The Truth of the Matter

“To err is human…” The beginning of a great quote from Alexander Pope. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with the story of how Josh and I went from being good friends to being husband and wife. No mistakes or regrets here!

Josh has already laid out his version of our history. There are several events that he remembers, but I do not. There are several half-truths and embellishments for which he took creative liberties while writing his version. There are also circumstances that in retrospect, probably would have been deemed as “not your typical friend behavior,” but I was clueless at the time. I will do my best to entertain and inform you of our very interesting, unique story.

In August, 2005, I was entering into my sophomore year of college at UL. I was a young’un. Having a December birthday, I wouldn’t be 19 until after the Fall Semester was over. I had well established friendships, mostly with students who were also involved in Chi Alpha. A lot of those students I had already known for years because my older siblings all either graduated from or were currently attending UL and were a part of Chi Alpha there. Actually, my 2nd to oldest brother, Zeke, had finished the internship with Chi Alpha and was on staff that year.

My first conscience memory of Josh was at an event known as Burger Bash. It was a huge event with free food and lots of activities. It took place at the beginning of each Fall Semester and was a way to reconnect with students who were gone for the summer and to meet new students who were just starting.

My parents were volunteering to help that year (it came with the territory of having 3 kids involved in Chi Alpha at that time and having a son on staff there), which meant my little sister, Sally, was tagging along. I was standing in the Café when this goofy looking new guy walked up to me with a Dorito on his shoulder. He said, “I have a chip on my shoulder,” and then just walked away. Having a dad who has a very punny sense of humor and being known to tell bad jokes myself, I cracked up laughing. I quickly noticed Sally nearby and told her about the joke. I can’t remember if she laughed or not, but she probably didn’t. Teenagers…hmph.

I also know that we met early on that semester at the volleyball courts of Bourgeois Hall. Volleyball was a big part of my college life. The 3 ½ years when I lived close to campus were spent playing at least once per week. At one of our first games in August, I remember seeing this goofy guy, running around (and usually falling…I mean diving…for the ball) while wearing hiking boots. It didn’t look too promising for us to end up as best of friends, but I tried to be an inclusive person who let anyone join our volleyball games.

I’m not sure of the chronological order of our encounters through that semester, but I know that they included a few keys events which led to us becoming really good friends in the following Spring.

We met weekly on Mondays nights to watch really bad, B-rated films and called it MX3 for Monday Movie Madness. I got to know Josh, Luke Mula, Nikki Blanks (another intern that year with Josh), and others really well through those movie nights. We would critique the movies after watching and discuss important lines that were pivotal to the story line (at least for those few that actually had a story line).

I was a volunteer barista at Café Chi Alpha. It was a great way to meet new people, talk to friends, and learn skills in the art of coffee making. We also served tea for some reason. Mainly it was hot tea, but some bothersome customers, like Josh Manning, wanted iced tea. It was a different process to make iced tea because it involved making the selected tea, allowing it to steep for a few minutes, then cool off a bit before pouring it over a cup of ice. I remember that Josh and Nikki would return to the café after hosting a contact table on campus in an effort to meet and invite new students. Louisiana is hot about 10 out of 12 months, so Josh was always ready for something cool to drink. I would make the iced tea, hand it off to him, and watch him struggle to stir sugar into a cold beverage. After a couple times of that happening, I decided it would be better for me to offer to add his sugar while the tea was still hot. I know, I know, I’m a genius!

The next encounter I remember was during an international student event, for which my brother Zeke was giving lessons for Cajun dancing. I was meeting up with friends at the café before heading to watch one of the awesome, free performances going on at the theater on campus. Right before we walked out of the door, I noticed that Josh was alone with no dance partner. I took pity upon him, threw my hands up with a sigh, and decided to go dance with him. It was only one dance and was very awkward, but I felt like it was the right thing to do so that he would not be left out.

The first 3 ½ years that I was at UL were spent sharing an apartment with my brother and sister. Since we mostly were in the same social circle, it was common to have friends over. A lot of times a few of our closest friends would head over after one of our volleyball games and I would cook for them. That’s when my poor, college student lifestyle made me wrack my brain and figure out how to cook for about $.50 per person. Somehow, it always worked out. Those meals also probably caused some of the first “light bulbs” that went off in Josh’s head/heart because I got mad skills in the kitchen! Quesadillas were a staple, and were affectionately renamed as “Mollydillas” by my friends and I also could make some good, fudgy brownies.

