Friday, January 11, 2008

A Nine-Year-Old Miracle

Nine years ago I received an email. I had no way of knowing then, but that email completely changed the direction of my life. I'm 100% certain that the life I am living today is very different from the life I might have had.

To quote a Tom Hanks character, "You've got mail...powerful words!"

Most everyone who frequents here (besides needing serious help) knows that I met my wife through email. Today is our "anniversary" of sorts, marking the day she sent the very first email to me. The day of our engagement a month and a half later is also a notable date, but we still view it as a lesser event compared with the miracle that we even connected at all.

It wasn't like we had a class together in college like my parents. It wasn't like we were members of the same church congregation like my sister and her husband. I posted an ad on a semi-obscure website. A few weeks later, before my ad had sunk too far enough down the listings, a Finnish girl looking to practice her English happened to see it. For some reason it stood out.

This same Finnish girl, usually rather shy about approaching strangers, wrote me a rather non-shy letter (she wasn't forward or anything, she just wrote a lot for a first letter). Yes, I did my part by writing back an even longer letter, but it was mostly her doing that got us started. That first letter caught my attention.

Things progressed more or less logically from there, but when we think of all the ways that things could have not happened, it's quite amazing. It's like two people bumping into each other on a crowded subway platform. It's like an asteroid striking the earth. Two unrelated things just happen to be in the same place at the same brief instant.

In six weeks we were engaged. In eight months to the day we were married. Nine years later we have three kids, two cats, a dog, 4 bedrooms on .2 acres, an upright grand piano, a vegetarian lifestyle, and a subscription to National Geographic. We're on our second house, our third and fourth cars, our second television, third computer, and our first dining table set.

In short, our lives have become so connected it's difficult to remember life before we met. We have our struggles, but what we have together is so much better than anything we might have had separately.

To say I love her is a profound understatement.

When I was a kid we went to a lake one afternoon. I picked up a rock and threw it into the lake. I happened to hit a fish--stunned the poor thing. I wasn't trying to hit a fish. It just happened.

Nine years ago I wrote an ad looking for a penpal. One of the people it "hit" was a Finnish university student 4900 miles away. She took that one paragraph and wrote a letter of several pages. That letter connected on an unusually deep level. It set the stage perfectly for what was to come. I wasn't looking for a wife. It just happened.

Please note I'm not in any way advocating getting engaged to someone you've never met, based on emails and chats. It worked in our case, primarily because we're essentially honest, open people. We connected in a way that made us feel safe taking risks and sharing very personal feelings and thoughts. And each time we did we either made another connection or at least treated in a way that we still felt safe. We reached into personal spaces within the first week that can takes months for other people to reach.

Within a month we had explored to our foundation and found it solid. We started to build. That foundation has supported everything we've built together since then.

It all started with a letter, by someone writing in English as a second language.

If I see no other miracles in my life, this one will be enough.

Thank you, dear!


I was just reviewing my blog entries from a year ago. It was a bit strange to note that last January someone burned down a landmark in Finland that was familiar to me. Strange, because last week someone burned down the church we attend while in Finland. It makes me wonder what is going to burn next January.

They're rebuilding the Haralanharju Nakatorni. I imagine they'll rebuild the church. Still... what is it with some people?

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

Happy anniversary, dearie. Michael and I will celebrate thirteen years of marriage tomorrow and I can't wait for another thirteen more years. Or twenty-six. Or hundred and five.