I wanted to share our story with you all, and I asked Tate to join in on the fun. I always think our story is better told in person, because we both can be a bit animated 😉 but this is the next best option!
I tend to think our story isn’t quite the norm, but I am sure everyone says that about their own story. Tate and I went on our first date on September 9th 2016, got engaged on May 14 2017, were married August 19 2017, and then left for Belgium August 22 2017. We weren’t messing around to say the least!
First date and wedding day all within one year! (Tate here, in bold)
I knew Tate’s family for a couple years before I even knew Tate. My life was so intertwined with the Unruh’s, and looking back, it is so cool to see God’s hand in it all. I was his sister Darby’s counselor at camp for a summer, but we quickly became amazing friends, even though there was a 5 year age gap. His other sister Abby was in some of my classes in college, and we quickly became friends too. I would go to their house in Branson a lot just to see both of them, but never really saw Tate. Tate’s family already occupied a huge place in my heart!
A few of our mutual friends would always mention my name to him, and his name to me. Funny enough, we both were always like “eh, not interested”. Back in 2014 he was visiting my boss and stumbled into my office and asked for my number. He was casual and cool about it and mentioned we should hang out some time. I wasn’t jumping up and down excited, but I was intrigued. Needless to say, he blew my friend and I off one weekend and I completely wrote him off as flaky. HA!
Fast forward to the end of the summer of 2016. He was really good friends with a couple of my friends, so I ran into him a couple times in Branson, and we hung out in groups maybe twice. We chatted about his sisters, joked here and there, and didn’t think too much of it. I thought he was really funny and really easy to talk to. We hugged goodbye and he told me he was going to see my boss on Monday so maybe I would see him then.
So at this point I was crushin pretty hard! One of my favorite parts about our story is that Hillary is the only girl who my Dad has ever suggested for me to date. My Dad is my hero, so to hear him weigh in on the situation really meant a lot to me. Not to mention he was the 9th or 10th person to mention her name to me, I lost count.
On Monday I was training some employees and ran back into my office for something. I heard my bosses door shut immediately and I got kind of nervous. I ran into my friends office and asked if someone tall with brown hair was in Adam’s office. She said yes, and I quietly and quickly left the building. Hahaha. I thought maybe he was going to ask me out, and I was too nervous to talk to him, so I fled.
I came back to my office with a note on my desk. “Came by to ask you out, but you were gone ;)”
Let me preface this by saying, I have never really been asked out on a date. For eight long years I was single, without dates. I knew I was going to be the opposite of cool calm and collected the day I got asked out. And sure enough I started sweating profusely. I remember thinking “what the crap am I supposed to say? Text him??? Thanks for the note….?”
I kind of felt like a boss for writing a note, that she would (hopefully) be excited about, and just leaving it there. But as soon as I left her office I starting tweaking a little bit thinking “what if she blows me off?”
So I did. He called me the next day, asked me out officially, and we went on our first date that weekend! Our first date was a picnic in the back of his truck parked along the water. We talked and talked for hours that night. I left feeling like I could be his best friend. I wasn’t sure if that was a bad thing or a good thing. We had so much to talk about and it felt so natural. I was 100% myself with him, which was important to me.
I won’t get into full detail of that first month, to spare you all, but it was a little rocky. Tate will tell you that he overanalyzed the whole situation. He was very hesitant to get into a relationship, because he wanted to first know the outcome. He was in his head a lot, worried a lot, and was unsure. Strangely I was the opposite?? I was very laid back, was willing to try and see what happened, and for some reason had a peace about the whole thing. Looking back I believe that was the Lord, because that is not like me. Early October we decided to try the whole dating thing! We became “official”. He was still living in Arkansas, and I was in Branson, so we would see each other on the weekends. His hesitancy and unsureness was still very much there, so in late October, I nervously FaceTimed him (he was in Arkansas & I was in Branson) and told him that if he couldn’t pursue me 100% then he needs to break up with me. I couldn’t do the half out half in thing. The minute that conversation took place, Tate pursued me with 110%. It was as if a light went on and everything changed. He was an incredible boyfriend.
I was so half in, half out! She was my first girlfriend and I really wanted to know what the outcome was going to look like before I jumped all the way in. I can definitely see why Hill was so annoyed with me, but after a few weeks of being noncommittal, we were off and running. I’m really thankful for that time in the Fall that we had together, it gave us some time to lay a foundation for the rest of our relationship. Hill was so patient with me, and I’m so glad she was!
Tate moved to Finland to play basketball in the middle of November, so we were able to get a few weekends in together, but the rest of our relationship depended on FaceTime. God bless FaceTime. From November to May our relationship was long distance. We saw each other for a week during Christmas when Tate came home, and five days in February when I went to Finland. Because of the time difference, I only talked to him for an hour during my lunch break, and a couple hours on the weekend. To say it was difficult at times would be an understatement. But dating long distance brought an intentionality and seriousness that I don’t think dating in the same place would’ve brought. We only had communication. We only had so much time together. So we were intentional about our time and our conversation!