To my knowledge, the rest of that semester continued on with no extraordinary circumstances. But then, over Christmas Break, I turned 19. I was mature now. I could act enough like an adult and do what I wanted to do, sucka!

I started to grow close to Josh and Nikki as the Spring Semester progressed. We were like the 3 amigos. Our friendship strengthened as more events happened that caused us to spend time together, especially towards the end of the semester. I realized that Josh was a very thoughtful, funny guy and Nikki was just plain awesome. I also grew closer to other friends at that time, including Shelly Duet, who was my best friend in college, and Lance Dunn, who was almost a part of the family. These two people would play very important roles in my relationship with Josh.

One of the silly things which Lance, Josh, and I would do was to count “clicks.” A click was anytime someone would holla atcha, or otherwise make a comment or a move on you. Being that my apartment was just past a set of boys’ dorms, and being that I am, well, me, I usually won that contest. Lance was a close second, though. It got to be so bad that I even started a blog to document my experiences and offer advice to other girls on how to handle those situations. Good times, good times.

Every year there was a long weekend event called Fall Breakaway in which all the Chi Alphas in Louisiana would get together at the campground in Woodworth for a student conference. Since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Fall Breakaway turned into a spring conference. I was able to meet some of Josh’s old friends from Nicholls XA there. I’m not sure what their first impression of me was, but I got to know several of them over the next few years and they were good people. During one of the speaking parts, the pastor said that you have to be clear with your intentions for relationships. I thought that was good advice, and afterwards, I thought I should set boundaries with Josh. I walked up to him and said, “I just wanted you to know that my intentions are…you don’t stand a chance.” At that time, it was a true, albeit cruel in retrospect, statement because I had no intentions with anyone any time soon. Little did I know that I would have my own “lightbulb” moment not too long after that.

Josh’s account of our trip to Lake Fausse Point, watching an Easter production at First Assembly in New Iberia, and him meeting my parents was pretty spot on. I still remember laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe when my mom asked if Josh was slow or had something wrong with him. I had no idea that he may have just been nervous about meeting them, even in such a casual, unassuming encounter.

The semester moved along, almost coming to a close. At one of our final volleyball games, I remember seeing Josh just sitting along the wall. It was a little out of his character so I decided to sit next to him and see what was up. He told me that he would not be pursuing campus ministry. If ever God opened a girl’s eyes and heart to see what goodness was in front of her, it was at that time. It was almost literally like a switch turned on a light bulb and I could see. I clearly remember thinking “Wow, I think I like him and it’s okay to like him because he isn’t going to be a pastor.” That may be an odd statement to some of you, but I knew that I could never be a pastor’s wife, much less have people want me as a pastor’s wife. I am capable of showing sympathy and having open ears for people to talk to, but I would not be able to put up with the drama or repeated mistakes that people tend to make and then still expect to be dug out of the consequences every time. Small rant over!

Fast forward just a few days…

I was registered to go to an international student conference in Washington DC and was excited to experience a new area of our country to which I had never been. It was a great trip and allowed me to get to know Josh and Nikki even more. The weather up there was very nice and a good break from the humidity of south Louisiana. Less humidity = good hair. I was never much of one to fuss over having a hairstyle or certain look. I don’t even use a hair dryer. But something about that Appalachian air gave me kickin’ hair and allowed me to wear it down. When getting together for a morning service, Josh approached me and said, “Your hair looks really nice wavy like that.” I never felt so nervous in my life! Later, I asked Nikki if she picked up on any weird behavior that Josh might have towards me because I still didn’t want to be in a relationship and was worried I might be giving off too friendly of a vibe. Being as awesome and open as she is, Nikki told me that I was being ridiculous and that Josh was just trying to be nice. PHEW!

The trip continued, we returned to Lafayette, the school year was over. The end. Just kidding! It would be hard to explain 13 years of marriage and 4 kids if that was the end.

