So, how did a geeky engineer from Washington and a pretty photographer from the high desert of southern California end up together? Well get comfortable, because this romantic tale is certainly not a quick read. For your convenience, we have broken our chronicle into chapters. Read on and enjoy.
- Quick jump to a chapter
- Chapter 1 – In The Beginning…
- Chapter 2 – The Middle Ages
- Chapter 3 – Friendship & Near Misses
- Chapter 4 – Two Roadtrips
- Chapter 5 – A Whole New World
- Chapter 6 – “The Question”
- Chapter 7 – Waiting and Planning (and Waiting)
- Chapter 8 – …And They Lived Happily Ever After.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over…1” Well okay, so we’re not going to go back quite as far as the beginning of time. Just the beginning of time as perceived by Tim and Jeni. Yes, that’s right. We have known each other for a long time. Not quite since birth, but just about…
Okay so how about we start off with a little bit of family background? Specifically, let’s talk about the fathers. Jeni’s father is a pastor, and has been for over 20 years. Tim’s dad is a technician in the Air Force Reserve, and was in the active service until 1987. Now, as you know if you’ve read the “Quick Facts” section of this website, Jeni was born on December 17th, 1979 in Hayward, CA. Five months (and three days) later, on May 20th, 1980, Tim was born at Edwards Air Force Base. Now, looking at the maps of these two places (which you can do by clicking on them) you can see that while they are both within California, they are not really all that close to each other. At the time of her birth, Jeni’s father was pastor of a church in Fremont, CA (next to Hayward). When Tim was born, his dad was serving in the Air Force at Edwards.
While living at Edwards, Tim’s family attended First Baptist Church in neighboring Rosamond, CA (see map). And this is where Tim and Jeni’s story together begins. In early 1982, Jeni’s family (which consisted at the time of just Jeni and her parents) moved to Rosamond, as her father took a job as pastor at First Baptist. Since Tim’s parents were quite active in the church, the Ellis family and the Janz family became friends.
Over the next two (or so) years, Tim and Jeni’s families spent a fair amount of time together, and there are probably plenty of embarrassing stories regarding the two of them as young children. Unfortunately for you, we either do not know these stories, or simply will not put them on the Internet for you to read. There is one story that is worth noting, though. In December of 1984, Tim and Jeni were in a wedding (as ring-bearer and flower girl) together. How’s that for cute? We’ve got a picture or two from that, and if I can get my hands on them, I’ll be sure to put them up here. But in the mean time, I guess you’ll just have to trust me on the level of cutesiness involved.
This chapter comes to a close in April of 1984, when Tim’s father was transferred from the barren desert wasteland at Edwards AFB, to the somehow-even-less-exciting Chanute AFB outside of Rantoul, IL. Oooh! The thrills. (On a side note, Rantoul has the worst 4th of July fireworks display of all time. Or at least they did in 1984. And yes, sadly, that is one of Tim’s few memories from age 4.)
So, with Tim and his family (now consisting of Tim, his parents, and a new brother) residing in the incredibly un-exotic locale of Rantoul, IL, and Jeni and her family (also with a new sibling–a sister the same age as Tim’s brother) still in Rosamond, CA how is it that this story has seven more chapters, and results in this website? Fortunately for the Ellis family, Tim’s dad was transferred again. In October 1984, after six long months, they moved to Beale AFB, back in California. Now while Beale is not all that close to Rosamond, they are close enough that the Janz and Ellis families did keep in touch and even visited each other a few times while Tim’s dad was stationed at Beale.
Working in United States Air Force definitely makes for a great job, however in July of 1987 Tim’s dad decided that he had been in active service for long enough, and he “retired” from active service. So what did he do? He went into the Air Force Reserve (I told you it was a great job–why would he want to leave it for good?), and transferred to the 939th search and rescue division, working out of the Portland Air National Guard Base in Portland, Oregon. And so, Tim’s family of four moved back to his dad’s home state of Washington, where they bought a house in Vancouver.
