The story of how God brought Brent Petzoldt and Elizabeth Stange together:
In a nutshell, Brent was interested in me,but I did not share the same interest. Then three years later, God brought us back together, the timing was right, and I fell head over heels in love with him.
Many many months ago, I wrote this verse in my journal with a few thoughts on my future life partner:
“The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.” ~Genesis 25:50 This is what I want to be able to say when God brings a man for me. I want it to be so clear from the Lord, so orchestrated by His hand that all that people can say is “That was done by the Lord. It proceedeth from Him.”
Our desire is that when you read our story, you will see the hand of the Lord at work in each of our lives, because without the hand of God bringing us together, we would definitely not be planning our wedding today. We serve a God who cares about the most infinitely small details of our lives. We can trust Him and He is honored when we seek Him. He can redeem any situation, any life, no matter how messed up, and make something beautiful out of it. We all need to place our trust in Him. The Creator of the Universe cared enough about mankind to send His only Son, Jesus Christ down to earth to pay the penalty for our sins - to make a way for us to have fellowship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Only through Christ can we be redeemed and rescued from the bondage of sin, from eternal separation from God. God is not willing for any to perish, but He is gracious and patient, not forcing Himself on any person, but waiting for them to turn their hearts toward Him. God cares for us..........
He cared about my life partner....and Brent's life partner.........
Alright, some of you (especially you girls) are probably curious about all of the details on how God worked, so here is the long version of our story:
About 12 years ago, our families met at a home church in St. Louis Missouri, held in the home of mutual friends. Our families kept in contact through Christmas letters and saw each other occasionally when my family would go back to St. Louis. In 2007 our families sat next to each other at a friend's wedding reception. I remember thinking that they looked like a really nice family, and I enjoyed visiting with Mrs. Petzoldt.
Fast forward to 2008 and I was trying to be a matchmaker. :-) Though I hardly knew anything about Brent, I thought that he would be a perfect match for one of my girlfriends. I told my Mom we just had to invite the Petzoldts to Kansas so that these young people could meet. After all, people need help - so I thought.
The Petzoldt family did make a trip to Kansas in January of 2009, and Brent said he noticed me right away. I was neutral towards him and just thought of him as a nice guy. After all, I had mentally matched him up with someone else. ;-)
Shortly thereafter, Brent's Dad, Mike Petzoldt called my Dad and wanted to get together again. So they came down in March for the NJCAA basketball tournament that my Dad helps run. I remember thinking, “That was a long trip to make just to watch basketball games.” We did have fun with their family. Our families meshed well together and enjoyed each other's company, but I just thought of them as nice friends.
Shortly after that visit, Brent called my Dad and stated that he wanted to get to know me. Dad's response was that I had too much going on in my life at that time, and he told Brent to wait until I had graduated to start conversing with me. My Dad talked with him over the phone for several weeks, and through the course of those weeks, I figured out that something suspicious was going on. Eventually I put two and two together and realized that Brent was interested in me.
This made me very upset and I desperately wanted to put a stop to the whole thing, but I didn't know how I could bring it up out of the blue to my parents. I just kept hoping that they would tell me of Brent's interest and then I would set them straight as to how I really felt. It was a frustrating time - and during that period I grew from having neutral feelings towards Brent to utterly disliking him. In fact, “dislike” is not a strong enough word to describe how I felt. I believed he was ruining my life and I never wanted to see him again.
Well, poor Brent had no idea what was going on in my heart, and innocently attended my graduation ceremony. Afterwards, I made it super clear to him that I was NOT interested in him at all. He got the message and needless to say, my parents were not very happy with me.
That summer Dad said to me, “I believe Brent Petzoldt is a very fine young man and I want you to know that we ARE going to his wedding.” To which I replied, “Great! I'll be there with bells on. That is going to be the HAPPIEST day of my life because then he'll be taken!” Now three years later we are all laughing at my prophetic words. :-)
Our families continued to see each other occasionally, but there was always a bit of awkwardness. I think both of our parents were really hoping that some spark would ignite between us, but I made sure I was cool enough for that not to happen.
