How We Met
What is ‘Happily Ever After’ without a beginning? Often, the greatest frustration of youth is wondering, “When will it all begin?” We think that we can make our beginning start, maybe align our life choices, relationships, and decisions and we’ll get the ‘story rolling’. But with love, lasting, genuine, organic, divine-designed love, this can’t be. It must be the most natural, self-developing aspect of our lives. We can’t make a beginning, we just run into it.
Here’s a little background to our story: I travel A LOT, and am pretty connected within a Christian Organization called the UPCI, United Pentecostal Church Int. At their North American Youth Congress in 2015 (#NAYC15), there was this Spanish family band that competed in a music contest. I was working social media for the event. When they walked on the stage, all the girls started screaming. (Once you see them, it’s easy to know why. Don’t tell them though, I need them all to stay humble. Ha!) My youth pastor nudged my arm and pointed at me and to some of our other girls. I just rolled my eyes, I didn’t want what all the other girls wanted. I continued to record clips and take pics of them to add to the event’s profiles. Fast-forward to October of 2016 to another youth conference in Denver, Co. A friend of mine was on the staff there and she told me about the “Bonilla Band” and how they were all doing such a great job. I vaguely remembered them from #NAYC15. She also told me the oldest one was named “Jonathan”. So, to Instagram I went. I browsed photos from the event and I was drawn to one particular photo of the bass player, there was just something about him. But at 26, I had learned a lot about the art of love and pursuit. I never thought anything about him. I followed him on Instagram just out of curiosity of their family and went about my “independent woman” life. Jonathan then followed me, and from that point on he commented here and there on things I posted. Again, I read nothing into it. He was obviously a CU-TIE, talented, and ministry minded, but probably the last guy on earth for me.
Then February 27, 2017, something began. I had just returned from 2 major conferences. My trips to Louisiana and California were uplifting but I still carried my one frustration, where was “the one”?. From global travel, to my college education, various life experiences, I tried to do a lot with my “single” years, never focusing on finding that “one” but finding myself. Actually just 7 days before February 27th, I was actually approved as a licensed minister with the UPCI. I felt the time had come though, I was ready! Let’s get this party started. But I had to trust God’s timing. That day I was just so overwhelmed with frustration and my lack of direction in other areas of my life that I decided to “Get Lost”. I had found a Timbers Conservancy that was a short drive from my house. So I put on my running shoes and was ready to be out in the wilderness, alone to settle this out with God. I remember running and stopping to observe all the tall timber trees and landscape, I always find God in nature. I took out my phone and recorded a video of the massive trees and posted it to my Instagram story (Shout-out to Social Media – Ha!) with the caption, “Get Lost”. I continued my run, while continuing to pray and refocus. I was real with God, and He still loved me. As I walked back to my car, I got a notification, “Jonathan Bonilla has responded to your story.” He had posted “You look real lost to me!” And he’s been helping me “find” myself ever since.
Little did we know what would transpire from our DMs. Our first date on April 21, 2017, was in New Orleans, a sort of half way point between San Antonio and Tallahassee. He was so nervous, but was an absolute gentleman, and I was smitten by his quiet charm. We have some funny stories from that trip, like how a drunk guy came up to us at a park bench and told Jonathan how “lucky he was” and then continued to pour a whole cup of beer all over my dress, I don’t let Jon live that down. He said that first trip he knew I was the one. It took skeptical me a little longer to believe that.
We had various back and forth trips, where we continued to get to know each other, meet our families and see our lives beautifully come together. He was very open with his love towards me, even when I was hesitant. However, August 22, 2017, his 26th birthday I told him I loved him. I couldn’t keep fighting NOT saying it, so I finally did. He is the first and ONLY guy I’ve romantically said, “I love you” to. His response was, “I know how hard that was for you” with a tear in his eye. What a guy! So understanding, thoughtful, and loving. I had my “Ah, ha! He’s the one” moment actually while camping with my family. It was 40 degrees and we were in a tent with no heater.