While Washington is certainly a more desirable place to live than California (that’s a totally objective statement–no bias whatsoever), this move unfortunately meant that contact between the two families was reduced to the exchanging of mass-mailed Christmas update letters. But hey, Christmas letters are better than nothing, right? Before things would change from this state, Tim had two brothers, and Jeni had two sisters and two brothers. Yet again you may find yourself wondering how this story makes the giant leap from families living a thousand miles apart exchanging mass-mailings to a happy couple counting the days to their wedding… Trust me, it was just as surprising and confusing (but also exciting and amazing) for Tim and Jeni, to have actually lived through it.
As Tim’s youngest brother (born in 1990) grew up, his parents decided that it would be nice for him to be able to experience something that the older two brothers were able to somewhat take for granted when they were living down south. Yes, they promised him that when he was five years old, the family would visit Disneyland (it was less evil back in 1995). Thus, in the summer of 1995 the Ellis family took a road trip down to Disneyland. Since they still had a few friends in California, they planned the drive down to Disneyland around stopping at these friends’ houses. Of course, one of these stops was at the Janz house.
Having not seen each other in nearly ten years, Tim and Jeni (both 15 years old now) were interested to meet someone from their childhood. Unfortunately, when the Ellis family came by the Janz house, Jeni and her sisters had left just that morning to go to a summer youth camp. Even though Disneyland was fun, Tim returned from the trip feeling somewhat disappointed. Always the problem solver that he is, Tim decided that he should write a letter to Jeni, so that he would get to “meet” this girl from his past, even if only through pencil and paper.
Thus began the communication between the “grown-up” Tim and Jeni. They exchanged letters for about a year, until one day it dawned on Tim that maybe Jeni had access to this new-fangled “email” thing that he had been using recently (keep in mind this was 1996). Somewhat surprisingly, she did indeed have access to email, and so they moved their method of communication into the realm of the Internet.
They continued to email each other on a fairly regular basis for the next two years, until they each went off to college. Tim to Seattle Pacific University, and Jeni to California Baptist University. When they got to school, they discovered the joy of permanent Internet connections and instant messaging. They began to talk online in “real time” a few times a week, and continued to build their friendship, although they were 1000+ miles apart.
Late in the summer of 1999, just before the start of their sophomore year in college, Jeni’s family was making a road trip up to Wenatchee, Washington. Since they would be driving right through Vancouver, they decided to make a stop at the Ellis’ house. Unfortunately they only told this to the Ellis’ when they were about half an hour out of town. This would not be a problem, except for the fact that Tim had just left that afternoon to go to a friend’s wedding in Seattle. Doh! And so they missed seeing each other for the second time in 4 years. This time it was even more frustrating though, since they actually knew each other and talked so often online.
Another year passed, with Tim and Jeni’s friendship stayed strong, with a large amount of online chatting, and even a few phone calls, but still no face-to-face communication. In the summer of 2000 however, Tim decided to “take it to the next level” and finally meet in person. Tim planned a road trip with his best friend from SPU, J.R.. They had taken a similar road trip in the summer of 1999, but while that trip was northward, to the San Juan Islands and Canada, this one would be bound south, to Six Flags Magic Mountain in California. The planning for the trip was specifically organized around making sure that Tim and Jeni would be able to meet.
Labor Day weekend came, and Tim and J.R. went down to California. On Friday, September 1st, 2000 Tim and Jeni finally saw each other face to face (for the first time in 14 or so years). On Saturday, Tim, J.R., Jeni, and Jason (Jeni’s boyfriend at the time) went to Six Flags. They rode “The Viper” way more times than should be legal. Ahh, what a fun time. So, after church on Sunday, Tim and J.R. bid Jeni farewell and began the long trip back to the Portland/Vancouver area. As they drove away, Tim began to realize that he felt a special attachment to Jeni, one that he had not before felt with anyone else. However, since Jeni had a boyfriend, he pushed these thoughts out of his head, and proceeded to remain “just friends” with Jeni.
Yet another year passed, and Tim and Jeni’s friendship continued to grow. During his Junior year, Tim and his roommates (of which J.R. was one) renewed their childhood obsession of LEGOs. As a result of this rekindled flame for the little plastic bricks, Tim and J.R. decided to make the Mecca for Labor day 2001 to be LegoLand2. Of course, Tim had an ulterior motive, and really wanted to be able to see Jeni again. Just like the 2000 road trip, Tim made the plans such that Jeni would be able to join them in their trip to the theme park. Also just like the 2000 visit, during the trip, Tim had an incredible feeling of closeness to Jeni. However, unlike in 2000, Jeni was now single.