Now I will explain how Shelly Duet became so important to our relationship. It just so happened that she lived in Gray, LA, not too far from where Josh lived. I had never heard of Gray prior to knowing Shelly and had never travelled anywhere near Lafourche or Terrebonne Parish prior to knowing Josh. Shelly and I had become such good friends at UL that I visited her at home and spent the night there occasionally. I got to know her parents, Earl and Gail. To this day, when I run into Mrs. Gail around town, she reminds me that I told her I was spending time “down the bayou” trying to find a Cajun man. That part didn’t come true, as Josh has little true Cajun blood in his family, but at least my Cajun genes would suffice to give us good food and a proud heritage.

I made a trip to visit Shelly in early June 2006. We were both a couple of goofballs and always had fun together. On this trip, she introduced me to Zack’s frozen yogurt. It was amazing! While there, we got in touch with Josh and other friends and decided to hang out at Josh’s PeePaw’s house, where he was staying temporarily. I don’t remember much about that visit, but it must have made an impact on me as I felt for sure that Josh liked me at this point. My visit with Shelly continued another day or two and then I headed back to campus.

The summer semester was just beginning. Even though I never attended summer school, I stayed at our apartment and still went to the weekly service at ULXA. It was not long after my visit to Terrebonne Parish that I felt a strong sense to contact Josh after the evening service. I was very nervous at this time because I didn’t want to assume that he liked me and that I just imagined his extra attention and interest the past couple of weeks since the end of the semester. He wasn’t able to talk right away, which made me even more nervous! It was already late after the service and I was ready to go to bed although it would have been hard for me to sleep with the wondering “what ifs” going through my head. Finally, he called. This was new territory for both of us. We chatted awkwardly for a few minutes before I finally just had to be the one to ask if he thought there would ever be more for us than being friends. What a relief to find that he also had been having feelings for me, but naturally he had felt them LONG before I had any interest! I am unclear of any other details of that conversation, probably due to the relief and excitement of what could be.

Fast forward through the summer…Josh worked about 6 weeks off shore, leaving us to ponder on the possibility of a future together. Upon his return, I told him that we needed to get together to discuss that possibility. His version of us going out to lunch and what happened was pretty accurate. I refused to let him pay for my food and I most definitely had a list of questions and interviewed him. I had to know more in-depth about who he was and what he wanted for his future. That was the hardest time I have ever had in keeping a poker face as he answered every single one of my questions in accordance with my beliefs, hopes, and feelings. I couldn’t let him think he already won me over. I mean, come on, we hadn’t even gone on a date yet! I think we both left that lunch with an overwhelming giddy feeling, but I still had some more hoops to make him jump through before I took the plunge.

I don’t make any decision lightly. In fact, I probably tend to take too much time weighing the pros and cons before deciding what the best way to go is. At this time, I was still mostly attending the Catholic church on campus. I was not your typical Catholic though, and grew up with Charismatic Catholic parents. We attended a weekly bible study that believed in the power of the Holy Spirit and praying in tongues. It was very difficult for me to connect to other Catholics on campus because none of them that I had met were close to the example my parents had set. After much prayer and consideration, I slowly began attending Sunday services at Lafayette First Assembly with Pastor Tommy Faulk. It was a strange time for my faith and I continued to attend Mass on some weekdays. I was very saddened to leave behind such a huge part of my life and even found myself crying during some of the last times I attended Mass, but knew that it was for the best to change so I could continue growing in my relationship with Jesus. To this day, there is still something about the solemnity and beauty of the Mass that I appreciate and miss, but I do not regret my decision.

Back to our story…

The summer was almost at an end. I knew that I had decisions to make. I had a healthy fear of my parents and dreaded informing them of all the news I had from the summer. I decided it would be best to meet with them individually and explain everything. I asked my mom to go shopping with me (distraction technique) and laid it all out. I asked if she remembered Josh (“You know, the slow one?”) and told her that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I felt like it was God’s plan for us to take our friendship to another level. I had a similar conversation with my dad. Their reactions were better than I expected, but I guess that was God’s way of helping reassure me. Another step closer!

I had spent many days volunteering at Café Chi Alpha during the summer. One of those days, I decided to drop the bomb on Eric Treuil, the Campus Pastor there. It went like this:

Me: So, uh, I’m going to Houma this weekend to meet Josh Manning’s parents.

