This is the story of how I got to know the craziest, humblest, Jesus-lovingest, straight-up weirdest guy I've ever known. And then I married the heck out of him. (see above)
Summerish 2012, right about the time I had realized that Jesus was absolutely enough, and I was happily looking forward to at least four to five years of being single and mission-tripping and learning and not worrying my stupid head about love and all that scary, complicated stuff, it was the greatest summer of my life. The shallow things on my "husband list" were freshly scratched off. "Tall", "tanned", "has a very reliable, steady job" had been discarded and replaced by "LOVES JESUS."
The first time I really remember interacting with Peter, was at my brother's wedding in November of 2011. I was wearing a stripy pink shirt, my hair was still damp, I wasn't wearing a stitch of makeup, I was trying to write a note for Benjamin, and I was bawling. Ugly, ugly crying.
Peter was one of the two photographers at Benjamin's wedding, and right about the time I'm a weepy, hideous mess, he trots in stressfully with his camera and informs us "girls' pictures in 10 minutes!"
At this moment, the whole weight of my approximately 2 hours of sleep, violent head cold, residual stress of finishing my bridesmaid's dress at 4am the night before, and my confusing and extreme emotions of joy/grief/abandonment on the occasion of my brother getting married, were directed at this stressed-out, trying-to-keep-things-on-a-schedule young photographer guy. The rest of the day improved, and he scored as a photographer by making everyone laugh, all. the. time.
Peter and I were both born into the same church, to parents who were good friends. He's only a year and a half older than me, so we were both grubby, chubby, babies of the family at the same time. Even though we were in the same church for the majority of our lives, we basically never spoke, or hung out. I remember him being the [very fat] goody two-shoes kid who always got to be lead roles in the Christmas play, but other than that, I had no awareness, let alone interest, in him. When he got older, they moved further away and didn't attend our church as much, and then when he was about 18, he moved all the way to Florida to live with his brother's family.
About this time he was more on my radar, and I stalked his growing photography business in a purely platonic way. I absolutely loved his happy, colorful photos, and his quirky writing cracked me up, but when I thought "he's cool", it was absolutely never in a "and we should get married" way. For real. (however: I have always known that his eyes are the best eyes in the world. little did I know how good of an idea it would be for them to be the ones I get to look into for the rest of my life. seriously folks--we're talking huge, crazy-beautiful green eyes with world-record eyelashes).
The second time I remember interacting in any way, was at an event at my church, where Peter was taking pictures, and I was also taking pictures. I was walking past him with my friend Hadley (of course), and he asked me what camera I was shooting with. Startled, in awe that my photography god was speaking to me, not to mention being a basic dunce and having no real conception of what I was, in fact, shooting with (so many letters and numbers! it's hard!). I stumbled around a bit, showed him, and noted that his hands (and ears) were smallish. This made me feel better about myself. The interaction ended with me awkwardly leaving, no doubt, and Hadley, being that sort of friend, whispered "HE LIKES YOU." I retorted that that was the silliest thing I'd ever heard, considering that we'd literally never spoken, he was way cool, and he was a genius photographer.
The third time, he invited me, Benjamin and Rebekah, and Bethany to his house for the face study thing he was doing. We hung out in his rather sketch, very cold garage, and I wore a skirt with flowers on it and stood in really bright lights with his face/camera inches away from me. He made me laugh, enormously, and platonically, and he gave us frozen pie and milk. He made me laugh so hard I had to lunge to the sink to keep from spraying milk all over the room.
I emailed with him back and forth for logistics of him getting me the photos, me doing a blog post with a link to his blog post, etc.
And then during the first few days of June, I was wading through camera lenses on the internet, looking for the right one, and since he knew all + the emailing ice had been broken by the face study, I emailed him to ask if he had any advice on which lens to get. He very nicely helped me figure out which one to get, and then next email was probably the most exciting email I'd ever gotten--I got it on one of my hot chocolate, dance movie, and cat snuggling-saturated weekends at Hadley's house, and I was checking my email on her iPad. (also: email looks really magical on ipads). It said:
I must say I have been half wittingly stalking your blog. I know you like fashion and photography but what are you hoping to pursue in those? Or are you? Have you ever thought about doing a wedding?
