{OUR LOVE STORY}

         

(ABOVE IMAGES ARE DONE BY JUSTIN FERRY PHOTOGRAPHY)

http://justinferry.com/ & https://www.facebook.com/justinferryphotography

THIS WHOLE THING STARTED…..

in a middle school Bible study. Yes, really. In 8th grade, I met together with a bunch of other girls my same age through the church we were currently involved in. We were going through a chapter each time we met, and this particular chapter focused on dating. I honestly don’t remember much about anything except for the fact that we were supposed to make a list of everything we wanted in a husband. The goal was to save yourself some heartache, and only consider dating someone who had these characteristics. Obviously he needed to love Jesus and love people….but things like “a good listener,” “outgoing,” etc. (you get the idea) were on my list.

So I took a good look around at every guy in my life…and there was not a single guy to be found that was even close to what I wanted.

Then I started high school……and it was the same thing (this sounds harsh, but I am just being honest).

After a while, I got discouraged (because remember, High School is the only world you know when you’re in it….). My standards were high, very high. People called me crazy, but I was determined to wait for this future guy. In the middle of my sophomore year (2009), I started going to a church called Clover Hill Assembly of God. There, I saw several guys my age, and one of them specifically was Nathan Clarke. In a not-so-creepy way…(haha), I noticed the way he treated people, the way he carried himself, his pretty blue eyes, and a million other things that caught my attention. To my dismay, we never really became friends despite how often we were with each other at Youth Group serving on the student-leadership team.

This went on for about a year. A year of tears of “what’s wrong with him?!,” “what’s wrong with me?,”  and “why  won’t he talk to me?!”  (I’m all about the guy pursuing the girl type thing, so I was set on waiting) But in this season, my relationship with God became incredibly strong and I learned to surrender my whole life to Him through His amazing grace. I became content with who he created me to be, and I found my identity in Him. (Looking back, I knew why it took so long….God needed to shape me first before we ever came together!)

After a year (Around January of 2010- the second semester of my junior year of high school), I just kind of started giving up because nothing was changing. I had prayed for this guy. He fit everything on my “infinite list.” I prayed for him, I prayed for me, and I prayed for God’s hand in what could be..just maybe? possibly? At this point, I honestly just wanted to be his friend. I looked up to him so much, and I wanted to be more like him. He loved on every person he met, he respected ladies, he wasn’t a weird Christian guy like many I had met before, and I especially loved how God used him at Manchester High School to reach out to his fellow classmates and teammates on the Cross Country Team. I wasn’t really bold about my walk with Jesus. But he was, and I wanted to learn from him.

Mind you, I haven’t really told anyone about this at all. I didn’t want anyone to make a big deal over something that was non-existent. So there you go. I ended up finishing my junior year and I started preparing to go on a missions trip to Sitka, Alaska that July (of 2010).

The week before the missions trip, all the youth leaders went out to eat on a Wednesday night after youth group. My youth pastor, Pastor Erik leans over across the table from me, looks both ways, smiles, and then looks at me saying “Hey Anna, what if I told you I had the perfect guy picked out for you?”

I look around with the kind of look saying ,”You talkin’ to me?” My first thoughts: “Um, you are my youth pastor. This is weird. But on a second note, ‘WHO?!'”

Pastor Erik looks over and whispers, “Nate Clarke!”

(I’m surprised I didn’t just fall on the floor out of my chair and pass out right there. Dramatic much? Yeah, I know, but this was the craziest thing of my life at this point. I mean hey, I really liked this kid.)

It turns out that Pastor Erik had gone up to Nathan’s parents that past January saying that he had the perfect girl picked out for their son and he asked permission to see if he could talk to Nate about it. They said that was fine and that they trusted him.

So over the course of those 6 or 7 months, apparently Pastor Erik pestered Nathan to talk to me, ask me out, whatever. I found out later that Nathan had thought I was in my early 20’s this whole time (face palm), which is part of the reason why he didn’t even think twice about me. But apparently, Nathan started getting interested. And then he started praying about me too.

Fast – Forward back to the week before leaving to Alaska at the Chili’s Restaurant, I am being told all this, and  I am starting to put pieces together. All those prayers I had prayed, God had been working behind the scenes the entire time.

