Our Love Story

Here’s the story of how we met and fell in love while living 12,546 kilometers/7,795 miles apart.

Anne:

Andrew and Claire Hurd

Coleman and I met on December 30th, 2011, at a wedding. Coleman had served in Toronto as the Assistant Pastor at Olivet New Church, where he became friends with the bride, Claire. My brother Andrew was the groom. Andrew and Claire decided that they wanted to have some big band music and swing dancing at their reception. Claire knew that Coleman had some swing dance experience, and asked him to teach a lesson. He agreed, but mentioned that he’d need a partner. Claire told him that the groom’s sister could dance.

Coleman:

I arrived at Knox Presbyterian Church about half an hour before the wedding and found a seat in a pew. Sitting there, I saw Anne for the first time. She was running around taking care of last minute set-up details. I thought, “Wow, she’s cute! I hope I get to meet her at the reception!” I knew that I was supposed to teach dancing with SOMEONE from the wedding, but the fact that it was Andrew’s sister had completely slipped my mind, so it was a pleasant surprise that when I asked who I was going to be teaching with, it turned out to be the cute girl from the church.

Swinging around the floor

Anne:

I first saw Coleman as one of many people in the sanctuary of the church, but didn’t know who he was. I thought he was cute, but was distracted by my to-do list. I had first heard of Coleman months earlier when Claire suggested his name as a possible blind date. But Coleman moved to BC, and I made plans to move to Singapore, and when Claire and Andrew asked me to partner a swing-dancer at their wedding, I didn’t make the connection straight away. When I arrived at the reception, Andrew introduced Coleman. We sat across from one another at dinner and after the meal, slipped out to the lobby to figure out if we could actually dance! To my (slight surprise and) delight, this good-looking minister could dance! We went over what he’d teach the crowd and fell into step pretty quickly.

Teaching the guests to swing

Coleman:

Doing the Charleston

The truth is, I’m not a great dancer. By the time of the wedding I was confident enough in my own ability to dance – but the idea of trying to teach it, especially with someone who I’d never danced with before, was a little daunting. But Anne was perfect. In minutes she picked up the steps that had taken me hours of practice to get down. And when it came time to teach, she gracefully demonstrated and explained the followers’ steps much better than I could have. I was smitten. After the lesson we danced the Charleston, and a little later, when we found ourselves sitting at the same table, I decided I HAD to talk to her. So, I moved over to the chair next to her, and started asking her about herself.

Anne:

Discussing theology is a hobby of mine, and I was pretty excited to have a New Church minister sitting across from me to grill. I had done some reading about the New Church, and had a few (okay, a lot!) of questions, and here was someone who not only could answer them, but would be obligated to (ministers have to be polite, right?) So we started out in the reception hall shouting questions and answers to each other over the music, and eventually moved out into the lobby where we could talk at a normal volume. I asked him about everything, and somewhere in there shared most of my life story too – including the part about wanting to be a nun! The conversation flowed, and I was really enjoying myself – but I wasn’t a hundred percent sure that he wasn’t just being polite in talking to me for so long, until he went downstairs and told his ride to leave without him – he’d take the subway home!

Coleman:

At that point I was pretty sure I could talk to this girl all night and still want to talk more. I was determined I was going to at least stay and talk to her till the reception was over and we’d cleaned everything up. When we noticed people starting to trickle out we found our way back into the reception hall, and when they announced the last dance, I asked if she would dance with me. She said she’d love to, and we danced a slow Lindy Hop in each other’s arms.

Anne:

I’ve said it many times right from the start – if I’d known how important that night would become, I’d have paid more attention! Sure, I liked this guy – how many good-looking, swing-dancing pastors does a girl come across? But he lived out west, and I was leaving for Singapore in five days! I had family and friends to say good-bye to, packing to do, a new year to celebrate… still, Coleman stood out in my mind. After the last dance (which was over much too quickly!) we lingered for a few minutes as I tried to come up with excuses to keep him around. (Actually, after we’d said goodbye and he’d gone downstairs to the exit, I looked around the deserted lobby for something, anything that I could plausibly mistake for his so that I could rush after him and ask if he’d forgotten his… whatever. Unfortunately, the lobby was bare, and my brother was calling me.) So we exchanged contact information and said goodbye and I figured I’d never see him again. I went back into the ballroom to help clean up.

Coleman:

Meanwhile, I wandered through the streets of Toronto to the subway in a happy daze. When I got back to the home I was staying at, I lay in bed but couldn’t fall asleep, going over the night again and again in my head. I thought of friending Anne on Facebook then and there at 3 a.m., but I figured I should probably at least wait till morning. The next morning I went out to breakfast at the home of an older couple who’d semi-adopted me when I lived in Toronto, and I told them I’d met a girl… but probably nothing would come of it, since she was moving to Singapore and I lived in Dawson Creek, and she was an almost-nun and I was New Church minister. Still, I could hope! That was New Year’s Eve day, and after breakfast I headed to the airport and flew back to Philadelphia to celebrate New Year’s Eve with my friends.

