I was 18 years old in a foreign country on a mission trip. I had recently broken up with my high school sweetheart because I was supposedly moving to Dallas to go to school and didn’t want a long-distance relationship. Oh, sweet irony.
So there I was, fresh off a 24-hour trip, nice and grungy. There he was, in a red shirt, with tanned skin and a heart-breaking accent. “No, Ashley. You did not come on this mission trip to meet boys. Think about Jesus. Think about the children. Think about anything but that charming Hungarian,” I scolded myself silently.
The week of playing volleyball with orphans and flirting with the cute local went by too quickly, and to my delight, I had the opportunity to stay a second week and help with another camp. You know, for the children.
Turns out JD thought I was pretty cute, too, because we Skyped every day for two months after that because we were “friends.” Then one blessed September day during a 5-hour Skype conversation, JD told me that he had serious intentions and wanted to date me.
He came to visit in November for a month, and he told me he loved me. We had our first (and second, and third, and 300th) kiss, and we were deliriously happy in love, which was a good place to start since we had six months of separation ahead of us. Skype was our friend.
That time of talking and playing online checkers was so good for us because we learned how to communicate, how to trust one another, and how to trust God with something so precious and important to us. It was a very difficult time because I was essentially discussing marriage with a person that I had barely spent any face-to-face time with. I’m not sure my parents even acknowledged the validity of the relationship until we came home engaged, and I’m not sure that I blame them.
So I spent the following summer in Hungary. I remember being almost in tears on my lone flight to London because I was afraid I was making a huge mistake spending the summer with a person I barely knew. I remember thinking, “What if I’m crazy? What if this doesn’t work? What if he’s not who I thought he was? What if we don’t really love each other?”
After spending the first evening with JD, as he was walking me back to my apartment, I made an off-handed comment that we were giving our relationship a trial run, that we were seeing if this was what we really wanted. JD responded, “That’s fine for you to take your time, but I’ve already decided that I want you.” I mean, come on.
He later proposed on the top of a tower that he had reserved at a castle (those things are just lying around in Europe). He moved to Arkansas, and I spent another year in Texas at school. We married after that second year of long (but shorter)-distance and lived in Arkansas for 3 years, graduating from Harding University.
After years of long-distance, I’m grateful to drive around grocery shopping with him and walking our dog. Our love story is my favorite.