I met Crystal during my senior year at Los Angeles High School. She was in the tenth grade. She was in my World History class. And I thought she was absolutely beautiful. We really didn’t interact much in school. She was doing what tenth-graders do. And I was doing what very few twelfth-graders do (pastoring a church). After I graduated, I did not see Crystal again for several years, even though I would ask my sister, Donetta, about her often. They were in the same grade and had formed a friendship at LA High. In fact, that’s how I met up with Crystal again. I went to visit my mom one day, and Crystal was there. My sister was doing her hair. That weekend, we made a connection. And we talked and saw each other periodically after that. From the first time I was around Crystal, I have said that she is the easiest person for me to be around that I have ever met. And that hasn’t changed. I love being with Crystal.

I do not know exactly when I first fell in love with Crystal. But I vividly remember the night I found out that I was in love with her. At the time, she was not even speaking to me. She had told me that she didn’t want to see me anymore (for the record, it was all my fault). And I thought I didn’t care, until that night. I will not go into details about that night, or the circumstances surrounding it, but that night was a turning point for me. However, it took months before Crystal reached that point. She was so mad at me that she wouldn’t receive my calls. We only started talking again because of her mother’s intervention. Crystal’s mom, Charlene, picked me way before Crystal did (She passed away early in our marriage, but was the best mother-in-law a guy could have.). After we reconnected, we dated for quite some time before I asked her to marry me. I had intended to ask her to marry me on her birthday, December 18, in 1997. But, believe it or not, I was in the middle of a court case with a group of church members who wanted my pastorate terminated. The case was supposed to come to an end at the beginning of the next year. And trusted friends asked me to wait until that happened before I proposed. I reluctantly agreed.

It was several months into the following year, and the case was still pending. I had been on the road for several weeks. And I returned home to the news that my older sister’s newborn had died. I went to my office. I called one of my best friends. And he gave me the news that his grandfather, who has raised him, had died. I was overwhelmed. And all I could think about was Crystal. I concluded that life was too short for me to delay any longer. I told my friend that I was going to marry Crystal immediately. I didn’t know if I was going to have a job in the comign days or not, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to be with Crystal. While I was on the phone, there was a knock at the door. My sister and brother-in-law were concerned about me and had sent Crystal to my office to check on me. I was so glad to see her. And I proposed to her right there in my office.

Crystal and I were married at the end of that year, on December 12, 1998. Within a year, we were parents. H.B. Charles III was born on October 8, 1999. Several years later, on March 4, 2002, our daughter Natalie Marie Charles was born. So here we are after seven years. Ten years ago, if you have told either of us that we would be here together, we would have laughed. In fact, we did laugh at those who said we were going to end up together. But here we are, by the grace of God.

I thank God every day that I am privileged to be married to Crystal. Incredibly, she is even more beautiful today than she was when I first saw here in high school. She is humble, God-fearing, maternal, patient, optimistic, and wise. The more time I spend with her, the more reasons I find to fall in love with her all over again. She is my “Sunshine,” my best friend, my prayer partner, my unwavering ally, and my soul mate. I really couldn’t imagine what life would be like without her. And I hope I never do. So much has happened in my life at an early age that I used to think that the Lord was getting so much in early because I would be checking-out early. But being with Crystal has caused me to regularly pray that I will live to be an old man. I look forward to growing old with Crystal. At the same time, I cherish every day with her. I love Crystal with all of my heart. I did seven years ago, when we exchanged vows with one another. I still love her (now, more than ever). And I always will.