I had an amazing 2015. I’ve already told you the stories about my first job, and that time I won a trip to the Super Bowl just four days after getting engaged. But I still have more stories to tell. So…yeah, 2015 was a good year!

Sarah is my best friend. I love her so much. I’ve already told you some great stories, but the #1 story that stands out for me from 2015 is the one I’ve shared with her. When the year started, we were dating. Just a few weeks after the calendar flipped, we were engaged. Days later, we were experiencing the trip of a lifetime together at Super Bowl XLIX. You know about all that, already. Now, I have another story to tell you…a love story.

I was so nervous.

I couldn’t really tell you why. It wasn’t anything in particular. I just knew that today was a big day. Like I was on the edge of a huge moment — because I was.

I was about to get married.

Months of planning and details had led up to this. We covered everything, right? We had all the music set up, and…wait I was supposed to contact the DJ! No, I did that. Right, yeah, I did that.

What about the centerpieces? Did my mom have everything she needed? I should call her! But, no, I need to take Chase’s clothes over to where the groomsmen will get ready. Are 10 groomsmen too many? Well, I guess it’s too late now for that. No, 10 groomsmen is just right.

I just took a deep breath and said a little prayer. Everything would be great. I really wish I could just see Sarah for a few seconds. But she was getting ready.

After I took the clothes over to where the groomsmen were getting ready, I came back to the wedding venue to get ready myself. My brother, Evan, was there. We went downstairs to the “man cave.” We started playing video games just like we did when we were kids. I won, for what it’s worth.

I got dressed, took a few photos and Evan and I spent some quiet moments in prayer. I just couldn’t shake this feeling that I was about to do something BIG. I was. It’s just…I had never felt like this before. My heart felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest.

The photographer came in and told me that it was time to go outside.

I went around a corner and waited. Now I was really nervous. Sarah and I had decided that we wanted to do a “first look” before the ceremony. What, in reality, was only a few minutes felt like hours as I waited for Sarah to come.

“You can turn around, Aaron!”

Pictures are worth a thousand words, huh?

Instantly all those worries washed away. From that moment on, the only emotion I remember feeling for the rest of the day was joy.

It was a all a blur, much like the engagement night and the Super Bowl trip. When big things like that happen in your life, you want to savor every moment. But what I’ve found is that it all rushes by. It happens so quickly. While you may not catch every little moment, the ones you savor are worth it. Like the look in Sarah’s eyes when I got down on one knee. Or her smile when we drove around Arizona with the wind in our hair, not a care in the world.

Or, these.

It was the best day of my life.

I have one last story to tell you. If you’ve read this far, thank you. I promise I’m not so self-absorbed to think everyone will want to read about my life. No, I just needed to tell these stories.

My last story is about a place. A special place. A place I hope to visit again one day.

A few days after the wedding, Sarah and I were in Puerto Rico for our honeymoon. We’d been having an amazing time. Our resort was unlike anything I had ever seen before. We were right on the beach, and the view from our hotel room was unbeatable. Here, let me show you.

We lounged by the pool, went to the beach and experienced the Puerto Rican culture. More than anything, we created memories together. Sarah and I will always cherish that trip. We grew together and experienced a new place…together.

But the story I’m about to tell you isn’t about the honeymoon. It isn’t even directly about Sarah. Without Sarah, I never would have gotten to this place. I will always love her for that. It was our relationship that brought me to this place. I know what I’m about to say is a common phrase in relationships. However I don’t say it lightly. I really mean it.

My relationship with Sarah has made me a better person.

Without a doubt. I’ve experienced more growth in the last year as we have gone through life together than in any other year of my life. But Sarah has not been the author of that growth. Our relationship has been the medium through which much of that growth has occurred, but she was not the first mover.

No other place in the entire world describes what I am talking about more than La Mina.

It was journey to get there. It started in a tour van driven by a man singing about casinos. Then it moved to El Yunque Rainforest. We hiked along the beautiful trails with two people we had never met before. They had been in Miami and decided to take a weekend trip down to Puerto Rico.

We hiked amid the trees and flowers along trails that seemed to have grown from the rainforest. It was unlike any other place I had been.

And then we saw it.

A beautiful waterfall named La Mina. We crossed a bridge that took us to its very feet. We tiptoed along the rocks until we got to the water. I put my toes in. Then I tried wading in a little deeper. It was so cold. But something about La Mina drew me towards it. Until I went in a little deeper, that is.

It literally took my breath away. The water was so cold. I gasped for air, but after just a few moments, it seemed to become more bearable. There were others around us. One man swam out to the waterfall and let it wash over him. Instantly, Sarah wanted to do the same.

I wasn’t so sure. It was cold and the rocks were slippery. But Sarah went on ahead, and I followed her.

Without her, I would have missed it. As the water splashed over me, the beauty of this place struck me. We stayed there and swam under the waterfall, without a care in the world.

When we swam back to the dry rocks, I got up on the biggest one I could find and I just sat there. I was on the edge of the big rock, just being still. Be still, I thought.

I closed my eyes and listened. There were other people around, but it was just me and Him at this point. I’ve never been at a place of such quiet beauty. Actually, it really wasn’t quiet at all. The water and the people around me created a noisome chorus. But somehow it all washed away and I was just still and quiet.

God spoke to me there. Not audibly in words. No, I heard him in the water and the wind rustling the leaves. It was so peaceful, and I just had a sense that everything would be ok.

We left La Mina, but that experience will never leave me. As I look back on it, I realize that God was preparing me for the journey of marriage that Sarah and I were just beginning.

We had to hike quite a bit to get to La Mina. Sometimes we tripped or stumbled, but we kept going. We met new people along the way, but throughout it all, Sarah and I were together. Neither one of us was leading, but together we were following the trail. The trail led us to a place of unmatched beauty. The trail led us to the presence of God.

There wasn’t anything spiritual about La Mina itself. It became a special place to me because God met me there. But in our short time of marriage, God has met me in other places too. My desk at work, the balcony at our apartment and my old beat-up car.

What La Mina did for me was to show me, once again, that God is there. He’s guiding and directing me along the path of life. He’s brought Sarah into my life to walk with me on that path. She has pointed me towards Him, and I’ve done the same for her. That’s why I know everything will be ok. No matter what life brings, God is with us. 2015 was an amazing year full of great stories. But what I learned at La Mina gives me excitement and anticipation for the stories that 2016 will bring.

I can’t wait to tell them.

Aaron Charles is a writer and marketing account executive from Indiana. You can connect with him on Twitter, Medium or Instagram. Aaron and his wife Sarah run a Medium publication called Cooking With Sarah that documents their weekly cooking adventures.

Thank you for reading!

Christ-follower. Husband to @SarahLCharles. Simple moments hold great power. Connect with me at my website: www.aarondcharles.com

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