My life changed for the better on August 4, 2008. The first time I interacted with Lisa Stapleton.
“Hello!” I saw on my screen. “Yes my brother did mention you…and what he said wasn’t nice :)…”
I had partnered with her brother on a door-knocking campaign. He was a year ahead of me at school, but I liked him quick and deliberately worked with him because I’d heard he had a sister. With his approval, I befriended her on Facebook. Now I was “talking” to her.
Lisa then told me how proud she was of me for deciding to go to preaching school and that we needed men who are serious about sharing the Gospel. I was immediately impressed.
We messaged for two days before I mustered up the courage to ask for her phone number. Once we started speaking on the phone it felt natural to talk to her, and I couldn’t wait to meet her.
We went to lunch a day later on my hour-long break. I was enamored by her beauty and we got so lost in conversation I was late getting back to class. My teacher that day? Robert Stapleton. Director of the Brown Trail School of Preaching, and Lisa’s father.
I was terrified.
When the bell rang, he asked “Where is J.J.?” The story I got was that a classmate spoke up and said “He’s going to be late.” By the time I got back, he and another friend had filled out my tardy form to turn into the director.
To my relief, Bob never made a big deal out of it.
When Lisa agreed to a second date that Friday night and I wanted to do something different. Instead of dinner and a movie, I took her to the circus. Not just any circus. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in the American Airlines Center.
I really like football, and have a degree to coach. As we talked before the show I asked her if she liked football. She said a pretty concrete “No.” I briefly wondered “Is this going to work?” But Lisa had already impressed me with her drive to do God’s will. I realized I’d much rather have a woman who will help me get to heaven than a woman who will watch football with me.
After that awkward moment we had a wonderful time. We enjoyed the first half of the show and walked outside to Victory Park. The weather was perfect. A cool breeze ran through the concrete jungle of downtown DFW as we talked under the giant LED screen attached to the arena.
I knew I wanted to spend more time with Lisa. Her brother, Darrin Stapleton, convinced me I would need to talk to Bob and get his permission. I went into Bob’s office and Marcia was there too.
Bob tried not to crack a smile when I asked his permission to date Lisa. He looked up at Marcia and then at me. “You didn’t think I already knew?” he asked.
I saw Darrin walk by the door. He was smiling big because he knew that I was squirming. I’m glad he convinced me to do that, even if it made me squirm a little.
A few months later I knew I wanted to marry Lisa. I returned to Bob’s office to ask his permission. Bob told me “I have two rules for someone wanting to marry one of my children. That you love them and you love God.” I affirmed that I loved both and he gave me his blessing.
The more I got to know this remarkable woman, the more in love I became. She is charming and funny. She loves God and wants me to love Him, too. Lisa is smart, put herself through school, and earned her CPA.
She wanted to be a preacher’s wife, but wasn’t forcing anything. I found out later that she was taking the wives’ classes at Brown Trail School of Preaching. These are normally reserved for the students’ wives, but she used them as another opportunity to learn.
I had always tried to do things my way and battle the raging rivers of life on my own. Lisa was like a bridge for me: strong and secure. I knew that if I was with her I’d never have to fight alone. We’d wage war against the devil together. When I proposed to her on November 4, 2008 I took her to a park near her house and we walked to one of the bridges.
I had bought a large Family Bible and had “J.J. & Lisa Hendrix” pressed in gold on the cover. I read Proverbs 31 to her from that gigantic Bible. I told her that I felt she was that woman, and a woman of great strength and character. A woman who loved God and would help me get to Heaven. I closed the Bible, handed it to her, and got down on one knee and proposed.
While I was kneeling and opening the ring box she looked down at the Bible, saw our names, and got lost in thought. Then she looked down at me, saw the ring and realized I had just proposed. She said “YES!” and I got up and hugged her!
On June 20, 2009 we were married in front of friends, family, and brethren. I thought nothing would ever top how beautiful she was on that day, but I was wrong. Today, I look at her as she prepares for a Bible study. I see her interact with our three beautiful children. I see her love for me. Today is the day that she is the most beautiful. I can only imagine what tomorrow holds.
I loved learning new things about Lisa when we dated, and I still do even though it is harder with three little ones and another on the way. I love how she studies her Bible. How she thinks. How she reasons. I knew I had made the right choice, and every day confirms it.
In hindsight I can see that I was running as hard as I could toward God, she was running as hard as she could toward God, and we were just able to hold hands and encourage each other to keep running. That’s exactly the dating advice I give to young people who ask me: “Run as hard as you can toward God; and if you find someone else running just as hard, run together.”