Our Story || Dating, Marriage, + Moving Overseas In A Year And A Half

written by jonathan & samantha

it all started in bass pro shop...

 
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I'm going to try and not get super mushy about this, because when i think about our relationship i can't help but get emotional and sentimental and overly joyed that i get to be with my best friend.

but for the sake of you people, i will refrain (... just a little bit...)

We had been hanging out with the same group of friends for about five months in 2015 after officially being introduced at a church college event. We all did everything together, seeing concerts, going to have coffee late at night, eating cheap food after church on Wednesdays, and just hanging out at each other's houses. After going to an after Christmas party for our church's college class held at Johnny's house on December 30th, we all spontaneously decided to go to TopGolf the next morning.

Because TopGolf is suuuuuuper busy in Tampa, (plus it was New Year's Eve), we had to wait for two hours before we could get a bay, so we all decided to go to Bass Pro Shop down the road and hang out there until we got called. That's when Johnny found a ridiculously huge bag and told me to get in it so he could carry me around and thus our first picture together was taken (*cue the awwwwww's*).

We eventually got called, played golf, went back to Lakeland, got coffee, and went our separate ways to celebrate New Years with our families. Johnny and I's thing while we were just friends was quoting The Office together, so he started sending me Snapchats of different quotes from the show, but then he sent me one in particular that changed the rest of my life.

Referencing a scene from the office that he sent me, he captioned it, "So... if by next year I haven't had a date and you haven't had a date...?" I, being super oblivious, just replied "Haha!", and he sent me back "So, what do you say?".

He sent me that at 10:45pm on New Years Eve.

I was so scared to ruin the amazing friendship we already had that I told him no and that I just wanted to remain friends. He was 100% content with that and continued to invite me to things, even things that he was doing on his own (like walking around the lake in the evenings). We began hanging out a lot more but I still convinced myself that I didn't like him like that, until the Mission's Celebration in February of 2016. I remember so clearly making the decision not to go, but Johnny had gone on the missions trip to Budapest, Hungary the November before and made a video that was going to be played in the service. He had worked so hard on it and because God led him to edit it so differently than any video he'd ever done before he was extremely nervous, so I went. It was so special to see missions through his eyes in that video, and I remember thinking to myself "Oh man. I really do like this guy." It was as if God was whispering in my ear "This is him...".

After the Mission's Celebration, Johnny, one other friend who we had been talking about the Lord with, and I went to Starbucks and stayed until 11:30pm. I remember hearing him explain God and salvation and grace to our friend. Have you ever heard someone talk about God and through their words you fall deeper in love with Him? That was how it was with Johnny. I fell deeper in love with Jesus and I swear I fell in love with him that night. It was a night like no other.

We kept hanging out, we began to seek each other out in crowded rooms, and we became best friends. He ended up asking me out in March again to go and see 10 Cloverfield Lane with him (I got scared and he held my hand for the first time{!!!!}). Then on March 23rd, 2016 he wanted to take me to a Rita's Italian Ice, but because it was unexpectedly permanently closed we went to a Taco Bell close by where he asked me to be his girlfriend in the parking lot. The night was gorgeous, we had baja blast freeze's and I was with my best friend. That made for one of the most perfect nights.

We had amazing memories together during our 2 1/2 months of dating. We celebrated both of our birthdays since they are two weeks apart, we had lots of dates, and we both hung out with our families together many times.

On June 13th, 2016 I thought we were going on just a normal date. He had planned to take me to City Walk in Orlando for dinner. Kent, one of his best friends, just happened to be there with his family on the same night, so before our reservations we went to meet up with him. Somehow Johnny and Kent worked it out to where we met near the center of City Walk (where the big Universal globe is) to take a picture together like we always did. But little did I know, Kent was recording video, not taking a photo! As we posed for the "photo" I was completely unaware that both of our families were lining up behind us with signs that said "Samantha Jean Smith, that has a nice ring to it". For some reason, I turned around prematurely and saw them all there with their signs, looked back at Johnny, and then he asked me to read the signs out loud. When I read "Smith", though, the sign flipped to reveal "Bryant" on the other side! I turned back to Johnny, he got down on one knee, said the most beautiful little speech that only we could hear, and then asked me to marry him. I obviously said yes. ;)

 
 

We aren't the type of people to just wait around and take our time. About a week before we became "official", we had talked about dating each other and we both said that if we were to do this, we would do it for real, with intentions to marry. We would leave out the very common idea (nowadays) that dating is just to have something to do on a Friday night. Our relationship was and is so evidently God-orchestrated, so when he proposed after 2.5 months of being together, it didn't seem weird too fast or rushed to either of us. It felt right. 

We decided to get married on September 23rd, 2016. My dad would be in town from working in the Middle East and it would also be our six month mark of being together. We were engaged for 3.5 months, a month longer than we had dated! Being engaged was all sorts of wonderful with him. We had the most amazing friends and family help us with the wedding, using all of their gifts and talents to help us create the most amazing day. We were so blessed that we pretty much only had to pay for the venue (heavily discounted), clothes, and food! We couldn't have had the day we had without the help of others and we are forever grateful for what they did! 

So here we are now. We had an amazing honeymoon in Jamaica, we've been married for over nine months, and we are getting ready to take one of the biggest leaps of faith we've ever taken together. If you were to tell me on our wedding day that we would be spending out first anniversary as a married couple living in Europe as missionaries, I might have looked at you like you were crazy. But man oh man, I wouldn't have it any other way. And I get to do all of that with my best friend!

THank you to evan dell of ardency & arrow co. for taking our engagement and wedding photos!