Friday, December 18, 2009

Their Crazy Step of Faith Leads Them on the Road to "I Do"

Phillis and Craig’s extraordinary love story beautifully illustrates the phrase, “a match made in heaven.” After dating only eight short weeks, Craig and Phillis were anxious to share how God had been orchestrating their relationship. So, they invited these two Christian matchmakers and founders of Cache' Connections to dinner.

We met up with them at a casual restaurant in Pekin, Illinois. It was apparent that Craig was ready to talk. What was even more obvious, however, was their attraction and attachment to each other. We noticed that Craig used his hands to talk, but would quickly return to holding Phillis’ hand. Likewise, Phillis, a petite and attractive 49 year old widow, was almost giddy and would often lean into Craig every time she laughed.

As matchmakers, we have seen God working through our members, but this story is so powerful and confirming that even the most skeptical readers would have a hard time refuting the evolution of a divine plan in the making.

Craig, a 56-year old well-organized business executive, came to dinner still in his suit and tie, prepared with an outline. Struggling to maintain his composure and in a most sincere manner, he started by simply stating, “We owe you a debt of gratitude.”

To give a little background, this whole story began when we were frantically searching for matchable panelists for the Peoria Cache’ Connections Dating Game, slated to transpire in October 2009. We both thought Phillis would be a great contestant because of her outgoing, energetic spirit, but she had turned us down twice already, stating "She didn’t have time." Granted, she did have a good excuse, as she is Mom to three grown biological children and 10 foster children, a nursing instructor and an Advanced Practice Nurse. To top it off, she is working on her Ph.D! But, we knew Phillis was special, as we were acquainted with her story in which her husband of 27 years lost his battle with cancer three years ago ... so we didn't want to give up quite yet. Once we had Craig signed on, we felt compelled to ask Phillis one last time, mostly out of desperation. Finally, our persistence won her over and she said yes - putting our plan in motion.

Linda: Phillis, weren’t you too busy to play in The Dating Game? Let’s talk about how we had to coax you into participating.

“Well you know I wasn’t terribly interested in the game. I had already turned down your invitation to be in the event once. When you emailed me a second request, I admit I was pretty irritated and even muttered to a co-worker, “What part of no don’t they understand?” If that wasn’t enough, a few weeks later you sent a third request. I really don’t know what caused my 180 turnabout and final answer of, “Okay, I’ll do it.” I guess it was a weak moment. I figured I’d ‘just show them’ and provide the entertainment for the audience.”

We remembered Phillis joking at the rehearsal about wearing a Big Bird costume for the event. Linda overheard this flippant comment at rehearsal and said, “No Phillis. You want to win this game,” which seemed to catch her off guard. And then “The Cache’ Connections Dating Game” began ... and ... what’s this? Phillis’ attitude started to shift as Craig’s personality was revealed from behind the partition. Then Craig asked the question that sealed the deal - a question we strongly suggested because it always got some laughs. “If a man speaks in a forest and a woman is not around to hear him, is he still wrong?” Phillis, now into the game, said with a sweet voice of conviction, “If he were my man, he’d never be alone in the forest, I’d be with him.” That cinched the deal. Craig’s winning date … Phillis!

Craig, tell us how you first got connected with Cache’ Connections.

“My daughters had been concerned over my loneliness and convinced me to sign up for Cache’ Connections after hearing about it on the radio. After two months on the site, Linda and I exchanged a few emails, and she pointed me to Phillis’ profile. I liked her photo and profile, but I was scared away when I saw she had 13 kids.

So in the summer of 2009, when I had been divorced for six years, I was getting fed up with my loneliness. I had a deep longing for a mate and found myself crying out to God and “arguing my case,” asking God why he made me with these desires if I couldn’t have a wife. And then the transformation began … after several rounds of prayer, I felt prompted to admit my failures and to confess I couldn’t do this on my own. And then I found peace after resigning my anxieties and cares to God. When Linda wrote me and invited me to be in The Dating Game, I admit I didn’t want to participate, mostly because it was outside of my comfort zone (despite being an accomplished public speaker and testifying in regulatory proceedings frequently.) I’m sure my pride was an issue, too. But I agreed to play, because I knew I needed help!”

Phillis, he picked you. What was your initial reaction to being chosen?

“After the photo shoot at the end of the Dating Game, Craig and I got so caught up talking that we eventually realized all of the other contestants had left the room. We both noticed that “it just felt right” from the beginning. At first glance, he was attractive and seemed caring and sincere, but I figured, what are the chances? The first thing I did was check him out. When we were talking out in the social area, we were both shocked to realize we had a mutual friend who was actually in Craig’s Sunday school class, Dr. John Rogers. I just happened to have his number in my cell phone. I decided I needed to go home. Really, I wanted to get the first phone call into my good friend John to get the scoop on Craig. I talked to John on the way home and he confirmed Craig was “the real deal,” and gave his blessing on the relationship, which was a huge statement coming from John.”

Kim: Craig, tell us how things got started with this romance.

“After I got over the initial shock of hearing that I had picked the lady with 13 children, I was immediately attracted to Phillis. Our first date was a week after the event, when we enjoyed the dinner at Johnny’s that was provided through the event. We’ve had a lot of dates since then. She’s attractive, intelligent and has a great heart, but I couldn’t get past the fact that she has 13 kids! I admired her huge heart for her adopted daughters, all of whom had been abused. I found myself in frequent prayer. I didn’t want to cause hurt - didn’t want to be hurt – so I knew I needed wisdom and discernment.

