An Upgrade to Marriage

Before you start reading.

My point of view is in Normal text and Derek's point of view is in Bold.


Airports and airplanes…Where I spend a solid chunk of my year. It was February 9, 2013. My professional season ended in Modena, Italy and I was en route to Southern California after spending time with family in Pittsburgh, PA.  On this particular flight I was upgraded to first class...and so was this man named Bill. Who is Bill? Bill is on the pastoral team at a church in Orange County, California. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Bill now chooses to reside with his wife in a place where the sun always shines...I don't blame him. Bill and I began to make small talk and eventually made a connection that we belonged to the same church (Rockharbor). We carried on conversation the entire flight and I made plans to go hear Bill speak at church in March and meet his family. 

It was at some point in February (sorry I don’t have the memory and details Christa does, yet another area she outshines me, just one of many ) and I was attending church at Rockharbor Fullerton with my close friends Shannon and Matt Key. I remember that it was before church even commenced Shannon comes to me with this big smile and says to me “Oh my gosh, my dad met this girl and he totally wants to set you up! Are you interested?” Where was her dad and who was this girl? Well, her dad is Bill and he had just come back from Pittsburgh and the girl was… well you know by now. Shannon went on to tell me all about how she was beautiful (duh!) and successful (apparently being an Olympic Silver Medalist is a big deal ). Me, being the smooth charmer and adventurous man that I am said, “sure, I’m in.” 


Fast forward to the middle of March and I found myself at Rockharbor Fullerton again. Bill was speaking and Matt and Shannon had invited me to come. Once again, this time about 5 mins into the service, I notice Shannon waiving to get my attention, then pointing towards the entrance and swinging her arm like she was spiking a volleyball. I figured one of two things, she had this crazy urge to get her game on OR, the actual reason, she was pointing to the tall, beautiful, charismatic, service halting, sling-wearing blonde who just walked in. Yes, she was in a sling as she had just had shoulder surgery. I was on crutches as I had just had meniscus surgery. Those of you who know us are not at all shocked by this irony. I thought to myself, “was this THE girl?” The rest of the service I kept pulling the “my back is tight so I’m going to twist and ‘stretch’ but really I’m trying to look behind me at this beautiful woman and get a better glance” move. I couldn’t focus on anything but trying to eye her. Finally the service ended, this was my moment. I’m going to meet her and make her laugh and she’ll fall in love with me and we’ll live happily ever after. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic. SHHHH don’t tell her. Here it was, she was coming over to say hi to Bill and meet Matt and Shannon and….NOT me. Thanks a lot Shannon! Leave me hanging why don’t you? There goes my shot of falling in love with her! Back to ramen filled bachelor life.

Much to my surprise, life did go on. I had told my sister Lindsay about my almost interaction with Christa. Of course, being the volleyball nut she is, she new exactly who Christa was and said “Derek! You have to meet her! Are you an idiot? Do you know who she is?” well Lindsay, no I don’t actually.  After all, Lindsay was the one to predict this relationship and marriage first. You see, Lindsay is a subscriber to the USA Volleyball Magazine and there was an article in one of the issues about Christa. One day sometime in March Lindsay texted me a picture of Christa that was in the magazine with a message attached that read, “Here’s your future wife!” Little did she know…

To keep everyone on the same page throughout this story..March, April, May and June have now passed. I have not heard of or know of Derek at this point. 

It was just another Sunday in July and Bill was speaking at RH Fullerton again so I went to hear him speak with Matt and Shannon. Afterwards we all went out for lunch and I got the pleasure of speaking will Bill for quite some time. We talked about life, work, God, family, you name it we covered it. Bill is one of those guys who you could talk to forever and whether you’ve known him for five minute or five years you feel like he genuinely cares about you and knows the real you. I should mention that you feel this way because he DOES genuinely care. He just brings that to the table no matter the conversation. 

It was Sunday, July 14 sometime around 10pm. I received an email from Bill with the 

Subject Line: Totally Random 

Hey. This may b nuts. But what the heck. If u r not in a relationship at the moment I know a young 26/27 year old guy who actually goes to RHCM(our church) who specs out really well... 6'4"ish Biola pitcher with college volleyball sisters (one coaching in Spokane now) awesome family, loves Jesus w all his heart.  Working and working really well in the lending/investing world.  I don't have a word from The Lord here or anything, but just think the world of him. 


Ps.  Derek Dietzen is his name. 




I'm really laughing right now. 


Well that was enough information to Google and Facebook stalk. :) Bill asked if I was interested and I replied, "sure!" with my email and phone number to give to Derek.  (Little did Derek know that was his first test…would he email me or call me?)

I couldn't hold in the excitement of potentially being set up on a blind date and I spilled the beans to a few teammates Monday morning.  I loved the pictures Derek had of his family on his Facebook page and I also learned he was the 2012 top commercial loan officer for his company.  Hey-O! (Thanks Google)

I guess something jogged Bill’s memory, I’m pretty certain it was the Holy Spirit because this sort of thing doesn’t happen without His hand working because the next night I got a text from his daughter Shannon that read as follows (no, I haven’t erased it, yes I’m a sap, sue me!): “Yo D ! Guess what?! My dad emailed Christa Harmotto and asked if she is open to getting set up and he wrote a few nice things about you  (he must have had to work real hard at that ) She said ‘for sure!’ (I imagine it was more like “ummm does he have a criminal record? Will you be coming on the blind date? Oh fine I guess..” but I’ll take it!). 

