After three months of dating, things were going so well that Kelly Bisby began to worry.
Not long ago, she was an unattached high school English teacher with lots of friends, a cat named Stella and a growing sense that she was destined to a life of singleness. Now she had a boyfriend — a wonderful boyfriend. An intelligent, compassionate man who shared her faith and respected her personal boundaries.
They were together for only a couple months when John told Kelly he was in love.
"When I say that," John explained, "I want you to know that I mean I can see myself spending the rest of my life with you."
Then she started to panic.
I'm terrified that this is all too good to be true, she thought, and that I'll wake up one day and he's no longer in love with me, or that he's not the man he claims to be.
Kelly wrote to Boundless — Focus on the Family's ministry to young adults — seeking relationship advice. Soon thereafter, she was listening to "The Boundless Show," the ministry's weekly podcast, when the host read a question from a listener.
"As they read the letter," she recalls, "I was thinking, That sounds like the letter I wrote in. … that sounds a lot like my letter. … that's my letter!"
John Peterson had decided it was time to pursue something other than work. To pursuesomeone.
"I don't remember thinking directly about marriage when I signed up for a dating site," he says. "But I was ready to get serious about a lasting relationship."
Thank goodness Kelly's younger sister is the meddling type. "I got a Facebook message saying that she'd set up an [online dating] account for me," Kelly says, "and that I should check it out."
Kelly looked around the site for a few weeks before she found John's profile. Kelly liked everything she read about him, and he lived only an hour's drive away. Thus the timid, modest daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher decided to send the first message.
A few weeks, dozens of emails and several phone conversations later, the two met at a Starbucks in Kelly's hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Sure, it was awkward at first, but by the time their first date ended, they were talking like old friends. Kelly knew John was special, and John was thinking the same thing.
John had spent the previous year reading articles on Boundless.org, the ministry's website. Week after week, he says, he learned "how to love someone in a committed relationship, as well as some of the pitfalls people often fall into."
The Boundless staff knows that a record number of Americans today have never married and that singles are waiting longer than ever to commit. The problem isn't that young adults don't want to marry — they do — but many claim they simply don't know how to get or stay married to the right person.
Boundless exists, in part, to help young adults mature in life and faith, date with purpose and prepare for marriage. John mentioned Boundless to Kelly, and soon she, too, was reading the articles and blog posts. She also started listening to the weekly podcast.
"During our courtship," Kelly says, "Boundless was a way for us to communicate with each other about the stuff that really matters in a relationship.
"When John needed encouragement about work or his walk with God, I'd find an article that applied and send him a quote or paragraph, hoping to lift him up."
John made the drive to see Kelly several times a week, and they talked on the phone for hours. Things were going great, and John knew he was in love. So he decided to tell her.
That's when Kelly decided to contact Boundless.
"Should I be worried that this is all falling into place so quickly?" Kelly's letter said. "We've only known each other three months. At the same time, I know it's not good to drag out a courtship for years."
"The Boundless Show" host Lisa Anderson and advice columnist Candice Watters offered the letter writer some suggestions and helped assuage her fears. Good thing Kelly was listening, because on Valentine's Day — just three weeks after hearing the podcast — John presented her with a beautiful bound volume of all their correspondence… 75 pages worth.
"It was in that collection of letters that I would find," Kelly says, "less than one month later, a marriage proposal hidden in the final entry of the book." She said yes.