Sonnie, Meet Phil (Part 3)

I mulled over the words all day, “You are going to marry Phil Shay.” I felt panicky. I had never heard something so clear and direct during time with God before, but it felt random without any ground to stand on. Why would God say I was going to marry Phil? Late that night I went to see Sally in her cabin. I told her I had something I needed to tell her, but I didn’t know if I could say it out loud. She assured me over and over again that I could tell her and whatever it was would be safe, but every time I pumped myself up to say it, I would freeze before the words came. Finally after twenty minutes of nonsense I told Sally. We both ended up rolling on the floor laughing. Certainly not laughing at Phil, but again, the idea felt like such a stretch. We calmed down and Sally finally said, “Maybe God was saying you’re going to marry someone like Phil, or God’s just trying to get you to think differently about what kind of guy you are attracted to.” She told me to stop thinking about it so much and let God do what He wants to do. With my sweet friend Sally to ground me I said, “Ok, I can do that.”

The last two weeks at SpingHill flew by. God met Phil in his newly empty and open spaces and filled him with hope for things to come. It was fun to see Phil obviously aware of the story God was writing for him. We hung out as normal, except I was keeping this crazy secret that God told me I was going to marry him. I felt as crazy as it sounded. Since I was a part of the office staff I was needed to stay a week longer to help clean the office and close down the camp. Phil went home to Ohio with the weight and excitement of searching for his first post-college job. We talked on the phone here and there while I was still in Indiana and somehow or another Phil agreed to drive back to camp to take me to the Indianapolis airport so I could fly home.

Phil picked me up in his dad’s truck that happened to have blaring bumper stickers reading, “Abstinence is the Best Choice” and “Jesus is my Best Friend.” My 18 year old self about died. We went to the Indianapolis mall and ate Johnny Rockets for lunch. At one point a homeless man asked us for some money and Phil gave him a couple bills. After the homeless man left Phil stated, “It’s my dad’s money anyway.” For the longest time I thought he meant the money was actually his dad’s that he was using to pay for our lunch, parking fee’s, and whatever else, but he was actually saying the money was God’s money. Kills me to this day.

We said goodbye. I wasn’t really sad to say goodbye, but mostly unsure about our relationship and the secret I was keeping. I still wasn’t romantically attracted to Phil, but wanted to be sensitive to God’s leading. We said goodbye that day not know when or if we’d see each other again. Although, pretty quickly after I got home Sally and I planned a trip to visit the band guys in Kentucky for their final show. It felt sentimental and we already missed each other quite a bit. Between the middle of August when I got home and our Kentucky trip in the middle of September Phil and I talked on the phone A LOT. It was strange talking to Phil so much, knowing what God had said, and still not wanting to date Phil. I felt the need to be obedient to God, but Phil was not what I pictured for myself. I didn’t want to lead him on, but couldn’t bring myself to cut off our friendship. 

Before I headed to Kentucky my mom pulled me aside and told me I needed to decide to call Phil my boyfriend or cut off the friendship. She said I was pouring so much time into our phone calls every night and that it probably wasn’t good to keep it up if there wasn’t a reason to. Good ole’ moms. I flew to Kentucky with this burden in my heart because the truth was I didn’t want to date Phil. We had an incredibly fun weekend Sally, my sister who came along, the band guys and I. Our time felt like camp all over again.  I was avoiding the DTR (define the relationship) conversation to save my life, but our weekend was coming to a close and there was a flight back to AZ with my name on it. The night before I went home Phil and I took a drive. Somewhere in an awkward silence I found myself saying, “I think I want to try this.” Phil had no idea what I was talking about, since the statement literally came out of no where. He said, “Try what” and I said, “This boyfriend/girlfriend thing.” I was so eloquent. He said, “Okay.” And there you have it...we were dating.