You may think that Tim took this opportunity to tell Jeni about his feelings, or otherwise act on them, but alas, Tim is far too shy to do such a thing as that. But this is not to say that Tim did nothing. While in California visiting Jeni, Tim suggested that she come visit him over Christmas break. See, since Tim had now visited Jeni twice, it was her turn to visit him. So they began to make plans for Jeni to come to Seattle over Christmas break.
Before Jeni even came up in December, something happened that changed Tim and Jeni’s relationship with each other. The tragedy of September 11th greatly disturbed Tim, and without really thinking about it, he turned to Jeni for comfort, to have someone to talk with. After this, Tim and Jeni began to communicate on a deeper level than before. It is a hard thing to explain really, but there was something more to their conversations in the months between September and December than there had been previously.
Eventually, Fall passed and Winter came, and the plans for Jeni’s visit to Seattle were finalized. Jeni was to come visit Tim from the 14th to the 20th of December. Tim’s fall quarter in school drew to a close, Tim’s roommates began to kid with him about this “friend” of his that would come all the way from California to visit for a whole week. They said that this was more than just a friendly visit, and that a deeper level of relationship would come out of this trip. Tim denied this, both to his friends and to himself, and almost convinced himself that it wasn’t possible. But all the while, way in the back of his mind, he was hoping that somehow something would happen. At the same time, Jeni was encountering similar comments from her friends. They tried to convince her that Tim had an ulterior motive in bringing her to Seattle that was beyond simple friendship. Jeni also denied this to her friends, but was not entirely closed to the chance of something happening while she was in Seattle.
The 14th of December finally came. As Tim awaited Jeni’s arrival at SeaTac airport, he felt a sense of excitement, but also confusion. He knew that he had strong feelings for Jeni, but he also did not want to ruin their friendship and make things awkward by acting on these feelings if there was no reciprocation. Tim was so confused and cautious that he didn’t even give Jeni a hug when she arrived at the airport that day. However, as the week went on, he began to feel more comfortable around her, and he even thought he maybe saw indications of interest. This was of course because she really was interested, and in fact she was doing everything she could to show her interest, short of stating it outright.
Having never had a girlfriend before, it should be somewhat understandable that Tim was slow to catch on to Jeni’s signals. As the end of Jeni’s visit drew near, nearly everyone but Tim and Jeni knew what was going to happen. Late on Jeni’s last night in Seattle, after watching a movie (which Jeni slept through), Tim and Jeni finally had “the talk” when Jeni said to Tim: “What’s going to happen?” They talked about their feelings for one another, and what might happen between them. They stayed up quite late talking, and fell asleep on the sofa in the living room of Tim’s apartment. The next day, Jeni had to leave. But rather than being the end, it was the start of something amazing. They hated the thought of being apart so soon after they realized their feelings for each other, but at the same time, they were excited about what the future held. After some unexpected traffic on the way to the airport and a last-minute check-in, Jeni flew home.
Immediately, Tim and Jeni began to plan the next time they could see each other. Due to classes, work schedules, and money matters, the earliest that Tim was able to go to California to see Jeni was in late January. Fortunately, they were able to talk nearly every day on the phone (Tim bought a cell phone for cheap long distance) leading up to the trip. Through this time on the phone, and during the trip in January, Tim came to realize that he loved Jeni. During the trip, he told her. She was somewhat surprised by this (they hadn’t even kissed yet!), and she thought that she loved him too, but she wanted to be sure that Tim was sure. So she did not return the “I love you,” but told him to think and pray about it to make sure that was really what he felt. Tim was certain that his feelings would not change, but he understood Jeni’s desire for caution, and was determined that she was worth the wait. On the last day of the visit, Tim and Jeni kissed for the first time3.
The next visit was planned (coincidentally) to fall over Valentine’s day. Jeni arrived on the 14th at SeaTac airport (this time Tim did hug, and even kiss, her). From there they drove to Vancouver, where they spent the afternoon ice-skating. In the evening, they went with Tim’s mom to a Valentine’s dinner at Tim’s home church. After the dinner, they returned to Tim’s parents’ house, where they drank raspberry hot cocoa and sat by a fire while watching a movie. When the movie was over, they began to have another deep talk (they seem to have those a lot) and Tim told Jeni again that he loved her. This time, Jeni’s response was “I love you, too.” Tim knew then that Jeni was the one that he would spend the rest of his life with.