In the meantime, I spent many months wrestling with surrendering the issue of my future spouse to the Lord. I would pray “Lord, I can't surrender this yet, because that means I'll have to include Brent in the picture and you know I just can't do that. You know we don't go together Lord; he is just not my type.” (Thank you Lord for unanswered prayers!!) How the Lord must have been amused by those prayers. During this entire time I was fervently praying that Brent would hurry up, meet a girl and get married. Sadly, I didn't even use his name when I would pray or talk about him. I would just refer to him as “that person,” and my family and the Lord knew who I was referring to.
On January 6th 2011, I was still wrestling in my spirit with this issue of surrendering to God's future plan for me. I finally broke, praying and weeping before the Lord, and surrendering to Him. I told Him that I was not in control and I truly just wanted His will for my life. The very next day I found out that Brent was seeing a girl and I was incredibly happy! I thought to myself, “God loves me, He does hear my prayers!” I felt like God was telling me, “I'm just asking you to surrender to me. I'm not going to make you do something that you don't want to do. I'm just asking you to surrender.” Here is an entry from my journal, dated January 7th 2011 .
"God is so amazing! He is so wonderful and worthy of our praise! He is so trustworthy! He gently tests us by shielding the answer to the matter of our concern from us, until He knows that we are fully trusting Him and completely surrendered, and then He gives the answer that He knew all along and was the very thing that we had so prayed for. He is a God who can be trusted and He cares about us to such a deep depth. My heart is overflowing with thankfulness and joy to Him. If only I would learn to trust Him sooner, and rest, knowing He controls all. "
So as you can see, I was very, very happy with that news!
Several more months passed and yet, I was still haunted by the memory of Brent. I kept asking myself, “Must I go through life with him always in the back of my mind?” By now it was spring of 2011 and the Lord was at work on my heart. The Lord began to convict me of my need to repent to Brent for how I had treated him two years ago, yet in my heart I was thinking, “No way, that would be too weird!” But the Lord would not let me run away from the things I needed to face. I had allowed bitterness to creep into my heart and I felt like God was telling me to apologize to Brent and sort of close the lid, so to speak, on the things of the past.
In a matter of days, several things happened that showed me that I needed to clear my conscience.
The first sign came from a girlfriend who made a very derogatory comment about a guy to me; I was angry at her lack of respect for her brother in Christ. As I found myself quite upset over this, the Lord told me in His still, small voice, “Elizabeth, isn't that how you treated Brent? Whether it was consciously or unconsciously, your heart was similar to this girl with whom you are upset.” Ouch, that hurt!
Then out of the blue, my Mom suggested that perhaps I should just write a letter to Brent and apologize to him. What, how did she know? I assured her that would be way too weird. Too much time had passed and I could not do that. But on the inside, I was thinking to myself, “Perhaps this is another sign from the Lord.”
Also, for my birthday, I had been given a Bible study book, God's Priceless Woman . As I was reading that book, I was utterly convicted about my role as a Christian woman. I realized that I would be a hypocrite to get up and lead a young girls' Bible study and talk about the respect we should have for our brothers in Christ, when I knew in my heart this was not how I treated Brent.
Finally, the young adult Bible study that I was attending was discussing confessions and the need to confess wrongs that were done, even if years had gone by. Another ouch!
Through all of these signals, I finally realized that clearing my conscience should be my top priority, instead of worrying about how Brent was going to take it. So I sat down and wrote out a letter to him. Tears ran down my cheeks as I wrote. It was just so good to put my thoughts down on paper and know that God had forgiven me. In fact, the next day I had so much energy, I woke up at 2:00am thinking it was 6:00am. I got dressed and bounded downstairs, only to realize the time. “Wow, this is what a forgiven heart feels like!” I said to myself, and it felt so good.
