The first known picture of J.J. and Sara together. The famous “Old Town” date.
Ask J.J. how we first met and he’ll tell you “we met at Chili’s.” While this statement is not untrue, it really misses all of the details God was working out from behind the scenes long before either of us ever imagined marrying a “J.J.” or a “Sara.” So, to fully understand the power of God we have to give you some background:
Even though Sara’s family moved around every two years, mostly to overseas locations, her Aunt, Uncle, Cousins, Grandmother and Grandfather all lived in Albuquerque. They would frequently come back to visit, making Albuquerque her home-base and a logical location for her parents to retire.
Back in 1995 the Westbrook family moved to Moscow, Russia. Overseas, the expat community is extremely close-nit. One of the families they would hang out with was the Kennedy family. They had two sons, Jay and Jason.
J.J.’s sister married Jay Kennedy.
Sara’s sister married a very good High School friend of Jay Kennedy, Erik Johansson.
In 2003 Sara decided to go to Trinity University. Unbeknownst to her, Jessica Kennedy (J.J.’s sister), Jay Kennedy (her husband), Jonah Mancini (J.J.’s brother) and Julia Mancini (his wife) had all paved the way before her.
In the summer of 2007, J.J. worked at a church that was just across the street from a red-door duplex on Mistletoe in San Antonio where Sara and two of her now-bridesmaids, then-roommates lived.
Sara worked at the T.G.I.Friday’s in Albuquerque near Uptown the same summer that J.J. worked across the street at Macaroni Grill.
In Albuquerque at Desert Springs Church Sara’s parents were in a small group leadership training class with J.J.’s older brother, Jason and his wife Amy.
Now that you know all of the crazy background, let the story of love begin.
Our first double date, we went to uptown. But the other half of the double is not in this pic.
In December of 2007 Sara’s parents were invited to the annual Christmas party at the Kennedy home. They had recently moved from Beijing, China to Albuquerque, New Mexico and were a logical invitation to the Christmas party due to the Westbrook-Kennedy connection in Russia. At the party, Sara’s Mom started talking to J.J.’s sister-in-law, Amy, whom she had built a relationship with from Church. Amy was doting on her brother-in-law, J.J., telling Sara’s mom what a wonderful man he was and what a great husband he would make. Sara’s mom then started doting on Sara. Amy brought J.J. into the conversation so Sara’s mom got to meet him and instantly liked him for Sara. She went home that night and called Sara to tell him about the nice man she met at the Christmas party. Sara was on her way back from San Antonio as she had just graduated from college and was uninterested. About 5-6 months later, Sara was living in Albuquerque, trying to find a job and make friends. For some reason she remembered the man her mom had mentioned in passing months ago. She asked her mom if she had his number. Her mom immediately called Amy to get J.J.’s number and Amy called J.J. to give him Sara’s number. Within minutes they had each other’s cell phone number. The stage is now set for their first blind-date.
Our “1 year meeting anniversary” picture. J.J. had reserved a table at Chili’s with a rose and a chili.
From Sara’s perspective: I had recently ended a long-term, long-distance relationship so I was honestly just looking for a way to make friends. I figured since he was from Albuquerque he was well connected with a good group of friends. My plan was to mooch off of his friends for a while and eventually make them my own. Meeting my husband never even occurred to me as an option. I waited about a day, so I didn’t look too desperate, and then gave him a call to set up a time where we could meet. Our first phone conversation went nothing like I had expected. He asked me tons of questions so it felt more like an interview than anything else. After a 20 minute conversation, sweaty armpits and much nervous laughter, he ended the conversation by saying “well cool, I’ll call you later to set up a time to meet” and that was that. I hung up the phone somewhat bewildered because I had just called him to set up a time to meet. So I waited for what felt like an eternity (it was probably a week) and he called me to set up a time to meet at Starbucks off of Paseo del Norte and I-25. I drove by there on my way to work the next day and noticed it was a drive-through only so I called him later that day, told him we should meet at Chili’s off of Paseo del Norte and Wyoming for dinner one night after work. He agreed. A few days later, I was surprised to find myself extremely nervous – I washed and straightened my hair (just in case), put on additional make-up after work (just in case) and prepared myself to meet the man who would soon be my future husband.
From J.J.’s perspective: I thought she was weird and desperate so I threw away her number. I am so lucky she manned up and called me first. She was beautiful, perfect and everything I could ever want. 🙂
So, they met at Chili’s. And, the rest is history.
J.J. and Sara!!!! I loved reading each and every word of your most perfect relationship!! WOW!!!!! ……to consider all the God so perfectly orchestrated even years before you met…….is absolutely beautiful! We love you guys soooo much and are beyond blessed to have you for our life long friends!!!<3 Woohooooo for the "MANCINIS!!!!" :):):):) <3<3<3!!!!!!!! We're humbled and blessed to be in your lives!!:)