By the Bride
Sixteen had come and gone, and still there had been no first date. That was the golden age my parents had set that I would be allowed to “car-date.” That rule didn’t matter though unless there was someone to take me on that date. Years went by and my standards for dating only got stricter… making my chances of finding my husband seem slimmer and slimmer in the world’s eyes. Sometimes I would blame my singleness on my strong Christian convictions or my permanent residence in the “friend zone” but looking back I clearly see that God was protecting me. He was also granting my request… I started praying when I was 18 that I would not enter a serious relationship with anyone that wasn’t my husband. Of course I had my interests here and there and had my share of times that I hoped I had met him, but none of those ever seemed to move past friendship. Enough about my singleness and on to the good part….
Rewind to the Summer of 2012. I had just finished my junior year of Nursing School at Milligan College in East Tennessee. For about a year, I had been feeling incredibly unsettled. My life seemed pretty perfect…. I had great friends, was part of a wonderful cheer squad, had 2 ideal jobs for the time, and was moving right along my 10-year plan. However, God kept poking me about that planner personality of mine. After much prayer, frustration, tears, and resistance, I surrendered my 10-year plan to the Lord while working PowerLife Student Camps that summer. I remember telling God, I was all His now and that He got to make the plans. I had been saved since age 11 but had simply been adding God to my life instead of fully making my life His. I never imagined where that moment of surrender would land me. I was supposed to be returning to Milligan for my senior year in only 3 weeks following camp… but God kept reminding me of that promise I made Him…. In the same day that I finally released my hands from Milligan, Tammy (pastor’s wife at Lifehouse) messaged me about visiting and praying about joining their church plant…. in Delaware. After sleepless nights, intimate moments with the Lord, and a visit to Townsend, I knew this homebody, rooted, planner girl was packing her bags. I moved to Delaware on October 13, 2012.
I immediately felt grounded here and began to settle in… but was keeping in mind that the commitment I had given LifeHouse was 1 year and then we would pray for direction from there. One of the first ministries that kicked off soon after was 1021, a ministry for young adults. I had no idea that it would be that bible study that opened the opportunity for me to meet my husband.
In early February of this year, Mark (my pastor) had asked me to reach out to a new “20-something” he had met after church. In my typical outgoing fashion, I called Joel and left him a voicemail inviting him to 1021. That Thursday…… ENTER JOEL! He rarely missed after that. I wasn’t at all thinking he could be my husband though…. Within the first few conversations with Joel, all I really knew was that he loved Jesus, fishing, hunting, and that he worked in Air National Guard full time (but I had no idea what that even meant haha).
Side note: Also in February, God confirmed for me that Delaware was more than just a year commitment but rather more of a permanent place. It was then that I accepted the position of nanny to Katherine Finn part time.
It wasn’t until April really that Joel and I’s friendship started to grow more. I distinctly remember one night after a 1021 bonfire where a couple of my friends made comments such as “seems like you and Joel were having a good talk.” That we were… but my mind still wasn’t thinking potential husband, just enjoyable friend. It wasn’t really until a hiking trip with 1021 in June that I realized quite how much I enjoyed his company. My interest greatly increased as we served together in VBS the following week and had many conversations while eating out with the gang each night. It was this week I could see his amazing love for Jesus, his humility in serving, and his strong Christian convictions. Being the girl though I felt I had to simply wait and pray. I tried to deny the interest, knowing that I would be serving in TN at a camp the following week. Every time it would rise to my mind, I would ask God to take it away if it wasn’t from Him. About a week and a half after returning from camp, Joel started making his interest in me obvious. After the 4th of July, I knew the interest must be mutual. The next day, he asked if we get together and talk over the weekend. We agreed to meet up Sunday afternoon for coffee. Saturday was mostly spent with me as a wreck but that evening, peace overflowed… and I knew that even though I had no idea what Joel was about to ask, that we were to be more than friends. The next morning I received even more confirmation when I realized that part of the worship set was How He Loves… the song I’ve planned on walking down the aisle to for quite some time. That Sunday afternoon at Starbucks, Joel expressed his interest and asked if he could pursue me with the hope of one day making me his wife. It was if he had read my prayer journal…. I knew that the words he spoke could only be from the leading of the Holy Spirit. I of course was thrilled!
