At my house we have two little girls so we watch and read a lot of fairy tales. Beauty and The Beast, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Thumbelina, etc. but as enchanting as these tales are, I can’t help but notice that they leave a lot to be desired in terms of teaching our girls about what true love looks like. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these stories but as a mom, I can’t stop myself from thinking about how I am going to relate them to reality as my girls get older and begin dreaming of their own fairy tale. So I figured that a good place to start was to write down my own love story in hopes that maybe they will see elements of their favorite fairy tales woven into a real life romance that God has written for two very real, very human people. I want them to see that “happily ever after” must be fought for and romance does not end at the wedding day but rather the wedding day is just the beginning of the journey. My deepest, most earnest prayer of my life is that God would have mercy on our family and establish a legacy of very rich, very deep love stories that stand the test of time and bless all those who play a part in them. So here is the beginning of my love story as I am writing it down for my girls to read later and I hope you enjoy it!
Part 1: It All Starts With A Girl
At the turn of the century, in a town very much like your own, there lived a girl of about sixteen years of age, whose name was Angela. She was not a princess, she could not sing to save her life and she was… well… she was just very ordinary. She was lovely in her own way, though certainly not exquisite. Chestnut brown hair fell in layers just above her shoulders, her skin was soft and pale but dotted with freckles and her eyes were brown with tiny flecks of gold. She was barely over five feet tall and she always felt like a gymnast in a world that preferred ballerinas who were tall, slender and could move gracefully about like butterflies floating on the wind. Angela was anything but graceful. But in all of her awkward, ordinariness, Angela had an extraordinary love for great stories and she particularly loved a great love story. Of course she enjoyed the old fairy tales of princesses swept away by the love of a charming prince but her true favorites were stories that told of character, sacrifice and a true romance that could stand the test of time. Every time Angela would read such a tale she would pray to God that he would write a love story for her that would not only be worth telling but worth living until the end of her days.
Now Angela was somewhat of a lonely girl… Although she had wonderful parents and a brother with whom she was inseparable, a recent falling out with her circle of friends had left her with a wounded soul. Often she would talk to God, and sometimes argue with Him, about losing the relationships she had held so dear but in the end God had to ask her to simply trust him and agree to disagree for the time being. Little did she know, that He was writing the opening lines of her love story which would begin on a warm spring night at the high school dance.
Chapter 2: The Day They Met
Now Angela was homeschooled so high school dances included everyone from freshman to seniors and took place on an old fashioned stream boat that cruised along the lake. This was Angela’s sophomore year, so her second dance to attend and honestly she wasn’t that excited about it. The previous year’s event was kind of a dud and this year tensions were too high with too many people for her to feel happy about going. However, despite her better judgment she decided to go anyways. She wore a sleeveless, purple gown that came just to her ankles and had little black velvet flowers embroidered all over it. Her hair was down, carefully styled and she wore long black gloves that made her overall appearance very sophisticated. As her parent’s pulled up in their burgundy station wagon to drop her off, she thought this was probably going to be the most wasted night of her life but pushing those thoughts aside she kissed her parents and opened the door. When Angela got out of the car she barely had time to notice that her friends hadn’t arrived yet before she was greeted by someone she hadn’t seen in forever. It was Barbara Sexton. They had gone to the same church years ago and hadn’t really seen each other since but as soon as Angela recognized her she rushed over and they began catching up on each other’s news. Although it was a welcome surprise, it wasn’t long before it was time to board the boat. Angela’s friends had arrived so she started to excuse herself but just as she did, Barbara insisted that she come say hi to her brother, Wheeler. Now, the last time Angela had seen Wheeler was when he was about 12 years old, barely over four feet tall and the most obnoxious boy she had ever met. However, in an effort to not be rude she agreed to say hi before she left. They walked over to a bench were there sat a young man casually having a conversation with one of his friends. He was very tan with dark hair, cut military style and his eyes were a hazel green. He was wearing blue slacks, a short sleeved white shirt and a tie that was clearly his dad’s because it was entirely too big for his thin frame. As Angela and her friend approached he stood up to a height of over six feet and greeted her with a warm smile and hand shake. Angela could not believe this was the same boy that she had despised nearly four years ago! She politely shook his hand and was introduced to his friend Austin before she had to hurry away but there was something in the warmth of his smile that struck her and she knew she would make an effort to spend more time with him as the evening went on. What Angela didn’t know was that Wheeler never took his eyes off of her from that moment on and would be making his own best efforts not to leave her side. It was bound to be a very interesting evening for both of them.
