We thought you'd like to read our story and see our pictures.
The first time I saw Denis, I was having supper at Varsity (one of our two dining halls) with my roommate Olivia and one of her friends. This friend said, "Don't look now, but there he is!" She proceeded to sigh, adoringly.
I briefly turned to see whom she was speaking of, and Olivia guided my gaze to the "fine-looking man with flaming red hair." I didn't care to look for long. This "fine man" was sitting with several girls, and the girls with whom I was sitting seemed to want to join them. That annoyed me.
Olivia then explained to me who Denis was: an artist, a Canadian, and her favourite chapel buddy. She suggested that, seeing as I was a Canadian, too, I should befriend him. "Never," I replied. "I have friends. I don't need more."
Parade of Nations
February 13, 2016
We met at Pensacola Christian College during the practice day for Parade of Nations, an missions-oriented event which underlines the international attendance at PCC. As each nationality represented was placed in a separate separate row of seats, the whole Canadian group sat together. As we were a couple of seats across, we got to see each other a little and spoke briefly.
I have learned that whenever I say "never," God changes my heart towards that idea I am so opposed to. The change started a few weeks later in the Visual and Performing Arts Center.
One evening, Denis and I happened to be drawing in the same classroom. As I walked about the room, perusing the works-in-progress of my peers, I noticed Denis's drawing of a beetle. I found his attention to detail remarkable, and started to feel some respect for him as an artist.
This was the incident which prompted me to introduce myself to Denis at the rehearsal for the Parade of Nations. In fact, my first words to him were, "You are taking art classes, correct?"
She spoke fluent French and was raised in Québec, which was quite exceptional.
However, though I certainly realized she was pretty, I didn't know her personally, and therefore didn't think more of it. But I did make the smart move of offering to take a picture of our group and text it to everyone. I thereby harvested each person's number, including Coralie's.
Our first text was therefore very simple. It just contained a few pictures of our group, with the name of the picture-taker:
Hi from Denis Labrecque
From that time on, we knew each other casually, but never met between groups. However, we both happened to be in the habit of eating breakfast very early in Four Winds, at a similar spot.
At that time, I tried to get in touch with a few people who could speak French, so I could keep in touch with my home identity; this allowed me to meet another Canadian friend, and a few Hatians.
I did notice Coralie's breakfast spot, and thought it would be great to get to know her; so I texted her, asking whether she would want to have breakfast together and speak French.
From the first couple of days we ate together, I quickly evaluated Coralie, and discounted her because our life plans were not likely to match, and because her character was somewhat more extremely orderly and proper than mine.
During those first few weeks of getting to know Denis, I didn't consider him as a potential life partner. Though other girls found him attractive, I wasn't particularly drawn; my vision was set on my plans for the future, and I could see nothing else. That was ironic, considering that the handsome man sitting across from me at breakfast WAS my future.
Another incident changed my view of Denis—and like the last, it occurred at the VPA. As I was searching for the electric eraser one afternoon, I met Denis in the hallway and told him that I was looking for the eraser, before continuing on. Just as I was about to leave, unsuccessful in my search, Denis reappeared with the electric eraser in hand. He had found it for me. Until that point, I had regarded him as a nice person, but this "chivalrous" act elevated him in my esteem. His act of kindness set him apart.
From that incident onward, my sentiments toward him rapidly evolved, but I didn't recognize my feelings until my roommate Olivia elicited them from me. We were finishing supper at Four Winds when I noticed Denis sitting alone a few tables away. We joined Denis at his table and I began chatting with him in French, while Olivia listened, though our conversation was incoherent to her. Olivia and I departed, and on our way out, she commented, "Marry the boy. He's the nicest man, and you guys are cute when you talk in French." "Well, tell HIM that." My impulsive reply surprised both me and Olivia. She had made her comment somewhat in jest, and though I had tried to answer likewise, I unwittingly answered in earnest. "So," Olivia began, thoughtfully, "you do like him?" I paused, contemplating my feelings. With a shrug, I then confessed: "Yes."
"I don't want to admit that my heart admires Denis, . . ." I had written in my prayer journal. I didn't want the affections I was developing toward him; but to my frustration, I couldn't stop them.
I sneaked this picture of Coralie at our breakfast table 😉
I had hoped that summer vacation, the distance from PCC and from Denis, would subdue my affections. But they didn't—they grew.
Trying to relinquish my affections didn't seem to work very well; thus, I tried a new approach. I wouldn't distance myself from him. I would love him—as a friend. "I really want to help him," I wrote to the Lord, "inspire him, and see him succeed. Yet I cannot overstep my welcome. . . . What, then, is my role as his friend? To be there for him, to have and to express confidence in him, and to edify him Christ Jesus—such are my duties."