The coming days contained many hours on the phone and the porch swing filled with long conversations about our lives, our hopes, and our Lord. Because I had to leave again for student camps a few days after that Starbucks talk, it was another 15 days before it happened…….. Joel took me out on my very first date. It wasn’t long before we both knew. This wasn’t just a relationship for a season but for a lifetime. I had prayed every day since he had shown interest that if he wasn’t my husband, God would show me quickly. Yet every day, there was more confirmation and more peace. It was so easy to see that God had been preparing our journeys for each other for many years. Though so many times people had doubted that I would find someone who matched my long-prayed prayers, God provided…. Not just someone who shared my love for the Lord but also my convictions. Not just someone who wanted to treasure me in the future but someone who had been treasuring me in his past. I can remember the very specific Monday that we had a picnic date by the pond and I really knew. We didn’t say it until Thursday but I knew that night that I loved him and he would be my husband. Although I joked to a couple of my closest friends and my mom that a fall wedding was my ideal, I never really dreamed that he would propose in time for that. But boy was I wrong. On August 7th while walking on the beach Joel got down on one knee, told me he didn’t want to spend another day without me, that he wanted to spend forever serving the Lord with me, and asked me if I would marry him. With an exclamation of “OF COURSE!” and hug-turned-to-tackle I knocked the ring in the sand…. After a few seconds (seemed like minutes) of looking, he placed the ring on my hand and the moment I had been waiting for happened… we shared our first kiss. My first kiss. His first kiss. Knowing that we would belong to each other forever. I felt like the most blessed woman in all the world. I couldn’t believe that this wonderful, godly man wanted to make me his wife! And soon....
When looking at calendar over ice cream after the proposal, Joel (knowing I wanted an outside wedding and dreaming of fall) offered 2 dates: 0ct 26 or Nov 9. The choice is obvious…. The last two and a half months have been blissful and chaotic, full of excitement and anxiety. Planning a wedding in this short amount of time has been no easy task but one we are thoroughly glad we took on. We are certain that October 26, 2013 is the day that God arranged for us to become one on. I fall more and more in love every day and I pray that progression never stops. Sometimes I still can’t believe this is real and he’s here and God is blessing me the way He is. I have no idea what the future holds… but I know that I’m thankful that whatever it is Joel and I will be together chasing after the Lord. I’m also thankful for a cancelled 10 year plan, the friend zone, porch swings, answered prayers, a man who loves Jesus more than he loves me, and a Savior who never quits pursuing, blessing, and loving me.
“Wait on the Lord, be strong, take heart, and wait on the Lord.” – Psalm 27.14
By the Groom
I want to start this story by sharing a few of my values and beliefs. I am a follower of Christ, who is the only Son of God, who gave His life to die on a cross for my sins because of His great love. I trusted my life to Jesus at an early age, but I didn’t always follow Him as I should.
I’ve never been the kind of guy to date a lot. I’m not sure what I would have told you about what I was seeking for in a lady, except that I wanted to find my wife. I didn’t want to date just for the sake of dating and being in a relationship with someone, which I see so often. I wanted to find the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. Although at many times this was very difficult and certainly lonely at the worst of times, I always knew God would provide for me in His perfect timing. It was something I prayed about for many years, putting my faith in Him to give me the lady that He knew I needed and desired.
My love story really begins a whole year before I met Brandy, which was about February 2012. I was living in Newark, Delaware, co-renting a house with several friends from the church I went to at the time. It was a time where I was feeling really lonely and unhappy with where I was in life. I’ve lived in Delaware my whole life and despite having family, friends and a good job here, I felt like Delaware had nothing left to offer me. That’s right; I said Delaware and not God, because I was not seeking God in my life. I rarely went to church, skipped bible studies that I previously led even though they were hosted in my house and almost never prayed. I wanted to leave Delaware so badly and I was trying everything in my power to leave. I was in communication with several military units on the west coast and was trying my hardest to market myself to make the transition. My father and mother, who live in California, were also helping me in every way they could to make the move. I had big plans; I bought an RV in June 2012 and put almost all my possessions in a storage unit. The goal was to live in my RV at Dover AFB, then drive to wherever I got a new job and come back for my stuff at a later date. Fast forward three months to late September; I had spent three long months living in my tiny RV and no solid prospects. Every single door that I found was closing in front of me. I was very frustrated and was resentful that nothing was working out. I realized that this was obviously not what God wanted of me, but I didn’t like it or understand why. So I ended up buying a house in Townsend and pretty much continued my life as normal.
For Christmas of 2012, I decided to spend the week visiting with my older brother and his family in Virginia. During my time there, I was convicted in numerous ways of how I was living only for myself and not for Christ. I made the decision to seek God in every area of my life and wholly depend on Him. I knew this meant I needed to find a church to attend. When the new year of 2013 began, I started seeking a church. I thought it was fitting that it was a new year with new beginnings, but I had no idea just how much God would work in my life this year. I ended up driving past Lifehouse church on the third Sunday in January on my way to visit a different church. I saw the banners outside and it reminded me of the church I used to go to, so I thought I might visit it the following week. Well I did and I’ve been going to Lifehouse ever since. Upon my first visit to Lifehouse, I knew God was moving in this church and I wanted to be a part of that. I was away for a week and a half visiting my younger brother in Italy during February. I came back in the third week and decided to attend 1021 that Thursday, a ministry for young adults at Lifehouse.
