The story of how God brought Anna and Daniel together displays the beautiful creativity of God’s love and sovereignty. As Christians, we believe that God is sovereignly in control of everything, but sometimes His perfect will and plan become especially clear in a beautifully evident and creative way. This journey illustrates that truth in a special way.
When we think of how relationships happen and two people knit their hearts together, we often quickly realize how we didn’t do it. In fact, we couldn’t have done it. We’re simply not that powerful nor certainly that wise. Sometimes in light of hindsight we can fool ourselves for a bit thinking that it was all our initiative and making things come together, but in truth it wasn’t. Each one of every relationship and marital story is all about the perfect will and awesome wisdom of Another, and because of that our perspective and understanding of marriage changes forever.
Ultimately all marriages are all built to end, so I am thankful for how those lessons have been so seared into my consciousness now. Our culture and flesh scream to us that superlative joy must be found now, for that is all we know. But Scripture is clear that, for the people of God, our future in eternity will be better in every possible way. Our bodies will be transformed (1 Cor. 15:35–56); all pain and sorrow and death will be taken away (Rev. 21:4). We will no longer see dimly but will encounter the presence of God in the face of His Son forever. Our highest good is future, not now. All joys, pleasures, intimate relationships—or sorrows, hurts, and relational disarray—of this age are not ultimate. Earthly marriage is a shadow, a copy, a type of the ultimate marriage: that of Christ to His entire church (Eph. 5:32; cf. Mark 9:15). Indeed, eternity’s defining reality is a marriage between the “bride” (the redeemed) and Christ (Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:7).
Earthly marriage isn’t designed to last forever, then, but to give way to the marriage of the redeemed to the Lamb. In the marital relationship, the chief aim of both spouses is that submission, sacrificial love, respect, repentance, and comfort be directed toward that future age—toward cultivating conformity to the image of Christ, our true (in the fullest sense) Bridegroom. As Paul writes, Christ is sanctifying his bride so she might be presented to him, and “in the same way husbands should love their wives” (Eph. 5:25–28). By the Spirit, spouses love each other now to prepare for handing each other over to Christ then.
John Piper writes in This Momentary Marriage that “being married in the moment of death is both a bitter and sweet providence. Sweet because at the precipice of eternity the air is crystal-clear, and you see more plainly than ever the precious things that really matter about your imperfect lover. But being married at death is also bitter, because the suffering is doubled as one watches the other die… The shadow of covenant-keeping between husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and His glorified Church. Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.”
As I have taken much time to reflect, pray, and write in the months since Sarah’s death, I realize ever more how true those words are, especially as they relate to the transcendent nature of Christ and His Bride, the Church. That desire for marriage ultimately points to our relationship as Christians with our Savior. When we consider marriage and the unwanted singleness that Anna and I have both faced in our own ways, we do so under the shadow of that fundamental relationship.
As a widower, the journey to this place is forever impacted by all that transpired last year during what would turn out to be Sarah’s final months. I am especially thankful for the many sweet conversations Sarah and I shared in her final weeks where she urged me to seek a wife when I felt ready. In the months that followed, I worked through my grief looking back at the past while also wrestling with the what-ifs of the future. After many months of prayer, self-reflection and journaling, seeking wise counsel from Godly counselors in my life as well as other widowed spouses who have walked this road before, I felt ready in late March to begin down this path. One of the primary ways I knew I was ready to take this step was that I wanted to be the one that ministers to her (whomever that was), not just to have someone minister to me. I realized that by God’s enabling grace I was ready to selflessly lead a relationship and seek to share my life with another – ultimately for the purpose of evaluating marriage.
As I discussed these things with my parents and family members, my pastor, other widowed spouses who had remarried, wise counselors, and close Godly friends, they were all in support of me taking this next step. Thus led to the unique and clearly God-ordained way I was introduced to Anna.
The journey through a lengthy ten year season of singlehood did not come without its challenges, hurts and pain. I will be the first to say, that by God’s abundant grace, He has carried me through and has been faithful through every season, despite my doubt and distrust in Him. “My plan” all along has been to “find a guy,” move back to Maine and raise a family close to my parents and serve alongside them in the ministry that they have up there. Watching friend after dear friend pair up and marry always came with mixed emotions. Overjoyed at the thought of them “not” having to experience where I was, but also pain as it was a constant reminder to me of what I did not yet have. The solution for me, through these single years, has been to pour myself into ministry. Staying busy for the sake of the gospel, enabled me to stay others focused and not be selfish-minded. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but last fall, I hit a wall and was discouraged in a way that I had not yet been before.
