“For since a man and his wife are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he loves his wife!” – Ephesians 5:28.

Next to the Bible verses, which were highlighted in pink, was a small section that had been cut from the pages. A pink heart had been drawn around the hole — and inside was an engagement ring.

Circled in pink were the words “And the two shall be one.” – Ephesians 5:31.

As Stephanie Parsons held the Bible in her hand and stared down at the ring, Eric Lefdahl got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Nine and a half years later, they are married with two children.

What led to their relationship was a whole string of coincidences that they never saw coming, the couple said while at their Anderson home.

Both Eric and Stephanie, now 35 and 33, who lived in different towns in Wyoming, ended up at Anderson University without having special connections to it, never having visited it, or even been in Indiana.

Eric was backpacking through Europe when he spoke to his sister, who felt he should settle down and think about his future. She was attending AU and convinced him to apply. Eric sent in his application from England, and found out he had been accepted while in Poland.

Stephanie, meanwhile, had been enrolled in a college in Wyoming, but right before she was to start classes she changed her mind. She decided she wanted to go to a Christian college, found Anderson University, and changed paths one week before the semester started.

Stephanie and Eric met in August 1994.

“My girlfriends said I should move in with them, into a house with three apartments,” Stephanie said. “When I pulled up to move in — I had Wyoming plates on my car. The car I parked behind also had Wyoming plates on them. I thought that was weird.”

The owner of the car, Eric, happened to live on the second floor, and came out to help her move in.

Five guys lived in the bottom apartment, Eric in the middle one, and Stephanie and two girls in the top one — and they all became friends.

“I was good friends with the three girls and another guy,” Eric said. “We were best friends, the five of us.

“I was kind of interested in all three girls — in fact, I really liked all three,” he said, chuckling. “I was interested a little more in one of the girls, and then she and Stephanie left on break. When they got back a switch had been thrown. All of a sudden it was just Steph.

“We were together everyday anyway,” Eric said. “Even as friends she would lie in my arms and I would rub her hair when we watched movies. We were doing everything together anyway — we are just kissing now.”

Eric would always do sweet things for the three girls, like wash their dishes, make their beds and fill their apartment up with balloons and flowers. And although he always surprised Stephanie with gifts, she started to wonder if he had other intentions after two years of friendship.

Stephanie left on a mission trip to Mexico, and had been planning on moving to Nashville when she returned. While she was there, Eric told her he needed to ask her something when she got home.

“I thought ‘Oh God, this guy is going to ask me out and I don’t want to go out with him,” she said, laughing. “I just saw him as a good friend and had plans on moving.”

When she got back to Indiana, Eric was waiting for her at the airport with a big blue teddy bear, which they still have and keep in their son’s room. What he needed to ask her was for her not to move to Nashville.

A few days later he sent her roses and a balloon that said “I Love You.” Then they went on a walk with their friends and he tried to hold her hand. As Eric became more and more interested in her, she started to fall for him as well.

On Aug. 11, 1996, they went on their first date and watched the movie “Bed of Roses.” Things moved rather quickly after that.

On Sept. 20 Eric surprised Stephanie by popping the question.

“I needed to throw her off, so I told her we’d go on a picnic after work,” Eric said. “I knew she wouldn’t suspect at all. I thought I’d do something real casual, like get Subway sandwiches.”

Eric took Stephanie to Edgewater Park for the picnic, and when they finished eating he went back to the car.

“He came back with a big clear bucket with ice and packages on top of it,” Stephanie said. “He said he had decided every Friday was gift day.”

She unwrapped a Yahtzee box, which he used to throw her off. Inside of the game box was a towel, wrapped around a blue Bible.

“I thought, ‘What is this?’” Stephanie said. “I really, honestly had no clue he was proposing to me. Then I read the card.”

On the outside, the card said: “First I liked you. Then I liked you a lot. Then I loved you.” On the inside: “I’m afraid to even think of what might happen next!”

And Eric wrote in the card, “Could it be... Marriage?”

At this point, Stephanie was beginning to wonder what was going on, and if Eric was being serious. She opened the Bible and read a note Eric had written inside, referring to himself as her future husband and how God brought them together.

“When I read that part in the Bible, I knew right then,” she said. “I was floored that was happening.”

As Stephanie flipped to the back of the bible to find the ring hidden among the pages, Eric played “I love you always, forever” on a stereo and got down on one knee.

“I always knew when I wanted to propose I wanted to do a surprise,” Eric said. “She had no idea it was coming. That was the best part.”

The couple married on June 29, 1997, at Park Place Church of God. They now have two children, Caira, 5 1/2, and Caden, 3. Stephanie is a clerk at St. John’s Erskine Rehabilitation Center, while Eric is a loan analyst at Madison Community Bank.

Both Eric and Stephanie believe it was a series of coincidences, luck, and God’s plan for them that led them to meet and fall in love.

“The fact that we didn’t meet in Wyoming five years earlier, but instead in Anderson,” Eric said. Their towns were only three hours apart. “It’s an amazing story. We tell people and they can’t believe it.”

The pair were lucky that they both decided spontaneously to go to Anderson University, and somehow ended up in the same apartment building. Their friendship of two years could have also remained as a friendship, but fortunately took a change in its course.

“Can you believe you wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for all these coincidences?” Eric teased Caden as the little boy ran up to him. “It was an unbelievable chain of events.”

“It shows you how cool God is,” Stephanie said. “If he has someone in store for you, he amazes you in such weird ways. You don’t even know how it happens or how you end up there.”

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