Anne:

That night was New Year’s Eve, and my closest friends and I were celebrating our last night all in the same city. At midnight, on impulse, I sent Coleman a text message that read  “Dear Coleman, Happy New Year! Be blessed, Anne Grace”. By the time we got home at about 3AM, I hadn’t received a reply. But the next morning, there was a Facebook message for me.

Coleman:

Anne’s text didn’t reach my phone – or at least I didn’t notice it – until I was in bed at my parents house a little after 3 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. It’s hard to describe how I felt when I read it – a combination of incredible tingling excitement, and a sinking feeling of nervous anxiety. She had texted me! Hooray! But I hadn’t responded! Oh no! Maybe she’d think I wasn’t interested… I didn’t want to wake her if she’d gone to bed, so rather than texting back I took to Facebook and wrote, “Hi Anne! Your text just came through at about 3:15 (I was still awake); I’d reply by text but I don’t want to wake you up if you’re asleep. Happy new year to you too, and may the Lord be with you as you get ready for your big adventure! -Coleman.” I had no idea if I’d hear back from her, but after a morning of compulsively checking Facebook, at 11:30 that morning I received a response. I wrote back almost immediately, and over the next few days we wrote more and more.

Anne:

In the five days between when we met and when I left Canada, we must have each written a novel. Those first few messages, I worried that he might just be responding out of politeness – but then I noticed that his messages were always longer than mine, and he always asked a bunch of questions. In fact, on January 1st, a group of friends, including Andrew and Claire, were gathered together, and Terri made a prediction: Coleman and I were it. The ones. We’d be getting married. Everyone started placing bets on exactly how this purported romance would blossom. I laughed, insisted I was moving to Singapore, pointed out theological issues to resolve and quietly began to hope.

Coleman:

I think I drove my family a little nuts over the next few days talking about the girl I’d met. I drove my friend Becky to the airport a few days later, and she laughed as I told her all about Anne. “I’ve never seen you like this, Coleman! You really like this girl!” I told her that I really did – but I didn’t know if it would work out. But she was special enough that I wanted to take a chance.

Anne:

Our first Skype call was ten days after we met, and the conversation flowed. We talked for hours. Then hours the next day. And the next. From then until now we have only gone 48 hours without talking (even when I was in the mountains of northern Thailand, I managed to find cell service or a satellite!) I very quickly couldn’t imagine life without Coleman but was wary – I’d been in love before, and had my heart badly broken. So while I wanted to love him, I was resistant and cautious. One afternoon on my lunch I found myself in a Christian-owned café, listening to lovely contemporary Christian music while I was journalling and praying about our relationship – basically telling my heart to SLOW DOWN! And as I sat there praying, thinking about Coleman and all of the things I admired in him and loved about him, it hit me – I was in love with him. Totally, completely, wonderfully in love. I called my mother to share this revelation. Her response? “This is a surprise to you? I knew that!” But I kept it to myself. We still had lots to talk about, challenges to overcome and we needed to wait on the Lord. So I didn’t tell him yet.

Skype date: Baking cakes together
The finished masterpieces!

Coleman:

From the beginning, I wanted to approach our growing friendship and relationship with the attitude that the most important thing was to seek the Lord’s will and to do it. If that meant we found out that we weren’t going to end up being anything more than friends, then I was prepared for that (although I would’ve been pretty sad). It was an incredible blessing to find that Anne had the same attitude – that above all else she wanted to follow the Lord and do His will. We talked to each other about how great a comfort it was that we both loved God more than we loved each other.

I didn’t have an “aha” moment like Anne did of realizing that I was in love with her, but I was saying “I love you!” in my head (and out loud after we’d hung up on Skype) for weeks before saying anything about it to her. Even when we started to talk more about caring for each other, I resisted saying, “I love you.” I wanted those words to be special, to save them for a time when they were really the last step before saying, “Will you marry me?”

Our fancy dinner ‘together’.
Meet the Parents – playing online board games with my parents

But we knew we loved each other. We spent hours talking about everything, from mundane details of daily life, to children, to faith. We prayed together, we read the Word together. We met each other’s families over Skype and played board games with them together. We went on Skype dates – baking cakes, watching movies, eating dinner “together”. We spent lots of time getting to know each other, getting closer to each other, and trying to discern where the Lord might be leading us.

