Finding Love in Each Other

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by Bobby Pepper and Nancy Hardy
story photos by Lindsay Pace 

“We cross paths with certain people in our tangled lives for a reason. It’s not by chance, not an accident but it’s on purpose. You were made to be part of someone’s life for it was written long before you were born.” – Elizabeth E. Castillo

The first time we met face to face was Feb. 10, 2019, but we believe God had been working long before then to bring us together. Our paths, which had crossed so many times for years, finally merged that Sunday afternoon at a church in Olive Branch, Mississippi.

Leading up to our relationship, we both had gone through times of brokenness and pain. A lot of those struggles followed us through childhood and into adulthood. We eventually found healing through a Christ-centered program called Celebrate Recovery.

Nancy: “In August 2016, I moved from Arkansas to Southaven, Mississippi. God placed me in a church where I joined a small life group. The people in this group became precious to me. We volunteered to serve Christmas dinner for our church’s Celebrate Recovery. That was my first experience with CR, and I instantly knew God wanted me to be a part of it.”

Bobby: “I was invited to speak at a Christmas program hosted by the CR group at Colonial Hills Church in Southaven. I learned some time later that one of the women serving the meals at the program was Nancy, and she said she remembers me being in line.”

Celebrate Recovery, which was founded at Saddleback Church in California, hosts a national gathering every year called Summit. There’s an Eastern U.S. Summit in July near Nashville and a Western U.S. Summit in August at Saddleback.

We attended the 2017 and 2018 gatherings in Tennessee. Nancy attended with her CR group while Bobby was there as a CR state representative from Mississippi and as one of the official photographers. Neither of us realized until later that Bobby had taken three photos of Nancy in 2017 and two photos of her in 2018.

It was also during this time that we separately began talking to Stephanie May of CrossPointe Church in Olive Branch. Nancy co-led Stephanie through a CR step study, while Bobby was advising Stephanie on how to start a CR group at the church. CR launched at CrossPointe in September 2018, but it also opened the door for us to meet.

Nancy: “In 2018, CrossPointe’s Pastor Doug Bell led a seminar for singles. This event was so well attended and successful that he decided to create a singles’ church ministry called DeSoto Pursue, which launched in January 2019. God used Pastor Doug to prepare me for the great blessing He would soon send my way. DeSoto Pursue met one Sunday afternoon each month for five months. That was plenty of time for God to put Bobby and me together.”

Bobby: “I shared my testimony at CrossPointe’s CR in November 2018 and became friends with Stephanie and others who attended the church, plus I ‘liked’ the church on Facebook. When CrossPointe announced it was hosting a monthly church service for singles, it caught my attention. Even though I lived about a hundred miles away, I felt led to attend.”

Bobby felt so strongly about attending DeSoto Pursue, he drove almost 450 miles –– from a Celebrate Recovery training conference in Lexington, Kentucky, to Olive Branch –– for the February meeting, and that was the day we met. We started talking and texting on a regular basis.

Nancy: “On April 14, 2019, we had our first date at a Chinese restaurant in Holly Springs. We knew on that day there was something special between us, and we began seeing each other more; we quickly fell in love. Bobby proposed to me on the anniversary of our first date, and I said ‘Yes!’”

Since we’ve been together, we have learned how much we have in common: Exploring places off the beaten path, enjoying the same kind of music and movies, spending time together and enjoying each other’s company. Dating, even at our age, has brought out a youthful passion and joy we have for each other.

Bobby: “Our relationship is a deeply spiritual one. We enjoy serving in Celebrate Recovery together, and, most of all, sharing our faith with others. We know our great love for each other is made possible only by God’s love for us. We believe the Lord put us together to be each other’s partner, helpmate, supporter, best friend and sounding board.”

On March 20, 2021, in the church where we met, we will be united in holy matrimony. This will not be the first time for either of us to hear the wedding march, but we’re grateful for another chance to experience love.

We want this day to be a uniting of families. Our precious mothers will be there. Nancy’s son will give away the bride; her sister will be matron of honor. Bobby’s father will be the best man, and his son will be a groomsman. Our 6-year-old granddaughter will be the flower girl, and our 11-month-old grandson will be the ring bearer.

COVID-19 has caused us to rethink some aspects about our wedding. We both contracted the virus late last year, and have had other family members affected by it. It has made us more aware of how easily it is spread. As the day draws closer, we’ll know if we have to make adjustments to our plans to help keep everyone as safe as possible.

Following a few months of transition, we plan to make our home in Southaven –– less than a mile from a city that has been a major part of our lives. We’ve both spent time in Memphis doing unhealthy things that eventually led us to recovery. We’ve often wondered if our paths crossed in Memphis during those times when we were seeking something that was missing in our lives.

However, we’re reminded by the words of that great Memphis rocker, the late Jimi Jamison, when he sang “The Search is Over” for the band Survivor –– “Now at last, I hold you / Now all is said and done / The search has come full circle / Our destinies are one.”

Our destinies crossed paths for a reason on Feb. 10, 2019, and they will be forever merged on the first day of spring 2021. The search is over.

 

1 Comment
  1. Nancy is a dear friend of mine. So very glad that she has found happiness in her relationship with Bobby. Life has a way of bringing all the brokenness of our past full circle to the fullness of our future. May God Bless You both!!

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