My Love Story~Chapter 25: Road Trip

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It’s my 15th Marriage Anniversary today! My hope was to write about our Wedding Day, but alas…I’ve got a few more chapters to go. Thanks for following along on the journey! If you need a refresher, you can catch Chapter 24: California Trip or read from the beginning if our story is new to you!


After my extended weekend with Matthew in California, I flew from San Francisco to Houston on a Sunday night red eye, and worked my summer job the next day. Though I slept on the plane, I was sluggish that day, but also giddy with love bursting out of my heart.  Matthew and I hadn’t even vocalized the words “I love you” to each other yet, but it didn’t matter, it was intense, deep, seeping from our pores. This is a picture of us saying goodbye.


The news was spreading. My roommate Amy, who knew I was taking the trip, got updated.

And Sam, Matthew’s brother (and ex/good friend) emailed saying the he and Chris were talking all about how Matthew and I are now immanently getting married. Laurie, married to Chris, also emailed me saying Sam and Chris keep talking about it. It’s been such a crazy journey, and this college family has been with me all the way, probably as doubtful as I was at times, but also silently cheering us on. I think they didn’t want to cheer too loud, because they weren’t sure the outcome, either. Amy seemed to be cautiously optimistic that all would work out, but she didn’t want to give me false hope, either. I couldn’t have emotionally survived without her as a sounding board for me; Someone who knew both Matthew and me.

Back at work for my summer job, I was working as a receptionist in a computer shipping warehouse. There was a boy named Preston who was trying to convince me that Matthew wasn’t for me. Of course, he didn’t know him at all, but I’d filled him in. I had a few work lunches with him that summer, we had talked a lot about my faith, and it even came up that I had chosen to save myself for marriage. He couldn’t believe that at 21, I had “only kissed” boys. He admired that, and though he’d had more experience, told me that he’d love to marry a girl who chose that, too. He told me daily how he wanted to date me, and that I should ditch Matthew. He said I was “the girl next door” kind of beautiful, natural. He was cute, and that was sweet, but my heart was deeply rooted, and belonged to that boy in California.

Not only was it Preston at work, but another guy kept asking for my number “to talk” and I told him we could talk all he wanted at work. It felt odd  to get that much attention, out of place for me, that kind of stuff was reserved for my best friends Natalie or Nicole, not plain old me. But I must have had an extra glow of happiness around me that was intriguing.

My communication with Matthew was sporadic phone calls, and emails. Being apart was difficult, I started to question if what I had experienced with him was real…or in my head. Maybe it was odd that we hadn’t discussed “us” too much. Then, he’d sign an email with, “I love you Kristen, with all my heart. Don’t ever forget that.” He said I love you. Maybe it was just typed out, but he said it. Throughout the year and a half journey with him, I knew that was a big step. It reminded me of the letter at 10,000 feet, and I hoped it would stick this time, unlike then.

I’m grateful I had great friends around that summer. Emily was there to hear about it all (and tried on dresses with me), and Natalie called from wherever it was she was living for the summer to catch up on details, too. I look back, and feel so blessed that I had such thoughtful friends at such a crazy time in my life.emily my friend

My last week in Houston that summer, I was trying to sort out so many details. I got a new contract on an apartment at BYU that was closer to where Matthew had moved. I had to try to sell my old contract at the beloved Canyon Terrace, the place that had so many great memories. I also had weighing heavily on my mind that I needed to catch up on my scrapbooking! I’ve always taken lots of pictures, and along with journaling, preserving those memories was important to me. High on my list was documenting Jerusalem, and my summer with Matthew.  My mom helped me slap those together, which was a huge relief!

I went to visit Natalie’s mom, who was like my 2nd mom in high school, and she asked all about Matthew. It seemed normal that people were asking if we were getting married, and I felt like we would, but we still hadn’t discussed it. The closest we got, was when he told me on the phone that he was getting the same questions! You’d think that would lead into a discussion, but nope….it didn’t.  Probably best that we didn’t discuss it on the phone, since we were seeing each other soon. But I needed something, because time away, those memories felt so distant, and it was only 20 days that we were apart.

