Kate and Philip met on Christian Connection in 2019 and married earlier this year. Little did they know life was about to change in more ways than one. Kate tells their story…
“When we made our vows in a church packed with our family and friends, sunlight pouring through the windows and blossom in the churchyard, it felt as if we were entering a literal and metaphorical spring after a long winter. We didn’t imagine that we be starting married life in a world which has changed beyond all recognition. If it had been even a week later, things might have been different. We might have had to delay. Yet our God went before us even when we first met in August 2019.
Philip and I have both experienced our share of sorrow, he in divorce and I in the death of my much loved first husband, Angus, in 2015. Despite the huge support of many dear people there was, for both of us, the loss and absence of married life, and a spouse, for which we both felt made. Of course, one cannot replace one spouse, or marriage with another. And I, for one couldn’t have imagined being married to someone other than Angus. Yet I felt compelled to seek it. Somehow the time was right.
So last summer I tentatively signed up to Christian Connection. I must admit I was terrified. What was I afraid of? Rejection? Rejecting others? Raising my fragile bruised heart above a parapet when there was safety in being alone. Risking it in case….. there was someone out there just for me. Risking it because I was lonely if not alone.
After just a few weeks I found myself chatting to an architect and trainee counsellor, whose photos illustrated a man who loved the outdoors, especially the coast, his family and his Jack Russell, Lola. He was friendly and had a lovely warm smile. His name was Philip.
So one August day I summoned all my courage to go and meet this chap in Norfolk. Incredibly it was my very first date. We had ‘chatted’ i.e. texted a bit and I was optimistic, probably unrealistically so, but then I am a ridiculous romantic. I had arranged to stay with a couple of friends who acted as my dating ‘Mum and Dad’. They helped me choose an outfit to wear for a walk on Holkham beach, which needed to strike the balance between practical, outdoorsy and suitably alluring. In the end we went for a pretty patterned blouse, khaki trousers and walking boots. When I got there he greeted me with a warm smile, a kiss on the cheek and a gin and tonic to calm my frayed nerves on my first date after thirty years. Afterwards we walked and talked on that large expanse of beach beneath the huge golden sky. We discussed dogs and walking and the difficult years we had each endured. We agreed that we had both grown and become more compassionate in the experience of suffering; we talked about friends and family and what they mean to us, and about our faith in a faithful God.
When we parted Philip said he needed to update his best friend David. “What will you tell him?” I asked. He blushed, looked down and smiled. “I don’t know. What will you tell your friends?” “I will tell them that I would like to see you again.” And I kissed him on the cheek. I have no idea where such uncharacteristic boldness came from!
Of course I knew immediately, that it actually was the fairytale, although I can’t speak for Philip. Yet if he was behind me in strength of feeling, it wasn’t very far. From that moment we spent every weekend together and messaged constantly during the week. Both of us dislike the telephone so WhatsApp became our communication tool of choice. We sent each other songs, and poems and bible verses. Parting became increasingly painful. In November, on another beach at Weybourne, Philip asked me to marry him. We both knew it was coming. We had planned to wait until Christmas. I did not have to think beyond a joyful “Yes!” Understandably some people were surprised and perhaps concerned by the swift and certain commitment we had made to each other. Others said: “When you know you know!”
I remember meeting my friend Sarah in church. When I told her about Philip she talked about Kintsugi- the Japanese art of mending ceramics with a gold or silver resin so that the breakage is visible yet beautiful nonetheless. She said she saw a picture of me as an empty Kintsugi vessel waiting to be filled. That image was prophetic of the healing power of God in our relationship. A healing that did not forget the past but that made something new from the old in all its beauty and brokenness.
For us, our relationship, and the common and complementary aspects of character and faith that we share, felt so right and God-given from the moment we met, we were sure of our course.
Philip is exactly right for me. He loves God, dogs, words, juvenile humour and walking. As a wedding present, at my request, he gave me a beautiful pair of Le Chameau wellington boots. Perfect! He treats me like a princess. He is the Boaz to my Ruth. I think people can see how right we are for each other now. We are so thankful that we were able to celebrate our marriage with all our friends and family and that we are together now as we live through this unprecedented pandemic. We are embracing this new season that is Spring in the knowledge that through Jesus, Spring is always on the horizon even when we feel as if we are in the depths of winter. And that said in the full knowledge of the very difficult challenges many people are facing.
Now, we find ourselves locked down. This time last year it was Monty the Labrador and me. Now, I have a wonderful new husband and a houseful of young adults and dogs. What a unique way to start married life!
I hope our story may be an encouragement to those of you seeking a special someone. We have been hugely blessed and our prayers answered beyond our wildest dreams.”
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come…..
Song of songs 2:11-12
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