This year Stephen and I will be married for 5 years. Honestly, it seems like we haven’t been married that long. I still feel like a newlywed in many ways, but that is not really the case! Some of you may not know the story of our relationship. I only mention it because it is truly unique. I love sharing it mainly because it is so clear that God orchestrated it.
Stephen is from Florida. I am from Wisconsin. We were both born and bred in our respective states, and we each grew to love them dearly. I was raised thinking that Florida was too hot to be any good. Stephen had vowed never to marry a Northerner. I vowed to never marry a Southerner… I wanted to move further north, and no one from the south would desire that! In spite of all these preconceived ideas, the Lord had other plans in mind. (Note to unmarried people: Never say “never” unless you really want it.)
The year: 2001. The place: Dublin, Ireland. I was on a missions trip with my sister, her future husband, and another young man from our church. We had just finished working with an “interesting” group from Illinois and counseled Irish children at a 3 day camp. We were exhausted. Two weeks remained in our trip, and we were skeptical about this group from FL coming in. I determined to make the best of it. The Lord ended up bringing a wonderful group to us. We all made fast friends.
As I walked into orientation the first day the group from Jacksonville arrived, I saw two boys in flannel shirts. I assumed that they were in high school. Later I learned that there was only one high schooler on the trip, a girl – the rest were college students. One of those guys was Stephen, the other was my future brother-in-law, Brandon.
The rest of our time in Ireland was a blast. I made a lot of new friends, had many adventures ministering in the country, and learned a lot about serving the Lord. Stephen hardly spoke to me even though we were often in the same vehicle, at the same table, or in the same traveling group. He was shy and I am certainly not. His friend, Julie, kept talking him up in front of me, but I thought nothing of it.
The day before the WI group left, I put my address on the table for anyone to copy down for correspondence. Julie came up to me and said, “Stephen wants to know if he can write to you.” Okay. That’s why I had put my address on the table. Anyone can correspond. No big deal. Julie sensed that I was not understanding, so she continued, “He thinks you are a nice girl and he wants to get to know you better.” Ding! The light bulb just went on. “Sure,” I responded, “it’s fine with me.”
He eventually wrote me a nice note and sent me some sea shells from the beach. Then we started e-mailing once he got back to school. (I was at Maranatha and Stephen was at Bob Jones.) We really got to know each other pretty well, and I was starting to like him. In November we started calling. At Christmastime, he sent me a gift. On Valentine’s Day, he sent me another gift. I started to wonder what was going on. In WI guys do not send gifts unless you are dating. So I planned a trip to SC with the dual purpose of visiting a friend of mine from school and determining the “status” of my relationship with Stephen.
That trip ended up being quite profitable. It took him until the night before I returned to WI to tell me that he did like me. He came to my sister’s wedding in June to meet my family, and that is when we “officially” started dating. (Girls – have your father or a man you trust check out any suitors… you will be glad you did.) The Lord was so good at this time, because airlines tickets were cheap. (This all happened after 9/11 when people were weary of flying.) So Stephen and I were able to visit each other about every other month. We were able to get to know each other very well despite living across the country from each other. Technology is marvelous!
I will save our engagement story for another time. Many details were edited from this post due to a desire to keep it brief. BUT let me put a moral on this tale : Let God choose your mate. Who better to match-make than the One who Created you and your spouse? He will do it in His time and will. For as opposite as Stephen and I are, we actually compliment each other very well. He is such a wonderful husband. I would never have expected that someone like him would want someone like me, which is why I praise the Lord that He orchestrated our union.