Our story started with Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, but that’s the long version. I’ll shorten it a bit.
So how did I get so lucky? I ask myself that question sometimes.
We both went on WATER. WATER is an acronym for World Awareness Training in Evangelistic Responsibilities. It’s a six week short term mission program hosted by Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute in central Pennsylvania (details: click here). You have one week of classes and team building exercises, then you have five weeks where you go out into the world to established Anabaptist missions and get a first hand taste of the mission field. We both attended this program in the same year. You could pick where you wanted to travel to and experience missions. Of course, if you traveled to other side of the world it cost a lot more. Janice went to Guatemala and I went to Bald Eagle Boys Camp right in Pennsylvania. I think that was the cheapest option. Truth be told, I don’t remember Janice from WATER. I attended when I was 19 years old and she was 20. However, somewhere along the line we both became friends on Facebook (how cliche…) and that kept us in touch.
The first time I really remember being attracted to Janice was when she posted a picture of some dead raccoons on her Facebook page. She was jogging and saw a tree full of raccoons so naturally she turned around, grabbed a shotgun, and killed all of them. As a farmer, raccoons were a bane of her existence. I was taken aback. I didn’t know any girls who would do something like that, let alone post it on social media. I would get along with this girl, I remember thinking. I was intrigued but quickly cast off any thought of relationship. She lived in Michigan after all, and she had no idea who I was.
Two years later I still hadn’t forgotten about her. I would post some random, seemingly innocent comments on some of her pictures and she would reply, seemingly innocently. I had noticed that she seemed to like a lot of the same things I did: kayaking, photography, missions, etc. I was trying to come up with some way to casually show up at her doorstep and maybe get more information about her. Facebook, after all, isn’t always an honest representation of a person’s character. Turns out it’s pretty hard to casually show up at someone’s door 500 miles away.
It’s hard to explain but God laid it on my heart, specifically, that I was to start dating. This surprised me. I was expecting to be a bachelor all my life but the bachelor life was starting to get old (man cannot live on macaroni and cheese). The problem was my lack of charm and charisma. Who would say yes? I came up with a list of women I respected and figured I would go down through the list. They would all say “NO!” and then I could tell God I tried and move on with my comfortable single life. Janice was first. I looked at the list and thought, Nah, she’s not saying yes. She doesn’t even know who I am. Skip Janice. But I kept thinking What if I marry someone else? I’ll wonder my whole life what would’ve happened if she said yes.
I finally impulsively asked her, via Facebook Messenger, if she would consider going out to coffee with me in Michigan. Nothing formal, I was just driving 500 miles to drink a cup of coffee with her. No sweat. She tentatively agreed. I started sweating. I wasn’t expecting her to say yes.
The first problem was that the next morning I was flying to Alaska for three weeks so I had to push the first date off. I should’ve just waited to ask her until I came back, I thought to myself. But as it turned out, the timing was perfect because there was another interested party who had asked her out for coffee two weeks before I did. She didn’t know the guy but met through a church function. She asked her brothers, “What should I do? I don’t really know the guy but maybe he’s all right…”
“Give him one date,” they said,”If you don’t like him, just move on. One date doesn’t hurt.” So Janice agreed to meet the guy for coffee but they just couldn’t find a date that worked for the both of them. In the meantime I asked her out for coffee. She thought to herself, “If I said yes to this other guy, I might as well say yes to Josh.”
So, with the promise of a coffee date upon my return, I flew to Alaska for three weeks to help build my brother Matt’s cabin. I texted Janice furiously the whole time. I had to keep her interested. Maybe she would forget she had agreed to a date. That would be embarrassing to show up in Michigan only to have her forget I was coming.
Halfway through my time in Alaska I had the horrible realization that I had misunderstood when I was flying home. I was actually coming home on Saturday, not Friday! This was a disaster because the first date of my life was planned for Saturday. The plan was to fly back to Pennsylvania, drive home from the airport, take a shower, and drive out to Michigan. Those plans would never work if I got home one day late! I wasn’t about to plan something and then back out on it before we ever even met. I frantically emailed my brother Matt who had bought the plane tickets. “Any chance I could come home a day early?”
Matt was perplexed. “Why on earth would Josh want to come home from Alaska one day early,” He asked his wife Marlene.
“It’s gotta be a girl!” Marlene said.
“No… not Josh. I think that ship’s sailed.”
Eventually I convinced Matt to spend an extra $200 in fees changing tickets around so I could fly home a day early. That was a miracle in itself. I got home late Friday night and at 5 AM the next morning I pointed my 1995 Saturn station wagon west and set the cruise at 80 mph.
That was another problem. My car was a cheap piece of junk. Typically I didn’t care what people thought of me but in this instance I was painfully aware that Janice would immediately realize I wasn’t rich. I was tempted to rent a nice car but then decided against it. If Janice didn’t like me because I drove a cheap car, she was getting into the wrong relationship. I should start this thing out in an honest manner so I didn’t even wash my car. Later I found out that she was very worried that I was rich. Apparently Lancaster County Mennonites have the reputation (outside of Lancaster County) of being rich and a little arrogant. She lived on an old dairy farm that had old cars in various states of decay stacked around the barns. She thought for sure I would drive into the driveway and promptly turn around, disgusted at the idea of dating a pauper. We were both relieved the other person was just as destitute as ourselves!
I found out that Janice kept up to date with my blog posts and did actually have a vague idea of who I was. In fact, she remembers telling God at one point specifically that she would like to date someone like Josh. I know, right?! She’s a crazy person.
So we began dating. I drove to her house every other weekend for nearly a year. That’s almost 2,000 miles a month. Needless to say, it helped me decide pretty quick if I wanted to marry this woman or not. To this day, I have never, ever regretted my decision.