by Abby Eastman
If you haven't heard Luke Wilson and Valerie Ely are in love.
Young but far from reckless, this happy couple will tie the knot in less than a month in Val's home state of Oregon. I expect their wedding to be nothing short of a "grand ol' time" (both of them crave adventure and have a deep desire to have fun in every situation). Their wedding marks the very beginning of their lifetime together as a family, but in someways it also marks an ending of sorts; like a fairy tale it is their "and they lived happily ever after."
So where did their story begin? Flashback to Los Angeles, fall 2013, Luke and Val met while attending separate Discipleship Training Schools (DTS) at Youth With A Mission Los Angeles. During DTS it is asked of the students that they do not try and pursue any new type of romantic relationship, which you can imagine definitely played a huge role in the development of their story. The couple saw each other only once a week for 3 months when their DTSs would worship and have class together. Their conversations were minimal throughout these short interactions, barely even establishing a friendship. But it was clear from the beginning that there was something there and for Luke there definitely was.
L: "I think for me it was love at first sight. I don't think I was in love with her but I knew I wanted to be with her. I would have married her--and this is so dramatic -- I think I would have on the first day. I knew that up until the day that she told me to never to talk to her again, I was going to pursue her."
DTS breezed by with no texting, no messaging and nothing but small talk to their name. Not to mention they also spent three months apart while doing their DTS overseas outreaches. It seemed incredibly unlikely that Luke and Val would even speak after their schools, due to the lack of relationship they had built and the distance between their home states (Luke hails from Illinois). Luke had also left DTS a couple days early without getting a chance to say goodbye, but thankfully with a room full of giddy, wide eyed DTS girls on their last night together, Luke and Val beat the odds.
V: "On graduation night I messaged Luke saying we should stay in touch! It wasn't even me it was my friend Paris. It was so embarrassing! We were all screaming when we saw that he had started to type back!"
If somethings really meant to be, it'll happen regardless.
L: "I was going to wait until the next day to message Valerie-- the morning after graduation. I didn't want to seem too eager, but when I got the message from her it was like the craziest thing. We had never expressed feelings. We had never even really talked, but when she messaged me it just felt right. It was 2 in the morning and I couldn't go back to sleep until 5.
Thus began their official courtship. Text messages were passed between them, eventually moving into face time calls (which hilariously often included Val's entire family). As they began to get to know each other as well as express feelings, they decided to reconnect at a YWAM leadership school held in Kona, Hawaii 3 months later. A magical time but also a serious time of growth and discovery for the both of them.
V: "We had face timed and texted for 3 months but then seeing each other in Kona that first day was like the weirdest thing ever! We already knew we liked each other but it was honestly such a fun season of getting to know each other in real life and getting to see how [Luke] was with other people and during ministry times. We went on our first date in Hawaii! He took me on a surprise moped ride which was like my dream and then we had a picnic on the beach. Hawaii was also when I realized I had fears. On the plane ride there God basically told me that I had so many fears in my heart that I didn't even know about. It was the unfolding of all of the crap and fears I had with being in a relationship and falling in love. It was really bitter sweet for me.
L: "Hawaii was the most perfect time of my whole life. I was having fun with great people and I was falling in love. During that time Val had all these issues come up and normally in the past if a girl said things like "I don't know if this is right" or "I don't have peace" or something like that, I would have been really insecure and that would usually make me think "oh I'm done". The thing is none of those things affected me as it should have. I was just so secure--. The Lord did a lot in my heart in making me confident in who I was."
It was also a time where Luke knew without a doubt that he was in love.
L: "There was this specific night in Hawaii where we were sitting outside on the pier and I was thinking "I love this girl, what the heck?" I took a picture of us and I told her to remember that night because I wanted her to believe me when the time was right, because it was still so early."
After Hawaii, Valerie's parents had gotten a hold of Luke asking him to surprise her in Oregon as she was flying back from Kona. They went on a camping trip with her family, and a week later decided to make things official.
