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This Is How We Met: Renee Ronika Klug's Story

Renee is a newer blog friend of mine. We somehow connected a few months ago, for which I am thankful. She has a way of knowing exactly what I need to hear. I am impressed by the woman she is, as well as the woman she wants to be. And just when I thought I couldn't love her more, my heart cracked wide open when she asked me to be a contributing author at The Anthem Exposition. Stay tuned for that but first read on for Renee's unusual love story.

In late summer of 2004, on the eastern end of Long Island, where celebrities came to shake off the City, and locals cast fishing lines into the Shinnecock bay, I accepted an office job that I still leave off my resume. In retrospect, I see how God works everything—even our temporary diversions—into something good.

Around the corner from my new employer lived my friend Greg, an undergraduate whom I had admired from afar. As an English instructor, I sensed his depth of perception concerning the literary world; as a Bible study leader, I discerned his ease with Scripture, the way he fearlessly defended truth with humility.

Greg invited me to his house once for dinner after I was done with work. Once turned into twice, which turned into a weekly ritual of our gathering for dinner before we accompanied each other to a mid-week church service. The openness of our friendship was our comfort; we each wanted love, the committed life, but had suffered rejections earlier in the summer. We were without counterparts and still in want. Our friendship provided each other healing and strength.

We occupied that summer by double-kayaking the bay, docking the boat, scaling the dunes, and chasing each other down the shore until we dove into the ocean.

At Borders bookstore (R.I.P.) one afternoon, we both liked a particular book about sex and marriage. But there was only one copy. We bought it together and agreed to share it: the first of us who got married would be in possession of it until the next one married. It was logical.

We laugh now at the absurdity of our behavior, how it didn’t occur to either of us that our plan was obtuse. How on earth would our spouses have been comfortable with us sharing a sex book with each other?

We understand now that our behavior was natural. Our friendship caught on fire after two years of a platonic friendship that was based on sincerity, vulnerability and candor. We brought into marriage the most sound virtues for any relationship.

Negotiating love is not a natural behavior, but love is natural. It cannot be concocted, but it can grow. Love is the basis of commitment, and commitment is a decision.

I married Greg because I knew I would admire his character for the rest of my life. We entered marriage with the willing ability to challenge and be challenged by each other to become our most authentic and mature selves. I love Greg not only for who he is but also for all that he has the potential to be. I believe part of my responsibility—as his friend and his wife—is helping him reach that potential.

When we look for love, sometimes in seeking out the happy ending, we forget what to search for. Ironically, I wasn’t searching for love when Greg and I were exploring our friendship on Long Island. His love caught me off guard. But when he admitted his feelings for me, my reaction felt natural: of course I would spend my life with him. 

We still look forward to hugging every day. We prefer having dinner together. Rearing our daughters is more fun when the other is near. Greg and I have the same taste in real estate, in dishware, in throw rugs. We prefer the house to be kempt. We don’t like to amass toys for the girls. We decide on the same political candidates independently. We savor C.S. Lewis and G.K, Chesterton. Greg and I want to witness India and Israel while standing beside each other. Through it all, Beethoven is our soundtrack.

My marriage has not been perfect, but through our experiences—the lighthearted and the hard-fought—I’ve realized that perfection is still present. A real marriage comprises two imperfect people reflecting what’s beautiful in the other. A real marriage isn’t hoisted up by pretenses of grandeur and sophistication. Marriage is real when a couple decides to be themselves. Marriage is real when after five years of kayaking and eating and house-hunting and parenting, I can look at my husband and myself and see each other nearing what is good.


Renee Ronika KlugRenee Ronika Klug, an English professor, and her husband Greg, a doctoral student in music, live in the Wild West with their two young daughters. They are currently walking on water, keeping their eyes on Jesus, who will supply the details of their future. You can read the details of Renee and Greg’s love story here. Renee is the founding editor of The Anthem Exposition, an online writing community for women to share their stories of having overcome any of life’s adversities; she blogs about her personal journey of overcoming at Quiet Anthem. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

This Is How We Met: Shawn Smucker's Story

 If you fancy yourself to be a writer, you simply have got to know Shawn. I connected with him shortly before I quit my job in June and he has been such a source of encouragement to me. (I feel like I've described most of the contributors as 'encouraging' but it's true. I surround myself with good blog friends, don't I?) Not only is he a gifted writer, he and his family are driving across the country for the next four months. How cool is that? 