Anne:

Very early on we talked about visiting one another so that we could spend some time in person. As our relationship progressed, we made plans for Coleman to come to Singapore in August. The wait for that visit seemed incredibly long at times, but it is truly amazing how much God worked and moved in our hearts and minds during the time we were apart. As spring turned to summer and we began to discuss long-term plans, we mutually came to the decision to take our relationship one step further: to say ‘I love you’ (out loud, in English). By that time I was sure. Sure that I wanted to marry him, sure that he was the one God intended for me. And I knew he loved me. But I wasn’t sure that HE was sure…

Coleman:

As the spring came to an end, I was becoming more and more sure that Anne was the one for me. More and more I was becoming convinced that our religious views were compatible, that we cared about the same things, that we really fit on the deepest levels. I’d prayed to the Lord, and in response gotten a sense that I could choose to marry Anne. But I also did not want to rush things. I was fairly confident (OK, that’s an understatement) that I’d feel the same after we’d spent some more time in person, but it was important to me that we would spend that time in person. If waiting an extra few weeks meant being 100% sure rather than 99% sure, it was worth waiting a few extra weeks.

Of course, 99% sure was sure enough for me to order a ring… 

It’s August 7th!
Starting to cry again…

Anne:

Finally, August came. The first days of the month were a blur as I ran around getting everything ready. Then Tuesday, August 7th arrived, and I headed to the airport to meet Coleman’s flight. I found the right terminal and waited… and waited… and waited… I was jumpy and excited and started to cry every fifteen seconds – definitely suspicious. Then all of a sudden, there he was!

There he is!!!!! Wait…where is he going?!?

The wall separating us was clear glass, so as he came down the hall and headed for the baggage carousel I was sure he’d seen me. But after he picked up his luggage he began to walk in the wrong direction – towards customs. I began to have a panic attack. The only reason he’d go to customs was if he had something to declare. And the only thing he would have to declare was an item of value that he was leaving behind in Singapore! I took a deep breath, told myself he’d brought me a t-shirt (or was just lost), and put it out of my mind. After speaking to someone at customs he began to move again – still in the wrong direction! He was headed for the far doors. So I promptly raced down the terminal to the far doors and waited for him to reappear on the other side of the glass… only he didn’t. I waited… and waited… I didn’t understand! Where had he gone? He’d vanished! I marched back to the other end, and was about to enter the DO NOT ENTER doors (just to ask where he’d gone!) when I saw him, this time, thankfully, headed for the doors. He finally saw me, and as he cleared the barrier and dropped his suitcases, I rushed into his arms. And I was home.

Coleman:

When I arrived at the airport, I was a little sleep-deprived and not sure exactly where to go. It took me about five minutes to determine that I had to take a shuttle to get to baggage claim, and another few minutes for the shuttle to arrive. I think I was the last person from my flight to get to my baggage. Once I had it I raced down the escalator to immigration – only to have the immigration agent point out that “OMF IHQ” was NOT enough of an address for where I was staying. So, I rushed back up the escalator, baggage in tow, to find a computer with internet access and get the address. Back down the escalator and through immigration, and on to customs. Now, during business hours at customs there’s a clearly marked red lane for “declaring” and a clearly marked green lane for “not declaring.” But at that hour, only the green lane was open. I asked where to go, and eventually determined that I was being pointed toward a small office. I walked toward it, went in, and declared the ring. Then I came back out – with no idea of where to go. Then I saw Anne – and still didn’t know where to go. After dancing back and forth between red lane and green lane, I finally figured out that I could just walk through the door in front of me. So I did. And I was through! I dropped my suitcases, and Anne rushed into my arms. It was the most amazing thing – it was the first time we’d really hugged (except for a quick hug goodbye at the wedding), but it felt like the most natural thing in the world. It just was just right; we just fit. It was exactly where I belonged. 

Finally home

Anne:

It was midnight by the time we were leaving the airport. We took a taxi to OMF IHQ where Coleman was staying in the guesthome. We definitely didn’t want to say goodnight, but I promised to be back early the next morning. We spent our first day together at the beach, all day, just the two of us, being ridiculously mushy and getting used to each other. (Funny, that didn’t take very long!) Thursday morning we were babysitting the daughter of friends, and we spent the afternoon hanging out at my parent’s flat. That night we went to see the fireworks for National Day. Friday we spent being low key – pancakes for breakfast, more babysitting and a nice walk around my neighborhood. It was then that we had a conversation that led me to believe things might be headed towards a question sooner rather than later.

For the next chapter, see “The Proposal”!

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10 thoughts on “Our Love Story

  1. How cool to be in your story…. very much on the side though haha. We wish you all the best, Gods blessings and a lot of dancing together. M & EJ

    I miss you here auntie Anne, we’re doing the ballet all by ourselves and my mom is really terrible!

  2. O’kay this is just the sweetest thing I’ve ever read! After reading the beginnings of your Two Sleepy People site I’ve been waiting for the love story installment! Read it this morning with my cup of tea in hand smiling all the while! Congratulations! Such happiness!

  3. I want to hear the rest of the story! It has somewhat of an abrupt ending so far. Tell about the arboretum or wherever it was….

  4. I totally enjoyed your special story and look forward to the next installment. It reminds me of how couples might meet and recognize each other in heaven. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

  5. Great story Coleman and Anne Grace. Having married a person who grew up in another country myself, it is just astounding to see the way God’s providence works when uniting people.

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