How We Met: A little over 6 months ago, I made a surprise visit to see my family in Florida for Thanksgiving. At the time I was living in California, so a trip across the country was a bit inconvenient but totally necessary. After the Thanksgiving festivities wrapped up, I had to fly back west. The exact day happened to be ‘Black Friday’, one of the busiest travel days in America. I flew out of Tampa to Houston, TX for a short layover before arriving in LA. I remember sitting in that airport terminal, surfing the web and scrolling through Instagram, as I waited to make my connection flight. My restlessness began to set in. I looked up from my mac and saw an incredibly good-looking man walking my direction. In my head, I began to anxiously pray that he would sit in my terminal. Some eye contact was mutually exchanged as he passed by me. And my prayers were answered. This tall, handsome stranger sat at my same gate. Hallelujah!
The first hurdle had been jumped. My plan was to play it cool and perhaps a conversation would somehow miraculously be sparked. But now comes the part where things get a little bit tricky. We were flying Southwest airlines. I love Southwest. It has always been my airline of choice. Who doesn’t love the free bag perk? The catch though is that on Southwest each passenger is required to choose his or her own seat upon entering the aircraft. AKA no assigned seating. In this instance, the scenario worked in my favor. I was one of the first to board the plane. Out of habit and preference, I always choose to sit at the front of the plane. And I most definitely pick the window seat. This time though, I thought that my chances of meeting this mystery man would increase if I sat closer to the back of the plane. I sacrificed the window seat and opted for the aisle seat. My strategy was to give him a better view of me as he entered the plane. (A detail that is worth mentioning: I wore a huge black hat on this day which automatically made me stick out like a sore thumb.) A flood of people boarded. One by one the seats filled up. No one sat next to me though. Finally, the dreamy hunk steps onto the plane and he again makes his way towards me. To my surprise, he asks to sit in the window seat on my aisle. I politely (and eagerly) agree to allow this. We sat in awkward silence for a few seconds. And then, very smoothly and carefully, he leaned across the middle seat and said, “You know, if we start talking and pretend to be friends, it will lessen the chances of someone sitting in this middle seat. Because no one wants to interrupt two friends that are talking.” I immediately responded with, “You’re right! Let’s be friends.” We didn’t even get another sentence out before another passenger requested to sit between us. By the grace of God, I quickly offered to give up my aisle seat for the middle seat. This was my attempt to continue the conversation with my new ‘friend’. I soon learned that his name is Colton Townley and that he lived in Los Angeles and that his parents also resided in Florida. We had so much in common, from our love for music to our faith to our family background and to our beliefs. The conversation flowed so naturally. An instant connection was built on that 3.5 hour flight.
When Colton and I finally landed in LA, I was sad to say goodbye. He walked me to my shuttle and proceeded to ask for my number. We promised to stay in touch. In my head, I assumed that I would never see him again. That it was all too good to be true. I turned out to be very wrong. The next day we met at the Santa Monica Pier and had our first date. We haven’t gone a day without talking ever since.
how they asked: For several months now, Colton and I have been dreaming of the future. We have imagined what it would be like to one day call each other ‘husband and wife.’ The thought of it gives me the butterflies. We came to the conclusion that our lives are better together. Back in April, Colton asked my father for permission to have my hand in marriage. My dad agreed to this plan. Since then, I have been anxiously waiting for my man to ask me for my forever.
Let’s flash forward a bit.
Since Colton and I first met last November, our lives have changed in dramatic ways. In fact, we no longer live on the west coast. As of June 1, Lakeland, FL became our new home. This cross country move occurred so that I could become a Worship Pastor at Highland Park Church. I would be working with and serving under my dad, who is the Head Pastor of HP. For me, moving to Florida was ideal and familiar. Lakeland was my home before residing in Cali. My family is here. My friends are here. And my church is here. But for Colton, this is all brand new. He has displayed and exhibited the most selfless of loves I have ever seen. 7 months ago, the idea of living in FL was not even on his radar. He gave up his career, his friends and ultimately his life to make the move. I will forever be thankful for Colton’s willingness to risk it all for love.
June 14, 2015 marked my first official Sunday leading worship at Highland Park. Colton’s parents drove down to Lakeland for the weekend to support me in my new ministry endeavors. Both of our families were in attendance. It was a big day for me in and of itself. It was the start of a new season. And I could not be more excited about it.
Every element of the service went so smoothly. Everything went as planned. The band and I led the congregation in 3 songs before my dad gave the message. As the third song was wrapping up, my dad came onto the main stage. I awkwardly and nervously stood next to my dad as he introduced me to the 800 faces that filled the seats. My dad proceeded to mention the fact that Colton was now the main man in my life. He bragged to the church about how Colton moved across the country for me. Then what seemed to be out of the blue and completely unannounced, my dad asked Colton to come on stage to say a quick word to the church. Colton nervously joined us on stage. He enthusiastically took the mic. Colton began to explain to the church how he came to be in Lakeland and how he said ‘yes’ to God as an act of obedience. I was standing proudly by his side totally oblivious to what this was actually turning into.
In my head, nothing seemed to be particularly out of the ordinary. It is very normal for my dad to put people on the spot like this. Yet, I was fooled and surprised by the next few statements and question that followed. Colton then says, “And I guess at this point there is really only one more yes to be said, but the thing is is that it is not mine to say. So Jessica, in front of our families and our new church, will you marry me?” My answer, of course, was a resounding yes! Or more accurately and confidently, “Yes, I will do that!” He took my left hand and slid a glittery, gorgeous diamond ring onto my finger. And just like that, we became an engaged couple. I can hardly contain my joy!
Now here we are, just a few days later, already in wedding planning mode. Colton and I are anticipating and preparing for a beautiful ceremony that will join us together in holy matrimony. I am the luckiest girl because I will soon get to change my last name to ‘Townley’.