Tate made a list of questions for us to ask each other and go over. They started out pretty basic, and continued to get more serious as our relationship grew. We talked about everything. We talked about our families, our past, what makes us tick, our strengths, our weaknesses, what kind of mom/dad we want to be, what our faith means to us, what marriage means, what kind of marriage we want, what we saw in each other, what areas of growth we saw in each other, etc. We asked and talked about everything under the sun. Even though we only dated for a short amount of time, I knew and understood Tate. He knew and understood me.
Long distance dating can be hard, but it was honestly a great thing for Hill and I, because it forced us both to be so intentional with one another. We talked about everything! Basketball, our families, our childhood, the people in our life that are special to us, kids, everything! As we dated and started to fall in love with each other, we had some really hard conversations and some really awesome conversations. Both of which allowed us to see into the heart of the other, a heart that I fell in love with!
In December he told me he loved me for the first time! To be honest, when he told me, my stomach didn’t flip and the heavens didn’t open up in song. Instead, it was this deep steady peace and assurance. I knew he loved me. I knew I loved him. There wasn’t a question in my mind. Saying goodbye to him after his trip home was really hard. Distance just plain stinks sometimes, it does. Especially when you love someone! I was jealous and envious of couples who got to do normal everyday things together. I wanted to just sit on a couch with Tate and do nothing. But that wasn’t the hand we were dealt, it wasn’t our story! So we made the most of our long distance. We tried to play games, have fun, and laugh. We enjoyed the long distance, as much as we could.
After Tate’s season, he would move home for the summer in May. Of course my mind starting wondering about our future. He was only home for the summer and then he would be off to play basketball again overseas. So that meant if we kept progressing, we would either be married in the summer of 2017 or 2018. I really truly did not want to date long distance again for another year. My heart and mind couldn’t take it. I had a feeling we were on the same page about that, but I am a girl, and we all know how our brains work. WE GO CRAZY. We talked about marriage a little, but in the Spring Tate had told me “let’s not discuss this anymore and let’s just pray about it”.
For a few months I had all sorts of thoughts going through my brain. Maybe he doesn’t want to get married this summer, maybe he doesn’t even want to get married, what should I do about my job, should I sign another lease???? I am a planner. I plan months ahead. And my future was a big question mark! I wanted so badly to plan my future with Tate, but I continued to trust the Lord and him. Buuuut you could say I asked him a few times what our plan was 😉 Ha!
She is definitely a planner! I can’t remember how many times I told her to “just trust me” after being peppered with questions about our future. I asked Hill for 90 days to pray about it and told her that I would try my best to have an answer for her by then. Truth be told, it took me about 40 days, but this was the biggest decision of my life at this point- so I took my sweet time.
He was planning on coming home and coming to Branson to see me May 14th. That day was highlighted, starred, and circled date on my calendar. Unknowingly to me, he was home the whole week before May 14th, preparing to surprise me. On May 14th Tate drove into my driveway and I was already outside nervous, excited, and giddy. I couldn’t believe I was finally able to see him and hug him and BE WITH HIM. We spent the whole day together just soaking up every minute. (And sweating bullets a little bit, but trying to remain calm.) We had planned to have a date that night, so we parted ways for a bit to change and get ready.
He later picked me up, we went to dinner, and on our way home he told me that he had a little surprise for me. He said that him and his brother Thatch had set up a little area for us to dance. I thought “Dance???? What do you mean dance…?!” Haha but Tate is always full of fun random things to do so I didn’t think too much of it. We pull into the driveway of his Branson house and in the gazebo area there were lights and pictures of us hung up. It was set up so cute! For some reason I still didn’t think anything of it?! I am sure an outsider is wondering how in the world did you not think something was up? I just genuinely thought he was doing something special for me since it had been months since we had seen each other. We danced and talked sweetly and emotionally. I was so happy to be in his arms. I was so happy he was home. I was so content.
Soon after we danced a little bit, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. His words were so thought out and so genuine. Even though I really appreciated every word, I was jumping up and down just waiting for him to ask me those four words. I screamed “WHATTTT” over and over again, which I actually regret once I heard myself on the video. I said YES, of course, and he took me inside where both of our families were! It was a night I will always remember.
We spent that summer planning, traveling, planning some more, and spending time with family. We were planning to get married in three months, August 19th. It was an extremely busy summer to say the least! Our wedding was everything I had ever dreamed of. Literally my dream wedding. Minus the heat, gosh it was the hottest day in the entire world. But it was such a sweet, fun, special night that we will never forget and cherish forever.
We moved to Belgium three days later and here we are! Marriage has been hands down the greatest thing I have ever experienced. I know you hear a lot of people talk about how hard marriage is, and it is hard at times, but not enough people rave about how WONDERFUL it is. Literally so fun. I get to live, eat, breathe, hang out 24/7 with my best friend. It can’t get much better than that. 😉