How two 30-something singles found love and companionship in the Arizona desert!
early August 2002 - I seriously joked with missionary friend Ralph Reed, “I need a husband. Can you find me one?” Ralph & Judy, Bible translators in Mexico with one of the Aztec language groups, had come to Arizona to fix up and sell their Tucson house. I had met them through my work as a computer consultant at the mission office in Tucson and they did not hesitate to invite me into their home and lives, quickly endearing themselves to me and many others. As you will see, they took my plea seriously!
mid August 2002 - I visited the "Missionary Boutique" – my favorite place to shop for good, free, donated clothing, and saw a wedding dress hanging up on the wall. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. I honestly couldn't think of any other single ladies there who it might possibly fit, and with encouragement from Ralph Reed who was browsing at the same time, I took my Cinderella Dress home and hung it in my closet, planning to return it in a year if nothing happened.
October 31, 2002 - Ralph and Judy met me after work at the local community swimming pool for our time of regular exercise. However, on this day they brought their friend Jim Ingvaldson, who had just arrived from Minnesota. Having spent 5 months with them in Mexico earlier in the year, he had learned some Spanish, and so Ralph told him to practice with me. Jim very innocently said what first came to his mind, “¿Te casas conmigo?” (Will you marry me?) I was struck by how innocently sweet he seemed, and surprised myself by replying, “Tienes que hablar con mi papá.” (You have to talk to my father.”) Without batting an eye he came back with “¿Teléfono?” and I rattled of the number as fast as I could in Spanish. “¡Mas despacio por favor!” he pleaded, wanting me to slow down but that's when I figure things had gone far enough and with a light-hearted laugh, terminated that line of the conversation!
For the next few months, Jim kept busy fixing up the Reed’s house. He never missed swimming with us after work, and was always around when I came over to the Reed’s house for supper. But he usually maintained a low profile and we did not interact together very much beyond our mutual activities with the Reeds. Besides, it was common knowledge that Jim was hoping to meet and marry a dark haired Mexican girl! He had sold his dairy farm and was ready to venture out into whatever the next phase of life held for him! Everything he owned fit into his car, and he was looking forward to crossing over the border with the Reeds as soon as the renovations on the house were finished. But they kept finding more to do and soon realized that they would not be able to put the house up for sale as quickly as planned.
December 22-January 17 - I spent a quiet Christmas in Tucson while Jim headed off to Texas to join the Reeds on a short trip to Mexico. During his time in Mexico, Jim prayed about this idea of marrying a Mexican. In fact, he had made a promise the year before to meet a certain señorita named "Blanca" and now he finally had the opportunity to fulfill his promise. She was indeed a lovely person but there was a complicating factor. She already had a Mexican admirer who had been in the picture for some time, but who had not proposed yet. Jim came to the conclusion that he need not interfere, and returned to the United States to see what would happen. Later he told me that his promise to meet Blanca was the main thing preventing him from initiating anything with me. I had not known about this commitment and simply thought he wasn't interested in non-hispanic women!
January 15 - I wrote out a prayer expressing my deepest heart desires for someone special. I asked especially that he be “kind” and that I in turn would be kind. The rest of my list of superficial desires faded away as I accepted what I really needed in my life and in a relationship, and entrusted it all to God.
January 17, 2003 - Jim arrived back in Tucson. When he walked into my office to tell me he was back, he surprised us both by spontaneously giving me a big hug. It made me wonder, “Is this the same quiet, shy guy? No, I don’t think so. Something’s happened to him!” Little did I know how much I too would change in the coming weeks and months.
Soon after, Jim received word that Blanca's admirer had taken the "gringo's visit" seriously and that it prompted him to commit to marrying Blanca! Jim was now totally free to pursue other avenues of interest!
January 20-26 - Jim’s thoughts: “She is a woman worth getting to know.” Bernis’ thoughts, “He’s acting kind of strange—strangely friendly, initiating all this extra swimming, tennis and hiking with me. But hey, it’s great to get all this exercise!”
January 27-February 7 - Jim’s thoughts: “She is definitely a woman worth getting to know.” Bernis’ thoughts: “I think I better be nice to him. I need to be open to how God might use me in his life, and he in mine.” And as a precautionary measure, I asked my trusted supervisor at work to have a man-to-man talk with Jim and give me his impressions. Let's just say that Jim passed the security check, not so much because he was perfect, but because he was honest and humble, and so I decided to take this blossoming relationship a little more seriously.
February 8 - A trusted friend, Lois Hill, invited us over for a pre-Valentine supper. While Lois was in the kitchen, preparing her yummy chocolate brownies smothered with ice cream, strawberries, and chocolate syrup, I spontaneously whispered to Jim, “I think I love you.” He seemed to like that and I did too.
February 14 - Jim invited me out for supper, wherever I wanted to go, and I chose an East Indian restaurant. I wondered how he'd do on the "foreign food" test. Though he prefers Mexican food, Jim handled the hot Indian food just fine. What took my breath away was when Jim took my hand, slid an invisible ring onto my finger, and adjusted it so it sat just right. I was taken aback by how real, and how right my “virtual ring” felt, and I realized that Jim was leading the way into something very serious! (From Miriam-Webster dictionary: “virtual: being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized”)
February 17-March 9 - We traveled through Mexico with friends of the Reeds, with our goal to meet up with the Reeds at their village home. We do thank Brooke & Roger for being such good accomplices to our romance. All along the roads of Mexico Jim would whisper to me in the back seat, “Marry me.” At first I only replied with a questioning smile, then a “maybe”, and finally an encouraging “someday”.
