Here are all three posts in this series, gathered for your convenient reading pleasure. You can also click on the “I Was Led Not Knowing” Category to load the original three posts.
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In June of 1992, I graduated from Kanab High School. I was #2 in my class, but that was no indication of any particular love for school. Truth be told, I hated school. I hated hoops, homework, dull and repetitive classes, inane and repetitive questions, and feeling like I could learn what I learned in school in less than half the time. I felt like it was a waste of life– life I wanted to start living.
You see, I had just gotten out of a restrictive cult and was feeling some wings growing. They wanted unfurling. The story of the first important unfurlings of said wings includes a school dance, I kid you not, and EMF’s “Unbelievable.” Cliche but true.
In Kanab, I made friends. They were LDS and they were eager to share their faith. I was eager to get away from religion, but couldn’t deny the impression that their sincerity made on me. Long story short, I was baptized in December of 1992, because I had felt the undeniable presence of my Father in Heaven and at that moment, my life changed for good. I hungered.
But most of all, I trusted. I trusted in the Spirit, and for the next 16 months, I was led to prepare for a mission and head to the MTC for training. I fell in love with the MTC and, by extension, fell in love with the work of the Lord. I decided that after I got home from Brazil, I would return to work at the MTC. I asked my teachers there how to do this and they said I would have to be a student at BYU.
This was lame. I had no desire to go to school. But this would be secondary, because I would be teaching missionaries and immersed in the great work of my Father.
As soon as I got home from Brazil, I applied to BYU. It was the only school I applied to because I had one single reason for wanting to go to school, and nowhere else could fulfill that desire. I got in, but I knew I would. I hadn’t even wasted the energy worrying that I wouldn’t get in.
I arrived in Provo on January 3rd, 1997 without a place to live. I had a line on a possibility, which ended up working out. I had three roommates, all of them unique and excellent individuals. On Monday, January 6th, the first day of school, I scheduled one of the old screening interviews at the MTC. I was called on Tuesday the 7th and started the next Monday.
If you’d asked me if there was any chance of me not getting on at the MTC, or into BYU, I would have said, “No.” I was being led. I didn’t know exactly why, but I knew where I had to go. In fact, when Bishop Holland in my ward in Kanab asked me why I wanted to go to BYU, I told him it was because I needed to work at the MTC. He laughed and waited for my real answer. I made it clear that I was serious. He then said, “Well maybe the Lord is preparing a special lady for you to meet there.”
Funny that, since I was at that time spending a lot of time with the girl he’d wanted his son to marry. And she was studying at BYU at the time.
I dismissed his suggestion as the raving of a bishop who was far too eager to marry me off.
On Tuesday, January 7th, I was overwhelmed somewhat by what I had undertaken. I had enough money for school, through savings, new job, and a small student loan (no Pell grant for me) that I would be financially fine. But the classes and the work were going to be challenging. I knew I could handle it, but was not excited by the science GEs and the math requirements. I was an English major at the time, since I intended to write for a living.
I weighed briefly taking the usual Freshman English class, but opted instead to take the Honor writing class that perfectly completed my schedule and allowed me to teach at the MTC every evening.
So on Tuesday, January 7th, I showed up at the Honors writing class that would be taught by Fred Pinegar in the testing center building. I got there early, sat on the second row against a wall, and watched as my classmates came in. Several pretty girls, quite a few strapping lads. Dr. Pinegar showed up and made some small talk and then began class just as a final couple of students came in.
One of those final students was a fairly tall young woman with her brown hair in a long bob. She wore earthy colors, carried a bulging bag of books, and looked very smart. My first thought about this young woman was, “She looks smart.” A slight feeling of intimidation crept over me.
Dr. Pinegar got things going. Class consisted of discussion of readings and lots of writing. We had peer and group discussion, did peer reviews of each other’s work, and enjoyed what turned out to be one of my favorite classes of ALL of my BYU career. Not only because of what later ensued.
It turned out that the perpetually late young woman with the cute oval face and staggeringly sharp mind and remarkable memory was named Annemarie. We got paired up to do a peer review of an early draft of a writing project. She tore my somewhat hasty piece apart and gave me a B. I thought hers was nearly flawless and gave her an A. We talked a bit and found that we shared interest and love of theater, and especially Shakespeare.
We became good friends. Conversation came very easily. I asked her to form a team with me for a pairs project that Dr. Pinegar assigned. After class, we fell into the habit of eating lunch together and working for a little while. We soon found ourselves spending pretty much all of our free time together. We talked until late many nights. We watched movies together. We got the highest grade in the class on our group project.