L:" Her dad just randomly took me to his man cave one day and he said 'you can date Valerie, she's ready'. Because of all her fears, I never knew when I could ask her to be my girlfriend."
V: "We went to this park and I knew he had been wanting to date for so long. I was so nervous but I told him 'I think I'm ready to date you' and he got so excited. We had gotten ice cream and he threw his ice cream cone across the park and he was like "Can i ask you now?!!"
A month long visit in Oregon eventually came to an end, but the couple were soon reunited when Val went to Illinois to spend time with Luke and his family (it was there that they finally said "I love you). Soon after they were long distance for 4 months, until Luke quit his job, packed up all his things, and moved to Oregon to continue to pursue the girl of his dreams.
V: "It was like a weird change having Luke there because he was living with my family, so we were always together. It was hard in that sense because it felt like we were married without the benefits of marriage but at the same time it was really good for us because we learned so much about each other just by being around one another so much. I think it was the way the Lord wanted it for us. We learned so much."
Living together in the same place proved to be an incredibly sweet time for their relationship as they got to grow together side by side. In August of 2015, Luke's family flew out for the Ely annual camping trip which Luke had gone on the year before when the couple had just started dating. It was there in the Oregon mountains that he proposed, giving them what may very well be called a "chance at forever".
So us singles, or dating, or married people, what can we learn from them and their model of love and relationships?
What have you learned from each other?
V: "I think early on when I was really struggling with my fears and doubting my relationship as well as feeling like I was messing up, Luke was so committed to me and never took it personally. He was always on my side fighting for me and believing in me that I would overcome this. I think that takes such a huge amount of patience and commitment to stick by my side. I think if it had been the other way around I wouldn't have been the same way. I remember thinking 'oh my gosh this is how Christ loves me'. He fights for me even when I'm treating him horribly. He still loves me so much and is committed to my life. His patience and the grace he has for me-- I'm still learning how to have that for him.
L: "Since I've met Valerie I've learned to have fun all the time and to communicate better. I feel like I want to know what she's thinking whenever something's going on. Its made me want to hear every single thing that goes through her head. Its made me better at speaking with her and working through things. She's also shown me how to enjoy the little things and to not overthink."
Favorite quality about the other?
L: "Her laugh and how caring she is. She always cares about everybody and it makes me mad in a way. She will care about someone that I don't want to care about which then will actually make me want to care! Or whenever I don't feel like doing something right, she wants to. It's a very good quality and it makes me a better person. She also calls me out all the time. I like that: someone who wants to make me better and not just say "well that's how he is"
V: "His diligence. He's so diligent and I'm so unmotivated! He keeps me motivated to do things.
V: "I would say have fun and be lighthearted because that's something I feel I was robbed of because I was so worked up about 'am I doing this right?', 'am I pleasing the Lord?', or 'is He proud of me?' for every little thing to the point where I didn't get to enjoy as much as the Lord wanted me to. Obviously stay close to Jesus and make sure your heart is in line with him, but then trust that he's going to open and close doors. Don't over spiritualize things and have fun. Remember that He loves love and he wants us to be in love and to enjoy ourselves. Soak it in, because it is a season: it's not always going to be fresh and new.
L: "If you're a guy-- or a girl-- and you want to pursue someone, you pursue them fully. If you like someone obviously be listening to the Lord because there are certain things you cant do, but what I'm saying is don't ever be scared of looking dumb. Pursue them with everything you have because down the road if you guys get married you can be so happy with how you pursued them and that you did everything you wanted to do. You won't be like 'oh I wish I just wouldn't have been so shy or been so afraid of being rejected'. The Lord told me to pursue Val with everything I had and if it didn't work out then I could be confident in the end that I did everything I could, or I could be married to her down the road and I wouldn't regret not doing certain things. Like telling her I love her and not caring if she doesn't say it back, or holding her hand in front of her parents, holding her hand in front of the people she's nervous to be seen with me. Do all these things and don't care about what she's thinking because she's going to look back one day and be really glad I wasn't too scared to do them.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7