As I settled into my new church in Arizona, I still found myself sad and a little lonely and depressed. I was making new friends, but still felt alone. Instead of going to God, I took it into my own hands and increased my efforts at online dating.
I think I had four apps on my phone at one point.
But God wasn’t interested in letting me drive my own relationships – he wanted me to trust him. So each conversation and every date was destined to fail. And they did. I went into each one as a self-centered person pretending not to be one. I dressed up and put on a smile even though I was still lonely and sad. I’m pretty sure each one saw right through it, because there weren’t many second dates.
I was trying so hard to make these potential relationships work, because I felt so alone and wanted more than anything to forge a real, meaningful, deep relationship with another human being. But God wanted me to have a relationship with him first, and he wanted me to trust him with my loneliness and my relationships.
As I began seeking Him more and connecting with him through prayer and occasional reading in the Bible, I began to see him drawing me closer. A week before Labor Day in 2016, I finally decided to stop trying to do it on my own. I closed my accounts and deleted the dating apps.
I was finally ready to trust God to either fulfill me in my singleness, or bring me the woman that he had for me instead of looking for someone that wasn’t her.
Meanwhile, I’d agreed to go with my church to its first ever Labor Day Weekend camping retreat in Sedona. The only reason I went was because I felt God tugging on my heart to do it. It was mostly Hispanic families I didn’t know who went to the bilingual services, and I was afraid they’d think I was creeping around their families. I was afraid I’d be lonely and bored, and no one would talk to me. I didn’t really know anyone.
But what better way to get to know people, right? So I packed up my newly purchased 2016 Chevy Colorado with a tent, sleeping bag, and some other camping supplies and headed up I-17 to Sedona.
When I got there, a couple families had already arrived, but I didn’t see anyone I really knew.But I recognized their “All of Life Is All For Jesus” t-shirts, and half-recognized their faces, so I knew I was in the right place.
I wandered around until the lead pastor arrived with his family, and I happily helped them unpack all their stuff after what seemed like an hour of pacing around by myself, too afraid to talk to the families I didn’t know.
As the weekend progressed, I saw a woman I’d seen once or twice on Sundays but didn’t really know. Her name was Maggie, and she usually attended the bilingual service so I’d only seen her a few times. The decision was made to consolidate to one service a couple weeks before, but I didn’t know all the faces yet.
Out of either kindness or pity or both, she noticed me by myself and sat beside me on a bench outside the worship hall. We talked about work, church, and Andy Mineo. We shared a little of each others’ stories as I made efforts to connect more with her through the course of the weekend.
At one point she drove into town to get more charcoal and I found myself a little jealous and worried that another guy I didn’t know rode into town with her.
We began to get to know each other, and I knew I wanted to get to know her better.
When we all got home, I decided to ask her to hang out the following Sunday at church. But I didn’t see her there the next weekend – turns out she was upstairs teaching the kids.
I couldn’t wait another week. What if that other guy asked her out? I looked her up on Facebook – she didn’t have one. I didn’t know anyone that had her phone number – so I finally found her on Instagram of all places.
I sent her a direct message asking if she wanted to go hiking. I knew she would, because she toted her Camelbak around all weekend in 60-degree Sedona weather like a goober. And who else does that except someone who loves the outdoors, right?
She said she’d love to, and volunteered her phone number. Which I of course misinterpreted all kinds of ways. The Thursday before, I asked if she was still up for the hike. She was. I texted her something funny – who knows what it was – and we texted all day.
She told me later that she knew then that it would be a special relationship – before that, she thought I was a lot younger, and she had actually spent the Sedona weekend trying to introduce me to another single woman on the trip.
I picked her up early on Saturday morning, and we headed up Arizona Route 87 to Payson. When we got there, there were signs of wildfire – large plumes of smoke and road signs warning of potential road closures. But it all looked far enough back from the roads, so we drove into the park with plans to go back to another trail located between the park and town when we were done.
As we exited the park planning to turn west back toward town to stop at the trail, we realized we couldn’t – that way was now closed because the fires had gotten too close to the road. We had to go east.
There was nothing east. Nowhere to turn around, and no hiking spots we readily knew of. So we drove.
When I realized we would have to drive all the way to Show Low, an hour out of the way, we decided to make a day of it and go to Petrified National Forest instead – which is about as far east in Arizona as you can go without being in New Mexico.
We walked around and looked at the rocks and scenery, and I took photos with my new camera.
And we talked. A lot. We talked about deeply personal things, for hours. I even told her about how I’d cried that week for the first time in years. And we held hands. I knew that very day that God was up to something.
We drove up I-40 to Flagstaff, where she oddly requested that we eat our dinner at Carl’s Jr (she always eats healthy stuff, which I already knew even then). So we stopped and ate, and finally I dropped her off at home 17 hours after I picked her up.
After a couple days of thinking about her nonstop, I asked her if she wanted to go explore Flagstaff with me the following weekend.
She said yes, miraculously, and we went – it was National Public Lands day, so we checked out all the national parks close to there. That time also was extended due to a wreck on I-17 – the only easy way home to Phoenix from Flagstaff, Sedona, or the Grand Canyon. So we detoured all the way to Payson to get home.
After all those hours of talking, we still weren’t tired of each other. I joked when I got home in a text that if she could put up with me some more, we should hang out again and watch a movie. My thought was maybe the following weekend – but she wanted to hang out the next day.
So we did. I called my dad that weekend and told him that maybe I was crazy, but that I had maybe found the woman I would marry – after a total of three times of hanging out.
In fact, and he will tell you, I talked his ear off about her for probably an hour. I told him she was maybe the one, but I really already knew it.
I just didn’t want to sound crazy.