Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Love Story

Love. Loverly love. Lover love love. Yes, this blog post will be ALL about ooey-gooey (well maybe not all) romantic, girly stuff. If you get sick at your stomach with such things....stop reading now!

I had never met anyone like Jason Hardage. Ever. The first time I remember hearing his name was in the cafeteria at William Carey University. I had recently interviewed to spend the summer of my freshmen year serving *somewhere* in the US on mission. I passed by Jason and Pamela Coker's (then Leonard) table and Jason stopped me and said, "I know where you are going (he was in charge of the interview process and had a heads up) and who is on your team and you are gonna like it." The BSU summer missions program allowed you to select 3 preferences of service. I picked Boston, MA first, Washington, DC second; and The Pacific Northwest third. In all honesty, I didn't really want the northwest team...I only picked up b/c my friend Andy Winn went on and on about his earlier adventures there and how it made sense, b/c that team always needed a pianist. But secretly....I really really wanted the Boston slot. Kind of ironic I would later spend 8 years of my life in the Northeast, don't you think?

Back to the cafeteria...I distinctly remember Jason saying, "mel, you are not going to believe your team leader's testimony. It is AWESOME. And he is a BIIIIIGGGG guy!" Ha! I was definitely intrigued. My curiosity was sparked and I waited a few days until I was officially told that yes, I would be serving as the pianist for the northwest youth revival team, summer of 1997.

Then I got a letter in the mail. The return address was "Yellow Dog Road, Senatobia, MS." Who in the world was this??? This is what I read:

Dear Melanie

My name is Jason Hardage, and I'm one of your partners for summer missions 97. I am writing because I thought it would be a good idea to start some correspondence with the other team members in order to make known some prayer requests and also to get to know one another some before the summer starts. I want to let you know that I have begun praying daily for our team members individually and also for the people of the states in which we will be ministering. It is my prayer that God will do a mighty work through us this summer.

In Christ,
Jason Hardage

P.S. see Ephesians 3:14-21

Who is the world was this serious guy? I was impressed....and excited about serving with him. When I finally met Jason in person, he had his nose in the Bible and rarely looked up for anything else! He was serious! (those of you that know Jason know that he is really the most playful guy....but he really was super serious about our mission that summer).

We set off for WA and OR and spent a glorious, life changing summer serving churches and people of the region. Jason preached his first sermons on this trip and I lead in worship for the first time in my life. Truly, this trip was the great foundation for our lives together in ministry. Only we didn't have a clue at the time!

Summer Missions 1997: Our team

As I said in the beginning of this post...I had NEVER met anyone like Jason Hardage. I grew up "in the church" and had a very legalistic understanding of the Gospel..of grace...of our life in Christ. Jason shot all my legalistic ideas to pieces. I would counter, he would quote scripture. I would argue, he would ask me where in the Bible I came up with this or that idea. It didn't take too many weeks into the summer for me to stop arguing and begin to trust in his wisdom. He was a newer Christian, too, and I was embarrassed that I had been a believer in Christ for many years, and yet he knew the Word so thoroughly.

He loved those people, those young people we ministered to..he shared truth and the Word with them and I watched in awe I wish I could be like that!

Near the end of the summer, I took a face first fall right onto a giant rock and knocked myself out. Jason scooped me up and carried me to rescue. I ended up breaking my nose and busting my face up pretty nasty and had to fly home early to have surgery. I truly loved these 3 guys that I had spent that summer with and just knew that we would remain close. I recall over a campfire in Castle Rock, WA...saying to all 3 of them, "I want you guys to be in my wedding." Who knew I would marry one of them?!?!

It would be almost a full year later that I would run into Jason Hardage again. And although we kept in touch a few times through email, we were really not a part of each other's lives. But at a Baptist college conference on the coast of MS, we met up once again. At the time, I wasn't really where I should have been in my walk with God. I was rebelling in some areas and actually almost didn't come to the conference....mainly because I knew I would be convicted in those areas of my life.

I drove down on the second day of the conference and as soon as I walked up, all my Carey friends were telling me that some big, huge, blonde-haired guy was looking for me. Hmmm. Seriously, probably 5 or more different sets of friends gave me this message that Jason Hardage was looking for me.