So, I exercised my "brotherly love" and prayed for Denis, often in the middle of the night, when burdens on my heart would prevent me from sleeping. I prayed, specifically, that the Lord would give Denis a dream, an aspiration . . .
During my trips to work, my mother convinced me I should follow my dreams and strive to become a pilot if that was something I truly wanted to do.
As we were thinking to whom we could speak, Coralie's father came to mind, as I knew from our breakfast discussions that her father was a pilot. So I messaged her to ask for information.
He messaged me. To my surprise, as we corresponded, I didn't feel the affections that had previously plagued me; I felt only amity when I offered him my father's phone number. He accepted it, and did call my father.
After that, we only communicated once or twice the rest of the summer.
As my summer vacation was drawing to a close, I found myself very pensive. My affections had not completely gone away, as I had hoped. Yes, I considered myself nothing more than a supportive friend to Denis—but was my determination enough to keep me from hurting myself? That didn't matter. I was resolved. I would love him for his sake, not mine.
The two following semesters, I attempted to date someone; that finally did not work out. Nevertheless, that event taught me that love, offered to a person, is a blessing of rarity. It demonstrated that whatever my value, to love and be loved was not deserved. Coralie and I did, however, continue to have breakfast together every now and then, as friends.
Harmonious Strings of São Paulo
October 8, 2016
Our first event together.
The first few weeks of the school year, we went to church together a couple of times. However, there were some struggles.
We spent more time together than I had expected, during the first two months of school. I had braced myself for some emotional attachment, but not enough for the closeness, as friends, that we were developing. But just as I was planning to surrender and repent of my affections again, I had an epiphany.
"Who am I, that I should constrain the power of the Omnipotent God?" I mused in a freewrite for Creative Writing class. "Who am I, to assume His role and decide my own destiny?" I acknowledged that the Lord had brought Denis into my life, and that it was the Lord who was keeping him there, though I had surrendered him over and over in deference to my dreams. Although both Denis and my dreams were gifts, in my finite understanding I couldn't reconcile the two. But then I realized that "[i]f the gifts are indeed Heaven-sent, then my commission is not to negotiate them; the Lord alone holds that prerogative! My place is merely to watch the Lord perform a miracle, and to praise Him for it."
For the first time, I had complete peace about Denis, and that he did indeed have a place in my life; the Lord wanted me to stop resisting, and let him in. As Fine Arts approached, I hoped that Denis would invite me to the event.
When in line for lunch, I mentioned I had no plans for Fine Arts: Olivia was almost offended. "Go out with Coralie!" she said.
So far, I had resisted the idea, because I didn't want to give off the impression I wanted a relationship. Even, someone else had asked me whether Coralie was available for Fine Arts, and I had already honestly declared having no intention to invite her.
Another young man came very close to asking me to Fine Arts. In semesters past, I would have been pleased to accompany someone else besides my girlfriends. This time, however, I wasn't so enthusiastic. This young man was kind, and good company—but he wasn't Denis.
However, thinking about it more, to attend with a friend who actually enjoyed classical music seemed far more interesting, rather than—alone.
To go into detail about the trial I was going through at this time isn't essential to this story, but I mention it for context. My spirit was low, and my roommate, always considerate toward my wellbeing, decided to tell me that Denis would ask me to Fine Arts. Simultaneously, I felt peace about my trial, and relief about my friendship with Denis.
So I asked to meet Coralie, and invited her to come with me.
She made me repeat.
Straight away, she whipped out her attendance card and gave it to me.
At first, I thought that he might have changed his mind, and doubted what he was asking me. I made him repeat. He did, confirming my hopes.
Is she not pretty? 😍
Yes, I innovated and created a special flower holder for the event. It's from a foam model jet.
We had a wonderful evening together at the Concert at the Green.
Coralie gave me some of her pizza, and let me drink from her cup, which was very cute.
As we grew closer as friends, we participated in many activities scattered throughout the semester. At the beginning of the semester, Denis invited me to go skating with him; he loaned me his hoodie for the first time, when I got cold—and I've been stealing it from him ever since. Later in the semester, we attended a few concerts, including the Concert on the Green. Every time he invited me to such events, I was pleased, but nonetheless surprised that he wanted to spend time with me, exclusively...
November 14, 2016
We almost broke up.
President Shoemaker gave us a few dollars to spend at Palms Grille that semester. We went that Sunday evening.
