Read the Powerful Story of how Ariana and I came together (Excerpt from The Book with a Hook)

That was it! I had had it. This whole dating thing was such a waste of time for me. After my semi-heartbreak in junior year of high school in the story entitled “But…I’m in love?” I made the decision not to date but instead to wait for my wife.

I would hear people say things like:

“Justin you are wasting your time you need to date.”

“You have to find out what kind of woman you like so you need to date around.”

“You are going to be waiting a long time.”

“You are missing out on a lot of fun!”

I was fine with waiting. I was fine with not trying to go through the strain and confusion of sifting through a bunch of different girls to see which one I liked. I knew that it was much more important to trust God to bring me my wife while working on myself and discovering my vision compared to being distracted with the dating life.

Entering my senior year of high school I remember praying to God and asking Him to lead me straight to my wife. I had this knowing that she wasn’t in my school so in my senior year I stayed far away from any relationship that could turn into something that was more than friends. I also decided to write out my “Dream Girl” on a piece of paper and the qualities included: believed and followed God, stayed pure, wavy dark brown hair, around five-feet-three inches to five-feet-five inches tall, worked out, and was Italian. Yes I put Italian. I have always had a thing for Italians and I figured it was because my future wife must have had some in her.

Upon graduating my senior year of high school my parents moved us back to our old house that we grew up in. My sister Christine got enrolled as a sophomore in her new school and my youngest sister Julia was enrolled in the same elementary school that I went to. Come to find out she ended up getting the same kindergarten teacher that I had. This was a little awkward because I had left a bad taste in my kindergarten teacher’s mouth due to my horrible behavior of throwing rocks at the school windows and bonking a frenemy in the head with a block when I was five-years-old. Since Julia was included in my crazy (out-of-control) family, she had some ground to cover.

In August of 2014 both of my sisters were enrolled in school and I was a high school graduate who didn’t know what to do with his life as he lived at home with his parents. I was confused and restless. I didn’t want to go to college because I had just gotten back from a year of speaking across the country and shaking hands with some of the greats like Les Brown, Bob Proctor, Sharan Lechter, and many others. Most of the successful entrepreneurs out there told me that college was a big waste of time but for my life their advice didn’t sit right with me. After all of the excitement and success out in the speaker world I am now at home thinking to myself “Now what?” Another month flew by and I walked into ACC (Austin Community College) my local junior college. I was not looking forward to going but I was so tired of sitting at home with nothing to do I figured that I needed to find some way to keep me moving forward. Reluctantly I walked into the junior college admissions center and I sat down in an office where an overly enthusiastic lady with an extreme amount of excitement said to me, “Tell me why you are so excited about attending ACC!” She sat there with a big smile and I wasn’t going to lie to her. I wasn’t going to say, “You know ever since I was a little boy I have been dreaming about attending this junior college. I have ACC posters hanging up in my room with an ACC bedspread. I have been so looking forward to attending a college where everywhere I look people are unhappy with their lives.” Instead I told her the truth about how I was at a crossroads with my life and wanted to at least start taking classes to keep me busy and also to get some basic credentials out of the way. She understood and signed me up for the only ones available – two online classes. “Gross!” I thought. “I’ll take them” I said. At least I would stay productive.

Months went by slowly as I spent most of my time working on online school work, working as a server, going to the gym, reading books, and being isolated. All of my friends had moved to other Universities while I was stuck at ACC. I was so alone but fortunately I wasn’t lonely. I spent so much time seeking God and reading His Word that I became completely content where I was. I didn’t know what my next step in life was but all I knew was that I was being held in a very isolated space. Not too long beforehand I was standing on stages with people laughing and clapping and now I was in the silence of my room. Through the long period of isolation I learned and grew in so many more ways than if I was to go straight into a University. It gave me time to think and realize a lot about myself. But most importantly my desire for God and His Word continued to grow. I began hearing His voice on another level and my joy was overflowing. My sister Christine was wondering where all of my joy was coming from because she knew that I was isolated and had no friends nearby. I told her what was happening and she was inspired. After about eight months of no direction I got downloaded the next step of my life. I was to go and get a business degree. Once I realized this and it was followed by peace I began preparing myself for transition. Fortunately I would have gotten all of my basics out of the way at the extremely exciting ACC before transferring to a Business School. Little did I know that which was coming next. God isolated me from the crowds, from the wild University life, and from my friends for an enormous purpose. He followed that by giving me the vision for the next phase of my life. But the whole time He was preparing me to meet my wife.