We finally saw each other and Jason ran over and gave me a HUGE full-on hug. Now, this is important to note because the *entire* time we were serving on summer missions together...Jason never touched me more than maybe a sideways hug every once in a while. Even more curious, while we were embracing, he spun me around. Whoa. I do remember thinking something was weird about Jason doing that, but I put it aside. We spent the next 24 hours sitting on rocking chairs and benches talking about everything under the sun. I didn't tell him I was seeing someone. I didn't really go into my personal struggles, but we had a great time and I was reminded of the things of God and how I loved ministry and it was just good.

The next day after the conference was over, I received this email:

I can't tell you how good it was to see you over LTC. I wonder if you will ever read this email...anyway...well....I don't know what this means, well, I guess I do know what it means....I hope you don't run off and marry that law student...because...well, because I'd really like to get to know you better. Not the whole romantic thing. At least not yet. I'm sure I've said a mouthful...I wonder if you're shocked...I wonder if you'll even get to read this email.

Mark 10:45
love in Jesus

I sat in the Carey library reading the email over and over and over again. Tears started to stream down my face because I knew that God was using Jason to draw me back to him. I printed it. I ran to my dorm room to show my best friend Emily and try to figure out what in the world I would say in response. To say I was shocked was such an understatement! In my mind, Jason Hardage was a serious Bible scholar....he was a preacher for crying out loud! He was Godly, I was not. He walked with God and I struggled along. Yes, I was in shock. And I had to end the other relationship before I could even respond. And get right with God. It was overwhelming.

No lie, this was my exact response 2 days later:




Poor guy. I was so cruel! :D LOL And this was his reply:

sweet and simple....
or you were really busy.....
I prefer sweet and simple....
Lord Jehova reigns in majesty !!!!!
I think I'm gonna go read my Bible, thinking about you has that affect on me...that's a very good thing.

know that I am before the Father on your behalf

Whew. What a start to this "relationship!" We continued emailing back and forth...Jason pretty much practicing his sermons on me, lol, and me going over each email with a fine tooth comb looking for anything romantic or lovey dovey. And to be honest, during the beginning....there wasn't much! But we so enjoyed talking on the phone and emailing and encouraging each other. This lasted about 9 months. Long time for a girl to wait, y'all. Hello, can I get a witness??! I was careful not to gush to him or reveal my romantic feelings for him...I kept them mostly to myself or talked to Emily about it. I started to write them all down on little slips of paper, too, and collected them. Later, when we were engaged, I gave them all to Jason in a special wooden box that he had given me from his mission trip to Moldova, so he could read what I had been thinking and praying all those months.

He held his romantic intentions close to his chest. I waited. I admit fully that I was impatient, but finally the waiting paid off. Just when I was ready to tell him I was ready for him to make a decision about our "relationship" and what in the world was going to happen with us (remember, no kisses, no dates, no I love you, no fluffy, "you are so pretty/special/whatever" etc. It was rough!) I received a handwritten letter in the mail at my Carey mailbox dated November 8, 1998--almost 9 months since the initial email from him. I know I it is sort of whack to put this out for the world to see, but I really don't care. Here it is:

My dearest Melanie--
My first snail mail letter to you, and thus, it should be an important one--it is. Despite the importance from whence this letter will reveal my heart, I must let you know where I am as I pen these words---in the bath tub! I hope you are blushed, or laughing, or both!

There is so much I need to say from the depths of joy and from the blackness of fear and doubt. I write these words prayerfully.

I know I have been aloof and uncertain about my feelings for you, and I can't say that I've not struggled with the will of God--but Mel, I take full responsibility for our relationship and I believe that it's time to move on in our relationship....that is, into a deeper relationship. God has led me to this decision and I know it's not for heartache or for pain, but for His Glory and our success and future. I love you! You are such an encourager, beautiful flower, an expression of grace, a faithful friend, you make me love God more.

On Thursday, I asked you to go to China with me and you said, "let's go." That sealed my heart!--that you would follow....I pray God leads.

I know that we both have our faults, things that we both have not so much revealed as of yet. It's easy not to see those faults when we are so far away, but as God continues to redeem our character, we will overcome even these.
I must go!
I do love you!

It is so emotional to type that out. Tears are streaming down my face now just as they were think of God's gracious hand in forming us, putting us together, and to think of where we are now on the other side of that letter having served in various places in NY and RI and now back in MS. I am filled with emotion and thanks to God.

