Hope Engaged – LOVE STORY

I think everyone loves a good love story. I remember as a child dreaming about how God would write my story, who I would marry, how he would ask me out, our first kiss (well…you get the idea:). It is so funny to look back on the last few years with Kevin (my handsome stud) and laugh about how it was all so different than I imagined…only better:)

Part I 
 
Technically speaking, Kev and I should have met a Loooong time before we actually did. 
Kevin’s dad grew up with the Pastor from my home church.
However Kev’s family lived in southern california and I grew up in northern california, so I had only heard about this mysterious boy from afar…

My pastor and his family always talked about the Cook family, and about Kev…his good looks…his athletic prowess (tearing it up out on the basketball courts)…his comedic sense of humor, etc. Secretly I had this “long distance” crush on a guy I had never met. 
 
Then came college. My freshman year I was invited  to a New Years party…
and to my great joy my fantasy crush was going to be there. 
Would I go? Um..wouldn’t miss it for the world. However, my expectations for my hopeful encounter with Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome did not match reality. Not only did I not even officially meet my Stud muffin, to this day he doesn’t even remember me being there. 
Um….kinda pathetic since I certainly watched HIM like a hawk that night.
 
 
Fast forward four years (yes, nothing at all significant happens between us while in college). 
Freshly graduated from college, I set out to conquer the world of grad school.
Kevin, having one more year of eligibility to play basketball at this same school, was still a student on campus. Again, romantic visions  of “bumping” into him on campus filled my academic mind 
(but again, orchestration of such a meeting was rather futile).
 Until….(drumroll please)…his parents called me up to say they had heard hat I was in town, and that they would love to take me out to lunch one Sunday after church. 
Well, again, what’s a girl to do? 
Free food and a possible rendevoux with none other than Mr. Basketball himself? 
I’m in.
 
That lunch had absolutely nothing to do with Kevin, and yet had everything to do with him. 
Kevin WAS there, but he never said one word to me and was sitting at a different table with his friends (again he sheepishly admitted to not remember this occasion. Monumental for me, non-existent to him.)
  Yet even though I didn’t exchange one syllable with my future husband, his Dad Mitch, rather jokingly seemed to predict the outcome of this story. You see, Mitch had traveled to Nepal every year for over a decade and loved many aspects of the Nepali culture. 
He told me that day, “Katie, I wish we were living in Nepal right now. 
I would give your dad 100 goats to buy you for Kevin. 
Wouldn’t that be great if you and Kevin were ever married….”. 

in my mind I was like…YES! do you want to make that happen? 
but alas…it was not meant to be…yet
 
 
Against my nature, I become a grad school drop out (I love telling people that, it makes me feel so edgy…). 
Yes, it’s true….three weeks after I started grad school, I decided it wasn’t for me, quit, and moved to Thailand to teach English. 
And in doing so diminished all chances of connecting with Kevin via our University connection.
 I guess matching alumni sweatshirts were not in our future. 

So fast forward another year and Kevin is freshly graduated, looking to make a lot of money in a short amount of time. He gets wind that rice harvesting is quite lucrative in the Fall, and BOOM, next thing I know he is working for my dad (who farms rice in northern california!) driving a tractor and growing a nasty beard in the Rystrom family annual “beard off” 
(Don’t worry, when I did my stint working harvest for my dad I voted to opt out of the competition….)
 
But major problem…
I was a northern california girl who had relocated to San Diego, and Kevin was a southern california boy who had moved to Northern California.
 Geography, my friend, was not in our favor. 
But, as God would have it, my parents seemed to be in our favor, and “conveniently” invited Kevin over for dinner the weekend they knew I would be visiting from SD. 
Kevin, in the same vein had been over to my parents quite frequently and had noticed my senior picture, and taken a special interest in the Rystrom’s oldest daughter. (FINALLY, right?). 
Kevin told me numerous times his stomach was ranging between both nervous and excited, and he confessed that after meeting me thought I was “beautiful” and “quite out of his league” 
(his words, not mine).

we had a great evening that night, but the very next day Kev moved to Spain. 
He added me on FB the next day, and I remember thinking…
“he is great, but probably nothing will come of this…” 
 
however, exactly a year late, I wind up with a job in Southern California
Kevin moved back from Spain and was living at his parents. 
I needed a place to live and was encouraged by a few people to ask Kevin’s family if I could live with them (as they tend to host a lot of people who are in limbo with housing) 

 Let’s see….live with random creepies I find off craiglist, OR live with a fantastic Christian family and their hot son who happens to be my age and single? 
I know…i’m a genius. I decided to facebook Kev and see if there was vacancy at his parents house. 

Kevin, who received my message told me later that he couldn’t believe I was asking to live with them. He responded back an emphatic YES before he even asked his parents. Telling his friend that I had asked to live with them, his friend responded with “is she cute?”, and without being able to hide his massive smile, responded a resounding YES. And so we became roommates…..

 
Whew…that was long winded just getting to this point…now on to Part II 
 
Part II
In college and post college I had dated a few guys, but I never had that “I want to spend my life with this person” feeling. Guys were either super hot with not much personality (or too much personality), OR they were super great and fun, but the chemistry was nonexistent. However, I remember getting that nervous feeling the night I moved into the Cooks house. All I could think about and wonder is how things would go living and getting to know Kevin. It was obvious I was attracted to him big time, but I didn’t really know him. 