Though I had written the letter, I had no plans to send it. I thought, “ Well, that was a good experience organizing my thoughts, and God knows how I feel, so I am not going to send it.” I folded the letter up and put it away in my dresser drawer, not telling anyone about it. Little did I know, that letter was burning a hole, not in my dresser, but in my heart. A few days passed, and I could still not get the letter out of my mind. I knelt down outside in the grass beside our silo, and asked God to give me a sign on what I should do. I didn't realize how quickly that prayer would be answered. The next day our family received an apology letter in the mail from someone who wanted to clear his conscience. I couldn't believe it! We had never received a letter like that. Amazingly, this person had written his apology letter the same day I had written mine, only he had sent his and I hadn't. I really didn't think that this person even needed to apologize, but I sure admired how he was clearing his conscience. Well, by now I was sure that I needed to clear my conscience in a bigger way than this person did - so I decided to do what was at one time the unthinkable - send my letter. I showed my letter to my parents and they agreed that yes, it was very appropriate and that I should send it. So I sent it, but with no return address because I was still praying that somehow it would get lost in the mail. Yes, the Lord still had work to do on my heart!
Although I was not at all expecting to hear back from him, Brent sent a gracious response in the mail. I decided to return the ball back to his court and respond with another letter. Our letters were very general, and I made it clear that if he didn't wish to respond, that would be fine, I would completely understand. I didn't hear back from him and I was perfectly happy with that.
In July, our family took a vacation to Colorado and we decided to climb an almost 14,000 ft mountain, the West Spanish Peak. All was going well, until we lost the trail above the timberline, and we ended up climbing what could be called the equivalent of a rock slide. It was extremely steep with hardly any traction, and I was about to pass out due to my fear of heights. I was praying the entire time (and crying) and literally have never felt so close to death. Somehow I made it to the top and the first thing I did was drop to my knees to pray and there I surrendered everything to the Lord. I felt so out of control, so incapable of choosing my own way. I relinquished all of everything that I so tightly was holding on to. One of the things I told the Lord was that if He wanted me to marry Brent Petzoldt, I'd marry Brent. :-) Soon after that moment of confession, some professional hikers showed us the actual trail - which made going down so much easier. On the way down, I was thinking to myself, “Brent is actually a nice guy, he's sweet, you know, he really is sweet.” My sister, Katherine likes to remind me that I kept her up until 1:00am that night talking about all the sweet attributes of Brent. It wasn't that I suddenly liked him, it was just that I was now noticing and remembering him as the sweet, kind, caring person that he is.
Months passed and I was completely at peace, no longer haunted by Brent. I just genuinely cared about him, appreciated him as my brother in Christ, and truly wanted God's best for his life.
In February 2012, the Petzoldt Family stopped by our house for lunch on their way home from a ski trip to Colorado. Well, all of us young people went for a walk. My sisters seemed to be jogging and soon it was just Brent and me walking and talking alone together. (My sisters had thought that we were a wonderful match three years ago, and they were still sort of hoping that something would happen between us.) I was just happy that we could enjoy sweet Christian fellowship and encourage one another in the Lord. I was not looking for anything more out of our time together.
One of the things Brent and I talked about on our walk was different ministries, and so the next day (February 18th) I sent Brent an email with a link to some of the prison ministries we had discussed. He responded saying that he'd like to get to know me better through emailing. My thoughts were that we could and should encourage one another in the Lord, but that was truly all I desired. We continued to email throughout the month, and Brent's emails kept getting longer and longer. He was asking more and more questions, and he was responding rather quickly. I finally told my Mom, “I don't have time for this.” She encouraged me to take my time, be honest with him, but not to just stop responding. So I waited a week and a half to collect my thoughts, then I responded.
A few weeks passed. By now it was the 3rd week of March, and Brent and I had gotten into some pretty deep discussions in our emails. I commented to my sister, Katherine, that it would be so nice if we could discuss some of these topics over the phone . It was getting hard to communicate on some of these deeper matters through emailing.......and it was taking lots of time.
Saturday the 17th, we had a busy day with lots of company, and I spent the day giving horse rides to dozens of children. The entire day, Brent was on my mind. Finally, after finishing the horse rides, I ran upstairs to take a much needed shower. Before I did that though, I talked to the Lord and told Him, that if emailing Brent was not from Him that I wanted it to cease. I prayed, “ Dear God, I don't feel led to stop responding, but please, let Brent stop emailing me if this is not from you.” I came downstairs from my shower, and Dad said “Elizabeth, I want to talk with you.” He proceeded to tell me that Brent had called him that evening and asked if he could start calling me on the phone to get to know me better. I was delighted, and replied, that I would like another opportunity to get to know Brent. I didn't want to be prejudiced against him, like I was three years ago, but genuinely desired to get to know him as a friend. Dad informed me that Brent would call the following evening.