All these questions,
Commence jumping up and down and immediate calling of my mom. "PETER MAHAR ASKED IF I WANTED TO SHOOT WEDDINGS WITH HIIIIIM. CAN I PLEASE CAN I PLEAAAASE."
She was excited for me, but mentioned that it might be kind of awkward for us to spend all that time together, etc, because, well, you know…
I believe the sound I made was "PFF! no way. never in a million years."
["never say neverrrr." - Justin Bieber]
I conveyed my rational/frenzied excitement to get some photography experience/get to watch him do his thang/stalk the person who I want to become, professionally.
I think the email interchange ended with: "I'm going to be at family camp, so we can talk about it more there maybe."
A couple weeks later was our annual church camp--which is invariably life-changing, glorious, dramatic. I went into it KNOWING crazy stuff was going to go down, because I always come out on the other side of that week with a completely different perspective.
Amidst the perfect sunset, beach fire, and dashing around like a crazy person with friends on the first night, he found me and we talked about iphones or cameras, the wedding we were going to photograph together, random nothings.
And for the rest of the week, I just wanted to hang out with him. All the time. (which is the story of my life now, by the way).
On Monday, I sat on the grass, like every year, instead of playing softball, with two friends who were friends with Peter, and had gone to on a Poland mission trip with him twice. We talked about traveling, Italy, mission trips, and then eventually, the church he went to, and ultimately, Jesus. He talked about the reasons he moved back to Oregon from Florida--he wasn't in good community other than his family, and he had realized the importance of community in the Christian walk. "I just really love Jesus, and I wanted to be in a place where I could follow him with the encouragement and of other believers." I didn't even know how true that is or how significant that moment is until later.
I loved this, and I loved talking about Jesus and church and everything, and it stood out to me that he said he just really loved Jesus, but it wasn't until later when I was wandering around our cabin, trying to figure out what was going on in my life/God's plan/my mind/his mind, that I remembered that I had decided that all I wanted in a guy was a guy who really loved Jesus. My soul was like "woah." Peter was nothing like the guy I imagined I'd be with.
Mostly because: he wasn't tall. I had sworn on multiple occasions I could never be with someone who wasn't taller than me. Statements like "you can choose who to fall in love with and marry, and I'll just immediately rule out anyone who isn't taller than me" were thrown about. And Peter was by no stretch of the word tall--in fact, he was about an inch shorter than me. I was shocked and appalled to find that this made no difference in how much I liked him/was attracted to him. This was the first day of about 365 that I prayed and begged God to show me what to do/what was going on with this whole deal. It all simultaneously seemed impossible and inevitable at the same time. On one hand, there was no way--and on the other, it seemed the most natural and beautiful thing in the world.
The rest of the week was a exciting, confusing, turmoil of talking at beach fires, late night discussions of the chapel times with our note-laden moleskins, mafia games in which he read me like a book, embarrassing putt-putt golf games (I tripped and completely wiped out--who does that??), and a continual confusion and horror at the fact that I liked him so much and just wanted to be with him all. the. time.
Eventually the fact that we were sort of hanging out more than usual (aka we'd never spoken and now we were, quite continually/often) was noted by my people. Resulting in pacing the beach with Benjamin as he off-hand and probingly opened with "so what's up with Peter?" Hadley wavered between interest, skepticism, and resentment, until she participated in one of the Jesus conversations and then put her stamp of approval on the whole situation.
There was a recurring and horrifying tension of hanging out with The Group, and hanging out with him. On one occasion we were all at the beach, whereupon Peter was showing me very fascinating camera settings, and Sam + were all wanting me to go back with them. All else failing, he seized my arm and said "photography lesson is over! you're coming with us."
