And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:23-24 NKJV
It had been three years since I had rededicated my life to the Lord at the Harvest Crusades. That time I was walking closer to the Lord than I ever had. I was going to church, going to Bible Studies, and was teaching the children and serving as a counselor in the Junior High Ministry. During that time, I kept hearing how important it was for a person to be married. Not to mention, my own past with my strong need and desire for close companionship. So, even while I was serving, I was looking for “a girlfriend.” There were a couple of Christian women I met online, one who lived in Washington. At one point, I thought I’d move up to Washington as a result. There were a couple of women I met at church as well, one who I thought would be “the one” for me, but that turned out not to be the case. I even tried out a dating service, that was just a waste of money.
I was renting a room of a house with several other guys from my church. It was a couple blocks from the church, so I often would leave my car at the house and walk or ride my bike to church. It was nice being so close to church. I was able to get to church without having to worry about parking, stay late, and be involved in the ministries without having to worry about how long it would take to get home. My primary focus at that time was the Lord, so even though I was “looking” it wasn’t really a driving focus for me. I loved being at church and I loved working with the kids.
One Sunday evening, when I was working with the four-year old children, like usual, a woman walked up to me. She was one of the stage performers and singers for the Children’s Ministry, and it was slightly before the performance had started. I’d seen her around, and she’d said hello to me before. Her best friend had a daughter who was four-years old, and she sometimes checked her friend’s daughter into my class. I didn’t know her name, I had only said hello in passing. Little did I know that she had been watching me for a while, and looking for opportunities to say hello to me. This night was supposed to be another night where she just said hello to me. The Lord, though, had other plans. Rather unexpectedly, both to her and to me, she had asked me if I’d like to join her for coffee at the church café after the service.
I was stunned to say the least. Here was a woman at church, one whom I didn’t even know, asking me out. I agreed and then she walked away. She went back to her friends in the Ministry and told them “I just asked Jason for coffee.” They were all surprised, and her best friend complained that she wasn’t told. The two always talked before decisions like that were made. The response was “I didn’t even plan on it. I don’t even have any money.” So, they all gave her a couple dollars so she’d have money that night.
That night was the first time I knew her name. I might have been told before, but I’m horrible with names, always have been. So, even though we had met casually before, this night was the first night I truly met Michelle and had conversations with her. We seemed to connect fairly well that night. Then, I didn’t hear from her again the following week. I figured it was a one time thing, that it was a nice conversation, nice to get to know her, but nothing more than that. Like many other women I met, we may become friends, a Christian Sister, but nothing more. I was wrong. Two weeks after our first night at the café, she again asked me if I wanted to go to the café after service. Yes, she asked me out twice because I didn’t see a future there at the time. I thought, at most, it was just going to be a friendship.
Michelle and I talked and connected with our love for children. That wasn’t the last time we talked, of course. Over time, she talked to me about her ex-husband and told me about her “list.” She had a list of qualities she was looking for, and apparently I matched every one of the items on her list. I found out she had been watching me for some time. She had loved seeing how I interacted with the children. Over time, we drew closer and closer together. Someone was actually interested in me, in who I was, and wanted to be with me. It was someone who I connected with. Not just me to her, but her to me as well.
As time went on, we started doing more of our Ministries together. We attended the same Sunday morning service. She joined me as an assistant in one of the Children’s Ministry classes I taught. I went on stage and acted with her in front of the Children. She joined the Junior High Ministry as a counselor. We were even able to do one of the Junior High retreats together. The Lord had brought us together for a reason.
After dating for about a year, I proposed to Michelle. I didn’t have a ring yet, but I drove with her up the mountains. She hated driving mountain roads and kept wanting to go back down. At one point, I pulled off to the side, for a nice view, and I proposed to her. She accepted, but insisted that we go back down. I agreed, not wanting to ruin the time. I had thought it would be a special time, that getting the proposal that way would make everything magically better. Well, reality check, she still hated the mountains, and while she loved the proposal, the fear was a little more powerful.
