Our Story

I (Daniel) had often asked the question, How will I know which one is the right one for me? As Kathryn and I have watched the LORD put together this story of our relationship, we have been amazed to see how He has brought us together as we both drew closer to Him. Instead of all the wondering and trying to discern “which one” was the “right one,” I found as I focused my thoughts on the LORD and delighting in Him each day, He would replace all the questions with an unmistakably clear assurance of His will. The closer I got to Him, the more obvious it became.

Our family first met the Neelys at our mutual friends’, the Wilkes, home in Virginia in 2008, but it was not until several years later that the LORD started speaking to me specifically about Kathryn. I am so grateful for the counsel I received from my parents and others to make the most of my single years, taking advantage of opportunities to serve the LORD and grow in my relationship with Him. During those early years, I saw Him lead me to a more specific understanding of His purpose and calling for my life, open doors to develop skills to provide for a family financially, train me to walk in the light and be open with my parents about my faults and struggles, show me the importance of meditating in His Word day and night, and bring me to the joy of complete satisfaction in Him. In addition, during this period of waiting on the LORD for the right life partner, my parents encouraged me to use attractions I felt as incentives to write out a list of Christ-like character qualities that I would desire in a future wife. This helped the focus to remain on the LORD and His character, keeping me from becoming entangled in unnecessary emotional relationships. It also allowed me to build many meaningful relationships with other young ladies and serve the LORD in complete freedom together with them as brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Timothy 5:2).

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The LORD poured out His innumerable blessings on me (Kathryn) when He made me the daughter of my dear parents! Oh how grateful I am for their love for Him and His Word, and their example of faithfulness. The sacrifices they have made to raise us in the fear and admonition of the LORD have been numerous, yet they have always been made with such a willing joy and the goal of bringing glory to our God. To them I owe an unspeakable debt of gratitude. As a little girl, I remember Dad asking each of us periodically, “Will you give me your heart?” “Will you trust me to help you find the man that God has for you?” Though always responding with “Yes, Daddy!” I did not fully realize the wisdom in what he was doing. But during the years of growth from childhood to womanhood, I am immensely thankful for both his and Mom’s encouragement to guard my heart, saving all special emotions and affections entirely for the ONE the LORD would someday bring to me as my husband. They counseled us girls to never treat any one particular young man with special attention or favor, but rather to seek to protect their hearts – to be natural, yet guarded, and to keep the focus on Christ. This was definitely a journey for me, but the LORD revealed what a beautiful thing it was to relate to young men according to His design — as brothers and sisters in Him — and the joyous freedom there can be in interacting, serving together, having fun, and edifying each other on a truly pure and Christ-honoring level.

Through the years, God has been (and continues to be!) at work in my heart in many, many other ways. Shortly after I graduated from high school in 2012, He began heightening my understanding of the importance of prayer. Unconsciously, over time, I had become almost afraid to ask God for anything, replacing obedience to His directives with a warped sense of His sovereignty. If He already knows what I need, and He has already ordained exactly what is going to happen, what is the use of asking for anything? As He gently uncovered these misconceptions using many different passages of Scripture, and encouraged me to seek Him, He also allowed me to see His power through numerous answers to prayer. He revealed the almost startling reality that He – the God of the universe – has chosen prayer as a means of accomplishing His purposes in our lives! What love, what mercy! He, our faithful God, is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; He promises to hear and answer the cries of His children, and He delights in giving them the desires of their hearts. He is Jehovah-Jireh – the LORD will provide. As these truths slowly began to replace the lies I had believed, I began to pray specifically that the LORD would grant me the gift of marriage, if that was His will. At the counsel of my parents I had been praying for my future husband for years, but after this the LORD led me to pray more specifically and fervently for this gift, not only for myself but for many other young ladies we knew as well.

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Over time the LORD kept bringing Kathryn to my mind more and more often, and as I prayed I began to realize she was one of the most godly young ladies I had ever known. Every time we would visit their family, I was challenged to seek a deeper walk with God. On one such visit in August of 2013, as we were driving to the Wilkes’ home for the Virginia FEW Conference, our family read the Psalm of the day in the car as we often do while traveling. I had been thinking a lot about Kathryn and seeing her and her family that weekend, so I was astonished when we turned to Psalm 45, the “Royal Wedding Psalm,” and read the first verse, “My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king… The king’s daughter is all glorious within…” On one of the mornings of that same conference, I could not find my Bible and pulled what looked like on an unused one off a shelf in the Wilkes’ library. My regular reading plan was in Deuteronomy 28, and as I flipped to that page I could not believe what I found. Tucked into the Bible right on the very page where I was supposed to read for the day was a greeting card! I cautiously opened it to find a thank you note inside addressed to “Dear Sara-Kathryn…” I couldn’t believe it! Who says the name Kathryn isn’t in the Bible? 🙂 The LORD doesn’t have to do things like this, but I knew it was His way of giving me a special personal message. I knew He was changing my heart. I closed the Bible, confident that the LORD would continue to direct in His perfect timing. My prayer all along was that everything about this would draw me closer to God and deepen my desire to know Him, that nothing about it would distract me from loving Him, but only serve to strengthen and intensify my relationship with Him. I was familiar with attractions on a physical or emotional level, but this was the only case I had experienced where everything about it drew my spirit closer to the LORD in every way.

