Rachel Awtrey

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5 reasons I knew he was the one

Most of the time when people hear our story, or get to know Thomas and I as a family, they’re interested in our process and why we decided to move forward in engagement and then eventually marriage. My reasons for knowing he was the one were great for me, but by no means is this for everyone or a method or a checklist for you and your relationship. I just want to invite you into my thought process and the convictions I had for my life to be vulnerable and hopefully that vulnerability will lead to a breakthrough for you. So here were the five things that stuck out the most to me and propelled me into following Thomas into this season:

We met in high school when I was 15 and he was 17 at a church youth group. It was great but let’s be honest: not everyone is the same person they were the other six days of the week as they were in the sanctuary. Of course, he was great and a gentlemen but I wanted to know the entire Thomas, not just the "Sunday-Thomas" and I’m glad I did. I was often invited over to his family’s house after church for lunch, so I’d go. He was the same Thomas at church as he was with his family. I was then invited to a few of his baseball games and was able to sit with his friends and soon figured out that he was the same guy around his family, our youth group and his friends. This says a lot.

Thomas will admit that a lot of times guys are quick to impress someone, especially us women, and I found this to be true. In their attempt to impress you, they may alter who they are because of them wanting to impress the other people they may also be around at the same time which leaves us confused about their character. Thomas’s consistency was comforting to me. I saw him as "safe". He was confident and because of that he was the same Thomas at the movies with friends as he was at the dinner table with my family. 

Some people don’t know but Thomas and I actually broke up my junior year of high school and rekindled about 2 years later during my first semester in college. In those two years we were separated, lots of things changed. My normal routine had changed, my friend group had changed, my dreams and aspirations had shifted, my family life was completely rocked and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure who I wanted to be which drove me to make a few decisions that I wasn’t too excited about catching him up on. Here’s how that conversation went:

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Thomas and I were broken up, it was towards the end of my senior year and he had just returned back to South Carolina from all of his military expeditions with the Air Force. He called me to let me know he was in town, I loved/hated it because I didn’t know if I wanted anything to do with him but I gave in to a “smoothie get-together” that I didn’t want to categorize as a date. I dreaded it, not because I didn’t want to see him but because I didn’t want to answer the conversation I knew was coming: “so, what have you been up to?”, “how’s your family?”, “what’s changed?”

...I’ve been up to the worst things, I don’t know how my family is doing and what’s changed? Ha. Absolutely everything. I was in a dark spot and my pride never wanted to admit it because deep down inside, no matter how hard I tried to hide it, I still felt something for him and the last thing I wanted was to disappoint him with the direction my life was headed. 

I held back as much as I could when those questions surely came up but it didn’t last long. I word vomited all over him, told him everything. I immediately regretted it just imaging his reaction. But, he surprised me. He looked at me with kind eyes while I held my breath and he replied, “That's it?”

Uh, what do you mean that’s it? That’s like the plot of a Lifetime movie…

But, right then and there I knew that, although we weren’t dating yet, he was the one. He wanted all of me, not just my right now, not just my dreams but he was excited about me, my story, my past, my mistakes and he saw my potential. I wasn’t too little, I wasn’t too much, I was just enough. 

Despite him now knowing everything, it never held him back from seeing the true me, seeing my potential even when I didn't. Standing up for myself when I was the one tearing myself down. He fought for me whenI wasn't fighting for myself and held me accountable to the dreams I had once verbalized. He asked me the hard questions no one else would want to, he challenged me further in my goals by asking me "why" and then again to my answer to drive me into a deeper meaning of why I wanted to do what I wanted to do. He was/is my advocate and was driven to coach me while cheering me on, and that was something that not many other people had done for me in that point in my life. 

When I felt that others were holding me to what people heard about me, what mistakes I had made, my grades, my family situation, my living situation, etc. Thomas chose to see through that and remind me that I "am not defined by my circumstances." When my circumstances become (and have now became) our circumstances, I knew he would fight to see through them and chose to see the true me. 

He slowly started mentioning, "we" into his futuristic vocabulary which sort of freaked me out at first but eventually became comforting. I couldn't figure out what about the idea of "we" was so comforting to me. Then it hit me: the choice in his vocabulary about our future, the choices of behavior (financially, personally, academically) all of them were becoming less and less about him and more and more about us. This use to scare the shenanigans out of me because of my "commitment issues" but slowly I became more and more okay with this idea because he, unlike a lot of others that had come across my path, was looking out for my best interests, our best interests. Sometimes those weren't fun. It's in the shift from an immature fun to a mature fun that I realized he was the one. He made hard choices so that we would later have an abundance. He was putting aside what he knew would be fun now so that he could have more fun later, so that we could have more fun later (financially, relationally, spiritually). His mind wasn't so "in the now," he was no longer a boy, he was a man. Boys are fed a harvest, men sow and reap the harvest. Thomas was starting to sow what he wanted to reap and I trusted him more because of that. The idea that I could hand him something as small as my phone to something as big as my dreams and know that he was going to handle it, take care of it and steward it well meant the world to me. 

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One of the biggest red flags for me in previous relationships was telling my friends or parents about the relationship and immediately getting nervous. I had my first boyfriend in sixth grade, I remember telling my mom that I now had a boyfriend and she told me that I needed to tell my dad. My spit somehow got so much thicker in that moment and it became hard to swallow. Not because I feared my dad but because I knew that this guy wasn't someone I was super pumped to bring home (even though his mom would have had to bring him at that point), I knew it was silly. It was a gut feeling. This "intuition" carried through my experiences in high school and there were times that I became all weird when something would happen and I wouldn't want to tell my friends or I wouldn't want to tell my mom, I just wasn't excited about it. Or sometimes, I was excited about it and I got some weird faces back at me that said, "what the freak" all over them.

In the case of Thomas, I was thrilled to tell my parents, no shame, no guilt because I was confident that we were doing it healthily. Having a blessing on my relationship from my parents in the beginning has had so much benefit on our relationship now, I can't even explain all of it. It's moments I'm grateful my parents were involved when Thomas and I were in a small tiff and I was able to ask my dad for manly help. Or when I was going on a date and my mom was able to stand in my closet with me and help me pick out an outfit. I felt supported, loved and nurtured through this process. 

In fact, our very first date was at my house on an autumn morning. Thomas came over and brought his rode bike and my dad dismounted his from the garage and they peddled away down our driveway and the Lord only knows what they talked about. Mom and I cooked them breakfast, they came back and ate it and that was it. It was lovely, so pure and so simple. The greatest part, he had a better time than I did. Cue the sigh of relief, the release of pressure, the permission to be myself. From the support of my family, I too, like Thomas, was free to be consistent and confident in myself and never having to strive for acceptance from this once high school boy and now man. 

But at the end of all of these reasons, there still was a risk because I didn’t know and I still don’t know how my life will play out, what obstacles are waiting five or ten years down the road and if Thomas and I will make the best team. But, although I don’t know it, I chose to believe it. The Lord made himself evident and if I knew everything that was to unfold, there would be no room for faith. Yes, there are five reasons sitting above for a little back story to my confidence in our relationship but those aren’t just to share with others, they’re for me. To remind me, to keep me accountable because somedays marriage is the best thing and other times marriage isn’t the best thing. So, I chose to believe that although people called me, and still do, “crazy” and “too young” that my God is bigger than logistics and my obedience would lead to blessings. So, here I am. 21 years old and married to love of my life, my soul mate and the person I can’t wait to tackle these hardships with.

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Photography // Sophie Brendle