Back to AZ I went and about an hour after my plane landed Phil called to say he had received an email from Southwest Airlines about a crazy flight deal to Phoenix. Phil had never been farther west than Omaha, NE and now that we had been dating for 20 hours it seemed like a good idea to come visit and see my family. I thought it was a pretty good idea and went to present the thought to my parents. Remembering that I had never dated anyone in the past and that father’s are supposed to protect their daughters, my dad’s response to Phil visiting was, “Well, does he just want to take a trip or does he want to come look for a job? If he’s coming to job hunt he’ll need at least 3 weeks to a month to do an adequate search. He can live with us and drive one of our cars.” I was speechless at the idea thinking, “geez dad, so much for your overprotective threats over the years.” I called Phil back to tell him what my dad had suggested and because of the limited availability and sale deadline, Phil booked a flight to come live at my house for the month of October while looking for jobs. All of this after we had been a couple for less than a day.

I picked Phil up from the airport a week later and I was scared. I was still struggling with the fact that we were dating in general and now he was here to look for jobs. We pulled up to one of the thousands of Starbucks in AZ. I looked at Phil straight in the eye, hands shaky, and told him I didn’t really like him. And that started our month off splendidly. I was working full time, going to school full time, and Phil, who knew no one else in Arizona, was waiting for me at home every day. Going from my daily camp routine of steady God time and freedom contrasted greatly to the new crazy I felt. My time was packed to the brim with responsibility and my heart was wrecked, trying so badly to like Phil as more than I friend, but I didn’t. 

By the end of October I was a mess. Phil had been wearing suits to interviews without any bites and I was so scared he’d actually get a job that he would actually move to Arizona and then I’d have to break up with him. Before the sunrise one morning I was getting ready for my day and my mom peeked in. She asked me how things were going with Phil and I broke down. I told her I still didn’t really like him and that I felt like a horrible person for leading him on. I told her I didn’t know what to do. She responded, encouraging me to go spend some time with God. Phil had encouraged me to do the same and so I finally did. I skipped class and looked out over the man made pond and the athlete with the swishing track suit stood by my bench.

I was startled to see him so close. He was a big dude and could definitely overpower me if he wanted to. I was trying to asses my escape route when the guy asked, “What are you reading?” I told him it was the Bible and he said, “Oh cool, I read that too.” I took a bit of a deep breath...not feeling as freaked out. And then this guy, who I had never met in my life, continued to tell me his story. He had been a football player at Baylor and was almost certain he was going to be drafted into the NFL after college. He ended up not making the draft and was devastated. He told me about the journey of disappointment and all that God had done for him even though things didn’t go as planned. He then said, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this, it’s if God tells you to do something you do it and you don’t question him. He knows what we need more than we know ourselves. If God tells you to do something, you do it. If God tells you to do something you do it. If God tells you to do something you do it.” I was SHOCKED. This stranger was speaking straight into my soul and I hadn’t told him a word about my story. The Holy Spirit showed up in a mighty way through track suit man. I could not believe what I was experiencing. 

We said our goodbyes and I went to meet Phil at a coffee shop near by. I beat Phil there  and was waiting for him at a table outside. I spotted him down the street walking toward me and my heart skipped a beat. “Wait,” I thought, “Are those butterflies?” He got closer and my heart beat faster. Phil sat down and I could hardly contain myself. I really, really liked him. Up until this day I hadn’t felt a spark of attraction and all of the sudden it was there. I told Phil, “Buddy, I really like you. Something is different.” And I went on to tell him about the guy at the park. God had changed my heart and all of the sudden there were fireworks and butterflies. Phil’s return flight was set to leave in four days and I could finally hold his hand with certainty. After job hunting for 3.5 weeks Phil was offered a job on the same day as my heart changing morning at the park. Six months later we got engaged and nine months after that we became the Shays.

God wrote our love story. It’s incredible for me to look back and relive this beginning. Our eight years of marriage have brought more pain and more joy than I could foresee. The butterflies and fireworks have come and gone over and over. But we are held together by something more, our marriage is His. May God’s Kingdom make itself known in all of our stories. 


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