Allow me to tell you a love story. Pull up a chair. Grab a glass of wine. I’m not sure how long it will be. But, this I promise you. As usual, I won’t bore you with just a feel-good happy ending story. Instead, I’ll expose the painful process that makes it beautiful. Beauty can be found in ashes. I know this. This story started so long ago, long before I was even privy to the introduction. And it is still being written. But I’ll let you glance into the pages.
This story begins with a little blonde haired, freckle-faced girl born and raised in Mississippi. She was raised in the church with a firm foundation in Jesus. She was born into a good and respectable family. She loved well and was well loved. As the years went by, she dreamed of her future family, and husband, as many young girls do. Early on she dreamed of a family that rivaled a Benetton ad in terms of children—the seed was planted early on for adoption. She prayed for “tall, dark and handsome.” Years passed on and formidable years were spent dating, studying, and hanging out with friends. Somewhere in there, prejudices crept in. Her family raised her to judge a person by his or her character and not by highest education level or skin color. Still, she did. During those crucial years, instances and painful life experiences caused the prejudices to grab hold and fear soon ensued. For her, it was Black men. Of course, there were “exceptions” and those who were befriended but the generalities remained. Coincidentally during this time, she stopped attending church due to disbelief in the legalism and the whole “system” of religion.
Fast forward through years of “spinning wheels” while living, learning, dating, etc. After a strong need for community and further spiritual development, she found a church that fit her needs and wants. It was in this church that she was moved to take a risk and go on missions in 2006. One trip led to another and in 2007, she took a big step and signed up to lead a team to South Africa. Never had she had this desire due to silly associations with the past. Africa had become the “origin” of pain and discomfort and she had sworn she would never step foot on that continent. However, she was obedient to the nudge and went. She instantly fell in love with the country and the people. She learned about Apartheid and heard the stories from all racial groups from an “outsider” perspective. So much of the struggles and triumphs stemming from recent integration reminded her of her upbringing in the South. In hearing stories of discrimination of Colored and Black groups, she began to see herself. As if she was looking in the mirror only to find guilt, ignorance, and shame looking back.
She came back. She went back in 2008. She fell deeper in love with the country and the people.
She came back. She went back in 2009. She fell deeper in love with the country and the people. But this time, she fell in love with a boy. She began to see a friend there that she had met in 2007 and seen again in 2008 a little differently. Late nights she spent asking questions, hearing answers and perspectives that she never imagined, and digging deeper to find herself and discover what went wrong in her own outlooks.
She came back. It was only when back that she realized her true feelings and he, his. She dove deeper from afar but kept it safe to herself.
She went back in 2010 with another team but stayed an extra week to seek spiritual restoration and solitude. She was able to see the boy off and on and continue conversations.
In the beginning of 2011, she went back independently to South Africa to spend more time with the boy. They wanted to be together but there were so many logistics between them, as they were worlds away. Logistics intruded far more than the ocean and miles themselves. She lost vision and gave up. She let too many opinions take her vision off what she felt and knew to be true.
The rest of 2011 and most of 2012 were dark. She felt a despair and regret that was unimaginable. She had not necessarily made decisions regarding what she felt was best for her. Instead, fear and distrust had crept in. She had doubted how big her God is and felt that she was not in alignment with where she was supposed to be. She yearned for reconciliation. Days were dark. She knew the highs of temporary “band-aids” she found to place over her wounds that kept the pain at bay for a bit. She knew the lows over another disappointment. She knew the feeling and pain of fresh hot tears that were uncontrollable. Friends knew her unpredictable emotional state.
Although it was still sensitive, she felt the nudge to go back to South Africa although she probably would spend little to no time with the boy. But that was okay. Her first priority had always been to serve and the people that she would love while there. However, she expected the sting of familiarity without reconciliation. As months of preparation continued, changes happened with logistics. She needed a ride from the airport that would allow her to feel safe at almost midnight miles from home. She would need rides across town on weekends when she would be there. She was forced to swallow any pride and ask the boy. He agreed to help. Worry set in. What if he didn’t show up? What if it was awkward? She knew there were conversations that needed to be had regarding what had already happened. The word “closure” already evoked such a physiological response that it was unbearable.
The plane ride to South Africa in November 2012 was full of emotions. What started out as excitement morphed to fear and regret as the hours passed, especially between Amsterdam and Cape Town. Waiting for the baggage was spent halved between dreading the situation on the other side and looking forward to what was on the other side.
The boy was there, as he said he would be, on time, smile included and quick to help.
They hung out most every night after her serving activities were completed. They laughed. They continued conversations that began in 2009. He challenged her to think beyond her capacity. She felt that no time had passed. She felt as if “this” had always been. They sat in silence and just enjoyed being in the same spot in a very big world. They had dinners. The boy took her wine tasting [her love language]. They spent time with her friend Candice who came for one of the weeks. They roamed around Cape Town. They did not, however, have that closure conversation.
She came back. But, she won’t be going back this year because he will be coming here instead. A visa application and wedding planning are in the works.
Their story is beautiful and perhaps one of the single best love stories of all time. It’s a beautiful story because it is not just about a boy and a girl. It’s also about a God that they both share who riddled their story with themes of reconciliation, sacrifice, forgiveness, redemption, mercy, grace, abundance, courage, and 2nd chances. It is beautiful because we practice what He first showed to us. Hindsight can be breathtaking. Beauty from ashes.
Even through the disappointment, she believed. Her God heard her questions. He saw her tears. He cried with her. But, he knew the timing would be best served later to fulfill a purpose together. Only He knew the plans he had for not just her, but for the both of them together.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3
Oh, and “tall dark & handsome?” Touché, God, touché.
About the Author: Danielle is a multi-faceted Jesus follower, Southern Belle, wine drinker, and foodie. She enjoys the finer things in life such as board games, purging and organizing, cooking, blogging, conversation, and recycling to save money for a future adoption. She has a Master’s Degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences and is currently pursuing graduate courses to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has a heart for missions and has traveled to and served in South Africa for the past six years. Hailing from Mississippi, she enjoys immersing herself in new cultures even when uncomfortable in her current state of California. After years, of “troubleshooting singleness,” she is pursuing a fiance visa for the love of her life that she met while serving in South Africa. She welcomes emails at DanielleSJones@gmail.com. You can read more about her adoption process or thoughts here.