The following week, we head off to Alaska. I could save that for a whole other story (because it was AMAZING). But apparently, our plane tickets were alphabetized: Clementson….Clarke. Guess who I’m sitting next to for the next 4 hours?

Yep! By the time we got to Alaska, pretty much everyone found out about this ordeal and you can just guess about the rest.

(THE CLOVER HILL TEAM IN SITKA, ALASKA)

After we flew home from that incredible week, Nathan and I talked a bit and hung out a few times for a couple weeks. I always let him ask, plan, and initiate. I thought, hey, if I waited for a year for this, I think I can manage waiting a couple days in between seeing him. Our first date ended up being Putt-Putt and Chik-fil-a. Oh yeah! A way to win my heart is through some Chik-fil-a Chicken (no, but really..it’s my favorite). About a week or so after that, he asked me if I wanted to go to Sunday Park to go on a walk. (A park within walking distance from my house with a lake, biking trails, trees, etc.).

(SUNDAY PARK)

We talked about school, our goals, what our families were like, and all of the basics. Then we stopped by the dock, walked to the end, sat down and dangled our feet in the water.

We said a few more words but then he paused,  looked down at me and said, “So, what do you think about dating?”

We probably talked no more than 15 minutes about it all, but in that conversation, we explained what we each thought what a godly relationship looked like. We knew we were both interested in each other, but we left the conversation with Nathan saying, “Let’s take this slow, I don’t want to rush into anything” I agreed.

Well, soon after, on August 21, 2010 he asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I said yes.

And 3 months later, we knew we wanted to get married.

Slow, eh?

It did not take us long to become best friends- and we literally talked about EVERYTHING. Waiting for him was so worth it. And on a side note, that list I made back in 8th grade doesn’t even do him justice. He is more than I could have ever, ever asked for. He respected me, he went out of his way for me, he listened to my thoughts, he took me out on dates,  he challenged me in my relationship with Jesus, and he constantly encouraged me in everything I did.

Entering into our Senior Year of High School in 2010 (Nathan at Manchester, me at Clover Hill), we had both been accepted into Liberty University and were planning to attend the following year. We both knew we were called to Ministry, and we both continued to serve in our Youth Group. This time, together. After we both graduated from our high schools in June 2011, we started getting ready for college life.

                                                          

(NATHAN & I ON HIS GRADUATION DAY)

Soon we were off to LU. We loved the school, the people, the professors, convocation, dorm life, everything. Sure, not everything was perfect (what is?), but we loved being at school together away from home.

(THE BEAUTIFUL PLACE ON CAMPUS WERE WE OFTEN SPENT TIME TOGETHER)

Halfway through my semester- long story short, I realized and confirmed that I would not be returning to LU after my freshman year for financial reasons. At first, this was very hard to take in and extremely frustrating. All of “my plans” of becoming a RA one day and meeting new people every year, had come to an end. But God had another plan. And slowly, my heart became more accepting of what He had for me. By the time my freshman year was coming to a close, it didn’t matter if I had all the money in the world, I was ready for the new season. It was a peace I couldn’t describe and I was excited for what was next!

At this point, we had briefly talked with our parents about marriage. We valued having both sets of parents actively involved in our relationship. In addition, we had our pastors and mentors, close friends, and even people we didn’t even know that well constantly encouraging us.

After a few talks, my Mom and Dad said that 2 things had to happen before we could ever get married:

1) Nathan had to have a full-time job

2) He had to Graduate from College with his Bachelor’s degree

The next conversation I had with my parents was with me telling them that Nathan was going to take summer classes in addition to working part time, and then take 18 credits per semester so that he could graduate 3 semesters early. (I have a hard-working and determined man!!)

With that said, Nathan, however was going to continue at LU in the Fall of 2012 while I would stay home and finish my degree through LU’s Online program. We spent our Summer together and then we prepared for him to leave

.

        

(OUR LAST DATE BEFORE HE LEFT FOR LU AGAIN)

That semester apart was hard. Even though we both learned a lot, we hated being apart. We knew of many people that had gone WAY longer apart under much more difficult circumstances, but still- we didn’t like being a part one bit! (Granted, he would often come home every 2 weeks with surprise visits).

