How Greg met Julie

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August, 2014, soon after moving to Indy.  Tim Todd, who snapped this shot, came down and we all went to an Indianapolis Indians game.

Over the past two years of my struggle, I have referred to Julie as my little Christ. If not for her, my earthly life would have been crushed. I long for you to know how we came together. Hollywood could never write this.

In the summer of 2000, I was in my first parish, in Guttenberg and McGregor, Iowa, both towns on the Mississippi. I had an article printed in a church magazine on the topic of husbands.

Julie, who lived on the opposite side of the state, subscribed to the magazine. She wrote me a letter, seeking insight into the doctrine of marriage. We exchanged three letters each. In my final letter, I told her about an email magazine in which I posted sermons and other items of interest. She subscribed. That was that.

In May, 2001, I wrote briefly about my divorce and how we need to look back and see all of the hurdles the Lord helped us to jump so that we are able to see that we will jump this terribly imposing one. Julie emailed, saying how badly she felt for me, commenting that she felt that she knew me through our letters and the ezine. We began to write emails, about one a week.

By early July, Julie admitted that she, too was going through a divorce. We used email to lift up each other.

By August, we found ourselves writing in a more personal way. We were like a couple of middle-schoolers, passing notes through friends. Neither of us wanted to go too far in what we wrote. We both were divorcing. We lived nearly one thousand miles apart. We had never met in person, or spoken on the phone, or seen each other’s picture. Yet, we were dropping hints that our fondness was growing very quickly and deeply.

At the same time, I made a big decision. On the way grocery shopping, I told my boys, “I’ve decided that I won’t date, I won’t even look at women, until you both graduate. My job is to take care of you,” thinking they needed to hear that they had my undivided attention the next six years.

I said that. I meant that. Yet, I found myself thinking about Julie a lot, like a kid pining for the cute girl who sat across the room in fifth period history class.

Things progressed. Fast. Only a week after talking to the boys, I was sensing that Julie was also falling for me. I decided to take the plunge. On August 21, I wrote her a long email telling her that I was finding myself very attracted to her, that I hoped I wasn’t stepping out of bounds for saying so, and that if she lived in Port Hope I would ask her out. I sent the email in the morning and sweated out the day, awaiting her reply.

And the night.

And the next morning.

Finally, late that morning, I got her reply. A long one. A wonderful one. Her subject line was, “Wow.” Her opening words were, “Um, wow.”

She said that she was feeling all the same things.

I asked her if I could call her, but she didn’t want to talk with me until she had my picture. We put photos in the mail. We were emailing like crazy, talking about everything, including marriage. We both admitted that we didn’t want to date for dating’s sake (besides, how does one date a person who lives fifteen hours away?), but only wanted to pursue a relationship that would be permanent. We were in love before we ever spoke on the phone or saw each other’s picture. We knew we would be married simply by our written words.

The fifth day after we opened up to each other, I couldn’t stand it any more. I begged her to call me. I said the magic word: please. I didn’t know she already had planned to call me that evening. I knew she had told her parents about me. I found their phone number. I called their house.

I suppose it didn’t hurt my cause that I was a Lutheran minister and they were lifelong Lutherans. Score one for the future son-in-law with his mother-in-law-to-be.

When Julie’s mom answered the phone, I said, “If I told you this is Greg Eilers, from Port Hope, Michigan, would you know who I was talking about?” She laughed. We talked for twenty minutes when Julie pulled up. She was grungy from work and hungry, so she quickly got herself together and called me back fifteen minutes later.

We talked for three hours. There was no Skype, yet. In the coming weeks, I nearly went broke.

That we talked so long comes as no surprise. How our first-ever conversation began might.

Since it was nine at night, the odds of my office phone ringing were slim. When it rang, I answered: “Julie?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have the rest of your life ahead of you?”

“I do.”

“Will you spend it with me?”

“I will.”

The first words I ever spoke to Julie were to ask her to marry me.

Two days later, we received the other’s pictures. I was more dazzled than ever. She didn’t run away in horror.

The only thing left was finally to be in each other’s company. It was late September before she could travel to Port Hope. The moment we saw each other, everything came together. I met her in our driveway. We kissed. We hardly said a word. Before we could, I whisked her next door to the church.

I took her to the altar. I had placed a ring there. I grabbed the ring and repeated our first words.

“Do you have the rest of your life ahead of you?”

“I do.”

“Will you spend it with me?”

“I will.”

I placed the ring on her finger and we stood there—at the spot that I would marry nearly four dozen couples over thirteen years, where we would be married only three months later—and we kissed like a couple of teenagers.

Thankfully, my kids fell in love with Julie, saving me a meal of crow.

The first of December, I brought her to Michigan. Three days later, I announced to the congregation that we were engaged and would not waste any time. We got married on December 30, 2001. The congregation filled the church and supported us marvelously from day one.

In 2001, the Lord’s gift of Julie got me through my divorce and gave me the ability to hold on as a minister. Since 2013, she has been my rock, my Jesus in the flesh.

To this day, when I think of Julie, when I look at her, when I appreciate her, I think, “Wow. Um, wow.”

julie and gina
February, 2016. Julie and I posed, with daughter Jackie behind the camera. The pic was used in my Indianapolis Monthly article and as my profile picture.
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9 thoughts on “How Greg met Julie

  1. I see you, Brad. I read your email. Thank you for that. I’ll reply to it. Right now, I am writing tomorrow’s post, but I just wanted you to know that I see you and I appreciate your reading these things which are so important to me.

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  2. i cant express how this story gives me hope. not so much of the hope of marriage in the future, bone one of the opportunity to be seen in such a beautiful way. supported and loved. maybe the knowing that one day there might be someone i can call “my person”. you and julie are a light over here. i am thankful and grateful to habe you both and the stoey you share. xo

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    1. Bless your heart, Kelly. You prompt two thoughts. The first, sadly, is a worn out one, but remains true: Love finds us when we both least expect it and are not looking. Both of those were the case for Julie and me. The second, when a good person comes into your life, to whom you have the opportunity to shine your lovely light of a personality, it will happen for you.

      If you want it. I am thinking of two widows from my former congregation. One had a chance to have a boyfriend and she was adamant that she was done with men, and she remained single. The other had been widowed twice and was now in her late 70s. (She’s the one Julie lived with when she moved to Port Hope for the month before we got married.) She insisted that she was done with men. She went on a bus tour – I think to Branson – met a man, fell head over heals, and they were married within a few months. She’s in her nineties now. The last time I saw that couple, they were still crazy about each other.

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  3. to be clear, i am in no way looking. it is that feelinh of being where you are meant to be. the comfort of knowing your person is there when you stumble. and that feeling you have when you look up amd they ae there, seeing you. i miss that part. i see hat in you and julie. it is comforting.

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