from the table, thanked them politely and bounced off, saying she had another date. I was dating someone else at the time (an urban cowboy whom I suspected—rightly so—of two-stepping out on me). So, I wasn’t particularly in the mood to date (and specifically told my friends not to fix me up) when we all decided to go to dinner. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that my friend Susan’s boyfriend (now husband), Marshall, went to seminary with Jim. In a sweet revelation, we found out later that both our friends prayed independently for someone to introduce each of us to, and lo and behold, came up with…well, you can guess the rest. We’ve been married 25 years this past September (on Jim’s birthday, no less—you marry a man on his birthday and he won’t forget his anniversary).
Let me backtrack just a moment. How I even met Susan was one of those “God” things. I worked for a large, downtown Dallas law firm. Mind you, this was back in the stone ages before fax machines were in common use (and I don’t believe e-mail was yet a figment in anyone’s imagination), and we used a courier service to ferry things across town. When I’d call Wingtip Couriers, I always adored the lilting voice on the other end of the phone. “This is Susan at Wingtip Couriers. How can I help you?” I’d joined a Bible study group with a friend from my apartment complex. One Saturday morning, I was having breakfast with this friend and a pretty blonde came over to our table and we were introduced. As soon as I heard her lovely voice, I said, “You’re Susan from Wingtip Couriers, aren’t you?” Indeed it was.
My first date with Jim was the Dallas Seminary Spring Banquet, quite an auspicious event. Jim was in the men’s chorus. When he showed up on my doorstep in his midnight blue tux—all 6’2” of tall, dark and handsome—I seriously almost swooned. He was endearing when he tucked me inside his old bomb of a station wagon. I’ll never forget him telling me how he couldn’t find a replacement window for that little triangular piece of glass on the passenger side. “You can scoot closer, if you want,” he said, giving me this shy, sheepish look, “or else the fumes might get to you.” I was in love.
We became fast friends and went out together quite often, but honestly? I wasn’t exactly the type of Christian girl my husband-to-be thought he was seeking. Jim called it the “Seminary mentality,” meaning he wanted a girl like his own dear mother, raised in the faith from the time she was knee-high to a grasshopper. But Jim and I shared a mutual fascination (for lack of a better description) with one another, and continued to go out as “friends” even though there was always something simmering below the surface. We even went out together when we were both dating others. But he told me later that no other girl held the same challenge and appeal, even though they more closely matched his image of that elusive, “perfect” Christian girl.
It all came to a “head” in what I now refer to as our infamous Red Lobster date. It got to the point where Jim decided he needed to know where I stood spiritually (he’d been debating whether to take the step of faith—more like a leap—to date me). That dinner at Red Lobster was truly awful; he challenged my spiritual condition and I stormed away, feeling personally attacked and defensive. I emotionallydistanced myself from him for months. He called and left messages, stopped by the law office, even had flowers delivered, but I didn’twant to see him. Quite simply, I was hurt andembarrassed. But here’s the thing: I knew Jim was right; he saw straight through me. I was living a good, moral life, but I wasn’t living for the Savior. But he could tell I loved the Lord and wanted to learn and grow, and that encouraged him. When Jim went on a musical tour of Europe with the Seminary, he wrote novels on postcards to me (which I literally burned but, in hindsight, wish I’d kept). But the Lord was continuing to work in my heart.
There’s so much more to our story, but suffice it to say, he was soon graduating and leaving Dallas, and I had no plans to leave. So, about three weeks before he was to depart and move back home (Rhode Island) and seek a full-time ministry position, we sat in another restaurant, and decided to try and make a long-distance relationship work. It seemed impossible, but we had optimism and were full of big hopes and dreams. Perhaps more importantly, we had faith that God could work it all out.
Those last weeks were glorious, and I fell hard for my handsome, tall, faithful man. Jim felt the same, but how would this all work? Only a few days before he was to graduate and leave, he told me something I found incredibly hard to believe…but also so precious for my heart. As handsome as he was, as much as he’d dated, Jim had never kissed a girl on the lips. And this is what still stops my heart: Jim told me he always knew the first girl he kissed on the lips would be the girl he married. And so, my friends, on the night before his graduation – with the world at our feet, but with no idea how we’d be together or what would happen (but knew the gracious Lord would orchestrate it all if it was meant to be)—Jim kissed me. On the lips. And it was, as they say…the moment I knew. And so did Jim.
What happened next is yet another story, in yet another string of “God” things that were truly amazing. It’s almost as though you could “see” the hand of God working in our lives, bringing two of his own together as one. In this week of thankfulness—and three children later—I’m so grateful for the many blessings from above which have enriched my life above and beyond what I could ever have imagined.
JoAnn Durgin is the author of the popular Lewis Legacy Series, and her Christmas novella, Meet Me under the Mistletoe (where hero Jake shares Jim’s philosophy on kissing a woman for the first time), from Pelican Group Ventures/White Rose Publishing. She and Jim live in her native southern Indiana after living in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and JoAnn is an estate administration paralegal in a Louisville, Kentucky law firm. She’d love to hear from you via her website (www.joanndurgin.com) or drop her a line on Facebook.