Chapter 3: The Dance
Well, as it turned out the evening was wonderful. Angela danced almost every song with one friend or another and in between she spent most of her time chatting with Barbara, Wheeler and Austin. She casually tried to get Wheeler to dance with her but he was obviously terrified of dancing and pretended to be too busy taking pictures. Really it was because he was absolutely smitten and had no idea what to do with himself. However, when the last song of the night began to play, Angela took Wheeler’s hand and dragged him onto the floor. He was so nervous but as their hands touched and they danced an awkward swing rhythm, God smiled at His own romantic genius. Angela’s love story was officially underway.
At the end of the night Wheeler gave Angela his e-mail address under the guise of wanting to share the pictures he had taken. He asked her to send him an e-mail and he would reply with all the photos as an attachment. This was a terribly clever plan except for Angela, mistook the dash in his e-mail address for an underscore so he never got her e-mail. However, this did not daunt the now love struck Wheeler… after a few days of not hearing from Angela, he looked up her phone number in the homeschool directory and took the bold move of calling her at her house. Well, Angela had no idea that Wheeler had never gotten her e-mail and secretly she was a little crushed that she hadn’t heard from him in several days when the phone rang. It was him! They laughed about their miscommunication then cleverly used the opportunity to arrange a get together. A few weeks later Angela and her brother Jake paid a visit to the Sexton house where they spent the afternoon just hanging out with Wheeler and his sisters. It was a fun time but Angela, being the inquisitive sort, could not stop herself from asking questions about what kind of relationship Wheeler had with God and she found herself being a little disappointed with his answers. When she went home that night she determined to write him off. Her heart was touched by Wheeler’s warm nature but she had been hurt by too many relationships recently and she just felt she couldn’t take another one that was surely was doomed to fail. But God, of course, had other plans. Wheeler was in fact very stirred by Angela’s questions and even more intrigued by her passionate and inquisitive nature. He was determined to win her heart… And since God was on his side anyways, Angela really didn’t stand a chance.
Chapter 4: Falling in Love
Month after month, somehow Wheeler and Angela ended up at all the same events and hanging out at each other’s houses for one reason or another. They wrote letters to each other and discussed theology over e-mail… they talked about things that mattered, things that didn’t matter and everything in between. Eventually they found that they actually had a lot in common. They both loved God and the pursuit of Him, they loved books and history and traveling and the list could go on and on. Angela’s plans for writing Wheeler off were pretty much foiled and she was slowly but surely falling in love. She didn’t really realize it until Wheeler left for camp for two weeks. He had said he would call when he got back but when three weeks went by and Angela didn’t hear from him, she began to think he had lost interest in their friendship… she was crushed. But then the phone rang and it was Wheeler! Nothing had ever sounded sweeter than the sound of his voice telling her how much he had missed her and that he couldn’t wait to see her and tell her all that had happened. Turns out he was falling in love too. He explained that there was a falling out with some of his friends after his two weeks at camp and that was the reason he didn’t call right away. So after they talked things over, he invited her to come to an awards ceremony where he would be given the Carl A. Spaatz award for his achievements in the Civil Air Patrol. Angela was delighted to have his friendship and readily agreed to be there to support him.
The night of the ceremony she sat nervously wondering if Wheeler would notice her in the audience. After a while she saw him as he walked out in his dress blues and she could not believe how handsome he looked! When the ceremony began, person after person got up to talk about what a dedicated and honest young man Wheeler was and how much they respected his character. It was too much!! Angela finally had to admit to herself that she was crazy about him. After the ceremony was over, lots of people came up to talk to him but much to Angela’s excitement he quickly made his way to her with that warm smile on his face. He told her how happy he was that she made it but he seemed nervous… like he wanted to tell her something. In the end, however, all he could get out were some superficial questions before she had to say good-bye. They both left a little disappointed but still hopeful that something special was happening.