(WHEN HE CAME HOME FOR HIS THANKSGIVING BREAK)

Near the end of both of our Fall 2012 School Semesters, Nathan came in touch with a pastor named Pastor Bryan from Destination Church. Destination had launched 2 years prior and had been (and still is) growing rapidly. They meet in the theaters at SouthPark Mall in Colonial Heights, VA. We both knew Pastor Bryan before because Clover Hill Assembly of God (the church Nathan and I met at and served) helped launch this church. We had visited Destination a few times before, but never really had any idea that we would soon attend and serve there. So Over the course of those 2 years, Destination had grown to about 1,200 people. The vision to start an additional campus was coming closer and becoming more of a reality at this point. Pastor Bryan mentioned that he would love for Nathan to be on their team.

(PEOPLE WAITING IN LINE FOR ONE OF THE SERVICES TO START ON A SUNDAY MORNING)

We talked about it. We prayed about it. We shared it with our families and close friends.  

And then we made the decision that we would start serving at Destination Church starting in January of 2013 with Nathan working part time there. This also meant Nathan was going to be staying home for good! He transferred online again (he had done LU Online during the previous summer)- but this time, it was going to be permanent!

And finally, during our winter break of 2012, On December 28th, Nathan got down on one knee, slipped a gorgeous ring on my finger and proposed.

“Anna Michelle Clementson, will you marry me?

And after I caught my breath I pulled him up where I was and just hugged him!

he said, “Is that a yes?”

I smiled ( with the biggest smile ever) and said “Yes, I will marry you!

             

(ABOVE IMAGES DONE BY JUSTIN FERRY PHOTOGRAPHY)

http://www.justinferry.com/

https://www.facebook.com/justinferryphotography?fref=ts

(THE DAY NATHAN PROPOSED IN THE MOUNTAINS IN LEXINGTON, VA)

He had asked my parents permission earlier that week and the day he proposed ended up being perfect. That whole week had been rainy, snowy, muddy, gross, and all of that. But he kept persisting that we go the mountains. And now I knew why!

We had waited so long for this! Because we both valued our parents being involved in our relationship and we wanted to honor their wishes, the process was much longer than we had hoped for originally, but it ended up being for the better. With the constant encouragement from our families, pastors, mentors and close friends, our relationship grew and we learned how to understand, love, and respect one another. We were (and are) so thankful for the influence each person had on our relationship. From the many phone calls and long conversations, we had reached this point because the of the support and investment of people in our lives as individuals and as a a couple. We were so thankful to FINALLY call each other our “fiance.” The light was at the end of the tunnel! 

Pretty soon, Destination Church bought the additional campus, the Crossings Theater in Hopewell.

It will be launching in September, 2013 with Nathan as the Campus Pastor of this Location. (2 locations, 1 Church) He officially starts full time in September and we could not feel more honored that we can be a part of what God is doing through this church!

(THE CROSSINGS CAMPUS “UNDER CONSTRUCTION”)

And now… Our 3 year anniversary was yesterday, August 21, 2013.

Nathan graduates at the end of this year with his Bachelors in Religion with a focus on Pastoral Leadership.

I am doing the “regular” 4 year plan and so I will be starting my junior year this fall.  I will be graduating in May of 2015 with my Bachelors of Religion with a double minor in Christian Counseling and Psychology.

As I write this, I am overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness and provision that has been so obvious with every transition of our young lives. From 8th grade to High School and from High School to Liberty University.  From Clover Hill Assembly of God to Destination Church. While coming together at a young age has had it’s challenges, we believe we are never too young for set the example and learn how to love each other the way God intended from the very beginning. Even though we didn’t know the timing of pretty much anything, we chose to trust the Lord with all that we did. Was it and is it hard? Yes! Was it and is it worth it? Yes, yes, and YES!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. 

{PROVERBS 3:5-6}

So here we are. Our love story doesn’t really have an ending because it still goes on.

Every day we learn something new about each other

Every day we find a new reason why we love one another

And even when we say “I do” on May 17th, 2014, our love story will continue!

(ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BELOW HAS BEEN DONE BY JUSTIN FERRY PHOTOGRAPHY)

http://www.justinferry.com/

https://www.facebook.com/justinferryphotography?fref=ts

{268 MORE DAYS UNTIL THE WEDDING!!!}

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20 Things I’m Not Too Young For (Part II)

11)      Be content with where you are: With so many changes taking place (going to high school & graduating, going to college & graduating, getting involved in different groups, working different jobs, etc.) it can be easy to always wish you were at the “next thing.” Instead, realize that God has given you different seasons for different reasons. I have to tell myself this every day because it is very easy for me to wish I was a college graduate, married, and active in the job I have always wanted. But God is teaching me how to enjoy the process and be content until then (Philippians 4:10-13).

