Beauty & the Beast

Kim sans her "award-winning" hair
Did you know that Kim was voted as having the "Best Hair" in her senior class in high school? I'm not kidding...go check a Glenbard West yearbook circa 1994. So you can imagine how a beautiful woman with beautiful hair feels when she loses her award-winning coiffure. I tried to sympathize but my biggest claim to fame in high school was getting expelled for three days for punching a kid on the bus and explaining it to the vice-principal as "pushing his face...with my...fist" (FYI -she didn't buy it).  I tried to cheer her up by shaving my own head, but let's face it, an ugly man with a large forehead volunteering to shave his thin hair is akin to a fat man, allergic to vegetables, volunteering his celery sticks - it just don't mean much!

This conundrum has led me to another plan. I've decided to do something entirely different to cheer Kim up. Back in the day when Xanga was around, just for fun I started writing a series about the pursuit and courtship of Kim. So many people openly wondered how a "girl like her" could end up with a "guy like me" so I wanted to demystify the mystery - as it were. With great wit and toil I managed to produce 8 riveting chapters (about halfway through) but alas, it all came to a screeching halt when I could no longer revisit the pain and agony of three long years of inexorable rejection. I realized then that time had not healed those wounds. Mind you, this would have been the next "Pride and Prejudice" or "Gone with the Wind" had I not dropped my pen, but my heart could not go on - that is....until now. Watching Kim fight through her pain has inspired me to fight through mine.

Friends, I have found renewed strength. I will complete the series and IT...SHALL... BE...EPIC! For the three of you out there who actually followed the series about 7 years ago - I am certain that there is no need to recall my unforgettable intro, but I will indulge the other 9 people who are frequenting this site. And so it begins....
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: The Introduction
For all of you losers out there wallowing in self-pitied loneliness...

For all of you wimps trying to find a way to capture her heart...

For all of you mean girls who asked me, "What the heck does she see in you?"

...I am your champion. 

Beauty & The Beast: the pursuit, rejection, perseverance and courtship of my wife

Independent Reviews of "Beauty and the Beast":

"An epic love story of heartbreak...of inspiring devotion...of heart-wrenching agony...of glorious triumph...and of complete idiocy."  -Joel Siegel, USA Today

"Two thumbs up! Way, way up...this is the best love story ever told since Gigli!" –Ebert & Roeper

"I laughed and I cried......but only because I'm bi-polar schizophrenic." -random guy off street

"First Impressions" (Chapter One)

It was the fall of 1994. The excitement of beginning another school year at the greatest institution for higher learning (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) had begun. The leaves were ablaze with vibrant colors. The skies were a wide expanse of an ocean hue. And the crisp and unmistakable smell of.....cow dung was in the air. Yes, we both lived at F.A.R.(located just north of the "South Farms").

I was a junior and she was a freshman that year. And although we lived in the same dorm, strangely we never had any opportunities to meet. We both regularly attended Christian fellowships, but Kim went to InterVarsity and I went to CFC (Covenant Fellowship Church). Like most Korean-Americans – while we did not know each other we knew of each other.

My First Impression of Kim
There was another guy that lived in my dorm from St. Louis that was a freshman. His name was Fred. I kind of looked out for him since I knew he didn’t really know anyone and he was a fellow Missourian. Well, one day I hear his buddies teasing him:

Buddy#1: Hey Fred…Kim called!!! *snicker*

Buddy #2: Oooooohhhhh…Kim called! Hahahah! *snort* Hahaha!

Fred: (turning red) Ahhh…shut-up!

Buddy #2: You shut-up!

Buddy#1: Yeah, you shut up!!

Buddy #2: No! You shut-up!

I didn’t listen to the rest of the conversation for fear it would have made me dumber. But my first impression of Kim was that she was a “playah”. You know...a "man-izer" (opposite of a "womanizer"). You of those girls that liked to call guys, hang out with guys, be noticed by guys - a girl that was exceptionally beautiful…and knew it. Not that I thought of her as being a bad person – but honestly, that was my first impression and so any initial interest in her simply was not there. I couldn't stand girls that I thought were full of themselves. When I tell Kim this story now she gets indignant and says I was so wrong because she was just being nice to Fred and was only returning his phone call. 

Kim's First Impression of Me
Honda Elite 80 
When I was a junior I had this hot motorcycle I used to cruise the campus with. Ok, in actuality, it was just a little scooter. But make no mistake, this baby was eighty CC’s of raw, unbridled power. With one flick of my wrist it would make girls swoon.

I didn’t care that it sounded like an annoying mosquito – it had enough seat for two – i.e. me and one lucky lady. So, the first time Kim ever saw me was when I whizzed by on my scooter in front of FAR. I’m pretty sure this is how she envisioned me:

I honestly don’t remember seeing Kim. I was probably preoccupied praying or doing something really spiritual at that moment. Anyways, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

  • Don’t call guys incessantly. The "good ones" (haha) will think you're "boy-crazy" and dismiss you like "bad cheese".
  • Don’t live at FAR. When the wind blows north you cannot escape the smell – and guys are stupid when they see something and smell something at the same time they cannot disassociate the two. (i.e. guys will think of cows when they see you)
  • Don’t fall for the first guy that whizzes by you in a scooter. I know it worked out for Kim but that’s like one in a million.
  • Try not to snort when you's very unbecoming.
  • Live at FAR. When the wind blows north you learn to appreciate all of God's creation.
  • Get a scooter with over 80 cc’s. No one likes mosquitoes. 
"Planted Seeds" (Chapter Two)
Who would have known these two would end up together?
So even though Kim had this massive crush on me, I basically didn’t even know she existed. She was so infatuated with me that after her freshman year she decided to leave me and move to another dorm (Allen Hall), while I stayed in cow dung heaven (FAR). So we never really crossed paths. However at the start of her sophomore year, by some divine twist of fate, when she moved over to Allen Hall, there was some room assignment screw-up and my younger sister Lydia ended up rooming with Kim along with two other girls. They didn't really know each other and were each supposed to live in separate doubles, but they ended up combining into one large room called a quad. Do you see how the Lord works in mysterious ways? Some people have speculated that I came up with some diabolical scheme and paid my younger sister to befriend Kim so that she could feed her a continuous diet of fabricated stories about how wonderful a brother and person I was. Those are vicious lies. I would never “pay” my sister to do such a thing. I could easily get her to do that for free.

Anyways, contrary to popular belief I never called my sister, with the hopes that Kim would answer the phone, allowing me to strike up a “Rico Suave” conversation with her. If I did though, this is probably how it would have went:

Me: “Hello?”

Kim: “Hello.”

Me: “Hello?!" *Ahem* [voice going an octave lower] “Hey baby, this is Rico Sua…errr…I mean…Peter. Is Lydia there?”

Kim: “Huh? Oh, no…sorry – she’s out.”

Me: “Oh really? That’s….unfortunate.” [grinch-like smile slowly spreading across my face]

Kim: “Uh-huh.”

Me: “So…did Lydia ever tell you about that time that I heroically saved her life…from dying…in that one life and death situation…you know…that one time?”

Kim: “Uhhhh….no.”

Me: “Oh. What about that time that I got her that wonderfully, expensive birthday present…when it was her birthday…in that life and birth situation…you know…that one time?”

Kim: “Ummmm….sorry…no.”

Me: “Do you like scooters?”

You see - if I tried “Rico Suave” our potential relationship would have been doomed from the start. God is good. But honestly, at that point, I never thought of her as anything more than a nice girl. That said, there were a ton of guys that “liked” her though – and I mean a ton! To this day, I’m still finding out about different guys who liked her from her dusty shoebox collection of old birthday cards, pathetic love letters, etc – guys I would have never imagined too. Some of those guys are probably reading this blog. (You guys know who you are...shame on you.) Here’s a recent conversation between me and Kim discussing male-reject #437:

Me: “No!!! That guy liked you too??”

Kim: [nodding head]

Me: “But…he was a church officer as a freshman, who never missed a morning prayer, was a mute around girls, had sworn to celibacy upon puberty, and never cut his hair upon taking the Nazirite vow!”

Kim: [shrugs shoulders]

But I digress. Point is, with my sister being my spy…err...I mean her roommate, I realized Kim wasn’t at all the “playah” I initially thought she was. The turning point of my perception of her was in December of 1995. I remember having a conversation with my sister, Lydia, about who she could “see” me marrying. Her exact words were:
“Peter, you need someone like Kim….but don’t even think about her.”
Ahhh..the sweet honesty shared between close siblings. I don’t know why she added that little caveat in the end. Maybe she was trying to protect me – knowing that Kim was way out of my league and I would face certain rejection. Maybe she thought Kim was too good for me – fearing my pure evil would corrupt her pure heart. Maybe she thought of the hundreds of innocent girls that would hysterically jump out of windows once they found out I had “given” my heart to Kim – yeah, that was probably it.

Anyways, that first part stayed with me like a redundant echo that incessantly repeats itself over and over again. “You need someone like Kim.” From that day forward, I just kind of took that to heart and the seed was planted. I didn’t start praying for her right then, but I think at that point I thought of her differently. You know…the way a 12 year old geek-boy thinks of Kim Kardashian. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

