Real-Life Romance: Tim & Jess


Imagine a young seventeen year old girl heading off to Bible college after a good long stint of running from Jesus. Naive. Impressionable. Rowdy….selfish.

God had his work cut out for me. He still does. I’m grateful that He’s long-suffering. I walked onto campus ready to do things right after doing things so wrong for so long. Everything was new and fresh. 

And I had all these ideas about who I was going to become and what my life would be like. Much of it meant using my dad’s credit cards and not having to get a job during college days. What? I said I was seventeen. 

I was going as a missions major with a heart for India. I was going to marry a missions major. We would graduate and then we would head for the mission field to work with girls rescued from brothels. Children of my own weren’t even on the radar. 

I’m a planner. 

Planning is great. “A man’s heart plans his ways…” Proverbs 16:9 God never said we couldn’t make plans. The plans I had going on were good. God-glorifying.

However, I needed cash. Dad cut me off! And um…I wasn’t selling plasma. Needles. Not happening. Someone told me about working on my own time (good for a planner like me) telemarketing.

Yes, I was one of those people you hung up on…or told dirty jokes to. I have a whole other post on this. But hey, it was money and it was fun. 

One particular evening a blond-haired guy with smart-looking glasses set down beside me. Big blue eyes. Full lips. Wide smile that sent crater-like dimples into his cheeks. I thought, “A shy, smart guy. Cool.” So much better than the perv on my left. 

I was wrong. He wasn’t shy at all. In fact, without the f-bombs, he could have been a white Eddie Murphy. He leaned over my cubicle and made a witty remark about my phone skills and I don’t know if he had the intuition or was just so competitive himself that it didn’t matter, but he challenged me. 

Love to hear my man sing
and the sleeves rolled up…bonus!
What is it about a man with
his sleeves rolled up?

Um…don’t challenge me! Don’t make bets! I get all crazy-competitive. Ask Susan Tuttle and Julie Jarnagin. 🙂  I won btw…making the most calls without hang ups that night.

He offered to give me a ride back to my dorm, and I found out he attended the same college. I’d never seen him before. But later I found out, he’d seen me. 

I declined his offer. 

The next work night, I accepted. We sat in his truck until curfew laughing and talking. I found out he was an Evangelism major which immediately threw him off the radar. I was marrying a missions major. And I told him that. 

I will never forget that smirk and arrogant twinkle in his eye. “Okay.” His tone? Smug. But I let it go. No point arguing.


Me and my evangelist…in Thailand together
ministering to the children!

And then he asked me out for Valentine’s and again, I reminded him. I was marrying a missions major. “Come on, as friends.”


“Alright. But just as friends. I’m serious.”

Arrogant eye-twinkle. Smug smirk. “Okay.”

When he showed up at my dorm, he had a dozen roses, heart-shaped box of chocolate, and a card. Inside I was giddy. On the outside, I frowned. “I said, as friends. This is a friend date.”

“Well, you don’t know me very well yet. I do this for all my friends.” He grinned, opened the door for me and we drove into Branson and had a steak dinner. It was fun, I had to admit. But I wasn’t marrying an evangelist. And I was going to India. 

That evening on the way back to the dorms, he pulled off a secluded road. I knew exactly what that meant. Oh my good gravy! I am not parking with this evangelist! Ack! I remember freaking out inside. He turned to me and grinned. 

“What are you doing?” I asked, a cautious look in my eye. 


Thai kids take ice cream sandwich literally.
They eat it on bread. Look closely!

He fiddled with the radio. “Hop out.”

“I’m sorry, what?” 

“Get out, Jess. Come on.” He opened his car door.

I thought, “Hey, better than the back seat.”

And that’s when he took me in his arms and we danced. Just a sweet, soft slow dance on the side of a road overlooking a field.

Yep, REO Speedwagon blared I Can’t Fight This Feeling. LOL But it was so romantic and sweet and I think at that moment, my heart slipped away.

The following year, we were married. He wrote me a song and sang it to me on our wedding day. 

No, we’re not in India…yet. But we’ve ministered to so many people as a team, a partnership. I can’t imagine my life with anyone else. We laugh, we act like complete idiots…well, I do! Tim is my best friend.  Here’s an example:

That’s a photo he sent me.
My ruts in the yard backing out!

