Once upon a time in Ghent…

ERRRRbody ready for PART 2?! Maybe I should just make y’all wait a little longer…JUST KIDDING! I am just KIMMING with you! Yes, that was a quick PUN to my love. Can’t I just FLIRT a little through this POST?!

OK, back to our story! If y’all have been following along, I last left off where I had just left the castle, and I also left Kim wondering – “where did his beauty go!?” Even typing this right now, I keep thinking – am I describing a HALLMARK MOVIE?! 

If the first part of our story didn’t already give you goosebumps, I PROMISE YOU – THIS. ONE. WILL. 

Just like my first post describing how we first MET, this post also is going to bring you back a little in time. However, this time we’re not flashing back as far – instead of 15 years – I want you to imagine me, 2 years ago…I had just recently finished filming the finale for my TLC weight-loss TV show, “Fat Chance.” 

My journey on there hadn’t ended in the way, at the time, I had desired or expected romantically, however I had finally gained off the scale what I’d always wanted – the woman I always had dreamed I could be! Finally, the mirror reflected who I always knew I was on the inside.

Around this same time, I was starting to serve more at my church, and helping out in some of the poorest neighborhoods around Los Angeles. On one afternoon in 2016, I met a group serving with us in the Nickerson Gardens projects of LA who were from Texas. After getting to know them, I quickly labeled them the “y’alls and overalls” crew. I bonded with one of their guys, named Cory, and even after he went home to Texas, our bond grew deeper when he introduced me to his amazing wife, Kassie.

We started following each other on social media & I soon discovered they & their family had the most adorable clothing boutique! One day in the summer of 2017, I came across this GORGEOUS, feminine & elegant romper on their Instagram. As soon as I saw it, I KNEW in my soul, I was supposed to get it.

I felt in my heart God whisper – “My daughter get this dress…you will wear it on your first date with your future husband.” 

I WAS SO CONFUSED. Um, excuse me, God? Let me get this straight…you want ME…a super sporty woman who’s still trying to learn to embrace her feminine & curvy figure, to ONE – get this gorgeous & beautiful dressy outfit and TWO – Did you miss the fact that I am NOT dating anyone…or that NO ONE is pursuing me? And THREE – Lord, how the HECK AM I supposed to know on a FIRST DATE – that HE IS THE ONE!?! 

Ah, I’ve learned very early on in my young life, DO NOT argue with God. Just trust Him. So, I did it. I bought that dress. And on the back of my door it hung for over a year.

Below, you’ll see the original instagram posts I shared when I first received it and put it on…

WHEW. OK. Y’all still with me?! Flash forward now to September 2018…I was packing for my grand adventure to Belgium, in the daze of preparing for such a huge trip, when my eyes fell on my dress…hanging there on the back of my door. How many times had I envisioned wearing it? Hundreds of times. How many times had I looked upon it, imagined myself wearing it, praying for the man who would be with me while I did…and yet never knowing his face.

As all these thoughts were swarming in my head – when suddenly I had this peace in my soul that I needed to bring it with me to Belgium. Such a creature of habit, I began to argue with God again – but wait, that can’t be right? THIS is supposed to be for MY HUSBAND, GOD?! Am I giving up on that prayer by bringing this? 

All these questions swarmed inside of me and although I HAD NO answers, I took the dress off the door and put it inside my suitcase.

Besides “this” now infamous dress, I also packed about 3-4 others. I assumed I’d just wear this beautiful dress to the wedding and I would celebrate being the woman I had become…someone who could feel comfortable in her own femininity, and grace and dignity.

However, on the morning of Aline & Mike’s wedding I put on the dress, and it just didn’t feel right. I even walked outside to the car, took photos in it with Alycia & Amber, and still….I went back inside and changed. I couldn’t explain it – it just didn’t feel like the right time. 

 

NOW, I know why. 

After leaving the castle on Sunday afternoon (the reception), and Kim & I began texting one another, and getting to know one another better, I felt butterflies thinking about seeing him again. 

(QUICK PAUSE – Another side note – when first planning my trip to Belgium – I had originally planned on going to to France for the days after the wedding – however, as time got closer, I changed my plans & decided to instead discover more of Belgium. (Another change that I NOW KNOW happened for a reason!)

After sharing with Kim my plans for the week, to go discover the cities of Brugge and Ghent, we decided to meet for our FIRST DATE in the city of Ghent on Thursday afternoon.