I walked into the gym as usual with my ugly green gym bag hitting up against the side of my knee as I pulled back the entrance door. And there working behind the front desk stood the most beautiful girl. She had wavy brown hair, sparkling eyes, and a smile that made those Orbit gum commercials look bad. She smiled at me and I smiled back as I handed her my card to get checked into the gym.

“Hey how are you doing?” I asked.

“Good! How are you?” she quickly responded.

“I am doing good thank you,” I replied as I walked towards the locker room. I wished that I could have thought of more words to say but I was lost for them. As I was walking up the steps to the workout room I kept thinking to myself, “Wow she is so beautiful…I don’t have a chance.”

A few weeks go by and my good friend Austin was back in town from school and we decided to hit up the gym like old times. We walked into the gym and there she was again. My knees got weak but I kept my poise as best I could. Austin and I walked up to her and I asked if I could check my friend in as a guest and she handed us some paperwork to fill out. Austin nudged me with his arm and said to me “Dude…she’s clean” (Translation) “Justin…she’s attractive”. I nodded with a grin as she helped check in other members. This time I got a glimpse of her name tag – Ariana. “What a beautiful name” I thought to myself.

After Austin finished filling out the guest sign-in paper work, we went upstairs to workout. And out of nowhere he blurts out, “Dude I don’t know what this is but I have a strange feeling that that girl down there could be your wife.”

I responded quickly “What? Where did that come from?”

Shaking his head in disbelief he said, “I don’t know but I have this feeling and I can’t shake it. That girl down there could be you’re wife. She’s totally you’re type.”

In order to get Austin to calm down I told him to keep his feelings to himself and we continued up with the rest of our workout. As I lay in bed that night the words melted over me “She could be my wife” as it spread a smile across my face while I drifted off to sleep.

I dreamt that night and every night for a week and Ariana was in every single one of them. I had never dreamt about anyone like that before and I had only had small talk with her. Then for an entire month she was in nearly every single one of my dreams. There was something going on. Not too long after the dreams had started, I was on the phone with my personal life coach. Out of nowhere he gets a strong sensation and asks me, “Have you been thinking about a significant other?” I replied “No…I mean kind of.” Then he tells me, “Justin I feel God so strongly on this – you have seen your wife.” I panicked. The shock factor caused my mind to flip out and I envisioned different girls that I had seen over the past two years. As my mind went from picture to picture of all these different girls I thought “No…No…No not that one…No not that girl…Oh God NO!” But then my mind settled on a mental picture of Ariana working at the front desk in the gym.

Immediately peace filled my mind and body as I responded over the phone, “Well there is this girl at the gym.”

My coach replied, “Have you talked to her?”

A little shamefully I replied “Only small talk but I intend to make it big talk real soon”. He laughed and wished me luck.

Not quite knowing what hours she worked or even worked out I decided to go to the gym about every day for the sole purpose of seeing her. I would see her occasionally and when I did I didn’t know how to approach her to start a conversation without it looking like I was hitting on her. So I came up with an idea. I would ask her for a basketball since all basketballs had to be given by those working at the front desk. After she would hand me the basketball, I would then walk to the locker room, put the basketball in my locker, go upstairs and workout. After the workout I would shower, put on some really good cologne but not too much, grab the basketball, dodge the creepy naked old men who walk around the locker room with a towel dangling from their hand rather than on their waste, and then approach the front desk with the basketball in my hands. This way, when she would walk up to receive the ball, I could create a conversation with her rather than look like I was blatantly hitting on her. We would then talk and our conversations flowed smoothly. I did this a couple of times to create conversation but someone would always walk in the gym and need to be checked in so it would cut our conversation short.

