Jennie and Mark

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How We Met

Mark and I met on our first day of work at our church–North Church. It was Mark’s first full day, and I walked in to sign my contract to become a NorthKIDS intern. We shook hands, and Mark claims he “lost all motor function” at that exact moment. Nine months later, he showed up at my doorstep during my last finals week of college. He didn’t come empty handed– he was armed with 5 envelopes (one for every day of finals week), and ice cream. Because who can make it through finals week without ice cream?!?

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He told me I had been on his radar for a long time, and he wanted to put himself on mine. I had no idea he even remembered my name! He explained that the envelopes were for every day of finals, and to call him when it was over to let him know my decision. I cheated and opened them all on the second day. Mark had donated money in my name to organizations involving social justice and impoverished children in Central Ohio and in South Africa. He was, most definitely, on my radar.

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A week later, we went on our first real date. We ate dinner, got ice cream (of course), had a dance party for 2 at the Hilton in downtown Columbus, and stood on a bridge overlooking downtown talking for what felt like all night. After our 5-hour date, we fell in love remarkably quickly. The next year was full of praying, ice cream, adventures, and fighting for each other. The next summer, we both struggled with mental illness, and Mark felt Jesus pulling him to break up for a little bit. We were absolutely terrible at being apart, and thankfully that time didn’t last long. We quickly got back together, and Jesus redeemed every ounce of hurt and anxiety we had about our future together.

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how they asked

I had been in Chicago for the weekend with my old Young Life team (AKA, basically all my best friends). I thought for sure that Mark would surprise me there, because we want to move there and my people were all there. When I was wrong, I figured it was just the following weekend. I was wrong again.I arrived at my apartment covered in airplane grease and exhausted. But there was no time for a nap. My roommates handed me a note explaining I had 1 hour to get ready, and there would be a ride waiting to take us somewhere. An hour later, my dad and brother picked us up with another note about our first summer of adventure together, with pictures from that time. They dropped us off at Northstar (my favorite local restaurant), where I was met by the first girl I led to Jesus, and my old Young Life kid. Mark clearly knew my heart!

After we ate, I received another letter about the first time we said “I love you.” I was picked up by Mark’s Young Life leader and his dad, and promptly handed a 4th letter about how weird we are together. Very soon after reading it, I knew I was heading to hang out with all my North Church girls…the ones I spend every waking moment praying for and loving dearly. I was greeted by shrieks and hugs and giggles, and all their moms (whom I look up to and adore) were there, too. They provided my favorite snack and we made mailboxes to hold all the letters I was getting that day. I was handed another letter about how those sweet girls had molded our relationship, and how Jesus had used them to save me from myself, to teach us about grace, reckless love, and childlike faith. I wept reading it aloud to the girls I love so much.

After wiping my tears, I was picked up again by Mark’s 3 best friends, and handed another note about all the times we were real together, and how we’ve fought against mental illness and darkness to be together. I struggled to not cry in front of all his friends before they dropped me off to get coffee with my mom and two former roommates. They pretended it was utterly normal for the 4 of us to hang out in Westerville and avoided all my questions. I was handed ANOTHER letter about the time Mark and I spent apart and what God had taught him during that time. Oh, how His redeeming love plays a vital role in our relationship! My mom and I walked outside and were greeted by Mark and I’s two pastors, who pretended we were just going for a drive. As we got on the highway, I was handed an 8th letter.

This one ended with “Here we go. I love you.” It was finally time! I was jittery and shaky, and kind of sweating. We pulled up to the Hilton where Mark and I had our first date, and I was greeted by both of our families. His mom walked me upstairs and sent me towards the bridge we had our first real conversation. Mark was waiting for me there with flowers and a final letter. This letter he had written after our very first date, on that very bridge. He got down on 1 knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him, and I think I said yes about 10 times.

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But the surprises weren’t over! Mark took me back downstairs to the ballroom, where our friends were waiting to play some songs for us to dance to. After, we met our families for celebratory drinks and headed to an engagement party with all of our people. Mark is so very thoughtful, and made me feel so special on our day. I can’t wait to spend forever with my favorite human!

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Special Thanks

Katie Lee
 | Photographer