It became pretty apparent after a short time of us declaring our love for one another that we couldn’t keep it a secret. In fact we ended up going public when Barbara Young, the secretary at Oak Grove caught us walking hand in hand gazing lovingly into each others eyes at a mall 1 hour from our town. Barbara straightened me out. She said “you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of! Quit hiding!”
So we did. July 1998, we had to decide what we were going to do together. It had become clear that my time at Oak Grove had come to a close as we knew it. I didn’t want to prolong the “weirdness” of that feeling, nor did I want to leave Melissa behind. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and we agreed it was time to make something happen, and soon. So we began on Sunday night, July 26, 1998 to plan the hows, when and who to invite to a wedding. My parents lived in New Jersey, one set of grandparents in Texas, the other set on the other corner of Arkansas not to mention aunts and uncles everywhere. We parted that night frustrated that we could not get anyone there anytime soon for a wedding.
Then next morning she had planned on riding along with me to take a member of the youth group to camp in beautiful Hot Springs, AR, then the rest of that day we were going to kick around. On the way into Hot Springs, there was a place with a big sign and a drive-through window. The sign said “The Chapel of Love – Drive Through Weddings.” We all laughed at the thought of a drive through wedding and the kid with us joked and said “you two should stop in there!” We laughed harder and kept on driving.
After spending some time together in the lovely romantic Hot Springs, we were on our way home. Drove by “The Chapel of Love” on the way out and laughed again.
Then I squirmed.
Then said “let’s just check it out.”
Then said, “no, everyone would KILL us!”
Then I continued to argue with myself for an hour (I don’t remember Melissa saying anything but “well”, “yeah”, “why not”, “they would”, “that’s fine”).
WARNING: Here is where I BEG GOD not to let me reap with my children what we sowed! I am in no way shape or form recommending ANY of our young couples to do this! It worked for us, but may not work for you!
Then we turned around. Yep, one hour down the road we turned around.
We were “fleece” people (read the story in the Bible about Gideon laying out “fleeces”) at the time. I asked her to marry me, and then we reasoned that if they were still open, we would “check it out.” Then we got in there and the lady who ran the place told us what they do and that we would need a marriage license if we did it.
So we laid out the “fleece” that if the courthouse was still open (and if we could even find it) that we would go see what it took to get a license. We didn’t even think you could get a marriage license same day. Walked in, and they locked the door behind us because they were closing! They gave us a license on the spot.
Drove back to “The Chapel of Love” with our marriage license and talked to the female minister there for a few more minutes. 10 minutes later, dressed in t-shirts and jean shorts, exchanged tin Cracker-Jack wedding rings and with the landscaper as our witness, were joined in Holy matrimony at 6:00pm, July 27, 1998 at The Chapel Of Love and in the Presence of the Lord.
To be continued Part 3, Telling the Family, Getting married, again…