Grace & Me
Our story really begins somewhere around the beginning of 2007. That’s when Grace’s brother Nathan came down to Kansas City for a couple of Bible conferences that I (Ben) also happened to go to. I barely remember meeting Nate, but he must have made an impression because we started to become good friends soon afterward. On a whim one time as Nate and I were chatting on Facebook, he invited me up to a regular men’s Bible study in Colfax, WI led by Warren Henderson. That’s eight hours away from Kansas City and so Nate never thought I’d actually say yes. But, what Nate did not know was this was a tremendous answer to prayer for me. I’d been praying that the Lord would bring some good, solid young men who were my age into my life. This seemed like the perfect place to see that prayer answered. Little did I know that it would some day lead to me marrying Nate’s sister!
Grace and I don’t really know for sure when we first met. We have our first, real evidence of being in the same place at the same time at the 2008 Vessels of Honor conference in Parkville, MO. But, it was probably a little before that, on a Sunday morning in Chippewa Falls, WI after one of those men’s Bible studies at the River Valley Christian Fellowship where Nathan, Grace and their family went to church.
It’s pretty safe to say that neither Grace nor I really took too much notice of each other back then! I was just some friend of Nathan’s, driving up ridiculous distances for a one-day Bible study, and she was just Nathan’s younger sister.
As time went on, Nathan got me involved in Story Book Lodge Bible Camp in Gilbert, MN. That’s even further north–almost as far north as you can get in Minnesota. Counseling at camp in the summer and attending Winter Retreat up at camp became a yearly event. Grace and I slowly got to know each other better as we attended the same camps and conferences over the next four years.
Still, while we gradually became friends, as late as June of 2011 we would never have thought anything beyond friendship was in our future.
As the summer of 2011 rolled along, Grace and I were both having some gracious and immensely valuable lessons from the Lord sink into our minds and hearts. Through completely separate, but similar situations we were both learning what trusting in the true goodness of our Lord meant. It was clear to both of us that we sure wanted to get married. But, who would it be to? When would it be? Would it ever happen? We had to trust the Lord that if He is good (and He is), then being single our whole lives would be the very best life we could imagine. If, on the other hand, being married some day was what the Lord had in store for us, the timing He had planned would be the only right timing there was.
Then one day in the middle of that summer, Grace came to my mind. At the same time, I was nowhere near Grace’s mind! I was planning on counseling at Story Book Lodge’s 2nd Teen camp week and hoping Grace would be there. I was hoping I could just get to know her better. I prayed a lot about it. I asked the Lord that He would make things clear if I should take the next step after this week at camp. Amazingly, others were secretly praying at this same time specifically for me and Grace too–I just didn’t know about it!
Meanwhile, Grace wasn’t even sure if she would make it to camp that year. It wasn’t clear if she could get off of work in time. But, at the last minute, she found out it was going to work and she was able to counsel that same week.
I spent the week concentrating on the spiritual needs of my campers, but also taking what opportunities presented themselves (or that I could generate!) to be around Grace and talk with her. She, by her own admission, was completely oblivious to this while I was taking each smile or glance as a sure sign that she felt the same way about me that I was beginning to feel about her.
The week was full of great happenings: exciting conversations with Grace, forceful proddings from her brother-in-law Cory, knowing looks from her sister Beth and finally suspicion on Grace’s part too. Then, the week came to a close. Camp is often a perception altering vortex of emotion. So, I wanted to be sure what I was thinking and feeling wasn’t a product of the strange air at Story Book (they don’t call it that for nothing, you know).
So, I waited a week after camp to just think and pray. Meanwhile, Grace was wondering if her own suspicions were part of the Story Book vortex. She was praying for clear thinking about it too.
The following Sunday though, I got up the courage to call her Dad and ask his permission to start pursuing Grace. I was nervous, but he gladly said yes and I called Grace a few minutes later. Thankfully, she said yes too!
What followed were some of the happiest months of our lives so far. We traveled to Eau Claire or Kansas City as much as we could, trying to spend as much time together as possible. It seemed like things just went from good to better. We agreed on just about everything we could think to talk about and slowly but surely we fell rather deeply in love with each other.
As February of 2012 rolled around, I knew I wanted to marry this girl. I bought a ring and made my plan to visit the Hanson’s over a week from the 17th to the 26th while the newly engaged David and Rachel (now) Hanson were visiting from California. A fishing trip was planned for that first Saturday which in Wisconsin means you’re getting up at 4am. But, I couldn’t wait any longer. I asked Joel (Grace’s Dad) if I could talk to him that morning before we left for fishing and he seemed to know what might be coming. So, we both got up around 3:30 and I asked him if I could marry his daughter. Yes, was the answer! Now I had a little more planning to do.
I found a fire tower not too far away where Grace and I could climb up and watch the sunrise together. I imagined a beautiful morning, no clouds and a little nice, wooden room on top of the fire tower where I could propose and we could eat a little breakfast together. What happened was slightly less perfect than I had hoped! It was a freezing cold morning with a frigid wind whipping through the broken windows of the years-unused fire tower. We even had a tired onlooker–a racoon making it’s bed in the ceiling! But, the morning really was crystal clear and the sunrise was beautiful. We read some Psalms together and I told Grace for the first time that I loved her. I asked her to marry me and she quietly said yes.
And so, the wedding planning began and here we now are, less than two months from the day! What we thought were wonderful days while we were dating paled in comparison to the joy of being engaged, looking forward every moment to the day of our wedding and beyond, all the while getting to know each other in a deeper and closer way.
Grace and I are so thankful for the goodness of the Lord. That very goodness that He so graciously and patiently taught both of us has now been poured out to us in ways we hardly know how to express. He has given us salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. He has given us wonderful, strong families who love us and care for us. He has given us so many good, encouraging friendships. He has given us to each other. What a wonderful God we serve!
Grace and I can think of no better way to return our thanks to the Lord than to serve Him with whole hearts for the rest of our lives. Whatever the Lord has for us, may His glory be shown and His honor upheld through our lives together! That is our desire for our marriage.