Monday, April 29, 2013

A Match Made in Heaven

{a personal testimony of how God brought my husband and I together, written in January 2013}


While at a youth conference in Colorado during the second week of August, the Lord impressed upon my heart (as He had many times before) that in order to be wholeheartedly devoted to Him I needed to let go of my own plans, desires, and ideas for my future and surrender to HIS will for me... Even if I didn't understand what that was yet. The hardest thing about that surrender was letting go of my long-cherished dream and hope of marriage. After thinking and praying hard and long about it, I chose to let go of what I thought I wanted and give myself to the Lord completely so that His plans and purposes could be brought about in my life. 

During that same week, my mom became friends with a Canadian lady whose son and daughter were attending the same conference as my siblings and I. In a conversation one afternoon, Mom discovered that this friend knew the young man named Tim who was courting my dear friend Whitney, so she began asking questions about him. During this conversation this friend also mentioned Tim's brother Joel several times as being a Godly young man whom she and her family highly respected. That day, even though she couldn't explain it logically, my mom knew in her heart that this Canadian Joel Holloway (who we had never met) was the one the Lord had chosen for me.

As the Lord would have it, two weeks later I met Joel.

Joel had accompanied his brother Tim down from British Columbia to Missouri for a week of (what I assumed was) visiting Whitney's friends and family. The second day of their visit the two brothers came over for dinner along with two other friends from their hometown and our mutual friends from Tennessee. When Joel walked through our front door for the first time my Mom once again felt confirmation in her heart that he would be my husband. I had no clue.

Many times throughout the next week I had opportunity to observe Joel's character. I knew there was a difference in our ages so I hardly considered the possibility of him being interested in me and interacted with him very little. I did notice, however, an admirable character displayed in this young man which I respected greatly. I'd seen him interact with my younger siblings: volleyball in the rain on the little-kids’ team and long conversations about fishing with my ten-year-old brother. In passing, I'd noticed him enter into worship during the several fellowship gatherings we’d attended that week: eyes closed to all surroundings and singing with a wholehearted passion that couldn't be mistaken. This blessed me. 
We had found ourselves one afternoon in my best friend's living room discussing mission trips and discovering -much to our surprise- that we'd both been to the Central American country of El Salvador at different points in our lives. I'd also immediately taken note of the fact that he not only like coffee, he loved coffee. Just like I do. Still, the thought that he had considered me never crossed my mind.

Then, on the last day of his trip, Joel asked my Dad to go out for a conversation over coffee. 


Peace filled my heart later that afternoon when my Dad called me into his office and told me that Joel had asked for the blessing of beginning a relationship with me.

Little did I know that early in August Joel had received an email from an older brother in the Lord -and mutual friend of ours- that mentioned me. It was then that Joel began to pray about me for the first time, even though we'd never met.

Joel had then flown those 2,315 miles down to our little corner of Missouri with the single goal of observing my character throughout the time he was  here and asking the Lord for guidance regarding a relationship with me. When Dad told me this I was very blessed remembering the honorable way in which he had conducted himself when he was around me. I'd had no clue whatsoever of any such observation going on the whole time. At the end of his week here he was encouraged by what he’d seen and felt total peace and confirmation from the Lord that he should ask my dad for his blessing to begin a relationship with me.

As Joel headed back to Canada I began to pray, along with my parents, to  understand God's heart on the matter. Peace like I had never felt before continued to guard my heart every single day as we waited to know the Lord's will.

After a week and a half of praying and discussing things with my parents, all of us feeling a confirming peace from God about the situation we decided to take the next step in faith.
I found that same peace living inside me, swelling and overtaking me, as I began correspondence with this man I barely knew who felt God's leading  to get to know me for who I am. It wasn't without occasional trepidation, however. There were those little fears that crept in, unnoticed and unwelcome, quietly as I lay in bed at night considering the circumstance. Humanly speaking the whole circumstance seemed impossible and even scary; simply because Joel and I hardly knew each other and lived nearly a continent apart. But whenever I'd take the fears and concerns to the Lord He'd remind me that He wasn't the Author of fear and He'd bid all fear to leave me alone. Peace came back every time.
So in faith I stepped out into a relationship I could've never conjured on my own and the scary became okay.

For about two weeks Joel and I communicated daily through email. We talked about all kinds of things including what a normal day looked like in each of our lives, favorite colors and pastimes,  personal convictions or strong beliefs, hopes, dreams, experiences, and what the Lord was teaching us that day specifically. It’s amazing how much can be communicated through writing! We learned a lot about each other’s lives that two weeks and looked forward to every new email with excitement. Then Dad gave Joel his blessing to call me, and when I heard his Canadian voice for the first time come over the phone so clearly, him speaking my name in that beautiful accent, there was that peace again: over and under, all the way around; filling that first conversation in a way I couldn't hardly believed. There wasn't even any awkwardness.

From then on we corresponded mostly by phone calls. The more I got to know Joel the more I not only began to trust and admire him, I began to discover that he was everything I had been asking God for in a man since I was sixteen.

It was a season of learning to walk by faith like never before. I had nothing to base my decision on but the unchanging character of God. It was beautiful because it daily proved to me that my Father loves ME and had tenderly and faithfully gone before me and provided for all of my needs; even throwing in a few trivial wants for my extra assurance of His genuine care.