That night I couldn't sleep, so I prayed for Brent, and for our church (the next day was Sunday.) I thought to myself, “ I just know the message tomorrow is going to be on marriage or relationships.” I was excited as I felt sure that the message was going to be appropriate for me. Sure enough, the message that Sunday was from Ruth chapter 3. Our assistant pastor had been going through Ruth, but it was taking him a long while since he only preaches every 6 or 7 weeks. For some reason, he was filling in for our main pastor that Sunday, and the Lord knew that his message was just what I needed to hear.
His message was titled “Surrendering to Our Kinsman Redeemer”. He paralleled the story of Ruth going to Boaz for redemption, to our coming to Jesus. We are to come to the only One who has the right to redeem us from our debt of sin that we owe to God. God wants to show Himself mighty on our behalf, and we like Ruth, are to ask Him to do this, but He first requires us to surrender to Him. We must surrender our rights to Jesus. Pastor Don listed 12 rights that we need to yield. The first one was self, and Pastor Don stated that we need to yield up the right of dating and ask “Lord, who do you want me to date?” His message seemed like it was completely directed to me.
That evening, Brent and I talked together for the first time over the phone. Brent told me that he wanted to pursue a relationship with me, with marriage in mind. Whoa, I was a little taken aback. But I appreciated him being so upfront. We agreed to hold our relationship with an open palm, and just to take it one day at a time. I was a bit nervous, and even though we talked for an hour, it was a little awkward.
My journal entry for the 18th of March says : “This was definitely not my will or my agenda, but I must ask, 'Is this God's will for my life? Is He leading us together?' I just need to be surrendered to Him and rest, knowing He works out all things for our good.......no matter what becomes of all of this, Brent has been a blessing in my life.”
Getting to know Brent has been more than just a blessing, it has been incredibly exciting! He is such an amazing man and I marvel at his heart for the Lord and for people.
We have only missed one day in talking with each other since March 18th and we have no intention of ever missing another.
Brent came to visit the last week in March and we went on our first date. I asked him some deep, crucial questions right from the start, and Brent answered all of them perfectly. As we continued talking over the course of the next couple of days, I was so amazed at how we have some of the same visions in life ---to serve and minister to people, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and to raise godly children. I marveled what a kind, gracious person he is and just how he walks with the Lord and strives to follow Him. The more I learn about Brent, the more I am amazed. He truly does build me up in the Lord.
Becoming best friends with my dashing fiance has been so exciting and more magnificent than I could have ever imagined! I feel so blessed to have a man who reads the Bible to me, prays with and for me, and encourages me with the scriptures. We are currently reading through Proverbs together and memorizing various passages and chapters of scripture together. God is extremely good to us and we are overwhelmed by His awesome grace and mercy. Truly He does make everything beautiful in His time! We both feel so extraordinarily blessed by our Sovereign Creator who could see the big picture ALL of the time. How marvelous it is to be able to trust in Him and see Him bless each step of faith! WOW! I'm so glad that God redeemed and revived our relationship!
“The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.” Psalm 126:3
On May 18th, the love of my life drove 7 hours to take me for a blissful walk around Sterling Lake. The wind was furiously blowing, but we hardly noticed as we walked around several times. Brent led me to the little peninsula that juts out into the lake. While standing on the peninsula, Brent held both of my hands and told me how much he loved me. Then while still holding my hands, he dropped down on one knee and delivered a heartfelt speech ending with “will you marry me?”. In utter amazement at the goodness of the Lord, I stared into his eyes and spoke my answer, “Brent, it would be my life's greatest honor to be your wife! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes a thousand times, YES!!!!!” We were so exuberant as we embraced each other. The Lord has been incredibly good to us and we give Him all the honor and the glory in bringing us to this point in our lives.