While I was working on my homework one afternoon my mom walked into the room and asked, “Justin have you seen that brunette who works at the front desk of the gym?”

I responded calmly, “Yeah I have.”

My mom blurted out “Oh my gosh, she is gorgeous!”

I knew that there was something extremely special about this girl because up until this one my mom had shunned nearly every girl that came within three feet of me. As word got around my household my dad was curious enough to see who she was. After wiping the cobwebs off of his gym membership he went there to see who this mystery girl was. After he came back I asked, “So…what do you think dad?” He looked at me with a blank stare and said, “Son…you don’t have a chance.” I am glad he believed in me. It should be apparent that my dad and I are extremely open with each other but honestly I didn’t think I had much of a chance either.

Now it is in the middle of June of 2015 and my pastor asked me if I wanted to preach on the following Sunday. I agreed and that Sunday I gave my life testimony consisting of all the crazy stories and drama of my life interwoven with all the amazing wisdom God had taught me. I didn’t think I had much of a testimony but I figured that if my life had a little bit of testing and a little bit of moaning then I had a testimony. Once I started sharing my experiences I got into this flow and without realizing it I went for an hour and a half. Towards the end I could see my grandma on the front row wiggling uncomfortably in her chair probably thinking, “Justin hurry this testimony up I have a game of Bingo to catch.”

After the video got published on YouTube under “Justin Renner First Time Preaching – Life Story” I secretly wanted Ariana to somehow watch it without me pushing it on her. Since we were following each other on Instagram I posted a picture of the video itself with the link to it in the bio. Shortly after posting it Ariana liked the picture (she was always one of the first to like my photos) and I wondered if she watched the video or not. It was me in the raw. The video of me telling my life story would show her so much of who I am and I just hoped that she would take the time to watch it.

Time ticked by and my friend Ben (who has been my best friend for nine years) was in town and we decided to go to the gym together like old times as well. While we were upstairs working out, Ariana was up there working out as well. I was aware of her presence in the gym but was nervous to talk to her. Eventually we made eye contact and something just pushed me to walk up and talk to her. We said our hellos and immediately there was a strong presence of chemistry. It was as if we had known each other for a long time although we were barely getting to know each other. Well actually I was barely getting to know her after she mentioned that she watched my video testimonial. I immediately asked her, “Did you watch the whole thing?”

Because it’s a really long video and I figured that if she stuck through it to the end…I had a chance. She laughed and told me that she indeed watched the whole thing. We asked questions back and forth and through our ten minutes of talking I realized that our values, personality and beliefs just matched up. We clicked on a level that I had never clicked with anyone before. But what hooked me the most about her was that she was a woman of faith and one who loved God. I knew that that was the best start. We ended our conversation on a good laugh and I went back to my workout with Ben.

He asked me, “Who is that?”

I responded “Oh just a girl who I am getting to know.”

Ben laughed and said, “Oh that could be your wife”.

I smiled and replied, “You have no idea.”

Before I knew it summer was pretty much over as we entered the month of August. I couldn’t stop thinking about Ariana and I justified my habit of looking at her Instagram photo’s twice a day by telling myself that it wasn’t creepy because she was my future wife. The only problem was I hadn’t asked her out yet. I had never done anything like that before but I figured that I would see her at ACC since we were both going to be attending that fall and we could hang out there. But then I got a Facebook message from her. She invited me and a mutual friend to go to church with her because all of her friends were out of town. I was thinking to myself “Oh great you slow poke you waited so long to ask her out that she had to do it herself.” I went ahead and accepted her offer but made it clear that I was going to drive her and our mutual friend to the church so it looked more like I was taking her out rather than the other way around. I also asked for her digits through the Facebook message so I think it definitely made up for the fact that she asked me out first.

That Sunday I was nervous. I could barely eat as I continued to watch the clock tick by hour by hour until it was 5:30pm when I needed to leave to pick her up. I first picked up our mutual friend named Christian and told him everything. I told him all about how I thought that this woman was my wife-to-be and he was ready to see if there was chemistry between me and her. I pulled up to her house, Christian and I got out of the car and walked up to the front door. My heart was pounding as I rang the doorbell. Seconds went by like minutes and then the door opened. There she was again – absolutely stunning. She was wearing pink shorts with a blue top and smiling from ear to ear. I hadn’t seen her outside of the gym yet so this was definitely a step up in our relationship.

I drove her and Christian to the church and the whole time there we were laughing and having a blast. It was wonderful. We arrived at the church and worship had already started. Immediately I was reminded that a week or two earlier when while I was walking to my car I heard a strong voice deep in my spirit that I knew was from God which said, “You will know your wife by the way she worships.” As worship was continuing I was peeking at her to see how she was carrying herself. Immediately I knew that this woman had a worshiping heart for God. She didn’t just worship and sing about God but too Him. And the whole time I kept on hearing a peaceful voice in my spirit saying, “You are worshiping next to your wife” and “You are standing next to your wife.” I also saw an angel (I used to see a lot when I was younger) near the ceiling of the church and this angel was pointing to Ariana while smiling at me and nodding its head. The moment overwhelmed me that I started tearing up and they began streaming down my cheeks. At first I didn’t want Ariana to see but I thought that maybe she would look over and see that I was so lost in worship and in love with God that I must cry every time I worship Him. She would probably think, “Oh what a God loving man…marry me.” Going with my plan I let the tears fall but when she looked over at me she started laughing at me but I could see that she was trying to hide the fact that she thought it was funny. Disappointed that my plan didn’t work out like I had thought, I wiped my tears and wondered how in the world I was going to share this experience with her without freaking her out. The service continued and afterwards we grabbed a bite to eat and I drove her home. After she got out of the car Christian told me that the he saw this unexplainable connection too. But I didn’t tell him all that had happened during the worship service.

We had started our journey. We began meeting up at school to spend hours to talk and get to know each other. She was everything and more of what I could have asked and wanted. Not only did she possess character and an amazing personality but she was so gorgeous. I still get lost in amazement while looking at her when she’s talking to me. We would go to a lot of group functions together and then after we would sit on the street or the curb outside and talk for hours. There were never any awkward silences we just flowed with one another. We talked about our past, present and desired future and we knew we were a perfect match but didn’t know how to bring it up.

A month into building our friendship it I thought that I had blown it. What happened was she invited me to go salsa dancing and I agreed but there was just one problem…I can’t dance. I was never allowed to go to school dances so I didn’t know what how or what to do. We scheduled a date to go salsa dancing with some friends of ours and I was still anxious. I arrived a little earlier than her and was waiting outside of the building pacing back and forth trying to remember all of the “How to Salsa Dance for white boys who can’t dance” YouTube videos I had watched all week long. Then I looked up and in a flowing red dress was her. It was another one of those special moments that marked a memorable spot in our journey together. We went upstairs and the music was bumping but my hips were not. I felt so white mainly because I am but I knew that I was making such a fool of myself. I didn’t know if she was enjoying herself at all but my obvious lack of confidence on the dance floor showed because I nearly dropped her several times while trying to tip her back. I didn’t watch a “How To” YouTube video on that move so I was really in the dark. Sweating through my shirt I wanted to just closed my eyes and open them again and wake up in my room relieved that this was just a nightmare. Here I had spent so much time getting to know her and my horrible salsa dancing skills were going to ruin everything for us. I couldn’t really talk to her either because the music was so loud. I was supposed to speak to her through my dancing but the only words that she received from me were “I am so sorry. I know I can’t dance. I feel so awkward. I want to go home.” I figured that my dancing was so embarrassing that she would realize that she was out of my league.

Once the whole group decided to leave I jumped on that opportunity and we took off. We all went out to a breakfast joint and before Ariana and I headed home we were having another deep conversation in the car. I asked her, “Where do you see us going?” And she answered, “I would be really surprised if we didn’t get married.” I was stunned for a moment and my silence caused her to panic. “I know that this is so early…” she said quickly. I wondered if this woman had short term memory loss and forgot about how horrible my dancing was. But I replied with a smirk, “Wow when did you know?” She said, “After two minutes of watching your testimony on YouTube I knew that you were my husband.” In amazement I then I told her all about the knowing’s, dreams and signs that she was my wife-to-be. I also shared with her the experience that I had at the worship service. She got more and more joyful as I poured out my thoughts and feelings about her. Then I asked her, “Are you Italian?”

