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(Rafael and I at a Yell Leader Christmas party, circa 2005)

Hi Friends!

If you’ve checked Facebook lately, you all probably know by now that I have some exciting news—I’m dating a guy named Rafael and he’s pretty special! I’ve been looking forward to sharing our story with you because we’ve known each other for almost eight years, but only recently reconnected. I’ve also been looking forward to sharing this part of my journey with you all in hopes that you all, too, would be inspired to live your lives to the fullest!

Rafael and I have some history, so I’m going to tell our story through several blog posts (which will include several guest entries from Rafael).  Before I go any further, I want to thank you all so much for your love, support and celebration of my relationship with Rafael. It just means so much that you all care and are happy for me. I hope you all are inspired and encouraged as you walk with Rafael and I for the next several weeks.

 I met Rafael at Baylor in the Fall of 2005 (my junior year) when he joined our coed cheer squad after recently transferring to Baylor from Midland College.  He had just missed the football tryouts and was buying time until the next tryout came along. Thankfully he decided to come toss some pretty girls around. I remember thinking he came out of nowhere.  What I first noticed about him was his big bright smile and his glass-half-full mentality.  I remember traveling across the Country with the squad to football games and just having a blast with him.  Around Rafael, I felt comfortable being the real me. The part of me that I didn’t always show  others, the kind of goofy side where I talk in accents and do Disney Channel facials.  It was just easy and fun to be around Rafael. We would also have serious conversations, and we were both very intentional about our faith in God and our devotion to Christ. Looking back, life was a little brighter with him around.

At this particular time in my life I was not looking to be in a relationship and honestly wasn’t thinking about Rafael that way. I saw him as a friend that I really enjoyed being around. I started talking about him in my journal entries early that Fall. This was the first entry I ever wrote about him:

“There is this godly guy on our squad named Ralf and he is an answer to prayers. He has stepped up as a spiritual leader on the squad and it is amazing. Thank you for Ralf Lord. Please lead and guide him as he leads this squad.”

Slowly but surely he worked his way into my heart. I remember the first time I thought he may have feelings for me. We were on a road trip for a football game and we got into a discussion at dinner about whether we believed in soul mates or whether we just choose someone to marry and make that work. I was on team “choose someone” and Raffy was on team “soul mate.” I took my position mostly because I remember having a Bible teacher in high school suggest that there wasn’t just one person out there for us but that we pick one and make it work. Because I respected that teacher, I had adopted that view for myself.  I remember how upset Raffy got because I didn’t believe in soul mates, and for the first time I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, I think he thinks I’m his soul mate.” I couldn’t understand why else my position would bother him so much. From that point on, I noticed little things he did to single me out to make me feel special.

One time he invited me to go to a fraternity function with him for a fraternity he was pledging at the time. Looking back, I couldn’t tell that he liked me because the way he asked was really laid back, like he just needed someone to go with him and since we were friends it made the most sense. Here is my journal entry from after that event:

“Last night I went with Ralf to a formal coffee. It was a lot of fun. God I pray that you would bless, keep and encourage Ralf as he pledges.”

After going to his fraternity function, I thought to myself how nice it was to have a friend to take to functions. Along those same lines, I invited him to my sorority’s country-western dancing event.  A few weeks before that event, I started hearing from squad members that Raffy liked me. I began to get frustrated because even though I could sense his affection, he never came out and just said it. I remember talking to him on the phone around that time and asking him if he liked me or not. I asked him to be honest because people were telling me one thing but he was telling me something different. He maintained his position that he just liked me as a friend. Frustrated with him, I abruptly ended the conversation and drove myself to the Baylor Marina where I cried my eyes out (which was not typical for me). It shocked me that I cared so much. My affection for him had crept up on me because, up until this point, I didn’t realize I had any romantic feelings for him.  When I got home that night, I wrote him an email and un-invited him to my sorority function. I told him I thought it was best that we didn’t go together (a little dramatic, I know). Little did I know how that email and the events that followed would forever change my life.

By that time, my sorority event was around the corner and it was the one event I loved going to the most.  I wasn’t about to miss it. So I asked a girl I cheered with if she would introduce me to the guy she had been trying to set me up with for months–his name was Andrew Heard…