It was the year 1995. Earl was 33 years old and living in Monterey, Louisiana, pastoring a small rural church. Jan was 28 years old and spending her time substitute teaching and preparing to go spend some time in Dallas with a Christian organization. Norm Wakefield, Jan's pastor, had been praying that God would send Jan a godly husband. In His mercy, God had given Norm and his family a tender heart towards Jan and had made her feel like family. Jan's father had passed away 4 years earlier and so Norm took it upon himself to graciously act as Jan's protector in this area of her life. In January of that year, he called up an old friend whom he had spent a year of seminary with, to see whether or not he was married and what his plans in life were. They chatted a bit and then Norm told his friend that he thought he had his wife out here in California. The friend? Earl Miles.
At that time in his life, Earl was praying that God would provide a wife for him and also had a sense that some changes were coming his way that year (Oh, if he only knew!!!!). Earl was willing to see what the Lord might have in store. He and Norm spent a few months talking on the phone and Norm found out all he could about Earl to see if he thought Jan and Earl would be a good match. Norm talked with Jan's mom. Earl called and talked with Jan's mom. Finally, in April, Jan sat down with her mom and Norm and they told her about the conversations they had been having with Earl. They told her all they knew about him to that point. Was she interested at all? Yes. She was willing to see if Earl might be the husband she was desiring to have.
Norm suggested that they spend some time writing letters to each other. So they did. Life went on as usual for each of them, except for the occassional letter in the mail. Then they would stop and think about what they were learning about the other person, and how it lined up with what they had been looking for in a mate. At this point, they hadn't told anyone else about their letter writing.
In September, they decided it would be good to start talking on the phone. They began talking about once a week for two hours at a time. Those became precious memories for each of them. Earl always called. Jan waited patiently for him to do so (that was so hard for her at times!). Once he called on a Wednesday night (Saturday nights were their usual time to talk), just to say 'hi' and it made Jan smile from ear to ear because she knew at that moment that he enjoyed talking with her as much as she did him and that he too was having a hard time waiting for Saturdays to come around. Before saying good-bye they always prayed together at Earl's initiative. Earl would pray and Jan would pray. Jan was encouraged to see Earl lead out in this way and Earl was encouraged as he heard Jan express her heart so comfortably before the Lord. They both were beginning to realize that they were a 'good fit'.
In December, Earl came out for a quick visit. He came in on a Thursday and left on Saturday, just in case it didn't go well. He needn't have worried. Jan saw him walk through the door at the Wakefield's that night in his suit and was totally filled with gratefulness at God's "attention to detail" as she realized that in every way so far he was a "perfect match". Up until that point, Jan hadn't seen a picture of him and he had only received her picture a few days before flying out. (We look back on this as such a good thing, because we were totally free to get to know the other's heart before being influenced by mere infatuation!). They spent the next day together just walking and talking (down at Dana Point) and asking each other every imaginable (and appropriate!) question and laughing a lot. Saturday morning came all too quickly. Jan drove him to the airport and he left her with a cute sweatshirt he had brought for her . . . just in case things went well. From that point on, their fate was sealed in each other's hearts for the most part, though being open to the Lord's will. They both realized that there would be no backing out of this relationship without hurting hearts. However, these thoughts and feelings were all kept safely inside and no profession of love had been made yet between them. It wasn't the time. They had not come to any agreements between the two of them yet on what they believed God's will was for them. They were still waiting and watching . . . and praying.
In February, Jan and her mom flew back to Louisiana to meet Earl's family. It was a wonderful time full of memories for both Earl and Jan. They headed off alone together (as is appropriate for a 30-something and 28 year old!) for one day and saw Earl's parsonage and the church building where he pastored. They had a romantic dinner on the way home and just talked and talked and laughed every moment. Their time together ended all too soon. Though no expressions of love had yet been made, Jan was confident of Earl's heart for her every time she received flowers with a "sweet note" from Earl after their visits together. The music was building . . .
In April, Earl came out again and this time he stayed for a week. They did lots of things together and Earl was also being considered by Norm and the elders of the church for an associate pastor's position. So, he was introduced to the body at that time and the congregation was told of his and Jan's courtship. He preached a sermon for Coast and Jan remembers him quoting the verse from Jeremiah, " . That night, as they were saying good-bye before he headed out the next morning, Earl asked Jan what she would think about going to the next level. [smile]. She knew the next level meant 'engagement' and she wasn't going to let him get by with such a silly proposal. He finally asked Jan to marry him and it was just the perfect thing to do. Of course, she said yes and the rest is history. Earl was God's perfect choice for Jan and Jan was God's perfect choice for Earl and they both knew it without any doubt!
Next month (August 2006) we will celebrate 10 years of marriage (and 5 absolutely delightful children!!!). We are still going strong. God has been so good to us in laying a foundation of truth that we have been able to build our relationship on. We respect each other. We honor each other every day. We seek to serve each other and we are grateful for the times when we are served. We see our own weaknesses and we see the other's weaknesses. We have lots of opportunities to extend grace and mercy. We keep lots of things to ourselves that would not edify or build up the other. We cultivate an attitude of gratitude even on the worst of days. Most importantly, we have put our relationship with Jesus Christ above the other and we respect that in each other. We still make beautiful music together that is often heard in our laughter and seen in our smiles as we walk through this life together. (That helps on those days when a smile is hard to find!)