Joel and Andrea's Story

Over the years, as we have observed and read different accounts of couples, one thing that has stuck out to us multiple times is the unique and creative God we serve. He is not limited to any one method or formula in any of His dealings with us humans, and He desires to bless our lives individually with the specific details He knows will not only bring us the most lasting joy, but also growth and an increase of usefulness in His kingdom.

One of the most outstanding things we notice as we reflect back on our journey and story, is the clear leading of God, and His care in assuring our hearts with this leading. For this we are grateful, and know that it is a gift we will carry with us through the rest of our lives. For both of us, we can trace God's hand in the months leading up to our meeting, and desire this story to be an encouragement to all of His tender care, love, and concern in each of His children's lives.

For me, that year (2010) had already been faith stretching, and one in which God had asked me several times to step out in faith without seeing the end result clearly in view. That winter I had served for a few months back in the mountains of Mexico, and just a few months later  in the Spring went on to Guatemala for 6 weeks of Spanish language school. At that point I had a standing invitation to return long term to Mexico that summer to serve alongside a missionary family, but during this time of praying for the Lord's leading, I was not feeling a clear direction and sense of peace about accepting this offer. I wrestled with this for some time, and though my parents were supportive of however I felt the Lord was guiding, I felt a prompting from God to completely give this decision into their hands. They agreed to pray about it for a couple weeks, and just a few weeks before I left for Guatemala, they informed me that neither of them had peace about me returning to MX that summer. Instead, they asked me to remain home at least until the Fall, and then see how the Lord led from there.  

I felt at rest with this decision, and upon returning home from Guatemala July 6th, I dove into a busy music schedule with my family. I enjoyed this unexpected time with them, but at the same moment felt restless, sensing that something was around the corner. I felt that God had a new season for me soon, but in trying to discern what that looked that, I was only left more puzzled and somewhat disheartened at how confusing the future looked. 

During this time of waiting, the Lord taught me much about surrender and seeking after Him as my first goal and priority. Though discouragement sometimes set in, the Lord was always faithful to draw my heart back to the promises that God would go before me, and lead my life clearly in the path I was supposed to follow. 

For Joel, that year had also been one of searching for a longer term leading in life. His electrical license apprenticeship kept him busy, along with his work with the mission board at church and frequent traveling. Unbeknownst to both of us at this time, we had attended the same language school in Guatemala, and had an interest in mission service in a Spanish speaking country.

Knowing that Joel had an interest in food service at festivals and events, and being a little short-handed due to a new baby, his sister and brother-in-law had asked him to help out at their concession stand during the Lake Itasca Family Bluegrass Festival. Joel accepted this invitation as a fun opportunity, but wondered a bit at the hints that seemed to be coming at him afterwards that God could possibly have something more in mind than just an enjoyable weekend. 

A picture of my dad in front of
the coffee stand where Joel and I met.
On the morning of August 6th, neither of us dreamed that we would be meeting our future life partner that day. My family hit the road bright and early  as we headed up to Lake Itasca to take in the festival and sing on one of the open stages. After arriving late and setting up camp, we grabbed some granola bars and headed over to hear the music. By this time, Joel, along with the other helpers at the stand had served dozens already, and were well on their way to what proved to be a sold-out weekend. The 2000 people at the festival loved the funnel cakes, fruit smoothies, and coffee they had to offer.

