It all started back in late August of 1997. I was 16 years old. I had just transitioned from wearing glasses to contacts. It was the first day of my junior year of high school. I was standing in class catching up with some friends that I had not seen in a while when someone I had never seen before, a boy, walked in the room. He didn't say a word, but he and I made eye contact, and I swear my heart skipped a beat. Not wanting anyone to know how I felt, I didn't say a word to any of my friends, but that night I remember thinking about him and wondering what his name was, so I made a plan. I would listen for his name the next day as the teacher called roll.
The next day, I found myself becoming more and more nervous and excited as the time for that particular class came near. Finally, the time arrived, and yet again we made eye contact with each other. This time, however, he came over and said hello to a group of us who were standing together, but for some reason, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. The problem was, I still didn't know his name, but thankfully that problem was solved soon after class began when the teacher called the roll. I finally knew his name, but I knew nothing about him, and I was too nervous and shy to let anyone else know how I was feeling, so I was completely on my own. I remember going home and thinking about him, wondering what he was like. Fortunately, over the next few months I did get to know him better. A bunch of us from class sat together at lunch and we talked about all sorts of things like most teenagers do. At first, he was sitting at the other end of the table, but pretty soon he began sitting near me almost every day. I learned a little about him and his family and what he liked to do after school. (Oddly enough, we had been going to the same high school for two years and had never heard of each other. I also discovered that when he first saw me, he thought I was a senior. Even more ironically, he is only five days older than me!) I was pretty sure he liked me, but it was hard to tell because he never said or did anything that let me know for sure, and there was no way I was going to make the first move when I wasn't even sure if he liked me or not.
Toward the end of winter, we went on a class fieldtrip. He sat near me on the bus. Some other kids on the bus began playing "MASH"...something I had not done since elementary school at that point, and eventually pretty much everyone was challenged to join in on the game. The boy and I both refused to play until someone (I don't remember who) said that if you didn't want to reveal the names of the people in your game, that you could just use initials. This is when this particular boy decided he would play along, too. The initials he chose were CC and two other sets of initials that I don't remember. Now, one is very familiar with his or her own initials, and when he chose CC, I was almost 100% positive they were mine, and it was his subtle way of letting me know he liked me without coming out and saying it. (My name was Crystal Salena Chandler back then, and he knew that I went by my middle name.) I have no recollection of how that particular game of MASH turned out, but I do remember what happened later the same day.
The boy and I were sitting next to each other as our group waited for the performance we were attending. I got completely brave and asked him who he liked, and these were his exact words to me, "I can't say, because she is sitting beside me." I'm sure I turned 30 shades of red. On the other side of this boy was another guy, so I knew for sure he was talking about me. Five minutes passed, and we didn't say a word to each other. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I wondered if he was experiencing the same thing. The next thing I knew, he was asking me if I would like to go out with him, as in a date. My 16 year-old self panicked. I had never been asked out on a date before, and so I told him I would think about it (although, in my head I was saying "yes"). For whatever reason, a few days later, I turned this boy down on the date offer. (More on this later.)
He and I continued to talk and sit together at lunch with our group of friends, but I soon found myself going out with someone else, even though it never got serious- we never did anything more than hold hands. (This part of my life is a big blur to me. It's almost as if it all happened to someone else.) This boy from school did not give up, though. He was always polite to me and never pushed anything. He knew I was dating someone else, and he didn't want to interfere. Over time, things changed. I realized that I didn't have feelings for the guy I was dating (other than a friendship), and that I really had feelings for this boy from school, but to be quite honest, it scared me to death! I was afraid of so many things. I didn't want to hurt the other guy's feelings, and I didn't know how to handle the feelings I was experiencing. Thankfully, the guy I was dating had mercy on me and realized that our relationship was going nowhere, and we stopped dating. He told me he cared for me, but that he completely understood if I didn't feel the same way. I was relieved, but I felt horrible at the same time. He was super nice about everything, though.
Within a couple of months, the boy from school and I began spending more and more time together. Sometimes it would be just the two of us and sometimes other friends would join us. During this time, I began to pray about what I should do. (Why I didn't do this earlier, I will never know!) I felt like the relationship that was building between me and this boy from school was different, and one day when we were going to Subway to grab a bite to eat on a hot summer day, I found the courage to tell him how I felt. For probably an hour, I poured my heart out to him. I admitted that I had liked him for a long time, even back when he first asked me out, and I admitted how scared I was. I apologized for hurting him (because, even though he never said it, I knew I hurt him when I turned him down), and I asked him for forgiveness. Then, I waited.
Thankfully, he too, had mercy on me and he told me he forgave me right there in the Subway parking lot. Then, for the second time, he asked me if I would go out with him. I gladly accepted right away, and he and I began dating soon after (not just hanging out on the tennis courts and grabbing a bite to eat!). I met his family and spent time with him regularly.
Now, this boy was obviously very brave when it came to asking me out on a date, but he wasn't so brave when it came to kissing me, even though I was pretty sure he wanted to kiss me just as badly as I wanted to kiss him. I gave him plenty of opportunities to do so over the first couple of months that we dated, and I even kissed him on the cheek each time we parted to let him know I was interested. Finally, one cold January day, I had enough of waiting on him, and I decided to take things into my own hands. When it was time to go, instead of kissing him on the cheek, I decided to give him a real kiss. At first, he just stood and looked at me, bewildered. I had already decided that I was going to let him make the next move. My heart was racing, and after what seemed like an eternity, he finally kissed me back. From that moment on, he was always the first to kiss me when we were together, and he surprised me just a few weeks after that first kiss by telling me he loved me. Again, this scared me to death, and I did not reciprocate his words. I told him that I cared for him very much but that I didn't want to say those words to anyone until I knew for sure that I really did love them. Fortunately, it didn't take me long to be able to reciprocate those words truly and freely, and when I said them, I knew in my heart he was the one I was going to marry.
Time went on and this boy and I fell in love. I came home from college each weekend and spent the majority of that time with him, and many times we even found ways to spend time together one evening during the week, too. Once I graduated, I moved back home with my parents and I began teaching. He took me to look at rings and we picked out some we liked together. We knew we wanted to get married, but we decided to wait a while since I was settling in as a new teacher and I was working on my master's degree. On July 17, 2004, upon returning from a week-long vacation with my parents, this boy came over to spend time with me. He waited patiently for over an hour without complaining as I posted assignments online for my master's program. (We had no internet at our condo back then. Now that is practically unheard of!) Then, he asked me if I would go to the park and play frisbee with him, which is something we did often. Because I was tired, I declined and said I'd rather stay in and watch a movie with him instead. (Poor guy!) After some coaxing and a promise that we would just sit on the swings instead of play frisbee, I agreed to go to the park with him.
On the way to Pitts Park, I caught him up on all the exciting things we did at the beach (not realizing he was a nervous wreck!), and by the time we actually got to the park, I decided I might as well play some frisbee with him afterall, so I grabbed the frisbee and headed to the grassy area of the park. He called after me and asked me to wait for him, so I did. The next thing I knew, he was down on one knee declaring his love for me, asking me to be his wife. He completely surprised me, and I immediately said yes. My dreams were finally coming true, and I knew he must really love me because I looked awful that day (gym clothes, no makeup, bed-head from sleeping in the back seat of a car...you get the picture.) That boy from school was Brent McKay, the man I love more than I could ever explain. Although we got off to a rocky start, I truly believe that it was all for a reason.
We were married June 25, 2005, and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I am so thankful that God put us together, and I cannot wait to grow old with him, the man of my dreams!