Love Story Contest |Dennis and Debbie| Grand Prize Winners

When we requested love stories, we never really addressed submitting a love story for someone else. Quite honestly, we didn’t think it was a good idea, because we were concerned that the couple might not be receptive to the idea of a photo shoot. We wanted to make sure that the winners were willing and that they really wanted the photo shoot.

When we received an email from Mary Beth sharing Dennis and Debbie’s love story, we were a bit hesitant. “They are both so precious to me, and I want them to have the best that God has for them.  They have been through so much, and I thought this would be an amazing blessing for them…” is what she wrote.

We read her e-mail, and it was clear that this couple did have a special story, but at the time, we were still hesitant. The next day, we received an email from Dennis. Mary Beth had forwarded the email she sent to us onto him. (So glad that she did!) He sent us an e-mail to fill in the blanks, and when I read the story he sent, I knew that Mary Beth was right. This couple did deserve a photo shoot, because although the odds were stacked against them, they have put their trust in God, followed their hearts and brought their families together.

When I started to read this email, Thomas had already read it. “Go ahead and get a tissue,” were his words. I do have to admit, that I have a personal connection to this story. I do not know Dennis and Debbie, but their story is very much like my parent’s love story. They, too, met late in life. They too, put their trust in God, and brought two very different families together.

Against all odds, 15 years later, our very blended family is the greatest blessing God has ever given to me. I have the family I always dreamt of. I do feel as though the Lord had a hand in Mary Beth sending us Dennis and Debbie’s story. I pray that their families blend as beautifully as ours has. I pray that in 15 years, they are happier than they ever could have imagined. As my sister says, “We don’t have a family tree, we have a family grove.” Dennis and Debbie, I pray the same for you! (We can’t wait to meet you!)

Without further ado…

Dennis and Debbie’s Love Story {as told by Dennis}

One of God’s angels, Mary Beth Cantrell came into our lives a little over a year ago. Since we have known her, she has been a tremendous prayer warrior for us. She recently sent in an application for the Love Story Photo Shoot. It was about me and my beautiful Debbie. We were clueless about the contest until this morning when I saw that she had sent an email at 11:30 pm. That little rascal cut out a piece of an email I sent and attached it to the story, an act that she will have dire consequences!

Mary Beth was very eloquent in her email, but here is more of a back story that may clear up why she thinks, and why I know, our Love is so incredible…

Debbie and I have worked together for almost 10 years. At the beginning of that time we were both married and rarely crossed paths. We both went through some difficult times trying to make marriages work that ultimately were destined to fail. The amount of effort and heartache associated with the divorces left us both with emotional scars uneasily healed, certainly not able to be healed by man. She has 2 children from her previous marriage, and I have 3 from mine. We both have contended with not only the thought of whether we would love again, but would someone be able to accept me with all I have, and love my children.

Similar to how Mary Beth described it, God intervened in our lives. After years of working with Debbie, and after asking for great strength, we both felt a hand guiding us together. I didn’t know her at all, just by name and face. She knew me, but thought I was arrogant and cocky. We both knew only what was on the surface, but knew we had to pursue the other, we just didn’t know why.

We finally met for dinner… But it wasn’t a “date.” We worked together so we were cautious not to jump too far too fast. Debbie did her best to run me off. Her bad experiences with past relationships made her extremely guarded, and I was no better, but the connection was undeniable. She told me exactly WHAT is wrong with men, and HOW we could fix ourselves. By the end of the night I was laughing at how she was trying so hard to push me away with her words, but finished with… “You need a friend who understands what you have been through. I would like to be your friend.” It was the equivalent of “I’ll call you…”

Months passed, old flames reappeared looking for another chance, doubts and concerns crept in. We both felt like we had missed our chance to find someone special. By the grace of  God we were pushed together. We began to talk more seriously and on March 13, 2009, we decided to actually have a “DATE.” From that moment we knew that we had found something remarkable and special. Both of us being 40-somethings, it is odd for some to understand what we felt. The truth is, both of us had never known a true love that encompasses your entire being- mind, body, soul, spirit. I was mesmerized not only by her beauty, but how connected we felt from just moments of genuine conversation.

After that we began to date and it was wonderful. About a month into dating, however, a man Debbie had dated since her divorce on-and-off for 5 years suddenly appeared with an engagement ring. They had discussed marriage before during their long relationship, but he never followed through. Apparently hearing that she was happy, he was afraid to lose her for good and asked her to marry him, something she had waited for 5 years. She came to me and told me what happened, and knowing they had a long history I told her to follow her heart, that I couldn’t bear to know she would regret the chance to be with him if we were together, but that I loved her. At that point she told me she didn’t want him, she wanted me. Debbie said that in one month we were more blessed than she ever felt in the 5 years, and she could not let that go.

Since then, we have both grown closer together in ways we never imagined. We share a love deeper and more blessed than we thought possible. My children love her and cannot wait until we get married. They ask every day when we are going to get married. Her kids are happy that their mom is finally happy.

She is my princess and deserves so much. She has held tight to her faith and overcome so much to arrive at a place where we can love one another in such a way that He wants us to be a light to others. Yes, it would be awesome to win your contest, but I wanted to share so you will know that regardless, I have gotten the most treasured prize of all.

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