Sometimes, we are fortunate to get what we need even when we aren't looking for it. This was the case for Maria Vaughn Spano.
Maria was living her life as a busy, independent, single woman who was dedicated to strengthening her faith and actively engaged in groups/activities at her place of worship, Church of the Highlands. In the summer of 2015, Maria met Paul Lamon Keenum. However, initially, the meeting didn't cause a spark. The two had limited interaction for nearly a year. With some gentle nudging, an unforgettable story and a heart for animals, these two were on a path to get exactly what they didn't know they actually needed.
Maria was a member of the worship team at the Church of the Highlands and had a desire to start a small co-ed group of individuals seeking to meet and walk their dogs. Upon learning that a male member would be needed as a co-leader in order to lead a small co-ed group, Maria began a campaign of prayer and actively seeking someone that would assist in leading this group with her. "I remembered through small talk that Paul said he would totally attend a dog walking small group if I lead one."
One search of her phone for Paul's number and a quick text to ask if he would be interest in participating in the small group, put Maria well on her way. Or so she thinks, funny thing is Maria saved someone else's number under Paul's name and after not hearing a response from 'Paul' for days Maria began to think the worse. Finally, Maria received a text from the real person she texted saying they would not able to participate in the small group and alerting her to the fact that this wasn't Paul.
After some searching, Maria was able to connect with Paul and Paul agreed. Prayers answered!
Let's make it clear right now, Maria and Paul were JUST FRIENDS when they began leading the group. Although that might be how things started, that is definitely not where things stayed. After inviting herself to a movie with Paul and a few other guys from their worship team, a few weeks later Paul asked Maria to hang out with him and his roommates at his house. By the end of the night, Paul had asked her out to dinner for the following weekend. "Our friendship quickly turned into more. I knew on our first date, that it would be my last first date."
Of the first date, on October 8, 2016, Maria recalled, "everything was perfect. The conversation never stopped." "He definitely stole my heart over time." "I was at a point in my life that I wasn't going to go out with guys just for fun. I wanted to make sure that I was REALLY sure about Paul." "Throughout the process of falling for Paul, I always knew in the back of my mind that he was going to be the one."
With such busy schedules, these two enjoy the simple pace of things when they are together. For Maria and Paul, faith, football and enjoying Mad Men on Netflix is how they bond and unwind.
The proposal came following Paul's return from a mission trip to Panama. It would be the first time the couple would be separated for such a length of time since they began dating. Once on the trip, Paul says that their friend Zack "accidentally" made it known to the group that Paul was planning to propose. Of course, it became the talk of the trip. During a stop a the local ministry's college, a host asked to pray over everyone individually, not knowing Paul or his current situation, the host asked Paul if he was getting engaged soon and proceed to pray for their marriage.
Paul was overtaken with emotions and could not wait another moment to ask Maria to be his wife. One problem, they were in two different countries. Upon his arrival back in the states, Paul quickly made his way to Maria and following the dinner she had prepared for his return, Paul retrieved the ring and got down on bended knee to ask for Maria's hand in marriage.
So, on March 9, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Paul and Maria will celebrate their love for one another by being joined as husband and wife in what can only be described as a "laid back eloquence" "spring time garden" themed wedding. And to think, Maria only wanted someone who would co-lead her small worship dog-walking group and ended up getting someone who would be willing to walk with her through this life. Definitely, not what she was looking for but exactly what she needed!