Way too soon after Jimmy Joe so unceremoniously broke our engagement, I created an online chat room for singles with disabilities. Yes, I know I should have been focusing on the Lord while He healed me from the relationship…and from Memphis in general. But I did what I did, and God mercifully brought John Kespert to that chat room within a few days. Obviously, he was the man I eventually married.
John always tells the story to our friends from his perspective, and no doubt he’ll be disappointed that this narrative won’t include his favorite details. Since this is my blog, however, and since I type much too slowly to recount everything that happened between our first chat in February of 1998 and our August 2002 wedding, I reserve the right to tell the tale as I see fit. Therefore, I’ll invite him to use my comment section, if he so chooses, to offer his version.
Today, let me limit the recounting to the earliest stages of our relationship. As I recall, John first appeared in my chat room shortly before Valentine’s Day, 1998. If he did try to come to to the chat room on Valentine’s Day, he would have found it closed. One of my girlfriends, who had also recently suffered a broken relationship, came over to watch Figure Skating that afternoon.
But John did drop by the chat room again, several times. I learned, in those early conversations, that he lived near Boston, that he had an incessant sense of humor and that he didn’t like the types of foods I loved (except for Italian). Most importantly, I learned that he loved the Lord wholeheartedly, and desired to serve Him with integrity. After my previous relationship, it refreshed me to talk with a man who genuinely sought to honor the Lord in his daily life.
By March, we started emailing and chatting by Instant Message. By then, I felt convicted to shut down the public chat room I’d started, so I created a room called Yankee and Belle (reflective of Boston and Memphis) just for us and friends we’d invite. Yes, I was back in San Rafael, but Yankee and Redwood Tree just didn’t seem right.
His obvious love for Christ, as well as his compassion, made him easy to talk with. He caught a cold that April. I knew he used a ventilator much of the time due to Polio, so I understood that a cold could be serious. At that point, I realized that my feelings for him extended well beyond friendship.
John knew about Jimmy Joe, of course, so when we did acknowledge our mutual attraction in July, he told me that we’d take things “one wheelstroke at a time.” I felt frustrated by his chosen pace, especially when he withdrew his invitation to visit him that October. By that time, I’d been talking with his pastor online, and the pastor advised me to give John time. Disappointed (I really wanted the opportunity to see Boston), I accepted the pastor’s advice.
My mom seemed somewhat unsure of what to make of John until that Christmas Eve. With John listening on the phone, she helped me unwrap, among other things, a three-pound chocolate computer with the words “Merry Christmas, DebbieLynne” written across the monitor. From that point on, John could do no wrong as far as she was concerned!
In a chat conversation the following March, I had once again been complaining about the way Jimmy Joe had treated me. After listening sympathetically for quite some time, John typed “He never loved you as I love you.” Right there and then I stopped him, asking him to clarify whether or not he was actually telling me that he loved me. He was! Naturally, I was delighted! I had been suspecting that he loved me for a couple of weeks, but of course I brushed off such thoughts, not wanting to believe something that wasn’t true.
That October I flew out for my first visit face-to-face visit with John. But as it is late, and time to start supper, I think I will write about that stage of the courtship in my next autobiographical installment. I will close by stating that the Lord was definitely doing something in our relationship — I just didn’t know how wonderful it was going to be.