Eric:

I made the trek and met Josh’s parents. I think it was a good visit. It definitely had a good ending! I can only imagine what they pictured when Josh told them he was bringing home a girl. I’m pretty sure I exceeded their expectations though and am now their favorite daughter-in-law!

We were not able to meet in person often with living 90 minutes apart and both having limited income, but we continued talking on the phone over the next several weeks. After getting to know each other better without the extra “fluff” associated with dating, we finally decided it was time to go on a real date.

Josh drove to Lafayette on Labor Day weekend 2006. We watched the first Star Wars movie (Episode 4) because I had never seen the older ones. I’m sure we also had eaten out together, but like I said…limited income. It was now official! As trivial as it may sound, we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

We spent the next 15 months in a long distance relationship, only seeing each other about every 4-6 weeks. It had good times and not so good times as we tried to figure each other out better and coordinate our relationship, but I always had a strong feeling that it was God’s will for us to be together. Most of my family had known him for a while and I was quickly accepted into his family.

As I entered my senior year (about a year after we made it official), I felt like I needed to make a change to get closer to Josh. I started looking at my scheduling options for my final semester and discovered that the last class hours needed for my minor could be a work-study program. I also had my criminal justice internship to complete, both of which could be done almost anywhere because they didn’t require on campus class time. That left only one final class to figure out. Could it be? Could I actually figure out a way to move closer to Josh and still complete my last semester and graduate on time? Well, even though I couldn’t figure out the way on my own, God decided to show favor on me and worked it out perfectly. I contacted the Chief of Police at Nicholls State University and he was more than willing to have me work for him for my internship. One of my professors for my Renewable Resources minor had a contact at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park in Thibodaux and got me set up for a work-study. And my last class? There was one single 400-level criminal justice class offered as a once a week night class. Perfect! It was going to be tough…a 16 hour per week internship, a 12 hour per week work-study, driving 3 hours’ round trip weekly for a 3-hour class, and also trying to fit in a job, but I knew it would be worth it.

All that was left was finding a place to live. I knew it would just be temporary if things continued working out like they had been, so I didn’t want to commit to a renter’s agreement. Also, remember…limited income! I had met Amy Fontenot when she was working on her Master’s degree at UL. We became friends and attended the same bible study. She was also an old friend of Josh’s and they went to high school and college together. She was back living in her own house in Schriever. I got in touch with her and asked if she would be willing to rent out a spare bedroom. She agreed and set a price. It was exactly the amount I had budgeted and could afford. God is awesome!

Everything was set and I was really looking forward to it. The fall semester ended. Christmas was approaching. Josh’s sister had put in a good word and got me a job at the Starbucks in Houma where she worked. I was set to move early January, but first, time to meet the rest of the family at their Christmas gathering.

I hit the road on Christmas Day after having lunch with my own family. Josh’s family was getting together at his parents’ house. They played a White Elephant type of gift game every year, so I was excited to also participate. The gifts were collected in the middle of us and the numbers were drawn. Josh got #1. He looked around and picked a small gift. His little cousin Amy complained that he was picking his own gift, but the rest of the family allowed it. He unwrapped the gift, said, “Wait, this doesn’t belong to me.” He then turned to me and I realized he held an engagement ring. There were gasps all around, followed by awkward silence. The silence was broken by me informing him that he hadn’t asked me anything yet. He finally composed himself and asked me to be his wife. Of course I said that I would!

We celebrated by driving around to look at Christmas lights with Amy. While driving around, I called my mom to let her know the good news. Of course I also changed my relationship status on Facebook. We discussed what a good date would be and knew that we didn’t want to stretch the engagement out too long. At first we thought it would be right after I graduated. But then, we realized it was a Leap Year and there would be a February 29. What better day to get married than on February 29 to match our crazy personalities? It was going to be perfect. 9 weeks to plan a wedding. Awesome.

We told Josh’s parents that we had set a date when we returned from viewing the light displays. I’m pretty sure Josh’s mom choked on her coffee and has never turned so white as she did upon us announcing that it would be February 29, 2008.

