Sunday, March 10, 2019
The wedding begins with prelude music at 4:00 pm CST.
Blush Pink, Rose Gold & Light Grey
When I was about ten years old, my mother took her first Weigh Down class with a local friend in Upstate New York. I was not familiar with the concepts and precepts talked about in its message, but at the time, I was aware that something was different about what she was getting into. My entire life, we had gone to various different churches in towns, sometimes an hour away in order to find something helpful or encouraging or even just the same longing my mother felt for truly God-led fellowship. Of course, I can’t really speak to my own spiritual awareness back then, as I was young and more preoccupied with the events in the lives of my Gi-Joes. However, both she and my father had instilled in me a sense of right, wrong and sincerity of heart. So, when my mom continued to watch and listen to the principles so often that we practically knew them by heart, I was to a certain degree, more conscious of an energy in her life that had never truly been there before. Before long, my sister and I were sitting alongside her watching and absorbing the teachings that were taking hold and changing our lives.
By 2002, we had officially joined Remnant Fellowship after coming down for our first summer camp, and by 2004, we were visiting four times a year, excited for every trip and every festival, in spite of the two days it took us to drive from New York to Tennessee each time. We made friends that I still hold dear to this day who encourage my family and me in all that we do. I am eternally indebted to them, their patience and their empathy.
“I feel that God has truly given me the greatest blessings of my life in less than a year.” – Stephen
But in all things that God would see bloom, there are attacks. I struggled with laziness and pride as a teenager and I spent a lot of my time at home doing things I wanted, rather than pursuing an active relationship with God or his Son. I also shunned the possibility of marriage or even the inkling of that thought due to the idea that I would lose something by doing so. (What it was I feared losing I never fully envisioned, but I’m sure it had some relation to do with the time I was already taking from God in the first place. Go figure.) I did prefer the company of kids in the church when I was in town visiting and loved the brightness from their relationships with God…but I took my own for granted constantly. I coasted for a long time on the thought that I would one day move to Tennessee, get a good job and have a good life without really trying. So, when I finally did move here, God immediately humbled me with a lack of success in my work, even in places where I had talent for it. God never kept me in the same job for more than two years, and I was tested with humility and patience.
It was then, at a point in my life when I was struggling particularly with the disappointment of not having the life that people my age in the church were getting blessed with daily, that I met Ariel. I was working in a call-center and I had been explaining to someone else who was trying to lose weight what Weigh Down was. I don’t know why, as honestly up to that point, I hadn’t shared my church or the message actively with someone outside of it in years. In New York I excused it because I was alone besides my family for the most part, and in Tennessee because I felt no urge when I was surrounded with people who already did believe in God (though it was really just the aforementioned pride). In any case, Ariel leaned over and immediately was more interested than the person I had initially started sharing with. We talked over lunch, and I shared testimonies from the church with her. A couple months later after I had moved from the call center to another company and hadn’t heard anything from her since leaving it, I got a text from Ariel asking if I remembered her and what the church was called again.
I felt… something about Ariel that I had never felt about another human being in my life…that I needed to give her every single resource I could about the church and give her the opportunity to make a better life for herself through Christ. I also felt an intense feeling of guilt about my own conduct over the years in my spiritual level and I vowed to be the example she needed for her…and my own sake. I began to repair my mind that day as I invited her to watch a Wednesday night service and I felt clearer purpose than I had since childhood. The closer she got to my family and myself, the more I knew that the way I felt about her was more than pride in her journey to holiness. It only took a couple months for me to ask her out — and then just a few more to propose to the gentle and dedicated person that she had become. To this day, I do believe that had she not asked me the simple question of “What’s that about weight loss” across a plastic half cubicle in 2016, that I would have wallowed in self for a long time and possibly become completely lost.
As of this writing, I feel that God has truly given me the greatest blessings of my life in less than a year. I do not feel lost in a sea of my own thoughts and I am engaged to a woman who came farther in her relationship with Christ than I did in 16 years. I have been blessed with a job that has me with friends from church. Also, I am close to the friends who still stand beside me, as well as my current and my future family members in this walk to follow Jesus Christ. Praise God for all of his perfect paths that lead us where we need to be — to the people we need to meet, and to the love that brings us closer to Him and to each other.
I’m so honored to share my testimony and this amazing journey leading up to this point. I’m so thankful that I found God and this amazing church that has gave me a brand new life and heart.
When I was a kid, my mother raised my brother and me with some focus on the Bible and to have a trust in God through tough times. I kept that in mind but I never really understood what that meant for me. As I got older, I started getting involved with the wrong people that gave me the impression that God didn’t exist and that there wasn’t a much of a purpose in life other than selfish gain. And then when I started losing close relatives, the lie grew that God wasn’t there.
This led me to a very dark point in my life where I felt like nothing mattered and life was pretty much hopeless. I tried to seek therapy and there was never any real help or advice about how I could change or make my life better. The therapist asked me to talk about myself for a long time, and afterwards she conclude that I had “Severe Depression” and I needed to start taking medicine. I knew that therapy wasn’t going to work, when I found out that the side effects from medication would include feeling like spiders were crawling on your head and getting hallucinations.