So yeah, from the minute I moved in to Kev’s house, my crush on K-dawg stepped up it’s game. I got butterflies everytime I was around him (which was a lot). At first, we would casually talk when I was making dinner or he was watching a Laker game. 
Then, we started texting. 
Then we started making plans to go on hikes, see movies, exercise together, etc. 
I remember ALL my friends asking me what the HECK was going on, and when I said “oh we’re just friends” they were like “uhhhh huhhhh, YEAH RIGHT!” 

But the thing was, I had NO idea if Kevin liked me or not. 
Usually I was pretty good at reading the signals from guys, but 
I.just.couldn’t.read.this.mysterious.one. 
Turns out, Kev was falling hard for me. He was just scared that if he said something to me and I didn’t reciprocate, that it would make it awkward living under the same roof. 
I remember consciously trying to flirt with him so he’d get the hint (HEELLOOOO!!!),
and going on other dates with guys so that Kev would get the point that I wanted HIM to ask me out on a date! 

we even took a salsa dancing class together
and his family was like “WHAT THE HECK, who is this guy…he doesn’t do this type of things with girls…Katie he’s smitten” to which I still wasn’t sure
because the fact is friends…I lived there 5 months, and he never made a move! 
as in, he never outright said anything. 
{something he’ll never live down, hahah!} 

That year, my family spent the summer in France. 
Kevin started emailing me regularly and saying things like “I miss you” or “I wish you were here with me”
I remember living for his emails that summer (and chocolate croissants)
and realizing that these emails were secretly saying that HE LIKED ME!!! 
{and in response, far too many Parisians saw me jumping up at down at the McDonalds in Paris where I got free wifi!} 

when I got home from France, I was nervous and excited. 
sure enough, my second day back Kev asked me to go to the park with him. 
He made my favorite meal and we had a picnic. I could tell he was sooo nervous, but he mustered up his courage and asked me out. 

and I said no. 

wait….what? 
well, that’s where Part 3 beings…



Part III
Yes, I said no.
You read correctly. “Why” you ask? 

Well, even though I knew I was head over heels for Kevin, I also knew that for my whole life, God had been calling me to overseas work in some capacity. Because Kevin and I never talked about “us” before he asked me out, we had never really talked about a future with one another, and therefore had never talked about overseas missions as a couple. I didn’t know where his heart was in that regard. 

That night he asked me out, I didn’t flat out shut him down. 
I said “let’s give it a few weeks to think and pray about it and see where God takes it” 
and in a week, we knew we wanted to give it a shot. 
I was scared, absolutely, but for all my hesitancies, I felt a HUGE peace about moving forward with dating Kevin. 
a peace that was certainly a step of faith,
but I’m ever so glad I trusted God! 

So we moved forward. Kevin had traveled a lot, but only for pleasure. We talked a lot about what it would look like to serve together overseas. Our second month of dating I flew to Kenya for a month for work, and at the airport Kevin handed me 26 letters he had written me, one for each day. Every morning in Africa I cried opening these letters because I could feel God encouraging me through Kevin in huge ways. That was the start of seeing Kev’s heart for God and heart for missions. 

Kevin and I then started doing ministry in a low income immigrant neighborhood, and soon moved into the neighborhood….Kev into the “guys” home and myself into the “girls” home. We starting leading workshops at the Teen Center, our favorite was one on food and culture where we picked a country each week and taught the kids how to make the cultural food from that country.  It was so fun to watch Kevin with the kids, how much he embraced them and loved them. If you are dating right now and headed towards marriage, serving together can be the most incredible experience for your relationship!! 

Kev then decided to spent a month in Nepal, and a few months later went to Indonesia on a basketball team that was doing ministry. He literally fell so in love with the people in Indonesia that he decided to move back for 6 months to help coach a university basketball team there. I was thrilled at Kev’s decision to pursue God’s calling. But it also was a time in my life that I had to trust God for our future. 

Even though both Kevin’s and my parents have been married 30+ years, I still felt hesitant about marriage. Spending the rest of your life with ONE PERSON can be a crazy thought to wrap your head around. I didn’t know why I was scared…I loved Kevin and he adored me, so why the hesitancy? 

When Kevin moved to Indonesia, we decided not to talk for a few weeks to gain some clarity. Kevin didn’t need that time as he KNEW he wanted to marry me, but I did. And you know what, in those few weeks I felt perfect peace about marrying this man. And for the first time, felt a calling to marriage. I know that seems crazy, but I believe it was God’s sweet blessing on it. 

So when Kev came home from Indonesia at Christmas…he utterly surprised me and proposed (in the most epic of ways!!!) !
 
And so you see this story, while so different than what I expected, was woven into the most beautiful love story. I met the man of my dreams while sleeping in his parents upstairs room, and on August 13th 2011  we tied the knot and started the best part of the journey yet…marriage! I look back and I just praise God for his handiwork. I could have NEVER imagined such a handsome, talented, God loving man in my life. He is the most servant hearted man I know, and loves me deeper than I deserve. 

I look back and I remember discouraging seasons wondering if i’d EVER meet anyone that I was truly crazy about, and that loved God and loved me with such a passion. And I did. So know that God is working, because I see the miracle of it every day in my life!!
 
Hope you are encouraged today that our God sees us, and he knows us. He is so in tune with our deepest desires and dreams- in fact he gave them to us. So be incredibly uplifted today that you have the very best of advocates working in your favor, for your good:) 
With Hope,
Chirag

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