For single women:
  • Be nice to all your girlfriends and roomates. Who knows – one of them might have a smokin’ hot older brother.
  • Unless you want 437 guys sniffing around you, learn to be rude to boys. Every guy thinks every girl is in love with them unless you're constantly rude to them. What can I say? Guys are stupid.
  • Be wary of guys calling you under the pretense that they are looking for their sister. No guys call their sisters. Ever.
For single men:
  • Treat all women as if they were your sisters. On second thought, treat them better than you treat your sisters.
  • Don’t ever use your sisters to plot diabolical schemes to meet girls. However, if you do make sure you hire a lawyer and pre-negotiate an air-tight agreement with a clearly defined fixed payment schedule.
  • Don’t pass judgment on people based on your first impressions of them. You just may pass on your future wife. Similarly, don’t pass gas in front of you future wife either. (this embarrassing life lesson will be explained in another chapter)
"An Answered Prayer" (Chapter Three)
The picture posted to the left is of me and my cousin (Jared Park). We are 9 years old. As you can see my mom bought us matching striped shirts when she visited Seoul, Korea that summer, and thought it would be cute if we wore them together and hugged. Yes. How cute indeed. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, Peter was really a good-looking 9 year old! And a real trend-setter for fashion! How did he know wearing tight clothes on an emaciated frame, combined with a Justin Bieber haircut and Harry Potter glasses would be so cool? And decades before its current explosion in American pop culture?”
Yes, you have a great point…but let’s be honest here…I’m a geek-boy in a Korean polyester bowling shirt, with over-sized glasses and a gummy smile.
I’m not showing you this picture because it’s something I’m proud of. I’m only showing this to you because I want you to see first-hand the power of prayer and the mighty God we serve. With those looks, how could I have won the heart of the most desired woman on the U of Illinois campus circa 1994-1998? One word…PRAYER. And that’s what this chapter is about….an answered prayer.
 …the saga continues.
My sister Lydia's statement “You need someone like Kim.” continued to ring in my ears - much like a pesky mosquito incessantly buzzing around your ear when you’re trying to fall asleep. And so for a time I hid it within the deep recesses of my heart. Much like Mary hid Jesus’ teachings and “treasured…and pondered them in her heart”. Yeah, just like that - but maybe not quite that same level of purity. Point being, I never told a soul that I was even remotely thinking about her – not even my sister.
So by now, two years have passed since the Tom Cruise scooter incident, and it’s October of 1996, my super-senior year (don’t judge me for staying 5 years). The fact was, I really didn’t know much about Kim at all, other than the few times I ran into her and the nice things my sister shared about her. And sadly, at this point I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to find that special someone in college. But strangely, I felt like I shouldn’t close every door – there was a glimmer of hope. I remember one night while studying in my dorm room, I started thinking about Kim and I remember praying this simple prayer:
“Lord, I really don’t know this girl, but if it’s Your will – please give me an opportunity to get to know her.”  
We didn’t live in the same dorm. We had no classes together. We didn’t even go to the same church. And worst of all, I was graduating that coming spring.  I had no idea how God was going to answer that prayer, but in faith I prayed it anyways. And I kid you not. Within 5 minutes of uttering that exact prayer I get the most incredible phone call in my entire life. It’s Papa John’s and my ham and pineapple pizza is downstairs. But then, not 5 minutes after that, I get another call, it’s my sister Lydia and she tells me Bernie Shim, Kim’s cousin, wants to teach some people how to ballroom dance and so he’s asking some other brother/sisters if they want to learn. Apparently, there were like four other brother/sister pairs that he had asked and Kim, was going to be his partner and help him teach.

Wow. I don’t ever remember receiving such an immediate and blatant answer to prayer. I think that’s the one thing that kept me going when things got rough. Papa John’s pizza…nah…just kidding…that answered prayer. I always felt like ultimately God had a will in this and that small answered prayer was just enough to help me step out in faith.

Okay, enough of the sappy stuff - I’ll skip to the exciting part - our first ballroom dance lesson. The night of the first lesson quickly arrives, and I’m more nervous than a stray dog who has accidentally wandered into a Korean butcher shop. To top it all off, like all princesses going to the ball, I have no idea what I’m going to wear. So I ask myself, “Self, what would Rico Suave wear?” And then in my mind’s ear I could hear Rico’s unmistakable voice:
“Pedro, nothing impresses the moochacha’s like a well-designed, color-coordinated outfit. Now vamoose and capture the woman of your dreams!!”
I smiled and nodded my head in agreement. How could I be so stupid? In this type of occasion there is only one thing I can wear. I take a deep breath, walk over to my dorm room closet and slowly and carefully pull out my most well-designed, color-coordinated outfit: my navy blue “Champion” nylon warm-up suit. This moment had “Champion” written all over it.
So after putting on my "game-suit" and my "game-face" I get to the stage at Lincoln Hall and there are four other couples there and Bernie is about to teach us how to waltz. Now, despite having the lean muscular body type of a jaguar and the nimble agility of a gazelle – the truth is when it comes to dancing – I have all the sophisticated grace of a drunken elephant. All three of my sisters were pom captains in high school and I probably could have been the first male to make the pom team on the basis of my sister’s reputations alone – but seriously don’t ask what happened to me. When God created me he left out the “dance” gene and replaced it with the “clap and jump” gene. The truth is, unless there’s a predictable techno beat (e.g. Night at the Roxbury) when I’m dancing – I’m more lost than a Mandarin Chinese person trying to learn Cantonese. Dang near impossible!
I digress – back to the dancing class.  Bernie and Kim demonstrate the first few basic moves and suddenly, I’m beginning to wonder if this was truly an answer to prayer…or a lesson in humility. I am trying to “ballroom dance” – in the most liberal sense of the word, but my warm-up suit coupled with my nervousness is causing me to sweat profusely. And then Bernie, suggests that we all switch partners to enhance our learning. *Gasp* I didn’t know we were going to switch...I would have opted for my nicer Russell Athletic warm-up suit! My heart begins to race. Kim is only two rotations away. Again, we dance. Stop. Rotate. Oh boy, here comes my moment of truth. Dance. Stop. Rotate. And there she is – my “answered prayer”. I’m literally shaking. But then it happened. I don’t know how to explain it. Our eyes met and as soon as Kim’s delicate left hand touched my broad and muscular shoulder – everything clicks for me, a thousand light bulbs go off, the room is spinning and I am suddenly gliding across the moonlit floor, moving effortlessly and elegantly with a confident purpose, seemingly at one with the enchanting music, everyone else has disappeared…except her…a vision of beauty appearing as an angel floating in the air in perfect unison with me…as if our hearts, mind, body and soul had coalesced in that one magical moment in time. At least that’s how I remember it.
Kim might tell you I looked nervous, my hands were clammy, my warm-ups were loud and I stepped on her feet a lot. But don’t believe her for a second. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
For single women:
  • Be open to being friends with guys. Nothing wrong with friendships - especially in group settings. Just don’t try to learn how to ballroom dance with guys that dance like “drunken elephants”. 
  • It’s never too early to pray for your future spouse…conversely, it’s also never too early to pray that God will make “that heebie guy” stop praying for a relationship with you.
For single men:
  • Learn how to ballroom dance. Girls love sleek jaguars NOT drunken elephants.
  • It’s never too early to pray for your future spouse…and the occasional Papa John’s ham and pineapple pizza
    "The Flower of Unspeakable Beauty" (Chapter Four)
    Strangely, despite that magical October night of ballroom dancing, in which our souls communicated beyond words – Kim never called me. I guess her roommate must have forgotten to pay the phone bill. No matter…Rico Suave was not going to be deterred by an unpaid phone bill.

    I really wanted to tell her right after that ballroom dance class that I was the man of her dreams…the love of her life…the reason for her being…the purpose for her creation…the bane of her existence…errr…sorry I kind of lost track of my thoughts there. Where was I? Oh yeah, the love of her life…but I felt the Lord was telling me to wait…and pray.  And so, after that night I decided that I was going to commit this “thing” to prayer. That said, I knew that in my flesh, my urge would be to confront her with my feelings sooner rather than later – especially with me graduating in a few short months. But I also knew that I needed to trust God and take the time and discipline to really pray about it and seek and submit to His will.  So to help me in this I went out and bought an amaryllis plant – this plant was going to keep me accountable.

    Now, the unromantic among you are probably thinking, “How can a plant keep you accountable?” Well, as most educated people know, the amaryllis bulb can be planted in a pot. [see diagram]

    And with the proper care and attention in approximately 13 weeks it blossoms into a flower of unspeakable beauty. 

    Okay, so maybe in retrospect, it does kind of look like the "asparagus" from Veggie Tales but you’re probably just saying that because no one ever gave you any flowers in college. 
    So anyways, I committed myself to pray about Kim for the duration it took that plant to flower. (about 3 months) I would water it every day and it would remind me to pray on a daily basis for discernment in God’s leading for this relationship. I thought – when the plant flowers if I sense that she is the one than I will give her the flower and I will ask her to consider praying about beginning a dating relationship with me. 

    At this point I am sure most of the male readers are dry-heaving in disgust. But I’m guessing most of you are over 25 years old, still single and living with your parents, sitting behind a computer you built yourself while wearing your favorite Batman pajamas. So don’t judge me. 

    Where was I? Oh yeah, so every day I would wake up and care for this plant as if it were an orphaned child. I would then pray for Kim and ask the Lord to reveal His will to me. So Christmas break 1996 rolls along and it was still only about 1/3 of the way to blossoming. I take this potted plant home for the break with this ugly green stub in it and, of course, I have to endure some brutal persecution from my family.  My sisters make fun of me. My mom fears I’ve become deathly ill. And my dad openly wonders where he went wrong.  

    A little background: You have to understand being the only boy and growing up with three sisters I was stuck doing all of the manual labor around the house. Shovel the driveway? Peter can do it. Take out the garbage? Peter can do it. Mow our two-acre lawn with a large pair of scissors? Peter can do it. Broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine? Peter can do it. Stop Lex Luthor from destroying California? Peter can do it. But worst of all, my mom had this thing for plants. Her idea of beautiful landscaping was buying 957 pots of mums and planting them alongside our sidewalk and driveway. Guess who was stuck digging all 957 holes and planting those ugly suckers? Let’s just say, when the movie “The Constant Gardener” came out, my first thought was, “Someone has made a movie about my life without telling me!” But if that were the case, let me tell you, casting Ralph Fiennes over Brad Pitt would have been a major mistake.

    But I digress. So, as a result of my experience, at a very young age I was classically conditioned to hate all plants of any kind. Even seeing the color green would cause me to fester with a dark anger. In fact, via therapy, I’m just now beginning to understand why I’ve always harbored an inexplicable hatred for Gumby, Kermit the Frog, and The Incredible Hulk. 

    That said, you can understand why my entire family was freaking out when I brought my own plant home. In fact, my mom’s first reaction upon coming home with the plant was to place her hand on my forehead and fire up a pot of “hahn-yahk” - that timeless Korean cure-all. If you don’t know what “hahn-yahk” is then just imagine boiling a skunk that has eaten too much cabbage and rolled in sulfur. This is “hahn-yahk”.  It’s secret to curing all known diseases is that it’s unparalleled odor drives including every form of deadly virus and bacterium. Unfortunately, the nasty side effect is that it also kills every other healthy and living cell in your body - come to think of it - it's basically "Korean chemotherapy". So anyways, while mixing the “hahn-yahk”, she says:

    Mom: “Peter-yah!” [Tip: if you want to learn how to say your name in Korean than just say it in English and add a “yah” after it. Congratulations. You are now bi-lingual.]

    Me: “Neh, oh-muh-nee?” [Yes, my dear and beloved mother?]

    Mom: “Aeigo! Mohm-hee gehn-chah-nah?” [Aeigo! Are you feeling okay?]

    Me: “Neh. Gehn-chah-nah, oh-muh-nee.” [Yes, I am feeling okay, my dear and beloved mother.]