Chapter 5: Lightning Strikes
Now it was a Saturday afternoon in November and by this time it had been about seven months since the high school dance and a few weeks since the ceremony. Wheeler had come to Angela’s house and they were sitting on the couch watching a movie with Angela’s brother when it happened… Wheeler reached over and gently wrapped his fingers around Angela’s hand. Lightning struck! Angela held her breathe hoping that he couldn’t hear how loudly her heart was racing. Unfortunately for them, Jake noticed the not-so-subtle hand hold and quickly remedied the situation by yanking Wheeler off the couch and going to tell Angela’s dad what was going on. Seconds later Jake was back to inform Angela that she was wanted in her dad’s office. Now her heart was about to come out of her chest. She did not say a word as she stepped into his office, hoping he had called her in for some different reason but of course his first question revealed she was not going to be so lucky. He asked her if she was dating Wheeler to which she honestly responded “No”. He then asked why she was holding his hand if she was not dating him and they had not given any indication that they intended to do so… She very intelligently replied that she had no idea. He then made it clear in no uncertain terms that she was to talk to Wheeler and clarify the situation or he would do it for her. Angela quickly agreed to do the talking. After that her dad and Jake left to go see a movie and Angela casually asked Wheeler if he wanted to go grab something to eat at the Golden Corral down the street. This was the first time they had ever gone somewhere alone and Wheeler was more than happy to take her out on what would later be referred to as their first, unofficial “date”.
When they arrived, Wheeler was the perfect gentleman and paid for the dinner which made Angela dread having to talk to him even more. She was just sure that he would want nothing to do with her after all this. Her stomach was in such knots, she hardly touched her dinner. Finally, after some silence she blurted out the reason they were at dinner. She told him that she REALLY liked him but that they were not dating and should not be holding hands or leading each other on if that was not what they intended to do. Inside she was desperately hoping he would pick up on the fact that she really did like him and take the hint. Wheeler listened carefully to everything she had to say and then sort of rested his head in his hands for a moment. It was over, Angela was sure of it. Then he lifted his head with a glowing smile on his face and proceeded to tell her that he was crazy about her and wanted so badly to be more than friends. He asked what he would need to do to get permission to date her. Angela was absolutely beaming but she wasn’t sure what he would say when she told him he was going to have to talk to her dad. To her surprise, Wheeler immediately agreed to talk to her dad that night and reached across the table for her hand. Both of them let out huge sighs of relief and in that moment Angela was sure there were angels singing in heaven. But this was only the beginning.
Chapter 6: Asking Permission
Wheeler did indeed talk to Angela’s Dad that very night. Now the thing about Angela’s Dad was that he was a very wise man who loved his daughter intensely, so his first order of business was to question Wheeler about his intentions. Nervous but undaunted, Wheeler made it clear that he intended to marry Angela which was exactly what Dad was looking for. He gave Wheeler permission to date Angela but he cautioned that because of their age this would be a long process of learning about each other and there would be guidelines for them to follow. He also made it clear that he and Wheeler would be spending a lot of time together. Overjoyed, Wheeler readily agreed and as soon as he was excused, he rushed out to tell Angela the good news. They were on cloud nine! They spent the last part of their time together giggling and laughing like children on a sugar rush. However, by this time it was getting very late in the evening and sadly it was time for Wheeler to return home. As he walked down the pathway to his car, Angela poked her head around the door and told him she loved him very much. He stopped in his tracks, turned around to face her and said with the intensity of conviction that he truly loved her too. It was a strange thing for two 16 year old kids to say. However, time would soon prove that God did not view their age as an obstacle but as an instrument to make their young love both true and timeless… And so began their season of courtship.