We got in touch with Pastor Rose at Thibodaux First Assembly to check if the date was available. We also got in touch with Josh Higgins to ask if he would perform the ceremony because he was close to both of us through Chi Alpha. We designed and printed our own invitations and had them in the mail before New Year’s Day. We created a Facebook event in order to invite our friends from both UL Chi Alpha and Nicholls Chi Alpha. I was a simple girl, but there are certain expectations that come with having a wedding. It was only thanks to Josh’s parents that we worked out food options (Josh’s Aunt Cindy had connections with someone from a restaurant), got a REAL wedding cake, and had a photographer booked. I guess they wanted to make sure things were perfect for the big day and that I wouldn’t change my mind!

Our responses for people attending were constantly growing. After just a few weeks, we had hundreds of people who had confirmed that they were going to our wedding. We had so many friends with whom we wanted to share our joyous occasion and both of us were close to our big families.

About a week before the wedding, we were at an international student night with Nicholls Chi Alpha. Chris Buckel announced that all of the students there were invited to our wedding so they could experience an American tradition. My jaw literally fell open and Chris realized that Josh had already made one of the biggest mistakes you can make in a marriage, before even being married. He had agreed to a huge commitment without consulting me. I don’t think Josh’s mom took it too well either when she found out to expect another 60 people.

Finally, it was almost time! My sisters had spent the night before the wedding with me at Amy’s house to prepare our flower bouquets and bake the groom’s cake. We also had to search stores in town for a veil and shoes because I was last minute with getting that. Things were going pretty well in my opinion and I was never one to stress over things much. We awoke the morning of the wedding and just wanted to spend time together. We decided to get lunch before going to the church for the final preparations. I still remember that chili cheese hamburger from Rally’s!

Everything was coming together thanks to some amazing family and friends. Josh had a lot of family come in from Pennsylvania for the wedding. Both sides of his family were excited and willing to help. Josh was the first grandkid to get married on his mom’s side and everyone was relieved to find that he had found such an intelligent babe as his prospective bride. We were still not sure how to set up the sanctuary when our friend Felicity Buckel showed up and said, “I got this.” That left me to focus on getting my hair and makeup done (by my wonderful sisters of course because…limited income!).

My parents arrived and began giving the boutonnieres to the guys and the corsages to the mothers and grandmothers. I asked my mom where my bouquet was. She gave me a blank stare before responding that she didn’t realize she was also supposed to get me a real bouquet. Remember how I said I don’t usually stress? Well, I had reached my limit! Just kidding. I shrugged my shoulders and just decided to walk with my throwing bouquet. What would it matter? I’m sure over time I would forget about that. Yet here we are, 13 years later…Momma!!

Everything was set. The music began, the procession moved forward. It was now my turn to walk down the aisle with my dad, who would be giving away a daughter for the first time. I stumbled a little going up the stairs to the altar because the shoes I found on my limited income were a size too big and slipped off my heel. Oh well, it’s not like this was a once in a lifetime event that had to be perfect.

Josh Higgins asked if I would take Joshua as my husband. My response? “Heck yes, I will!” We were pronounced husband and wife and permitted to kiss. I had informed Josh previously that I would grab his butt when we kissed, but he thought I was just joking. That night taught him that he should never doubt I would follow through again because I surely did grab his butt and we even have a picture to prove it! We turned to face the crowd and I was shocked to see the church was packed full of people who loved us and cared for us.

Even more people showed up for the reception which took place next door at the church’s fellowship hall. The closest count we could get was about 500 people. It was the best no crazy dancing, no alcohol allowed party you could have!

And thus began our happily married life together. I moved out of Amy’s house. I switched to a slightly less-stressful job, but still recorded about 60 hours per week between work and school obligations until graduating in May. Josh had just returned to a job he had in college at South Central Planning. We rented a house on family property for almost two years before buying a home and having our first son, Levi.

There are lots of great stories that I have forgotten about or didn’t have the time to include here. I am so thankful for the amazing friends and family who have given us their support over the years, many of whom played significant roles in us ending up together. Even if you are not specifically mentioned here, please know that we love you and appreciate you.

Josh and I do this life together, with no regrets. We look forward every day to watching our sweet boys grow up and (hopefully) mature. They are going to do amazing things. I am glad to have such a loving, devoted, funny and Godly man to walk this path with and I know the crazy stories will just keep coming. I love you, Pookie Bear! Happy Anniversary!