The ring would come later that same year at her birthday party. I had made plans with her sister for a special surprise birthday party and proposal announcement. She contacted several of Michelle’s friends, while I contacted our mutual friends. We invited them to a restaurant for her birthday and told them that I would also be proposing and giving her the ring that night. Everyone we invited was excited to be there. It was going to be a perfect night, or so we thought.
Michelle and I went to the movies while her sister went to the restaurant. They didn’t take reservations, so she had to show up early to make sure we got in, and with our large party, that made it difficult. After the movie, I got a call from her sister telling me to delay arriving, as they were still waiting on the table. People were showing up and I had to find ways to delay without giving anything away. I pretended to make wrong turns in areas that I knew like the back of my hand. As it was Christmas season, I went to a neighborhood you could drive through to see Christmas decorations. All the while, Michelle was getting more hungry, begging to just get to the restaurant so we could eat. I was running out of ways to delay.
At one point, before beginning the final drive to the restaurant, I stopped at a gas station to use the restroom. While I was in the restroom, Michelle was digging through my glove box looking for a ring. Because it was her birthday, and the fact that I had already proposed to her, she assumed I would be giving her the ring that night. She was partly correct, I did have the ring, and I was going to give it to her that night, but I didn’t leave it in the car. I had the ring in my jacket pocket. So, after returning to the car, I drove to the restaurant.
When we arrived, it was an hour after we told people to be there. Thankfully, everyone was there waiting for us and Michelle was very happy to see everyone. Due to the long wait, though, a couple people had to leave, but they did leave their gifts. Most people, though, were able to stay, and even though we were seated about 2 hours after the scheduled time, we all had a great time celebrating Michelle’s birthday.
The gift opening came after we finished the meal. The last gift on the table was a small wrapped box. It looked like it could be the ring, but that was still in my jacket pocket. When she opened it, she discovered it was a faberge egg from one of her friends. Her response, which caused a bit of laughter from everyone, was a slightly disappointed “Oh. It’s an egg.” That disappointment was soon to fade, as I pulled out the ring from my jacket and asked her to marry me. She was excited for the but didn’t answer immediately. Someone at the table next to us spoke up. “So what’s you’re answer.” We didn’t know them, but it couldn’t have been more perfect of a response. Michelle, of course, said yes, and we all celebrated.
During our engagement period, which was actually about two years long, we started going through pre-marriage counseling. We worked with the pastor over the Junior High Ministry, whom we were close to, due to serving with him. There was a lot that we were going into. I had, obviously, never been married. She had come out of a previous bad marriage. Her ex was an abusive drug addict that she managed to escape from with the help of the Lord. Her divorce was Biblical, but she was coming into the relationship with a lot of baggage. I was warned that it wouldn’t be easy to deal with, for either of us, and even today, the phantom of her ex can still haunt us.
About a year into our engagement, Michelle had lost her job. She was living with her sister and paying rent to her sister. I was living at the house with the other Christian Brothers. She struggled to find another job and I often helped to support her financially even though we weren’t yet married. For months, as she went from job to job, I helped to supplement her income. My thought was “we’re going to be married anyways, so our money is already shared.” The thing was, we weren’t married, and our marriage was still months away.
In December, about a year and a half into our engagement, we spoke with our pastor who was counseling us. We had completed the pre-marriage counselling sessions, and we just counting the days at this point. We told him how I had been paying her bills and asked if there was any reason for us not to get married early. His response was “I thought you were crazy for waiting two years to begin with.” His only other stipulation was to keep our original May wedding date since we had already been making plans for that date, and use it as a reaffirming of the vows. That was something we easily agreed to, as some things were already paid for anyways.
