It’s hard to believe that ten years ago today, on August 27, 1999, Tom and I were married. Was it really that long ago?
Little did I know at the time how Tom would change my life when I met him 12 years ago at a bowling alley.
Reception Kiss - August 27, 1999
My friend Becca was bowling on a league for homeschoolers
and invited me to go with her to The Palace
in Downingtown, PA.
The lane next to ours was vacant but, being a bit of a bookworm, I noticed that there was a stack of books on the table. One was called â€œRich Christians in the Age of Hunger.â€ I was curious. I couldn’t help myself! I picked up the book, flipped through it a few times, and then began to read.
I was just starting into the second chapter and, behind me, a slightly irritated male voice said, â€œThose are my books.â€
Not one to be intimidated, I spun around and looked at him in the eyes. â€œWell! I hope you don’t agree with this socialist author,” I said, sternly. “While I think that Christians have a responsibility to the poor, God blesses some Christians with money. I don’t like the idea of guilt-tripping those God has blessed because they don’t live in self-induced poverty. What about Christians who are poor and who aren’t content? I think there are deeper heart issues that aren’t being addressed.â€
From my soapbox, I could see that he was a head taller than me. Dark hair, nice Italian olive skin, and yet had hazel-green eyes — in fact, the same color as mine. He had about a two-day old shave, and looked to be very strong. He was speechless. He wasn’t used to girls who voiced their opinion.
Becca rescued him.
â€œOh, I see you met my friend Sarah from Indiana. Sarah, this is Tom.â€
It turns out, he was writing a paper for his college economics class, and the prof had challenged him to write on economics from a Christian perspective. I was pursuing a career in journalism â€“- I wanted to be a war-correspondent â€“- and loved the opportunity to write about interesting topics. I gave Tom my email address and asked him to send me a note. He didn’t write for two weeks.
That night, I stayed over at Becca’s. While we were in our sleeping bags by the coal stove in her parent’s family room, I asked her about Tom. â€œTom Albrecht? Well, he’s not really my type [she later married a blond-haired, blue-eyed military guy] but he’s really smart and he’s witty. Still, I can’t imagine kissing him or anything.â€
(Some how the kissing line has stuck in my memory. Little does she know how fun it is to kiss him.. I think I’ve kissed him over 9,000 times at this point.) :P
What Becca failed to mention when she introduced me to Tom was that I had moved from Indiana, where I had lived for a few years with my family, back to Pennsylvania. She forgot to say we had known each other as girls, and recently had reconnected. But, God had plans to again cause my path to cross with Tom’s.
My sister Bethany was taking a pottery class at the Chester Springs Art Studio and had made friends with a girl named Megan Catranis . Megan brought Bethany to church â€“ Immanuel Presbyterian (Now Olive Street Presbyterian) â€“ where she caught Tom’s younger brother’s eye. I’m not clear on the details, but Tom and Matt were at the Catranis’ house and Bethany’s name came up. Bethany Phenicie. Phenicie is not a common name, and Tom said, â€œHey, I met someone named Sarah Phenicie. She gave me her email address but I didn’t see a point to writing to someone in Indiana.â€ Megan’s dad was like, â€œYou idiot. That’s Bethany’s older sister. They just moved from Indiana. WRITE TO HER.â€
He emailed me that night and invited me to see Empire Strikes Back.
That weekend, he picked me up in his little white late-80s Le Mans hatchback. I sat in the front passenger seat. Four guys were crammed in the back. A thick, black glove was stuffed between the window-crank and the door. I was told not to touch it or else the window would fall down.
I was the only girl, even out of the crowd of friends who met them at the theater. Tom’s brothers had snuck in a bag of homemade beef jerky and passed it back and forth over my head throughout the entire film. I had never giggled so much in my life. I can still remember that I wore my favorite multicolored crocheted sweater â€“ which, after a few repairs, I still own!
Tom and I began to see each other, but never wanted to admit we were falling for each other.
