The conference room buzzed with excitement. Decades-old friends reminiscing about “back in the day”. Mentees squealing as they reconnected with mentors. Hugs, handshakes, nods, smiles, laughter. The exhilaration in knowing that after 2 years of planning, praying, meeting, negotiating – It was finally here – Impact 2004.
I was a newbie, working and attending the conference for the first time. I entered the room a bit intimidated, scanning the room for one of the few familiar faces I knew would be present.
“Ah, there’s a seat at her table.” I sighed with relief.
As I approached the table, I noticed him. Dreadlocks, dimples…
“Hmm. He’s cute.”
He had a photo album with him, and was enthusiastically showing photos from the mission trip several of them took together to South Africa a few years prior.
“Cute and mission minded. Nice. But. He’s probably young.”
And I moved on. So I thought.
Somewhere near the end of the conference worker meeting that afternoon, I announced that I needed help setting up one of the session rooms.
Only two people came.
The cute missionary was one of them.
“Hi, I’m Reggie Gillespie.”
“You’re Reggie Gillespie???! YOU were the first one to sign up to go to South Africa for the STINT (one-year short term international mission trip). We’ve been praying for you. You’re Reggie Gillespie?? (with a grin)”
We hit it off immediately- talking, laughing, joking (i.e. flirting) as we worked. He was surprisingly easy to talk to. At some point my best sister-friend walked into the area, sensed some “connection” was happening, grinned, and walked out.
Then, I led a seminar – “Waiting for My Boo: How to Live Single.” College and graduate students crammed in, filling the seats, standing along the walls, sitting on the floor. About 10 minutes into the talk, out of the corner of my eye, I spot him sliding along the side of the wall, inching his way towards the front. Then, he sits. RIGHT. UP. FRONT.
“Oh my goodness, he’s in here…”
I recovered and finished the session.
He disappears… …until he catches me in the hallway later that day, and hands me a puzzle piece.
See, during the session, in order to illustrate the frivolity by which we often approach dating, I had each attendee grab a puzzle piece. During the talk they were tasked to find a matching piece to their puzzle pieces within two minutes – virtually impossible with 500 pieces floating around.
When he handed me the puzzle piece, I thought, “Wow. Is he telling me he’s my matching piece???”* And I slipped it into my conference badge. (I also told him I didn’t know that he was in the session – lies, all lies – yeah, yeah don’t judge me – I was trying to be coy.)
All week long, we flirted. A stare. A smile. A nod. Brief conversations as we moved about fulfilling our roles. All week long, I asked mutual friends about him. How old is he? His character? What type of person is he? His heart for ministry?
Finally, during the last night, Pastor Maurice Watson did a main session called “Maximize Your Moment”. He repeated one phrase, “Opportunities come, opportunities go, opportunities come no more.”
I stormed right out at the end of that session, determined to “maximize my moment.” We sat in the hallway (this is where our stories differ, but since I’M the one telling this one…)
“Have you been checking me out?”
He laughs, “Yes, and you – me.”
“So, I’ve asked, and no one seems to know. How old ARE you?”
He laughs again, ‘Well, I know YOU are 30.” (So, he had been asking about me too?? Sweet.) “Yes. But how old are you???!”
He smiles, “23.”
“Hm. It’s been really nice talking to you. Goodbye.”
And I walked away.
That’s right. I walked away.
Not my finest moment.
Fortunately, my sisters were present. All conference I told them how great he was, how funny, how nice, how well he treated me and others, how he seemed to love Jesus… All. Week. Long.
One of them (or, probably both) said, “Soooo, he was great when you thought he was older. He’s the same person, just younger.”
I wasn’t buying it. Fortunately, my sister, who can be counted on to meddle when necessary, (she has opened my eyes to knuckleheads and gems) found him, told him I needed to talk to him, told me “Carpe diem”, and walked away…
The rest (9 years and 3 babies later) is Gillespie history.
- Blessings often come in unexpected ways. Don’t miss one because it’s not “packaged” the way you expected.
- “Opportunities come, opportunities go, opportunities come no more.” Seize them.
- God does hear and answer prayer (more on this later).
*Ha! Several years after we were married, I was working on a scrapbook of our journey together. I came across the badge, with the puzzle piece in it. I smiled and told him about why I saved it, asking if it really was his way of telling me he was interested. His response (while laughing), “Naw, Boo. I just found it on the floor and since I knew you used them, I was returning it to you. Would’ve been cool though.”
I like my version better…