I wanted to share another way the Father started preparing Phillip and I years ago for this time. I want to share the story of how Phillip and met over fifteen years ago. Both of our families were\are a part of a Catholic Charismatic gropu called City of the Lord (COTL). Phillip's family belongs to the main branch in Phoenix while my parents are a part of the MOnterey branch in Northern California. In 1996 a significant event happened to one of the families in Phoenix that started a wave of evangelization for the youth. This family grew up around the corner from Phillip's family. They are one of the Morgan's closest friends. They both had children that coincided with ages, therefore they grew up together. Their oldest son is still one of Phillip's closest friends and is actually Stella's godfather. Anyways...They have six children. The second oldest girl, Maren was Phillip's sisters, Monica and Elizabeth's best friend. At the age of 19, Maren was playing in a volley ball game and just dropped to the floor. Her life on earth was complete. She made it to her home in heaven. It was devastating, shocking, and completely unexpected. Because of this sacrifice a renewal in COTL occured focusing on the youth. Therefore, a couple of months later they held a youth retreat in Arizona. I was fourteen at the time a few weeks away from eigth grade graduation. My parents sent my older sister, Alexis and I with other teens to Arizona. This was my first Christian Youth experience. Alexis knew some of the teens already because she had gone to summer camp with them and to the first World Youth Day. I had never done any of that. I had NO idea this weekend was to be absolutely life changing. I was to meet two very special individuals, my future husband and the Holy Spirit.
The first night of the retreat was a "social". I was sitting in a small group of the few people I knew from home. I felt so shy and awkward. The night had been going on and towards the end, the doors suddenly opened. A wave of energy immerged in the stagnant air. A small group of highschoolers entered the room. Maren's brother, two of Phillip's sisters, Monica and Elizabeth, and of course Phillip. I remember seeing everyone's reaction as they all walked in. They were so joyful and seemed to light up the room. I couldn't keep my eyes off of Phillip. His confidence and joy at the young age of 17 astonished me. The way he interacted with everyone drew me in (His athletic appearance helped too). I actually thought his sister Elizabeth was his girlfriend because he was so loving and attentive to her. The next day, he asked my sister to introduce us as he thought I was a cute little girl (I was definitely not an early bloomer). He commented to me how when I turned 18 he would take me on a date. I tried not to take it too seriously since I saw him talking to quite a few girls that weekend and heard MANY girls talk about him. I knew for me, I had never met anyone like him before.
As for my personal encounter with the Holy Spirit, I was prayed over and my soul was stirred in a new way. I fell in LOVE with my God. I knew He was real and that He loved me. This sparked the journey of a personal relationship with my Jesus and brought to life my Catholic faith I grew up in. It was truly a new beginning for me and I knew there was no turning back. I was in for the long hawl. A couple months pass...
Monica and Elizabeth came to visit my family and then we were to drive to camp in Southern Cali. It would be my first camp experience. I was hopeful to see Phillip again. After a long, hot, weary drive we were suppose to go to a counselor meeting. We were late. Phillip's sister, Monica and I walked up to the building and she pointed towards the big window and said, "Look! there's my brother." My heart skipped a beat. I smiled and waved. He shyly grinned and gave me a reserved wave. Monica turned to me and said, "Wow, I've never see my brother act like that towards a girl before." "Like what?" I asked. "Like...shy." If you ask Phillip, he'll tell you that was the moment. That was the moment the Holy Spirit moved in him. He said he knew at that moment, he was going to marry me.
Something terrible happened, I actually got really sick. I had to stay with the nurse. I was in bed all week. I was devastated because my hope was to interact with Phillip during camp activities. The Lord knew and worked it out. Phillip came to visit me all week long. He would come and just sit and talk with me. I couldn't believe this older, hansome, star athlete was spending so much time with this little girl. The last night of camp he asked if we would be "prayer partners". He told me he would be praying for me every day and I would do the same for him. So that's what we did. My attraction for him was a tool the Lord used to establish a consistent prayer time. Instead of just day dreaming about this guy in Arizona, I got on my knees and prayed for him all the time. I couldn't forget Phillip, therefore I couldn't forget to pray for him either. The Holy Spirit is brilliant. (And for those who have discerned that marriage is their vocation, even if you have no one in prospect, PRAY for your future spouse. Phillip started praying for his (me) in third grade!)
From that time on, Phillip and I had other encounters through other retreats, camp, and an occasional phone call or letter. We never declared anything for each other. We continued on with the life God had for us in the place He had us - Arizona and California. He went to college in San Francisco, I went to college in Indiana. We dated here and there to pass the time as we waited for another encounter with each other. The prayers never ceased. I remember shortly after camp I sat before the Lord and poured my heart out to Him about my thoughts and feelings about Phillip. I knew it would be many years before anything could ever seriously happen between us. I knew much of life would have to take place. I pleaded with Jesus and told him "Please, Lord, even if I somehow over time I forget about Phillip, please, do not forget." I placed that desire in the Lord's hands. And He not only didn't forget, He helped us flourish. Phillip and I often talk of how, from a distance, the Lord used us to protect each other. I could never get very serious with anyone else because I compared all to Phillip. I knew what was out there and no less would suffice. Phillip felt the same way. Phillip, as a guy with athletic scholarships, looks, brains and personality held back from many temptations with girls because He wanted to offer the best he could to me someday. The perseverence through eight years before we married taught us much and we were given much grace because we were open to it. We then had an exclusive, long distance relationship the last two and half years of my time in college, knowing we had already made the CHOICE to love one another. I truly believe and know all of those years, the longing, the heart ache, the waiting, the not knowing, and the perseverence increased virtues for us for this time right now. I think of the Book of Songs where it says, "Do not arouse or awaken love before its time. For as strong as death is love, unyeilding as the grave, nothing will quench its flame." There was grace for that as well. In my youth, if Phillip would have asked me to be with him from the age of fourteen, I would have said yes. But the Holy Spirit gave Phillip the gift of prudence. And we both knew it simply was not time. If we had decided to be impulsive and give it a shot early on, I cringe to think what could have happened - emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. I have always struggled with patience, but through God's grace I was forced to accept such a beautiful virtue. There are so many moments to share over all the years, but that is essentially how it all started. Youth and singles, please hold out for the best. God does not want you to settle for ANYTHING less. In the mean time, let us all work on obtaining such heavenly virtues, for in them we become more like the image and likeness of God we are MADE to be. The path Phillip and I were called to take to get to each other was HARD, but absolutely heavenly. I have no doubt that any road if we are allowing the Creator to lead us on, no matter how difficult will bring an ABUNDANCE of Love. I have already experienced that in my finding of Phillip. God has no lesser path for any of us. Thank you Father!