My family was all knocked out, but I couldn’t sleep so, I prayed. I basically said, “Ok God, speak now or forever hold your peace.” And I felt Him reply, “Jonathan is the one. This has been the plan the whole time.” I just cried. Jonathan then called me to share that while out with a mentor/friend he had a similar “Ah, ha!” moment that night. From the beginning, I have not cut him any slack. I ask the tough questions. I want ALL the details. Marriage is forever for me. It’s the biggest life decision. And Jonathan wasn’t intimidated but valued the kind of woman I am. We only dated if the potential of marriage was there. So, of course I had just turned 27, he – 26, and we focused on that marriage track. We talked all logistics such as wanting a few years before kids etc. so we started looking at rings, dates, places to live, wedding venues, you name it. People were laughing because we weren’t “Officially Engaged” yet, but we knew this was it. There have been so many confirmations that we were meant for each other, but one cool one is that Jonathan’s favorite number is 7. It started February 27th, in the year 2017, the year I turned 27 on the 7th month of the year, the same month we became official. 2017 marked 7 years Jonathan had been back in the states from Mexico. I lost my red shoe 7 months from when we started talking. We’ll be getting married the year he turns 27. We became official 7-4-17, Huba has 4 letters, Bonilla has 7.
how they asked
“I ain’t playin’ no games boy, I ain’t getting any younger.” I sarcastically but realistically told Jon that pretty early on in our relationship. At the age of 27, and 26 with lots of life experience under booth of our belts, the conversation of marriage came up very quickly. We knew this was it. So with potential dates and our future possibilities flying about, I knew the proposal would have to fall either on Thanksgiving Week or Christmas Week. Our plan was to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Florida, and Christmas with his family in San Antonio. Both of us wanted our families to be a part of that special moment. So I had NO CLUE of how he was going to work it out. His parents and 4 siblings, and my parents and 3 siblings are very important to us. My older sister and brother-in-law came down from Delaware for Thanksgiving, and the Huba Crew was all together, with my Jon in the mix. That Monday we all got to go to Disney World. It was Jonathan’s first time. I was glad he finally got to taste, see, feel, and experience the magic. He always laughed at me and my sisters who are Disney Princesses in our own rights. I mean, we’re all hardworking, independent ladies, but we still melt when we get in a pretty dress, high heels, and have our sweetheart holding our hand.
I would classify myself as a ‘Hopeful Romantic’ but I am also a realist. I try to think practically and sensibly. Because of the dark world we live in, love (true, unconditional, selfless, lasting love) has little room to shine. It’s easy to lose faith in it. In a fake world, where most acts of “love” are just done for “likes”, you wonder if it IS real and obtainable. Disney, Hallmark and fairy tales have their appeal, but are they real? Can such love and beautiful bliss exist? In my times of wondering, like all young women wanting that special someone and a future family, I was reminded of the verse that says “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:11) Jonathan’s name literally means, God’s gift. Monday was magical. Tuesday was our Thanksgiving service at church, and little did I know that the next day I’d get SO MUCH more to be thankful for. I was picking up little clues here and there, but there was no way I would have been able to dream up what became my reality.
We are opposite in every way, he is always on time, and I’m consistently five minutes late. I’m a night owl, and He’s a morning person, so when he told me he’d pick me up at 11:00a.m. Wednesday morning, I knew something was fishy. He also told me to look “nice” because we were going to go get our marriage licenses and they “take your picture like a Driver’s Licenses”. Right. He’s cute, but not that smooth! I still wasn’t sure if it was “going down” that day, but I felt it was better to be safe than sorry. I put on this red velvet dress I had been saving that I knew he would love. When my handsome darling knocked on the door, my heart already was racing, was today my day?! He helped me decide which shoes to wear, and of course said, my new silver heels looked perfect. What was he up to for me to be this dressed up on a Wednesday morning!? Ha!
Before we left, he looked in the closet and grabbed a random scarf I had packed for the week. I was trying to figure him out, play it cool and not be too giddy all at the same time. Something was certainly up. In the car he told me, I had to put the scarf on, and that he had a surprise for me. I begged him to let me wait to put it on at the Florida Georgia Line. I was like, “I’m already in suspense and then, you’re gonna blindfold me?! You better be glad I like you. Ugh.” So we start chatting about random things, like how I felt like I was on Space Mountain again and I that I could tell, by the direction and the timing he turned where we were. He jokingly began to swerve the car in the driveway, to “throw me off” but I knew exactly where we were. South Eden Plantation was the first “destination” I took him to when he came to visit. South Eden Plantation just opened this year and has all kinds of unique southern charm, especially since it was owned by the financer of “Gone with the Wind”. When we walked around that first time, we noticed a certain swing that hung off a giant oak tree, covered in Edison bulbs and Spanish moss.