She laughed, “Yeah why?”

I shook my head in disbelief and shared with her all of the characteristics that I had wrote about my “Dream Girl” a couple years earlier. She matched them perfectly. She believed and followed God, stayed pure and had wavy dark brown hair. She was around five-feet-three inches tall, worked out, and was Italian. After I shared this with her she showed me picture on her phone of a piece of paper that she had written on a couple of years earlier as well about her “Dream Guy” and I matched it. Some of the characteristics included: believes and lives his life for God, believes in abstinence, isn’t a big partier, and cute. The atmosphere in the car was thick with joy as we stared at each other in complete amazement at what God has brought together.

The day came. December 28, 2015 was the day that I was going to get down on one knee and ask Ariana to spend the rest of her life with me. I knew that this was a huge decision and I didn’t take it lightly. But I believed so strongly that this was right. I had bought the ring three weeks before hand and it was just sitting in my dresser ever since. Every day I would open it up and just look at it while thinking about her. To her it seemed like a normal day. I told Ariana that I wanted to treat her to an Italian restaurant that I used to work at. She happily agreed and on the way there I noticed that the sun was beginning to set so I pulled off to the side of the road and said, “Hey let’s hike up this hill and watch the sunset.” Ariana loves sunsets so she hopped out of the car and we began our journey up. Once we got to the top I was just holding her while we gazed over the glistening blue lake as the sun was painting orange and red on the horizon. It was perfect. The photographers were hiding behind us ready to capture the moment. My heart was beating rapidly out of my chest but at the same time I was so confident in what I was doing so I turned facing her. The moment I opened my mouth to tell her how much I loved her I could see in her eyes that she knew exactly what was happening. I don’t remember much of what I said but I do remember two important things: I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me and she said yes! The photographers started taking photos as I slipped the precious promise on her finger.

I couldn’t think of a better way to close a book that took three years to write than to introduce the beginning of a brand new story.

I am so grateful that I didn’t try to date around but rather prepared myself to meet my wife. It saved me from so much heartbreak and distraction while allowing me to get focused on the vision for my life. Right before meeting Ariana I knew that I was supposed to go to Business School and get a degree so I am on that road right now. But I am not doing it without Ariana. There is so much I know about her and there is so much yet to discover. I know that as time goes on I will only learn to love her deeper and more sacrificially as we continue our lives together.

The biggest life changer for me has been that when I started seeking God He became my fulfillment rather than the other things in life that I was told would fulfill me but instead always over promised and under delivered. He plugged the holes in my heart that kept allowing my joy seep out and He filled me with His. When I knew that I was loved by Him I no longer needed to try and find someone to love me. Instead He has loved me so I can love others. Ariana began seeking God around the same time I did – and two years later he brought us together. The important statement that Ariana and I always tell people is: We weren’t looking when we found each other. We weren’t trying to find someone to make us happy because we had already found Him. This is the key and must remain the core of our relationship as our lives unfold together.

This book is about becoming a whole person. It is about discovering our greatness and living a victorious life. It’s about seeking out our purpose and leaving our mark on the planet before we leave the earth. We all have something amazing to offer and trapped on the inside of us are dreams, visions, ideas, inventions, books, songs, businesses, designs, stories, solutions and many more that need to come out. My heart is that this book has enlarged people’s visions and possibilities for their own lives. We aren’t here to “get by” but to dominate. Life isn’t supposed to rule us but we are supposed to rule in life. This all starts by changing our mindset about who we are and giving ourselves permission to let our light so shine.

I hope that this book has made you smile or laugh and has filled you with inspiration. Thank you for reading, “The Book with a Hook”. If this book has hooked and captured and changed just one person’s life it was so worth it.