    Mom: “Hahn-yahk mash-yuh!” [Drink some of this boiled skunk that has eaten too much cabbage and rolled in sulfur]

    Me: “Ah-nee-yo. Juh-nuhn shee-ruh, oh-muh-nee.” [No. I do not wish to, my dear and beloved mother.]

    Mom: “Mm. Guh-ruhm, bahl-lee ban ahn-neh gah-suh, gohtt gah-jee-goh-wah. Oh-nuhl, goo-baek-oh-sheep-cheel-myung sah-suh.” [Mm. Then quickly go to the van and get my flowers. I bought 957 of them today.]


    As you can see, it’s actually a minor miracle that I turned out to be the well-adjusted, normal person I am today. So Christmas break came and went and January passed with little fanfare. Kim and I talked here and there, I went to a few more ballroom dance classes and stepped on her feet some more, we grew in our friendship and I was more and more assured that she was the one, while she was more and more assured of seeing a podiatrist. As for the plant, it slowly began to blossom and the day of reckoning was quickly approaching…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    For Single Women:
    •  Never turn away flowers from a guy. You have no idea how much thought and prayer may have been put into it. Unless it’s clearly from the nearest gas station.
    • Make sure your phone bills are paid. Some hottie may be trying to get in touch with you to no avail…or maybe it’s your brother.
    • Don’t make your future sons plant 957 pots of mums in your front yard. I know I turned out to be a well-adjusted, debonair, spiritual giant…but that’s like one in a million.

    For Single Men:
    • Get rid of those Batman pajamas, get a job and get your own apartment. No girls like lazy and unmotivated men.
    • Don’t bring potted plants home from college. Unless you want your house to smell like a boiled skunk that has eaten too much cabbage and rolled in sulfur.
    • Don’t bother renting The Constant Gardner. Brad Pitt is not in it and it’s not about me. 
    "The Flower of Unspeakable Beauty...Blooms!" (Chapter Five)
    So February finally arrives and with my meticulous care and attention the amaryllis plant has now budded into full bloom. It is a glorious explosion of colors of unspeakable beauty. A perfect metaphor of my undying love and devotion. The time has come to give her the flower, confess my feelings and ride off into the sunset together on my white horse. (or at least to Hot Wok Express in my rusty ‘89 Celica). However, something just doesn’t seem right. I realize I am still not quite ready to confront her. I don’t know why I had this feeling. Perhaps at that time, I had been the unfortunate recipient of a bad haircut from an unskilled roommate, perhaps I had a nasty zit parked right on the center of my nose, perhaps it was because I thought if I moved to early, our conversation would go something like this: 

    Me: “Kim, may I speak to you for a moment?” [cue Celine Dion song of choice in portable boombox for background music]

    Kim: “Sure.”

    Me: “I know this may seem a bit silly. But let’s be honest. We’ve spent some pretty good times together. {nodding head] Have we not? Granted, there were some ups and downs there…a veritable roller-coaster, as it were…but we found our way. Did we not? People counted us out – yes, many people -  but they had no idea what we shared – you and me. It would be a shame to walk away from everything we’ve worked so hard to build over the years – these many years. I guess what I’m trying to say is [down on one knee]…will you marry me?” [pulling out WalMart’s finest cubic zirconium]

    Kim: “I’m sorry…do I know you? Oh wait…aren’t you the creepy guy  in the loud sweat-suit that dances like a drunken elephant!” [as she whips out an industrial-size can of pepper spray from her purse]

    Whew! Thankfully that never happened!

    God is good. 

    So instead I opted to spend a few more days in prayer for some final discernment before I called her for “the talk” – you know “D.T.R.”…you know…“Do the RicoSuave”.  

    Unfortunately, although the amaryllis takes 13 long weeks to bud to unspeakable beauty, once it flowers it only lasts for a couple days. Stupid plant manual never told me that. So you can imagine my surprise when I get home from class one day - ready to finally confess my love - and the flowers I had cared for as an orphaned child, looked just like this:

    From the door, my hands go to my face, my knees go to the floor, and my screams go to the sky:
    "My flower of unspeakable beauty!!!”

    “My metaphor of undying love!!!”

    “My ham and pineapple pizza!!!” [my roommate ate the last leftover slice I was looking forward to enjoying all through Religious Studies 104 that morning…the selfish pig]

    After a few hours of first shock…then denial…then acceptance…then uncontrollable weeping, I was finally able to get off the floor and gather myself. I told myself:

    “Self, Papa John’s is always running specials on two-topping mediums…just let it go.” So I let it go. WWJD, right? [FYI, WWJD = "What Would Jesus Do?"]

    Oh, and then, I picked up the limp and shriveled amaryllis from my window sill. How could this be? My flower of unspeakable beauty! My metaphor of undying love! My ham and pineapple pizza! [I was still having difficulty letting go of the pizza…don’t judge me!…ohhhh the selfish pig!] I then gathered myself and thought, “Okay. The flower is dead.” And wondered “What else can I give her that would communicate my undying love and devotion?” A few great ideas crossed my mind:

    1. My favorite Spider-Man comic book still encased in it’s protective sleeve. I'm talking issue #34 – where our webbed superhero combats the insidiously evil….Dr. Octopus! Name ONE person who would NOT want this!!!        
    2. My WWJD bracelet. Since I felt I could no longer live up to it anyways…what with my unloveable-pizza-stealing roommate…the selfish pig!

    3. An exquisite, romantic, candle-lit dinner at Hot Wok Express on University Avenue. Nothing like a little "Kung Pao" Chicken to put some extra "kick" into the romance! Yeah, baby, yeah!!

    Thankfully, none of these “Plan B’s” came into play. Upon throwing away my ill-fated potted plant, I was able to salvage a lone live flower petal from the shriveled twigs. I thought, “I’ll just lovingly and carefully press this lone petal onto the page of the letter I’m going to give her when I ask her to pray for me.”  

    I then lovingly and carefully pressed that lone petal onto the page of the letter I was going to give her when I was going to ask her to pray for me. And then in my finest moment of inspiration, I proceeded to write the most beautiful letter I have ever written in my entire life [with notes to self in brackets]....

    Dear Kim,

    I know this may seem a bit silly. But let’s be honest. We’ve spent some pretty good times together. [nod here dumb-dumb] Have we not? Granted, there were some ups and downs there…a veritable roller-coaster, as it were…but we found our way. Did we not? People counted us out – yes, many people -  but they had no idea what we shared – you and me. It would be a shame to walk away from everything we’ve worked so hard to build over the years – these many years. I guess what I’m trying to say is [go down on one knee now, stupid]…will you marry me? [pull out WalMart’s finest cubic zirconium...yes, you!]

    Forever my love,
    Rico Suave

    Wow. It brings a tear to my eye just re-reading that heart-felt poetry only true love could inspire. And then I get ready to call her to meet me for “the talk”…that’s part of my story and I’m partially sticking to it…

    Single Women:
    Don’t worry if you don’t get any flowers from boys. Chances are there are boys out there growing flowers for you…they just died before he could give them to you. 

    Always carry an industrial-size can of pepper spray in your purse. You never know when some crazy guy may appear out of nowhere and ask you to marry him.

    If a guy takes you to a restaurant where the menu choices have numbers next to them - leave him AND the restaurant. 

    Single Men:
    Always read the instructions carefully when you try to plant and grow flowers. (FYI – Amaryllis die soon after blooming)

    Make sure you always carry an antidote for pepper spray with you. You never know when some crazy girl may spray you without provocation and without due process.

    Take that special girl to a restaurant where the menu choices have numbers next to them. Girls love lots of selection!
    "Defining the Relationship" (Chapter Six)
     Okay. It’s February 10th, 1997. Yes, it’s only four days from V-Day but today it’s D-Day. Or better yet DTR Day.  You know…“Do the RicoSuave” Day…err…I mean "Defining the Relationship" Day.
    You guys have all been there before, right? Don’t lie. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Staying up countless nights imagining the possibilities, giggling under your covers in your Batman pajamas. And then it hits you…

    “What if she says no?”

    So then you start employing different strategies, calculating decision trees, envisioning potential scenarios, running regression analyses, practicing game theory, solving for the Nash equilibrium – you know -  trying to predict how she will respond to that timeless…no…age-old…question all our fathers, fathers-fathers, grandfathers, husbands of our grandmothers, and sons of our great-grandfathers asked their eventual wives:

     “Do you like me?”

    In first grade, you ask the question and if she says, “Sick! No!!” – you just shrug your shoulders, finish your chocolate milk, and blame it on the ubiquitous fear of that deadly cootie epidemic.

    In fourth grade, you ask the question and if she says, “Sick! No!!” – you just shrug your shoulders, finish your styrofoam pizza and blame it on your uncanny resemblance to Steven Urkel from Family Matters.

    In junior high, you ask the question and if she says, “Sick! No!!” – you just shrug your shoulders, finish your puberty, and blame it on your semi-hairy legs and semi-predictable vocal chords.
    bonus points for this 1970's cultural reference
    In high school, you ask the question and if she says, “Sick! No!!” – you just shrug your shoulders, curl up to your true love, your TV, and watch another action-packed episode of  “The A-Team”. [“tee-hee…crazy Murdock!!”]

    In college, you ask the question and if she says, “Sick! No!!” – you just shrug your shoulders, go to Friday Night Large Group and hope tonight is the “Dating Seminar” and pray she has a teachable heart.

    In your last semester in college, you ask the question and if she says, “Sick! No!!” – that is it! No more! You cannot shrug your shoulders any longer! You are wearing a large backpack with your Chemistry textbook in it and it is very heavy. Coincidentally, you also come to the sobering realization that you may die an old maid…errrr…man…die an old man.

    It’s a real petrifying epiphany. 

    Real petrifying.

    Real epiphanic.


    Despite all that, I feel like the time is right. I mean I prayed for three solid months.  I bought a flower. I grew a flower. I killed a flower. I spoke with her cousin Bernie and got his blessing. I spoke with Pastor Min and got his blessing. I spoke with the County Market checkout lady, Edna, and got her blessing, along with the correct change. I was good to go.  It was “now or never”.  It was “do or die”.  It was “win or go home”.  It was “stop the cliches or you’ll lose readers.”  I pack up my carefully worded letter with the amaryllis petal pressed into it.

    And then, I finally call Kim up and ask her if she is free to go out for some coffee. I think Kim suspects something is up since the only coffee I ever have resides in cake, candy, and ice cream. We head to Espresso Royale, a cafe, across the street from church (CUCC) and get out of my car. And then the worst imaginable thing happens - we run into a couple church friends and my college pastor - Pastor Min…"DRAT!"

