A Story of Two Valentines

Meg LarsenFebruary 14, 2021

How We Met: My Story

“So, what’s your story?” These were the first words I said to Brad, right before I was about to share my own story–my testimony, in fact–as part of a series of faculty-led breakout sessions during Spiritual Emphasis Week at the high school where we were teaching.  We had seen one another before, but Brad had just started working at the school, so we hadn’t officially met yet. I’m sure if you would have asked him, this wouldn’t have been his ideal introduction. 

I didn’t get to hear much of Brad’s story that day, but he got to hear mine–which basically consisted of how horribly awry my life had gone in the years following a bad relationship I had in college. It was real and it was raw; over the course of an hour, I shared my deepest failures and traumas before him and a group of thirty high schoolers.  I couldn’t help wonder what he was thinking of me as he listened. I had planned to ask, but when it was over, I looked up to where he had been standing at the back of the room and he had already left. “Well, so much for that,” I thought to myself.

How We Met: His Story

My first week of teaching at the school where I met Meg began halfway through the first quarter, and things were rather chaotic. They introduced me at the Monday morning faculty meeting and I waved sheepishly to the thirty or so strangers who turned to look. I barely had time to prepare for my classes, let alone figure out who these people were.

The next week was “Spiritual Emphasis Week”, and some of the teachers were leading breakout sessions to share their testimony or tell students about how God was working in their lives. The rest of us were asked to sign up with different sessions to help keep the rooms from overflowing and to sit in and listen to our peers talk. I had no idea whose class I was signing up for as I put my name down on a few sheets, but I had two goals in mind while picking: Learn something of value from another teacher and be lucky enough to pick one of the cute, single, female teachers I had seen in the faculty meeting.

When I wasn’t sure whose session I had signed up for, I had to write an email to our Spiritual Life Director:

Hi,

The note I made for myself says “Tuesday: Testimony Narrative as Gospel and Life”, didn’t write down the teacher or room though.

-Brad Larsen

The reply came quickly, “Thanks Brad!  That’s going to be Marguerite Antonioli in Room 18 (across from the Library).” I looked her up in the faculty directory on the school website. Success! I made my way to her room after chapel, hoping I would make a good first impression.

We met in her doorway and waited for students to arrive. “What’s your story?” She asked. It was too broad a question, how was I supposed to answer? I can’t even remember what I said, and hardly any time passed before she had to move to the front of the classroom for her presentation.

I stood in the back while she laid out the details of her testimony. There were a wide range of experiences and emotions. Some parts were funny, others were scary, and a few moments were heartbreaking. Here was a person who had seen some of life’s peaks and valleys, certainly more wide-ranging experience than I’ve had, and it was intimidating.

The bell rang, and a student or two lingered behind to talk with her. I had no idea what I would say if I stayed, so I left to teach my next class. There was a huge imbalance of information between us, and infrequent opportunities to cross paths and foster a relationship. I decided to focus on teaching, and trust that God would bring us together if he had a plan for us.

How We Got To Know One Another: My Story

Over the next several months I saw Brad fairly regularly at school functions but we never spoke much about that day, or about much of anything really. We chatted, but not about anything substantive.  It wasn’t until the Spring semester when my course-load changed that we really started to get to know one another.  Because his prep period overlapped with the study hall I oversaw, we ended up spending almost every day in the Library together: grading papers, lesson-planning, commiserating, and laughing with the few students who joined us. 

Around the same time, I left my former church and started attending Redemption Gilbert.  Brad happened to go to the same church, so we started running into one another on Sundays as well. The more time we spent together, the more I began to develop an appreciation for Brad and our friendship, but that’s still all I thought it was. Then one morning while I was getting ready for work, I caught myself thinking about him and smiling at something he had said the day before. That’s when I started to wonder, “Oh no, do I like him?!…No way,” then, “…Uh oh.”

How We Got To Know One Another: His Story

We didn’t see much of each other for the rest of the semester, mostly because we taught in different departments on opposite ends of the school. However, we both had to attend new teacher meetings, so we at least became familiar enough for me to awkwardly wave and say hello. We sat together at a school event called Legacy Auction, where I honestly answered questions about my adventuring preferences in what can only be described as self-sabotage. “Do you like the out-of-doors,” I asked. 

“Yeah! I like camping and hiking and running and cycling whenever I can. Do you?” 

“…I like the in-doors?” I replied. She was not impressed.

Our big break came with the beginning of second semester. She took over teaching Senior English and AP Composition from another teacher, which meant she inherited a study hall during my prep period. Suddenly we were in the student center together four days a week for an hour at a time. On the first day, she came over to the teacher cubicle where I was grading to say hi to me. I found this confusing. I don’t think a female peer, prior or since, has approached me of their own volition solely for social interaction.

I began sitting at a table with her and a couple students to do my grading and lesson prep. I mostly listened, and tried to say something witty when the moment allowed. One day, students were talking about “teacher relationships” and suggested we might consider each other. Meg replied, “Oh no, Dr. Larsen would kill me.” She thought we were incompatible. I took it as a personal challenge.