The fruit smoothies were what caught my eye that evening right around dark. The granola bar had long disappeared from my stomach, and the advertisement for their peach smoothie was just too hard to resist. I ordered one from Joel's brother-in-law, and went to pay where Joel was running the cash register. While I was waiting for my smoothie to be made, my curiosity prompted me to ask Joel about the type of coffee that was being sold. During my time in Guatemala I had toured a coffee farm, and a concession stand named 'Kleinsasser Coffee' promised something more than your regular Folger's or Maxwell's. Joel was surprised to hear that I had just been in Guatemala, and asked me what I had been doing there. This question brought about our discovery of having both spent time in Antigua at the same Spanish school, and at this point, we switched into Spanish. That first conversation  lasted about 45 minutes as we discovered mutual friends, mutual interests, and well, a very great mutual enjoyment of each other's company. :-)

Over the course of the next two days, opportunity arose for us to have quite a bit of extended visiting time. One thing we both remarked on later was how comfortable we felt with each other. Conversation flowed from one topic to another without effort, and saying goodbye on Sunday was not a looked forward to event. The weekend ended far too quickly, and as we left, I wondered if I would ever hear from Joel again. I had plenty of reason to suspect that he could be interested in a relationship, but of course I didn't know for sure, and all I could do was surrender Joel and commit the encounter into the Lord's hands again and again. 

Joel went home with a lot on his mind, feeling very impressed by our meeting, but not knowing if it was God's will for him to pursue something deeper than the encounter we had in northern MN. He greatly enjoyed my company, but at the same time, he didn't want to act merely on attraction. He sincerely wanted to know God's heart for our lives.

Over the next two weeks, he prayed that God's will would be made clear, and found opportunity to ask the counsel of some trusted men in his life. Through my blog, and some mutual friends,  he was able to find out a little more about me, and eventually felt clear to give my dad a call with a request to get to know me better. 

In the meantime, God had been doing a lot of work in my heart, confirming His leading through the dream of a dear friend who had known nothing about the situation, and the encouragement of an evangelist's wife who told me out of the blue that she sensed my future husband was just around the corner; again, not knowing anything about our encounter the previous week. My parents had also been sensing the leading of the Lord in our meeting at Itasca, and they were not overly surprised when Joel called two weeks later. 

During Joel's first visit. 
Joel came down to WI for his first visit with me and my family on August 28th. We all enjoyed a picnic together that weeked, hiking at a nearby park, attended a couple local music events my family was involved in, and just took time to get to know each other a little more. Throughout that whole weekend, our hearts stood in awe as the story of the last several months in our individual lives began to be told. Most of all, we sensed a wonder that God cared so much about our lives to orchestrate all these little details that brought our lives together!

When Joel left that following Monday, it was agreed that we would spend the next month getting to know each other more just as friends, and see where God was leading by the end of September. That month held many phone calls, letters, and a great anticipation of the next visit. It was not always an easy thing to keeping the exciting happenings from friends and family, but we really didn't want to jump into things any more quickly than we were already! We really desired a courtship to be a serious step, and not something entered into lightly. 

Joel came to visit again at the end of that month, and after some more prayer and talking about what we had all been sensing, we committed our lives to seeking God's leading together at a deeper level. That weekend was an exciting one of introducing Joel to my church family and friends, and going for our first date together. Olive Garden has some special memories for both of us! One of the best memories from that weekend was walking into surprise some mutual out of town friends who were in the area - a couple whom we both knew separately. It seemed only appropriate to later ask David and Sara to be our wedding coordinators!

The next five months held many opportunities to experience new things together, travel, spend time with many different friends, and have some special date outings. A highlight was my family taking a trip up to Manitoba, Canada - Joel's home. Meeting a lot of his family for the first time was the biggest highlight. 

Our next visit after that also happened in Canada - this time in Ontario visiting David and Sara. They helped Joel plan a surprise evening for me, including a fancy dinner by the lake, 18 red roses, and a marriage proposal. I joyfully accepted that evening of Feb. 26th, and we excitedly starting making wedding plans. 

We set our wedding date for a late summer date, which happened to be exactly 6 months after our engagement. We needed all of these six months to plan, as our circle of friends and family brought the guest list to over 600 people. 

On August 27th, surrounded by nearly 400 dear friends and family, we united our lives together, and started this journey we are calling happily ever every. It was a beautiful day in every way, and only the start of a love story that is still continuing!


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