A month later he finally kissed me. Sorry, I know that is TMI. Six months later we were engaged. And on November 6, 1999 we were married.

Maybe you are reading this thinking that I am bragging or thinking that we've had ideal situations or something like that.....let me tell you we have fought for our marriage tooth and nail. Tooth. And. Nail! We have faced trials, financial strain, uncertainty, crisis times between the two of us..losses, upheaval. We've looked at some of those faults square in the eye that Jason mentioned way back in 98. There have been babies. LOTS OF BABIES! LOL. And there has been pain, failures, doubts, etc. I certainly don't boast in our own ability to "make it work." No, I boast in His everlasting grace and mercies that are new every morning. He alone has preserved this union and all glory goes to Him.

I wrestled with whether or not to post these very personal bits about our life so far together. If you are on Facebook, you have seen the endless amount of pictures I have posted from our 10 years together (and some from before!). My purpose in posting all of that was to 1. give Glory to God for our marriage and life together, and 2. publicly show my love and affection for Jason; and 3. hopefully encourage others.

The truth is, since I've posted the pictures on Facebook, I've receiving a bunch of private messages from folks who indeed, have been encouraged and reminded of their own love for their spouse...for the beauty of God's provision...for His faithfulness in their own lives. Praise God for this! My hope and prayer is that if you are reading this, you are also reminded of His lovingkindness in your life, and His goodness.

To close, I want to post the lyrics to a song I wrote several months ago in anticipation of our upcoming 10 year anniversary. I had been reading through the book of Ruth at the time and it sparked some musical/lyrical thoughts. Now that you have read that hand-written letter from Jason to me all those years ago, you will also see more of the background and foundation for the song.


You asked me once..
so long ago
If I could stay or
if I could go

I told you then
and meant it well
"I will follow you
and humbly dwell."

Riches of this world have never
made me wish for more
I am happy to be forever
under His grace....and to be yours

I will go where you go
I will live where you live
and we will dance into the moonlight praising God for all He did.

Tears come down
when I think about how
after all these years and
pain and tears
we'd be where we are now

And when we breathe
that final breath
we will know
we'll know
we've been beautifully blessed

Riches of this world have never
made me wish for more
I am happy to be forever
under His grace....and to be yours

I will go where you go
I will live where you live
and we will dance into the moonlight praising God for all He did.

I love God. I love Jason. I stand in awe of His mighty hand through the past 10 years and give all glory to Him.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Aw, Mel!! "You make me love God more". Can you see me doing the Miss America hand wave to control my tears??? What a beautiful, God-written love story. He is so good and I rejoice with you as you celebrate this special day. Thank you for sharing. This SAHM, overly emotional, and hopelessly romantic girl needed it!

  2. Who knew Jason was so mushy?! With the handwritten letters, "whence," and what not. It is indeed beautiful to see how God is writing the story of history and mirroring His love for us through our marriages. I think I need to go plant a big mushy kiss on Lexie's head. Enjoy your anniversary!

  3. Love it!!!! Congrats on 10 years together and many more to come!

    Jenny Sandiford

  4. Mel.... this is so much fun. You've told me this story in person, but I had to read it again. :) Also, thanks for inspiring my husband to "plant a big mushy kiss" on my head. Not that he needs much encouraging.

  5. Your true story is beautiful and real. Thanks so much for sharing...I was truly touched by it all.

    Allanda Small Campbell

  6. Em--I see you! :D Thank you for reading and rejoicing with me friend.
    Stephen and Lexie--My man has a secret mushy side. I do love that one letter Glad to have inspired some smoochies. HA!

    Thanks Jenny and Allanda! Love you both!

  7. Mel, this was beautiful to read. What a precious and unique love story. I remember being at your wedding and it was lovely, too. I'm glad that you shared that it all hasn't been easy through your ten years - but I honestly don't know how people get through marriage without God! Marriage takes so much forgiveness.

    xo - Sam Lang

  8. This was so sweet to read. I love to see how other couples got together in the 1st place! Thanks for sharing your & Jason's story.

  9. i randomly happened across your blog today, and i LOVE your story. it's so encouraging and beautiful. i hope for that one day....

    thanks for putting yourself out there. keep loving Jesus & each other!