I finished the warehouse job, and still had a week left, so my dad found me a 5 day job at his office downtown, stuffing envelopes with employee paychecks. We got to commute together, and I opened up to him about my fears, if knowing this was RIGHT with Matthew. I wanted to know from my Heavenly Father if this was the right life course for me, not just something I wanted. I’d felt months ago, a strong divine confirmation, but has that changed, or was I just fearful? My dad said that after a strong confirmation, sometimes you just have to JUMP with that leap of faith.  I told him more about Matthew, how he and I filled in each others gaps.

Looking back, this was a time of wrapping up my single days, in preparation for a new chapter in life.

I hung out a lot with my little brothers, Russell and Kirk. We would rollerblade or run around the neighborhood, run out for an ice cream treat, or chill at home watching movies. I love them so much.

One of my best guy friends, Chad, came home from his two year mission to Venezuela during this time. The whole gang got back together to hear him speak of his experiences in a talk at church. He then came to my house for unlimited bowls  of cereal with COLD milk, something he hadn’t had in a long time. Back then, my house was known for having Cinnamon Toast Crunch on hand at all time. I told him all about Matthew, and showed him pictures, and he said he was glad he didn’t look like a “goon” like some of the other guys our gal friends had married. He was at Ricks College with me, and not only did he know the boy well that I dated in High School, but also knew the boy I dated in college, so he knew me and my relationships well!  We also wrote lots of letters while he was on his mission, and I told him all about the boys I had dated, so he was fairly up to speed on my social life.  He said how he was excited to meet Matthew in a few weeks when we would all be back at school.

My Natalie came to Texas with her husband, and we went out, and started a movie, but it just felt weird. She drove me home, and we talked in the car for 3 hours as I cried and mentioned how sad I am that our relationship is so much different than it used to be. We were each others #1, and now she’s married. Yes, I may be soon too, but I didn’t like how things were changing with us. We vowed not to let life’s changes come between us, and even talked about how when we all got back up to Utah, she was going to help me get my photography business started, and be my assistant. She said we could call it, Joyous Memories. She’s such a supportive friend (to this day), and I grilled her all about “married things” that I could only ask her.

Emily helped me pack up my room, as I prepped for my road trip to Utah. She had so many questions about mine and Matthew’s relationship before I was in Jerusalem, and I filled in the gaps for her. She said she was glad it was all cleared up, because at times she wondered if I was making things up in my head. I assured her that I wondered the same things. I shared my thoughts that sometimes I hate that there were so many uncertainties in the beginning of “our story” and that I don’t want to have to tell my kids all about that. Why couldn’t I have the story where the boy see’s the girl from across the room, and pursue’s her heavily until the moment they marry. I thought that’s how it was all supposed to be. She reminded me that different couples have different struggles, our made us stronger and more appreciative of each other.

My last day in Houston, Emily and I went to 6am early morning seminary to hear Chad teach the lesson to the students about his mission. We giggled in the back of the room, trying to be reverent and respectful of our buddy up there sharing his heart. It was a reminder to us of how it used to be, going to early morning seminary all those years together, our boy drama’s, and learning the scriptures together each day, groggy, but aware.  Those early mornings shaped me, and my faith immensely.

A week before he flew to Houston, I was giddy giddy after our phone calls, I wrote in my journal, “I love Matthew more and more every day. Still can’t believe that he loves me, too. It’s so wonderful, amazing. Amazing, is what I always expected love to be…and it is!”

August 27th was finally the day that Matthew flew into Houston, to drive with me to Utah. It was planned when I was visiting him in California, and I was so giddy about it! Just he and I, in a car, for 24 hours!  I picked him up at the airport at 11pm, and right away was a hug and a kiss–no adjusting, it felt so good!  My parents and little brothers came with me to the airport to pick him up. They stayed at the baggage claim, while I went to meet him at the gate by myself.

little brothers

My mom also loves to capture joy, and I’m so glad she took these pictures of us at this stage!

airport pick up

We can’t seem to both be making decent faces in the same picture! I love this next image so much of him, even though I look cray-cray! That smile! This is the face that I dreamed of in our distance apart.

cute boy

After spending some time packing the car on Saturday morning, we left at 10am, as I boldly wore the DUKE hat my friend Jen sent me from North Carolina (I found out later how much he loved it). She was in Jerusalem with me, and I told her all about my California boy.

road trip prep

Matthew drove my new-to-me car most of the way to Utah. He was the man, after all, it seemed most natural for both of us that he drive.