I’m thankful for the latter half of Proverbs 16:9 “…but the LORD directs his steps.” 

Maybe you’re out there and you’re a planner. Like me. Remember, God has your very best interest at heart. And when He changes your plans, it’s okay. You always get something better than what you thought you ever wanted! I’m living proof. 


What was your first date like? I’d love to hear in the comments! And have you ever been on a missions trip before? Where did you go? How did it change your life?

32 thoughts on “Real-Life Romance: Tim & Jess

  1. Ooh my goodness, I think my heart just melted! Your guy is so romantic!!!
    Mine first date was…okay. lol My guy is better with words than smooth moves. Though I do remember some dancing. 🙂
    I've been on missions trips. Wanted to be a missionary before I got married. Maybe I'll go on more before this life is over. 🙂

    1. He really is! More so than me and I write it! Ha!

      I bet you will go on more before this life is all over! And ya gotta love dancing!

  2. "Um…don't challenge me! Don't make bets! I get all crazy-competitive. Ask Susan Tuttle and Julie Jarnagin. :)" TRUTH!

    This was soooooo sweet. Seriously. I love this.

    On my first date with my husband, I reached under the seat of his truck to move the seat forward. It sliced my finger open. It was one of those weird cuts that would not stop bleeding. Ugh. Kevin pulled his dress shirt up and held out his white undershirt and stuck my bleeding finger in it. (I know. Kind of gross, but really sweet.) Then he went to Walmart to buy me a box of bandaids and antibacterial cream. LOL. Man. Thinking back on it I really knew how to impress a guy on a first date. And I'm pretty sure I ate off his plate at dinner. I guess he loves me despite of that.

    1. LOL!!

      I love that story and I can see it as a scene in one of your books. How sweet! And I totally cracked up at you eating off his plate. Hilarious.

  3. "A white Eddie Murphy" – that is a pretty good description of Tim!

    My first date ever was also my first date with Jason. It was a comedy of errors! His car was in the shop so we took mine. What he didn't know (but I did) was that my water pump was going out and my temp light would come on. I told him there was a short in the light!

    We went to a matinee (because we are old people) and Shoney's (again, old people) where I spilled ketchup all over my white shirt! We also went to the mall, where one of us (probably me) knocked over a mannequin and a sweater display at J. Riggings.

    I guess he must not have had too bad of a time – this year we will have been married for 15 years!

    1. After hearing your lamp story this morning, the mannequin story makes me laugh even harder!

  4. Yeah – never thought I'd run into someone more competitive than me…!

    My first date with Hubby? Well, we'd finally made it past the "just friends" stage we'd been in for about 8 years (thanks to a challenge by another friend who'd had enough of us using that phrase) and we went to dinner, a walk down by the river, and then back to where it all began–our old school. There's a gazebo on the grounds there…beautiful night…stars in the sky…and so it began:)

    1. Ah, that is so romantic! I love long walks.

  5. I absolutely LOVED this post, Jessica! I can totally see you telemarketing and showing the hand, "I'm marrying a mission major." Ha!

    My first date with my hubby? I was 17 and neither of us remember our official first date. We do both remember the night we switched from friends to hey-we-really-like-each-other. 🙂

    1. LOL! What a great night. When it goes from hanging out to butterflies in your stomach. I love it!

  6. Oh my good gravy…I Can't Fight this Feeling…that rocked!

    Love your message behind sharing it too!

    I had a horrible cough on our first date, thought I was going to cough up my salmon like Gollum.
    ~ Wendy

    1. LOL We have a special place for that song.

      I would have totally lost it if you had coughed up your salmon. Hee Hee!!