During the rest of the February visit, Tim and Jeni began to talk seriously about the future. They talked about the big “M” word. They talked about kids, values, and other things that are important to know about someone that you want to spend forever with. They decided that the next time they were able to be together, they would make some time to go look at rings. Basically, they did a lot of dreaming (and some kissing, too). When Jeni left, they knew that one day they would be married4.
As soon as Jeni left in February, Tim began to plan how he would propose. He wanted to do it as soon as possible, so he basically had two choices. First, to find a ring while he was visiting Jeni in March, buy it, and propose down in California that week. This option was never really a valid choice, since it was impossible to plan a romantic proposal in just a few days at a place you have never been to before, let alone find the perfect ring in that short a time (more on that later). He did not entirely discount this as an option however, and just in case the perfect opportunity presented itself, he wanted to be prepared. To that end, Tim asked Jeni’s dad’s permission in early March, and he gave his blessing. Eventually though, Tim went with his second choice, which was to plan the proposal during Jeni’s visit to Seattle in April. This would provide both more time in which to plan, as well as a large selection of locations to choose from that Tim was familiar with.
Just as planned, in March when Tim came down to visit Jeni during his Spring break, Tim and Jeni looked at rings. Tim got a good idea of what would make Jeni the most happy in a ring, and he formed a picture in his mind of “the perfect ring.” So, as soon as he arrived back in Seattle, he began the search. As it turns out, this was not a simple task. No jeweler in town had the ring that Tim had conceived in his mind. Finally, he found something close to what he wanted at E.E. Robbins. They would even be able to make a custom piece, to create just what Tim had in mind. It seemed that the quest for the perfect ring was a success. There was one problem though. Tim had barely more than two weeks before Jeni would be in Seattle and he wanted to propose. And, in case you were ever wondering, trying to get a custom ring made in two weeks is like pulling teeth from a rabid starving weasel, only with less fluid exchange.
Aside from the difficulties getting the ring made on time, Tim was able to make the rest of the plans for his proposal with relative ease. Well in advance, he scouted out the perfect location, and enlisted Jon Soini to secretly photograph the occasion5. He drew together all of the details, and had everything worked out. As long as he would get the ring on time, things would be great.
The nearer the big day came, the more often Tim called the ring store. The people at E.E. Robbins were extremely friendly and helpful, and assured Tim that everything would be done to make sure that the ring was done on time. On the day before Jeni was to arrive in Seattle, Tim went down to E.E. Robbins after work to see if they were done. When he got there, they had just finished the ring about 10 minutes before. The employees described the quick turnaround on the ring as nothing short of a miracle. The people at E.E. Robbins are absolutely fabulous, and deserve a lot of credit for being so patient, friendly, and creating a downright beautiful ring in such an amazingly short time.
On the day of Jeni’s arrival, Tim’s plan was that they would proceed to his chosen location shortly after her plane came in, and “pop the question” as soon as possible. However, Jeni missed her plane, and had to take the next flight, delaying her arrival by a few hours. This would not have been a problem, except that Jon (the photographer) had an afternoon class. So plans were postponed to the next day, the 12th of April. The next morning, Jeni and Tim had breakfast, then went to Discovery Park. As they walked through the park, Tim pulled a bag of M&M’s (one of Jeni’s favorite candies) from his pocket, which he opened and they began to share. As they neared the end of the bag, they made their way down to the beach, to the westernmost point in the park. They sat down on a big log on the beach next to a lighthouse6 to enjoy the view and talk. When the M&M’s were gone, Tim told Jeni that there was still some left, and to hold out her hand for them. When she held out her hand, he poured the ring into it, got on one knee, and asked Jeni to marry him. She said yes :^)
After they left Discovery Park, they spent the rest of the afternoon at Greenlake Park, and then spent the evening with Tim’s friends at his apartment. That night after Jeni went to sleep, Tim picked out the best picture of the ones that Jon had taken from his hidden location on the beach. The next day, Jon printed the picture, and framed it in a frame that Tim had bought beforehand. That evening, Tim suprised Jeni with the photograph of the proposal.