February 21-23 - At a beautiful, tropical beach house on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, I came down with a nasty case of Montezuma’s Revenge. Jim tenderly stood guard over me all night, even rubbing my feet which brought soothing comfort to my weakened state, and thus he won my heart for good. Thankfully, the worst was over by morning, and I had a lovely setting to recuperate in. Sometime in mid-afternoon of the second day, out in the back yard where we were soaking up the sun, Jim turned to me and asked “Will you marry me?” I knew this time it was for real. Though we joke about him catching me in a weak moment, I knew this was the time to answer with a confident “Yeah!”
March 1 - When we got to the Reeds, they were not disappointed to see that something was happening between us! We tried to be discreet, for our engagement would not be official until Jim had that talk with Mr. Eliason, but apparently our faces gave it away. And besides, Jim needed to get onto Ralph's computer. I was very happy with my virtual ring, so we decided that instead of buying me a diamond, Jim would buy himself a plane ticket to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and have that talk with "Papá!" Contingent up my father's approval, we asked Ralph to marry us. Ralph had already warned me about Jim's biggest character defect – he absolutely refused to eat cottage cheese! Judy did her part in making Jim promise to change his bachelor driving habits and stop whenever his bride found it necessary on long car trips! Despite Ralph's attempts, that pretty much took care of our official pre-marital counselling! We knew that we were pretty much in synch with the main issues of faith and finances and the rest would work itself out as we went along.
March 28 - We had advised my mom and dad that Jim needed to make a business trip to Saskatoon, and would they please host him. Never having been to Canada before and never having met his future in-laws, that first morning Jim sat in the Eliasons’ living room and courageously announced, “My business in Saskatoon regards your daughter; I am here to ask for her hand.” He gave them a picture of us in front of a big cactus, and a letter from me, declaring my love for Jim and the following lines “Believing God for His blessing, now we ask for yours as we would like to join our lives together on the date you chose to marry fifty years ago–July 17, 2003.” Within seconds of their having read the letter I made an unknowing phone call to Saskatoon. My father answered and with his heart up in his throat said, “Oh Bernis, oh Bernis, do you know what Jim just asked us?” He told me what had just taken place and of course I wanted to know, “What did you tell him?!” “We haven't had time to tell him anything yet!” What a precious experience to hear for myself the emotion-filled voice of my father and mother say “yes” to my future husband Jim. God's timing is perfect.
July 17, 2003 - Close to two hundred family and friends met at Circle H Ranch, just outside of Saskatoon, SK, to celebrate our marriage. Having sold our family farm home several years ago, my parents found another rural setting to have my dream wedding. Jim and I arrived on schedule, just minutes before our 11:30 a.m. ceremony, and while he disappeared inside the "dance hall" to join the minister and his best man, I met my father outside to prepare for that important walk down the aisle. How to describe those last moments that a father has with his "little girl"? Words are not necessary as the tenderness of the tears in a father's eyes express all that needs to be said.
Then it was time and we sneaked into the back of the hall. Jim escorted our mothers, one on each arm, down the aisel to their seats, and then took his place at the front. With the lights dimmed and the oboe and piano playing "How Beautiful", I felt like I was stepping into a fairy-tale. After our attendants proceeded to the front, my turn had finally come. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should be embarrassed with everyone looking at me but I quickly decided that they had all come to share in this happy time and why shouldn't I enjoy this moment to the fullest. With that my focus was quickly drawn to the one waiting for me at the front. As dad and I proceeded down the aisle, I felt truly beautiful, not because of my pretty dress, but because I was unashamedly reflecting the beauty that comes from being loved.
The ceremony consisted of a few songs of worship in gratitude to our God, and a message by our imported missionary minister from Mexico, who in just one day in a foreign country, had somehow fanangled his way into getting authorized to marry us! After exchanging our rings we jumped the gun and sealed our marriage with a kiss before Ralph gave us the go ahead, so he made us do it a second time amidst much laughter, and finally gave us permission to walk out as man and wife!
After lunch and a program in which we were able to honor my parents with a trip down memory lane in commemoration of their 50th Wedding Anniversary, my Prince Charming whisked me away in our "Just Married" car to a secluded riverside restaurant for supper. Walking down the beach in bare feet, a refreshing breeze blowing through our hair, I still couldn't believe how happy I was and what a gift this day had been. But there were even more surprises in store – as we sat down to our table on the patio, a lady walked up to us and said, "I'm a professional wedding photographer. Would you like me to take a few pictures on your digital camera while you're waiting?" We had decided to skip the stress of posing for a professional photographer and were going to be happy with what we had asked a few friends to take, so this offer was a total surprise!
We had so much fun with the poses she suggested around the pretty gardens of the restaurant! Then as we were getting ready to leave the final surprise came. We were not as alone as we thought – for one of the tables inside was occupied by a set of my relatives! I was happy to greet them all, including my cousin who had so beautifully played the piano for us. Jean was just a month older than me and still single after having recently broken off a relationship. It had not been an easy day for her. As we met again in the gift shop on the way out, the thought occurred to me that I still had my bouquet, that I was now done with it and that she was the one it was meant for. We both broke down in tears as I placed the pink roses in her hands. I think a prayer went up from both our hearts at that moment. What joy to hear that within a few months Jean had met her future husband and less than a year after their marriage a baby girl joined their family!
Finally the day drew to a close and we made our way to our riverside hotel. Gone was my wariness over married life, for "perfect love casts out fear". Not just the love of my husband, but the love of God who had brought us together had cast out the fear of commitment. I knew I was incredibly blessed to have this man as my husband. The day-to-day trials and temptations would come, but remembering the special way that my prayer for a kind man had been answered and being grateful for God's gift of a faithful, intimate, life-time companion would go a long way towards our living "happily ever after"!