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Toward the end of 2014, it was almost as though the LORD gave me peace that my desire for marriage was indeed from Him and would be granted in His perfect way and timing – coupled with the assurance that if I was mistaken and this was not His will, He would continue to reveal His purpose for my life and give abundant fulfillment in the sphere in which He had already placed me. Though I still had days of doubt, there was a new sense of peace. Psalm 139:17-18 became a special blessing to me: “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” Through that season and into January (2015), I found an especially vibrant feeling of delight in my calling as a daughter/sister. There was such joy in being with my family, such enthusiasm about all the plans and schemes and projects for the new year, such excitement about the opportunities for growth that lay ahead! I was at rest, knowing that the LORD had my best interest in mind and that I could trust Him to work out His wonderful plan… no matter what that looked like. Little did I know what lay just ahead…

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By November 2014, I felt the LORD bringing me to a point of decision. The message at church that Sunday, November 23, was titled, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” I had just read Numbers 22 that morning, where Balaam kept second-guessing God when He had already told him what to do. I went forward after the message, purposing before the LORD that if this was where He was leading, I was willing to follow. A week later, while driving back to Chicago after Thanksgiving, the couple I was riding with happened to be listening to the audiobook Marriage in Light of Eternity, talking about God’s eternal purposes for marriage. I opened my Bible, sensing once again that God had a special message to share with me. My reading for the day was in Numbers 26. At first it seemed like a boring list of genealogies and I started scanning through them quickly, but the LORD stopped me at verse 46. “And the name of the daughter of Asher was Sarah.” At first I was confused. Isn’t that the wrong name? But then I remembered something I had heard earlier, that the name Sarah had always been special to Kathryn and she planned to officially change her name to Sara-Kathryn at marriage! This was the final confirmation I needed from the LORD, and I knew it was time to mention something to my parents. So on Christmas Eve I explained the whole story to them for the first time. They were thrilled and did not see any reason to hold off on calling Mr. Neely. We were visiting the Wilkes that next weekend over New Years, and Mr. Wilkes “happened” to choose Genesis 11 for the morning devotional, where Abram takes Sarai to be his wife. With my heart beating like never before, I called Mr. Neely that evening to let him know what the LORD had been doing in my heart and ask if we could set up a time to talk. He called back a few days later and sent a list of questions we could begin working through together.

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On January 8, 2015, I accidently found an email that would eventually change my life. While doing some communications work for the family on a trip down to south Georgia, I checked the “sent mail” folder to be sure the email had gone through, only to suddenly see an email from Dad to Daniel Staddon. Without reading it, I knew… and oh the feelings that swept over me during the next several hours of the trip! Shock, immense gratitude, complete bewilderment… We had known the Staddon family for nearly seven years, and the LORD had drawn our families closer and closer together through ministering side-by-side at the FEW Conferences; but up until that point, never once had Daniel crossed my mind as a possibility. I personally did not feel like I knew him very well (during many of our visits/conferences with the Staddons early on, he was already in Chicago working at the IBLP Headquarters), yet I knew enough to hold a deep respect and admiration for him. WHY would a man like him, who knows the LORD on such a personal, intimate level, and whose knowledge of the Word is so extensive and encompassing, pursue ME?! I was both humbled and awed at the thought. As soon as possible I talked with Dad and Mom, telling them what had happened, and we discussed what I thought about it. Since we really did not know Daniel, we felt that the only way to determine God’s will was for him to continue communicating with Dad.

