Jenna and James

How We Met

Growing up I always had this dream that the first man I ever dated would be the one to sweep me off my feet, and carry me away to the greatest adventure life had to offer. Every step of the way James has done nothing but live up to that expectation.

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My family is from the eastern coast of North Carolina, and his is from South Georgia. Our paths may have never crossed if it wasn’t for our involvement at Snowbird, a camp in the mountains of North Carolina. We both worked our first summer there the summer of 2016. I had just finished my junior year of high school, and James had finished his freshman year of college. We served in two different capacities that summer, so our paths never crossed. Summer ended and we went our separate ways.

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As the super long school year came to a close I was excited to pack up and head back to camp for the summer. Going into the summer I had plans of applying for the year-long internship that Snowbird offers. James was happy to be heading back to camp too. He also went into the summer hoping to be accepted into the internship program. At this point, I had no clue who he was, let alone his name, but things were a little different for him. He began to notice me, and feelings set in. Knowing that he was there for the summer to work hard, pour into and disciple high school students he told no one, submitted his feelings to the Lord, and continued to do the job laid before him. Besides as far as he knew summer would end, and I would head back to school. Instead, we were both accepted into the internship.

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Fall begins and his feelings continue to grow. Knowing that interns were not allowed to date he continued to keep his feelings between himself and the Lord while seeking guidance from older men. Heading their advice he took time to truly consider if pursuing me was what the Lord wanted for him to do. He was also taking steps to guard my heart and emotions in the meantime. Throughout the first semester, I was unaware of his feelings for me. James’s maturity and the pursuit of the Lord definitely stood out to me, but at the time I didn’t have any feelings towards him.

Thanksgiving Break began, and as I traveled home for the week my heart began to stir. James was on my mind, but thus far he had not done anything to make his feelings for me known. Confused by my new feelings, and unsure of what to do about it all I continued to submit all my thoughts, feelings, and confusions to the Lord.

Coming back from Thanksgiving Break the full-time staff at Snowbird as well as our intern class hopped on a plane, and headed on a short-term mission trip. Before the trip, the full-time staff had given James the green light to move forward in his pursuit of me. At this point, I was still unaware of how much James liked me, but during that trip, I began to notice the gentle and subtle ways he was beginning to make his feelings known. Two days after we returned home James pulled me to the side and asked if he could take me out to coffee the next morning. With a straight face fully intending to keep my feelings concealed I replied with a simple “sure”.

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Four hours. That is how long we sat at that coffee shop. We talked and laughed and simply enjoyed each other’s company. James also proceeded to tell me about the feelings he had for me, and the way he had gone about pursuing me. With his feeling revealed and his intentions clear I knew I had a decision to make. He assured me that there was not going to be any pressure to give him a decision any time soon. He had waited five months at this point, so what was a few more? I keep my feelings hidden knowing I wanted time and space to seriously consider and seek the Lord’s will without getting James’s hopes up. I knew going-in, that we were dating for the purpose of marriage. Not dating just to date with no direction behind us. James made it clear that our relationship would first and foremost be to glorify the Lord, so he was willing to give me the space I needed to make the decision. Going home for Christmas break it was so evident that deciding to move forward with James was the right choice. For years I had prayed for a godly man who would love the Lord before me, who would seek out wise counsel while pursuing my heart, be clear in his intentions, and affirm his devotion was for me alone. James, I had done all of that, so after coming back to camp after Christmas Break I told James that I was ready to move forward too.

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How They Asked

James and I dated for eleven months. The eleventh was probably the hardest due to the fact that the Atlantic Ocean was separating us, service was sketchy, and our time zones were six hours off. Nonetheless, James continued to pursue my heart despite the separation. The night before I left he had given me a stack of envelopes. There was a letter for every day that I would be gone. As the weeks flew by and my stack of unopened envelopes dwindled I knew the distance was only making my heart grow fonder of him.

As I boarded my plane to fly back home I had the last and final letter tucked away in my bookbag. On the front of the envelope, James had written that I was not to open it until we were together again. The last leg of my trip consisted of me flying back into New York with a twenty-hour layover before my final flight home to Atlanta where I fully intended to run and jump into James’s arms.

After a long day of travel, I was eager to land in New York. I had plans to meet up with a dear friend who so happened to be in New York for a conference. After settling into the hotel room and getting ready we caught an Uber and made our way towards Manhattan to see the first sight on our list- The Rockefeller Tree. Stepping out of the car and onto the sidewalk we joined the massive crowd.

Enjoying the Christmas lights and the music we began to make our way towards this stunning tree. Rounding the corner I heard someone shout my name. I turned to look, but I could not see who had called out. I just assumed that there was just someone nearby with my name. Besides who would be calling out for me? I took another step, but I heard it again, and this time it sounded more familiar. As I turned once more the crowd had parted, and there, just yards away, James stood. In utter shock and completely surprised I began to walk towards him. Reaching him he swept me off my feet. Still stunned by the fact he was here I just held him tight and ask what he was doing! Apparently, the distance had made his heart grow fonder too. Placing me back down he spoke a few simple sentences that will stay with me forever. He finished with asking the question I had been longing to hear. As he slipped the ring on my finger I heard the sound of cameras all around, and I realized not only had James managed to surprise me in New York he had also arranged for my dream photographers to be there and to capture every. single. moment.

Later on, after exploring the city it was finally time for me to open the last letter from my stack. James and I sat down to open it together. It simply read “I love you”. The phrase James had said for the very first time that night – as he was proposing. James & I both intended to leave that phrase unsaid until engagement. Not because we believe that those feelings weren’t there, but knowing and understanding the weight that those words hold.

This past year has been nothing but an incredible, adventurous, and joy-filled time. As we press forward towards marriage I’m excited to see what all our future holds.

Special Thanks

Caroline Ellis
 | Photographer