For those who have followed my stories since I lived on Long Island you have witnessed me ‘learning as I went’ while going through many life changes. After a painful divorce five years ago, God took me through healing and growing and I gained much wisdom in that time. When I began my column I shared growing pains as well as triumphs as I accepted singlehood, then attempted dating (and the many retrievals of my toe in the water) as well as numerous life changes.
Several readers have written emails cheering me on through these life lessons and I enjoy sharing because we all experience them and I have learned to laugh at myself. I find such joy in everyday things.
After 40, I certainly didn’t need to go through rituals or formalities of courtship (though I have never claimed being an expert on how it is done) so when Jason and I found each other and realized our childhood experience had brought us full circle in a ‘soul mate’ romance, we knew for quite a while that we would be getting married.
I doubt, after reading my stories that any of you are surprised since I reconnected with Jason to see the title of this story. Jason wanted to take his time and make things perfect, so he had pondered a ‘perfect proposal’ and the ‘perfect timing’ to do it. I also had in mind the perfect timing as I had a few goals I wanted to reach before Jason and I merged our lives together. I wanted to have my first book completed and a few other personal goals.
Jason and I were happy to meet at our halfway point in Nashville or to travel to each other’s town and we have enjoyed our dating time, but when we immediately felt that soul-mate love… it became more difficult to wait through the planning of what we deemed as ‘perfect’. When I have dated before and felt the ache of missing someone, I still never experienced every single thing in both of our lives line up perfectly the way that things have for Jason and I. From day one, nothing was wrong. Nothing needed to happen. No square peg in a round hole. We were ‘one’ before we even knew it.
Our lives together made so much sense that our lives apart didn’t make much sense at all. When Jason would tease me telling me to “just stay” each time I visited Kentucky, he knew I really could not move in to live with him without us being married. We were both fine to wait and to let ourselves have more dating time, but after five months it stopped making sense to wait. “Wait for what?” we asked ourselves. The ‘perfect’ proposal, timing or whatever …was no longer important and Jason and I decided to go ahead and change our plans for our next trip together.
On Easter weekend the plan was to go to Kentucky for that weekend and then Jason and I were going to Kansas for a week. Jason had business in Kansas and we wanted to just have another excuse to be together so I planned to go along. But when Jason and I talked about me ‘moving’ back to Murray and we toyed with the idea of me just packing for Easter weekend – to stay permanently… the wheels were in motion to “Nike” (Just Do It).
There was nothing stopping us and, with this not being a first marriage and being over 40, there was just no reason to do any of the formalities of proposing or even planning a wedding. The Calloway County Courthouse on the Courthouse Square is a beautiful, historical building. It holds mine and Jason’s birth certificates and, since we were put together as babies, then getting married in Murray where we both were born was as romantic to me as if we planned somewhere ‘perfect’. In fact… this was perfect for “us”.
Keeping a secret
After deciding to get married when I came to Kentucky, Jason put off the Kansas trip and wanted to take me to St. Pete for our honeymoon. He once lived in St. Pete and he wanted to share it with me. The impromptu plan was underway and I began packing up my life in Chattanooga. I missed writing last week’s article because I wanted to surprise readers (and even mine and Jason’s friends). We told very few people what we were doing other than family and a few close friends. There were many close friends I didn’t tell – but I knew they would NOT be surprised when they found out, because they knew how perfect Jason and I were for each other and they were expecting an engagement at any time.
Since most of my friends have a Facebook account, I decided to post a photo collage I made of “Good Friday” that also shared that we eloped. Good Friday is when we remember that “Death died” on the cross when Jesus took our place and we had hope for new life in Him.
For us to join our lives, it was very special to have this Good Friday and Easter represent the death of our past life without each other and our new life together. God took our past lives and made our life events to be parallel in which He taught us and He grew us on our journey apart until we came together. It is amazing how our minds, our hearts … our very souls were connected the whole time in some way. Joining my life with Jason was the easiest thing I have ever done.
What about Mama?
Thursday, after fully packing my Jeep I ‘headed for my home’ (and once again sang along with my As Isaac’s CD with that song playing). Little things like that have been special in building my relationship with Jason - fun things that were like little pieces of a puzzle, nicely fitting together. Mama had a choice to continue living in her house or live with one of my sisters. Mama actually is quite blessed – she had two daughters fighting over who she would live with. Instead of the sisters saying, “You take her!” …”No, YOU take her!”… Mama had two of her daughters saying, “I want her!” … “No, I want her!” What a blessing for Mama! I didn’t worry at all.
Get ready, Get set
Jason and I had already talked about rings and what we liked so as I packed to move to Kentucky, I also had a ring to buy and so did he. If I wasn’t so sure about our love, my home of Kentucky, my new family (who are old friends) and my new friends I had already been making on Facebook and during visits… maybe I would be nervous, but I wasn’t. It all fit. At this point Jason and I both put away what we “thought” should be perfect… and we realized “it already IS”.