And so thus began several months of waiting. While often giving thanks to the LORD for that fact that I knew of this possibility, the waiting process was not an easy one for my impatient heart. But oh, how He used it to draw me closer to Himself, and for that I am so grateful! Throughout this time, too, my respect for Daniel grew as we continued ministering together with the Staddons. Daniel knew that I knew, yet the way he conducted himself was always far above reproach and completely natural. Being and serving together, as we always had, did not feel awkward or uncomfortable in the slightest, and he truly put me at ease by his continual focus on Christ. Still, the passing months brought many opportunities to seek the LORD and commit my desires to Him. Communicating with my parents during this time was a life-line of stability; hearing their perspectives and praying with them for God to make His will known to us meant so much. Only He knew if Daniel was indeed the ONE for me, and I am grateful for their counsel to not presume upon His will or give my heart away before that will had been determined.

I am learning that often, before allowing us to fully realize or experience a particular blessing He has in store, the LORD asks us to surrender it… sometimes in multiple ways. For me, in this journey with Daniel, there were three distinct points of surrender. The first point came in March, at the NC FEW Conference. During one of the sessions, I suddenly felt as though the LORD was asking me, “Kathryn, if this ‘possibility’ with Daniel ENDS even before you get a chance to talk with him, will you still trust Me?” I honestly did not like that question, and kept trying to push it out of my mind. Surely that is NOT what God is trying to say… Running back into the empty auditorium to grab a forgotten item during one of the conference breaks, I was stopped short when I heard the hymn I Surrender All playing softly through the sound system. God’s message to me was clear, and tears filled my eyes. Yes, LORD. All is Yours, including the idea of getting to know Daniel. This was not an easy decision to make, yet afterward my heart was truly at rest in His will.

In early August, Dad and Mom shared the news with me that not only had Daniel’s answers to their questions proved him to be qualified, but that he was not the only young man that had been communicating with them. The next several weeks were ones of prayer, tears, late-night talks, and much earnest seeking. Faced with such a tremendous, multi-faceted decision, what was I to do?? Almost immediately, the LORD comforted my heart with Numbers 24:13: “…I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith…” He gave me rest in realizing that the decision was not really mine, but HIS… as I was faithful to look to Him and seek His best, He would lead me. And He did. This season was painful, and though at the time I did not always understand the exact reason why He led the way He did, His peace was there and I knew that the direction He was leading was right. By mid-September, we were back to where we had started: with Daniel being the only one regarding whom the LORD had not yet closed the door. Based on what we knew about him, everything seemed to be lining up perfectly.

But here God had to take me to the second point of surrender. Daniel and I were essentially ready to begin communicating directly, but a particular issue that I had wrestled with for years seemed to suddenly resurface and stand in the way. The problem was completely my own — nothing relating to him at all, but rather to a certain direction in which I had believed the LORD might have been calling me — and I could not move forward wholeheartedly with him while it was still there and unresolved. After much struggle, I had to acknowledge that the LORD was asking me to wait until He brought clearer direction.

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Finding out that everything had been called off was extremely heavy news for me. All along the journey the LORD had been continually bringing me back to neutral emotionally, trusting that however things ended up going He would use it to draw me closer to Himself. I knew we were simply determining if it was God’s will for us to pursue a relationship, so I had regularly checked to remind myself that if everything fell through, I would still be grounded emotionally and spiritually in Christ. Still, it came as quite the test of whether nothing indeed could shake my relationship with Him. While technically it was only a time of indefinite waiting, the LORD used it as a means to bring me to a point of complete death: dying to even the thought of ever getting to know Kathryn, completely giving up all my own dreams and desires, and abandoning back to Christ. So many spiritual truths I thought I knew before became so real to me during this time. I was reminded that Christ IS my life. Nothing can separate me from Him. Despite emotional disappointments, the only thing that truly matters is that I continue hearing His voice, pursuing Him, and resting in Him. He is all I need. He is enough. God also used it to show me that He may lead into a courtship for reasons other than marriage. As I considered all the spiritual lessons He had taught me, working through doctrinal questions, writing out Scriptural reasons for what I believe and why, learning more of who God is, growing in my communication with my parents, etc., I saw so many benefits that God had already brought through it all! While they were excruciatingly painful, I cherish those days as treasures never to be forgotten. Through it all the LORD gave such a peace. Yes, it was death, and at times it felt like I was being crushed, but my times with God were deeper than ever before, and my fellowship with Him was sweeter than I had ever known before. During this time the hymn More Love to Thee became very meaningful to me: “Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain; sweet are thy messengers, sweet their refrain, when they can sing with me: More Love, O Christ, to Thee.”