How We Started Dating: My Story

We eventually decided to get lunch after church one day and it was then that my feelings were solidified. We talked for hours and I finally got to hear his story. With everything he said, I felt more assured, “Yes, I could love this man.” 

We had our first “date” a week later.  I put “date” in quotation marks because it was unclear to me at the time whether it was, in fact, a date at all. After our lunch together, I knew I liked him, so after school the following Friday, I had not-so-subtly told him I was planning on going to the movies that weekend and he was welcome to join me if he would like.  He kind of just gave me a polite smile and a wave before saying, “Okay, byeeee!”.  I went home convinced he was not interested and it was all in my head. Later that night though, I got an email. “Would love to see a movie tomorrow, here’s my number. –Brad.”

When we went to the movies, it was still unclear to me whether it was a date, because he made me get my own box for the popcorn we had agreed to split (just about the most un-datelike thing you can do, right?). We saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and it was awful. I was convinced if this man had any feelings for me before the film, they left along with the fiftieth f-bomb and politically incorrect one-liner. I was just writing it all off when God interrupted my thoughts saying, “Just wait, okay? Just wait. Give him a chance,” and I was like, “Okay God, if you say so.” Instead of heading back to our cars and leaving after the film, we ended up walking around the mall for a couple of hours and then got dinner. When he offered to pay, I thought, “Okay, so maybe it is a date after all. Whatever it was, it sure was great.”

About a week later, the day before Valentine’s Day, I had to call him to have an awkward “I like you, do you like me too?” conversation–which is normal, but in this day and age, not usually after only a couple of dates. However, when you work around a hundred nosy, hormonal teenagers who are way too interested in the love lives of their single teachers, questions start to get asked, and we needed to have an answer before they came up with one on their own. 

Little did I know he’d already later enlisted one of our students to covertly find out what my favorite chocolate was so he could surprise me on Valentine’s Day. He also gave me his own copy of War and Peace (which, yes, he had actually read).  Later that week, we went out for quesadillas at Rubios when out of nowhere, he said, “So, should we go talk to Human Resources at some point?” 

“Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?” I replied.

“Yeah, I guess I am.”  was his response. So then it was official.

How We Started Dating: His Story

The next week passed without incident. Friday after school she stopped by my room to ask what I was doing for the weekend. She was planning to see the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” on Saturday, because it was up for an Oscar. I thought it sounded terrible and I had no interest in going. She said, “Well, let me know if you’re interested.” I nodded my head as she walked out, silent because I knew I wasn’t interested in the movie. A minute later my brain kicked back into gear; the conversation wasn’t about interest in the movie.

Later that night I contacted her via work email, our only means of communication. We agreed to see a movie together. The movie was terrible. It wasn’t a good date, but I wasn’t really treating it like one. It would be a nightmare to get the “we’re just friends” talk from a coworker, so I was trying to keep it casual. We decided to walk around the mall for a bit, we grabbed something small for dinner, and slowly the evening transformed into a date, and not a bad one.

Wednesday was Valentine’s day. I recruited a student, Kayla Staser, to find out Marguerite’s favorite type of chocolate for me. I picked up a couple pieces from See’s, in a cellophane bag tied with gold-trimmed, red ribbon. Tuesday night she called me under the pretense of asking a question about work. I asked if there was anything else she wanted to talk about. The elephant in the room was that our students had been relentlessly teasing us for the better part of a week, trying to get us to start dating. She said she liked me. I said I liked her. I made a card to go with the chocolate.

Later that week, sharing a quesadilla at Rubio’s, I asked her if she would be my girlfriend. She said yes.

Conclusion

We originally wrote out this story for our wedding website and at the time, Brad teased me for how long my sections ended up being (there’s another half that explains our engagement story). I may be a bit long-winded, but looking back, I’m so glad that we wrote it all down. It still makes me smile to read these memories and think back to where we started.

Our love story is without a doubt, a “Godwink.”  By all stretches of the imagination, we never should have ended up together.  Neither Brad nor I had planned on ending up at that school. It took three other teachers’ transferring/quitting and over thirty unanswered engineering job applications for us to end up teaching in the same place at the same time.  I changed churches at just the right moment. Of all the teachers at our school, it was Brad who ended up as the door-counter that day when I shared my testimony and him who ended up in the library during my study hall hour.  It is in these unexplainable coincidences that I see how God has shaped our love story.

Through all of the hardships that the past year has brought us, there is no person who I’d rather be facing them with than Brad, and I’m so thankful that God brought him into my life. Happy Valentine’s Day love!

Comments (1)

  • Lorri Vance

    February 14, 2021 at 9:15 am

    I never get tired of hearing about this miraculous Godwink love story. You two are so right for each other and apparently God agreed. I love hearing you both laugh at the same jokes even in difficult situations!
    Now you have a beautiful family and I can’t wait to see where life takes you. God bless you and smile on you! ❤❤❤

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