Before a month had passed, Annemarie was my best friend. We were goofy together, both quoted Monty Python at length, both loved Japan (although she had already been there) and her, what seemed to me, fearlessness stunned me. After one evening watching a movie until late, during which she leaned on me and fell asleep, my roommates started grilling me about what was going on.
I insisted that Annemarie was my good friend, and that was all. My roommates wondered what my problem was. In fact, it turned out that one of my roommates was after one of Annemarie’s dorm roommates at the time- a girl who was Annemarie’s cousin.
My roommates told me I should date Annemarie. I told them I hadn’t thought about her that way before. They said I was making a mistake.
They were right. I couldn’t help but look differently at Annemarie after that exchange with my roommates. Over the next few days, my eyes were opened. She was beautiful. Her laugh, warmth, intelligence, work ethic, goofiness and yes, her figure, caught me tightly. Her unique and wonderful lips were full of expression. Her green eyes, with brown flecks, began to look like the future.
We started dating. We kissed the night before she went back to her family for the summer of 97. We kissed goodbye in the airport. Summer was long and agonizing. I missed her terribly. I prayed, visited temples, prayed, pondered, and talked to friends. The impressions and feelings that came to me scared me, but I couldn’t deny the rightness of all of it. I didn’t want to deny it. Annemarie and life with her never left my thoughts. I didn’t know where this would lead us, but I knew I wanted to find out.
Summer ended and I picked her up from the SLC airport. She told me she had gotten a hair cut, so I was warned. Apparently she was worried I wouldn’t like it. She came off the airplane with a cute, very short haircut, which she had also dyed a lovely red. She wore faded blue jeans and a modest, lacy white shirt that accentuated her healthy feminine form.
My heart stopped, stuttered. She smiled. I grinned back while my heart exploded. Looking back, I know that at that moment, I knew I could never live without her.
I’ll tell the rest next time.
This is a continuation of the post I put up a couple weeks ago. Feel free to look at Part 1 to remind you of where we got to last time. Before we get to this next part, I should add that even though she had left for the summer about a week before my birthday, Hotness still managed to give me the best birthday gift I had ever received. That record stood until the day before my 24th birthday– and that newer record still stands.
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She was beautiful. Her smile lit up my life. Her laugh was big and generous. And her kisses were still shy.
I knew that I couldn’t be without her. As we drove away from the airport, her insanely huge duffel bag nearly filling the bed of my Chevy S-10, we chatted about her summer in Alaska. Apparently working as a CSR for a huge tour company paid well, but was otherwise boring and unrewarding. Unless you count smitten luggage guys as a reward.
Yes, apparently my girlfriend had ended up needing to fend off the affections of a sweaty, gross, altogether unpleasant and inferior suitor. Luckily she knew what she had waiting for her in Provo.
This was also a nice change from my previous two girlfriends, who seemed to have forgotten me within weeks of our geographic separation. That’s right, the girl I was dating before I left for my 2 year church mission, who said she would wait for me, didn’t even write to me once. I later found out that BEFORE I’D EVEN LEFT THE MTC, said girl was already dating the guy she would end up marrying.
Anyway, back on track.
I had moved to a new apartment, which I ended up sharing with three mission friends, one other fellow who served in Brazil, and one poor loner who served his mission in California. Sucker. Conveniently, Hotness was leaving the dorms this school year and was moving in with one of her best friends from Alaska. Her new apartment was quite literally across the street from my new-ish apartment.
This facilitated things.
Over the next month, Hotness and I spent all of our time together. We had many of the same classes: English, Writing, History of Civilization, Linguistics. What’s more, I had spent the entire summer talking her up to my roommates, to the point that one of them was determined to steal her from me. When he met her, he resolved to actually try to do so. That lasted about a day, since he was perceptive enough to recognize something between Hotness and me that would never break.
That first month back together was remarkable. I had never been happier. Remarkably, Hotness never seemed to grow tired of me. We talked. We cooked. We remembered a cactus. We dated. We made out. We talked.
We talked about her serving a mission, something she had been planning to do for many years. I told her I would wait for her and I supported her in heading out. This was the year that she was to turn 20, so her mission would still be a year off. I knew that if she ended up going, I would wait for her. I had tried dating a few other girls during the summer, but that had been a bust.
All I had been able to think about during those dates was Hotness and how these girls didn’t hold a candle to her in any way.
