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. 

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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.” 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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. 

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How Our Journey Began!

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How do you start with a story that, in your bones, you feel as if it has always existed?
Even though our first official meeting happened only 9 weeks ago, we both feel as if we’ve known each other all our lives. For the first time ever, I now understand the term “soul mates,” as we are truly living in all the beauty of its very definition.
And who’s the “he” behind the “we”? It is my pleasure to introduce anyone reading our story to my boyfriend, my love (mijn liefde in Dutch – his native language!), my greatest fairy tale come true, the man beyond my wildest of dreams, my soul mate, Kim Cleyman. Instead of telling you “facts” about him that you’d typically see on paper (like…he’s Belgian, 38, high school teacher & etc.), I’d rather exclaim about and SHOW you who he REALLY is – BEYOND paper…his soul & character.
For 2 months now, we’ve enjoyed the intimacy of keeping most of our relationship private. In this time, we’ve experienced countless magical & special, intimate moments by intentionally pursuing one another in this long-distance relationship that has crossed oceans & thousands of kilometers. (Yes, Americans, this girl is starting to learn the metric system.)
A QUICK PSA: While, moving forward, as we begin the adventure of sharing more of our story with others, we still intend to keep many special moments & aspects of our relationship to ourselves. (I know anyone in a committed relationship can understand this. We want to protect what is important!)
However, we also believe that our story is very special, very unique and not something we want to keep completely to ourselves. In knowing one another and falling in love, we both have grown, sharpened each other, and have allowed each other to become better, stronger & more loving people. We want to SHARE that with y’all!
FIRST THINGS FIRST….HOW IT ALL STARTED:
There are so many countless miracles and beautiful adventures to how we eventually came together and it would be a shame NOT to share them all. Over the next few days, I intend to post several blog posts in order to fully paint our beautiful story.
It could be argued that our TRUE beginning really started over 15 years ago when my family & I left some very devastating circumstances in Upstate New York, to start a brand new life in Central Florida. We moved with no expectations except that things would get better and we would have a happier & healthier life.
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Soon, this was proven to be correct in the form of my first close friend who I met in French class at Celebration High School. She too had just moved from everything she ever knew with her family, from Belgium, and was starting her first year at this new school. When I found out that she was Belgian, I instantly desired to be her friend – especially with hopes she could help me with my French homework! (This was before I knew there was also a Flemish part of Belgium!) Not only did this woman, my sweet Aline, become an excellent study buddy, but became one of my closest of friends.
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We bonded over grilled cheese, peanut butter & jelly and One Tree Hill. (ALL the American staples!) Even after she moved back to Belgium before graduation, we still remained very close and stayed in touch. Thank GOD for modern technology! She even came to stay with me for the summer in 2007, in which, in the same year, I also traveled to visit her in Belgium when I was studying abroad in London, England.
NOW – flash forward 11 years, to this past summer, when I was given the incredible honor of being SECRETLY asked by her fiancé Mike and her maid of honor, Tamara, to be her “something borrowed” for her wedding this past September. I was blown away by the gift of even being ASKED, but even more SO by the timing.
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You see, just this past year, I turned 30 years old -and also moved back in with my parents and left the city of my dreams. I started 2018 discouraged and frustrated with where my life was. I was so disappointed, at that time, with where I was at in my career. As an aspiring TV host & actress, I felt like I had come so close, but yet so far, to the potential I had to really shine in the entertainment industry. Throughout my 20s, I’ve always been fiercely independent, and as much as I love my parents, I felt my moving back in with them, that TOO was also on the chopping block. Beyond my career, the greatest dream of my heart was to be a mom and wife, and I looked to be even further from those dreams, as well.
However, over the year with my parents, I trusted God beyond what I could see. I knew He didn’t guide me outside of Los Angeles without a true, divine purpose. I slowly began consolidating debt, creating a savings & allowing my tender soul to heal.
After that season of trust, when Mike & Tamara asked me if I could come to Belgium in September to celebrate Mike & Aline’s wedding, I was in a perfect position to say YES. If they had asked me 6 months earlier, I would have had NO OPTION but to say NO.
Now, because of a season of letting go of old dreams & starting to believe in new ones, I was able to dream & plan the adventure of a lifetime. All did I know, I HAD NO idea what awaited for me in Belgium.
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I left on my parent’s 35th wedding anniversary (You’re welcome Mom & Dad), and my journey began by staying with Tamara, her love Bruno & their two amazing girls, Alyicia & Amber. We HAD to keep my arrival secret, so I spent my first two days with their family getting reacquainted with Belgian culture. I couldn’t explain it, but I already felt like I WAS HOME. When I would ride Tamara’s bike around their small, charming town…I kept thinking: “I could see myself living here!” Obviously, other people thought so too…because I was asked for directions over 4x!