    Background: Now, I don’t know if you guys have ever been a part of a college fellowship. But when I was in college if two people of the opposite sex were contemplating a possible dating relationship the last thing that couple wanted was anyone from the church spotting them together on campus, for fear that unnecessary rumors would start before anything had happened. Thus, sullying the young maiden’s name and precluding her from ever hoping for a proper English nuptial. However, when you’re in a church of 400 people, who never sleep, live within a one-mile radius of each other, and have cameras – you suddenly empathize with Brad and Angelina, and the whole world is your paparazzi. I remember one autumn morning, I walked this freshman girl to her class, and by lunch my buddies were throwing rice at me and tying cans to the back of my car. Disgusting! She was my little sister! (Lydia)

    But I digress. Now at this point I’m trying my best to avoid Pastor Min and the people he’s with but it’s too late. He sees me and he’s cool about it. I mean we talked and I got his blessing right? We just casually pass by each other and he just kind of gives me this look.

    You know kind of like the look Jesus gave to Judas at the Last Supper. 

    The “what you are about to do…do quickly” look.

    But for Kim’s sake I didn’t want us being seen together. I guess if I didn’t want church people to see us I shouldn’t have chosen to meet up at the coffee shop directly across from the church. I’m such a genius.
    So we’re sitting there sipping on our coffee and I’m too anxious to ask her there. My perfect game plan had been thrown off kilter and for the first time ever Rico Suave is frazzled - at least since the sweat-suit incident. I have absolutely no recollection of what we discussed there- probably the thermodynamic implications of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or why exactly The Incredible Hulk turns green when he gets mad – it was one or the other...I can't remember.

    Despite how great things were going in our conversation of said topic, I was too nervous to bring our relationship up. We then get back into my car and I’m about to completely chicken out and drive her home when I am suddenly overcome with this feeling that I should go ahead and ask her now. Whether it was the good Lord moving in my nervous heart or the whipped cream moving in my lactose-intolerant stomach – I’ll never know. But man, that cream is killer.

    So I gather my wits and ask her, “Do you mind if we go for a little drive?”

    She pauses and then nervously agrees.

    I start driving around and I have no idea where I’m going. I pull over somewhere in Champaign - probably a nice, romantic high-crime location. We’re sitting in the dark in my Celica and I then go off on my 30 minute soliloquy about how for the last year she has been on my mind, and how I had committed her to prayer and felt like we were meant for each other and  how I was the man of her dreams…the love of her life…the reason for her being…the purpose for her creation…the bane of her existence. And then finally I ask her the Christian equivalent of that timeless question “Do you like me?”…..

    “Kim, would you consider praying for me?”

    At this point she’s staring out her window so I cannot read her face. Straining to hear her reply…


                    More silence.

                                    Deafening silence.

    Once you’ve popped that question time is suddenly suspended and you feel like the most vulnerable person in the world. Waiting…




    It’s actually quite similar to being at the doctor’s office waiting for a hernia examination. But I digress. I’ve done it. I’ve confessed my love. I’ve revealed my heart. I’ve bared my soul. I’ve spilled the beans. Now I must wait and see if she will eat my beans…and smile, a beautiful smile. Or eat my beans…and fart, a nasty fart. [apologies for the PG-13 analogies]
    "Silence of the Lamb" (Chapter Seven)
    So after waiting for what seemed to be an eternity (or at least 30 seconds) I begin to wonder….is she still alive? I see her breath fogging up the passenger side window. Yes, she’s still breathing. Okay, this is a good sign. With her eyes still fixed outside she finally responds to my “Will you pray for me?” with a perfunctory….
    I am suddenly overcome with an inexplicable sensation that can only be explained as joy down in my heart. Deep, deep down in my heart. J-O-Y down in my heart. Deep, deep down in my heart. But then something happens…she begins to cry. Not a wail. Not a wimper. Just a subtle tear followed by a slight sniffle. My first instinct was to nod and smile, “Tears of joy, Rico. Tears. Of. Joy.”

    But when she finally looked forward I could make out her face…and she didn’t look happy. Why was she crying? I was confused. Was it something I said?

    There are few situations in life that makes a guy more uncomfortable than being in the presence of a girl that is crying. I personally can only think of a few:

    • Dancing like a drunken elephant in front of friends and family.
    • Letting one go in an elevator – only to have the doors open with people you know walking in. 
    • Getting a face full of pepper spray for asking someone a simple question.
    • Going #2 in a public restroom (or Grainger Library...for example) and suddenly realizing you are sitting in the women’s bathroom

    Not that I have any experiential knowledge in any of the aforementioned. She didn’t say much on the way home. It was pretty quiet in the car and frankly a bit uncomfortable. I dropped her off at her dorm and said good-bye but things just didn’t seem right. What happened? This was not how I envisioned things playing out—to be honest, I thought it would go more like this:

    Me: …will you pray for me?
    Kim: O Chomeo, Chomeo! Wherefore art thou Chomeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a Shimulet.
    Me: “Ummm....maybe! [nervous laugh] So….is that a yes?”
    Kim: “Yes! Yes!! A thousand times Yes!!!
    Me: “Sweet! Let’s go to Hot Wok and celebrate!”

    But alas, this is not how it went. My roommate, Scott, was waiting for me at home, eager to find out what happened…and I really don’t have much to say. I felt like I had done it. I confessed my love. I revealed my heart. I bared my soul. I spilled the beans. It was my moment of truth and I waited to see if she would eat my beans…and smile, a beautiful smile. Or eat my beans…and flatulate, a nasty flatus (click the link - that is a word). I felt like I got neither. I felt like I got a beautiful fart. You know…one that sounds like a Mozart concerto sans the odor.What the heck?

    We now entered into this supremely awkward phase in our relationship. It’s strange. You work so hard, pray so fervently, and wait so long to get to this point and when you’re finally there – you realize you’re clueless on what you are supposed to do. Once you have entered the praying phase what do you do as a couple?
    Do you talk?
    Do you watch movies?
    Do you fast?
    Do you talk about movies really fast?
    What do you do?

    No one has really explained to me what this time was for. Probably because most of the guys telling me “this is the way you do it” were as clueless as I was. (their singleness should have been a hint) And so began our “courtship”…in the most liberal sense of the word. Although I asked her to "pray about" having a relationship with me - she now says in her mind she had actually only agreed to "pray about praying" about it. Try figuring that one out boys!

    During this time most of our dates would encompass going to the library to “study”. I put this in quotes because “studying” mostly meant opening a textbook to read and occasionally looking upward for an awkward glance – in which your eyes would briefly meet and then immediately go back to the same page you had been staring at for the last 3 hours. Most of these times were strategically planned and located so that we would not be seen by anyone of the 600 people on campus that we knew – as if this process needed any more stress. So during our initial talk – I expressed hope that by the time I graduated in May we would both have a clearer understanding of where the Lord wanted this relationship to go. But things didn’t seem right – or natural. I think she felt like she didn’t know me well enough to make that type of a decision. It was either that – or she was intimidated by my rugged good looks. Whatever it was, I could sense that she was uncomfortable through those entire three months. This was not what I envisioned. I thought courtship was supposed to be filled with “candle-light romance”. Instead it felt more like “super-tight underpants”. You know what I mean? Really uncomfortable – and when you try to make a move – it only gets more tight and constricting. Not that I still have those Batman underoos. And if I did…what’s it to you? Pharisees.

    So our “courtship” or “prayer time” or "praying about praying about it time" was winding to a close. Three months had passed and it was now May and I was nearing my graduation and she was growing in consternation. My whole family was coming into town to see me get my diploma (they wanted visual proof). It was time for us to come to a decision and “meet the parents”. Was she ready to move forward? Was she not? What was to become of us?

    For single men:
    • Don’t assume that every time a girl cries – it’s because she’s madly in love with you.
    • Know exactly what to do when a girl cries. That said, if anyone knows what to do - tell me. I’m still clueless.
    • Don’t ask girls to “pray” for you unless you’re pretty dang sure she is the one. Emphasis on the “dang”.
    For single women:
    • Let your “yes be yes and your no be no”. Please no “beautiful flati” – it confuses everyone. (what is the plural form of "flatus"?)
    • Try not to cry in front of men – I know it’s a defense mechanism but really…. it frightens us. 
    • If a guy asks you to "pray about it" - don't come back with "I'll pray about praying about it." That's just confusing and guys are simple (i.e. dumb). 
    "The Rejection" (Chapter Eight)
    Although, I got the exact answer I was looking for it seemed Kim was as excited about praying about a relationship as a bald man gets buying conditioner. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for her to make a decision. It’s not like it was brain science…..or rocket surgery. Some of you may be wondering why Kim was crying when I popped the big question? How the heck would I know? Why does any girl cry? While you’re at it, why don’t you ask me to solve life’s other greatest mysteries like:

    Who killed JFK?

    How do bumblebees fly?

    Where do black socks go?

    Why does the Incredible Hulk turn green when angry?

    Fact is even girls don’t know why they cry. Sure they’ll come up with some reason like “I was feeling sad.” or “You hurt my feelings.” or “It needed stitches.” but trust me – they’re as clueless as the men. I think it has to do with some dynamic combination of the lunar calendar, wind direction, chocolate consumption, who is on Oprah, interplanetary alignment, Brad Pitt’s marital status and how many games the Cubs are behind the Cardinals. But that’s just my personal theory – which is based on 10+ years of marriage and growing up with 3 sisters, so I think it’s a pretty good theory.

    So anyways, it’s May 1997. I’m graduating. My parents are coming to verify. I’m not sure whether I should invite Kim to eat lunch with my family since nothing is official yet but upon talking to my sister Lydia – she figures it wouldn’t hurt. So I ask her and she seems hesitant but agrees. I’m thinking she felt a little awkward about the situation but that’s just a hunch. Here’s a picture I dug up from my graduation.

    Ken, Lydia, Mom, Me, Dad, Esther, Grace, Brian, My Future Wife
    That’s Kim way over there on the right. She barely made it in the picture. Does she look uncomfortable? Like she wants to move away from the group and run for the nearest hills? Oh yeah. That skinny guy in the cap and gown is me. As you can see I’ve put on about 40 pounds of muscle since then. I forgive you.