And then the day arrived in early October, only weeks into our relationship, when I found myself walking down a jet way: one step at a time, making my way to visit Joel in Canada for the first time. Whitney, who was now engaged to Joel’s brother Tim, turned to me as we sat together on the plane and asked with a smile how I was doing. Above the clouds somewhere between my home and Joel’s I told her I felt nothing other than peace. Still: peace.


Five days I spent in British Columbia, getting to know the families at Joel’s church, celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with him and his family, touring some local attractions, and getting to know Joel better by spending time with him in person. I left more encouraged than I had gone, and more convinced than ever that Joel was the one for me.

We continued our long-distance relationship on into November with daily phone calls, emails, texts and even a few video calls. The Lord continued daily to confirm to us that we were moving in the right direction and that we had been made for each other.

American Thanksgiving came around to us Missourians, and with it came Joel. Joel and his parents spent the day at our home and shared our traditional Thanksgiving meal with us. We enjoyed being together with our families, playing volleyball, basketball, chatting, walking down our long dirt road, eating and relaxing, taking four-wheeler rides and just enjoying getting to spend time together.  It was a day of celebration and giving thanks, but it was that evening that our rejoicing increased majorly. After dark Joel asked if I’d like to go for another walk. Agreeing, I grabbed my coat and headed out the door on his heels. Shutting the door behind him he turned to me. “Actually,” he said “I really wanted to just talk more than I wanted to walk.” He gestured to the rocking chairs on the porch and we both sat down. I looked him in the face and saw that tears were in his eyes. He began to tell me some of what the Lord had been doing in his heart and assuring me that he wanted to marry me. He gently offered that if I still wanted time to pray about it I had no obligation to answer him then and there, but I knew there was no need to pray about it more. The Lord had already made it clear to me in my heart that Joel was the one I had been waiting for all this time. Joel is the man I was made for. I made this clear to him, and after we talked a little more Joel got down on his knee with a ring and asked me to marry him.

I said yes.


Two days later was Tim and Whitney’s wedding. Joel and I began planning ours.

A week later, at the beginning of December, I flew up to BC again to be at Tim and Whitney’s Canadian reception and spend time with Joel and my future family. Joel met me at the airport with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. That week was filled with many wonderful memories for the two of us, including fellowship with the saints there, coffee dates and planning our wedding. The ladies from Joel’s church threw a surprise shower for me that weekend, blessing us with many things for our future home and then that Monday Joel and I flew out to Texas together. He had some business meetings very close to where my extended family lived there so we decided it was a good opportunity for them to meet Joel. We parted ways there, already planning his trip to Missouri just in time for New Years, and thanked the Lord for the knitting together He was continuing to do in our hearts.

Joel came down at the end of December and spent a week in our home with my family and I. I rejoiced to see the way my parents and each of my nine siblings love him so much and enjoy being around him, and thank the Lord for the many beautiful memories that were made for all of us that week. This was our last opportunity to spend time together in person before our wedding in February, so we enjoyed every day to the fullest and enjoyed watching God grow our love for each other daily as we were together... as He continues to do even now that we are apart again for a little while longer.

As I think of the story our Father God has written for Joel and I, I cannot help but think of the many similarities it has to His own beautiful Love Story. Just as Jesus came from Heaven to earth to a people who didn't know Him with the purpose of winning a bride to Himself, Joel came from another country to see a girl who’d never met him with the purpose of finding the bride God had chosen for him.
In the same way that Jesus patiently, powerfully but gently wooes and captures the hearts of the beloved ones He longs to call His own, Joel patiently won my heart and my trust through prayer and months of listening to my heart and displaying his love in multiple ways. When Jesus finished His days on earth He went back to Heaven to a prepare a place for His Bride, leaving us with a promise to soon return and take His Bride to Himself. I get the beautiful privilege of seeing this exemplified in my own life as Joel Holloway left me the first week of January to go and prepare a place for me with a promise to return soon and take me to himself as his bride forever. The Second Coming of Christ has never been more realistic or precious to me before now.

We pray that this glimpse of God’s work in our lives would inspire each of you on to deeper faith in Christ and that you would be encouraged, along with us, to continue to surrender everything to our precious Savior Jesus Christ to the glory of His matchless name.



{photos from our wedding day, credit goes to R&E Photography (c) 2013}

4 comments:

  1. Madison, this is such a beautiful story of what the Lord has done in the lives of you and Joel. I was so blessed by this story, and I am so happy for the two of you. Sadly, distance has kept our families apart, but your family is so dear to me. You have been so blessed with godly parents who have raised you into a beautiful, godly young lady.

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  2. We're so happy for you and Joel, Madi! Truly our God does all things well! What a blessed story!

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  3. I read this post last evening and immediately knew that I wanted to share it with my two oldest sons. They are only 11 and 8 years old, but already they ask me questions like, "How will I find a wife?" and "What about courtship?" As they are sorting things out and dreaming about their futures, I want them to know about people like you - people who trusted God to write their love story.

    This morning I had them both read this post, and the smiles on their faces told me how much they enjoyed it. :) I - and my boys - thank you for being a faithful witness of someone who's done it God's way! :)

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    1. Thank you, Davene! What an encouragement to my heart. The Lord is indeed faithful and I am still I'm awe!

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