Our Courtship Story
Chronicled below is the story of how God led Daniel and Christiana to each other, each from their perspective.
Looking back, I almost suspect that I liked Christiana from the minute that I met her. Since I believe that God is the one who planned our relationship, it is probably safe to assume that He was indeed drawing my heart towards her even when I didn't realize it.
I say "I met her" because she doesn't remember when I introduced myself to her at a church picnic in September 2010. In the months leading up to the picnic, I think I vaguely knew that there was a family from New Jersey with three daughters that would sometimes visit the church, but I don't think that I had ever met or talked with any of them. We played quite a few games of volleyball at that picnic, and I think that Christiana and Corinne were on my team pretty early on in the afternoon. I know I introduced myself to both of them and that is really all I remember from our first meeting. On the drive home afterwards I know that I made a point of reviewing their names so that I wouldn't forget them. I don't think I ever imagined that a year and seventeen days later I would be engaged to Christiana.
The next memory that I have of Christiana was at a New Year's Eve event in Lancaster. Apparently it is a tradition there to "shoot in" the New Year at midnight. My friend Jonathan kindly allowed me to shoot his shotgun, which was the first time that I had ever fired a gun, and I noticed that a certain young lady was also shooting a gun for the first time.
Over the winter I talked to Christiana a few times and I remember being impressed by her maturity and sensibility. Sometime during the winter, we were both at a church game night and I remember being disappointed that I wasn't involved in any of the games that she was playing. Looking back I find that humorous because I still didn't realize that I was getting quite interested in her.
I don't remember any specifics, but I know that by spring I must have been thinking about her quite a bit because towards the end of May when my mother asked me what I thought of Christiana, I told her that Christiana was definitely someone that I would consider marrying. I know that after that conversation I started thinking about the topic even more and that by the middle of summer I was pretty well positive that I wanted to marry Christiana.
On Friday, August 5, we attended a birthday party for Christiana and after that I decided that I was way too interested in Christiana to keep being just a friend. On Wednesday of the following week I asked my parents if I could talk with them about moving towards a courtship. We had joked as a family that when the time came, we would put some names in a hat and pick one out, but when we sat down to talk I asked if we could just put one name in the hat: Christiana. Well, we decided that the hat wasn't necessary, and spent the evening talking about Christiana. My mother told me that Christiana had offered to come and help us on our farm for a day and suggested that that would be a good way to get to know her better. We agreed to pray about it overnight and then move forward if we all felt comfortable with the idea.
In the morning we were all in an agreement that we should move forward and so I asked my mother to call Christiana and ask if she would still like to come and help. She agreed to come on Friday (the next day!) when she would be passing through on her way from Lancaster to New Jersey. I was working on fencing and so I didn't have too much interaction with Christiana on that visit, but my mother and my sister, Christy, talked with her for most of the morning as they weeded together. My mother was already quite impressed with Christiana from previous conversations, but after that morning she was very comfortable with the idea of me pursuing Christiana. At the end of her visit Christiana offered to come again if that would be helpful and we arranged to have her come the following Tuesday.
On the Sunday in between her visits, I semi-accidentally ended up talking with Christiana from the time that the service ended until we left. I had wanted to talk with her, but was trying not to show undue interest. I am not sure how well I succeeded!
On her second visit to the farm, I worked more closely with Christiana as she helped me and my siblings to prune and tie up our tomato plants. Even though we only had group discussions, I enjoyed the time very much and I continued to be very impressed with her.
The following evening I talked with my parents again and the conclusion of our conversation was that I had their blessing to call Mr. Vroegindewey and ask him for permission to court his daughter.
When I called Mr. Vroegindewey the next day, I really had no idea if Christiana had any interest in me at all. I was pretty sure that she didn't dislike me, but I really didn't know what she would think. I was hoping that my call wouldn't make her hate me forever, but I figured that either we were going to move forward into courtship or the relationship was over anyway. I called Mr. Vroegindewey on August 18 to ask him if we could get together to talk about the possibility of me courting his daughter. He kindly agreed to meet with me and I was able to get together with him and Mrs. Vroegindewey for several hours the next day. Our meeting went well and the next day I received permission to officially court Christiana.