Jeni went home on the 14th, and Tim and Jeni began the next stage in their lives, the planning of the wedding. Of course one of the first things that everyone asks when they hear that someone is engaged is “have you set a date?” It didn’t take long before Tim and Jeni got rather tired of that question. They were finally able to set a date a few weeks after the actual proposal. Jeni wanted to be married in the Fall, so after much talk with both their families, they considered the options and settled on October 12th, a Saturday.
With the decided date of October 12th, Tim and Jeni’s engagement was to be exactly 6 months long. As short a time as this may seem to most people, when you only get to see each other once a month, 6 months is a long time. Following their engagement, the next time they were together was when Tim went to California in early May for Jeni’s graduation from California Baptist University. They were also able to be together again soon after that when Jeni and her best friend Heather drove up to Seattle. Tim’s graduation from Seattle Pacific University was in early June, and Jeni was able to come up to Seattle for the occasion. The time between that visit and the next was a little longer than usual, and it was not easy to wait for over a month to see each other. Jeni came up to Seattle again in mid-July, when they were able to spend a relaxing time together and get some planning done for the wedding.
To try to make it easier to get through the long times away from each other, Tim and Jeni made sure to talk at least once a day on the phone. Simply talking on the phone just doesn’t cut it, though. They longed to be together, and were counting the days until they would begin their lives together forever. During these months, obviously a large portion of wedding planning was being done. In addition to planning the wedding, Tim also decided to take some of his astoundingly excessive free time7 to create this website. While Tim has handled the technical aspect of the site, that is not to say that Jeni has not also helped with it. She has had a large amount of creative input, and also helped with the writing of this story. Tim and Jeni hope that you enjoy this site, and the chance to get to know them a little better through the information provided in it.
And so Tim and Jeni continued to wait, and dream. The thought of spending the rest of their lives together made them too excited for words. At the time of the writing of this story, there was less than 10 weeks left!
On October 12th, 2002, Tim and Jeni were married. At 1:00 in the afternoon in First Baptist Church of Rosamond, California, in the presence of about 200 friends and family members, they committed their lives to each other.
We would like to conclude the telling of this story with a quote from the closing scene in one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time8, the Back to the Future trilogy9. Incidentally, it is somewhat interesting to observe that the characters names in this love story are Jennifer and Martin (Marty). Tim’s middle name happens to be Martin, and well, obviously Jeni’s full name is Jennifer. Anyway, on with the quote:
Jennifer: Doctor Brown? I brought this note back from the future and…now it’s erased!
Doc: Of course it’s erased!
Jennifer: But what does that mean?
Doc: It means that your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one. Both of ya!
Marty: We will, Doc!
Indeed, Tim and Jeni also firmly intend to make their future a good one. None of the things that have happened to bring them together has been coincidence. God has worked an amazing wonder in their lives, and they are confident that as they grow together in Him they will have a wonderful future together with each other.
- Genesis 1:1-2
- Incidentally, the background picture for our first website was of a cathedral (built of LEGOs, of course) at LEGOLand. The photograph was taken by Tim during their visit there in 2001. Right-click here and choose “Save Target As…” to save it.
- This was not only Tim’s first kiss with Jeni, but his first kiss, period. Yes, you read that right. Tim’s first kiss was at the age of 21 with Jeni. It was worth the wait ;^)
- October 12th, 2002, in case you forgot :^)
- As much as Tim would love to claim responsibility for this idea, it was actually a concept stolen from J.R.. A very good idea though.
- Click here to see a picture of the lighthouse, and click here to see a picture of a LEGO model that Tim made in June.
- Ri-ight… In case you aren’t too quick on the pick-up, that would be sarcasm in action.
- The other greatest trilogies of all time are the original Star Wars trilogy, and the not-yet-completed Lord of the Rings trilogy.
- Which, as luck would have it, comes out on DVD December 17th, 2002. As you may recall, that is Jeni’s birthday. Hmm… Can Tim get a present on Jeni’s birthday? :^) [post-note: While Tim did not receive the Back to the Future trilogy for Jeni's birthday, he did receive it for Christmas. Yay for time travel!]