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The months from September to December were intense and difficult, yet my Father’s grace was there, and He used this additional season of waiting to refine my heart in countless ways. Again, the counsel and prayers of my parents, as well as my darling older sister Jessica, meant more than I can say. In mid-December, the question How long do we wait? really started to surface. Dad encouraged me to seek the LORD even more fervently for direction, and as I did, He graciously illuminated the path just enough for me to realize that, though I was not 100% settled regarding the issue that had made me wait months prior, it was time to begin taking small steps in the relationship with Daniel. Dad called and shared the news with him, and we began communicating periodically via email. During the month of January, the LORD began to crack and remove the “shell” that still existed, making it clear that I had to leave every aspect of this “issue” with Him and simply move forward. He led me, through numerous verses, sermons, and the encouragement of my parents, to a beautifully new realization of what it meant to TRUST Him fully. This was the third point of surrender. After talking with Dad and Mom one Sunday afternoon, I knew I needed some time alone with the LORD. On my knees, with tears streaming down my face, I cried out again to Him for clear direction. LORD, we want Your BEST!! If You want to just end this whole thing with Daniel, that is completely fine; just please show us Your will! Obviously there was no audible voice, but it was almost like I heard the LORD say, “Kathryn, what if I DON’T want to end it? Is that still okay?” Peace flooded my heart. Over the next couple weeks, He sent confirmation after confirmation that this was indeed the way that I should walk, and on February 1, I emailed Daniel to tell him how the LORD had been leading.

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I was shocked when Mr. Neely called in December, to say that the LORD had given Kathryn a peace about resuming the discussion! After enduring the period of dying to it all, I was all the more surprised and thrilled to hear that the LORD had given His blessing on moving forward. We shared the news with our immediate families at this point because up until then we had kept everything just between us and our parents, not wanting to create any false hopes should the LORD have decided to lead otherwise. We also did not want anything to hinder our families from being able to serve together in the future, no matter how things turned out. Throughout this time I became so grateful for the wisdom of my parents and the blessing of having their support and prayers at every stage of the process. Dad provided a list of questions that Kathryn and I could go through to help facilitate our discussion, and we began to see how closely aligned our life goals and passions were. During the month of January, the LORD continued confirming that Kathryn was the one for me. As I recalled all the ways in which He had led over the past few years and the Scriptures He had brought at specific times, an overwhelming peace flooded my heart. On February 2, Mr. Neely set up a time for me to call Kathryn and we talked for the very first time.

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The days following that first phone call felt like a whirlwind… talking, asking questions, answering questions, and getting to know each other on a deeply beautiful, spiritual level. The more we talked, the more clearly the LORD illuminated my path; His peace in my heart and mind was abundant and abiding (John 14:27). I had started out with many, many questions, and it seemed that not only did the questions all get a “check-mark” beside them, but each “check-mark” was followed by five exclamation points! 🙂 Just three weeks and one day after our first direct conversation, my questions were all answered. While I knew then that Daniel Arthur Staddon was indeed the ONE for whom I had prayed, on February 25 I asked the LORD for one more confirmation… which He beautifully gave from a familiar passage in Psalm 34: “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.”

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Engagement!

Less than a week later — March 2, exactly one month from our first phone call — on a special day carefully planned out by Daniel and my precious family, I found myself walking with Dad up the hill to our back property where Daniel was waiting. He gave Daniel the key to my heart — a pendant I had given him years before, as a picture of my decision to trust my Heavenly Father as He led me through my earthly father — and then he left us… and in the delightfully peaceful setting, with the wind gently blowing, the mountain range behind us, the sunshine streaming softly through the trees, and quiet music playing in the background, the ONE to whom God had led me asked me to marry him. Saying “YES!” to Daniel, with full confidence in the will of my Father, was a thrill beyond words as I joyfully accepted his proposal and the stunning and meaningful ring he presented as a symbol of our commitment to each other.

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While researching engagement rings, I found there is a particular type of diamond called a “Princess” diamond because of its unique cut in the shape of a square. I thought this would be perfect because the name “Sara” means “princess” or “noble woman.” I also knew “Kathryn” meant “pure one,” so I wanted to find a diamond that would reflect the rare purity I saw in her. I discovered there are varying degrees of clarity, ranging from those with slight defects to those with extremely few defects. And then there are those rated I.F., signifying that they are “Internally Flawless.” Even though there is no observable difference to the unaided eye, I knew Kathryn’s ring needed to be 100% pure as an accurate reflection of the internal character of Christ that radiates from her life.

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Our hearts are overwhelmed at the immense goodness of our God, at the way He has answered prayer, granted guidance, and in His own timing, given us both the desires of our hearts. He alone – our merciful Jehovah Jireh – is worthy of all praise and glory for the beautiful work He has brought about.

“Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.” Psalm 115:1

“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them…” Jeremiah 32:38-39