Following some friends’ advice I “put myself out there” and entered the dating world. It was full of discouragement and stress. In having a desire to be married, I also had very strong convictions of meeting someone that shared the same faith and ministry philosophy that I did. And let me tell ya, these type of single guys, simply did NOT exist where I was looking. I had a dear friend prayerfully encourage me and after several months and many failed attempts of messaging, talking and meeting guys, I once again surrendered the concept of “dating” to the Lord on April 4th, 2018 and pulled back. I had wasted far too many emotions, time and energy on something that did not provide anything in return. God had so blessed me taking care of my sweet precious boys at work, a loving church family and ministry, as well as a biological family that had my back. It was time to regroup and refocus on what I did have and what was in my present!
The peace and joy I had after “letting go” and surrendering, that which I so desperately wanted, was such a relief, but it was short lived. That Saturday, just a few days later on April 6th, I received a phone call from my parents in Maine with the devastating news that my dad was resigning his pastorate position following a faithful God-blessed 14 year ministry. Their world was crumbling in around them and although we mentally trusted God’s plan, the pain and hurt that comes from people not loving and obeying the Lord is sometimes too hard to bear. The pain my parents were experiencing carried over to me, and I was left doubting yet again. Hadn’t I just surrendered and had complete peace as to what God’s future plan was? I could “handle” being single, but watching my parents endure pain that was out of my control was overwhelming. That weekend I was a mess! I was angry, bitter and full of confusion. As I drudged through that Monday, I spent so much time praying and begging the Lord for peace and to take away the anger I was experiencing. Little did I know, that God was already at work in some very specific ways and He was formulating a more perfect plan that I could never have imagined!
Earlier this year, I felt led to ask my cousins Joe and Kaytlynn if they might know of someone who they felt would be a potential good match for me. I knew that I would need someone who had at least been connected with people I knew and trusted rather than just a total stranger. To my surprise, they explained they had already thought of someone since last November, but had resolved they would only ever mention it should I directly ask them. After hearing their enthusiastic endorsement of why they had thought of Anna for me, I was definitely intrigued and interested.
However, I asked them to make an introduction only after holding off for a little bit while I finished preparing for my sabbatical travels and went back to Indiana for my grandmother’s memorial service. Little did I know though what was going on behind the scenes for Anna during this intervening time period.
I quickly realized how Anna and I shared a web of connection between dozens of mutual friends going back more than fourteen years that allowed people we both trusted completely to know each other separately and offer their valuable perspective. Thanks to the large amount of connections, Anna had watched from a distance the journey that Sarah and I took in the last year of Sarah’s life. Anna’s family also had a unique history with grief, loss, and remarriage as Anna’s maternal grandparents both were widowed before meeting each other and God blessed them again with the birth of Anna’s mother. The family was used to talking about Daddy Jim and Mommy Ann. Each thing I learned about Anna made me even more interested to get to know her and so I sent her the first message asking to get to know her.
I woke up on April 10th (my dear friend Allison’s birthday) to a few messages, one of which was a rather lengthy email from Daniel expressing his interest in getting to know me more and seeing if a relationship was a possibility in our future! What in the world?
Backing up now a few weeks, to the middle of March, I had received a message from a dear friend and trusted confidant Misha Frazor, saying I needed to talk to our mutual friend Kaytlynn Kopp, because Kaytlynn knew of “this guy” that she wanted me to meet. I thanked her and gave permission to “feel free to pass along my information.” At that time, I seriously didn’t think a thing of it. (Over the past 10 years, I can’t even count the number of well meaning friends that have suggested “guys” to me, but never mentioned me to the guys. And I’m not one to go chase down a guy….) A few days passed by, and I received another message, this time directly from Kaytlynn. Kaytlynn and her husband Joe, have been very dear friends of mine for over 10 years. We all went through college together and ministered for many summers together at the same junior camp in northern Wisconsin. Although much of our friendship has been long-distance in recent years, the bond was never severed! Once again, I gave Kaytlynn permission to pass along my information and I asked her for details about “the guy”, just so I could have a reference point. She was so sweet and responded with a “brief history” but no name. No name was needed though as enough info had been shared for me to put the pieces together and figure out who it was: Daniel Kopp — Joe’s cousin, and brother to another friend of mine, Stephen Kopp. Daniel’s reputation preceded him, and I was immediately put at ease as to who the “mystery guy” was. 2017 brought Daniel through the valley of the shadow of death, and by God’s pure grace, Daniel had been able to share with others, through his writing, what God had allowed as his wife became severely ill and ultimately passed through the gates of glory. Daniel was a widower, and I had followed that devastating journey knowing it was Joe’s cousin and Stephens brother, never knowing how that journey would personally affect me later.
The passage I would like to share at this point is Jeremiah 29:11-14a. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord…” Being the eldest in my family, and a planner by nature, living the single life has had its ups and downs. Something that has always kept me grounded, has been trusting that God is a wayyyyyyyy better planner and organizer than I could ever be. Remember “my plan” that I mentioned earlier? The BEST plans I could ever have come up with are nothing in comparison to God’s goodness and perfect plan for our lives. Our Heavenly Father loves us more than we could ever imagine even to the point of sending His own Son to die in our place, so that we could spend eternity with Him. So if my God, could plan my life and know the plans for my future, who am I to doubt and sulk in my human flesh when “things don’t go my way?”
So April 10th, Daniel emailed me and we began corresponding. Those initial emails were quite lengthy and full of deep topics. They required much thought and careful wording as we were not only keeping our hearts guarded, but also prayerfully navigating an unconventional relationship. Daniel was pushing through the fog of being a widower and a new phase of life. I was cautiously optimistic but unsure of what this relationship possibility would look like. Those initial few weeks allowed not only our hearts to be opened to newness, but also aligned by God’s grace. Those emails quickly turned into lengthy phone calls and our communication increased week by week. Daniel calmed my anxious heart and spoke truth to me as I continued to navigate the trial my parents were experiencing. The pain Daniel had experienced at such a young age, in losing his wife Sarah, was something that can leave anyone unsure of how to proceed in life. By God’s enabling grace He allowed me to be the listening ear and comforter that Daniel needed as he navigated this new relationship.
Daniel, having just endured life changing circumstances, was also beginning a new phase in his life. He ended his career in the Air Force, bought an RV and a truck and set out on a mid-career sabbatical. The planning of this transition and trip had taken place years ago, and setting out on this journey was a perfect transition as he sought the Lord for what he should do next. He was also working on a second masters degree and making plans to begin his own financial planning firm, and so I entered his life and became part of the mix.
As we communicated long-distance at first, we realized the hundreds of small and precious ways Anna and I have lived separate but parallel lives for a long time. We realized that although we had never met until this year, Anna and I were high school classmates in same exact BJU LINC (long distance home education) satellite classes such as physics, chemistry, and Spanish. Our younger brothers were also very good friends in college and Anna’s brother Ryan even introduced my brother Stephen to his wife Jess for the very first time.
As I began my sabbatical travels this year, one of the first stops I had planned all the way back in last year was to spend over a month in New England, which God had sovereignly orchestrated so that I was within a short drive from where Anna lives in Boston. This time allowed us to spend over a month together in person confirming all that we had begun to see already in our long distance communication. Anna’s parents lived only a short distance away in Maine and many of her extended family lived close by in Connecticut which allowed us to have wise accountability of people that loved and cared about her from the beginning. My parents also were able to adjust their travel itinerary to come and spend a weekend together with Anna and I as well, lending their invaluable counsel.
The first big stop on Daniels sabbatical just so happened to be in Connecticut so that he could visit his dear friends, the Boyette family. This month-long stop had been planned and booked many months prior to Daniel knowing about me. So we love to think how God had orchestrated this and had gone before us. The campground in CT where Daniel stayed was only an hour and a half away from where I live, and only 20 minutes from my extended family in CT.
And so, after 5 weeks of emails, and talking for hours on the phone, Daniel came to Boston for a weekend visit and we officially began dating. Our first date was at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. We then walked through Cambridge in the rain and sat for hours in a local coffee shop! We finished that day off with dinner at my favorite Sushi place. It was dreamy! The following day we went to church together with my parents and then made plans for the following weekend. We also made plans for me to come visit Daniel in Salt Lake City, in July. I had always wanted to visit SLC as I have many dear precious friends that live there as well as a ministry I have watched and admired from afar for years. Daniel’s extended family are all part of that group and are all old camp friends of mine, so naturally I was eager to make plans for a visit. As the Lord would have it, the exact week that Daniel suggested for me to visit, I “just so happened” to already have it off, because the sweet family I work for, had planned their own vacation that week. Totally a God thing and only one of many many things that God has done in our relationship!
The next weekend I was able to have a few extra days off and came to Connecticut to stay with Ma (my beloved grandma). The rest of my family was also congregating for the Memorial holiday weekend so it was a win win. Daniel and I spent all of Friday together. We walked and talked, talked and walked, sat and had a picnic, and really covered about every topic we hadn’t yet covered. Daniel allowed me to have complete peace and be more comfortable than I ever imagined I could be with a guy. He not only agreed with the “ministry philosophy” I held to, but was already living out the same gospel centered life that was so important to me. Our connection was deep and the alignment of our hearts happened in a way I had never thought was even possible. We spent the rest of the weekend building on that day and enjoyed amazing visits with his friends and my extended family.
The third weekend brought us to my “stomping grounds” on the Maine coast, visiting my parents, meeting my brother Ryan and some dear friends. Our relationship had quickly grown and by the end of that weekend we shared our love for each other. It was determined that it was time to meet Daniel’s parents. He to thoughtfully arranged a visit for them to Boston so we had a perfect weekend touring Boston together and I fell in love with Mike and Karen as quickly as I had with Daniel. After 4 glorious long weekends together in person, it was time to say goodbye for 6 long weeks!
I’m overwhelmed by the goodness of God and His blessing me with this amazing man following years of singleness. With the overwhelming excitement of what was in our future, I was also wrestling with the fact that someone dear and precious had passed away. Sarah is with the Lord and I am now in this position with Daniel. It’s heavy and it’s personal. It’s something that we will be working through, possibly for years to come. But by the perfect grace of God, He has enabled both of us to be at this place by clearly leading us in His perfect timing. My years of singleness were in place by the Lord, to have me ready for meeting Daniel at this moment in time. There isn’t a rule book written for this kind of situation, but something we are so grateful for is the complete comfort and transparency we have had in every aspect of our communication from the very beginning. We are both able to be very vulnerable and open about what has happened, and although there are many memories to sort through, and numerous emotions to navigate, we both have understanding of God’s perfect blessing and unmeasured love by bringing us together at such a time as this.
As we began our communication, we were intentional in guarding our hearts and expectations through frequent conversations about where we are at in this stage and intentionally seeking to not get ahead of ourselves. We also sought to cultivate independence from each other in that we were not becoming more absorbed into a relationship than our still separate lives at this point. Anna and I were thankful for the opportunity of writing back and forth to develop many levels of healthy communication along with phone calls and Facetime chats.
Now that I was leaving New England to continue my sabbatical travels, Anna and I faced the challenges of a long distance relationship, yet we also realized it provided an opportunity to grow and develop communication habits that the context of always being together often do not have. But in this too, we sought to avoid the potential trap that we would become enmeshed in a “bubble” that lacks the support of a community of perspectives so we were intentional in those ways continuing to bring in family and friends to help provide critical outside perspective as well.
Earlier this year, I had sat down with my pastor to get his counsel and wisdom as I wrestled with the seeming contradiction of my ongoing grief coupled with my desire to again be married. As we sat, talked, and prayed through everything I was thinking through he provided a piece of invaluable wisdom. He recommended that I go and write down a list of everything that would be important for me in a future spouse so that I would have something concrete to refer back to should the time come and be an anchor against the waves of emotion. I had never actually made a true “what she must be” list ever before, but I saw the wisdom in my unique circumstances so over the course of a few weeks with much prayer and consideration, I wrote everything down so that when I was finished it was over two pages long. I began praying over these things and for the Lord to lead me to my future spouse in His perfect way and timing.
As Anna and I communicated through writing, phone calls, my long visit in New England, and in the weeks of our long distance time apart, it became crystal clear that she met and exceeded every single thing I had written down earlier this year! The fascinating part of this whole discover process as we grew in our knowledge of each other was how naturally each part was revealed to me. Our easy rapport and complete peace at being with one another only added to the joy of seeing how God had answered every prayer as I sought this step. Time would also fail for me to share each and every specific circumstance how God worked in our lives separately when we came together to discuss the what-ifs of the future with the exact same thoughts and plans. God has gone before and custom-designed Anna for me at this unique and perfect stage of life.
Having now seen the full confirmation for myself that this was the woman I wanted to marry, I sought and received the full and enthusiastic blessing of her parents as well as mine. Indeed, our entire extended families gave their emphatic support for our relationship and desire for marriage! As I looked ahead to our visit together in Salt Lake City, I made preparations getting a ring ready and conspiring to make the entire visit special including most especially the proposal!
The six weeks of long distance dating was difficult but also very special. We were able to have uplifting conversations, and learn more and more about each other without the physical distraction of being close in proximity. I also had an extremely busy month through July helping with a friend’s wedding and being a sponsor for my church’s teen missions trip. This involved many late nights, early mornings and lots of energy in addition to nannying full time all throughout. July 21 finally came along with the trip to Utah. I was so excited I couldn’t even sleep! I could NOT wait to see Daniel again!
Upon arrival in Salt Lake, Daniel picked me up from the airport and we spent the day catching up! Oh how “right” it was to be beside him again. We met our dear friends Josh and Kathy Clum, whom I was staying with, and had dinner at an amazing Indian restaurant! Sunday morning we went to Gospel Grace Church and thoroughly enjoyed worshipping together with so many precious friends and family members. We then enjoyed lunch with Jon and Beth Kopp’s family before heading north to visit Joe and Kaytlynn that evening. They were after all, the dream team behind our relationship and we were eager to thank them in person and spend time with their sweet family.
God had so clearly led us both through valleys and had brought us to the place where we knew the next step was marriage. I had given Daniel some ideas about what I liked in a ring and showed him my Pinterest board (that I scrambled to put together only after he asked) so he knew what I was leaning towards, but I had left the design and plan completely up to Daniel. I wanted to be surprised, and I had determined I wasn’t going to ask any questions that would possibly give me a hint as to if or when it would happen. Although I suspected it would happen in Salt Lake, I wasn’t completely positive if he even had a ring finished yet, so I had no expectations. I was completely at peace with where our relationship was and I knew we were headed towards marriage (we had already picked a date), so I was just thankful to be with Daniel regardless of what happened during our visit.
On Monday morning July 23rd, Daniel picked me up and we went to meet Joe and their boys for a day of hiking on Antelope Island. This island was on the Great Salt Lake, was inhabited by wild buffalo and pronghorn antelope — both firsts for me to see in the wild! It was so much fun! The views were spectacular and were a completely different kind of beauty in comparison to my New England Coast perfection. Following a fun filled day of hiking and sight-seeing, we picked up some pizzas and went back to Joe and Kaytlynn’s house for the evening. We all managed to freshen up and after dinner it was suggested that we all take a family walk to help the little boys burn off their excess energy. As we walked out the door, Daniel said he needed to make a “quick phone call” and would catch right up to us. I didn’t think one single thing of it and proceeded out the door. Daniel quickly caught up and we all walked to a local playground for the boys to play. Once we reached the playground, Daniel took my hand and asked if we could go on a walk for “some alone time” after being with his sweet cousins all day. So I eagerly agreed and we walked around their sub-division. We started recounting many memories, blessings and what God had done in bringing us together. (I still had no clue folks…)
Once we reached Joe and Kaytlynns house again, he asked if we could pop in for a minute because he had “another gift” for me. My birthday had been the week prior, and Daniel had soooo sweetly been spacing out birthday gifts. Once again, I didn’t have a clue, until we walked through the door. Inside the front door, was a path created from printed emails and all the pictures we had taken since we first met. I finally figured it out! I instantly got goosebumps and started to tear up a little. Was this really happening? What I didn’t know, was that when Daniel first emailed me, back in April, he had done it right there on the couch in Joe and Kaytlynn’s living room during his visit. And so, the pathway of printed memories led directly to the spot where it all began. Daniel had strategically placed the ring in one of the cushions and pulled it out. He got down on one knee and proposed. I remember eagerly saying “Yes” but as he went on with the most perfect of proposals, I was completely lost in his eyes and he had to eventually ask “well, do you like it?” (in regards to the ring) I had not yet even looked at the ring. But my oh my, I was totally blown away! He did well folks! I’m completely overwhelmed and in love with this sweet man that God has given to me!
So that’s our story! But it’s only the beginning. Yes, wedding planning is in full swing, but also and more importantly is our preparation for marriage. We covet your prayers as we navigate this new and exciting season. Daniel is finishing up the remainder of his sabbatical as he prepares for launching his financial planning firm later this fall. I am thoroughly enjoying a calmer month of summer with my two precious boys and am soaking up every moment with them. When I have moments here and there, I am in full time wedding planning mode.
Come September, Daniel and I will be taking another trip together to visit family in South Carolina and Florida. Once back from that trip, I will be teaching preschool again a few mornings a week while continuing to nanny through the year. Daniel will be moving to my neck of the woods mid-October to prepare for the wedding and we plan on remaining in the Boston area for at least a year while we navigate what the Lord may have for us later down the road. Thank you all so much for your love and support! We couldn’t be more excited and grateful for the future!