"My Side of Our Story"
Hey everyone, this is Matt (Ahni’s very blessed husband). Telling my side of our story may sound a lot like Ahni’s side, but hopefully I can give some perspective that will be encouraging and at the same time, a blessing.
As I write this, I will be having my 44th birthday in less than a week. I’m the son of a ministry family, a former basketball player and coach, a musician, an artist and (an aspiring) writer, but for the past 17 years I’ve been blessed to serve in many roles with the Louisiana Baptist Children's Home & Family Ministries. LBCHFM is primarily a foster care community, but we also minister to homeless single mothers, women who need educational and personal development, and children and families who live in poverty.
Prior to meeting Ahni, I had been married for 20 years, and from that God blessed me with two incredible children; Mason (20) and Mary (18). Being their father is one of the greatest blessings and honors of my entire life. Watching them grow into adulthood has had its challenges, but having adult children is a very special rewarding experience.
Prior to my divorce, the Lord began leading me in a very specific direction: one of intense personal development and personal responsibility. That was the Lord’s way of preparing me for what would be the most painful season of my life, and through that season He reminded me of two promises He had made to me when I exited my “prodigal season” way back in 1999: “I will never leave you or abandon you” and “Everything you need, I will provide.” God is so faithful! I knew that even though I’d been abandoned by a spouse of 20 years, He would not leave me alone. About five months after I received the bad news, I gave a dating app I’d never ever heard of a chance.
I had not “dated” since the year 2000, and the world was so different in 2021! Navigating through that app felt strange, but within one or two days, I came across the profile of a strikingly beautiful woman. As I read about her interests, I became very interested! If I had ever had a “wishlist” of characteristics I wanted in a wife, this “Ahni Garay” checked all the boxes! But it was when I began reading about her faith and her personal walk with the Lord that I became more than interested…and when I read, “...preferably a tall guy because I’m 5’10”” I literally laughed out loud and said, “I have to message her!” (I’m about 6’2” - whew!)
For the next five months, Ahni and I got to know each other. It started with messages and texts and then a phone call. Then came visits and planes, but in early August, I knew I loved her and I couldn’t wait to tell her. I was scheduled to fly to Texas in late August, but I couldn't wait that long so I drove 12 hours straight so I could tell this amazing woman that she had my heart and it had to be in person!
Ahni and I didn’t “fall in love” with one another. When someone falls, it’s always by accident. We both chose to love each other. Our relationship has always been very intentional and deliberate. We know God brought us together, and our bond is built on the only foundation that a marriage should built on - JESUS. Aside from all the fun we have together, my favorite part of every day is when we have our devotional time TOGETHER.
Transitioning from “married” to “divorced” to “dating” wasn’t always easy; in fact it was downright difficult, but as I mentioned earlier, the Lord was preparing me for all of it all along the way. He worked everything out for us and brought us together at just the right time. Seeing the relationship growing between Ahni and the kids has been a true wonder!
You may be wondering about how I transitioned with Ahni’s family. For starters, I came from a Cajun ancestry, which means faith and family are high priorities (so is good food!), and those are also highly valued in the Hispanic community. I only speak a little Spanish, so I began learning, both from Ahni and from the Duolingo app, but it’s not uncommon for me to Google how to say something in Spanish so I can speak to her or her family en español. For example, I learned to say “Gracias por aceptarme” so I could thank her father and mother for accepting me. I have come to love and admire them so much!
I love being part of a multi-cultural family! I’m learning new customs, traditions, and foods and I enjoy watching Ahni learn Cajun words and enjoying authentic Louisiana Cajun food (she peeled and her very first crawfish a few days ago!)
More than anything though, I value the fact that my wife, who loves me like a true Proverbs 31 woman, loves Jesus even more. I love that she spent a (long) season learning and developing her identity in Christ rather than in human relationships - because during that season she was allowing God to shape and mold her into the disciple He wanted and wife I needed. Patience of that kind is challenging, but trusting the Lord and His timing is never something we regret. I have a true companion who inspires, supports, and challenges me. She is changing my life in more ways that she realizes and as we live life and dream dreams together, God is doing such a work in both of our lives.
I usually don’t offer unsolicited advice, but if I may, I’d like to offer a few things:
Work on being a true follower of Christ first and foremost. Don’t simply be a fan of Jesus. Follow Him and know Him.
Find your identity in Christ alone, not in status, jobs, material things, or even in a relationship with a significant other.
Take personal responsibility for these things. Take responsibility for yourself: your actions, your reactions, your feelings, and your emotions.
All these things (and more) are shared values with us. They shape and bless our marriage daily!
I knew early on that I wanted Ahni to be my wife, but I didn’t rush. I watched and listened. I paid attention to patterns. That’s how I knew. For eight months, always the same. I saw a woman devoted to Jesus with all her heart. That inner beauty only served to amplify her outer beauty. Wait on the Lord, but also act in faith, and watch how He blesses your life. He is the God of creation and of restoration, and He works all things for the good of those He loves and who are called according to His purposes. My story, our story is simply a powerful testimony to God’s never-failing love and faithfulness!
- Matt Hancock