I had also been overweight since childhood and by the time I reached my early 20’s I was diagnosed as morbidly obese, with sleep apnea and very aggravated PCOS. I got to a point where I did not like exercising or eating “healthy” food but I thought that was the only way to lose weight, so I gave up. I never felt a real desire to change or take my health seriously.
In the summer of 2016, I started a new job at a call center and that is where I met Stephen. I’m typically a very shy person and don’t open up to people quickly. But something about him made it easy for me to talk to him. Nothing seemed to ever bother him or weigh him down. He stood out to me because he was the complete opposite what was considered ‘typical male behavior.’ His passions were not about being involved with girls, drinking, and financial pursuits.
“..once I got to know Stephen and saw all of these happy marriages in the church, it restored my faith in having a peaceful marriage one day.” – Ariel
We became friends really quickly and I felt like he could tell I was very unhappy. One time, I made a self-deprecating comment about my weight and how I felt about it. He showed me a testimony of Andy and Maggie Sorrels, who had lost an incredible amount of weight through Weigh Down. I thought their transformation was amazing, but at that point didn’t believe it was attainable for myself.
It was soon after that that I quit that job due to financial problems, and I began struggling more with some personal hardships. Things got so difficult that I began to have thoughts of committing suicide. But out of nowhere, I got a text message from Stephen asking me how I was doing. He invited me to webcast the “You Can Overcome Show.” He gave me more information about the church and invited me to webcast that Wednesday.
What blew me away was how much joy and peace these people had and how they were TRULY happy! I was intrigued about coming to visit, but also very nervous because I had no idea what to expect. That night, Stephen invited me to come to the All Saints Day concert. In the back of my mind I was amazed that I was invited to church of all places – by a guy.
At the concert, I was blown away by the music and how entertaining the service was. In my past experience of going to other churches, the message didn’t hold my attention and I didn’t really understand what was being said. Remnant is just so clear and I was curious to learn more about it. After the service, I met so many different people with these amazing testimonies about their changed lives…and it didn’t feel staged! It was natural, everyone was so kind and wanted to get to know me. They were so loving and genuine!
I became truly fascinated by what was bringing them joy and finding out what was making them so happy. I started attending every event. I learned so much in such a short time, I was so ready to put everything into practice and change! During the holiday season, I started developing feelings for Stephen, and even asked him out.
He had the same feelings, however he felt that the time wasn’t right to begin a relationship. I didn’t understand that at first, but he explained that he wants to make sure that he is the right person for me in God’s timing. It made me think deeply about where I was spiritually at the time, and it convicted me to work on what I needed to change in my own heart for the time being.
A few months went by, I started to lose weight and God was freeing me of depression and self-focused fears. I started devoting my time to getting closer to God and putting these powerful messages into practice. During Pentecost 2017, I got baptized. It was a special weekend for me, because I felt I was on the right path in making a decision to devote myself to follow Christ. In the meantime, I still had feelings for Stephen but I ultimately gave that desire up to God. God showed me many signs that Stephen and I were meant to be, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen until His perfect timing. I had no idea that at the same time this was going on, Stephen was secretly asking my brother for permission to date me!
After letting go of my will, God blessed me with the opportunity to start dating Stephen in the late summer that year. In our relationship we both continue to change our hearts. We were already best friends at that point and that made it really easy to transition into a relationship. I love that we have a peaceful and sturdy relationship thanks to what we’ve been taught though Remnant Fellowship and all of the wonderful examples we have to look up to.
I took a break from dating for six years before Stephen and at one point didn’t want to get married because I thought it would end in heartache…but once I got to know Stephen and saw all of these happy marriages in the church, it restored my faith in having a peaceful marriage one day.
During that time, we both started to change even more, and I continued going for it, I lost over 100 lbs since joining the church.
I adore how we encourage each other and always point each other in the right direction in times of testing, how we are truly in sync with our emotions and how we communicate. Being with Stephen has helped me get out of my shell and be more loving to others. I admire him for the fact that he looked at me for what is inside my heart, and not outer appearances. I feel like he saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself at some point.
I love how we are both transparent with each other, it gives me hope that when we are married our bond will continue to grow stronger as a couple.
In April of 2018, I was invited to a Ladies Only “Tea Party” at Mountview, the home of Rob and Tiffani Day, who are leaders at Remnant. I remember that whole week all my closest friends were talking to me about what I was going to wear, how my hair was going to look. I didn’t anything of it… little did I know, there was an engagement party in the works.
Stephen and I had talked about marriage on a few occasions, and it was always something that I looked forward to but definitely wanted to wait for God’s perfect timing. While I was getting my nails done, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps this event was not what it seemed. I pushed that thought away quickly and focused on getting ready for the tea party.
When the day arrived, I was so excited to go over and fellowship with all my closest female friends! But when I walked into the front door I saw so many people I wasn’t expecting to be there…and then they all suddenly went quiet and music began playing in the background.
Out comes Stephen, in a full suit with a little black box and my heart stopped! He got down on one knee and proposed, answering my long-awaited prayer. I said YES, and everything was a complete blur for the rest of the afternoon… I was SO HAPPY and so in awe of what God was doing in my life.
I can’t wait to see what God provides for us when we are married, and can’t wait to share the rest of my life with Stephen!