It was Christmas Eve. I had just climbed into one of the beds in my brothers’ old bedroom upstairs in my parents’ house. Everyone was home for Christmas and the house was packed.
It was the night of day 8 of Grant’s visit. He would spend Christmas day with me and then he would leave really early the next morning.
I leaned against the pillow, feeling absolutely exhausted. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep but the sleep wouldn’t come. Just like it had been when I was a little, the excitement of Christmas kept me awake.
But this was a different excitement. It wasn’t the curiosity of what might be in my red crochet stocking over the fireplace or what the presents under the tree with my name on them might contain.
No this was different. This Christmas I was excited about something that couldn’t be wrapped and wouldn’t fit under the tree. I was reveling in the excitement of Grant Castleberry.
Since our day in Charleston, my “disconnect” had gradually faded away. It was less like a fading and more like an opening of my eyes.
I knew God had answered my prayer when I asked Him to please give me clarity in my relationship with Grant. After I had begged in tears for His guidance and direction, I began to sense the peace that only God can give when we truly give a situation to Him.
And that’s when things started happening. My blinders started falling off. The “Japan Grant” and the “Beaufort Grant” started to come together.
The Grant who made me laugh on the telephone was the Grant making me laugh in person. The Grant with whom I enjoyed spending hours with on the phone, was the same Grant with whom I enjoyed spending hours with in person. The Grant who led me spiritually over the phone was praying with me and sharing what God was teaching Him in person. The Grant who had been “only mine” was now being shared with my family and friends. And they loved him.
And I realized I loved my Grant even more now than I did over the phone and through letters.
As I laid there, I thought about the events of that day. Grant had told me that morning that he wanted to go back out to his dad’s memorial marker and clean it. It had been so dirty the first time we had visited it together.
That afternoon, I was gathering cleaning supplies to take out to the cemetery when my family noticed and asked what we were going to do.
Before we knew it, it wasn’t just Grant and me out in the cemetery cleaning Kelly Castleberry’s marker, but my dad and my brothers were there too. Jeremy and Jameson helped to clean each crevice with Q-tips and bleach.
As I stood out there and watched the guys clean the memorial marker, I thought about how much things had changed since the last time Grant and I were there. The first time, we had come alone.
I was feeling disconnected and scared.
But now, it wasn’t just about Grant’s and my grieving over his dad. My family was involved. And as I watched my father and Grant kneeling in the grass cleaning the marker of the godly man who meant so much to Grant, I knew that things had changed forever.
Grant glanced up at me, and I smiled. Yes, things had forever changed.
That guy in cowboy boots had stolen parts of my heart I didn’t know could be taken. Deep parts. Parts that weren’t just “I like you, you like me, dating is fun,” but deep parts of my heart that no guy had ever touched.
I thought about these things that Christmas Eve and the tears started to fall there in the dark. Unlike the other night when I had cried tears of confusion and fear, tonight I cried tears of joy.
I loved Grant. And I knew, I knew that God had brought him to me.
God had answered every prayer that I’d ever prayed for the type of man that I’d wanted to be my future husband. He hadn’t answered the way I thought he was going to answer. I had been completely taken off guard by Grant Castleberry.
I had expected to meet my husband in college. When that didn’t happen, I thought God decided that I needed to be single for a while.
But God had a different plan for me. He was answering the way that He saw fit with the man that He knew would complete me. Obviously the ones that I had chosen hadn’t worked out.
His choice was so much better than anything I could have imagined.
His choice was godly and down to earth and funny and a hard worker and social and had the heart of a real man. His choice was perfect.
What a special Christmas Eve. I could care less about what was in my stocking or what presents were under the tree for me. Did we even do stockings anymore?
God had given a gift to me that had not been on my list, but far surpassed anything I had ever opened on a Christmas.
My cell phone was next to me and it started to ring.
“Hey GraceAnna,” said the most wonderful voice in the world. “I just wanted to tell you good-night.”
“Grant, I just love you so much,” I blurted out.
Grant sat there in silence and I could almost hear his ear-to-ear grin. “Well, Merry Christmas to you too.“
It was early. It was still dark. It was the morning after Christmas. My dad drove Grant and me to the airport.
I was sad. I was trying not to cry.
Grant was leaving. Not just leaving Beaufort or South Carolina, but he was leaving America.
He was going so far away and I didn’t know for how long. I barely said a word the whole drive.
We arrived at the airport and I stood next to Grant as he checked his bags. My heart felt as heavy as the massive Marine Corps backpack Grant so easily hefted over his shoulder.
This was it. The 10 days were over. And they had been so wonderful.
Grant hugged me and wiped the tears from my face that were now flooding down uncontrollably.
He looked at me and smiled.
I knew this wasn’t good-bye. I knew this was only the beginning.
to be continued…