When I met Phillip, just one day shy of my twenty-third birthday, I was limping on the heels of a really horrific breakup.
My heart had been so badly bruised by a guy back home in Texas that I wanted to do anything to get a Sunday away from the sympathetic glances of our tiny community. I begged my dad to take me to TGC’s 2013 conference in Orlando for my birthday.
Meanwhile, a couple of states over in Mississippi, Phillip was making last minute plans to attend the same conference.
I met him my first day there.
“The Very First Words Of A Lifelong Love Letter”
It was not love at first sight.
Which is a little crazy in hindsight, because, as my mother famously said to me upon meeting him, he was a tall, chocolate bit of marriage material.
(I love my mom.)
I agree. I seriously swoon looking at him about once a week. In my mind, I am still the awkward, knobby-kneed homeschooler with huge glasses, clunky braces, and an inhaler, and he’s the smooth athlete who should not be giving me the time of day.
That’s not how I felt when I first met him, though. He was in full-fledged conference mode, trying to get interviews and create buzz for a newly-launched website. I was a heartbroken pastor’s kid with Voddie fan PTSD who was incredibly wary after his first words to me were “Are you guys Voddie Baucham’s family?” Even though he was asking for totally valid reasons (they had an interview scheduled).
My mother spent the entire weekend deciding that he would be just perfect for me. In spite of the fact that he was dating someone else. When we got back home, my dad took me aside and said, “Listen. I wouldn’t count out a guy like Phillip Holmes.”
I rolled my eyes. Hard.
“Things Have Changed Since Yesterday…. Today I’m a Different Man”
Phillip hired me to do some editing for his site, and I to know him over the occasional work-related phone call. I liked him well enough, but he only crossed my mind when he sent me a work email, and I only crossed his mind when he needed someone to write a quick article, or when he met an eligible Baptist who may make a good prospect for me (we are both matchmakers).
That January, a friend and I saved our pennies for a long weekend in California and spent five days riding around San Diego in a white 2014 Mustang with the top down.
I was updating Twitter about just how glorious it was (naturally) when I saw a picture of Phillip on a beach in L.A.
I tweeted back, “I’m in L.A. today!”
And dinner plans were born.
My friend was prepared to meet the “nerdy guy” I’d told her about.
Except, when I actually stepped out of the car, he wasn’t nerdy. (And I’m kind of the epitome of homeschooled nerdiness, so I’m not sure where I got off thinking such a thing). He hadn’t grown or changed all that much, but I saw him -all 6’6, mahogany-skinned, and easy, open smiles of him -and I fell. Hard. For totally superficial reasons at first (because, cute guy), but they quickly became rooted in deeper things.
I spent the entire dinner trying to pretend like he wasn’t checking off every single item on my future husband list:
- Tall, dark and handsome
- Shared passions
- Tired of playing games and ready to settle down
- Laughs at all my jokes (which he doesn’t do anymore, so I guess he thought I was cute, too)
“You Were Meant For Me”
I went home from that dinner on a cloud. I had no reason to think Phillip was at all interested in me (in fact, he was clearly otherwise occupied). However, I was definitely interested in him.
I climbed into bed and asked God for Phillip Holmes.
Which sounds really spiritual. But the prayer was something like, “I don’t even know if you do this kind of thing, but in case you’re wondering, I would not mind being with a guy like that.”
A couple of weeks later, on another work-related phone call, Phil told me that things hadn’t worked out with the other girl he was interested in. I threw my phone across the room, ran downstairs, and shouted, “I HAVE A CHANCE!”
My mom hissed, “Be cool.”
So I tried to be cool. And managed to be a shameless flirt, texting, “I just think you need a woman who won’t wither while you grow.” (Which was a total lie. He grows. I wither. I grow. He withers. It’s a withering and growing party up in here) When he said he just needed to find a Presbyterian version of that woman, I texted back, “Or an open-minded Baptist.”
You can judge me, but I have two words for you: Ruth and Boaz. Girl, get your man.
“The Best Thing I Never Knew I Needed”
Long story short, eight months after this conversation, God gave me Phillip Holmes and I became Mrs. Holmes.
And, guys. Sometimes, I have wished I kept my receipt (I asked Phillip. He’s felt the same).
In our three years of marriage, we have lived in three different states, suffered a miscarriage three months in, weathered a hard pregnancy in year two, lived in the Mississippi boonies, each had three different jobs, experienced times of plenty and missed those times of plenty during times of want. We have loved, we have laughed, but, a lot of the time, we have fought like cats and dogs and grown in fast and painful ways. I’ve been every bit the sass queen who told that grown man exactly what he needed and he’s been every bit the charmer who was exactly what I needed even when I did not want it.
It’s only been three years. Which is measly.
But it’s everything.
I could not love anyone else as fiercely as I love this man I’ve married. It’s like living on the surface of the sun and miraculously managing not to get burnt to a crisp. He is every bit a strong, visionary, driving force of an ENTJ and I am every inch of a strong, complacent, navel-gazer of an INFJ (hilariously becoming more of an INFP being married to him).
Our story is one of my favorite things about us because it makes no sense that we married each other. We weren’t supposed to be at that conference, we weren’t supposed to meet in California, he’s way too blunt for this sensitive girl and I’m way too quirky for this no-nonsense guy. Our MBTIs aren’t even compatible; our enneagram compatibility score said: “One is addicted to putting out fires and the other can’t stop playing with matches.”
We don’t finish each other’s sentences or sandwiches.
“I See You and I Know You and I’m Not Going Anywhere”
Yet my firestarter is the answer to every single prayer I prayed for my future husband. 75% of the time, he answers in ways that I could have never predicted (the hard ones), but 100% of the time, he is God’s sweetest earthly grace to me. He has disrupted every notion of who I thought I was when I married him, and utterly demolished the carefully crafted, PC version of who I am to reveal the truth beneath.
I didn’t even know I was hiding. But he did.
He sees me better than anyone else. He saw me before I had even learned to see myself.
I could go on and on about his other qualities, wax eloquent about his work ethic, what an amazing daddy he is, what a loyal friend he is, but in year three -a year of change and growth and aha moments -my favorite thing is that he sees me for who I am. He is unsurprised by every revelation I have to that effect because he already knew me.
In the spirit of the love song lyrics peppering this post, I will borrow one from Penny & Sparrow: He sees me. He knows me. And he’s not going anywhere.
I could ask for nothing sweeter.
Happy anniversary, you tall, chocolate bit of marriage material. I’m glad you’re mine.
I’ve been in Atlanta all week with my husband. We’re here half for ministry (for me), part for work (for him), and part for some quality time with just us two. We left on the heels of hosting my family all the way from Zambia. In fact, seven of my siblings, my mom, and my dad are back in our eighteen hundred square foot home with our sons. I should be laying in a hotel bed binging Parks and Rec with my husband. And I will be soon. But I have something to say about motherhood and mom guilt.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for Legacy about friendship. In it, I tried to be as honest as possible about the struggle of being a transplant in Mississippi’s foreign culture, and my own hang-ups with making new friends. I hit send. Weeks passed. A couple of months. Then the article went live. And I had more than one friend reach out to me and ask me if we were okay. “I thought we were friends!” Undercover Trust Issues I’m not a journaler, and I try not to use my articles as thinly veiled diary entries. However, there…