I grew up in Indiana in what would be considered a traditional Christian family. My siblings and I attended church regularly, went to youth group on a weekly basis, and were blessed enough to attend a private school. I have loved three things for as long as I can remember— God, music, and waterskiing.
When I was 19 years old, I decided I wanted to pursue waterskiing more seriously. Long story short, I ended up in South Florida, training under world-renowned coach, Chet Raley. In addition to his credentials, Chet is a man of great faith. He has been my mentor since 2007. What started as a coach/skier relationship grew into friendship and then a job.
Chet offered me a position as a coach and boat driver in December 2011. I immediately said yes. The job has given me the opportunity to meet people with diverse backgrounds from all around the world—including my wife, Vennesa.
Chet and I have often mentioned to one another that we don’t simply have a “job” to coach waterskiing. It is also our way to connect with individuals on a personal level. And once a relationship is established, we can share our faith with them.
My life changed one day in 2013. Like every other morning, that day I ate breakfast, packed my lunch, and headed to the lake for work. And then, she arrived. A new student. And she got my attention.
I don’t know how to explain what happened when I first saw Vennesa. It was a God-thing. I had never seen or met her before, but I instantly knew I was going to ask her to marry me. I know, that was a crazy thought! Believe me, I told myself the same thing. I mean, I knew nothing about her.
We said hello, and then I told her that I would be cutting in front of her on the ski-ride list. As the boat driver, I could randomly insert myself on the list for my personal training. It was a perk I was happy to take advantage of that day. I needed a reason to spend time with her.
Through a bit of small conversation over that day, I learned that Vennesa was an Australian athlete who was in the US—alone—to make a run at qualifying for the elite World Water Ski Championships. She had chosen to train with Chet to reach her goals. What she didn’t know was that her decision would lead her to God and to a new life as a US resident.
Every time I spoke with Vennesa, butterflies of excitement took flight in my stomach. It took a little longer than it should have for me to get brave enough to ask if she’d like to go out together with some friends later that week. To my delight, she said yes, and we made plans. I was excited to get to know her better away from the lake crowd and in an environment where I would be more comfortable asking questions.
But when I got home that afternoon, I found an email from Vennesa. I was disappointed to see she was canceling our plans. But then, my eye caught the next line, and hope returned.
Earlier that day I’d been talking to a skier from the UK about going to church that Wednesday night. Apparently, Vennesa had overheard this conversation, and she asked in the email if she could join us. I think my heart stopped. “This is amazing!” I thought. “Not only is she absolutely gorgeous, but she’s a believer too!”
It didn’t take long for me to learn that she wasn’t actually a believer. Turns out, even she couldn’t believe she’d rescheduled our plans in order to attend church. Now that I think about it, jetlag might have played a bigger role in Vennesa’s dedicating her life to Christ than I did! I was simply a tool God used to give her a ride to church that night so she could make the biggest decision of her life.
It’s been eight years since that first church date. Vennesa is now a woman of unshakeable faith. First Corinthians 2:9 NLT describes exactly how I feel when I think about our relationship: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
I don’t want to take this verse out of context, but it’s true: I could not have imagined that God would bring someone like Vennesa into my life. She is loving, patient, generous, and a million other things, but most importantly, she is a child of God and an avid follower of Jesus. And that heart surrendered to Him makes her even more beautiful to me.
God’s plan was perfect, even when I wasn’t expecting it. He knew my dreams before I did, and He met them more perfectly than I could have planned. He knows your dreams and expectations too, and He will exceed them, whatever they are. Keep praying toward that end, and in the meantime, trust God’s perfect timing and His way.