We meet an older man who seems to know
I miss my dad.
And he smiles through the limbs.
We talk easily with him
until the rain begins.
This is the brotherhood of man.

- Innocence Mission, “Brotherhood of Man”


Spring, 1997

He was a back row student. His compadres joined him at the far reaches of the room, talked right up until the moment the teacher spoke, then took average notes, paid average attention, and escaped with Bs.

She was a front row student. She sat cross-legged on her chair, huddled under a thick, gray, wool sweater with oversized brown buttons. She took copious notes and in turn received copious As.

The final project in “American Lit After 1900” involved doing a presentation on any author from that period. The professor called the two of them to the front of the room. It took the boy much longer to get there than it took the girl. They had both chosen Arthur Miller, and the teacher wanted more details on their presentations to make sure they wouldn’t overlap.

That’s it. That’s how they met. He smiled at her, said he was focusing on Death of a Salesman. She smiled back, said she preferred The Crucible. If you do not know this boy and this girl, you could learn quite a lot about them from their choice of books.

And nothing came of this chance, front-of-the-classroom encounter, or at least not right away.

He thought she had the sky-bluest eyes he had ever seen, but there was the fact that school would be out in two weeks. And there was also the fact that, later that day, he saw her tentatively roller-blading and laughing alongside some guy who was probably a jerk. So she moved to the back of his mind, buried by concerns of upcoming finals and a summer that always went too fast.

* * * * *

Fall, 1997.

The boy realizes after the first week that he has five classes with the girl. He becomes a middle-of-the-classroom student. He takes better notes. He becomes rather infatuated by the girl, and after various inquiries discovers she has broken up with the jerk on roller blades. The guy is no longer a jerk. He is actually a rather nice person.

Walking from one class to the next, they take the same route everyday, and she trails on behind him. He realizes this. He stops to needlessly tie a shoe, to let her catch up. Her eyes widen, and she slows. Slower. Where is she? he wonders. Finally he stands up (deep breath), turns around, introduces himself.

They walk slowly together on a warm September day. His hands are in his pockets. She holds tightly to the straps of her backpack. There is a path through the grass in front of them, a line of exposed earth through the green.

And that is how they met.


I never can say what I mean
but you will understand,
coming through clouds on the way.
This is the brotherhood of man.

- Innocence Mission, “Brotherhood of Man”

Shawn, his wife Maile, and their four children are currently on a 10,000-mile journey around the United States, meeting with writers, participating in community projects, and seeing the sights. Shawn has written five books and blogs daily at

This Is How We Met: Megan Tietz's Story

I often reference my friend Megan. She was the inspiration for my monthly What I'm Into recap posts and she also offers insightful analysis of the stellar show Once Upon a Time. But that's just a drop in the bucket for why I appreciate her. I appreciate the way she approaches faith, parenting, and life in general. We may be close in age but there's much I can learn from her wisdom. I am thrilled to have Megan share her TIHWM story!

Our sorority house was actually a section of a dorm, and the freshman lived on the top floor and we tended to travel in packs. As such, I didn't know the upperclassmen all that well and I figured they couldn't possibly know me very well, either. So I was a little taken aback, you see, when one of them came bounding through our living room/lounge one bright and cold January day and said in passing, "I know this guy you should meet! You two have so much in common!"

I wrinkled my nose at my roommate and shrugged it off. A series of bad choices my senior year of high school had bled over into more hurt and heartache my first semester of college. I had come back for the spring semester with new resolve - no boys! no dating! no drama!

Ours was a small campus, however, and at the first meeting of my General Psychology class, lo and behold if that boy my sorority sister had told me about didn't just stroll right past my desk. And I mean to tell you, he walked right past with no acknowledgement that he might possibly know who I was. I rolled my eyes and sent out all the I'm-ignoring-you-too vibes I could muster. I had to admit, though, he was pretty cute.

My friends and I liked to go to the campus meetings of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The fact that none of us were athletes never gave us a moment's pause; the music was good and the views were better and no one acted judge-y toward us because we were in a sorority (I'm looking at you, Baptist Student Union!).

One night at FCA in late January, that boy from my Psych class was the leader of the small group "huddle" I was in. Not only was he cute, he was also really well-spoken, and I found myself agreeing easily with everything he said. After FCA was over, I told my friend who wanted to set us up, "I think I want to invite Kyle to the Chi-Os in Cuffs party." <---- imagine lots of giggling

The next day, I was standing at the campus mailboxes, laughing and talking with a friend when Kyle walked by. He caught my eye and I - inexplicably, involuntarily, hilariously - I winked at him. He smiled and continued on his way, leaving me standing there dying 1,000 deaths of embarrassment. 

What had come over me? To this day, we laugh and tease about that wink, the wink of the Holy Spirit, we like to say. If not for that wink, he says he never would have had the courage to track down my phone number to call me and ask me out on a double-date with tireless matchmaker and her boyfriend. 

That first phone conversation lasted an hour. I hung up the phone and went into my suitemate's room where I threw myself across the bed and declared with a dope-y smile, "I think I'm going to marry that boy."

Our first date was at The Bean Counter, a long-since-closed coffee house on the edge of campus. A gentle February snow sprinkled snowflakes on us as we walked across campus to the intermural gym to watch the Chi Os play basketball (we won. I think). Later, we watched ER in his dorm room and when he dropped me off back at my dorm, I kissed him on the cheek.

That was - what year is this? - sixteen years ago this month. I can count on one hand the things on which we easily agree these days; it takes the rest of my fingers and toes to count the issues on which we disagree. Even so, we rarely argue. We still prefer dates that involve snuggling in front of the TV, and sometimes I find myself involuntarily winking at him from across crowded rooms. 

How can it have been that long ago? I look at that picture in the center of the lapboard I made him when we got engaged and I get all dopey-smile-y again. Such sweet and innocent and beautiful memories, tethering us in time, the beginning of our shared history, a glittery reminder that this is how we met.

For six years, Megan Tietz has written about faith, family, and natural living at SortaCrunchy. She married that cute boy with the big brown eyes over thirteen years ago, and they make their home on the windy plains of Oklahoma with their two daughters and lots of happy memories.  

This Is How We Met: Jessica Buttram's Story

I'm not sure how I first came across the witty and fantastic Jessica (maybe her funny comments at Knox McCoy's blog?) but I'm ever so glad I did. I cannot wait to meet my Twinsie at the Killer Tribe conference at the end of March! Today is her wedding anniversary so there could not be a better time to share her TIHWM story. Which, incidentally, did make me swoon. Just as she intended. Enjoy and be sure to connect with one of the funniest gals taking over the blogosphere. You won't regret it.

Buttrams Begin

Depending on who you ask, my husband and I have two different First Meeting stories. Although, by stringent definition of the word “meeting,” this implies an introduction, which CLEARLY puts my story as the front runner for the TRUE First Meeting.

Ironically, we are both from Alabama, but met in college in Tennessee. Hubs transferred in my sophomore year, his junior, because he was recruited to play that one sport that’s not nearly as hard as soccer where you throw a ball into a basket and score points and stuff.


Here’s a quick rundown of my husband’s version (you know, just to be fair and balanced).

It was Moving In Day at the college. We were assigned to the same dorm. I roamed around the building saying hello to friends I hadn’t seen all summer, he saw me from down the hall and (promises he actually) thought, “If all the girls look like that, I’m going to like it here.”


Here’s the REAL version.

We sat at the same lunch table a few days later amongst a big group of friends, and a fella officially introduced us because we were both from Alabama. Funny how that keeps happening.


But…not really.

Fast forward a week or so later when my super friendly roommate had strayed into his dorm room and I went to collect her for the first FCA meeting of the year. I haphazardly invited him and his roommate along, and he accepted. RUH-ROH, SHAGGY.

Fast forward EVEN MORE to the following week when he showed up at the first InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting (but without my personal invitation this time). Probably by subconscious design, we found ourselves sitting next to each other in the same breakout Bible study group and afterward, not so subconsciously, found ourselves falling in step as we headed in the same direction back to our dorm rooms.

Maybe it was the cool September breeze or the subtle hint of fall in the Smokies or walking beside the cutest boy I had ever met growing cuter by the minute or the string quartet following behind us playing romantic music. (Just kidding about the string quartet, but you already knew that, didn’t you.)

Whatever it was, something turned that walk home and the conversation growing between us into a catalyst.

Buttrams Begin circa 2003And when we parted ways on the second floor, I hurried up to my room, shut myself in, looked my roommate in the eye and said (and I quote), “I think I’m going to know him for the rest of my life.” (Cue opening notes of Aaron Neville’s Crazy Love because it JUST MAKES SENSE, OKAY.)

We became friends. Fast friends. Best friends. Even as we (casually) went on (half-hearted) dates with other people, we were inseparable. There was more than one instance when he would swing by my room after coming home from a date, and we would talk or play chess (seriously, people, nothing screams BUDDING ROMANCE like a game of chess) or run to the dining hall for a late night snack.

