before i can tell you of how i fell in love with my wife, how i came to be in love with a woman, and how i ended up in inger’s home in denmark in 2008, i must first tell you about another person i loved.
and it is not my ex-husband, jake.
i loved jake, and we were married for 9 years before we separated. but, i had a love before him.
i met ian when i was only 20 years old. it was the summer of 1995 and i was on my first trip to europe. i flew across the atlantic ocean with five other college students, and together we traveled through the scandinavian countries and estonia for five weeks, visiting methodist churches and congregations. it was a mission trip, but it was not about building houses or serving the poor, rather it was a cultural exchange where we were hosted by fellow methodists. we traveled through five countries, stayed in homes & camps, played games, led worship services, sang, toured, and simply got to know our brothers and sisters in scandinavia. it was all about sharing stories & time with each other.
in case you are wondering, or something about this sounds familiar, this trip in 1995 is the same program that i led in the summer of 2007. in 1995, i was the college student exploring and expanding my horizons. in 2007, as my marriage with jake was ending, i led a group of college students. after 12 years everything came full circle.
but, more about ian right now.
the first stop in the summer of 1995 was denmark, where we were hosted by fellow college-age young adults. the danish guys & girls showed us the highlights of copenhagen over four days. but, the highlight of the four days was simply meeting them, talking with them, comparing lives, chatting about their experiences when they had been to north carolina the summer before. the first night there, exhausted from my first airplane flight and the culture shock of being surrounded by a language i could not understand, i sat on the floor and chatted with a handsome, intriguing young man. (yes. they all spoke english, so there was no communication problem).
ian began our conversation by asking me what i thought was the most important part of this experience i was about to have, what i expected. immediately i knew he was not like anyone else. we continued our conversation during dinner, and a few more times during the week i was in copenhagen. we spent one night surrounded by a crowd of people, but completely absorbed with each other. there was something between us. not necessarily love. (or was it?) but a deep connection. somehow our souls met. and we both felt it. something i had never felt before.
unfortunately, the next day i left copenhagen. with tears streaming down my face, not knowing if i would ever see ian again, i hugged him, boarded the train (my first train ride!), and sunk down in my seat, already emotionally overwhelmed at all that had happened after only the first four days of this five week adventure. the hardest thing about this trip was (and it is true for every person i have talked to who has been on this trip in years past) leaving people behind… especially because you have no idea if you’ll ever see any of these people again – why would you? leaving ian behind, even if i’d only known him four days, torn my heart in two. but, four more weeks of adventure awaited. i had to get my mind off of copenhagen & move on.
however, that was not the end of my story with ian. like some kind of crazy fairy tale, we kept in touch. it was before the internet, before chatting & skype, so what did we do? we wrote letters. long letters, declaring our love for each other. we wrote each other multiple times a week and talked on the phone whenever he had saved up enough coins, walked down to the harbor in copenhagen, and called me from a pay phone. an international pay phone call. a love that crossed the ocean. it was crazy.
one day, just before i headed back to school for my senior year of college (about 4 weeks after i had arrived home from scandinavia), ian called and asked me what i was doing on september 3rd. i responded that i had no idea, except that it was a thursday, so i’d most likely be in some classes. and then, he asked me if i could drive to charlotte, nc, because he would need a ride up to greensboro. when he said those words, i understood & completely didn’t understand all at the same time. he was coming to visit!
like something from a movie, this danish guy i was crazy about, who was also crazy about me, flew over to see me. we spent three weeks together in north carolina… falling in love, and making plans for life after i graduated. during thanksgiving, i dropped the bomb to my parents that i’d be going to denmark the day after christmas to spend 2 weeks of my holiday with ian. and i did.
though that trip to visit him during christmas didn’t go as well as his trip to the states earlier in the fall. while his visit to me was an amazing three week love story, the trip i made to denmark during christmas was tough and confusing. things weren’t the same. we didn’t get along, it just didn’t work, and yet we still felt so connected to one another. while it wasn’t working between us in one way, in another way, it was wonderful. ian got me. he challenged me. somehow he knew me and begged me to simply listen to my soul. to be me. he accepted me and stretched me in ways i’d never imagined. he was dreamy, intriguing, & mysterious. it was as if he was put in my life to show me who i was. but something just wasn’t right. while he was so encouraging & supportive of me, he had no confidence in himself. he loved deeply, but had no idea how to receive love. and i was not ready to absorb all of the freedom & independence he was offering me.
so, one night, as ian was in the shower, i called from the hall phone to my parents in the states and asked them to help me change my ticket so i could come home early. i told ian i was leaving, and he said nothing. neither one of us wanted this, but we didn’t know what else to do. everything felt weird & wrong, and yet somehow, right.
so, we took a cab in the early, snowy, january morning to the airport, hugged each other goodbye, and sobbed as we held onto each other. i let go, knowing i might possibly never see ian again, and i took the escalator up towards my gate. i looked back at ian, waved goodbye, and then boarded my plane, crying the whole way home.
that was the last i heard from ian.
until 12 years later during the summer of 2007. the summer i returned to denmark as a leader for the group of college-age kids embarking on the same life-changing experience i had years earlier.
during the 12 years between my visits to denmark & scandinavia, i worked as a teacher, fell in love again – with jake, who was the complete opposite of ian, worked as a minister in a church, experienced betrayal, went to graduate school to study theology, and fought for my marriage to survive.
by the time i was headed to scandinavia in the summer of 2007, i was in a weird place in my life, in my self. i was tired of hoping & nothing ever changing in my marriage. i was alone, even though i was married. i was fighting to discover who i truly was & who i was called to be. i was exhausted from living up to everyone’s expectations, or what i assumed was everyone’s expectations of me. i lived for my work in in the church. i was happy & sad all at the same time. i felt so alive & like i had found my true self while i was studying theology. i was searching for my niche, my path. and i constantly battled with myself as i tried to balance my life. it was not a horrible time, but it was not a peaceful time either. but, everything was confusing.
so, a trip to scandinavia, the place where i first truly felt my soul & heard my inner voice, was exactly what i needed. when the committee asked me to be the leader for the group, i knew i had to say yes. i knew that going back to scandinavia would change my life.
but i had no idea that this second tour in scandinavia would bring me an old love, a new woman, and a complete sense of knowing exactly what i needed to do. i had no idea how much scandinavia would teach me about love – for God, for others, & for myself.