I am Mark Woodhouse, 36 years old born and raised in North Carolina. I have the most distinguished pleasure to be married to my best friend and sanity check in life, Shannon Woodhouse. Together we have just recently shared a major milestone in our lives together with the birth of our daughter Olivia Nicole this past June. Although Olivia is a blessing in our lives, she is a trying blessing to say the least but we Love her dearly and I can't imagine our lives without her now.
I graduated from North Carolina State University in 1995 with a Bachelor's of Arts Degree in Communications and somehow by the grace of God ended up married in May of 2007 to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate. A feat just a few years prior to 2007, I would have told you would have been impossible. But God saw fit to bring me a best friend in a time of need and that friendship grew over the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship Season of the Carolina Hurricanes and on threw the summer. It grew until I at first and then slowly ever so slowly Shannon realized that our life was meant to be together as not mere friends but also husband and wife. We got engaged in September of 2006 at Oak Island with the intentions of marrying in October of 2007.
My dream wedding was being married in the fall out on a farm in a barn or a great big pasture and then a great big Ole NC style pig pickin afterwards for a reception. Shannon obliged me in my whimsical fantasy and we did set out on that path trying to find just the right spot but soon realizing that it was not what God had planned for us both financially and time wise. Before long our big Fall Barn wedding became a smaller midsummer wedding in the church my brother David was serving in at the time and then eventually an even much smaller NC Outerbanks close family and a few select friends only wedding in May of 2007.
We changed course several times, such is life as I have come to realize over 36 years which is often the case in ones life. The old saying that "the path we set out on is not always the one we end up" is so true in regards to my life. Honestly, I must admit not all of those changes in course during my life were led as in my marriage planning by God. A good majority were led by my on human sinful nature and were meant for purely for my own self destruction as designed by Satan himself.
Although never completely turning my back on God, whom I had been taught about since childhood being the grandson of a Methodist pastor, there were certainly times in my life I didn't turn toward him either. If anything, I was indifferent, deciding to lead my life without his assistance or only calling on him in times of great need. For the most part I was just like any other secular Christian. I was honest enough, I didn't break man's law, I paid my taxes and was loyal to my country but I just didn't really care about my heavenly father or what he had to offer. I even still went to church for a good part of that time but I was not faithful in my prayer and devotion, in reading the bible, in the giving of my money nor being a good steward of it. I didn't seek to really know God or what I could do for my Father but mostly seeking what I could do for myself.
It got to a point that I was pretty low and looking for a much needed change. My heart was void and empty, I was going through the motions of day to day life. And then God stepped in at a Christmas party in 2004 at a friend's house. I was invited with the intent of being setup with a particular one of her friends named Lisa. When the night was through my interest was not in Lisa however but in that of Shannon. She was full of personality, a quirky yet adorable sense of humor, into to playing board games and watching movies and when we talked we really seemed to connect. I left that party feeling better than I had in a long time. When I talked later with my friend to inquire more about Shannon I learned that she had the desire and was prepping herself to be a missionary in Africa. Her goals were set and they didn't include a lost soul like me so I didn't pursue the matter any further.
Jump to a year later, Christmas 2005, Shannon and I both having gone through equally bad relationships during the year meet up again at the same Christmas Party with the same people and it was just like last time. Well, thankfully this time I listened to where God was obviously leading me to in my heart and I began to hang out more and more with Shannon and our mutual friend and finally got the courage since Shannon seemed to like to do things to ask Shannon if she wanted to get season tickets for the remaining part of the Hurricanes season as they were doing very well. She was agreeable and another buddy of mine heard and wanted in so the 3 of us got the season ticket plan for the remaining of the season. Little did we know that it was going to be a very long remaining of the season as the Hurricanes when a Stanley Cup Run and would eventually win it. But during all those home games and watching the away games at local eateries with Shannon we found ourselves paying less attention to the game and more to each other. It got to be a running joke that whenever we would start talking and stopped paying attention to the game the Canes we score. I can't tell you how many goals we missed seeing but we just kept talking. By the time the season was finally over, Shannon and I had developed a strong friendship
So that summer we maintained our connection and we began to get together weekly to grill out the some of the food that Shannon had been prepping at Dream Dinners which required a grill which she didn't have but I being a guy of course had. It was a summer of fun for us and we even ended up taken a trip to the Mountains for little white water rafting in which Shannon would tell you she nearly lost her life. During this time I got to witness first hand the deep spiritual life Shannon had and her closeness with God was like none other than I had known. She had a different kind of relationship with God, deep and personal and I began to yearn for something like that too.
Around this same time I had been involved in an Christian acapella ensemble named Pneumena and we had a Prison Ministry at the Federal Correction Institute at Butner. We would go bimonthly to the prison to sing for the men old spirituals and such and one of our members, who is a Methodist Pastor, would also preach. It was there that I got to see more of this close deep relationship with God like that of my wife's. These men "Knew" God they just didn't know of him as I had and they worshiped him and he was in their hearts and minds. Most of these men had done some very bad things yet they seemed redeemed and felt loved. I was there to minister to them but they actually did more to minister to me. At one point while at the prison during the service I reaffirmed my commitment to Jesus and my life since then began to change in ways I could have only imagined. I knew a Jesus as my friend and not just God as my father. Things at my job began to change for the better as I began to advance in my career. My financial situation began to improve through those promotions and also by Shannon teaching me how to budget my money, pay off my debt and the joys of tithing. I also found a new church home in Crossroads Fellowship where I felt for the first time that the teachings were directed directly at me and the needs in my life specifically at that moment. It was awesome that first Sunday when Pastor Chuck gave a sermon and addressed an issue that I was dealing with right at that very moment and his sermon along with prayer and the reading my bible I was able deal with the situation Biblically and appropriately. This practical application style of preaching drew me in and helped nurture the growing personal relationship with Jesus that was developing inside of me.
So I changed course in my life, with God this time at the helm and although I can't say it's always been perfect since, it certainly has been much more fulfilling. Shannon and I have managed in under 3 years to pay off all our debts except for the house most of which I had unwisely accumulated, save quite a bit of money for an emergency and now have began the Parenthood journey. God has taken what I have learned both in times of spiritual neglect and in times of plenty to mold me to prepare me for his purpose. What life has instore for us God only knows but one thing I can be sure of is that he will be right there along with us leading us all the way if we only choose to follow. So, although I like a good diaper deal and have decided to blog about it amongst other things, please note that the Ultimate Deal is to be had by that very day on Calvary where God's own perfect Son Jesus Christ gave up his life for ours and you only have to accept it to get it.