As I reflect on my recent blog about Sabine Ball and the Lord’s land, I want to share about the most special “Lord’s Land” moment of all, my engagement to Vileen.
Vileen and I had dated for about six months when I moved to California in December of 1986 to volunteer for Love In Action. Leaving Omaha was a challenge and a freedom. A challenge for Vileen and I since we had grown so close. A freedom because our relationship had become strained due to some of my fears of opening up to her further in our relationship. It offered a break from the intensity that seemed to be looming over us.
When I left Omaha, in my mind, our relationship would be in the background of life and I was focused on the new ministry I was working with. We stayed in contact with each other but through a safe mode of telephone calls and letters I found free again to be open with her. However we still seemed to be in limbo with moving forward in the relationship.
After about six months Frank Worthen basically exhorted me to #$%& (not his words) or get off the pot. They felt concerned for Vileen’s heart and my lack of commitment to engage further into the relationship. I saw the wisdom in their counsel. So, with great fear and trembling I went to Omaha with the plan that I would break up the dating component of our relationship.
So, while we were out to dinner, Vileen started the conversation. “John, the Lord told me that I was to let you go and that we were to no longer be in a dating relationship” What?? “Well, Vileen, the Lord told me the same thing.” I came back to California free of the burdens I had carried. Interestingly enough, we continued on with our phone calls and letters.
Vileen knew how much I loved the Faith Cabin at The Lord’s Land. It was a really special place for me to sleep and spend time with the Lord. I had sent her a picture of this favorite place and she took notice of my heart in it. She decided to consign a friend of ours to paint an oil painting of that picture for me as a Christmas present. Vileen didn’t know what to do with the gift considering the change in our relationship. She didn’t know whether to give it to me or keep it. She liked the painting so much she toyed with the idea of keeping it.
When Christmas came she had second thoughts and went ahead and sent it to me as a present. When I opened the gift something changed in my heart. I could see that Vileen cared about what I cared about. She knew my heart’s desires. I began to reflect on our relationship and realized that I did truly love her and that God had led the woman into my life that would become my wife.
The Faith Cabin oil painting showed me Vileen’s heart. The Lord’s Land became the place of our engagement. The Faith Cabin is one of the safe places in my heart I visualize to spend with the Lord!
So, shortly thereafter, I asked Vileen if we could start over and rekindle our relationship. She agreed so we moved forward into a rediscovery of our goals. I decided that I would ask her to marry me that summer during a trip she had planned to bring my daughters to California. I was enthused about her coming and the plans I had in my heart so I wrote a letter to my sister and included in it that I was going to ask Vileen to marry me.
Well….. I had said some other things in the letter that I wanted Vileen to read and absentmindedly copied the whole letter and sent it to her. Little did I know that she now knew my plans but didn’t tell me that she knew.
When the trip came about, we travelled to the Lord’s Land to spend a few days away from the ministry. My kids were there and we began to enjoy the wonderful place that Lord had set aside. I had planned on asking her to marry me there. Vileen loved the sunsets on the ocean which was only a few miles from where we were staying.
In my desire for complete obedience to the Lord, I made a deal with Him. I said, “Lord, if there is a sunset on the ocean, I will know you are in agreement with me to marry Vileen.” The day I was planning on asking her was overcast, dreary and wet. I woke up with FEAR in my heart. “Oh, no, what will I do now?” I just kept praying, Lord, help me, I want to marry her but without a sunset on the ocean – it is off!
As the day progressed I remained focused on my plan waiting for the Lord’s will to be made known. At 5:00 PM we drove to the ocean view. As we got closer something became clear – a sunset began to shine through as the clouds and fog lifted. Wow! This is amazing. God has moved and we are free to go forward.
So, as I planned, I wanted my daughters to feel included and yet we needed some privacy. So, I asked them to take the camera across the road so that they could take pictures of me asking Vileen to marry me. They did and we have a picture of the exact moment!
With the ring, the commitment, and the future before us, Vileen and I married six months later on December 10th, 1988.
The painting has hung in our bedroom since our marriage as a cherished memory of the vehicle the Lord used to draw us together.