  7. Jess: Your man is so romantic!!! I loved reading your story!!

    I met my man on a blind date. (HIs mom and my aunt) It had "Ugh" written all over it for me. But once we talked and went out, that was it. Now we'll be married 18 yrs this June. LOL

    1. I love it! You know that could be a book too. Romantic comedy!

  8. Oh, wow! I'm still smiling! Loved this!

    I can totally picture you as a telemarketer, (but glad you became a writer instead.) 🙂

    My hubby and I met way of a co-worker of mine at the time. I went out on a blind date with my DH as a favor to her. I remember thinking how much we had in common, but marriage was completely off my radar. Soooo…we met, got engaged, and married in a whopping 5 month time frame. LOL (And 28 years later–here we still are!) Did I mention I was a child bride? 😉

    1. I'm glad too, Cindy. Although, I think all the hang ups thickened my skin and taught me rejection! ROFL!

      You were a child bride! 🙂 I love your story.

  9. Jess,
    Loved hearing about your love story. I think what I like about people's personal real-life-romances, is that although they're all different, the underlying thread that ties us all together is the love and the need to be loved that God built into us. The fact that we get to experience a foretaste of what it will be like to be His bride while we're still here on earth is proof that God is wooing us. Does that even make sense?

    Mine and Kevin's first date. Let's just say that we kept the Lord EXTREMELY busy that night…and the next three months to come, until God finally stepped back and said, "Fine. Do it your way. But your daddy isn't going to be happy." We were married at gun-point (don't think I'm kidding) and 25 years of wedded roller-coaster rides later, we're still keeping God busy, but in a completely different way!

    Hope your Valentine's Day was delicious in every way.


    1. "the underlying thread that ties us all together is the love and the need to be loved that God built into us. The fact that we get to experience a foretaste of what it will be like to be His bride while we're still here on earth is proof that God is wooing us."

      Makes perfect sense! Makes me swoon! 🙂

  10. Your best post ever.
    Really, Jess … swooning over your real-life love story.
    Smug smirks, twinkly eyes and dances in the moonlight.

    One day I'll tell you about my husband knocking me off my feet … I mean, sweeping me off my feet at a karate studio …

    1. Aw! Thanks, Beth! Yes, you must share the whole story! I love it!

  11. So sweet, Jess!! Mike and I were friends for a few years before I agreed to go out with him. Our first date was to see Star Wars III in theaters (the newer Star Wars) and afterward we got cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory.

    1. I think it's funny you had put "newer Star Wars" in there! So young. Hee Hee. Yum, cheesecake. 🙂

  12. Beautiful love story with a happy ending! Thanks for sharing that piece of yourself, Jess…and Tim!

    1. YW, Loree! I love to remember it. Makes me swoon all over. 🙂

  13. Sweet, sweet, sweet! LOL on the telemarketing job! Jim did that in college too, for a while. Which leads me to wonder if you worked at the same place. You said Branson–did you go to college in Springfield?! Jim and I were missions majors at BBC from '96 to '98.
    We're not foreign missionaries but we both have been on missions trips to Romania–different years. I helped orchestrate a VBS, which was AMAZING. Loved those kiddos. 🙂 I pray one day I meet up with them again–in Heaven!

    1. I can't believe we went to college in the same city! That's so cool.

  14. Awww, what a beautiful, romantic, so-YOU story!!! My heart just melted for you. What an incredible blessing – and a HOOT!! How did I never pick up that you went to Bible college? Jealous! You are one of a kind, Fiend – and Tim knew that. Praise!!

  15. Oh my word, the rolled-up sleeves! I remember the first time I visited my honey on his parents' dairy farm and rode in the tractor with him. Sunlight glinted off the red hairs on his arms…yes, a great memory. Sorry, I got distracted.

    Yes, our first date. First date was blind for him but not me–I'd singled him out as the intelligent dude who bravely answered questions in freshman Psych class AND wore black turtlenecks, to boot. Very deep. We were definitely friends first, though. Ups and downs through college, but God got us back together when he was in law school. What a blessing he is to me.

    Loved your story today, Jessica–funny how we can have big plans and God makes them even bigger sometimes! And yes, I'm a challenge girl, too! Don't tell me I can't do something! HA.

  16. Loved reading your love story! You need a hero in one of your books that says "Okay" in the same smug way your hubby said it to you. 😀


  18. That was such a great story. I am still in the process of courting my love, so that story is still being built and I have been on so many mission trips, I wouldn't even know what story to tell.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  19. I remember that 17 year old girl! Thanks for sharing your own love story!



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