On August 8, 2010 - before I knew Daniel Mills existed, and almost exactly a year before he asked my father if he could court me - I was bringing before the Lord my struggle with patience in submitting to His perfect timing in bringing a godly man into my life. Along with my painfully slow journey towards complete trust in my Father's will, I wrote down what I considered an impossible dream: "Though it's not wrong to dream, I must realize that God's thoughts are probably different and definitely much better than my silly thoughts. My dream is a little farm in PA with a wrap-around porch, a godly husband, and ten children walking with the Lord as we pursue together the vision that God has called my husband to." I never expected that pet dream to ever even begin to come true! The Lord is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think and it is to Him that Daniel and I give all the glory for leading us together.
Unfortunately, I don't remember our first meeting at Immanuel's church picnic in September. Mainly because we were on a volleyball court, and my energy and attention was focused on appearing like this wasn't the first time I had played volleyball in over a year! Someone did take a picture of one of the games though, so there is proof positive that I did indeed play on Daniel's team!
Around this time, I was blessed to cultivate a closer relationship with Daniel's mother. We had our first lengthy conversation while washing a pile of dishes after a church fellowship meal, and I was impressed with how similar our families were in our likes, dislikes, and convictions. At that point, their family was also hoping to buy a significant portion of farmland, and since I loved the idea of farming, but had small hope of ever actually doing anything of the sort, I enjoyed hearing about their adventures. Somehow, I missed the fact that Daniel was Mrs. Mills' son, and didn't connect him with that family until the New Year's Eve gathering at the Martin's home. I almost didn't participate in "shooting in the New Year" but some still small voice prompted me to get out of my comfort zone and just do it. See?! Always listen to the inward promptings of the Spirit...you never know who might be observing! =)
What first drew my attention to Daniel was his heart of service, even in mundane areas. I observed that a certain young man was the first to notice when the huge garbage can at the fellowship meals needed emptying. He didn't leave cleanup afterwards to the girls, but cheerfully helped clear tables and dry dishes. Another aspect of his character which I appreciated was that he could often be seen talking for extended periods of time with the older men of the church. This impressed me as mature, and showed a humble heart that was willing to profit from the wisdom of godly Christian men.
We had a couple conversations as the months passed, and my respect for Daniel grew as he told me about his entrepreneurial endeavors, especially his republishing business called Salem Ridge Press. One morning in April during my devotions, I was floored to realize that every character quality I had prayed would be found in my potential husband was fulfilled in Daniel! I didn't know what to do, so determined to pray about it and then file it away in the back of my mind as I waited on the Lord.
In the middle of May, my family and I went to a large homeschool convention where hundreds of vendors were selling curriculum and other material to homeschool families. As I rounded a corner on the first day of the convention, there was Daniel and some of his family selling books at one of the booths. When he saw me, he gave me a big smile and all of a sudden I knew right then and there that I liked him very much! Since he had seen me I had to talk to him (hopefully in a coherent manner), even though my heart was inexplicably pounding. As quickly as possible I got away and pretended to browse through a used book stall until I calmed down!
The Lord opened up an opportunity for my family to rent a home near Stevens, Pennsylvania for the summer months so that we could get to know the area and interact with the members of Immanuel on a more intimate basis. This meant I saw Daniel even more, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to patiently wait on God's will and guard my heart. Looking back, the Lord taught me some invaluable lessons during that time of giving my anxious thoughts over to Him, even if that meant praying a hundred times during the day for His peace.
When Mrs. Mills called to see if I could help on the farm, I was extremely excited and desperately nervous. Daniel had done an excellent job through the preceding months of not showing any obvious interest until he felt ready to pursue a courtship with me, but I still felt that something was happening behind the scenes! I thoroughly enjoyed working both days on the farm, and felt extremely comfortable talking with Daniel's mom and his sister, Christy. I also was further able to observe Daniel's patience and kindness to his siblings. His leadership skills were quite evident in that everyone who had a question about how best to prune or what to do next immediately went to Daniel!
Leaving the farm and settling back into a "waiting mode" was one of the most frustrating times of my entire life! Interestingly, on August 18 I told a friend I was visiting that "God answers requests sooner than we think, but later than we wish". That evening when I arrived home, my parents seemed somewhat excited! When they told us that there was a possible bid on our home back in New Jersey, I assumed that this was the cause of their unusual behavior. That is, until they pulled out their cellphone and let me listen to a message from Daniel asking to talk to my Dad. I had a split second wild thought, "This is it! It HAS to be!" My parents then confirmed that he had indeed asked for permission to court me. Dinner was completely forgotten as tears, hugs, and slightly hysterical laughter abounded for the next half hour! (Yes, we are a house full of women...my poor dad...)
