Happy 10th Anniversary: Our Story

44e4d8b96a373382166499c214b2de36Exactly 10 years ago today I married the most beautiful, fun, strong, life-giving, faith-filled woman on planet earth. I struck gold and now she’s given me 3 amazing kids and a life that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’ve shared bits and pieces of our story over the years but thought it’d be good to put our beginning in a longer narrative. It will be fun for our kids to look back on (and groan!). :)

So, here goes my telling of the story (I know Keri has her version, too). 

All the guys had secret crushes on her. They may deny it but its true. And I was just one of the guys back then. I was intimidated by her fun, radiating presence in any room. (She still has this effect! She still turns heads. And its not just outer beauty but her attractive, disarming personality that draws you in.)

She was one of those innocent accidental flirts. She was “buddy buddy” with all the guys, and while we watched the Minnesota Wild and Timberwolves playoff games (at the same time that year – 2003 I believe), she’d be throwing high fives, making cracks, sitting on a couch with her legs on someone’s lap, and maybe even smacking a butt or two.

She didn’t mean anything by it. She was just being herself. But we guys were reading into it all. Is she flirting with me? Is she flirting with him? Does she like me? Is she making the moves on him? No, she wasn’t. She was just being ‘one of the guys.’

But I thought she was untouchable and I figured she could have had any guy she wanted and why would that guy be me?

These are the early moments with Keri and the gang. She was 4 years younger than all of us, as we were all friends with her big sister at Bethel University. She began tagging along and eventually came to Bethel as a freshman just as we were all graduating and getting our first jobs.

I ended up back at Bethel in 2003 to begin seminary studies on campus. I began sub teaching all over the metro and often near Bethel. So, when I’d be in the Bethel area teaching and had class later that evening,  I’d have from about 3-6pm to “waste” while I waited for my friends to get off work and class to start.

I began calling on a fun, cute college freshman to hangout during that time. She says I was her “Waste Time Friend” until my ‘real friends’ got off work. No, she was my major crush and I had to downplay it somehow or she’d figure out I was crazy about her. Plus, we had the “creep factor” to work through — you know, college graduate hanging out in the freshman dorm = not cool. A bit creepy.

In my defense, I had known Keri by this time for several years and she was more of a little sister and fun friend; not some new freshman girl I scouted out. This leads to another semi-creepy moment in our story. So, Keri’s sister, Jen, went to Bethel with me. We made a couple trips up to her family’s house in Mora back in college as a group of friends. A big slumber party. (I remember watching The Mask of Zoro in their basement.)

Keri’s mom took a liking to me right away (I resembled her hubby Craig a lot — a tall, blonde basketball player). After that, I think she wanted Jen and I to get together. Want proof? One day Jen came over to my dorm room, knocked on the door, and handed me a plate of cookies, and said, “Here, these are from my mom.”  Aaaaaahhhhh…okay?  They were delicious but that was pretty weird. While the cookies made my stomach grumble with joy, the weren’t able to produce sparks between Jen and I.

Going back even further. When me and Jen were still in high school (before we had met), Jen met my brother at a Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) weekend. They became friends and my brother invited Jen to come out to Mound to go fishing the summer before we went off to school. Who else came with her? Her little sister Keri on her 15th birthday. Strange. I wasn’t home but Jen and Keri noticed a family photo on our wall, and pointed to my handsome face and said, “Who’s that?” My brother, always looking out for me, said, “Oh, that’s my gay brother Pat.” Thanks a lot, bro….

Some months later I would meet Jen for the first time as college freshman at Bethel. She’d tell that story. I don’t think I found it funny. :)

So, back in Mora at our freshman friends slumber party watching Zoro: I noticed Jen’s family photos on their walls, and I pointed out the picture of a long-legged, blond haired “hottie” in her basketball uniform on the frig and said, “Hey, who’s that?” Jen said sternly, “That’s my 15-year old baby sister; don’t even think about it!”

I was shocked and embarrassed to find out she was only 15 (she looked 18!), and I swear by all things holy that I didn’t think about it anymore….well….for about 3 years. :) But I never forgot her either.

So, four years later, we’re both at Bethel, and I’m playing catch, tennis, walking around the lake, and anything else I could think of to do with my “waste time friend.” We began spending a lot of time together. She was so easy to be with. She made me feel like I was the only person in the world. She told me later that she thought I was out of her league as well. Eventually, we spent a long day together where I was helping her get her car fixed. I tried 17 times that 8 hours together to get the nerve to ask her on a real date. I chickened out all 17. Dropped her off and said good night.

I screamed at myself as I drove away. A defeated coward in love. I drove all the way back to Mound kicking myself.

I eventually got the nerve to pick up the phone that night and dialed her number. She picked up: “Hi JB. What’s up?” That’s what she called me back then. (I loved that.) I cleared my throat, peed my pants a bit, and managed to get out (probably with jr. high cracky voice): “I’ve been meaning to ask you something all day. Would you go on a real date with me?”

“I’d love to JB!”

Boom. Victory dance.

A few days later we went on our first date. I am so glad I took the time to write down my thoughts immediately following that first date with the one I would eventually marry.  What a treasure these memories are!  Get ready for a gooey love story!