    Anyways we make it through lunch and Kim meets my parents – which is awkward but without any major surprises. Before I leave to go back home we decide to just try and continue in prayer but I could sense that she was nowhere near making any type of commitment. Since I was going to be starting my job in St. Louis in July and she would be finishing up school in Champaign – I really didn’t see how we were going to make things work unless we both made a commitment to try and make things work. Then it happens….in June she sends me a letter and sadly it’s a long diatribe on how she wasn’t ready for a relationship, how she felt this wasn’t the right time in her life, how she needed time to figure things out. But like most guys I tried to grasp on to anything that might give me a glimmer of hope – a “raison d’etre”. [for the unsophisticated - that’s French for “yogurt-covered raisins”]. As I read the letter I kept telling myself – it could still work out….if we just gave it time – but then came the kicker – she didn’t feel it was wise to talk anymore. Not for a week, not for a month, but indefinitely. She felt like it might confuse intentions and mislead me otherwise…


    That’s all I could say… “Wow.”

    It hurt so deep that I even said it backwards…“.woW”.

    It became apparent now why she cried when I asked her to “pray” about it. She didn’t want to pray about it. She wanted us to remain friends. She knew things between us would never be the same from that day forward. A part of me died that day. I had never felt so crushed in all my life. I was at an all-time low. Rock-bottom. The depths of despair. Nadir of all nadirs.

    Since I didn’t start my full-time job until later in July – I basically had all this time to wallow in sorrow and analyze, ad nauseum, why I wasn’t good enough for her. My sisters said I looked depressed just because I would:
    1. Sleep until 2:00 in the afternoon.
    2. Sit all day in a dark room listening to the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” on repeat
    3. Burst into tearful convulsions when anyone mentioned any word that rhymed with “Kim”…. or strangely “Shim” as well.
    But what normal 22 year old doesn’t do these things? Ok – don’t answer that.

    The following month, in a last ditch effort to salvage our relationship I drove up to campus to see her under the pretense that I was visiting my sister Lydia. (Kim was there for summer school and was actually rooming with Lydia along with a couple other girls.) I wasn’t going to press the issue with Kim again but I did want to see if we would still be able to be friends. I ran into her twice that weekend – once in their apartment and again at a church picnic. I guess “ran into” would be saying it nicelyt, because she actually walked right past me both times without saying "hi" or even turning to look at me. I hit a new low. Not only was it clear that we could not be friends, but I no longer even existed in her eyes.

    I know this may come as a shock for many of you who know Kim as this sweet and gentle soul, but this is all true. To be fair, years later she said the reason why she did that was because she didn’t know what to do and she didn’t want to lead me on in any way. She was probably right. I’m sure if she looked at me and said, “Hi.” I would have asked her to marry me on the spot. So I guess God knew what He was doing when He had Kim treat me as if I were a leper with bad breath and lot of gas. God is good.

    After that picnic, I met with Lydia for lunch before driving back. I remember our conversation from 15 years ago like it was yesterday. She was hoping things would work out and to encourage me she said:
    “Don’t lose hope. Just keep praying, you never know if she might…” 
    I lifted my hand while she was in mid-sentence, and she stopped talking. She saw the tears welling up in my eyes and tears began to well up in hers. It was one of those rare sibling moments where no more words needed to be said. I didn’t want to hope anymore because I didn’t want to hurt any more. And so that’s how things with Kim ended. I went from sharing deeply with her all my greatest hopes and fears to realizing in our break-up that I had lost all hope in her and realized my greatest fear of rejection.

    That summer I tried to find a “new normal” in my life. But nothing seemed normal. Suddenly, all of Celine Dion’s songs took on newfound meaning. What made it more painful was that I was so sure - so certain of God’s will - so confident that she was “the one”.

    How did this happen?

    Where did I go wrong?

    Why does that cursed “My Heart Will Go On” keep playing on the radio?

    That was probably the scariest part of it all – to feel so sure of God’s will only to realize that you may have been dead wrong all along. Your whole world comes crashing down and collapses like a house of cards. And you’re left with nothing…except Celine Dion…blast that cursed song!
    "The Rejection Letter" (Chapter Nine)
    And so with Celine Dion's song on repeat in my CD player the summer of depression began (1997). It was a cruel, cruel summer. Leaving me here on my own. It was a cruel, cruel summer. Now she's gone. I guess Bananarama songs also took on new meaning for me as well.
    The road to Kim had to go through her cousin Bernie

    Well, a few weeks after my visit to Champaign, I received a five page letter from Kim explaining why she felt like things were not working out. I pulled it out of the archives this morning and read it again for the first time in many years to write this chapter. In it she wrote:
    "...I would like to still treat you as a brother in Christ. Thinking back, I don't think we treated each other any other way than a brother and sister and I hope that could still stay true. Peter, I still look at you as a brother and don't regret our friendship at all. I really hope you don't take all this personally - when you asked me that question over the phone about my decision being based more on circumstance or really is more circumstance and timing but yet at the same time i can't say for sure whether I can see things between us working out in the future...despite circumstance. And this is why I had said that I didn't want you to wait - or keep hoping. It isn't fair for you."
    Ahhhhh! This was basically the "let's just be friends" cliche ending with the classic "it isn't's me" line slightly altered to " isn't fair for you". Trust me, at that point I already knew life was not "fair". I had three sisters growing up and when you are stuck watching "Gidget" and "Little House in the Prairie" every day of the summer break you quickly realize life is not fair. That said, knowing Kim I knew that this was about as strong a worded rejection as possible - it was her way of saying, "Go away! Leave me alone! You creep!" (Okay, maybe the "creep" part was a little over the top....perhaps "loser" would be more apropos?) She then described her recent conversation with our college pastor. Reading it again this morning gave me chills as I found it to be very prophetic:

    Excerpt from my "rejection letter" - great illustrations though!
    "He [Pastor Min] pretty much changed the subject...and we talked about how I need to grow so much more. I felt so iddy-bitty small! He was telling me that he had a picture of me as a tree whose roots are sprouted but just sticking out rather than being firmly rooted - DEEPLY in His WORD and PRAYER. He was saying that my "struggles" now are just little "sneezes" compared to what Jesus knows is going to face us in the future. He was saying with a little sneeze I fall - I'm weak! and so unstable. I was sharing with him about this past year and what a struggle it was with studies, small group, etc. He was saying again and again of how I need o prepare myself now for the winds, storms and hurricanes that will come in the future!"

    It's amazing to think about how this ordeal was nothing compared to what "Jesus knows is going to face us in the future". Fifteen years before Kim's greatest challenge, God was already planting the seeds in her heart - of the deep roots needed for the storms that lie ahead. (That is, if you don't already consider 11 years of being married to me a "challenge" in itself)

    I probably read that letter over 100 times trying to decipher it nine ways to Sunday - looking for any aiota of reason to keep the hope alive....but I could not. The letter didn't contain any questions so I didn't know if she wanted me to respond. To be honest, I didn't know how to respond so I decided it would be best if I just didn't say anything. And so the letter just sat there - untouched.

    As each week went by it became harder envisioning even a friendship between us. One month passed. Then two and then three. We did not talk for that entire summer. And I slipped into a depression, mostly due to a serious lack of trust in God in all areas of my life. Despite the fact that I was about to begin an exciting career in public accounting at Coopers & Lybrand LLP (yes, I'm being facetious), I remember dreading having to start at the end of July - so insecure about my future and what God really had in store for me; not just in terms of relationships but my life and calling in this world. I lacked a sense of purpose and direction with everything and everyone around me could tell. And although I did not want to think about it, I found myself always thinking about it. I guess there was always a small part of me that wanted to believe that the door was not completely closed...if I was just patient enough for God to open it...

    "A Glimmer of Hope" (Chapter Ten)
    Accountant Pete
    After the receipt of my "rejection letter" and four months of not talking, God finally opened the door - a tiny crack. I went up to campus in October of 1997 to visit for a Praise Night and after it finished I was talking to some friends in the foyer of Foellinger Hall, when I noticed her standing nearby with her back towards me. I remember seeing her and thinking,

    "Okay, this is stupid. Just go say 'hi' to her, and let her know that you have no hard feelings." 
    Since she was the last one to write, I guess I felt obligated to "make the next move".  So I walked up to her and tried to channel my inner "Rico-Suave" but that was impossible. Rico would not be bothered - he was too hurt from being ignored months prior. So I only had one "character" left - "Accountant Pete". Not quite as sophisticated as Rico or nearly as smooth with the ladies but if reconciling cash flow statements were an Olympic sport he would be on the cover of every Wheaties box. So I take a deep breath, walk up to her and strike up a conversation. I remember overall it was fairly superficial - I asked her how her senior year was going and how her family was doing. She did seem genuinely happy to see me (or perhaps "relieved" is a better word). Kim was good friends with my two younger sisters and so I knew she was stuck in an awkward position when we weren't talking. I know it wasn't a huge deal but I thought it was important to at least let her know through that simple gesture that I wasn't upset or bitter about what had happened four months ago. She seemed to appreciate that. I'd like to say that the romance was re-kindled that night and her passion for me burst into a white-hot inferno of gasoline-doused "Flamin' Hot Cheetos" (or something else that is really, really, really HOT). But to be honest, I think she was just glad that we could be friends - or at least friendly with each other.

    If you recall. a few months earlier, I had begun my job in the sexy field of public accounting. By the way, have you noticed that there is a television series for nearly every profession (e.g. policemen, lawyers, judges, doctors, chefs, detectives, etc) but not one single show devoted to accountants? This is a travesty! How can this be?  Imagine the weekly cliffhangers - CPA firm desperately trying to meet a month-end close or the riveting drama of a protagonist accountant at the cusp of solving the mystery of a missing credit....or better yet....debit? This has multiple Emmy's written all over it.

    Anyways, since I (barely) graduated from a top-tier accounting school, I made it clear that I wanted only the most prestigious assignments. And so the partners of my firm sent me to Kirksville, Missouri (population: 17,500) to do an audit engagement at Truman State University. The assignments don't get any sexier than that. So while sitting in a dusty backroom auditing student files I just happened to come across a school application of a freshman student named Lois that went to the same church as Kim (Calvary). What are the odds? In her application essay she described a missions trip to Africa that she went on that changed her life. I realized right then that Kim had actually gone on that same trip as she had shared things with me about that trip - back when we were talking. Well, I had another friend name Sarah from my home church back in St. Louis who was an upperclassman at the school and thought both girls might benefit from an introduction. Was this just a coincidence or was God opening a door?

