I had longed to travel to Israel for over 25 years, and have been talking to my husband about going for the last 18 years of marriage. Finally this summer (with 3 kids in tow) we ventured out with another family, the Limmers, on our great adventure.
Before tackling this top destination on my “bucket list” I prayed. I asked God to guide us, protect us and give us a “spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. 1:17). I mostly asked Him to give me a hidden treasure, but I didn’t know what it meant or how it would look. I assumed it would have to do with unraveling some profound mystery from scripture or an archaeological dig.
I had no idea that the King of the Universe would come and communicate the simplest truth of the gospel to me in such a tangible, extravagant way. I almost hesitate to say it because it sounds like such a cliche.
He told me He loves me, in hundreds of ways that seemed to never end. I found myself almost blushing and thinking “Wow, OK, I got it! I love you, too!”
It began the first time I was walking alone on the beach. I was marveling all the different shells and rocks that came in so many colors, sizes and shapes. God began to whisper “I love you in this many ways, in so many ways.” I thought to myself how amazing that was; it wasn’t just a general, blanket LOVE that comes in one generic form for all people. It was a LET-ME-COUNT-THE-WAYS kind of love just for me.
A few days later, again while walking on the beach, my husband pointed out a heart-shaped rock. A few moments later I was alone and for a very long stretch of beach I was literally surrounded by heart-shaped rocks and shells. My Creator was saying it again…
I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, LET ME COUNT THE WAYS I LOVE YOU, BELOVED.
I tried to embrace His love, not to brush Him off or minimize the moment as I often do. I smiled as I walked, looked around and saw hearts everywhere. I finally began to pick them up and shout my love back to Him.
I collected a few of the hearts that day from the beach and brought them home with me to Prague.
A Christian Love Story
While in Israel, John and I were reminiscing about our own love story while chatting with some new Israeli friends and our traveling buddies, the Limmers. They had not heard the story about our secret “Jewish” wedding.
There used to be a Bible teacher named Zola Levitt who taught about the Jewish roots of our faith, the Holy Land, the Feasts and such. I had a booklet of his entitled A Christian Love Story. I loved this booklet and shared with John, my soon-to-be fiancé. He was fascinated by it as well.
A Christian Love Story asks the reader to consider the Jewish tradition of matrimony which is very ancient, fascinating and romantic! These customs shed light on many statements Jesus made regarding His Bride, second-coming and the Bride watching and waiting for the Bridegroom who would return unexpectedly.
Here is an excerpt from the letter I wrote to Zola Levitt Ministries in 1997.
In reading your booklet the Christian Love Story I was struck with the beautiful symbolism and depth of the love of the Father for the Bride. I shared the message with my soon-to-be fiancé. John was so struck with the booklet that he began lending the booklet to others and bought more. We then decided to model this beautiful love relationship in a practical way.
We were engaged in April 1996 in Florida. The night after he proposed, we shared a glass of wine and entered into a covenant relationship, agreeing to love one another. It was a somber and sincere discussion as we dedicated ourselves to God’s plan and to one another.
John went to Zola Levitt Ministries and purchased 250 booklets to give out as gifts at our wedding, which was set to take place on July 13, 1996. The theme of the booklet would be the theme of our wedding ceremony. We wanted to share this picture of us as the bride and groom being a symbol of the spiritual Bride and Groom.
In keeping with Jewish tradition we decided to take this demonstration one step further to our delight. Three weeks before the wedding John notified me that he was coming for me one night that week and that I should make myself ready and be prepared. My best friend Cathi spent the night… my bags packed and my electric candle burning symbolically in the front window. Then on June 28th at approximately one o’clock in the morning Cathi and I heard a ram’s horn blowing, signifying that the bridegroom had come for me! I was thrilled in the excitement of this wonderful moment! John and his best friend were there in suits riding in a limousine with a wedding bouquet in hand. I quickly got dressed and we were off.
John took me to a small Episcopal Church by my parent’s house that is open all night. It is a quaint, lovely place that has been very special to me since high school. There we met a good friend who is an ordained minister who was thrilled to marry us when he heard of John’s plan. So we were married in the presence of God, our two best friends, and the minister at two-thirty in the morning with a limousine waiting to take us away to our bridal chamber (the Anatole Hotel). It was the most intimate, special night of my life.
On July 13, 1996 we were publicly married as a witness of the Lord’s goodness in our lives. We have family members and friends who are not Christians and the ceremony touched many. They each received a copy of your booklet.
We wanted to share our special secret wedding with you, Zola. Thank you for your availability to the Lord. We are now preparing to move to the Czech Republic to serve as missionaries in a local English-speaking church in Prague.
Very Sincerely in Christ, John & Kelsie M.
Zola Levitt printed that article, and unfortunately my parents found out about the secret wedding a bit early (we were planning on telling them… about 50 years later)!
They forgave us and we still cherish the memory of our first wedding. Every woman secretly dreams of being swept off her feet, and I can honestly say that is what John did to me!
Just like the hearts on the beach, expressions of love come best spontaneously and lavishly. Love is like that. It doesn’t always fit into our schedule and is not easily contained.
I love this story so much!