We find love in the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected ways, at the least expected times. It’s something I’ve always wanted, dreamed of, that was my motivation in life for making it through the tough times. I never did actually know how my wedding day did go, I had dreams here and there and I just knew what I wanted but never truly knew. My wedding day ended up being super low key. I had about 15 people with me at the justice (also known as the civil court) all from my husband’s family. The evening ceremony had about 40 people in attendance; a majority of my husband’s family and friends, in addition to my extended family, my Operation Crossroads Africa family. There was dinner with music, and everyone mingling and chatting. I grew up an only child. I have half-siblings, but they are twice my age. I have always dreamed of having a lot of brothers and sisters, so I can say, that wish is now granted.
All the quotes you see about strength, and pain, and love are true. Once you let go and let God, all things are possible. Put your faith and your hands in God and watch what happens. Your tears, your calls, and your prayers do not go silent. If it something He has also wanted for you, He will give it to you. Not on your time, but on His, which is always, always, always right on time. I often find myself asking, “How did I come from such a place of pain, turmoil, heartbreak, a place of consistent unhappiness, to being with the man I have always dreamed of in such a short span of time?” As I reflect on my one year anniversary, here are three things that I have learned:
1. God's plans are always bigger and better. I went to West Africa summer of 2014 with the goal in mind that I would improve myself as a travel and portrait photographer, teach photography, and immerse myself into a new country. Little did I know that this trip would end up mainly being a trip for personal discovery, personal growth and for personal relationships. Around the same time that I decided that I was going to be traveling to Senegal and The Gambia, I was connected with my husband to be on Facebook. We have mutual friends; his best friend, who is also Gambian, is my close friend’s husband. This close friend of mine is someone I met through my Crossroads trip. He and I communicated every day for a few months. It was not until our first Skype call that I thought, “He could be the one, there is something so real about this.” Once I arrived in The Gambia, it was his family who took me in and gave me a place to stay during my one-month stay. It was he who helped me throughout my whole trip, taking me to the places I needed to visit to get the photos I wanted to capture, to learn about the history, and to make sure I was okay. We clicked the first day we met. Despite language differences (English is his second language; English was my best subject in school), we just get each other. I feel safe and comfortable with him, and we know how to have fun together and make each other laugh and smile. Everything after that was a whirlwind, but I can say we are both truly happy with just rolling with God’s plans.
2. You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. Long distance in any relationship is hard, but it is even harder with an immigrant spouse. I have witnessed the hardships of having a long distance and cross-cultural marriage but now it is my turn to experience it. The struggle is so much better with the right companion and support system by your side, who can be there for you if not physically, then spiritually. It is a simple feeling that just automatically gives you strength when the love is mutual and reciprocal. All I knew was that I wanted to be with a good man who understands me, who lets me be myself, who mutually wants a happy, adventurous, monogamous, and long lasting marriage, where we also build each other to be a better version of ourselves. I never expected to marry an African man. To find him halfway across the world, in the smallest African country, one I barely knew anything about, was very unexpected but I’ll take it! God has already dubbed me one of his toughest soldiers.
3. Lessons are always to be learned, every day. There is always room to grow. Every person is not perfect, but the right person is perfect for you. There is a reason why the one you are meant to be with is called your other half. This, however does not mean that they will know everything that is on your mind. The keys are patience, communication and respect, which will help to make the love everlasting. The older you get, the smaller your circle gets. I now understand why married couples prefer to hang with other married couples, because it is a completely different world. This is something you grow to realize as you move through the different chapters in life. Be careful who you trust and who you talk to. Not everyone will understand your relationship as it is your journey only.
If you don’t remember anything else from this post… Be open to love, expect the unexpected, and be patient. If you are truly ready for love, and you love yourself, you will not know which direction it will come, your responsibility is to just be prepared.