It was going to be a really long drive. I had just gotten back from living overseas, had a short holiday with my family, and now was going back off to Utah to finish my last two semesters of college. I had a lot on my mind. Was I ready for life after college? What was next for me? Most deeply, I was thinking about family.
I had always wanted to marry and have a family of my own, but I had underlying fears about commitment. I worried; Maybe it wasn’t destined to happen, maybe I would never realize my dream of a family. What if my greatest desires are ruined by my greatest fears? Isn’t it ironic that the desires that are the deepest within us—like the desire for marriage and family—are where we often create a stage for our deepest fears and anxieties?
Thankfully, I held on to my desire and let my desire for good work in me to create a glimmer of hope. I began to look for opportunities to date. I put my flirt on! (Which came relatively naturally for me.) Though I had some fear, I was excited. I was hopeful enough to try.
So that is where I was at mentally and emotionally when my grandma, brother, and I loaded into the car for the start of the 26 hour drive through a lot of flat and arid country, with the biggest city we would drive through being Albuquerque, New Mexico, our half-way point.
I had made this long haul many times before. Growing up, we would often drive a similar route and distance to visit extended family. I would normally throw on some sweats and throw my hair in a messy bun, but this time I tweaked it. I put on some mascara, some lip gloss and my cute jeans. I wanted to at least feel confident if I so happened to meet someone somewhere along that 2,100 mile stretch of mostly cows and sage brush.
Gas station after gas station of stretching and walking off sleepy legs, and mile after mile of painted white road lines and pale blue skies, we came to a remote town.
In this little town, I fell in love. Not with my future husband, but with a middle-aged couple we, unexpectedly for me, stopped to visit, dear friends of my grandmother’s. Their house sat at the end of a long gravel driveway. The inside of their home had a tangible glow to it, a native Hawaiian touch to a southwest country backdrop. This tangible loving feeling made me instantly feel at home.
The woman who greeted us was kind and warm with a deep sparkle to her eyes. She spoke so fondly of my grandmother and of the people they served together on an overseas mission. Her husband was quiet, but that was okay. His actions spoke as he cradled his infant granddaughter, whom obviously had his heart. It was apparent that the love I felt in their home had been built over many years together and they were instantly one of those couples I wanted to be just like. Theirs was the kind of home I wanted someday. Seeing them enlarged my hope. Perhaps lifelong love was possible, perhaps marriage was not only something to be feared.
I would have laughed if you had told me then that one day I would call this couple mom and dad. But then again, I had noticed a picture on the wall of a young man. It could have been outdated for all I knew, but he was clean cut and polished with a huge smile. “He’s cute,” I said aloud. “Is this your son?”
It was, and within the hour he was in the room with us. (Little did I know then that his mother had called him on the phone and told him that there was someone she’d like him to meet.)
As they say, the rest is history—though, to be fair, there were plenty of bumps along the way, including my bad first impression of this son as sulky and sullen while at the same time quite full of himself.
But in the months that followed, their son, Logan, and I started dating, and then got engaged. I thought often of that encounter with his parents in their warm inviting home, and the hope that their model of marriage had inspired in me.
Meeting them first was exactly what this fear-riddled critic needed. First of all, it probably opened my heart to giving Logan a chance in the first place. Before any actual time spent together, I felt that I already knew a real side of Logan’s background because I had met his family first. I knew his parent’s values matched my own family’s values.
Meeting them with no notion of “us” created something so genuinely candid. Because of this, I knew the kind and loving environment was no pretense, not some show to impress the future daughter-in-law. Not only did I know more about Logan and his surroundings, I knew about my future family in a real way not clouded by the judgments I likely would have cast if I was introduced to them by him. It was a setting I needed, a setting where neither side was sizing up the other.
I had these reassurances to fall back on and this played a huge role in keeping me from overanalyzing myself out marriage. (I tried–you could ask him). But remembering mom and dad, and that initial feeling–it helped to beat the doubt-filled voices in my own thoughts. I still had those worries about commitment and selfishness, but meeting his parents first, oddly enough, was just enough for me to act upon my hope and to overcome my natural doubts. And that inspiring couple is now a part of my dream family, the family Logan and I could then begin to create, a family more perfect for me than my dreams could have ever conjured up. All because I continued to focus on hope.