April 17th, 2016 I sat in the lobby of my home church in a suburb of Kansas City Missouri. I, along side my new fiancé of two weeks together with my parents, waited for a meeting we had set with our head pastor. We attended a large church. Weekly attendance is upwards of 4,000 people. Facilities are state of the art. The pastor is a middle aged, tall and very physically impressive man named Phil. Even shepherding a flock of over 4,000, he still manages to hug everyone (who isn’t freaked out by it) and calls them by name. My family and I had moved homes and churches the summer before my junior year of high school which had landed us in that church. We loved the church. It was “hip” and the people were nice. As a punk high school kid, the music was loud and that’s all that mattered. I hadn’t truly appreciated the knowledge and leadership of this said pastor until my junior year of college. But once my eyes were opened to just exactly how much I could learn from this guy, Phil, I was obsessed. His knowledge of theology, history and religions of the world is astounding.
Phil wasn’t late for the meeting but we were early and surprisingly calm for the adventure we were about to take off on. My fiancé, Nasko, and I had come straight from the soccer field where Nasko had been working all morning. We were wearing athletic clothes because of the busy and rushed nature of our day. That was the usual. Nasko was a program director in a local youth soccer club at that time. We spent most of our weekends going to, coming from, or at one soccer field or another. We had only been engaged for two weeks exactly on that April day (The engagement story is a beautiful one, one I will tell you some day.) but today was an even more special day. Today was the day we got married.
My parents were supportive and proud of the steps we had made as individuals and as a couple. His parents lived seven hours away and actually didn’t even know this was happening at the time. I remember thinking how can you not tell your family! But he knew his family and it seemed normal to him. Phil pulled into the parking lot and walked into the lobby. A round of hugs was quickly followed by a, “okay, lets do this!” The paperwork was pulled out and looked over by Phil as the rest of us waited somewhat awkwardly. Before long, like any good marriage day, a hiccup occurred. Pastor Phil pointed out that our marriage license couldn’t legally be signed in our current location. You see, Kansas City straddles the border of two states, Kansas and Missouri. Nasko and I lived on the Kansas side and that’s where we had picked up our marriage license. However, since we now stood on the Missouri side, the license would be considered void by location.
You might be wondering, did I consider asking a pastor to lie and just write a different location than we actually were… yes. I considered it. But instead of actually asking that of him, we asked him what he would suggested. Quickly he jumped in and said, “There is an easy fix. It’s a 20 minute drive to the state line. I have another scheduled appointment coming up but what about all of us meeting just across the border at, say, 7pm tonight?” With a laugh, we thought briefly about our schedules of the day and agreed. It was set, we would be legally married that night.
Now, I will say. We aren’t cold hearted. We want a big party style wedding. We want all of our family and friends to be there. But because of some extenuating circumstances, we were pressed for time and I needed my name to change ASAP.
Before we knew it, around rolled 7pm. Because of the delay caused by our location hiccup we were able to clean up a little bit and look more presentable than we had earlier in the day. We still wore nothing special. We dressed in our Sunday clothes, which for American undenominational mid-westerners consisted of jeans and a “cute” top. That day, “cute” top meant a Kansas City Royals baseball 3/4 length tee-shirt for me. As athletes and coaches, we didn’t spend much time in outfits nicer than what we had on. We were calm for the most part. A little anxious but for Nasko and I, this was a legal step, nothing more. The severity of this commitment didn’t really hit us until later.
Why a pastor? Our faith is very important to both Nasko and I. We are both very active in our Christian faith. In additional, we are traditional or a little bit old-fashioned, if you will. Don’t get me wrong, with it being only the legal step we had thought about going to the court house but that was a short lived thought while something about it felt strange. We had then asked Phil to do it and he had willingly agreed.
The first thing across the border from Missouri to Kansas was a barbeque joint called Gates BBQ. Wow, how romantic – huh? There we pulled off the highway in the parking lot of a BBQ joint on a Sunday evening. While we were in Jeans, my mom who took a 30 minute break from work was in her nurses scrubs, my sister who volunteered to take a photo was in gym clothes, and that left my dad who had put on a polo with a collar for the special day. Phil pulled in shortly thereafter and repeated his statement from earlier – this time with a humorous look on his face, “Okay, let’s ACTUALLY do this now!”
We practically had pen in hand ready to sign the paperwork and let everyone go home. The day had already been more of a hassle than we had wanted. But Pastor Phil quickly took charge – telling us to take each others hands, took a very serious look at us and paused. In that moment, it hit me – oh my gosh he’s going to freaking marry us for real right now! And that’s exactly what he did. Phil performed a beautiful ceremony all the way down to the rings, vows and kiss. We felt stupid. We didn’t even have the rings. We were in converse for goodness sake. But as the sun set, the smell of BBQ in the air, the prayer of blessing from a spiritual leader, and looking into the eyes of my future it felt… accidentally perfect. After a short interruption of someone needing to back out of the parking spot we were blocking, the service was over. Simple, stressless, and natural – it was us.
Phil hugged us good bye with a short comment about this being the coolest wedding he’s ever done. We shared a good laugh and I pondered whether or not to tell him – uh we weren’t planning on a wedding today, just the legal paperwork! I didn’t. At that point, we did what was only natural, BBQ for dinner.
About an hour later, Nasko and I were in the car and headed home. It didn’t take long for both of us to turn to each other and practically scream, “Okay, I was NOT planning on that being such a big deal! Did you?” We agreed and I felt a little better knowing we were both underprepared for our wedding day.
Nasko then dropped me at my apartment, kissed his wife goodnight and drove home to his place.
Wow what a day.
And that’s the story of how I went from Brewster to Karagyaurov.