For those last few days, I had been perceiving that something was bothering Denis. His reticence made me nervous, especially on that Sunday, when he invited me to supper at the Palms Grille after hardly speaking a word to me all day.
As we were eating, I grilled Coralie about understanding God's will, especially at her wanting to go to Hungary. How, I asked, would she know something like that for certain, if God didn't speak to her directly.
That had been on my mind for a long time, and in relation, I affirmed, "we've been hanging out too much lately." "Our paths are not convergent: therefore, so that this doesn't get even more difficult for you, and so you can pursue the life goals you have chosen, I don't think it's right to continue leading you on."
His blunt statement took me aback. I was at loss for words, but I tried to maintain my composure for as long as I could. I gave him some thoughtless, incoherent answer, as best as my failing mind could produce. We left the Palms and I made Denis walk with me once around the Loop. He humored me, and talked a little as we strolled, but by the end of the Loop I still wasn't satisfied. I made him walk the Loop with me again, and urged him to tell me exactly what the nature of our relationship was.
In the middle of the night, I received and responded to his text. "But I also need to correct you on this one point: I never said that our paths were irreconcilable. In fact, that is the very opposite of what I believe. I believe in a God of the impossible Who reconciles the irreconcilable, Who plans that two incredibly similar people of the same nationality, with agreeing philosophies, and with the same interests, should meet at the same place at the same time, a time when they both needed such a meeting. I took a chance on you because I was wholly convicted that my God's favourite pastime is to perform miracles, small and large. I was so confident that I never thought of taking that chance as taking a risk. There are no risks in trusting God. Maybe I was—and still remain—naive to believe in all of that. But the Lord has always carried out His Will in my life through miracles in the past; consequently, it's difficult for me to give up on you so easily. You were one of God's miracles in my life—and you had become my new dream."
"I was stubborn in letting you into my life, and I will be equally stubborn in letting you go. But because I love you and care more about what is best for you, I will not let my stubbornness get in the way of respecting your convictions or your need for distance. Of course, you can still have confidence that I won't turn you away if you ever need a friend to confide in. But I won't cling to you, even if my heart does."
The force of feelings took me by surprise. I didn't expect she'd be so attached. After talking to my mother over the phone and considered how those things happened, I could understand Coralie's train of thought better. But I still wasn't sure what to do.
I was honest, and did write, "don't give up on me. This morning, as chapel interrupted my writing you, I fell in tears over the song
As the deer panteth for the waters
So my soul longeth after thee;
You alone are my heart's desire...
Hopefully you don't feel the need to distance yourself too much."
The next couple of days—especially after Denis texted me, telling me that he didn't want to lead me on, my heart ached and my mind felt numb. But on Tuesday, after chapel, Denis sent me a lengthy, heartfelt text explaining what was on his mind. His text brought me some peace...
...Yes, I had peace, but I didn't have a date for the next Fine Arts Series. For the second time in my college career, I wasn't excited for Fine Arts, because I didn't want to go with anybody but Denis.
Taking a Chance
November 17, 2016
As a reconciliation, I took a recent watercolour post card project, stuffed my Fine Arts ticket and my Thanksgiving dinner attendance card into it, and sent it up to Coralie's room with red roses through her roommate Olivia. Inside the card was written
I'll take a risk
Gently caress my soul.
Hoping, daring, reassuring—Loving.
Upon returning to my room after my classes, I was shocked to find roses and an envelope on my bed. I thought they were from Olivia. "Olivia, what did you do?" I asked, thinking that she had spent a small fortune on roses just to cheer me up. My roommate insisted that the roses weren't from her. I wondered at the flowers, and gingerly opened the envelope. Immediately, I recognized the familiar watercolour flower, which I had watched Denis paint. Finding his attendance cards for Fine Arts and Thanksgiving and reading his message surprised me.
I accepted Denis's thoughtful tokens of reconciliation, and accompanied him to the Thanksgiving activities and to Fine Arts Series.
January 31, 2017
We got our parent's permission to date.
Starting into the spring semester, I had no idea what to expect about my undefinable relationship with Denis. It never occurred to me that he would want to start dating—I didn't think that he was ready.
But one day, Denis asked if he could meet me, to discuss a matter with me. I braced myself for him to say "we've been hanging out too much lately" again. I arranged for us to meet for coffee in the morning—coffee would put my nerves at ease.
I couldn't have been more wrong in my expectations. We sat on the Varsity terrace with our coffees, and with little delay, Denis asked me if we could phone my parents to request their permission to date.Not only was I relieved, but also honoured. The next day, we phoned my parents and Denis asked my father persmission for us to date. My father and mother gave us their blessing, and thus we became official!
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