I didn't know what the year would hold, but whatever it was it would be extraordinary.
I spent that evening the way I did most Sunday nights — doing laundry, changing the sheets, mopping the kitchen floor. This particular evening I had the additional task of preparing for my church's Vacation Bible School. I would be leading the program for sixth graders.
I tied a final knot on one of the 40 Wordless Book bead bracelets I had made for my students and slipped one over my own wrist. I smiled, thinking of the many times I'd worn the bracelet since I was 14 and began teaching children. Its simple gospel message still thrilled me.
Normally I'd be in bed by 10, but that night an out-of-town friend suggested we meet for coffee. As I stepped up to the counter, the barista's face lit up. He asked, "Where did you get that bracelet?"
I looked up into the kind face of a tall young man and explained that I had made it in preparation for my church's VBS.
"I'm going to be a children's pastor!" he said. "I've been doing children's ministry for 10 years."
I was stunned. I had never met a man who was pursuing children's ministry — and this one was handsome (and apparently single) to boot. He grinned when I said: "I could do VBS every day for the rest of my life!"
I left that night, wondering about the coincidence of meeting a guy who seemed to be so similar to me. During our five-minute conversation we'd discovered that we attended the same church and had been involved with children's ministry since we were teens.
In the weeks that followed, I saw the barista — who had introduced himself as Kevin — a number of times. He worked at my regular coffee stop. Each time we met, he greeted me with friendliness and enthusiasm and asked me about my children's ministry.
A few weeks later, I walked in with a coworker and she recognized Kevin. "He used to be in our college group," she said.
In my decade of singleness since college, I'd become a pro at letting go easily. So when I realized Kevin was much younger, it wasn't hard to cross him off the potential suitor list. I was disappointed because I could see he was special, but I accepted the fact that the age difference was too big and moved on.
The next month, Kevin was hired as a children's ministry coordinator at my church. I would say hi when I passed him in the halls on Sunday but any thought of him as a romantic possibility was gone.
Not in My Timing
Growing up as the oldest of four children, I was always mature for my age. My mom often said I would probably marry someone older than myself and that it would happen fast because I would recognize the right kind of guy for me when he showed up.
I didn't date in high school and in college my studies kept me occupied. Like many of my single friends at the time, I assumed that I would meet my husband shortly after I graduated from college.
Upon graduation, I found a job as a children's magazine editor at Focus on the Family and moved to Colorado. Four years later I had established myself as a 20-something single and began writing for Boundless.
Most days I didn't mind being single. Colorado offered great community for singles my age and a number of amazing churches in which to get involved and serve. I concentrated on living life in a way that honored God while trying as many new things as possible — improv comedy, running, skydiving.
But by my late 20s I had begun to tire of being on my own. I watched many of my friends marry and start their families. And while I believed that I was walking obediently with the Lord and that I could trust Him with my future, I sometimes felt forgotten.
Each time I felt low, I clung to the promises in Scripture that God was directing my steps and was my ultimate hope and source of joy and purpose.
I thought my connection with the barista was a fluke. Then in the fall, our paths crossed again. When I organized an improv comedy show as a church fundraiser, Kevin signed up to perform. I admired his talent, charisma and natural leadership ability, but I still did not entertain any romantic notions.
In his sermon series on Song of Solomon, Tommy Nelson talks about courtship and marriage in terms of a race. Nelson says that as Christian singles "run the race" God has set before them, they should be looking to see who is to their right and left as they run. Who is keeping pace, running nearby, heading the same direction?
I had been running that race alone throughout my 20s. Sometimes I would look over and catch a glimpse of someone, but inevitably they would veer off another direction or pass me by. Even a few godly relationships just did not click. In those moments, I would cry out to the Lord and try to understand His love and His purpose for me.
From the day I met Kevin, he kept popping up next to me — church, children's ministry, improv. While I considered him simply a fellow churchgoer, I did note his character. I noticed the way he treated people with utter kindness and how he didn't hesitate to jump in and serve. I recognized his quality, but I did not think it had anything to do with me.
In November, during a short ride with the shuttle driver at my local auto mechanic shop, I encountered God in an unexpected way. The driver, who knew I served in children's ministry at my church began praying for the sixth graders I was serving. He then began to pray that God would give me a husband who shared my heart for children. Kevin popped into my mind.
I pushed the thought away. After all, Kevin was one of the only single guys I knew doing children's ministry. But the thought lingered. Until that shuttle driver's prayer, I had not considered it important or necessary to marry someone who shared my heart for children.
Still, the nudge was not strong enough to overcome what I saw as an insurmountable barrier in our age difference.
Then in January, I received an e-mail from Kevin asking if I would co-lead a young adult Bible study with him and I agreed. When we met to discuss the group, we talked for four hours.
Within weeks of starting the group, we each knew we had found something special in the other. I responded to Kevin's leadership, enthusiasm and desire for God and he responded to my encouragement, strength and heart for ministry.
When Kevin initiated a relationship with me, our church community rejoiced. Everyone recognized what God was doing.
As I've transitioned from "single girl" to someone who will be married within the year, I have given a lot of thought to how I would encourage others who are where I was six months ago. My New Year's Day was one of my loneliest ever. I ended the day in a sniveling heap on my bed, shedding tears on my Bible and listening to worship music.
The only insight I have come up with is that God knows and He loves. There is no formula to how He brought Kevin and me together. I do know that we were each faithfully serving the Lord where He had placed us. We were running the race. And God chose to intervene in some significant ways so that we would run it together.
Before Kevin was really in the picture, something the shuttle driver prayed changed the way I thought of myself as a single. He prayed: "Thank you, Lord, for preserving her. You have set her aside for a purpose. She is a vessel of honor."
My heart devoured those words like a gourmet meal. I had no idea if the year ahead would be another of singleness or if the man I had been praying for would enter the picture.
But I realized it didn't really matter. Either way, God would do something extraordinary in my life. And He did.
Copyright 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.