12)      Know Who You Are Going To Marry: Seriously. You are not too young. Nathan and I started dating when I was 17 and he was 18. However, we did not go off and do things on our own. We have had the support of our parents and families, close friends, pastors and mentors. So I am not encouraging anyone to date anyone they want while everyone who cares about you is against it. But I do believe God can bring you someone when you are young!  It’s not everyone’s story, but it does happen!

13)      Learn a Trade: I received my cosmetology license by the time I graduated high school. Although I am not working in a salon, I have never regretting my decision in going to cosmetology school. It is a hobby I enjoy and I can be a blessing to people in this way for the rest of my life. Find something you enjoy, and learn as much as you can. You never know when God will put someone in your life that needs your skill.

14)       Eat Right. Exercise Right. It’s sad how if you eat healthy food, people think you are on a diet or insecure about your weight. You are not too young to make healthy decisions. It’s harder and takes more time, but I believe in taking care of the body God gave you.  

15)       Know your spiritual gifts and use them: One of mine is the gift of Encouragement. Because of that, I want to encourage everyone I meet. I want people to leave our conversation better than before we met. (Find out more about them here: Romans 12:6-8,  1 Corinthians 12:4-11,  28-11, Ephesians 4:12)    

16)       Be comfortable with how God created you: My personality does not always lead me to be super witty and hilarious, and the center of attention. I prefer to reach out to the person that doesn’t talk that much or is truly going through a difficult time. For example, if we are in a group setting, I want to talk to the person that is quiet. I would rather forget the whole group and talk to that person. That is how God created me to be and I have learned to embrace it.  

17)       Be Bold: You are not too young to share the Gospel and be open about your relationship with the Lord with the people you are around. Don’t leave it to church leaders or people that are older. Share what God has done in your life with you friends, co-workers, random people you just happen to meet. Check back at my other post, “20 Things I’m Not Too Young For (Part I)” to find examples of young people in the Bible doing this.

18)      Expect and Experience God’s miracles: I have seen God provide money where there is none, given me joy in circumstances that were not fun, heal relationships in my life that I thought would never be okay, see people get saved that everyone said would never go to church, etc. I could literally go on and on. Pray outside the box. Expect the unexpected. Believe God to work miracles in your life. And He will (James 1:6-7).

19)      Hear God’s Voice: Prayer isn’t a 1 way conversation. God can and will speak to you when you are young. Whether it’s through His Word, people He puts in your life, or the leading from the Holy Spirit, He wants to lead you and speak to you. Yes, even when you are young .

20)   Give, Give, Give: Sometimes we assume that because we don’t make a lot of money, we can’t be a blessing to other people. So instead, we do nothing.  You can give regardless. If you don’t give with what you have now, you certainly won’t give with what you will have later. Write a card, spend time with someone, bake something sweet if money is tight. Pay for someone’s meal. And make sure they know it’s not because you are a nice, giving person. Make sure they know it’s because of God’s grace and love you are able and want to give. You are not too young to make a difference and give!

I hope these simple things have encouraged you in some way. The excuse of “I’m too young” is not valid when it involves God using you to impact other people, and for Him to move in YOUR life. Start living for Him today because His blessings are way too awesome to miss out on.

20 Things I’m Not Too Young For (Part I)

20 Things I'm Not Too Young For (Part I)

As the youngest of 8 kids, I grew up with the perspective that I just wasn’t old enough to do..that.

Oh and that too. You have to wait for that.

But then my perspective started to change. Some of the most influential leaders God used in the Bible were young people. Not characters. But people. REAL people with REAL lives. Sure, I grew up hearing the stories and I had always thought everyone was so old and grown up. But there came a point when I put it together that these real people that God used were my age.  

So here it is: Here’s to 20 years of 20 things I’m not too young for:

1) Say NO to activities: Yeah, God knew we needed rest. Save a day for no commitments. Rest, Relax, Rejuvenate (Exodus 20:8-11). Learn to say no. With me, money has been tight growing up so I used to take every opportunity to work. And I don’t like saying no to hang out with people. But then my weeks were crazy, crazy, crazy. But God has commanded me to take a day to rest- watch a movie, sleep in, take a walk & SAY NO, even to good things.