On Mike & Aline’s wedding day, I went with Tamara & her family to greet the bride at her family home. As is tradition in Belgium, the bride is picked up by her groom at home, before heading to the church. Very often, the couple’s closest friends and family are also invited for this very beautiful & intimate moment. I waited in the car as Tamara and her family went to go enjoy this moment with the bride & groom.
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Once inside the home, Tamara gave Aline a card I had written with a poem inside. I don’t remember the exact words, but the last line went something like: “BEFORE you say “I do,” I have one more present for you. Before your jaw hits the floor, come get your first present at the front door…” – which, y’all can imagine the rest!
THE SURPRISE WAS A SUCCESSSSSSS!!!!! We were both over the moon excited & I couldn’t imagine what the rest of the day had in store.
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As with everything our God does, He’s always a billion steps ahead. I had no idea, this was the same day I would meet the LOVE OF MY LIFE.
Later that afternoon, I watched Mike & Aline pledge their lives to one another in a beautiful ceremony. While at the church, I was asked to speak in front of all the guests. THIS is key. THIS, is where, I now have been told, Kim FIRST laid eyes on me. And heard my voice – to which he exclaims, is music to his ears (STILL!) I don’t believe it was by any accident that I spontaneously spoke of what LOVE REALLY IS, as described in 1 Corinthians 13, and that REAL LOVE is worth crossing oceans for.
After the church ceremony, Mike & Aline invited about 40 of their closest friends & family to go enjoy a whole evening & overnight adventure & celebration at a castle. In my American heart, I COULDN’T BELIEVE we were going to celebrate and stay overnight in a CASTLE. Like, we don’t HAVE THOSE here. And yes, since the bride didn’t know I was coming – it is arguably said I CRASHED the reception!
After arriving and getting settled in our rooms, it was time for us all to meet in the castle’s foyer for cocktails and coffee before dinner. I was basking in the romance and excitement of just BEING where I was, when, all of a sudden, when standing next to the bride & chatting with some of her friends, my world stopped. Across the room, looking extremely handsome & dapper in his Navy suit, I saw HIM. The man that continues to daily take my breath away. I instantly leaned into Aline & whispered in her ear: “My goodness girl, you have some friends in high places. I didn’t know you invited THOR to the wedding!” Yes, as you’ve seen, Kim is tall, blonde, extremely handsome & quite intriguing 🙂 Aline instantly got excited and shared what a good man he was and she could see us connecting well.
I didn’t think much of it – except that I felt drawn to him…something, beyond his amazing “looks” kept me intrigued…I just KNEW I had to get to know him. However, the “old Cheyanne” was still bubbling underneath…would a man that attractive, and composed and confident be…attracted to ME? I’ve been rejected before. Was he “out of my league?” No, wait, I didn’t believe in that anymore.
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I KNEW I had to be brave, to be courageous, to be like Wonder Woman and believe in myself, and go after WHAT I WANTED – WHO I wanted. Kim & I talked briefly in between coffee, and quickly everyone was escorted to the dinner hall. I was swooning during the entire dinner and don’t remember eating much. I kept looking for where Kim was and wanted to be by him.
Finally, it was time for the PARTY! We started dancing, I believe around 11pm, and the last of us didn’t leave until 5am. I like to think of myself as quite the “dancing queen,” but I have NEVER in my life, up to that point, danced for that many hours. It was like a dancing marathon – but one I didn’t want to stop!
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Somewhere between “Grease Lightening” & “FootLoose” Kim & I met on the dance floor, and didn’t leave each other’s side for the rest of the night (morning?). We couldn’t stop laughing and talking. I think for many moments, we were just lost in each other’s face. We instantly had an undeniable connection – that we have heard from many now since – was extremely obvious.
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When the music stopped at 5am, and it was time for us all to return to our rooms for about 2 hours of sleep, Kim & I walked arm & arm headed back towards our rooms. We briefly paused by this beautiful fire pit, out under the stars, and were saying goodbye to one another with a classic, Belgian kiss. For those that don’t know, that is 3 kisses on the other person’s cheek. Well, to Kim’s surprise, I decided to get a bit “cheeky” myself, and after the 3, I took all the courage & bravery I had left, and pulled him in for a 4th kiss on the lips! I can ask him – but I think that may have been the first moment I took HIS breath away.
The next morning, the reception part & bride & groom, all spent a lovely day wandering through the countryside, enjoying some drinks, and basking in the beauty of the day.
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As for me? I couldn’t stop thinking about Kim! Was the night before just some magical night? A once in a life time few hours of bliss? Or would there be more? I only found out later – that he was thinking the exact same thing.
We left to go on our separate ways later that afternoon – and I feared that would be the end. I didn’t want it to be, but I had some reality checks of where I was, and the fear-based thought of: How could this ever work? Would he even want that? I am sure he’s not thinking the same thing…
AND THEN….AND THEN. Aline blew my mind when she shared that he was saddened that I left before saying goodbye at the castle, and that he too, would LOVE to see me again. A glimmer of hope rose in my soul! He. TOO. was. feeling. How. I. Felt. This was beginning to feel like a fairytale.
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And THIS is where I am going to press PAUSE on our STORY. Tune in later this week, as I share about our epic FIRST DATE & our goodbye…that felt way more like a HELLO!
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