We talked about life, our plans for the future, career paths and stuff. We talked about us a little, how we seemed like two peas in the proverbial pod. We never discussed getting married, except for one time, in passing, as we compared notes on how many kids each of us wanted to have. No plans were made. We were enjoying our time together and felt no hurry.
Two events stand out. The first was a serenade. I wasn’t much of a singer, but when the impression came, it wouldn’t leave. Miles, my roommate, the one who had served in Brazil but not in my mission, was a very good guitar player. He would often lead the apartment mates in good old folk songs, including pieces by Van Morrison and John Denver.
I decided that my roommates needed to join me in a serenade of Hotness. We chose “Annie’s Song (You Fill Up My Senses)” and practiced a bit. Then we crossed the street and began singing in front of her door. She came out and enjoyed the show. It turned out that most of the complex was at home and everyone else enjoyed the show too.
The next event transformed the love I had for Hotness from a bonfire into a wildfire. On that evening, I learned more about her and why I loved her so much than I had in all the time leading up to it.
I got home from working at the MTC a little late. It turned out that Hotness and her good friend who lived on the top floor of her building had decided to make themselves up like very hip and dramatic goths. Have I mentioned that Hotness embodies the feminine form better than any living woman I have meet? Well, she was a dramatically gorgeous goth. She had spiked her hair, made her face pale and wore dark lip and eye makeup. She wore dark-ish colors that fit her… very nicely.
I fell even more madly in love. Her blend of shyness and flair for the dramatic combined with a fundamental fearlessness– and all of that left me pretty much putty in her hands.
I decided I ought to show her Zion National Park. This came shortly after her birthday in 1997, a birthday that I had flubbed rather badly. We packed up the truck, arranged to stay with my ex-stepmom and sister down in Kanab (I would sleep on the sewing room floor and Hotness would sleep on the guest bed (my old bed)), and headed out.
Zion was an amazing experience. Hotness, being from Alaska, was well accustomed to stunning natural views, but Zion was a different kind. We did the Angel’s Landing hike. Now, this was in 1997, when you could drive into the park and leave your car wherever you wanted. We had parked just outside the lodge, near some wood picnic tables.
So the hike. It’s a fairly arduous hike. Not terrible, but neither of us was in great cardiac condition, although we were both young and fit. We had just passed Walter’s Wiggles when I was led again, not knowing.
“Ask her to marry you.”
I believe I actually looked around.
“Ask her to marry you.”
I glanced at Hotness, walking next to me. Seriously? My mind was being daft, sending some very dumb signals. That might scare her off– although I doubted it. Where did I come up with this stuff?
“Ask her to marry you or you will eventually lose her.”
What?? We’d never talked about getting married. In Provo, and maybe in other places, couples discussed the topic at length and even went ring shopping before the question was ever popped. I had nothing. I could give her a stick as a silly ‘in lieu of’ proposal gift.
Wait, I wasn’t seriously considering asking Hotness to marry me. Was I?
I argued with the impression and my own strong desire to follow it. I listened closely to the impression and realized it felt exactly how some answers to fervent prayers I had offered in a few of the temples in Utah felt. This was nuts, I thought. We had NEVER talked about this. I had no money. I didn’t even know when the marriage would be.
I spent the rest of the hike up the mountain rather quiet. We still talked, took goofy pictures and such, but I would get back to my argument before long.
“Ask her to marry you when you reach the top.”
My arguments were falling quickly in the face of the distinct certainty that my Father meant what He was saying. I began trying to work up the courage.
We hit the top of the hike and there were a lot of people there. I think if nobody had been there, I would have saved myself some serious ignominy later in the evening. I chickened out. I will never stop regretting that.
We headed back down after a time, arriving at the truck in the early evening. I mentally kicked myself all the way down. Here was the person I was supposed to spend eternity with; I’d been led to her– no, we’d been led to each other by convenient coincidence after convenient coincidence.
I had to ask her to marry me. I had to do it.
We had a picnic at a nearby table. I was very quiet. We chatted a bit, but mostly enjoyed each other’s company and the incredible evidence of a Creator’s hand. When the picnic was through, I stalled.
I hemmed, hawed, stalled and kept us there until full dark had fallen. The canopy of stars spread in thick, seamless swaths above us.
Finally Hotness guessed something was on my mind. The jig was up. I had to follow, not knowing– yet knowing, really, at the heart of me that all would come out right.
