Life continued on, with some big changes. My mom met and married a man, Bruce, who became my stepdad. We moved out of the house that we had lived in with my dad, and moved closer to Lighthouse so we could be more involved. It was a time that was full of change for me, and I didn't like it. I don't like change. I like it when everything in life is predictable, and life was definitely not predictable for me between the age of 17-19. I spent a lot of time in my Bible, and growing close to the Lord during this rough transition time.
I continued to grow close to people at Lighthouse, with the exception of Tommy. I told my mom once, after coming home from church, and probably after being beaten by him at a game of ping-pong, (another big activity at Lighthouse, and yet another thing he was better at than me, which of course, drove me nuts) "If Tommy McMurtry was the last man on earth, I would not marry him!" My mom, in true 'wise mom' fashion, looked at me with a smile and said, "Mark my words- someday you will marry him." I just sputtered and said..."Pfffttt! That will never happen!"
How do moms always know?
When we turned 18 or 19, (I can't remember the exact time frame) something began to happen. Tommy began to change. He began to grow up a little. He started to realize that there was more behind Cassandra Cutler than just a pretty face, and he started to kind of like me.
I wasn't quite sold yet, but I did notice a change. He stopped taunting me. We actually started to have decent conversations. I kind of started not hating him as much. Then, to my surprise, he decided to go away for a summer and be a counselor at a camp in Wisconsin, and I actually, sort of...missed him?!
I missed him? I didn't understand what was going on. I even remember telling my sisters..."Tommy is going to find some pretty girl at camp and come back engaged." I didn't even know why that bothered me. I didn't even want to like him that much. But, like him I did.
I looked forward to the weeks he came back to visit that summer. We started talking more. People began to notice that we were spending time together at church. When I would get joked about it, I would just shrug. It was nothing serious. No big deal. I mean, he hadn't even said that he liked me. I didn't want to get my hopes up if he didn't even like me!
Remember, I had also determined that I wanted to marry someone going into the ministry. Well, that summer, Tommy felt like the Lord told him that yes, he wanted him to be a pastor. When he came back and shared that with everyone, once again, I felt my heart stir, but I tried to ignore it. Tommy wasn't giving me any signals. It was frustrating, but I was determined I was not going to be the pursuer. If he wanted me, he had to come after me, not the other way around.
So, I kept busy. I taught music lessons, and kept up with my music lessons. I was involved at church. Tommy and I co-taught a music class at the school...he taught, I played the piano for him. So now I was seeing him more than the three times a week that I already had been. I loved that he was musical. I always wanted to marry someone musical. I also couldn't help but notice that he met all my other 'requirements'. He was bold, he was honest, he was godly, he wanted to serve the Lord the rest of his life, he was a leader, he was kind to his mom, and the list could go on. Sure, he was a geek, but I could overlook that. =)
I didn't know it at the time, but Tommy was also going through an inner conflict. He liked me. He really liked me. He liked my looks, my personality, my talent, and my zeal for the things of God. He just didn't want to get married yet. He had always scoffed at people that got married super young. So he kept denying the fact that he wanted to get married. Finally, one night he was sitting outside at his house. He was praying, and thinking about me, and the verse came to mind- Psalm 37:4 King James Version (KJV)4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
It was like a lightbulb went off in his brain. "I really, really like Cassandra, and she is what I desire. What am I waiting for?!" So, he set the plan in action.
First he talked to his parents. He told them that he really liked me, and wanted to pursue me to be his wife. His dad was happy, because he wanted to be a grandpa. He knew the first step to that was a daughter-in-law.
Next, his dad talked to my mom. She had noticed the attraction for a long time, and she knew that Tommy was well suited for me. So, she approached me on a Sunday afternoon and told me that Tommy wanted to date me with the intention for marriage.
I was so excited! "Yes!" I told her happily. "Yes, yes, yes!!!"
I was on cloud nine all afternoon, and as soon as I saw him, in true "Cassandra fashion", even though there was a huge group of people surrounding us, I blurted out, "Do you know how long I have liked you?!"
He just kind of blushed and said..."We'll talk about that later."
We already had a good foundation laid. We had waited for each other, we were both pure, and we were raised in a Christian home. We had been friends for a good year now, so the 'dating period' went very fast. Three weeks after he approached his dad, he got down on bended knee and asked me to marry him, and also told me he loved me for the first time.
Coincidentally, it was on the same bench he had been sitting on when he decided that I was the desire of his heart. We were down a hill at his house, and my entire family and his were watching from the back window. As soon as they could tell that I had said yes, they all came running out for hugs and pictures.
The entire time we dated we were never alone. We had siblings or parents in the room with us at all times. We ate out with our parents. We visited each other's homes with someone there all the time. We always had a chaperone. Since we were the oldest, and the first to go down the path of dating and marriage, we were the 'guinea pigs'.
Those six months that we were engaged were the hardest and longest of our lives, but it taught us self control and patience. I knew that if he could show self control as a hormonal man in love, he would exhibit self control after we were married. I knew that if he could show patience when dealing with pesky sisters that were always around, he would show patience once we started having kids.
Finally, finally, the six months were over, and April 20, 2001 arrived........
(Conclusion coming soon!)