Today is D’Ani & I’s 14th Wedding anniversary!
1998 was a difficult time for me. I found myself in an unusual place. Due to my own bad decisions, left to deal with a ‘broken heart’, I heard the Devil laughing at me. After going through a 5-year, on again/off again, relationship, dealing with one disappointment after another; and left to try and pick up the pieces, deal with public humiliation and embarrassment and the pain of betrayal, somewhere I gave up on God and on love. Yes, I was not perfect. Did I enter into a relationship that God revealed, time after time, the person was not the one He had for me? Yes again! But there was still pain, nonetheless. Eventually, in those coming months, somehow, I moved on and I let it go. It was rocky at first; and I thought I could never breathe again. In fact, I pleaded with God to ‘make it work’.
He would not!
He said no!
And when I wouldn’t take no for an answer, He made things so clear to me that what I thought I wanted, didn’t want me; and I really didn’t want that relationship as much as I thought I did.
And still….I heard the Devil laughing at me!
During that time, I went through such a dry period in life and ministry. I wasn’t called on much to preach at many places during early 1999, it seemed. Everything got so quiet. I was alone. I didn’t realize until later, I was alone “with God.” I remember going to hear one of my preaching mentors speak in the Dallas area, and he asked me if I was okay, because I had lost quite a bit of weight; and he thought I was sick. I was probably depressed and didn’t know it. I found myself in Arlington, Texas both ashamed and alone. The only wisdom I could come up with was to improve myself. This is the period where I learned how to awake every morning at 4am and pray for an hour. I began to journal and rediscovered my love for studying God’s Word.
Interestingly, through the course of that year and following, I found a refreshing place in my relationship with Christ. I had recovered the joy of my salvation in Him. But one thing had not changed – I was done with love. Admittedly, I was never the guy who dated one girl to the next. I never was the person to just hang out with a girl for the fun. If I didn’t see her potentially being my wife or wife material, I got bored very quickly. Inherently, I still wanted a wife. BUT….I just knew I could never trust again, and especially love as innocently and vulnerably as I once did. Maybe I was ‘damaged goods.’
But THEN….something happened! I saw a girl that struck my eye. I had seen her ocassionally, singing in the choir where my Uncle Lloyd Pastored in Denton, Texas. But…I wasn’t the kind of guy to go to church looking for a hookup; and while I thought she was ‘cute’, I looked and moved on. But one day, I worked up enough nerve to ask my cousin Constance, and a few other people about her. Constance told me her name was ‘D’Ani’. When I heard her name, I fell over! It was the most beautiful name I had ever heard; or so I thought! Then, I was informed that one of my older cousins had tried to talk to her, and was unsuccessful. This sort of discouraged me, because he was smoother and cooler than me, and was admired by many young ladies. So I blew it off for a while! Someone else had told me they had heard that she was pretty serious with a guy she had been dating since high school in Houston. So, I just knew I didn’t have any chance whatsoever. I have always been pretty laid back and shy when it came to approaching a person of the opposite sex in my single days; so these were simply inquiries.
Then one night, at a musical honoring my mom the day before my father’s pastoral anniversary, she was there! I’ll never forget what she had on, how she looked and how she wore her hair. And I also just couldn’t resist. I just HAD to say something to her! For the first time in my life (and last) I walked up to a young lady without any mediator or filter and I spoke, not just to say hello, but to express my complete adoration for her. So, after church was over, I walked up to her, and said the dumbest thing I ever said to any woman in my life, “So….is it true you’re engaged?” I was so nervous I really don’t remember her exact response. Plus, she seemed to be distracted and surrounded by quite a few people. Then, it got even worse, much worse. I said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to settle for second best.” My mind and memory went blank after that. My attempts to be cool, smooth or debonair had completely failed. Then (it gets worse) I WALKED AWAY!!! I did all but run away….like a disappointed kid runs off stage at a talent show when he is embarrassed. I just knew whatever inkling of hope I may have had to know that girl, that was gone too. Period!
There are other little details I could mention, but the main detail happened the next day (Sunday) when I was expressing my disappointment and despair to one of my friends, who was an associate minister at her church, where my uncle served as Pastor. He walked away; and the next thing I knew, before they left, he handed me her email address. Emails, at that time in 2000, were sort of a big deal. He said that he would ask for her number for me, but I was too scared! An email was fine. I had an AOL account at my apartment (remember the ones that would use your phone line?), so I felt comfortable emailing her.
I couldn’t resist. I left as soon as I could from Corpus Christi to get to Arlington, Texas where I lived to email “pink twirler”. A day or so later, she emailed me back. I still have those emails and exchanges somewhere. Eventually, that week, we talked on the phone….for hours and hours (6, to be exact!). In time I learned that her own relationship had been going through some serious challenges and transitions. She was a senior at Texas Womans University; and had been praying for God to show her if that relationship was in His will. Interestingly, she was so distracted the night of the musical honoring my mom because she had lost her promise ring from him during the service. She was looking for it everywhere and couldn’t find it. I promise, I didn’t take it!!! Those seemed to be red flags for her regarding her relationship with the guy she had been dating. I could literally tell a hundred stories of how God brought us together; and how God was speaking to me, speaking to her, and speaking to both of us together. I have absolutely no doubt that D’Ani was tailor made for me. There was no way I would have even entertained a relationship so serious and so pure during such a time in my life.
We started dating in April of 2000, got engaged in May and married in August of 2000, a few months later. Sounds crazy, huh? There are many ways, I can look back and see how someone may have thought we were. She had graduated from TWU, but hadn’t passed her dental tests. I didn’t have much of a job, a struggling preacher, and was a junior/senior at Dallas Baptist University. I had absolutely no resources to support myself, let alone a wife. But God…. D’Ani and I’s story is laced, through and through, with nothing but the grace, faithfulness and goodness of God.
She is my gift from God. And all of the things I went through before her coming into my life, made me appreciate her even more. I am so humbled when I think of what I pleaded with God to do; and that when God said no, I thought He didn’t love me….because He didn’t give me the person I wanted. But a couple of years later, He gave me MORE than I ever even knew possible for me. He gave me Dee. And I could have never asked for a greater gift, after Calvary. God actually didn’t give me what I thought I wanted BECAUSE He loved me. He wanted me to have the BEST He created JUST FOR ME.
It is my humble prayer that I will always make her smile, laugh, be proud to say I am her husband and ‘Daddy’ to her boys. It is my prayer that HE would keep me healthy, strong and able to give my life to making her the happiest woman on earth. It is also my prayer that if I should go before her in this life, that she would never doubt the love I have ever had for her; that her needs will always be met; and that our sons will love and protect her all of her days. In the meantime, I want to be her dream maker – whatever she dreams, I am her to make it come true.
Consequently, I did hear the Devil laugh at me in 1998. But GOD had the final say!!!
And I can honestly say, that because of My Dee, I am the man, pastor, husband and father I am today. I am no longer a boy, but a man. I am still kind of a struggling preacher, but God has brought me a long way. Because of her support, I graduated the following year with a Bachelors and later with a Masters. When I told her I was starting a church in 2005, she was the first to join. When I told her years later I felt a call to go to a 140 year old struggling congregation that was and hour and a half from our home, she was the first one in the car (before me!). She has supported me, through it all! She is the “wind beneath my wings!”
And now….the Devil gets to hear me laugh!
Happy Anniversary Dee…. I love you to the moon, infinity and beyond! I am praying that the Lord will faithfully give us 14, 25 and 50 more!