May 10, 2003

I could write all night!  My mind is racing a million miles an hour.  My heart is filled with crazy emotions.  The best, most descriptive word I can find to express my feelings right now is probably “gooey.”  My mind is mush, my heart is soft and fragile.  I have let myself completely slide into the risky waters of love.  I have a major crush.  And I think she may be feeling the same, which is the most amazing part. 

Today marked Keri and my first official date together.  I picked her up at Edgren Hall.  She came down wearing a cute long white skirt or wrap and a pink shirt.  She looked absolutely beautiful!  Does she realized that she matches the ideal woman in my mind?  She doesn’t realize that I have always pictured myself marrying a 5’9″ blondie who needs not one touch of make-up to make her face shine beautifully. Since she rarely dresses up, she looked exceptionally stunning in my eyes…

We went to Church of the Open Door… After church we ended up on Grand Avenue at a Caribou Coffee to sit and chat… Eventually we left to buy cards for Mother’s Day…  After buying a card, we went back to Bethel to find a secluded stairwell so I could serenade her on my guitar.  

What an amazing time!!  A wonderful time of me being cute and shy and eventually coming out of my shell and singing for her.  We hardly exchanged a word for almost an hour or so, but the look on her face was priceless and says more than a thousand nice words to me.   The look on her face reassured me that she really likes me and enjoys being with me.  I can’t wait to see that look again.  It is a look that one only gives to someone they think is very special.  I feel bad that I didn’t look at her more during this time.  I wanted to hold her.  Maybe the music said enough. 

We had one neat moment when she came and sat next to me and we played a song together on the guitar.  She held the neck of the guitar and I held the base. She fingered “Amazing Grace” while I strummed with my right hand as my left arm timidly wrapped around her back.  Then I played a few chords with my arm wrapped all the way around in a hugging embrace.  I can’t wait to really hug her.  I can’t get over just glancing at her as I would finish a song.  She had the biggest, warmest, sincerest smile.  I couldn’t look at her when I played or sang.  

My favorite song I played was “Table For Two” by Caedmon’s Call which talks about a guy who is wondering if he is ever going to meet “the one” and how God has great plans for us and we must wait patiently for him to reveal them.  I hope Keri is part of my future plans.  I hope Keri is “the one.”  There, I said it.  It is such foolishness to say such a thing so soon, but I honestly feel this way.  Why can’t this be IT?  Dad always says that he “just knew” right away that mom was the one.  Why can’t this be the same?  

Well, I must stop such foolishness for the night.  But I am sure my dreams will be very sweet indeed tonight.  Perhaps, in my dreams tonight I can resume the date from right before I had to reluctantly say good bye.  Keri, if you only knew how excited you could make a person feel just by being YOU.  Don’t change.  You are sweet, you are beautiful.  Hopefully, soon you will be mine!

After guitar playing, I brought her back to drop her off.  I hate goodbyes.  I almost always say something stupid during goodbyes.  Well, it was a little awkward, and she started to get out immediately when I asked for a hug.  She gladly hugged me and then got out.  I said jokingly, “I hope I can take you out again.”  She said, “You better!”  And she left.  I’m a bone head and never thought til afterwards of walking her to the door. What a putz!  I’m such a dufus. I’ll just tell her I was nervous and forgot.  She’ll think its funny.  

This journal entry included a written prayer to God.  Another treasure.

Lord, how our emotions and feelings can deceive and lead astray.  I pray that you would give me discernment and wisdom to harness these emotions.  God, I pray that your blessing would be on this new relationship. I pray that you would make it what you would have it to be.  I pray that I would honor you in the way I treat Keri and the things we do together would bring glory to your Name.  I pray that our friendship, at whatever level we are at, would reflect the selfless love you have for us which you demonstrated in the life of your perfect son, Jesus Christ. Lord, bring peace and comfort to Keri’s racing mind and don’t let her mind be swept away into overanalyzing things.  Let things happen naturally between us and in good timing.  Let love have its way.  Amen. 

When Keri walked into my life Cupid’s arrow struck me with an abundance of emotion and fresh inspiration.  I began journaling like crazy and even dabbled in some poetry and song writing.  Let me share two poems that attempt to put in words the effect Keri had on me in those early days of dating.

The first poem was written the morning after a late night out with Keri when I had to be awake by 5:30 to substitute teach across the city.  With very little sleep I remember being carried through that day by something more energizing — something I called “Love Adrenaline.”  The second poem is self-explanatory — watching the clock slowly pass in anticipation to be with Keri after work.  Enjoy!

May 13, 2003

Today I awoke in a tired state of excitement.  A girl can break down all of one’s normal biological functions.  Any pain is overshadowed by one’s thoughts of the peace one feels when gazing into her eyes.  Any tiredness is eclipsed by the energy they feel radiating from their racing heart.  As I awoke and felt this mix of new feelings, I was led to record them in writing.  This is the poem, in unpolished form, it sparked: 

THE DAWN OF NEW LOVE

Wide awake, the world at my bedside stands,

Life shakes me up, another day’s journey has began.