    I wasn't looking for it, but it presented a fairly benign opportunity for me to email Kim and ask her is she in fact knew Lois and if she might be open to meeting my friend, Sarah, who could act as an older sister to her on campus. Well, long story short, I introduced Lois to Sarah that week and they became great friends and I believe still keep in touch today. But more importantly (to me), Kim and I were talking again. I guess "talking" might be over-stating it. We were "e-mailing" again. Nothing big. But after four months of radio silence the Truman State audit job led to corresponding about once every other week. I never had the guts to call her on the phone, because I didn't want her to think I might be pushing something beyond a friendship. Her letter had made it clear that she was not looking for anything beyond that. So from October 1997 to May 1998 we just emailed each other. It was encouraging to know that we could still maintain our friendship - despite what had happened in the past.

    Of course, I was still praying, on my own, for something more, but I had learned that she needed a lot of time and I was willing to wait. It was difficult but I came to a place where I was okay with just being friends - but had to keep the faith that if her heart towards me was going to change, God was the one that was going to have to change it.... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "The Wonder Years" (Chapter Eleven)
     I entitled this chapter the wonder years. Not because these years evoke the nostalgia of a bygone era but because most of the time I "wondered" what the heck I was doing in this relationship during these years. So after four months of radio silence the next nine months followed with nothing but cyber-communication, which in 1998 simply meant emailing back and forth (I was too chicken to call). Not to go off on a tangent but where was Facebook when I was in my early 20's? I mean if I had the ability to post perfectly photo-shopped pictures of myself, show off the vast number of "friends" I have, and could manage my "public persona" with pithy comments and my "self-image" via witty status updates, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have captured Kim's heart in....say two years as opposed to three. No doubt.

    Well, it was now May 1998. Kim was about to graduate from college and head back home. The problem was I knew Kim didn't have access to email at home. This was a problem. If something didn't change I was headed towards putting Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" on repeat in my CD player. I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a visit up to campus . I had two younger sisters (Lydia and Esther) going to school there and so it was the perfect "cover" for a visit. Coincidentally, they were both rooming with Kim that year and they knew we'd make the perfect couple. And so with a little prodding (and a modest financial incentive) they agreed to trick...I mean convince Kim to head out to a local state park and hang out with us (along with Lydia's boyfriend Ken)  for the day. It was a good time. We had a barbecue, flew kites and explored some of the wooded trails. Later that night, after dropping off my youngest sister, the four of us went to a place called Orchard Downs and sang songs, shared and prayed together. It was a beautiful night and I remember shooting stars lit up the sky everywhere. It was the first time we had "hung out" in nearly a year and it seemed so right. Things finally seemed like they might be moving in the right direction.

    When I got back home I was eager to get the photos from my camera developed. (for those of you under the age of 30 - a little history lesson: before the invention of digital cameras, we old folks used to have to carry around these large black boxes and crank a handle to capture images and send them to a lab for processing. Therefore turning around pictures could take days especially if you weren't lucky enough to live near a Pony Express.)  Anyways, below is a nice pic that Ken (Lydia's eventual husband) took of the rest of us at the park.

    As you can see since Kim rejected me a year earlier I'm still in that awkward "Hmmm...I'd like to stand a little closer but I don't want to make her feel uncomfortable, so how about I just lean in a little so I don't look like I'm in another zip code" stage. I tried to play it cool by nonchalantly holding that can of "sodie pop" but as you can see I wasn't fooling anyone. Meanwhile Kim has her left elbow at a right angle ready to jab it into my ribs if I dare take one step closer. You might notice that she also has her right foot pointed upward in the "attack position" ready to administer a swift kick should I try anything shady. This defensive and yet defiant position is akin to a pitbull growling and showing her teeth. Trust me I know. I had this photo psychoanalyzed by some of the most renowned non-verbal communication experts in the country and this is what their 40 page report told me.

    Now here is a picture that Kim took of me and my sisters when we were hiking one of the wooded trails.

    I kid you not. This is the actual unedited photo of the picture Kim took. Now if the girl of your dreams took a picture of you and your sisters and you were to find THIS. What would you think? Would you cut your losses and run? Or would you press on in faith? I mean, if a picture is worth a thousand words then this photo basically says: "Go away!" five hundred times.

    Despite the disturbing picture, I mustered up enough courage to call her on the phone and we began talking again shortly after that campus visit. And then not a month later it happened. The moment I was waiting for. Her church (Calvary) was having a summer retreat in July and she asked me to come up for it. She made it clear that she still saw us as "just friends" but how could I not see this as a big step in the right direction? I mean she obviously wanted to parade me around as her personal "trophy" - like a hunk of meat on display - and honestly, I was okay with that.

    So the retreat was held over the 4th of July weekend and let me just say it was a long weekend. The entire three days I could sense Kim was distancing herself from me and we rarely even talked. I could count on one hand the number of times we had a conversation. On top of this, no one else really made any effort to get to know me. In fact, I began to sense that all of the guys at the retreat (who were well aware that Kim had invited me) looked at me with great suspicion, they gave me the could shoulder and treated me like a pariah. Later, I would find out that most of the guys there were after Kim themselves and so they saw me as a threat to their "pursuit of happiness".

    I remember making the long five hour drive from Chicago back to St. Louis more confused than ever before asking myself the same questions over and over again.
    "Why would she invite me to a retreat and then ignore me?"
    "What am I supposed to do next with this relationship?"
    "Why does the Incredible Hulk turn green when he gets angry?"
    I'm sure many of you have asked yourselves those exact same questions when you pursued the love of your life. Thankfully, despite all the mixed messages and conflicting signs, I decided to press on in faith. That said, there is a fine line between faith and stupidity and Lord knows I have crossed that line many a times. If there is one movie scene that could sum up the faith (or stupidity) I had on that long drive home it would be this one:

    Things were still not looking good but I was willing to place all my faith in a God of miracles and that one chance in a million. And at that moment in time, that was good enough for me...
    "Chopping the Tree" (Chapter Twelve)

    There's an old Korean proverb that says: "If you chop at a tree long enough...eventually it will fall down." Mind you, I had been chopping so long my ax had whittled down to a chopstick. (FYI - I'm pretty sure this is how the word "chopstick" originated) but I was not going to let a little summer retreat gone bad deter me. If Lloyd Christmas was not going to let "one out of a million" odds discourage him, I would not let it discourage me either. Besides, I had been ignored once, what's the big deal in getting ignored twice? I guess it just makes me an "ignoramus". (Wait...did I use that word right? Or did I just confirm I am one?)

    Anyways, unfazed I resumed calling Kim about once a week or so from the summer of 1998 until the rest of the year. Although I gave Kim the impression that I was fine with "just being friends", I would be lying if I didn't say that deep down inside, I was holding on to the "one in a million chance" and secretly praying that we could eventually be something more. That said, maintaining long-distance relationships are hard. But maintaining a long-distance friendship in which the female clearly doesn't want to go beyond friendship is darn-near impossible. It's like trying to push a wet noodle.
    Don't get me wrong. It wasn't like my existence was pinned solely on this one relationship. I mean I was living the high life of a Midwest public accountant traveling to cosmopolitan cities such as Farmington, Missouri and Peking, Illinois auditing milk cartons for dairy farms and counting dynamite inventory in underground mines. My life was sexy  I tell you. And as for my social life? Let's just say that all my older couple friends were constantly trying to set me up on "blind dates". I mean I could have easily hitched up with any one of these fine young women but I finally raised my hand and said, "No Mas!! My heart belongs to Kim!" (By the way, when I used the word "blind" I meant it literally. The only girls that would agree to go out with me had severe visual impairment).

    Well, I knew that if there was any hope of anything ever happening God was going to have to intervene, and God finally did. It was December of 1998 and since the partners at PriceWaterhouse LLP in St. Louis were already aware that I would not stand for any more second-tier assignments, they agreed to send me to one of the most culturally-vibrant cities in the country....Gary, Indiana...the home of the one and only Michael Jackson. (By the way, did you know Gary is also the hometown of Janet Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Tito Jackson and Latoya Jackson? I mean....what are the odds that this much talent could come from one town?)

    I was commissioned to audit the Indiana Water Company which was located in the heart of beautiful downtown Gary. It was the first job in which I was actually instructed to not stop at intersections and run red lights. I drove to the site only to be met by an armed security guard with a barbed wire fence surrounding the perimeter. I didn't know whether to feel relieved or disturbed that adjacent to the water company was an elementary school. Well, I mention all this because Gary, Indiana is only about 30 miles SE of Chicago, Illinois. So being the smooth operator that I am I decided to come up the weekend before and arrange some face-to-face time with my "long-distance one-in-a-million" friend. Surprisingly, she was open to the idea of hanging out. (must have been because I suggested meeting at The Cheesecake Factory)

    We ended up spending the day on Michigan Avenue, having Cheesecake Factory for lunch and going up 95 floors to the Hancock Observatory. We took a picture with Santa after enjoying some stunning views of the Chicago skyline and had a great time hanging out and talking - nothing serious but I could tell she was more comfortable around me. Or so I thought. The strange thing was the following night I ended up spending the night at her cousin Bernie's house and apparently he had a conversation with Kim the previous night (after our "hangout") and she basically told him that she was very unsure about us. Huh?

    Kim wearing my coat before Rejection #2
    This was a mystery to me. I didn't get that sense when we were together but I couldn't make sense of any of my senses anymore. It didn't make any sense. (stop using "sense"!) I think Kim could sense...I mean picked up on my frustration and so the following month (January, 1999) she agreed to "talk about our relationship" and so I flew up and we hung out at Morton Arboretum. I asked her to pray about a relationship again and it felt like deja-vu. She agreed but very reluctantly. It was clear to me that I was forcing something that was not there - just like before. So when I got on the plane to leave Chicago, I wrote her an email saying maybe it would be best if we didn't make a commitment to pray about our relationship. I could sense that it was not something she wanted and so I thought it would be easier for her if I just went ahead and suggested it. I was saddened when she emailed me back right away saying she was so relieved and agreed wholeheartedly and thought it would be better if we were "just friends".


    I guess in the back of my mind I was hoping she'd respond differently but unfortunately my hunch was correct. This was when the doubts started to really creep in. I mean, if after two years she still wasn't even open to being more than friends than maybe this was it. Time to call it quits and go on some "blind" dates. I began to seriously wonder if it would be possible for me to be friends with her and keep myself from getting hurt. After a few days of soul-searching, I realized it would not be, so I told my sister Lydia that it seemed like things were over; at least in terms of being more than friends in the future. I was very sad, but in another way I felt like for the first time, I had completely let her go. Not that I ever had her. But I let go of all my own hopes and dreams and threw them into the ocean. Kind of like in Top Gun when Tom Cruise takes Goose's dog tags and chucks them into the Pacific...yeah, just like that.