I’m sure you’ve been reading this and wondering at what point I’m going to meet Brandy. Well here we are: my first time to 1021 and I’m standing in the doorway. I know Sheri and Mike talked to me briefly, but what I remember the most is this red-headed gal coming over and welcoming me. We talked for a few minutes and after a while, she invited me to sit next to her on the couch. I can be shy when attending new places; Brandy made me feel comfortable and welcome in this new place. Although I would soon start many new relationships at Lifehouse, I can honestly say that Brandy was my first friend there. As the months went by, my friendship with Brandy grew. We began to have longer and deeper conversations, about ourselves and about the Lord. Sometime around late May, as I prayed daily, Brandy began to come to mind a lot when I asked God to bring me a wife. I also had really begun to notice her and think of her as possibly being more than a friend.
1021 went on a hiking trip to Shenandoah the Saturday before VBS and I was really glad that Brandy had decided to come. We had many conversations that day, but the most distinct one was on the way home. We were both sitting in the back seat of the car and somehow, the topic of dating had come up. Brandy shared with me her values and beliefs in dating and I was surprised to learn that we shared very similar convictions. I was a little shocked; being twenty-five at the time, I had begun to think that I might not find someone who had similar beliefs as me. It was definitely a monumental conversation in our relationship. We both served at Lifehouse’s VBS in June and that’s when I started praying about Brandy specifically. I knew I liked her and was interested in a relationship. After VBS, Brandy went to Powerlife to serve for the week. In her absence, I knew that I wanted to pursue her to be my wife. I prayed many times every day asking God that she might be the one. The first time I saw her after she returned from Powerlife was on Sunday morning. I was on stage preparing to play the violin with the band that morning and Brandy was to play keyboard. She walked into the auditorium and when I saw her, my heart skipped a few beats. I had to talk to her and a few days later on the fifth of July, I asked her to meet with me one day that weekend so we could talk. She agreed to meet with me on Sunday and I spent all night Saturday begging God that she would let me pursue her. Well I woke up the next morning and I knew His answer. Brandy and I met for coffee at Starbucks that afternoon and I asked her to let me pursue her with the hope that she might someday be my wife. She, of course, said yes. July 7th was the start of our journey together.
While Brandy was at Powerlife again, only 5 days after we had met at Starbucks, we spent quite a bit of time talking over the phone, counting the days until she returned. We spent a lot of time together over the next month, learning and growing in our relationship with each other. I had already known that she is a sweet, kind and loving gal, who is totally given over in her dedication to serving Christ. I began to experience her love and kindness myself, as we were quickly falling in love with each other and showing our affection to one another. Some of my fondest memories are when we were simply sitting by the pond here at Ole Greenspring Manor or sitting in the back porch swing, talking about life or sometimes not talking at all and just enjoying each other’s presence. We had a picnic date by the pond one evening; I had made dinner and brought it by. We ate our meal and talked about the day. I had made her a bronze ring at work; a token that I wanted Brandy to have to show how much I cared about her. I know she really loved it and was surprised when I gave it to her. That evening, as we sat on the porch swing, I knew that I loved her. I didn’t end up telling her until a few days later though; I wanted it to be the right time and it wasn’t. I told her a couple days later, just a little while after we had finished watching the movie Courageous. It was very moving and I didn’t want another day to go by without her knowing that I loved her. I was overjoyed to hear her tell me that she loved me as well, but I wasn’t surprised. I had known from the time we had met at Starbucks that Brandy was the wife that God had provided. For me and Brandy, love meant marriage and that was something we were talking about not long after that night. We knew we would get married, but we weren’t sure about the timing; I didn’t know how long I would wait to propose or how long an engagement we would have. We talked about several different times that might work and decided to pray about it. I prayed for a few days and it didn’t take long for God to give me several confirmations about a fall wedding.
When I decide on something, I don’t like to wait to act. So I bought a ring right away, already knowing exactly what Brandy wanted. Three days after I had the ring, on August 7th, we had already planned a date night to Rehoboth beach. Brandy loves the beach and I enjoy it as well, so I thought it would be the perfect place to propose. After dinner, I led her out to the beach so we could walk alongside the waves. We were talking about our friendship and Brandy began talking about her love for me. It was too perfect, so I told her how much I loved her and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life together. I dropped to one knee and ring in hand, I asked her to marry me. She was surprised because she hadn’t expected me to propose that quickly or thought I even had a ring, but she was overjoyed and before she tackled me with hugs and kisses, I distinctly remember her saying: “Of course I’ll marry you!”
As you will read (or have read) in her perspective of our love story, a year before we met Brandy had been resisting God’s will for her life, which had been to move to Delaware. I had been resisting God’s will for my life, which had been to stay in Delaware. Knowing that we met after we had both surrendered to Him and learning the many similarities in our convictions, how we had each saved ourselves for our future spouse and kept our hearts only for each other, it has surely been no coincidence that Brandy and I were meant for each other. I could go on and on for many pages, writing about our love story and the ways that we complement each other in our lives. Our story has surely been a divine romance, unique in so many ways and will continue for the rest our lives. My wish for you is that you would pursue God first in your life and He will bless you richly.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
So that's it... long I know... but we are overjoyed and praising God for His goodness!!!
Coming up next on A Sweet Aroma is what I learned about God from planning a wedding!