I like to tell people that I grew up in the Seattle area, but truth be told I grew up in Federal Way, Washington (a.k.a. the home of Wild Waves and Enchanted Village). My parents were divorced when I was 12 years old. My mom worked hard to support us and we always had a special bond. My dad remarried shortly afterwards and I spent the next 5 years going back and forth from mom's house to dad's house, spending every-other-week at a different home. Sundays had gone from family days to days spent packing my suitcase. We did not go to church as a family, but my mom and I would go for an occasional Easter service or midnight mass on Christmas Eve. My stepmom started going to a Foursquare church in FW regularly and I was exposed to the church through her coming to faith in Jesus.
My outlet came in the form of athletics. More specifically, tennis. I spent my entire childhood playing tennis for hours a day and lived at the tennis club. I played competitive tennis from 8 to 22 years old. Tennis brought me a singles and doubles high school championship, a college education, a career track, and most importantly, the girl I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.
I was born and raised in Beaverton, Oregon and I still live in the same wonderful neighborhood I was brought up in. I had an extremely tight knit family who were all believers. My parents displayed an amazing example of a godly marriage and a true partnership. My brother, Jason, and I were best friends growing up and still remain very close to this day. We were raised to live by faith and not by sight. I always had faith in our Savior and was baptized in elementary school along with my brother. In high school and college I had fallen away from living like a believer. I sought the approval of all the materials things this world had to offer.
Tennis was not only a large part of my life, but was in my family lineage. My dad played professional tennis and my mom was a very good player as well. At one point in time my grandpa built a grass tennis court for all of the family to practice on. Tennis required my focus and attention and always brought me back to my roots. After high school, I played tennis at University of Portland.
Ram: early encounters
If it hasn't already been highlighted, tennis was and is a huge part of both our lives. From an early age we began playing competitive tennis. Jason, Kellee's brother, and I are the same age and competed against each other growing up from the age of 10 years old. Even though we lived in different states, we competed in the Pacific Northwest region. Kellee and I first met in Arizona at a team competition. Jason and I were on the same team and Kellee's dad was our coach. I was 10 and Kellee was 8 years old at the time. We grew up seeing each other at tennis tournaments a few times a year up until high school, but it wasn't until college that our paths would really cross.
After 2 years at Seattle U, I decided to transfer to the University of Portland. The summer before starting at UP, I was playing a tennis tournament at Tacoma Lawn and Tennis Club and spotted Kellee, all grown up, from afar. Kellee's mom recollects that I was hanging around their family more than usual at that tournament. Later during the fall, I saw Kellee at another tournament at the University of Oregon (Jason was a Duck!). Yes, I spotted Kellee once again! I commented to one of the guys on the team that Kellee had caught my eye and I proceeded to get mocked the entire drive back from Eugene because she was "Menke's sister" (a.k.a. Jason's sister).
Kellee was at UO that fall, but a rumor was going around when I returned from Christmas break that she was transferring to UP to play tennis. I wasn't sure if these were just rumors or if the guys on the team were still giving me a hard time. I was driving home from the tennis center shortly after coming back from the break and there in the parking lot was Kellee, walking back to her dorm room carrying her Babalot tennis bag. I narrowly missed hitting a parked car as I passed by! I immediately became the #1 fan of the girls’ tennis team and was doing my "homework" while watching their home matches. Kellee's parents were at the matches and noticed I was there a lot. Her dad says that I was "shopping" for my significant other at those matches.
Kellee: the beginning
For my 19th birthday on January 19, 2002, Ram asked me out on a date and gave me tickets to a Jack Johnson concert. I was excited! Ram was like no guy I had ever dated. He actually called me on the phone and genuinely cared about me. In fact, he started to call so often that I got scared and asked him to give me a little space. I was used to being very independent and this made me panic a bit. Well, Ram being the kind man that he is did just what I asked and stopped calling! Oh he knew what he was doing because sure enough I was begging him to call me again. I knew Ram was the one for me and was like no other guy.
Going into my sophomore year of college I was living with three girls from my tennis team and it was a very bad situation. I was hazed, verbally abused, bullied, and pushed to do things I was not comfortable with. I turned to Ram as my shelter, he basically lived with me at my house because I was fearful of being alone. I developed severe anxiety and moments of depression which lead me to quit the tennis team, transfer to Portland State, and move back home. In February of that year, Ram and I had dinner with my parents and we spoke to them about our future plans together. They told Ram they loved him, but did not agree with our living together. We assured them of our intentions. By this time Ram truly was part of the family. Ram was about to graduate, had no money, lots of school debt and ended up moving in with me at my parents' house. Now this was not an ideal situation for my parents. They were trying to support me and Ram, but clearly disagreed with our living situation. I also felt God pulling at my heart many times but felt like I had already sinned. How could I change my situation and not lose the man I loved?