“I wanted to ask you if you… would.. um.. if you would marry me.” I cleared my throat. “I don’t mean like right now or right away…”
“What?” she asked.
I repeated myself, a little less ridiculously and with less prevarication. I didn’t get on a knee.
Boy did I flub it.
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That’s the end of Part 2. You can probably guess her answer. There’s a little more to this story, so come back in a week or so to catch the last bit of our story.
The final installment of being led to marry my best friend and discovering the cause of our endless bliss.
As a quick, important aside, I point out that I was the first to say those three words: Eu te amo. Yeah, I said it in Portuguese first, because I was chicken. But then I said it in English. And I said it first. So there. Now we will pick up where we left off.
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A moment of stunned, on both our parts, silence followed. I think I was stunned by my crummy proposal and also by the fact that I had actually just proposed. Sort of.
I think Hotness was stunned by the same things. She didn’t say yes. She asked me some questions about my priorities and how I planned to treat her and our hypothetical future family.
After my answers satisfied her, she said yes.
Looking back, it was all very surreal and I’m not sure I recollect things accurately. We acknowledged that we were essentially engaged, although we didn’t have a ring nor did we have a solid plan as to when we would get married. But something had changed– and at the same time, nothing had changed. There was a spoken and agreed-to certainty that eternity was in our future.
That being said, it wasn’t as if we didn’t already know that such would be the case. I had known for months that I would spend my life with her . But I am glad that I was led to propose that day. I regret, and will probably always regret, the way I proposed. I wish that I could have been more decisive and made it an experience that Hotness would look back on with fondness and nostalgia. Today it’s cause for giggles and fond assurances that it wasn’t that bad.
We kept our engagement a secret for a week or so. That was my idea and it was a bad one. I think I didn’t want to make my family and former cult associates decide that I was rushing, in a stereotypically Mormon way, into marriage. I should have stopped that concern before it lasted more than a couple of seconds. Hotness impressed everyone who met her.
My father thought she was great. My ex-stepmother thought the world of her. Indeed, Susan had to have been wondering what on earth a woman of Hotness’ caliber was doing slumming with the likes of me.
Most importantly, Hotness and my little sister hit it off fast and became very quick friends. Emma loved Hotness. In fact, after we returned to my ex-stepmother’s house, our engagement agreed to and a secret, we went with Emma to the nearby park. We goofed around and at Emma’s urging, I smooched Hotness. Emma then encouraged me to ask Hotness to marry me.
Ha! There was secretive giggling.
Hotness and I spent the remainder of that trip marveling on the fact of being engaged and talking somewhat about the future. We discussed kids and career plans, as I recall.
When it came time to ring shop, we visited the local jewelry stores and Hotness couldn’t find a ring she liked. She’s not into ostentatious jewelry at all. Instead, she chose a $20 sterling silver braided American Indian style ring. Practical and lovely. I loved her even more that day.
It is important to note that about two weeks before we became engaged, a temple was announced for Anchorage, Alaska. So since we planned to be wed in an LDS temple, it made sense to consider being married in the Alaska temple, when it was completed. But that was projected to be about a year and a half off.
After much discussion, with her wanting to wait that long and me really not, we agreed to get married in the Mount Timpanogos Temple. This because it was nearby and it was also where I had received undeniable answers regarding whether I was to marry Hotness.
To sum the next few months up: I fell deeper in love with Hotness and everything about her. The prospect of being with her, my very best friend, forever, made me giddy.
We were married the day before my 24th birthday. I have not yet forgotten our anniversary. One little vignette, before moving on with being led:
I had disclosed to Hotness, very early on, all about my past. She seemed to take it all with equanimity and good humor. As the date of our wedding drew closer, however, she pointed out that she had no intention of taking my legal last name. It was not, at that time, Garrett. Since I went by Garrett, she indicated that I probably ought to look into legally changing it. With the help of a good friend, I got this process going. One step I had to take was to get the man whose name was on my birth certificate as my father, who was not my father, to sign a paper saying he was fine with me dropping his name. So Hotness and I visited Kanab again and I took her to the headquarters of the group that had been the cult and was now a non-religious animal sanctuary (Best Friends).
It really didn’t look like it had been a cult by that time. I had imitated the accent of the fellow on my birth certificate several times for Hotness. He was one of the original founders of the cult, and like the others, he’s British. He also has a very particular accent. When he showed up to sign the paper, Hotness nearly burst out laughing, having thought my imitation to be a caricature. Nope. It also turns out that this man is a very nice guy– which is good, since he’s my brother’s father.