How romantic was that little spot?! Once he parked the car, he lead me down what felt like the longest walk of my life. I started taking in all kinds of context clues of where exactly on the plantation he was taking me. I closed my eyes the whole time because I hated staring at the back of a scarf. I held his hand tightly though and trusted him all the way to what I assumed was that swing. I knew he had been videoing me, and proceeded to set his camera up on a tripod. He then came in close and whispered, “Hold on baby, I’ll be right back. I love you.” Now if that walk was a lifetime, sitting on that swing was an eternity. I heard random camera shutter noises and slight rustlings, but what was going on?! I was so anxious/nervous and just as I went to say, “Jon?!” I heard something that silenced my fears and squeezed my heart. It sounded like an army, and I knew it. They were all here. All of our families are here! With the rumbling of tiny road peddles against shoes, I heard the strumming of a guitar. Then in beautiful harmony, I heard the voice of his youngest brother and my youngest sister singing our song. At this point I’m laughing, I’m crying, I’m so overwhelmed with every emotion. I didn’t really even notice it was my Dad that removed my blindfold.
I couldn’t look directly at any of them. I saw my mom holding a pillow with a red shoe, but I just kept looking among the faces I love to find the One I love. Where was he?! I noticed everyone was looking down the road but I couldn’t see around the big oak tree. But then, there he was. Cue the ugly cry. I can’t take this much lovin’! My sweetheart was riding in on a beautiful white horse fully decked out in the most handsome Prince Charming outfit. It was an out of body experience. I was telling myself “Girl – keep it together. Soak this all in. Time – slow down!” When he got off the horse, “Blue” he got the “Red” shoe from my mother and presented it to me. That red shoe – ugh! For my 27th birthday, this past July, Jonathan bought me a “much needed” pair of red, pointy-toed, ankle-strap, chunky heeled shoes. (I love that he’s a detailed man.) There was a mix up with the size but Jonathan worked hard to make sure I got them. I finally got a chance to wear them ONCE in Kansas City when I saw him at conference. When arriving back home and unpacking my bags, I noticed, I only had one shoe! I called my sister, my cousin who I rode with, and the hotel all searching for this stinkin’ shoe. I sadly had to break the news to Jonathan. Who loses one shoe?! Apparently Cinderella wasn’t such a dunce after all! In preparing for the proposal he bought a very similar pair like the one I lost. When I saw this I knew without doubt that my Prince had found me.
After putting my “lost red shoe” on my foot, he stood me up to kneel down a second time and ask me the easiest question I’ve ever had to answer in my life. I, being the kind of girl I am, planned to say something clever like, “Most certainly” or “But of course.” But in that moment, overtaken with the love I had found in this man and the love I had from all those around me, I was glad I got my happy-tear filled “Yeeeees!” out. After I said yes, I noticed the candles and rose petals, and all who were there to capture and share that special moment with us. It turns out that the Saturday before our engagement, when he was (weirdly) “running late” he was with my parents at the plantation practicing riding on their star gypsy horse. The weeks before he had been texting all of my family images of different ‘Prince Charming outfits’ and took a poll on which one was “The One”. Before all that, I actually told him he looked like Disney’s Cinderella’s Prince. Cinderella has always been my GIRL!. I love how he played off that.
Some may call the cheesiness of such romances “silly” but Jonathan showed me his selfless love that made our story sweeter than fairy tales! I’m so grateful I waited and trusted God’s timing that lead me down a path to a swing, that put Jonathan on a horse, a red shoe on my foot and a beautiful ring on my hand. He is my real-life Prince Charming, and I know what happened November 22, 2017, was just the start of the beautiful story we are writing together. Jonathan’s favorite scripture is 1 Cor. 2:9 – “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I can truly say, with Jonathan in agreement, we could have never thought, dreamed, or prayed up what we have found in each other. Here’s to our Happily Ever After, and the best thing is, the story doesn’t end at the proposal or the wedding… for us, this is just the beginning.