Two months after moving home, I was driving to PSU one morning and suddenly felt horribly ill. I got home having no clue what it could be and suddenly my heart sunk deep into the pit of my stomach. I was pregnant! I was so ashamed of myself and the sin I was living in. What is Ram going to say? My parents? My friends? That day when I picked Ram up from work I told him everything. We agreed we needed to get married, and fast! I was so thankful that I could once again run to Ram for shelter. Now we had to tell our parents. My dad got the news first because my mom was on a business trip. My poor dad. Both of my parents were amazing and showered us with unconditional love, never judging or reprimanding us. Everyone was in full support of the marriage. We looked at the calendar for dates and the only day that worked was a Wednesday night…in 13 days!
Now as you can imagine, finding a pastor to marry us was quite the challenge. We had done no marriage counseling, were living in sin and we wanted to get married in 13 days! Not exactly a recipe for marriage. However, Kellee and I knew that we were meant for each other and our intention was to eventually get married, so we searched tirelessly until we found someone. We met with our pastor three times to take a crash course in marriage counseling and by the end of our first session, I confessed with my lips that Jesus was the Lord and Savior of my life. Somehow in the whirlwind of school, work, the pregnancy, and trying to get married in 13 days, it all came together and made sense to me. That this was all happening for a reason, that Kellee and I were knowingly living in sin, that God's plan trumped all of my plans and was far bigger than what I could fathom. Satan tried to spoil our plans for marriage a few times before the big day and one of those attempts was that our pastor had a stroke four days before the wedding. Luckily the lead pastor at the church was able to step in. A few days later we confessed before God that we would love each other in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
Kellee: getting married
The rehearsal dinner was finally here! Family from near and far gathered for a beautiful barbecue at the home of family friends. Right before heading to the barbecue I started having horrible stomach cramps. Scared to death, I had no clue what this meant, but I continued to cramp and bleed while trying to pull myself together to face our family and friends. I think I spent the majority of the night scared and crying in the bathroom trying to conceptualize what this could mean. The next morning I woke up and it was much worse, more cramping and bleeding. My extended family was at the house along with some of the bridal party making flower arrangements for the wedding as my mom and I raced to the doctor's office. Remember, I'm 20 years old and this is on my wedding day. The doctor told me just what I feared, I was having a miscarriage and that it would happen very soon. With my mom holding my hand, silent tears streamed down our cheeks and many prayers were said. As we left the office to head home I was literally balling and so sad for the loss and fearful that Ram would not want to marry me anymore! Calling Ram on the way home to tell him what had happened and that we had lost our baby filled me with such dread. The first response Ram had was, "I can't wait to marry you today!" Wow, I love this man!
We went on to embrace a day of two lives becoming one with nearly 200 family and friends by our side - on a Wednesday night mind you. The wedding was one of beauty, grace and unconditional love. I ended up miscarrying that night in our honeymoon suite. It was so hard to grasp all that had happened to us in thirteen days, but not once did I question God's intentions. It was very clear that we were living in sin and needed to make things right with our Father. I'm so thankful that we love a God that would cover my sin with grace and redeem my husband through salvation! What an amazing God we serve!
Kellee: nine years later
Here we are almost nine years later, seeing God's miracles every day in our lives. Ram is a CPA and works in finance at Novellus Systems. I am blessed to be able to pour into our two amazing boys (Luka 5 and Tristan 4) and I work as an Psal on the side from home. Ram and I continue to love life and laugh together, just as we did when we started dating ten years ago, but have now put Jesus at the front of our marriage. We are striving to live out each day placing our trust in the Lord and just maybe through our story, we can show God's glory to others as we continue to grow in the Lord.
God's plan for us has not been without challenges and tests. Luka was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old. We are so thankful for our trust in the Lord's plan. We have never asked, “Why us or why Luka?” We know that God never gives us more than we can handle. Luka's journey has made us more patient, kind, and understanding as parents. We've continued to grow closer to Him through it all!
Jesus, you could have written our story on any other day, but truly Your power is perfected in our weakness. Thank you Lord for saving us from our sin and covering us with your grace. We love you!
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6