After a long period of being single and trying to fill the loneliness and void in my life with activities and ministries, I began to search out God’s will in the matter of finding a wife and life-companion.
My family, my close friends and I began to bring this matter to the Lord in prayer. Looking at marriages and relationships in the Bible, it was interesting to me to see how God brought couples together. Knowing and strongly sensing and feeling God’s words in Genesis, “it is not good for man to be alone” along with the words of Proverbs, “he that finds a wife finds a good thing,” I began to wonder how God would orchestrate this in my life.
One day, I decided to ask a fellow Christian from work, Dan Hillson, if there were any spiritually minded ladies at his church that might be interested in dating me. I was hoping that he would tell his wife and that she would tell others and together we would find someone.
A few weeks went by before an answer came. Then finally, Dan told me that there was a lady who would like to date me. Dan shared what bits of information he had about her. I was so excited and curious to know her, but my excitement and nervousness left me unable to take any real action. So, the matchmakers went to work and a blind date was set up: a Christmas party for several couples at Esthermay’s brother’s home. The days that led up to our meeting brought me great nervousness. I laugh at it now when I think about it.
I met Esthermay on December 7, 2001. I did not sweep her off her feet at our first meeting, but we did exchange telephone numbers. We played phone tag for about a week or so. I got the impression that she was not interested in me. But then one day, she left a message on my answering machine (which I played over and over). My daughter Sharon tried to read between the lines and interpret the message. She encouraged me, and said, “Dad, she really wants to get to know you!”
This was the start of what has been a great companionship – fully orchestrated by God’s grace. I feel in my heart that my relationship with Esthermay is God’s gift to me – as if God is saying, “Esthermay is the answer to your prayer and longing. Now love her.”
Even though I have been praying for my husband since I was about fourteen, it wasn’t until I was well into my thirties that I began to think seriously about marriage. I knew my husband was out there and that God would orchestrate our meeting if I just trusted Him. Trusting Him meant surprising both my family and myself when I accepted a job in Austin, Minnesota in June 2000. I had vowed never to move back to Austin after I graduated from high school. But when I took the job, I sensed there was a “big-picture” purpose in it.
Then last Fall, I met Heidi Hillson at Bethlehem Free Methodist Church and the “big-picture” began to take focus. Heidi talked with her husband Dan, who knew Mark from work. Then she talked with my sister-in-law Nita. Then sometime in October, Nita talked to me to see if I’d be interested in dating a single dad with three children. My immediate answer was, “Absolutely not!” In the week that followed my prompt answer, God allowed me to see that I might just be closing a door that was part of the “big-picture” I had sensed when I moved to Austin a year and a half earlier.
I called Nita and agreed to meet Mark. We finally met on Friday, December 7, 2001 at a Christmas party at Nita’s and Davidjay’s home. When the evening was over, I gave Mark my business card (he still has it in his billfold) and after everyone left, I told Nita, “I think he’s a little bit dweeby, but I like him.”
We got to know each other over the phone after playing the voice mail game for about a week. We discussed Christian theology and world-views and how the trials in our lives seem to parallel each other’s in so many ways. On December 23rd, we went on our first real date – a Lori Line concert in Rochester and then out to eat at an Italian restaurant. I’m pretty sure this is where we began to fall in love. When we held hands, I had an overwhelming feeling of having held his hand before – as if in my heart and mind during all the lonely times in my life. I was finally holding the real-life hand of the man for whom I had prayed for over twenty years. I sensed God whispering to me, “Here’s the godly man you’ve prayed for. Now, take care of him.”
We were engaged on Valentine’s Day and four days later, my job was eliminated by state budget cuts. My reason for moving to Austin (the town to which I vowed never to return) lasted only as long as He needed to bring Mark and me together. And that was the “big-picture” purpose.