It’s about an hour from where Mike & Aline & Kim all lived – so the morning of, I took the train to Ghent to go explore the city for myself via one of my favorite modes of transportations – a KAYAK! Kim was coming to meet me after work that morning.

Even though I was kayaking that morning, I packed “the dress” in my bag. Would I have the GUTS to put it on?! Could I rock such a dress? Would I feel beautiful? Was this just a fun, romantic afternoon or was it a day that would change my life forever? 

All of these thoughts and emotions were flowing through my veins as I explored Ghent from this kayak. It was truly breathtaking! I couldn’t believe all the history, culture & beauty I was experiencing in front of my eyes.

There were so many twists and turns in the river – I couldn’t help but sing the song from Pochohantas – “Just around the riverbed!” Should I chose the smoothest course? Steady as the beating drum. OR do you wait for my “Dream Giver” – just around the riverbed? OH HOW REAL THOSE WORDS FELT!!!! 

Once kayaking was done, I had about 30 minutes to prepare before Kim arrived. I took all the guts I had, put on the dress, threw my hair up, and got ready to meet him on this beautiful bridge by the heart of the city. 

I waited there for a few minutes, gazing upon the beautiful architecture of the city, and just when I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest, I saw him. Again…BUTTERFLIES! I had to keep myself from running up to him – in fear of looking crazy and tripping in my dress!

As soon as we were together, all my nerves went away. It felt so natural to BE with him. Being the spontaneous man I’ve come to know and love, he shared he had no plans of where to take me to eat, and wanted US to discover a place on our own. In doing so, Kim had  this “planner” already stepping outside of her comfort zone. I couldn’t complain though – we began exploring the city center with this amazing man at my side.

We were enjoying such beautiful conversation, when all of a sudden, our feet lead us to this beautiful outdoor, authentically Belgian restaurant, right in the middle of this square. We sat outside, in the sunshine, and took turns discussing the menu, and getting to know one another better.

Now, I’m an adventurous eater, and although I kept looking at the chicken dish, Kim encouraged me to try the RABBIT! (My first!) Thankfully, he also ordered us some of the best beer I’ve ever tasted. To my surprise, he ordered the chicken dish…with the intention of saving half for me. This guy was ALREADY making me swoon!

The date was so simple…and yet so huge. We both couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, enjoying conversation and never wanting this afternoon to end. We even had our waitress laughing and enjoying the afternoon with us! Oh and maybe I should mention, the moment I had first sat down, the immediate words out of his mouth were: “Wow, you look beautiful. That dress was MADE for you.” 

However, as with all things, our date had to come to an end. Again, nervousness set in…would this be the last time I see this man? It seemed even more impossible to imagine anything more happening. But I couldn’t shake this feeling. HE WAS SPECIAL. He was unlike ANY MAN I’d ever met or spent time with. But, do fairy tales really exist? Could this man, the most incredibly kind, sweet AND HANDSOME one I’ve EVER spent intentional time with, be REALLY, like REALLY, feeling the same way I was? 

As we walked towards the bridge to say our goodbyes, Kim shared that he loved how exceptionally kind & loving I was & that I inspired him to be more like that. Again, ARE YOU KIMMING ME? THIS MAN ACTUALLY…SAW ME. HE SAW the real me, and LOVED what he saw.

I was praying this wouldn’t be the last time we saw each other in person….but unfortunately, I was LEAVING Belgium tomorrow. When else would we get a chance to see what was growing between us?

I hugged him goodbye, and spent another hour in Ghent on my own, wandering around in my own bliss. I felt SO at home here. How could that be? Maybe it was because I had found MY HOME. 

My feet eventually lead me back to the train and back to Aline & Mike’s house to spend my last evening out with them & Tamara and her family during my last night in Belgium.

It was then, while out at dinner enjoying Belgian waffles & singing & laughing, that I got the text that would continue to change my life:

“Cheyanne, CAN I TAKE YOU TO THE TRAIN STATION TOMORROW?” 

And for that answer…I leave you with a glimpse of the goodbye that became the greatest HELLO of my lifetime. 

 

Published by Kim & Cheyanne Cleyman

Married Belgian-American couple living in Europe helping families connect through fitness across cultures and continents; with a passion for well-being - mind, body, heart and soul.

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