There is a hymn written by African pastor Emmanuel T. Sibomana which begins, "Oh, how the grace of God amazes me." As Daniel and I began our courtship, and in the weeks that followed our initial conversations, that phrase came to my mind more than once. In practically every discussion on topics that ranged from theological issues to personal preferences, we found ourselves in mutual agreement. This was very encouraging, and solidified in our minds that marriage was God's will for us.
Now, over the years I had prayed to the Lord that my future husband would be a leader and a man of action. So I shouldn't have been surprised when, on September 28th, Daniel proposed!
It was raining hard on September 28th...again...as my mom and I drove towards the farmhouse. It had been one of those kinds of mornings. The sort of day where it seems the wisest course of action would be to crawl back into bed and start the morning over again. This wasn't really a viable option, especially since Daniel and I had plans for the afternoon. As a fun project to do together, we had been attempting to paint the living room walls at the farmhouse. The only problem was that the different shades of blue we tried either didn't look like what we had seen in the store, or simply wasn't quite what we had in mind. Armed with a couple more samples, I was heading down to hopefully settle on a color and then tour the farm with my mom. As I drove through another enormous puddle I glanced into the rearview mirror and shook my head. "Here's his chance to see me at less than my best" I thought wryly.
Daniel met us in the driveway, didn't faint at my appearance, and we then proceeded to test the newest sample color. Both of us were quite happy with how it looked on the wall. Mrs. Mills joined us a bit later, and after talking for a little while, both mothers mysteriously disappeared to the second floor of the farmhouse. Turning to me, Daniel asked if I would like to go out to the porch and talk. As we stood looking out over the rain-misted farm, Daniel asked if he had ever told me what first attracted him to me. As he proceeded to tell me, I thought that this was extremely sweet and after he finished, responded by telling him the many qualities I admired in him. After a few moments, Daniel suddenly turned to face me and said, "Christiana, I believe that I can serve God better with you than I can alone. I love you very much...will you marry me?" I was absolutely stunned for a moment! All I could think was, "He's proposing! He's actually proposing, RIGHT NOW!" Looking down, I saw a beautiful white-gold diamond ring in Daniel's hand. In between rather shaky gasps of complete shock, I managed to answer "yes" and took the ring! Daniel told me that it was originally his grandmother's engagement ring, which she had given to him several weeks beforehand. This made it all the more special in my eyes. It's amazing to consider that over 50 years ago, when Daniel's grandfather bought the ring to give to the girl he loved, God knew that it would be passed down as a precious gift to me. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that it fit me perfectly!
Both mothers knew of Daniel's intended proposal, and there was obviously much rejoicing when we joined them upstairs! As we were leaving, my mind was still in a bit of a whirl. All the way home, I kept looking at my left hand (some people became better defensive drivers that day!), as it began to sink in that I was actually engaged! It didn't matter that it was still drizzling - my whole world was drenched in a rosy glow.
A little over three months later, on January 14, 2012, we were married at Trinity Baptist Church in New Jersey. We are so grateful for the support, assistance, and counsel of both of our families in the weeks leading up to the wedding as we grew closer to one another, and as we sought to formulate a wedding that would bring honor and glory to the One who had brought us together.
In our January 2011 Newsletter I shared some of my thoughts on romance in literature. In that article I expanded on the "Our Standards" section of the About Our Books page on our website. Now, a little over a year later, I would like to return to the topic with a new persepective.
Actually, my new perspective is the same as my old perspective, the only difference being that now I can affirm from my own life that the stardards that we have sought to uphold in our books work in real life, and that they in no way diminish the opportunities to establish a loving and close relationship before and after marriage. As a couple, we chose to go with a complete "No Touching" policy for our courtship and engagment. That meant that not only did we share our first kiss during our wedding ceremony, but that it was also the first time that we held hands.
For us, this policy helped us to accomplish two very important things. First, it established a very clear line that we could not cross in our physical interaction. (If you aren't touching, you can't start pushing the line.) Second, we were able to focus our time on getting to know one another, discussing our thoughts, beliefs and visions for the future.
We are both very happy with the choice that we made, and while each family may chose to do things a little differently, we do hope that each of you will take time to consider what standards are appropriate for your family.
Daniel and Christiana Mills