Additional notes from Brent…
I would like to add a few comments to Elizabeth’s rendition of our story for some additional perspective. As Elizabeth mentioned, the Lord has done so many mighty incredible works in our lives, particularly in bringing us together – and He deserves all the credit and the glory! I hope that these additional comments can be an encouragement to those of you reading them, and ultimately that they will glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well here we go filling in some additional details to the story…
For the benefit of those who don’t know Elizabeth, I’d like to spend just a few sentences describing her, outlining some of her characteristics that jumped out at me when I was initially drawn to her (and continue to be part of who she is!). Her relationship with Jesus Christ is clearly the most important thing in her life, and everything else about her is a result of her walk with Him. She has an incredible servant’s heart, she cares about others and has a heart for the lost. She has a sweet cheerful disposition and is a joy to be around for everyone. She has a strong desire to live the godly life God intended her to live, and she is consistently involved in ministering to others. I really could go on and on. (and in case you are wondering, I consider her the most beautiful girl in the entire world!)
Back in 2009 when I was conversing with Mr. Stange over the phone regarding Elizabeth, I was naturally getting pretty excited as time went by. I was getting closer to an opportunity to develop a deeper friendship with her, and to potentially enter a relationship with her where we would be seeking God’s will pertaining to marriage. I will admit that back then, I was fairly clueless as to what all that would entail, but there was no doubt that I was praying that God would make her my wife some day.
Things didn’t go exactly the way I was hoping they would, and it is fair to say that I was pretty torn up that Elizabeth was not in any way interested in me. It was a real trial, but God was so faithful. The book of James in the Bible talks about how the Lord can use trials for our good, to perfect us. That was what He was doing for me. Looking back on it now, it is so clear to see that the timing was not right, and that God had work to do on both of us (especially me) before we were ready to pursue marriage. A verse that really spoke to me during that time was Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” In my mind, I had plans of my own (namely, to find a wife at that time). He was directing though, in a different way.
In the midst of this trial, I cried out to Him, telling him that if a relationship with Elizabeth wasn’t His will, He would need to take away my desire for her. I couldn’t shake that on my own. Within a few weeks to a month, He had graciously granted that request, and I felt completely at peace in moving on and letting go of the ideas I had concocted. I felt like He had closed the door. The Lord is so faithful in answering prayer!
Now let’s jump ahead to 2011 when I received Elizabeth’s apology letter. I was blown away and completely humbled that she would be that obedient to God’s voice. It’s hard to describe, but I could just sense this refreshing level of respect in her letter. As a guy, I can’t begin to tell how meaningful that is to me. I felt a need to respond indicating my complete forgiveness to her, as well as confessing the slight grudge I had been holding towards her. I began to think about what a godly woman she was, and all the character qualities that had originally attracted me to her. However, I chose not to continue correspondence with her for a few reasons – I felt that God had closed the door already, I was no longer “attracted” to her (even though the barriers to being just true friends had been lifted), and I didn’t want to lead her along to think that I was again pursuing her.
As my family’s February 2012 visit to the Stanges approached, I began to wonder what would come of the visit. Would it be awkward? Elizabeth had sent a 2nd letter in 2011 to which I never responded. Our families hadn’t visited in person since before she had sent her original apology letter. I also wondered if feelings from the past would reignite. I wasn’t looking for that to happen, but I was open to God leading in that direction if He so chose.
Elizabeth and I ended up talking together a lot during the visit. We were able to share what God had been doing in our lives since we had last seen each other. As we talked in their house and on the walk, I found myself getting breathless and my heart was just pounding. God was reigniting the spark in my heart. After our families exchanged goodbyes, I was prayerfully considering “trying again” with Elizabeth.
The rest of our story has been a whirlwind beginning with corresponding via email only in February/March to our engagement now. God’s hand has been evident all along the way, orchestrating so many intricate details that could have caused things to “not turn out” had He not been involved. Elizabeth is so much more than I could have ever dreamed of or asked for, and I’m so excited to see how the Lord will call us to serve Him together!
As an encouragement to my single friends reading this, I’d really like to stress the importance of seeking the Lord on who He wants you to become, and encourage you to not get caught up in trying to find the “right one”. God will so richly bless you if you will do that. Elizabeth and I can take no credit for us coming together, it was truly the Lord’s work. Psalm 37:4 says that if you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart.