“I wish there were someone like Joan in Indiana.”

            Jerry prayed those words as he returned home from a disability ministry conference we both attended. I was blissfully unaware of his thought or prayer as I flew home to California.

            For six years we attended the same gathering. After the meetings, a group of us hung out, played games, and built friendships.

           Prior to this summer we shared a rare phone call, but always about work/ministry issues and always made and received from our offices. God answered Jerry’s prayer with a reminder: the phone worked between Indiana and California. Four months later, he gathered the courage to call me after hours. He didn’t declare any feelings. We simply shared updates of our lives, and ministries, and laughed together.

            That August call morphed into phone dating. Rapidly the frequency changed from random, to weekly, to daily, to several times a day.

            As the calendar turned to February, I wondered what to do for Valentine’s Day. We were two-thirds of a country away and still figuring out our relationship. His secretary, thank you Connie, prompted him to send me something.

            I made two cookie bars in the shape of hearts. From a specialty bakery, I purchased a cookie in the shape of a phone receiver. I laid those out with the phone between the two hearts connected by a string. My sappy note said something about our hearts being connected through the phone. I mailed it, praying it would arrive intact.

            When a package arrived for me, I found a card and note. I glanced first at the signature, hoping to see “Love, Jerry.” But love was not there. With the card was a large, frilly, heart-shaped box of chocolates. The unusual part was the heart was not hermetically sealed in plastic, as is typical.

            I opened the box of chocolate and found a sticky note, “I was sure you would want to share. You would wouldn’t you?” And one or two pieces of chocolate were missing.

            That alone made this a Valentine’s Day to remember, but it got better. That weekend when we talked, Jerry haltingly said, “I think—I might—be falling in love with you.” The words every girl longs to hear?

           “I love you too,” I replied.

Hearing my response emboldened him to say with confidence, “I love you.”

            Phew! The love ice broke.

            This year we celebrated our 27th Valentine’s Day together, thankfully no longer through the phone lines. I still share my chocolate with him, and “I love you” is one of the most frequently used phrases in our lives.