Chapter 7: Courtship
Well, courtship lasted a little over two years for Angela and Wheeler and during this time they grew up together. They graduated from high school, got jobs, started college but honestly, those were the simple things. The real challenges of growing up were much more complex. Wheeler spent a lot of time with Angela’s Dad learning the principles of godly manhood and as a couple, they spent time learning God’s plan and passion for marriage in The Song of Solomon. They met with much opposition which taught them how to stand together; they learned to manage time and money together, how to plan together, how to think together and how to fight clean so that strife could become their strength. They made many, many mistakes but God used those to grow them up too and in the end it was a very foundational time that would launch them into engagement… but first there was to be a very special proposal…
Chapter 8: A Proposal To Remember
It was a chilly afternoon in December and Wheeler was driving Angela to their favorite coffee shop. They were going to spend the afternoon lost in conversation which was, of course, their preferred pass time; however, on this particular day there was something a little different about Wheeler. Angela couldn’t help but notice that he seemed unusually chatty which normally meant he was nervous about something. The only thing she could think of that would make him nervous around her was the asking of a certain question. She was beside herself with excitement! As she rode along in the car listening to Wheeler chatter, a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth and she almost couldn’t contain her anticipation. Finally they arrived at the coffee shop and after ordering their favorite drinks, they settled into two soft chairs near the window. Now, ever since they had started dating Angela and Wheeler would play a game of asking each other questions. One person would start the game by telling the other person to ask a question and then after the starting person answered, they would have to ask a question and on they would go until they were completely lost in a conversation about one topic or another. It was a very special thing between the two of them and today Wheeler was planning to incorporate it into his grand proposal, so he started off by telling Angela to ask a question. However, Angela was in a mischievous mood. She could see where he was going with this and since she was really more interested in his question, she insisted that he ask first instead. Flustered but determined, Wheeler insisted that she start the game. Unwilling to be defeated, Angela asked what he was going to ask her and said that would have to count as her question. So they went back and forth with their playful banter until Wheeler finally caved and told her to close her eyes. Angela’s heart was beating out of her chest as she excitedly shut her eyes. When she opened them, Wheeler was on one knee with a sparkling ring in his hand and he asked her to be his wife. The room was glowing!! Angela threw her arms around his neck and tearfully said yes!! Wheeler held her tightly and they both basked in the joy of knowing that their long two year courtship was over and marriage was just over the horizon. Angela told everyone at the coffee shop that she had just been asked to marry the most wonderful man in the world so the whole place was celebrating with them before they left! It was a beautiful moment… it seemed as though God had made time stand still just so he could smile at these two crazy kids He had so creatively brought together. However, the best was still yet to come for the happy pair as the day of their wedding drew closer and closer.
Chapter 9: The Wedding Day
January 4th, 2003. It seemed like an eternity for that day to come but when it finally did, Angela and Wheeler could not have been more overjoyed. It was a day that they would cherish forever, not as the end of their love story but as the most beautiful beginning to the next chapter. Now the wedding was to take place on the same steamboat where they had shared that first awkward dance nearly four years before. The day was cool but the sun was shining and made the ripples of the lake seem like glittering diamonds dancing in the light. Angela wore a beautiful ball gown made of white satin and lace with a train that elegantly swept the floor when she walked. The bodice and sleeves where exquisitely beaded as was the detail on the skirt and train. Her jewelry was made of rhinestones and pearls; her hair was swept up with a sparkling tiara and a veil that fell in layers past her waist. She felt like a princess. As her two dearest friends, Trish and Christina helped her get ready, she couldn’t help but say a prayer of desperate gratitude to God. She wasn’t even the slightest bit nervous because as she looked back on the love story He had written for her so far, she could see his hand and she knew beyond a doubt that Wheeler was the man He had made just for her. Throughout all their years of friendship, courtship and engagement Wheeler had proven himself noble but even more than that he had proven that he loved her for who she actually was not who he imagined her to be. He was a real life prince to her. Soon it was time for her to walk down the aisle and as she took her father’s arm, a peaceful smile spread across her lips. When the big wooden doors were opened, she saw Wheeler’s face and that warm, genuine smile glowing back at her. The trace of red in his eyes told her that his happiness was as great and overwhelming as hers. The ceremony was performed by a pastor that had known Angela’s family since she was a child and the words he spoke could not have been more simple, intimate or meaningful. They exchanged traditional vows except for the addition of one… Before God and all of their friends and family they promised never to divorce each other. It was a risky promise for two twenty year olds in the 21st century. They did not do it because they thought they were better than anyone else, but because they believed that God is faithful to keep what He joins together and it would be His supernatural strength that would carry them through the storm called life. So the ceremony ended with true love’s kiss and the newly married couple exited to Handel’s “Messiah” which was extremely fitting. At the reception it was pure celebration with dancing and laughing and plenty of happiness to go around until at last, it was time for Angela and Wheeler to take their first steps into the world as Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler Sexton. Now this would normally be the end of the story but as we all know, true love stories don’t have endings they just have new beginnings. I happen to have it on very good authority that God is still busy writing the love story for this odd couple, but the important thing to remember is that He is the author and His stories always live forever no matter what happens.
“What God as joined together let no man put asunder.” – Mark 10:9