    It was totally in God's hands now...

    But then it happened. Exactly one week after I sent the email suggesting we stop praying about it. I get another email from Kim. It was a very long email basically saying three things:
    1. She wanted to continue talking and spending time together.
    2. She felt like God had given her enough faith to step forward and make a commitment to pray about our relationship.
    3. She thought it would be nice if we lived closer to each other.
    This was without a doubt the turning point in our relationship. I didn't realize it at the time but it hit me a couple days later. The night she sent me that email saying she was willing to pray about it was February 10, 1999. That was exactly two years from the night that I first asked her to pray about it in Champaign, IL. God was working.  It took exactly two long years...but He was moving and so we began to pray...
    "Full Court(ship) Press" (Chapter Thirteen)
    Two straight years of chopping what appeared to be petrified wood and suddenly I sensed the tree beginning to buckle. While this was now the third time that she agreed to "pray" about a dating relationship with me, this time things were different. In the past, she agreed to pray about things with the same enthusiasm of someone enduring a root canal, but this time she was the one who approached me.

    Amazing. Just when I began to withdraw and "let her go" in a sense, the Lord had given her the courage to move forward. She began to open up more about her life and seemed more relaxed about spending time together.

    One of our 1st official dates - we left room for the Holy Spirit
    In March of 1999 she came down to St. Louis to visit. She stayed with a friend from school but we spent most of the weekend together. Up until that point she had repeatedly shared that her dream was to move away to some distant city near mountains and start life fresh. I deduced since St. Louis was in the Great Plaines of the midwest with nary a mountain in sight, it was pretty clear that she had no desire to be near me. (Just call me Sherlock Holmes) But now, for the first time, we began to talk about our futures and more openly expressed our desire to be near one another. Our long distance relationship was about to change. By the time summer rolled around I had decided it was time to leave St. Louis. I found a job in downtown Chicago and was set to move later that summer. I tried to not make it appear like I was moving up solely for her (and I wasn't) but obviously it was a BIG factor in the decision. I couldn't see things really happening between us if we were 300+ miles apart. In the meantime I was making more frequent visits to Chicago and we spent time at Navy Pier and some of the beaches on the north shore and our friendship started to really grow.
    Our first day of officially "dating". Me happy.
    After about five months of this awkward undefined "dating" period I asked her in July if she would be willing to come down and join me for a wedding of a friend in St. Louis. She agreed and so on July 22, 1999 (the day before the wedding) I drove up to Chicago and picked her up. On our 5 hour drive back to St. Louis I felt like it was time to "define the relationship". I had tried this before (resulting in an EPIC FAIL), but things seemed different now. Besides I felt that if we didn't clear things up now, we would both have to endure a lot of question from others asking about us over the weekend. So I basically laid it out there and asked her if we could define our relationship as a "dating" relationship. Her response was, "Ok. I think I'm ready to call it the 'the Big D'".

    "The 'Big D'" I thought. What is that?

    After a bit more persuasion and a few Jedi mind tricks I was actually able to get her to say the word...."DATING". 

    Wow. We serve a God of miracles. Two and a half years of pursuit and prayer and we were officially "Big D-ing" - errr....I mean "dating".

    By August of 1999 I had moved up to Chicago and joined her church at Calvary. Most of the guys at her church still treated me like a pariah but I didn't care. The most eligible bachelorette in the world was "off the market" and they were going to have to deal with it.

    The next year and a half we spent doing what dating couples in Chicago do. We frequented the city, local beaches, ate out a lot and just enjoyed getting to know one another. We were young and we were in love. Or course, there was one more hurdle. After I finally got Kim to like me, I realized I had to go through one more major obstacle....

    Kim's Dad
    Now Kim's dad was not your normal Korean father. First of all, he was 6'2"' tall - which means he was an Asian freak of nature and could have been the starting center for the Korean Olympic Basketball Team. Second, the picture above was probably the warmest smile I had ever seen on his face. When I first saw this photo I told Kim that her dad looked like a "Korean" Saddam Hussein. Let's just say, that did not go over well.

    Kim's dad took one look at me and was fairly unimpressed. Although I graduated from the Harvard of Central Illinois, was gainfuly employed and could bench press 120 pounds I wasn't much to write home about. I remember the first time I went out to lunch with her parents. Her dad openly wondered (in Korean) if I understood any Korean (ummm...i could understand that!) and her mom openly wondered why I could not use chopsticks like a normal person (what's wrong with the X-technique?). To them I was a country bumpkin like Wesley in The Princess Bride ("Farm boy! Fetch me that pitcher!") However, they did admire my persistence in pursuing their daughter. After a while though they got used to me. Kind of like the way a dog gets used to a tick being attached to the underside of his ear. I had become bearable and they knew I wasn't going away.

    So everything was now in order. Kim liked me. Kim's dad didn't hate me. And now I was going to have to come up with a fool-proof plan to get her to marry me....
    Beauty & the Beast: The Proposal (Chapter 14)

    This was it. After three years of prayer, two rejections, and over one year of dating/courtship in the words of Nacho Libre – it was time to get down to the “nitty-gritty”. It was time to propose. I was now 26 years old but more than that I had waited long enough and I could not wait any longer, *because when you realize that you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody – you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. (* from When Harry met Sally)

    The only problem was I knew I was playing way out of my league. I mean to put it in baseball terms Kim was like a Hall-of-Famer in the Majors and I was the right fielder for the local little-league team. For a “guy like me” to end up with a “girl like her” would be unprecedented. I know (or perhaps “hope”) some of you out there are probably thinking I’m being too hard on myself but allow me to explain the reasons for my insecurities. As you can see from this picture (first shown in Chapter 3) I was your classic geek-boy. My geekiness was so profound that I feel compelled to stop and write a poem about it…
    small eyes
    Socially inept.
    Hair uNkEmPT.
    skinny and cute.
    virtual mute.
    I am…

    Kim, on the other hand, was the exact opposite - she was the epitome of "cool". Here's a picture to illustrate my point. That's Kim on the far right at Prom I believe, or perhaps it was Homecoming. Regardless, it’s pretty obvious that she hung with the “IN” crowd. I mean look at all her friends. It looks like they walked right off the set of Beverly Hills 90210.

    But to really prove how cool Kim was let’s take a closer look at her date. I won’t lie. At the risk of sounding creepy, this guy had the whole package – he’s objectively “tall, dark and handsome”.
    I don’t know his name but he looks like a “Chaz” to me. Wouldn’t you agree? His last name was probably “Winthrop the Third”. So just for fun let’s call him “Chaz Winthrop III”. (By the way, if you happen to be reading this blog Chaz, please step forward and give us your real identity. And if you are now bald, fat and ugly please provide me a picture – not so I can post it but so that my continued insecurities might be assuaged.) Anyways, I bring all this up, not because I’m trying to rip on Chaz (I’m sure he’s a great guy) but to give photographic evidence that Kim was so cool she had the coolest guy in school asking her to the prom.

    Now here’s a picture of me on prom night (on the right).That’s right. I was hanging out with my younger sister on prom night. I can't say which one and I had to edit the pic because even to this day they have trouble being associated with me. But I can't blame them. I mean look at me. I was a bit challenged in the looks department. I look like I fell off the UGLY tree and hit every branch on the way down. So for all you visual learners out there, it’s quite apparent that Chaz had the “whole package” while yours truly had a “hole in my package” and all the good looks apparently fell out. That said, I would like to point out that I've noticed that BIG glasses are making their way back into fashion these days. So based on this picture I am either 5 years too late on that or 25 years too early.

    As if guys like Chaz didn’t make me insecure enough, I somehow found out when we were dating that Kim was a model. Few people know this because she’s embarrassed about it but it’s true. (By the way, she’s going to kill me for telling you all this – so let’s keep it our little secret…okay?) Growing up in Wheaton, IL someone that worked for David C. Cook took notice of her and her beautiful face started popping up all over Bible Discoveries Sunday School booklets like the one below. This wasn’t just a one-time deal. She was in numerous publications and it extended even into her high school years. 

    Before I go any further I think we need to pause and reflect on this fact for a moment. I want to proclaim in the most public way possible that I, Peter the geek-boy, am married to a model. I mean if the internet was not created for such important and necessary communications as this than seriously what other redeeming quality does it have? Now I know we’ve seen a lot of miracles these past few months with Kim’s cancer and all but seriously – if you don’t believe in God after seeing how this geek-boy was able to convince this model to marry him – then I’m not sure what else I can say to you. That’s a flat-out miracle!

    So what would make a guy like me even fathom the possibility of a girl like her? What could the “Anti-Chaz” offer a woman who was beautiful enough to be a model and yet strong enough to kick cancer’s butt?

    One word…faith -- lots and lots of faith. Perhaps it was a dumb faith – but still it was faith. Faith in a faithful God and the belief that He could change the heart of such a woman. And so in faith I prayed. I prayed that God would help her to see what I saw many years earlier. I prayed the Lord would show her that we were made for one another and were destined to spend the rest of our lives together.

    That said, just because I had faith didn’t mean I was going to expect Kim to just fall on my lap. I had to come up with a plan. I mean faith is everything but when a geek-boy is about to ask a model to marry him he better pull out all the stops. I had to come up with a proposal in which she could not say “no”. I was going to make it virtually impossible for her to do this. And so over many months I carefully planned what I would do and how I would do it. By December of 2000 I was ready. The plan was about to be executed and all those years of waiting, praying and hoping were about to be realized.

    It was a normal workday. Kim worked in the city and so did I and I knew what train she took every day to head back to her home and so I decided I would intercept her at the train station and surprise her with an early “Christmas dinner” in the city. It was about 5pm and the stage was set – I cut out of work a few minutes early and raced to the Metra station and nervously waited at a spot I knew she would eventually pass. I didn’t realize how difficult this would be. The evening rush sees thousands of commuters walking through this large train station and I had to quickly survey all these passing faces rushing to get on their train. She wasn’t looking for me and so I had to find her. Five minutes passed – and then ten. Did I miss her? Did she leave earlier? The perfect plan was about to blow up before it even started…. 
    Beauty & the Beast: The Final Chapter (Chapter 15)
    I thought I was about to blow everything when after 5-10 minutes I was unable to pick Kim out from the mass of moving commuters  – my proposal was about to go down the disposal and then just as I began to lose hope...I spotted her! She didn’t see me, nor was she expecting to and so she was a bit startled when I grabbed her arm and told her we were going out for dinner. We grabbed a cab to “the Hancock “- the second tallest building of Chicago’s beautiful skyline where I had booked reservations at The Signature Room – the restaurant on the 95th floor.

