Mark Barry, the love of my life and the amazing precious man who asked me, on April 8th, if I would marry him!!!
Oh God has worked in such amazing ways to bring us together and it has been, truly, watching God work a miracle right before our eyes! So, if you all feel up to a story, let me share with you at least a little bit of how God has worked "exceedingly abundantly" in our lives! :-) There's so much to the whole story, but I'll share at least a little bit of my side of it with you.
We first met the Barry family, my precious soon to be in-loves! :-), back in October of 2013 when we visited for the first time the church that we are now members of, shortly after we moved from Ohio to Georgia. But actually we didn't get to meet Mark until at a friends wedding in January 2014. Over the past several years we've enjoyed so much getting to know the Barry's and fellowship each week with them at church!
I noticed Mark from the very first, and thought he seemed like such an amazing guy, very serious about his walk with the Lord, focused, passionate and very purposeful in seeking and serving the Lord and serving others, strong and confident, a people guy, always looking for a way to serve. Struck me as a "wow"!, but I committed before the Lord to seek to guard my heart with all diligence and just pray and wait on Him to reveal His perfect will. Elisabeth Elliot's book Passion and Purity was extremely shaping in my life, as I learned from it not to pursue a relationship with a guy, but to simply pray about it and leave it with the Lord and wait on Him, quietly and obediently, surrendering all of my own hopes and desires. My goal was to be "asleep" in the will of the Lord, His willing handmaiden, wanting only His will to be done, whatever that might mean. He always knows what is best! Seeing this amazing guy each week at church made it difficult. For 2 years I prayed earnestly about Mark and waited and, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to this, struggled to wait and say nothing and do nothing but simply leave it in the Hands of Him who works all things according to His will. The Lord gave me in a very clear way in November of 2014 the passage in Ephesians 3:20-21a in regard to Mark, "Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory." The message was clear...just trust God and let Him work and WAIT! Another very shaping book in my life was "When God Writes Your Love Story" by Eric and Leslie Ludy, where I was first so struck by the concept of giving God the pen of my life and allowing Him to write His story for my life, including my love life, surrendering my will and dreams and desires in His hands. As I later came to see...He writes the BEST love stories! :-)
So not only was there this amazing guy in my life that was truly the most amazing guy I'd ever met, who totally didn't seem to notice me at all, was nice and everything, but it was pretty obvious there was no special interest there. But also, the years keep passing, and for the girl who thought getting married around 18 seemed perfect, I was wondering about if maybe God didn't have marriage for me. Discouragement was a constant enemy that had to be battled against. Can I surrender the desire of my heart for marriage and be His joyful and willing servant and serve Him faithfully however He would have me to as a single woman? Each time I thought I had reached complete surrender, the Lord uncovered yet another level of surrender to be learned and laid down on the alter. In October of 2016 I went through another one of those, but each time finding more and more peace in resting in the will of God and finding communion with Him sweeter and sweeter as He took me to new depths of understanding Who He is and to trust Him with my life.
On October 21st, on the other side of the battle, I was sharing with Mom and Dad about how the Lord had been working in my heart. Dad seemed so touched. He asked me about when the Lord did this work in my heart. When I shared with him when it was, he blessed me so much by what he shared with me. He encouraged me that God is at work and to take comfort in that even though I can’t see it right now. He shared with me that someone, he couldn’t remember who, often when they prayed would thank the Lord for what He is about to do. We can thank Him for what He is about to do. He is at work, even when we feel the pain of silence and waiting.
Little did I know that the reason Dad was so touched was because... around September God had laid me on Mark's heart and Mark had been praying about beginning a relationship with me and had approached his parents about me. Then in October Mr. Barry had taken it to Dad. Here I was struggling like crazy as God took me through another lesson and level in surrender and here at the same time God was at work to bring us together, and I had NO idea! Mom told me about it on November 2nd and November 12th Mark asked Dad to begin a courtship with me and we began courting, taking an 8 mile walk as we talked and began the most special journey of getting to know each other, sharing our hearts and seeking out God's will for our lives! As I shared with a friend soon after Mark and I began our courtship, "This guy is everything and so much more than I could ever have dreamed of and hoped for! He's very serious in his walk with the Lord, is very strong in his desire to serve the Lord and be purposeful in that in life, is definitely a family man and is very close with his parents and 7 siblings, he is a very strong leader, displaying amazing and beautiful leadership skills, a man of conviction, is very honest, open and transparent, is an amazing servant, a really hard worker, lots of energy, outgoing in his personality, definitely a talker. Though not perfect, his character is outstanding and his heart is very sincere. We're just beginning the journey together, but I am overflowing with thankfulness to the Lord! He has worked in such amazing ways! Far beyond what I could ever ask or think!"