When Tom brought up the subject of commitment in dating, I flatly told him that I â€œwasn’t interested in getting married or having childrenâ€ and that I wasn’t thinking in that direction at the moment. He just calmly said, â€œI understand. But, I want you to know that I like spending time with you and that if that’s all you’re willing to give me, I’ll take it.â€
We’d go to Fennario, a wonderful coffeehouse in West Chester, PA, and play chess for hours while talking. I was always in trouble for getting home late.
After one such date, we both leaned in and kissed each other as if we’d been kissing each other forever. It was the most wonderful, memorable kiss of my entire life. Who knew such a big, strong guy could kiss so tenderly? It melted my cold heart. We sort of pushed each other away and were like, â€œWhat was that? We’re not even dating!â€ We retreated to his car and talked about the â€œwhat ifsâ€ and decided that we worked well together.
Two weeks later, I moved back to Indiana with my family. My heart stayed in Pennsylvania.
One concern Tom had expressed to me over cappuccinos and checkmates was that, while I said that I was a Christian (religious convictions tend to come up when you’re exploring a person’s mind), I had never been baptized. My answer was that I didn’t feel ready. His answer was that I was required to obey God, not to make excuses. Before I left for Indiana, he gave me a copy of â€œLord of the Savedâ€ by Kenneth Gentry. It was about the problem of Christians who give lip service to God but do not surrender their hearts.
Heart convictions drive out fear and, a few months later, on the Easter Sunday, just before my 18th birthday, I was baptized at Wallen Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There were about 500 people in attendance. I’d been a Christians since I was four, but had been fighting the need to obey and be baptized. Suddenly, my Christianity wasn’t an uphill battle. Scripture actually made sense. I realized that when I yielded myself to God, The Holy Spirit could actually work in my heart and teach me.
The long distance relationship was difficult to bear. There were a few times we almost broke up. Tom even stole his dad’s brand new Mustang to drive out to see me â€“- I had thought it was better for us if we broke up. Instead of me breaking up with him in person, we renewed our commitment to each other.
I was attending Taylor Universityon a full, academic scholarship, that included room and board. Instead of going to my parent’s house over Spring break, I flew out to Pennsylvania.
My flight arrived late, past midnight. When I got into the car, I noticed there was a familiar leather cord tied around Tom’s neck. Hoping it still held the little garnet ring I had given him (I was wearing his class ring), I pulled it out from under his collar to check. There was a ring there, but it was platinum and boasted five perfect diamonds.
â€œWhose ring is this?â€ I said. It really didn’t click.
â€œDoes it fit you?â€ he asked.
I tried it on. It was beginning to click.
In heavy 95 traffic out of Baltimore, and in the thickest fog and torrential of downpours, with one hand on the wheel of his dad’s car and the other holding mine, Tom proposed to me. â€œI love you and I want you to be my wife.â€
Oh… my rings. The next day, I dented my engagement ring as I dove over a rock while shooting a guy’s extended middle finger during a wild round of paintball. Two weeks before the wedding, Tom lost his job. My wedding ring is not the one we originally had in mind – it’s is actually at $10 sterling silver ring. To me, it represents staying together through life’s ups and downs. I’ve never even considered having it replaced with more valuable ring.
There were a few complications in between our engagement and the wedding but, in the end, my family came to Pennsylvania and my father walked me down the aisle.
As we stood in the back of the chapel on a hot, August Friday afternoon, my dad turned to me and whispered, â€œI have the car running outside… you don’t have to do this.â€ â€œBut, dad, I love Tom!” I said. “I want to get married!â€
Seeing I couldn’t be persuaded otherwise and that it was really what I wanted, my father, the ex-Marine who once enlisted to go to Vietnam and ended up a Sergeant, began to cry. It was the first time I saw him cry. I cried, too. He tightly grabbed my hand, walked with me, and gave me away. I was 19.
It rained in between the wedding and the reception, which was at the Catranis’ house where I had lived that summer. The fresh, cooler air created a beautiful mist over their pond. People still come up to me and say that our simple potluck reception was one of the most relaxed and most fun of all of the receptions they’ve ever been to.
Some people complain that their spouse is “not the person who they married” and claim it has caused them to fall out of love . Tom and I have changed over the years, but we have changed together… and for the better.
Ten years, five children and a transpacific move later, I am still very happy.