And in five months’ time of being best friends, we were in love.

We just didn’t know it yet. Well, we DID, we just didn’t want to tell each other yet.

I was in love with the way we could talk for hours, the exact shade of hazel his eyes are, the sincerity in his words when he would lead in prayer, his quiet strength and dedication to God, to schoolwork, to basketball, the way he’d spot me from across campus and instead of shouting my name he would whistle a distinct two-note whistle and I would instantly know it was him. The way he’d look for me in between classes, in the cafeteria, or in the stands during a home game.

The way he looked at me one night when I unenthusiastically asked him if he was interested in a particularly smitten girl who had recruited me to “feel him out” for her, and he laughed, shook his head and said smoothly and definitively and life-altering-ly, “No. I’m interested in you.”


Yeah. For real.

Jessica Buttram is married to a baller, a shot-caller, mother to a couple of shorties who will one day grow taller. She is not a decent rapper. She blogs for free and tweets for doughnuts. She often has chocolate stains on her clothes, but always remembers to blame them on her kids. She is also your Number One Fan.

To the Girl Who Has Never Dated

To The Girl Who Has Never Dated,

Last week I read your question on another blog and my heart broke for you. You asked the how and why of not dating. You're 18 years old, on the verge of so much promise, and yet you doubted yourself because of not dating.

Oh, dear girl. I saw echoes of my teenage self in your words. I remember how badly I wanted a boyfriend in those days and the way I questioned my worth without one. I have dated since those dateless high school days so perhaps this disqualifies me from speaking in to your heart a bit. (On the other hand, I'm 32 and still single. I may be your personal horror story.) But I hope you'll listen just the same.

When I read the blogger's well-intentioned response, I cringed for the both of us. She told you to be glad that you haven't dated and made the mistakes that often come with relationships. She told you to view it as a blessing. She said she wished she hadn't dated when she was 18 and how many others would echo her words of regret.

That blogger isn't telling the whole truth. Maybe she wishes she'd taken another path but her advice implies that there's something wrong with dating. That's unfair.

Dating seems to have fallen into this weird category in Christian circles where we are either one date away from marriage or ruining the rest of our lives. Talk about extremes.

Dating in its purest form is sweet and tender. You're opening yourself up to the possibility of love. It should be fun and exciting. Even bad dates turn out to be great stories. People do make mistakes in relationships but hopefully they learn and grow from them as well.

So, no, there's nothing wrong with wanting to date. We can talk about expectations, how we shouldn't view members of the opposite sex as our saviors, how no one can fulfill us other than God. There are even benefits to singleness. That's all true and important to keep in mind. But when I read your question, I got the impression that you've heard that before and that your relationship with Christ is your priority but you wouldn't mind going on a date with the boy you like.

I don't know why you haven't dated, just as I don't understand why I didn't date in high school. In hindsight, I can say it was for the best. I had a few things I needed to understand about myself and God before I would be emotionally healthy in a dating relationship. But we can all point to people who are not healthy for a variety of reasons and they still manage to be in a relationship. There is simply no rhyme or reason to why some people date and others don't.

What I do understand is the pain you feel. Your friends are dating and it seems abnormal to not be doing the exact same thing. When they prattle on about their latest boyfriend, it would be nice to join the conversation about the latest sweet thing your guy did for you.

I imagine that it might be especially difficult today. I can't make a Valentine's Day date magically appear for you but I can offer a few words for you to tuck away.

Just because you are not dating now, does not mean you never will. Nor does it mean there's something wrong with you.

You are lovely. Just as you are.

Yes, you may have rough edges. We all do. But you are worthy. You were created in God's image and you don't need a guy to affirm who you are. A boyfriend will be the icing on the cake.

You are whole. You are not incomplete without an other half. Keep working on who you are and what you want your life to be about. That is the key.

It's OK to be sad and to ask God when it will be your turn. Us singles are drawn together by a common thread. We know the importance of celebrating who we are, making the most of this season of life, and hoping while we wait.

There are days that are easier than others, days when your love life pales in comparison to the wonder of life itself. Because life is a gift. We are not guaranteed nor entitled to anything. When you count the gifts in your life, you will find you are blessed.

On the hard days, find a listening ear, a little chocolate, and talk through the ups and downs. One day we'll see how it all worked out but in the meantime, we take it a moment at a time and trust that all will work out for the best.

Because it will.