My mind, drowsy and winded from dream journey’s end,

Prepares itself as real life sets in. 

Darkness of night ushers in light’s new day, 

Sweet thoughts of a girl pave my way.

No clouds or rain can dampen my spirit,

My heart’s a thumpin’, if you’re quiet you can hear it.

It sings of dreams that may finally come true,

It sings of hopes of loving and being loved by only you.

Is this the story with the kiss in the end?

Or just another disappointment, another broken heart to mend?

Tip-toe, tip-toe, through my mind again,

So beautiful she dances, my heart to win.

A smile that pierces and “happy tears” that melt, 

This boy’s stomach in knots, feeling feelings never felt!

May 22, 2003

I penned this poem as I anxiously waited as the hours slowly crept by at work today as I taught high school English.  I was waiting for 6 o’clock to come when Keri would be here.  

SIX O’ CLOCK

Tick-tock, tick-tock,

Slowly move the arms of a clock.

The present is chased hastily away,

By a future that is anxious and ready to play.

Each steady passing of the hour,

Brings her nearer as my excitement towers.

Two-thirty, three-thirty, four-thirty, five,

Six o’clock is coming, I’m restless inside.

Call it silly, call it insane,

The way a girl can affect a boy’s brain.

“Mind over matter” typically holds true,

But when it comes to love, the matter holds you.

Finally, after we had been dating for 1 year I wrote her a song that shares the story of our first couple dates and my emotions and thoughts during those days of infatuation.  Here’s the song and explanation I wrote years ago here. You can listen to the original (and bad!) recording of me singing and playing it as well here.

—————

We had been dating exactly one year. I had to come up with the perfect gift for our special date that night. I was determined to write her a love song, but had only a lyric-less tune bouncing around in my head as I drove off to work that day. I was sub teaching at Spring Lake Park High School that day in a Social Studies class.

I remember like it was yesterday how the day shaped up. My only requirement that day was to hand out a worksheet assignment to each class and tell them to work quietly the entire hour. I remember pulling out a blank sheet of scratch paper for myself, telling each class I had 7 periods to write a love song to woo my love tonight. They oohed and awed, sighed and complied.

And over the course of the day the following song took shape which describes vividly the first couple times I spent one-on-one with Keri. The song’s punch line is based on an inside story we used to tell each other before saying goodnight on the phone. The story was about two angels — a blue one and a pink one — who fall so much in love that their two halos melt together to form sing copyone new halo that binds them together forever.

A fitting image for a boy and a girl who would soon say, “I do” and enter into the holy, sacred, divine mystery of marriage that declares, “The two shall become one flesh” and “What God has joined together, let no man tear asunder.”

Here’s the song I wrote and recorded that day before our 7:00 date that evening. I only had time for one quick take for each instrument.  The vocals sound rough but sincere.  I tried playing it for Keri at our wedding reception with best man Peter holding the mic up to my mouth and Joy holding the music in front of me (see photo).  I was a nervous wreck.  What a day!  Enjoy video and lyrics below.

ANGELS IN THE SKY

by Jeremy Berg (2004)

About eleven months ago

Spring hit the air, the warm wind blow

I saw her standing there

A tall blue-eyed girl, wind in her hair

she threw a smile at me

and nearly knocked me off my feet

she stole my heart away

and nothing’s been the same

since that day, yeah, yeah

my life’s been rearranged

since that day, yeah, yeah

everything has changed since May

We walked and talked

We ran and swam

We sat like children in the sand

I said, “Geez Luiz, my achin’ knees

Can someone call the doctor please?

‘Cause my heart’s a wreck

My mind’s a mess,

This girl’s three leagues above the rest

If she’s “The One” for me

Lord, show me a sign

Or take me please, please please

My heart can’t take the pain

So please don’t tease, tease, tease!”

You’re on my mind

All the time

You’re my fairy tale

My perfect rhyme

You make my day

You find a way

to bring heaven near

With the words you say

And I love you so

More than you know

But I can’t find the words to tell you so

So, so, so here we go…

She opened up to me

That windy day down on the beach

We sat real close

Stars in our eyes

Her fingers in my hair

I was mezmorized

Right then I had to know

Was this the one I’d been waiting for

for, for, for twenty long, long years?

You’re on my mind

All the time

You’re my fairy tale

My perfect rhyme

You make my day

You find a way

to bring heaven near

With the words you say

And I love you so

More than you know

But I can’t find the words to tell you so

So, so, so here we go…

 

About eleven months ago

Love hit the air

And my heart was stole

By an angel sent from God

She flew in quick

And robbed me blind

So if you see her walking by

With a glowing sparkle in her eye

You’ll know the reason why

She’s dreamin’ dreams of angels in the sky

Two halos into one, don’t ask why

That’s how it’s got to be for you and I

Two angels holding hands

You and I

Just waiting for our wings so we can fly

You’re on my mind

All the time

You’re my fairy tale

My perfect rhyme

You make my day

You find a way

to bring heaven near

With the words you say

And I love you so

More than you know

And I think I found the words to tell you so

So, so, so here we go!

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