Little did I know just how precious the heart of my man is, but over the next several months I got to see deeper and deeper into the depth of his heart and those months were filled with so much...joy, nervousness, excitement, discovery, emotions, and growing as we got to know each other more, share life together and grow together in the Lord! Though it may seem like just "the right thing to say", I can truly honestly say that being in a relationship with Mark has drawn us both closer to the Lord and with the help of the Lord, Christ truly has been the center of our relationship and it has brought so much joy and peace through it all! We have shared so much together, our hearts, joys and triumphs, happy times, discouragements and defeats, struggles and tears, God using everything He brought into our lives through that part of our journey to draw us nearer to Him together and bring our hearts closer together. It has been such a precious journey and I could not be more thankful for the precious man that God brought into my life to walk down this road together with! It has been such an amazing blessing and sweet journey by Mark's side seeking the Lord together!
Then...on April 8th... :-) Mark was here for a visit. It was an absolutely perfectly beautiful day, clear blue skies, bright sun, a slight breeze, 72 degrees...amazing! Mom had the "random idea" ;-) of going to a park near us in the afternoon to walk and then to later all go out for dinner. Sounds fun. :-) We all cleaned up for "pictures" that they wanted to take later and for "dinner" later, then all headed to the park. We pulled up and Mark's like, oh, look who's here?! His family was there from two hours away! Surprise! Mrs. Barry said it was just too nice of a day to stay inside! :-) Mark quickly took me off for a walk and we enjoyed walking and soaking in the beauty of the day, talking about all that God has done in our lives together, how blessed we are, and just honestly lost in each other!
He didn't seem to be in any hurry, but casually asked if I wanted to walk up by the lake. There was a beautiful white veranda right in front of the lake that we walked up to and Mark asked if I'd like to sit down for a while. With him??? Absolutely!! :-) We walk in and there on the bench is a beautiful bouquet of red roses that he picks up and hands to me and says, these are for you! :-) Yes, he's super sweet! :-)
Then we sat down and he asks if I'd like to take a walk down memory lane with him.
He then proceeded to pull out a laptop and began playing a picture music video of our story that he wrote special memories and so many sweet things and special moments and fun times we’d shared together. The first screen that pulled up said, “To the Love of my life” with “our verse” from Ephesians 3:20-21a below it, with the song from “our CD” playing, Faithfully. I started crying. It was so precious to sit side by side together and begin at day one and walk down memory lane of our journey together of 4 days short of 5 months, listening to our favorite songs, seeing the sweet pictures, reading what he wrote, he poured so much into putting it together! It created such a peaceful, joyful, emotion and love filled, close together, tender moment!
After it finished playing, he stood up and gently asked me to stand up with him. I then stood up and he promptly turned and faced me and went down on his one knee and held a ring in his left hand and looked up straight into my face with tears in his eyes and asked me if I would marry him. I started crying the moment he went down on his knee, so just lost and overwhelmed with joy and happiness in the awe and specialness of this moment, of his love, of the years of waiting and crying and trusting and hoping and praying and holding on, all became so beautifully worth it as God so faithfully and beautifully was unfolding the perfectness of His ways and timing as His gift of this amazingly precious man in front of me, that God so amazingly worked to bring us together and begin a relationship together 5 months ago, that I’ve been growing closer to each day and fallen in love with, adore and admire, have shared so much joy together and the closeness and deep tender things of our hearts together, so everything and so much more than I could ever have dreamed of, our hearts so specially shaped by God for each other, here he is, on his knee, loving me and asking me to marry him, to spend the rest of our lives together! I cannot even begin to accurately describe and put into words the emotions that went through me in that moment, the tenderness, the love, the joy, the peace! It was overwhelming. It took me but a second to respond with a yes!, which he later told me I whispered it. :-)
He then stood up and wrapped his arm around me and we hugged for the very first time and shared happy tears together, so filled with love and emotion and joy and rejoicing!
We then went to our precious family's who were eagerly waiting for us (and surrounding us at a distance snapping pictures :-)!) with hugs and lots of love and rejoicing! It was such a blessing to have both of our family's there, all sharing in that special moment together with love and rejoicing! The blessing of the Lord and the beauty and goodness of His ways was so manifest as He allowed us to get to live it out that day, together, with the love and blessing of our families!
Then proceeded an engagement photo shoot :-)...
Ah, this picture makes me laugh! :-)
And...the ring! It is so beautiful and such an honor to have his ring on my finger, all that it means, the blessing of being Mark's girl forever!
We all went out to supper together and enjoyed the evening celebrating all together! It was so special!
He has done exceedingly abundantly above all that I could have ever asked or thought, writing the most beautiful love story ever, making all things so beautiful in His time! Oh the faithfulness of our amazing God, oh we can so trust Him and just give to Him the pen of our lives, surrendering all we have and all our hopes and dreams into His hands! He does exceedingly abundantly amazing things, ALL His ways are SO good!!! We are so excited to be heading towards the special day when I’ll walk down the isle and he’ll take my hand for the first time and we’ll promise ourselves to each other, into God’s keeping, to seek and serve Him side by side together, until death do us part, sharing life and love together, forever, as one in Him! Oh how great is our God! One of our sayings during courtship was "how big is our God?" Oh how He has shown us over and over again just how BIG He is! THIS is our God…we have waited on Him!!!