After a week of intense planning and very little sleep for Michelle, we went to Las Vegas. On December 21, 2002, Michelle and I were married in a small hotel chapel in Las Vegas. No, there was no Elvis impersonator at our wedding. Instead, and more importantly, we had our families and a few of our closest friends that were able to make the last minute pre-holiday commitment. They knew we weren’t just “running off to Vegas” and saw that our desire was for the Lord first. They were happy for us and happy to celebrate with us.
Our honeymoon was a couple days in Las Vegas. One day, we walked from our hotel to where the Star Trek Experience was. We thought it was closer than it actually was, so it was a lot of walking. On the way back, Michelle was getting very hungry and irritated at the walking. I didn’t have a lot of money, so I figured we’d just keep walking, pausing periodically along the way and trying to find a place we could afford to eat. That wasn’t working as planned, and I made the mistake of pushing further than I should have. There is a picture we have from that time. Everyone who sees it who doesn’t know Michelle says it is a very nice picture of her. Those who do know her, can tell her expression is one of irritation. She pretty much had daggers in her eyes toward me, rightfully so. It did work out, though. We made it back to our hotel, to a place that we could afford to eat at. In the end, it gave us an interesting memory to share.
We returned home on Christmas Eve, and I moved in to the room Michelle rented at her sister’s house. We celebrated Christmas Eve at church and Christmas Day with family. The next day, we went on a company paid trip to Kawaii. This was the company that we resold the mortgage software for. While we were there, our rental car was upgraded at no additional cost to a Mitsubishi Spider convertible. This gave us a second honeymoon in Hawaii. We only had to attend a couple company functions, the rest of the time was ours to spend. Since most things were paid for by the company, we only paid for our food, gas, and souvenirs.
We only lived with Michelle’s sister for just over a month before we found an apartment we were able to afford. I was even set up so that I could work from home, which was wonderful. I was able to take lunch with Michelle and in the summer, we even went into the pool which was right out our door. That first apartment we shared gave us a lot of memories, many good, some not so good. Our first argument, when we couldn’t afford to get her best friend a birthday gift, caused her to get very upset with me. I was the only one working and it was a challenge to stay on top of the bills. A night of worship and fellowship where friends came over for a potluck pool party followed by singing. And, of course, in the middle of it all, was our “actual wedding” as Michelle still calls it.
Our original wedding was planned for mid-May, and that date didn’t change even though our actual marriage happened five months earlier. We were married at our church by the pastor over the Junior High Ministry. My father was my best man, my brother one of the groomsmen, and several other friends from church were groomsmen. My side of the family were mostly Catholic, with a couple agnostic or non-practicing Christians. As Michelle is a messianic Jew, she had several family members who were Jewish that had never accepted the Lord. We wanted our marriage to show the believers and non-believers alike who God was, and how important He was in our lives. So many of our church friends donated time and services to us. We had a church friend DJ our wedding, another made the cake for the cost of the materials only, another gave us discounts on the flowers from his florist shop. Thanks to the blessings of the Lord through friends and family, we saved thousands of dollars on the wedding, and we were able to glorify God through it.
The wedding, though, was not going to be without it’s own set of challenges. Shortly before the wedding, Michelle had locked her knee back and I had to take her to the ER. So, at the wedding, she was wearing a knee brace under her dress. She was still able to walk down the isle, and have her father give her away. She made it through the ceremony and even was able to dance at the reception. We had joked, as a result of this injury and her existing asthma, that we were getting married “in sickness and in sickness.” So, even despite this injury, the wedding was special, memorable, and glorifying to God.
My parents had given us the use of their week at their timeshare down near Oceanside as a honeymoon for us. This week became what we refer to as our “third honeymoon.” I remember we stayed in a bed and breakfast the night before, as we couldn’t check in to the timeshare until the following day. I don’t remember much about that week, what we did, what we didn’t do. I know we were limited as a result of her knee injury, but we still enjoyed our week there. We believed that the Lord had blessed us with three honeymoons because we stayed faithful to Him in our engagement. Now, we both think that he gave us those three honeymoons because He knew the trials which were just over the horizon.
There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21 NKJV