The legal name change was finalized in plenty of time. Finally, the name I went by pretty much didn’t even resemble the name on my birth certificate.
Back to the original story.
After several months of wedded fun and bliss in Alaska, Hotness and I returned to Utah to continue our schooling. We quickly decided that we ought to take advantage of our youth and connections and participate in BYU’s theater study abroad program in London, England. I took on more hours at work, Hotness got a job vacuuming, and we commenced saving cash at a blistering rate. My grandmother even sent some money, which was lovely of her.
And then, after socking away about 1/3 of what we would need to put away for the program (yes, we were accepted), I had an impression. I thought, “Should we be paying tithing on this?” (Any who wish to dispute the principle of tithing, feel free to do so in the comments. Keep it civil.) I raised this question with Hotness. We both felt strongly that this was something we really needed to take seriously. We had both received generous scholarships and some gifts. I had won some money from a contest.
We deliberated, talked, prayed, and talked. I didn’t know then just how important this experience would prove to be. We both knew in our hearts what we should do. It was not a question of blindly obeying a commandment; it was more an issue of our commitment to covenants that we had made.
We showed each other that our covenants came before anything else. That experience, and the fact that it was entirely up to us as thinking adults, has informed every good thing that has happened to us ever since. We ended up taking nearly everything out of our savings and offering it to the Kingdom of God. We still made it to London after further sacrifice and some miracles. During our 49 days in London, we saw 50 shows. We didn’t see any on Sundays and spent two weekends away: one in Scotland and one in France.
Hotness was the planner and she was driven. It was a dream come true for her. For me too. I loved it and we had multiple life-changing experiences there.
Before heading across the pond, however, we had another opportunity to be led, not knowing. A job was offered to us– one in Japan. It was to teach English at a private high school. It sounded preposterous to me, but I had little doubt from the moment I heard about it that we would go. After deliberation, conversation, and prayer, we decided to go for it, having no idea what would come of the opportunity. The plan would be to finish Spring term in London, spend the next month in Alaska, then fly to Japan to begin teaching there.
We arrived in Japan penniless. When we found the mug full of change in a closet, we rejoiced; we would be able to eat bread, milk and eggs until our first paychecks.
The experience in Japan was rich and life-changing. I gained so much and grew so much as a person. I made mistakes, drew closer to my Father, made more mistakes, was a stereotypical American at times, learned Japanese, had a calling in our Japanese ward’s primary, and learned so much that I haven’t got the words or fingers to point to all of it.
We also had our first child in Japan. The timing of his arrival was so perfect that we couldn’t have planned it better. So we didn’t; we depended on our Father to guide us.
And that has been the greatest blessing we could ever have secured for ourselves. The opportunities to turn to our Father and depend on His wisdom so early in our dating and married life became a habit, and we have been blessed. Life has not been easy, by any means. I have allowed disinterest and laziness to royally screw our financial situation up. I have allowed naked greed to mask spiritual misgivings. I have had a lot to learn about family– especially considering my total lack of experience with family growing up.
But through all of this, I have trusted Hotness and her love for me and our Father. I have liked being with her and loved being by her side through 13 years of wedded awesomeness. We have disagreed, and even argued with strong emotion. We have never yelled at each other, have always -eventually- resolved our disagreements, and are closer than I have any right to expect.
Except that I DO have that right. We live according to our covenants; and when you do that, you are entitled to happiness. And although there are times I wonder, really, why on earth I had to turn down that plum job in Austin, and why the startups I worked with didn’t pan out, and why I felt prompted to not work for the Church Educational System when I love teaching so very much– all of those brief wonderings aside– I feel grateful and blessed.
Things have not been easy– and that is due in many ways to some bad decisions I’ve made but also because we have not shirked the path of hard work. When you think about it, why should life be easy, anyway? I know people whose career trajectories have been very direct. School to job. That simple. They are financially stable and life seems to fill the molds of expectations with great ease for them.
In my better moments, I wonder if they’re jealous of me and the rich experiences I’ve had with Hotness. In those moments I don’t envy their years of stability and normalcy. I’ve been led all this time, not knowing just how full my life would be in this moment, surrounded by six children with incredible hearts and surprising love. All those years ago on that hilltop in the rain, I had no idea that the moment when my Father revealed Himself to me would lead me to arriving home this afternoon, kissing my favorite person in the world, and sitting down in a home made of joy, promises kept, hugs, laughter, travels, travails, and friendship.