I quickly found that if you want to date Phillis, you must meet her friends and small group to see if you are Phillis-worthy. Tony, her late husband, had contracted with each of the men in their small group to “take care of Phillis.” The first of many tests started with her small group, who interrogated me only 16 days into the relationship. They threw out questions such as where would I take her on a honeymoon, and they even inquired about personal issues including my stance on premarital sex! I think I passed with flying colors. Even though Phillis was getting her confirmations, I still had doubts and concerns - and then the answer came. I got this distinct impression from the Holy Spirit, “Look to see where God is at work and join Him there.” I took a good look and saw God at work in Phillis’ life and her ministry to these children, along with her friends who supported them. So that was my confirmation to continue dating Phillis.”

Linda: Phillis, tell us about some of your confirmations from God on this budding romance.

“Three weeks into the relationship, I knew the attraction was definitely there, but it was all happening so quickly. I was confused and had to admit that I had an issue with Craig being divorced, even though I didn’t want that to be an issue. I was telling my friend and daughter about my fears on the way to the Beth Moore Conference we attended in Springfield recently. They agreed to pray for confirmation through the conference, that maybe a scripture or bit of advice offered to the 8800 attendees would also speak to me personally.

Not long into the conference, Beth Moore walked up into the balcony where we were seated and said she wanted to use this small section as a sample of the entire group. She wanted to know if anyone had an experience where God was using the conference to speak to them. Along with a few other ladies, I raised my hand and said it was my late husband’s birthday and I was concerned about the challenge of a new relationship. Beth made a general comment and continued the conference, talking to others and making her way back to the stage. Then she suddenly stopped and asked “where’s my young widow?” I raised my hand again and Beth proceeded to return to our section, climbed in the aisle, stepping over 5 people and sat on the lady’s lap right next to me. (Who can’t imagine Beth Moore doing this?)

Beth quoted Isaiah 43: 18-19 to me. “Forget the former things: do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Beth told me that God wanted me to claim that scripture. I was shaking from the inside out from hearing such a direct message from God. If that wasn’t enough of a confirmation, I immediately received a text message from Craig who asked if I was talking to Beth Moore. Totally confused over how he would know since he wasn’t there, Craig explained that his daughter, Jennifer, who I had not met at this point, was in the audience and saw everything on the large screens about a Phillis from Pekin. This was more than I had hoped for in the way of confirmation. I found I had a total sense of peace over our relationship.”

Craig interrupted. Being the melancholy personality that he is, he was anxious to get back to his outline and tell us about the day he was driving his new Camaro to Springfield.

“One month into the relationship I knew I was falling in love. I was driving to Springfield and praying for direction and wisdom since everything was moving so fast. After all, I was a casualty of divorce. But there have been two times in my life when I heard a very direct, clear impression from the Holy Spirit. That day in my car came Number Three. It was imprinted in my brain, “Your job is to take care of Phillis.” I was struck with awe as I realized this was the contract Phillis’ small group had made with Tony, her late husband. I found myself raising my hands in worship and praise while driving as the presence of the Holy Spirit was so real. In fact, I was so caught up that the Camaro swerved over into the next lane.”

Phillis and Craig went on to tell us that the “M” word was becoming a common subject of discussion. Having received plenty of personal confirmations, they knew they wanted to be married. But it was so soon! Craig voiced his concerns to his daughters, who simply stated, “Don’t worry about what we think. As long as you’re happy, we’re happy.” They could see his obvious love for Phillis and that he was more vocal about his relationship with God since meeting her.

Next, they took Phillis’ four teenage daughters to lunch and announced that they were seriously considering marriage. The girls all voiced their approval, until they asked where they would live. Alyssa, the youngest, burst into tears when she heard that they would move out of the house where her deceased father, Tony, had lived. She raced to the restroom and Phillis soon followed. Alyssa confessed that she felt like she would be losing her father if she moved away from his house. Phillis assured her in story-like fashion that Tony was in their hearts and he would go with them wherever they lived. She urged her to go tell Craig the reason for her emotional outburst and concern. Craig quickly explained to Alyssa, “I don’t want to replace Tony. I admire Tony. We will take Tony with us wherever we live.” That settled her heart very quickly!

The next Sunday, Phillis messaged Craig that she’d like to go with him to his church again, which meant a lot to him. After church, they went to his home, and he sweetly asked her to be his wife. Of course she said "Yes!"

“As I said, Phillis and I will be forever indebted to Cache’ Connections for “forcing” us out of our comfort and convenience zones. Their heart for Christian singles was quite evident from my first glance at the website they had built. A lifelong student of The Word, I was very impressed with the way they formulated their four basic faith statements – couldn’t have done a better job myself. My belief in their hearts for this ministry was confirmed as we sat down at dinner recently and shared our story. Phillis and I both feel compelled to continue telling how God is working miraculously through our relationship. I’ve moved from rejecting the idea of a relationship with Phillis to a real desire to support her in her ministry, and now to a desire to be a family with her and her daughters. Our commitment to following God’s principles of keeping Him first in our relationship, praying together daily, having accountability partners and remaining sexually pure is truly producing multiple blessings. We look forward to marrying the first chance we get, which will be May 2010.”


Anonymous said...

Only our Almighty God could orchestrate a beautiful story and life experience such as this one! Thank you for sharing!

Debby said...

Wow, this story made me cry. How beautiful. I am divorced too and can totally relate to Phillis' hesitation to get involved with a divorced's a difficult thing for us to get past too. God was totally at work in this situation and that's the best part! Your story is very inspiring - thank you for sharing!

Linda said...

From Cache' Connections: Craig and Phillis moved their wedding date up to 2/14/10!