From Houston….

to Dallas….

to Oklahoma City…

We listened to music, sang along, held hands, laughed, and every once in a while, I’d get out of my seatbelt to venture over to give him some kisses.

I grabbed a picture of a sunset, but nothing else of our time on that drive. I guess it is just left to memory.


When we stopped for gas and food, we stretched our legs, and had the opportunity to hold each other in an embrace.  There we were, just us, out in the middle of nowhere, starting our journey.

We got to Salina, Kansas at 9pm, and after a quick dinner, took off with storm clouds and lots of lightning looming in the distance. Within a few minutes, it started raining….pouring like crazy! As he said, buckets dropping from the sky.

On the dark interstate, with no small towns in sight, at one point, we couldn’t see the road in front of us, and had no choice but to pull off to the side of the road, turn on the hazard lights, and wait it out….while kissing…and kissing…and kissing.

Once the rain died down, we kept on truckin’  It seemed that when the darkness fell completely, that’s when it was time to discuss “us” and our future.

We talked about everything from how it felt different from past relationships, to spiritual confirmations we’d had, and the entire year and a half that we’d known each other. I told him that during the “dark times” when I felt he didn’t love me, I intentionally stayed away so it wouldn’t hurt so bad, and he told me that his heart was always with me, and that he wanted to be with me, but felt so conflicted with things happening with his family at the time.

We talked about getting married, and that we picture each other in the future, but scared for change. We elaborated on the stories of family and friends asking about us getting married, and that his mother said something about “our future children.”  There was a lot of laughter, the only thing we didn’t discuss was WHEN.   He told me he wrote a poem about me, and mentioned bits and pieces of it with me, but told me he’d surprise me with it in full at some point. It felt so good to be so OPEN!

Our goal was to drive straight through to Utah–a 24 hour drive. A hotel would be awkward, we were young and in love, we had loads of energy for the drive.  However, at 4am we arrived in Denver, exhausted. We decided we needed to take a nap to rejuvenate ourselves, so found a parking lot by a mall, reclined our seats, grabbed our pillows, and slept for 3 hours.  It wasn’t the most restful sleep, but it was enough to keep us going.

Since it was Sunday, we tried to have a little spiritual enlightenment, but the Truman Madsen tapes we were listening to had such a monotone voice that it made us sleepy. I read some talks from our church magazine, and we discussed them.  I loved that he felt the same way about our faith as me. We were right on target, each wanted to follow the precepts with which we were raised.  Matthew had read the book, Jesus the Christ, and was telling me all about it. I had tried to read it before, but it’s a difficult read, very deep!  He inspired me with his spiritual side, and I knew he would be a great leader to a family, hopefully my family.

Driving across the entire state of Wyoming was filled with spiritual discussions, and I loved peeking into his mind even more. I already knew that he held his faith in high regards, but it was amazing to discuss so much with him. As we got closet to our destination–BYU nearly Salt Lake in Provo–I started to get a bit nervous. The last time we were there together, was some of the saddest times in my life! When I thought he didn’t love me. I wondered how being back in that environment would change us, or make us stronger. It would be the true test. I was a bit quiet for a bit, and he asked what was wrong. I responded with, “When we step out of this car, it will be the real world. No longer the world of Matthew and Kristen fantasy land that we’ve been wrapped up in all summer.” We decided to close our eyes and JUMP as my dad suggested.

As we drove through Provo Canyon, just minutes away from campus, we took one last pit stop at the Provo River to breathe in the beautiful mountain air, and squeeze each other before stepping into campus life again. We would have all eyes on us, from our friends that had heard what was going on, but knew they couldn’t believe it until they saw it. That was a daunting microscope to walk into.

wading in the Provo river near BYU

Would we clam up? Would it be weird? How would we handle this new-ness together?  We dipped our feet into the ice cold river, shared a kiss, and soon after, took that leap into reality together.

banks of the provo river


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