    Now going into the night I only had two goals in mind. The first was the obvious one – GET HER TO SAY “YES”. The second was a bit more ambitious – GET HER TO CRY. I’m not talking about a lone tear drop a la Denzel in "Glory" or even a few token sniffles – I wanted to see a veritable waterfall. I mean she put me through three years of torture – I felt I was entitled to see some tears of happiness from this woman. Therefore, I named my mission....“OPERATION: Niagara”.

    But in order to keep things a surprise I didn’t want Kim to suspect that this was THE night and so I reiterated to her that this dinner was just an early Christmas present. I had to be very clear with this disclaimer because up to that point fine dining for us meant "Old Country Buffet" or on the most special of evenings the unparalleled....Olive Garden”.

    So we got our menus, Kim balked at the prices and I balked at what I was about to do. Nervous doesn't even begin to describe it. The ring was in my pocket but it wasn’t in a box. It was on a string. My fool-proof plan was to put the ring in her glass while we prayed for our meal and surprise her when she reached for a drink. But while we prayed, I suddenly had this horrific thought.
    “What if she swallows the ring? Would the string be strong enough to survive the tension of being pulled through her esophagus?  Because if I had to get up and apply the Heimlich maneuver that would definitely kill the ambiance of this fine dining establishment”.

    Yes, these are the kinds of things I think about when I pray.

    And so I quickly switched to another plan – I was just going to set the ring in front of her plate. I don’t know what I said while I prayed. I’m sure it sounded ridiculous because I was praying, pontificating and also pulling out the ring and positioning it right in front of her and we all know how great men are at multi-tasking. That said, Kim never opened her eyes while I prayed – no matter how goofy it sounded. What a good Christian girl she is.

    After I closed the prayer and we said, “Amen” she looked up but didn’t notice the ring in front of her. No big deal. I was still holding the string on the other end and so I gave it a slight tug. The ring moved and caught her eye and she looked down and gasped. The moment I had agonized half a decade for had finally arrived. I grabbed the ring, got up from the table and kneeled next to her. Honestly, I don’t remember a single word I said when I proposed. Kim doesn’t either. All I know is that she said, “Yes.” and that was all that mattered.


    The first mission was complete! But as happy as she looked she did not cry. Maybe she was weeping tears of joy on the inside. Maybe the restaurant was too "public" for her and she was self-conscious. Maybe she was dehydrated. Yeah, she was probably really dehydrated. It's difficult to cry when you're low on fluids.


    Before I could even ask the waiter for more water he is bringing over a nice bottle of champagne and pointing to an older couple sitting near us. Apparently, they had witnessed the entire incident and wanted to help us celebrate by treating us to a bottle of bubbly. We waved and smiled at them and they waved back. We will never forget that kind gesture. 

    After we finished eating Kim thought we were heading back home but I had another surprise for her. I had suspected that a nice dinner and a ring just may not be enough to evoke tears and so it was time to move to Operation: Niagara PHASE II.

    I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. There was one slight hitch. This just happened to be one of the coldest December days in the history of Chicago. I kid you not. I looked it up on the weather almanac – it was Dec 13th and that night it hit 5 degrees and the wind chill was around -40. So you can imagine the look I got when I asked her if she wanted to join me for a walk. (It was very reminiscent of the look I got a few years earlier when I first asked her to pray for me.)

    However, I wasn’t really asking her for a walk – I was setting her up for my second surprise. A horse-carriage ride around the city. After walking a block or two I finally spotted the carriage I had arranged and we got in. I had envisioned a romantic jaunt surveying the historic beauty of Chicago's iconic architecture instead all I got was the both of us shivering under flannel blankets, the windows glazed over with a thin sheet of ice, and Kim repeating, “That poor driver. That poor driver.” Wow. Phase 2 was turning into an EPIC FAIL. After about 30 minutes of “That poor driver!” we finally got out of the carriage. If Kim shed any tears they would have frozen on her face and I would have been forced to chip it off so I guess I was glad Operation: Niagara was still bombing.

    But the evening was not over yet. Hope was not lost. My momma didn't raise no dummy. It was time to move to Phase III. We got out of the carriage. I gestured for a cab but then a stretch limousine pulled up. After Kim got over the shock that the car was for her, we scurried in like a pair of frightened chipmunks and promptly began to thaw. I had arranged for the limousine to drive us back to her parents house and we were going to do the 40 minute drive together and the night with a bang. Kim was duly impressed -- an amazing dinner, followed by a very amazing carriage ride (for all the wrong reasons), capped with an amazing ride home, but still….no tears. What the??? Operation Niagara was starting to look like Operation Sahara. Not a drop of water in sight!

    We sat together in the limo, leaned back and I still managed to smile thinking about what was already shaping up to be a memorable night. I was down but I was not out. I had one last Ace up my sleeve and I was about to throw it down, take my chips and go home. I had been carrying my work bag with me the whole night and I had one more gift to give her. My piece de resistance. My magnum opus. The ultimate tear-jerker.

    WARNING: Men with weak stomachs should stop reading here.
    It was a scrap book, but it wasn’t just any scrap book. It was a scrap book that took four long years to make – full of personal journal entries, verses of hope, a myriad of mementos, photos, cards and rejection letters. Everything and anything that had to do with Kim, I had saved along the way and put in that scrapbook including the instructions to that amaryllis. I even saved the straw from the first milkshake we shared at Oberweis right after I had graduated from college four years earlier and about one week before she sent her first rejection letter to me. That milky residue was getting quite foul - but I didn't care. That straw was special (see below - next to "rejection letter #1").

    I held on to all these things because I held on to hope. A hope that despite all the hardships, despite all the ups and downs, despite even the repeated rejections a faithful God was going to make good on a promise He had given me five years earlier….and that He did. Boy, did he ever. Maybe not on my particular terms, but in His perfect time. And so if you’re wondering how I have such a vivid memory of things that happened almost 20 years ago – now you know. This whole story has largely already been written and all the glorious and gory details are in that little scrapbook.

    On that limo ride home as we perused through each page and read through each journal entry and each verse together - it finally happened. She began to cry. What the ring could not do – the scrapbook had done. When I watched Beauty & the Beast at Disney World with Kim last week and snapped the picture below I later realized it was the exact replica of that perfect night capturing that perfect moment...except I was a bit thinner, slightly less hairy and wore a red cape (not purple).

    I could now breathe. Operation: Niagara was finally complete. It was time to call off the Blackhawk helicopter hovering above our limo equipped with tear gas. Not today boys. Not today. God is good.

    But seriously - this was how it all began. An enduring FAITH had been rewarded. A deferred HOPE had been realized. A persistent LOVE had been returned. (1 Cor 13:13)  My prayers had finally been answered and we got married in April of 2001. It’s hard to believe that this was over 11 years ago.
    It was a memorable five years pursuing and courting my wife. It had it's ups and downs but looking back I wouldn't trade it for the world. That said, I'm speaking truth when I tell you that the last eleven years have been better than the first five. But that’s a different story, for a different time, and God is still writing it….and it…is…EPIC.

    Beauty & the Beast: Seeing Jesus in the Story
    I know the final chapter ended with a long-awaited wedding and you are all left concluding that we have lived "happily ever after" and while that is true to some degree it is also patently untrue. I feel responsible for giving some people out there a false hope - that if you find LOVE you will find ultimate happiness and have fulfilled your purpose in life. This is only partially correct.

    French novelist, George Sand once said, “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”  Amen.  Sand recognized that we all have a profound instinct to love and be loved and I believe God, in His goodness, designed us in this way that we might seek Him - the one who is love (1 Jn 4:8). And when we love Him and when we are loved by Him to echo John Piper – we are most satisfied and the Creator is most glorified. Sadly, most of this world is deceived into thinking that ultimate love can be found in a person instead of God Himself. This view will only result in massive disappointment. No matter how happy the union - no marriage can bear this gigantic burden. The earthly marriage was only meant to picture the divine union - not replace it. (Eph 5:31-32)

    I think our universal longing for a transcendent love becomes more obvious when you observe the striking similarities between secular love songs and spiritual worship songs (see video below). You will find there is very little difference between the two – however one is a misplaced hope in a person and the other is a living hope in a loving God. Each recognizes the need for love – but only one holds the ultimate solution.

    The Bible tells us that in the beginning we were in a perfect love relationship with God and nothing was lacking. But alas, that perfect love relationship was broken by sin. Adam and Eve did not believe that God loved them, and they sinned and we have all inherited that sin. Therefore, we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. This is now our very nature - and we are utterly lost and broken and we cannot approach God in our sin. We would be consumed in an instant in the awesome presence of a His holiness.

    But there is hope. Since that day, God has been on a relentless quest of love. He pursues us. He pursues us with an unbreakable and an eternal love, and His desire is to restore that perfect union that was lost in the beginning. But unlike my ridiculous love story, He did not produce a single amaryllis to prove His love – every plant and every planet and all of creation stands as proof of His great love for us. He did not produce a scrapbook over a few years to testify of His enduring love – He provided 66 books spanning thousands of years as a testament of His enduring love. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible is not a book of “do’s” and “don’ts”, it is ultimately a story of love. A story about a divine love for you and me. 

    This is why the Bible opens with a marriage (Gen 2) and closes with a wedding (Rev 21). This is why in the prophecies of Jeremiah we see the despair found in the brokenness of a divine marriage and in the poetry of the Song of Solomon we see the unadulterated joy found in an earthly one. This is why in the book of Hosea we see a man and a woman play out a heart-wrenching story of unrequited love, and in the book of Ruth we see a man and a woman play out a heart-warming story of unconditional love. This is why a wedding is the site of Jesus’ first miracle and the setting of his last parables. 

    Make no mistake, when Jesus begins his ministry on earth he clearly presents himself as the bridegroom, to pay the bride-price to redeem us by dying for our sins - in order to restore that once perfect union with Him. Marriage literally begins and ends as God's idea. It is God's creation, God's institution, and God’s glory.

    And if we enter into his promised covenant of love by faith, then what was lost in a garden on earth, will be fully restored at a wedding in heaven. Our joy will be complete because we will truly understand what it means to “love and be loved” and we shall "know him, as we have been fully known" (1 Cor 13:12), and “God will be most glorified in us, because we will be most satisfied in Him”.

    This is why “Beauty” [JESUS} became a “Beast” [lowly man]. (Phil 2) This is why beasts [mankind] can be made beautiful [like JESUS]. This is why the Gospel is the greatest love story ever told.

    In His Grace,

    Peter & Kim