Tiffany + Jesse at the Duke Mansion
Ahhh, it's been a long time coming for Tiffany and Jesse to make it in front of my lens. The day finally came, after almost a year of connecting for the first time, meeting at Dean and Deluca for a face to face, and countless emails back and forth. Their story is not only inspiring and beautiful, but hits home for me, so it was an absolute joy and privilege to be able to finally capture the bond between these two after so many months of talking and planning. Tiffany tells their story way better than I would be able to summarize, so grab a glass of wine, a Kleenex, and enjoy...
(written November 2017) "Jesse always laughs when I tell this story to anyone who cares to listen to me babble! My second week at work, the facility coordinator, Jackie, told me she wanted to introduce me to one of “her boys” who was one of the Operating Engineers for our building. I was one of the new Senior Admins to one of the Site Leaders/Sr.VP and knew I needed to make sure I maintained relationships with anyone who could help us if we were in a crunch or having facility issues. So I thought nothing of it. Jackie kept saying, “I treat these guys like they are my kids since I’m old enough to be their mother." I just laughed and said, "Sure, I’m happy to meet someone who can help me out when I need it."
One random Monday I see Jackie walking down the hallway to my desk with a guy with chiseled cheeks, beautiful green eyes, and a stoic expression. I was instantly intrigued and nervous! I thought he looked so serious and almost mean… I have never been happier in my life to say I was SO incredibly wrong, and stand corrected. Jackie introduced her “work son” to me as Jesse Moon. I thought what an interesting last name! His wife would be Mrs. Moon, how sweet! Then I mentally chastised myself for even going there. I thought what in the world?! Get it together, Tiffany! As he went to shake my hand and Jackie said something while looking between the two of us, I honestly cannot explain what came over me, but he cracked a half grin and his eyes lit up. I was captivated! He had the most gorgeous smile, and his eyes crinkled a little at the corners when he smiled.
Fast forward a few weeks, we began to see each other at work in passing and would speak, and the conversations always left me wanting more, I just didn’t know what that more was. One day Jesse and I began to talk about past relationships with people, and we eventually got on the topic of our relationship with God. I don’t know why I was shocked, but I was when he began to speak of his love for God, how he was working on his relationship with Him, and what he expected out of God for his life. It was literally like the Lord was letting me know, "I told you to wait and I would do more than just fulfill your heart, I’d fulfill your wants, needs, and spirit." And He did just that! After a string of awful relationships, I was afraid to trust a man again, but I know that Jesse was handpicked for me and Bella (my daughter from a previous relationship) by the master of breath and life.
One day he began telling me about an outing he’d had with his best friend and a few ladies. It was like a switch went off in my mind. If you want this man, you need to trust God and to let him know. Now prior to this, Jesse had told me he wouldn’t date anyone he worked with, and I also had this rule. But I told him soon after this realization that I would break that rule for him. So initially when we began, I was pursuing him and I was relentless! I knew early on this was the man I wanted to be with. This was the man God had told me to wait for, the blessing that had been tied up for a reason. I prayed on it long and hard. I even fasted. I told no one but God and myself of my feelings for Jesse. My family kept commenting on me talking to my “friend” from work, and I’d never tell them otherwise. I realized in hindsight that my trust in God wasn’t completely there, and I was afraid to tell my family how I felt in fear that things wouldn’t work out. But one night after Jesse and I had talked on the phone for six hours, I took the leap to tell him how I felt. I told him I was falling for him, and he didn’t need to respond, I just wanted him to know.
The night of our first date, Jesse came to pick me up. I was panicking because I couldn’t find anything to wear! He got there earlier than I was expecting, which made me even more nervous. I was expecting him to wait in the car, but instead he came to the door and waited by the stairs until I was ready. He knew I had a daughter from a previous relationship, but we weren’t expecting him to meet Bella that night. She was shy, and kind of stood behind my back, but Jesse was so patient with her and spoke so softly to her. He didn’t try to push her to speak when she moved on to play with her toys. Later that night, he told me he would never ask me to put her before him or to come between our relationship. And I cried like a baby! It was one of the things I had prayed about. I asked God to give me a man who wouldn’t ask me to choose between him and my child, because it would always be my child that I chose. While on our date, Jesse grabbed my hand when our food came and prayed over our food, family, and relationship! I was in complete awe; I’d never had a man grab my hand to pray besides my uncles or my pastor. To this day, Jesse still does it!
As weeks went by, we began to bond over our love for country music, our faith, and mourning the death of our fathers; mine being 11 years ago and his just one year. It was later on he told me that talking to me was the first time he had ever cried about this father’s passing since he had died. I felt so honored that he felt secure enough with our relationship to cry in front of me. In that moment, in his moment of utter vulnerability, I began to fall for him harder.
After that, things took off, but we hit a bit of a bump in the road. Jesse got cold feet and was scared. He was nervous that the history of his past relationships were going to repeat themselves and that we wouldn’t work. I was SO heartbroken. For the first time I allowed myself to cry in front of him. I hung up the phone completely devastated. And all I remember asking is, “Why Lord, why would you allow me to feel this?” I barely slept a wink that night, and Jesse and I didn’t speak much for about two days. On the second day, Jackie, the facility coordinator, came up to my desk and asked me if I was okay. I just looked at her and said I would be and gave her a brief synopsis of what happened. After all, she was like our mom at work. All she kept saying is, "It will work out for the best. God has a plan Tiff, trust it. Jesse is a good boy, and you’re a good girl, and you two belong together." I thought it was hopeless. On the third day, I texted Jesse to ask if he was okay since he’d gone home early on the second day, and I asked him to come upstairs to my desk for a minute. He was there what seemed like two seconds later. We somehow got on the topic of us, and he said to me that I told him, “If you walk away now, that is it. No turning back.” When I realized what he was talking about I agreed I had said that, but didn’t understand why we were re-hashing this, and at work! Right there at work, next to my desk, he got down on one knee and said that I was all he wanted for the long term, and that he was so sorry for giving into his fear. We agreed to speak later on, and a few days later, after some long talks, prayer, and time together, we decided to commit to one another with the intention of it going toward forever.
Everything after that day was a whirlwind, but a good one! Jesse and I grew closer to each other; he spent time with my family (my mom, sister, nephew, and daughter – who I all live with), and he became one of us. He would spend time at Bella’s school with me, and the teachers all came up to him and said that she talks about you every day, she just loves you! It felt so right and so good. Everyday I fell more and more in love with him and how he treated me like a queen and my daughter like a princess. He would open our doors whenever we went anywhere and would tell my daughter this is what she should expect of a man; he did the same when he prayed over us. He was and is EVERYTHING I have prayed for, and everything that God promised me that I didn’t even know I needed.
A few months ago, Jesse gave me a simple diamond eternity band, a promise ring of such. He promised to marry me and Bella, and that he was committing to us both for the long haul. He didn’t want me if he couldn’t have her as his daughter. A week ago, he surprised me while at the Cheesecake Factory and wrote, "Will you marry me?" on the napkin of our bread basket. By the time I realized what was going on, Jesse was down on one knee. I will never forget that moment in my life, the sense of peace and love I was filled with in that moment eclipsed all.
I told Jesse early on that I was going to marry him and this was it for me. He told me early on he doesn’t do anything without a plan, and he wasn’t letting me go, that I could bet on him. Everyday when I tell him how thankful I am for him, he reminds me to thank the source as he does everyday for me and Bella."