And then I drove home with Benjamin & Rebekah for the usual what-dramatic-weird-new-stuff-happened-at-family-camp debriefing. We tried to figure out what I was thinking/feeling and what he was thinking/feeling. It ended with "he might like me (hallelujah, I think? so confused), he might not (dies inside a little bit) he might just want to be completely platonic friends, and I'm okay with that. I think." Part of me figured it was just a family camp thing, and nothing would come of it. I decided to try and stop worrying about it, and see what happened.
Incidentally, I got home, unpacked, turned on my computer, and there were not one, but TWO emails from him. Which began a hearty, way-deep, daily email correspondence. It started out as just communicating about get togethers/info on the weddings we were going to shoot, but it forthwith turned into huge, complex basically-books on Jesus, theology, books we were reading, and just about everything else. I was absolutely giddy to have someone this awesome to talk to about Jesus. We had both come to a certain point nearly at the same time--and becoming friends that summer was completely amazing and utterly providential. We both read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan at the same time, and discussed it for pages and pages.
The first wedding we shot together was on a damp, humid day in a tiny white church. The reception was at the Old Spaghetti Factory, complete with beautiful red velvet cake and a bokeh-licious chandelier. We were supposed to take a break to eat dinner, but the only area to do so was not for minors, and since we were both underage, the waiter brought us a tiny [romantic-dinner-sized] table and wedged it in the corner by the pile of gifts. So, in the middle of a workday, we accidentally had an amazing dinner together. As usual, it was a situation that should have been awkward (not only were we accidentally on a date basically, but we were eating 1) noodles, 2) garlic, and 3) salad. All things that I had always hoped to avoid eating until after I was married to the guy. Super embarrassing), but it wasn't.
The second wedding we did was for church friends, and when we were off duty, he asked me to dance. It was "One Thing" which I happened to love that summer (don't judge). And that's when I thought he really might like me. I was blushing up a storm and completely botching the dance, and extremely aware of the people who were watching (and taking pictures, in the case of one of Peter's friends...), but it was amazing.
The rest of the summer was just tremendous. Bethany and I drove all over in the stupid cramped red car and had book studies and game nights and movie nights, most of which incidentally involved Peter. There many, many deep discussions over fire pits, and many, many tacos eaten. We climbed Mt. St. Helens and talked about theology all the way back down the mountain.
Right as summer wound down, I realized I liked him way too much for this to be a platonic/going nowhere thing. I was worried he didn't actually like me (can we just talk about the torment girls go through?? sheesh. we're so dumb but IT IS REALLY HARD), and if this wasn't a for-real thing, I knew I needed to back off of the emailing/etc. My parents, fully involved in my mess of feelings, were getting a little ready for some 'declaration of intent' or what-have-you. My brother Benjamin and Peter's friendship had progressed by this time to the getting-lunch-together stage. These blessed events were followed by me closely questioning Ben about what had been discussed. Ben thought he liked me but hadn't asked him point blank, but was poised to if it became necessary. One time we were loitering in the bleachers at an empty football field after church and he told me that when wife-ish stuff had been touched on, Peter had said "it's really hard to find beautiful godly women." I promptly declared I had no chance, and Ben promptly declared I was stupid.
I was home alone one day and the phone rang. It was a guy, who sounded young, really professional, and to be honest, really hot. He wanted to talk to my mom, but when I spouted ritualistically "she's not here, but I can take a message or have her call you back", he declined and hung up. I briefly thought this was weird, but figured it was someone trying to sell something and went on with my life.
Not until later did I find out that it was Peter who had called, and he was going to talk to my mom about ME. Realizing it was me, he panicked and hung up. He didn't call again until a couple weeks later, because our family was involved with the busy-ness and turmoil of my glorious nephew getting born to my rascally brother & his beautiful wife.
And then my mom poked her head into my room at the end of August and said "Peter Mahar just called." Which led to everything else.
to be continued.
p.s. somehow this story became a monster--I do apologize.