Engagement Stories: Matt & Tillie
For the first time in several years, a romantic relationship was not on my radar. I was a senior in college, enjoying time with my friends and preparing for the next phase of life. I made a vow with myself to not get involved with girls, knowing that I would likely be leaving the state soon to begin a career.
One night I went to our college’s annual musical. Tillie didn’t necessarily have a starring role, but for some reason I realized I was watching her the entire time. She was a freshman when I was a senior, and unfortunately I hadn’t really noticed her until that moment. I remember darting back to my dorm room and anxiously checking Facebook to see if she was in a relationship (sadly, she was).
I did my best not to think about her, even after I heard that her other relationship had ended. Soon I found out she was going with my team on a missions trip to Asia that summer, so we spent a lot of time together with the rest of our team praying and preparing for the trip. We cautiously decided to go on a few dates, taking things very slowly. We knew the odds were stacked against us, being in different life stages and about to be living in different states. After a lot of prayer and multiple “DTRs” (Define The Relationship conversations) we made a decision that many counselors and experts would probably not advise: We decided to be FBO (Facebook Official) with just a few months remaining in the school year.
After our trip to Asia, I packed up and moved to Colorado to start my new job. God blessed me with a great position right out of school that was pretty close to my dream job in a well-respected ministry. I enjoyed the work, but the distance was hard. Our situation was especially rough since we didn’t have a whole lot of time together at the beginning of our relationship. We took advantage of Skype and I-70, traveling to see each other about once a month.
Especially during that time, we were very grateful for Boundless and Focus on the Family. I regularly listened to the Boundless podcast and read articles and blog posts on the site. I was surprised to realize that Tillie and I were growing deeper and richer relationally despite being further away geographically. I think God used the distance to give us the time and space to intentionally process our relationship and build a healthy, godly foundation. We spent a lot of time talking about boundaries, each other’s “love language,” the love and respect principle from Emerson Eggerichs, and so much more.
After about two years of dating, my job suddenly became very unstable. Because of major budget cuts, the program I worked for was cut, and the future of my position was in jeopardy. Although I could have stayed with the company (and it probably would have been a better career move to ride it out), I felt a deep urge to take a leap of faith and really invest in the relationship. I’ve always been ambitious and fairly career-oriented, so when I realized that being with Tillie trumped my career goals, I knew it was time to move forward. I told Tillie I loved her, and I felt a deep peace from the Lord that at this point in my life, it was time for me to focus on investing in my girl above my career aspirations.
I took a job at my alma mater in their marketing office so I could be with her every day. Our relationship continued to blossom, and I knew we were a perfect fit. Around Christmas time last year, I bought a ring and got permission from her father to propose.
Tillie was getting suspicious about a potential proposal, so I worked hard at throwing her a few curveballs. On Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, I told her I would be watching a football game with some friends — but I was really driving to the closest Applebee’s (where we had our first date) to bring back dinner and her favorite drink from the coffee shop where she worked. I received multiple text messages where she frustratingly begged me to leave the stupid football game so we could eat dinner together. I picked her up and drove her to my house, where the food, candles and romantic music were waiting.
Right when she was beginning to be suspicious, I drove her back to campus where she had to go to a few meetings. Assuming the build-up was all for nothing, she mournfully went on with her evening while I prepared round two of the proposal.
After her meetings, her friends drove her to a nearby lake where I was waiting in a dimly-lit gazebo (the type of location that she not-so-secretly mentioned would be perfect for a wedding). I pulled out my guitar and tearfully sang “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real — a song that had become very important to us both. I got down on one knee and presented the ring she had not-so-subtly pointed out a year earlier.
Our engagement was unique, but one that I am confident that God orchestrated. Only His plans could stand in an otherwise unlikely love story. Our wedding is finally only 39 days away, and we can’t wait to begin our lives together. But more than just happiness and emotion, we both believe that God brought us together to strengthen our ministry and challenge us to become more like Him. We have had our difficulties like every other couple, but it feels good to know and believe that the years of uncertainty and tough decisions were all a part of God’s will for our lives and our marriage.
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