2) Put others first: It’s Simple, life isn’t about me. Or you. I don’t need to be the center of attention and the world doesn’t revolve around me. Or you. It’s about loving Jesus and it’s about loving people (Philippians 2:3, 1 John 4:20)

3) Understand and know your Identity: My job, my achievements, people’s approval of me & my many failures do not define me. Let’s talk media. The numbers of friends I have or likes on a photo on Facebook don’t define me. God does and He says I am fearfully & wonderfully made (Psalm 139, 1 Peter 2:9. Done Deal. Period. Stop trying to earn approval when you already have it.

4) Honor your parents: It’s a command (Exodus 20:12, Colossians 3:20). Even when I don’t want to, or even when I don’t feel like it and it’s not convenient, I am called to honor my parents. And God will bless you for it. And when I get married, I am still commanded to honor them. That doesn’t mean I do every single thing they ask for the rest of my life, but it does mean I honor them with both my words and actions.

5)  Lead someone in their walk with Christ: I don’t need to know every Scripture or know what everything needs to look like. The fact that I was a sinner, but now I am saved because of Jesus, is enough for me to know that God can and will use me (John 9) if I am willing . Don’t use the excuse “I don’t know enough” to stop you from encouraging someone. My testimony alone is enough for God to use. I am not too young, and neither are you.

6)  Make wise financial decisions: Graduated from High School, off to a 4 year University for my Bachelor’s Degree that my parents pay for? Nope. I went to Liberty University for my freshman year and loved it, but came back home to do LU’s Online program. I work part-time and I am now entering my 3rd year without any type of loan. Don’t do things just because other people do. Stop comparing and start living out what God has called you to do. My decisions affect my future marriage and my future kids . Save now. On a side note, I love shoes and purses, and clothes. I’ll admit it. But I don’t need them in every color, brand, etc. Learn to say no.   

7) Lead people older than you: Yes, you read that right. You can be a leader (1 Timothy 4:12). That doesn’t mean be cocky or disrespectful and then start thinking you deserved that role. If you have a leadership role, it’s because God gave it to you in the first place (James 1:17). It’s called grace. When I started reading God’s word, and I starting finally living FOR Him & IN Him in high school, God provided me with an opportunity to be a youth leader in my youth group. And then it all started from there. I saw miracles. Don’t despise your youth. Let God use it.

8) Speak Truth: God’s Truth is Truth . So it doesn’t matter how old you are when you speak it. God’s truth is forever (Isaiah 40:8). I may not be married yet, but I can still encourage others with the biblical perspective on marriage. Make sense?

9) Learn how to Dress Classy & Modest Without Lookin’ Like Grandma: Okay yeah it’s hard to find much material on anything these days. But really, when I set my mind on looking for classy and modest, I find them. Sure, it’s annoying at times. Like honestly, I’m not modest because it’s my natural desire. I prefer to wear what I like. But remember, it’s not about me. Or you. God has asked to save everything for my husband and He has asked me to not let other men stumble (1 Timothy 1:9, 1 Peter 3:3-4) . Besides, the attention that you get when you wear immodest clothes really isn’t the kind of attention you wanted to receive in the first place.

10) Gain Wisdom: Yeah, so this Christian life journey wasn’t just a “fend for yourself” and “figure it out on your own” type thing. God has given us His Word. Read it. His boundaries are for our benefit because He loves us. You may be 15 years old but God can give you wisdom that go beyond your years. Ask Him for it, and He will give it to you generously (see James 1:5).

 

Remember:It’s a process & things take time as your Maker molds you. Be patient. But no, you are not too young

See Their Lives: Ruth (the book of Ruth), Joseph of Egypt (Genesis 37-50), David (1 & 2 Samuel), Mary the Mother of Jesus (The Gospels), Timothy (Acts 16-20, 1st & 2nd Timothy) just to name a few.

Last Thoughts: Sure, there are so many more, but these are the ones that God has had to work in me specifically so far. I still struggle with all of them at times, but again, it’s a process and it’s about progress, not perfection. This can only be done through His grace.

 

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because

you are young, but set an example for the believers

in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

1TIMOTHY 4:12

 

                   “20 Things I’m Not Too Young For (Part II)” will be posted soon to follow.