John 4:48 – “So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
We can say that miracles were only taking place in the Bible. We can say that miracles are only for dreamers or ignorants. We can say a lot, but what we know is that miracles are there, every day. It’s just the way you look at life and how you approach it. And God did a miracle in our life that we would like to share with you!
We are super happy that Tashmyn wants to share our story with you on Valentine’s Day!
We, Anthony and Maartje, live in France and we come both from different countries: Maartje is Dutch and Anthony is Lebanese. We can tell you, that’s a funny combination! We often eat khebbez (Lebanese flatbread) with zaatar and Gouda cheese, and we love it. You might be thinking: “How did these people ever met each other?”. Exactly! This is why we are going to speak about miracles!
In summer 2013, there was a christian summer festival in France in the middle of nowhere, close to Chambéry. Anthony came with a group of youth all the way from Lebanon to attend the festival and so did Maartje from Holland. The name of this festival is Welcome to Paradise and we can tell you, it ís a paradise (see picture). Everything is green and there is an abbey in the center, like a castle, surrounded with pink roses and a mesmerizing view on the largest lake of France, which is as blue as the sky. Isn’t this the most romantic place to find your love? Well, we are sure of it, we weren’t conscious that this would actually happen to us.
Back then, Maartje was in a relationship with someone else. She was insecure about herself and she ran away from it and from home by being with that person. She can tell you that God did miracles through the years and all is good now, but back then she felt a big crisis: “my parents were close to divorce and I lost myself in it.” But God brought Maartje to this paradise in France, and who would have thought that she would meet her future husband there, revealed years later?
Anthony was engaged with the community, which means that you participate in organizing events for youth or silent spiritual retreats. Maartje was sitting on a stonewall, painting something colorful. Anthony jumped on the wall and said “Hey, you!” He knew her from two years ago in Spain, but Maartje didn’t have any idea of him. She turned and she saw a beautiful young man standing on this stonewall, looking at her in a way she felt special. But she was with someone else at that moment, so she didn’t think of anything else. But that first impression never left her memory. Two years before, we crossed paths with each other in Spain at another festival from this Christian community. Maartje didn’t see him personally, but she remembered a group of Lebanese youth dancing a traditional dance. And Anthony was in it! When the festival in 2013 ended, we took a picture. Anthony told his friend that he MUST take a picture with Maartje before leaving. He said to himself: “When I’m ready to marry someone, I wish that I would spend the rest of my days with someone like her!”
Years went by and from time to time we were having some conversations on social media platforms. Our lives developed, we both started to study and Anthony moved to France. Maartje was still in the same relationship which started to be toxic and unhealthy. Anthony fell in a relationship that had the same outcome. We both went through a crisis: we stopped an unhealthy relationship and needed to start from zero. We both woke up from a time where we lost the connection to our soul and our relationship with God. Although our ways were far from each other, we crossed each other again. When we both came back to one of the Christian community events to resource and to recover in God’s peace: it was Easter 2019 at the same spot as in 2013: the ‘paradise’. We were so happy to meet each other again but we saw how life formed and scarred us. It was a special reunion and we couldn’t stop speaking. After this wonderful week of Easter, we said goodbye with a long friendly hug. Maartje never thought of it earlier that God would have another plan with Anthony and her than just being friends, but after this hug she felt something. We went on our road again: Anthony resumed his studies and Maartje volunteered in the South of France with the same community.
One year later, when the pandemic started, Anthony felt in his heart to contact Maartje.
Maartje lived in the abbey in Holland and was thinking of her vocation. “I was ready to give my life to Jesus and to become a sister in the Christian community. But no matter how hard I prayed, it seemed like God didn’t call me to be there. Even the community answered that they didn’t really feel my vocation to be within their community. It hurt, because I was afraid of the thought of getting married. After bad experiences in relationships with men, I didn’t want to believe there could be something good in a marriage. So why did God want me to become someone’s wife??” She prayed 3 days in a row to be able to put her destiny in God’s hands, whether she must marry someone or in the end become a sister in the community. In the meantime, Anthony was waiting for an answer. He prayed as well: “God, if you don’t want me to continue speaking with her, tell me then. Let your will be done and so I can move forward”. After 3 days she had a very clear conversation with Jesus. It had been already 3 weeks since Anthony had sent her a message. She asked Jesus: “If you want me to marry someone, why can’t I find the right man? I always make the wrong choices. Can You choose for me, Jesus?” She received a clear image of Anthony and she felt like God asked her to look at her chat application to answer Anthony’s message. This is what she did.
We had wonderful conversations, every day again. Both of us decided in our personal prayer that we wanted to show only ourselves, not a fake or incomplete version. As well, we said to God: “If You want that something grows out of this, let Your will be done.”
After 3 weeks of messages we decided to call. This call closed after 3 hours! We couldn’t stop talking about life and it seemed like we understood each other more than anyone. God put on Maartje’s heart that she wanted to pray with Anthony. She didn’t dare to ask him. But what happened? Anthony had the same idea and asked for it. From that moment we knew God was preparing something bigger than only friendship. We decided to pray every Sunday afternoon. We called on the Holy Spirit, put our phone in front of us, closed our eyes and prayed, all from a geographic distance: because of covid, we couldn’t travel to each other (Maartje lived in the Netherlands and Anthony in France). But this weekly prayer made a connection between us that made every border fade away. We prayed in the same order: a thank you, a sorry, and a please: it is called the prayer of life according to the community of Chemin Neuf.
We continued doing this for 3.5 months, until the borders reopened in June. Anthony directly booked a flight to Holland and a few weeks later our first real date was about to happen! This date was very profound: we already knew each other so well, it was only the physical part that came as ‘extra’. We could finally embrace each other and look each other in the eyes. During this weekend, we shared even more about our past. This was heavy, but God was really working in us and through us. It is difficult to open up to one another, but if God is there to guide us, nothing can be more special. One month later we booked a road trip to the same festival Welcome to paradise where we ‘met’ each other in 2013. We decided to do this festival together as ‘a moment of truth’: if God wants us to continue together we will ask for His blessing from a priest. This is what happened: God gave us confirmation that He wanted to make an alliance with us through prayer and the Bible.
Genesis 1:26-28 – “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God made us man and woman in His image: Father, Son and Holy Spirit! This is a wonderful message with a big responsibility: if the trinity is Holy, then the marriage is too. We asked for a blessing from the priest that prayed for healing for Maartje, one year before. It was emotional and very special that the same priest who witnessed her healing, was also witnessing how God united two people.
We prayed every Sunday the same prayer of life and then on the 29th of December, Anthony went on his knees!!!! And how did he have to do this? He had no idea. So.. he prayed: “God, where do I need to ask her to marry me?” He was inspired by the interrogation of his mother: “Why don’t you speak with the sisters of the abbey where Maartje lived a big part of her life?” He did that and the sisters insisted on helping him. One of the sisters tipped him to read the book of “The song of songs”, to prepare for the proposal. It was such an enchanting way he proposed but that’s another story… After six months we tied the knot! It was a marriage to never forget. Two families came together: one from the cedars of Lebanon, one from the mountainless Holland. We prayed, sang and danced.
Who would have ever thought that this fleeting encounter would lead to eternal love?
Ephesians 3:14-21 – For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all understanding – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!
Maartje & Anthony
Live in: France