I pulled into Kentucky on Thursday afternoon and Jason and I met with Judge Larry Elkins (who I made friends with on Facebook) and Jason already knew him. We got our license and we were ready to tie the knot on Good Friday. The courthouse would close early for Good Friday so we made an appointment for a morning ceremony.
I thought it would just be me, Jason and the judge, but Jason’s parents wanted to be there and so did his brother. Jason also invited his business partner. I wasn’t sure I would be able to get any of my new friends to stand with me on Easter weekend and, with such short notice. I also thought about the only family member I had in Murray, my cousin Rob. Rob was the “mean red-headed cousin” who pulled my sister’s hair, but no matter how rough around the edges he tries to be, I know he has a good heart and I felt he would show up knowing that family is important to me and that I wanted him there.
I also asked my new friend Loretta Jobs if she would be there. She had shared stories of my dad during my last visit and her heart is so precious. We all gathered in the judge's office and greeted each other in a hug and then Jason welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming. He said that even though our marriage came about rather quickly how sure we both were and he went over our childhood story and how God had brought us full circle. Then he said, “…but something that hasn’t happened yet is … I haven’t officially proposed…” and he got down on one knee and gave me the most meaningful proposal with such heartfelt words.
Loretta had sprinkled rose petals in the floor so each little touch of ‘our moment’ was very special to me. Before Jason and I had left to get married, I told him that I forgot my waterproof mascara and he better not make me cry so when he got down on his knee and I saw what he was doing, the tears started and I whispered, “I told you not to make me cry…”. Jason had also told me my ring was not ready yet so I gave him a five dollar decoy ring I already had for him to use. He tricked me, and had the most beautiful solitaire ring with a thin band of diamonds.
I guess we were engaged all of five minutes before heading out to the front lawn of the courthouse to have Judge Elkins perform our ceremony.
Now, with packing my whole life up and moving all by myself… checking off everything to remember and with buying Jason’s ring and something nice to wear for our special day… I think I should be excused for what happened next.
As the judge asked who would be the witnesses, Jason suggested both his parents and they stood beside us. We were led through our vows and when Judge Elkins got to the part with the rings, my hands flew up covering half of my face in order to hide my fear and embarrassment that …I forgot to bring Jason’s ring. I used most of my savings for that ring and it was nice! I could not believe the one thing I would forget was THE RING.
Jason – knowing my sense of humor shifted his eyes with a slight smile wondering “Okay, is this a joke …do I fall for this?” and then he saw the complete horror on my face STICK. I didn’t budge. I looked at the judge and he forgivingly said, “Okay… let’s just …” and he motioned to Jason to repeat the ring vow. After Jason placed the ring he had for me on my finger, I quickly thought in sheer panic about the stretchy costume pearl ring on my other hand.
I slipped it off and I looked at the judge as if to say, “Okay… let’s do it” and with a chuckle, he had me repeat after him. Jason had no idea the ring was stretchy and he wondered what in the world I was doing. When I pushed the flat, over-sized pearly ring on his finger he laughed and was such a good sport. He wore the ring until we retrieved the real ring back at his house.
I was thrilled to have Jason’s family and my cousin and new friend to share our ceremony with us. We hugged them and they left. Loretta was over by Jason’s truck which we saw was decorated with “Just Married” and “Honk” on the back window. Loretta gave us a sweet card, a bottle of sparkling grape juice and she took our picture on the back of the truck before we left as Mr. and Mrs. Billington.
I did take Jason’s name… something I didn’t think I would do again. I loved having my name Jeffrey and liked the flow of my pen name for writing. But Jason is my heart and I love his name. I love his family and so … since I don’t have a middle name, I will keep my maiden name as my middle name and I am legally Jennifer Jeffrey Billington – but I will still keep my pen name for writing.
Our special day was very special and normally a bride may kick herself for forgetting the ring… but this is the type of thing that Jason and I both love about each other – our ability to laugh and find joy in all things. It just adds to the adventure and keeps smiles on our faces and, nothing can take that way.
I will keep my job with Chattanoogan.com as my work doesn’t require me to be at an office. I am excited to begin my life with Jason and my new home. My birthplace IS my ‘old Kentucky home’ but there is so much that will be new to me. I hope readers will continue to follow me in my new adventures. I plan to still visit Chattanooga often. It isn’t far from Murray and I need to visit my family often. As for Smokey… I have shared with his owner that I will be living on a Kentucky farm and Jason and I would love to buy Smokey. She has been pondering this and told me when we get things set up and are ready to have a horse to let her know and she would see where she is with what she wants to do.
For now, I will be adjusting to my new/old surroundings and settling into the role I was meant to have… “Jason’s wife”.
And so, the quirky writer who sought adventure for her stories lived happily ever after. But, this is not the end… she’s just getting started.
A few photos: