We love love and we want to share stories from real couples falling in love, getting engaged and getting married! Meet Joe and Tonya.
As told by Joe.
Tonya and I met in May 1987. I still remember the first date pretty well. We played mini-golf, saw a movie and talked for a long time on her patio while looking up at the stars. I knew right away there was something special about her. Her father had passed away a year earlier so a lot of our early dating conversations were about what a special father he was to her.
We enjoyed dating over that summer before she left for her freshman year at Johnson Bible College in the fall. She would be attending Johnson Bible College near Knoxville, Tennessee. She had been part of a touring singing group sponsored by them so was familiar with the area and some people there. I had never been there and was a little concerned that this beautiful woman who I was falling for was moving so far away from where I lived in Central Indiana. On August 8th, 1987 I gave her a promise ring to make sure she knew I was serious about her.
It was a tough year. Believe it or not, we didn’t have cell phones back then! I had to try to reach her in her dorm on a suite phone to talk to her. I ended up writing her lots of letters and she would write back to me. As her school year ended, it became clear that we had fallen in love and I needed to act to keep her close. I was almost done with my undergraduate studies and had worked part time throughout. I decided I could get a full time job and finish up the few classes I had remaining at night. We talked of marriage and even looked at rings together. Without Tonya’s knowledge, I took her mother to lunch and asked for her blessing. She only hesitated slightly!
In August, one of Tonya’s suite-mates from Johnson was getting married in the Knoxville area. For our long trip down, I had prepared a series of envelopes with written letters similar to those I had sent while she was at school but more like a scavenger hunt. I gave her one about every hour on the trip down. They were all leading up to a big event!
Before the wedding, we visited the Pigeon Forge area and we went up in the hills where a stream was coming down. The stream was full of enormous boulders and we spent some time walking over them down the stream. She called it “rock hopping”. Eventually, we sat on one together, enjoying the sunlight streaming through the trees on a beautiful day.
When I gave her the final envelope, I think she may have known what was coming by then. I asked her to marry me on that rock and then gave her the “rock” (the ring). As she said “yes”, a yellow butterfly landed on the rock and stayed by us for several minutes. It was almost as if her father had come to witness the event and share in our happy day.
We were married the following June. We just celebrated our 27th anniversary and have four wonderful children to show for it. The rocks in our story remind me of the verse Matthew 7:24-27. We’ve tried to build our relationship on a solid foundation so that when the hard times come, our relationship won’t crash.
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” (NLT)