In January we will be married 10 years. We have been friends for 13 as long as his baby sister has been alive although she is no longer a baby.
It was July 1995, we were sitting in a large circle, in a house on the Wycliffe base for a read through of a play that would celebrate the 400th translation of the bible and be used to challenge people to become missionaries.
It wasn't love at first sight, he didn't even notice me, I was 17 he was about to turn 21. I noticed him as he sung his brother's songs in a very loud melodic baritone voice. *Sigh* However at that time I was more impressed by his brother who wrote the songs and at break time decided to strike up a conversation with him instead, by the end of which I concluded that this song writer was completely self obsessed. My mother, on the other hand who had brought me to the rehearsal had taken an interest in Stephen and, being a lot braver then I (Stephen is quite tall), had struck up a conversation with him. Secretly I was pleased.
It was our second meeting that left a greater impression on my mind and heart but still not on his. Believe me it was a real act of God to get him to notice me, in fact it was a whole year later.
But this is my story not his. So, our second meeting:
I was running late for rehearsal. I had misread the time and was 1/2 an hour late. I ran towards the rehearsal rooms expecting to have to beg forgiveness from the director. Is I dashed down the steps I tripped on the last one and sprained my ankle. Limping toward the room I noticed that instead of the director taking the scene it was Stephen. He sat in a commanding position with this thick creamy wool jumper on. He looked like a big cuddly teddy bear. In pain and upset that I was running late and relieved I didn't have to face the Director, all I wanted to do was to wrap my arms around that cuddly jumper. As I opened the door my heart melted, I think I fell in love with that jumper. I won't let him chuck it out.
Did I mention that at this time I was pretty messed up. Life for me was not good. I was struggling with depression, anxiety and had problems with my dad. I had dropped out of school and felt like life was leading me nowhere. God was the only thing I was holding fast to. I also found I would have a crush on a guy if he was remotely nice to me. I was desperate for love and attention. Looking back on my life now I am so very grateful that God did not allow me to fall into impurity although I have had to ask forgiveness for impure thoughts God kept me physically pure.
Back to my story:
As the rehearsals progressed I discovered that I was not the only one that thought Stephen was a hunk so to speak. Almost every girl in the group had a crush on him. I found this rather disheartening. I have very clear memories of trying to attract his attention. Stephen was an honourable man and unlike most guys I knew didn't treat girls as potential dates. Finally at the last performance I found myself alone with him so I decided to try speaking to him. That's right, after three months I'd barely said boo to him. Oh, there was one time earlier on when I tried to give him some singing advice as I thought he was straining his voice.
Anyway, I thought I'd ask him what he does as you do when you get to know someone. He rattled off a long list of things that he did including preaching and helping his Dad in his church which impressed me greatly. By the time he was finished we were back to setting up for our performance and that was it. Slightly disappointing but oh well...
Wycliffe then sent us on a tour of South Australia and country Victoria. It was on this tour that God completely turned my life around. My parents often say I came back a completely different person. I also discovered this thing called courtship, where you waited for God to bring you your spouse and instead of dating you require the Guy to seek your parents permission to court you with the intention to marry. This completely revolutionised my idea of how to find a guy and for the first time I felt confident that God would supply my husband and I repented of all the crushes I had had.
The person God used to completely transform my life was... you guessed it, Stephen. He was our team teacher. He lead the bible studies every day and what he said and the way he said it spoke such life into my dying heart. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't Stephen doing it but God using Stephen by His Holy Spirit. I grew in such admiration for him. I no longer had a crush on him. I felt his was way to good for me, but I was content just to hear him speak.
So, where to from here? Things could only improve between us, couldn't they?
Well, the next tour was a gruelling three month rehearsal and tour. We lived at Wycliffe during the rehearsals before setting off for 6 weeks on the road. This tour in the words of many of the participants was an absolute failure. It destroyed a lot of relationships, the devil had a field day! I was not immune. I did a lot of things on that tour that I regret, but I also saw a not so honourable side of Stephen, although I have since discovered a lot of the reasons why he behaved the way he did. He became very careless and withdrawn and, I thought, neglected his role as team teacher. I really disliked him a lot during that time and avoided him like the plague.
By the time of the Queensland tour we had begun to have some good conversations, and I enjoyed talking to him, but the type of person he became on tour was not nice and I was disappointed in him.
Proving that God has a sense of humour, it was then that God actually hit Stephen on the head and alerted him to the fact that his future wife was standing right in front of him. So, this situation arose whereby, Stephen was trying to talk to me and I was trying to avoid him...poor guy.
Anyway, it was not long after the tour finished and I came to a better understanding of what happened to Stephen on the tour that I began to talk to him again.
It was around this time that I was painting his parents ceiling.
Let me explain, shortly after meeting Stephen and his 4 other brothers who were all very Godly guys, I and a few others had begun to attend his church run by his Dad. The teaching was good and so was the fellowship so I made the break from the church I had spent my whole life in and moved churches. The best move I made. I had become stagnant in my faith and through Stephen and his Dad's ministry my Faith was challenged and began to grow again, not to mention that my relationship with my Father was restored and I was no longer depressed or anxious.
So, out of wanting to serve the family that provided such wonderful teaching I found myself painting their lounge room ceiling.
As I did this Stephen had come home from work and said a quick hello and proceeded upstairs to freshen up. As I painted I felt the presence of someone and looked over to notice Stephen leaning against the doorway watching me and it was at that time that I felt God kick me in the guts and say, 'That's the guy you're going to marry'. My response was something along the lines of...'No Way!'
- I was still gaining respect for him after all that happened on the tour and
- I thought that there was no way that he would ever consider someone like me.
Now he knows and I know so it would seem logical that it would be plain sailing from there. Just one slight problem neither knew that the other knew. We both were relying on God's leading from here.
Stay tuned for part two.