Me, again being such a charmer I responded with the smooth and ever confident “Sure, send it my way.” 

Shannon writes: “She said call or email whatever is more your style. Go do your thing!”

I’m slow but I’m not completely stupid and I knew this was my first test. Call or email? Ha! Like I had a choice. But just in case I asked my sister and Shannon and they both agreed with my initial instinct which was to call her.

Derek of course did the whole "guy thing" and didn't call me until Wednesday night.  At least he didn’t email. Hard ball.

My masculinity immediately took over and the head games began. When should I call her? Does she want to be called? Was she just being nice? Is this the right number? Did she give me her dad’s number so he could give me the “Son I own a gun” speech? I didn’t want to appear desperate so I had to give it some time. But at the same time I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime. Something in me was nervous, but at the same time calm and confident about the situation. Again, I believe it was God working in me and even starting to work in “us”. 

I finally decided to call her that Wednesday, at 8:30 PM. Don’t ask me how I decided on this but trust me it was well thought out and seemed like the only reasonable option at that moment. Stop judging me. I was as giddy as a school girl and rehearsing what I’d say like I was going in for an interview. I’d practiced every scenario and even done some voice exercises. I wanted to “wow” her with my phone skills. Oh yea I was ready….

It was time; 8:30 had arrived. I dialed the number and nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. Voicemail. 

It was Wednesday evening and I was at a worship night at church.  I always turn my phone off during church.  

Not one ring and straight to voicemail?! I hadn’t prepared for this! What do I do? Leave a voicemail? Hang up? She doesn’t even have an actual voicemail just one of those dumb automated messages that tells you what number you’ve called. The ones we all hate and that don’t help one bit! For all I know I could have been leaving a message for Helga, the nightmare nurse we all fear who looks like she flosses with rope and smells like she smokes a pack of Menthol lights a day. And then the dreaded “tone” came. It was “go time”. 

To give you a little back ground…in my business a lot of times I am referred to people so when I call them I start off with “Hi, my name is Derek Dietzen and I was referred to you by so and so.” Yup, you all know where this is going.

I still have the voicemail saved.

So, I start off with, “Hi Christa, my name is Derek Dietzen and I was ref…Bill Gadd gave me your number and” I don’t remember what I said after that. I just remember fumbling and rambling on for what seemed like way to long. I finally ended the train wreck and conceded to the fact that I would never hear from Christa Harmotto. Good game, nice try, maybe next time buddy.

I turned my phone back on once church ended and I saw that I had a missed call and voicemail from a Spokane, Washington area code. (Of course I knew Derek was from Washington already..thanks Facebook).  I got the "girly giddies" and called him back on my way home from church.  Straight to voicemail.  Well, honey, we were off to a great start.  Derek called me back shortly after. 

Hold on though, she did call back but I was on the other line with my mom. I had a choice, hang up on mom and answer or let her have the joy of going to voicemail. Voicemail it was! Plus how could she resist a guy who loves his mom?!

He called me back shortly after I left a message.  He said he was on the phone with his mom.  Awwww. Family man! Loved that already! Derek was so easy to talk to and I just cut to the chase and said that we should chat in person…I don’t mess around. 

I called her back and that’s when it was over. I mean as far as me ever wanting to search for another girl. She was so easy to talk to, she was intriguing, asked questions and even threw in there, “well I don’t want to get to know all about you on the phone, do you want to hang out?” Well that was the easiest date I had ever got! This was my kind of girl!

So it was settled.  Our first date would be the next day. Thursday July 18, 2013.

It was Thursday morning at practice during a 6 on 6 drill and I was playing defense.  If anyone knows anything about ME playing defense…the next part won’t surprise you.  I got CLOCKED in the face by a back row attack(Murph, you are part of our story ;)).  Let's just say I was borderline concussed… concussed or not, I was going on that date.

Our first date and the “last first date” for both of us. Just saying that makes me smile. She let me pick her up and even though she had a mini concussion, the date was phenomenal. We went to the Great Maple at Fashion Island and the conversation was amazing. We talked about family, careers, her volleyball, my baseball, God, our faith, our testimony. We talked about everything and it was AMAZING! We literally shut the place down. They had to ask us to leave even though I hoped they never would. I don’t know if I ever fully admitted this to her, but I knew I would marry her after that date. She was the most beautiful, caring, driven, successful, family-oriented, God-fearing, humble woman I had ever had the chance to take on a date and the type of woman I always dreamed of marrying. What confirmed this even more was I knew this was the type of woman my parents had been praying for to come into my life and be my wife since the day I was born.

Derek was quite the gentleman.  He picked me up, came to my door, and opened the car door for me all evening.  We had dinner at the Great Maple in Fashion Island.  I remember it being so natural and easy to talk to him.  I loved how much he talked about his family, his faith and to hear how hard he worked to get where he is now in his business.  I felt like I could talk to him for days on end. We had so much to talk about, we closed the restaurant down.  :) That desire of communication and learning about each other would end up being a big key to the growth of our relationship in the coming months.

Derek and I went on 5 dates in 10 days…Then I left the country for a 5 week trip.  Ha! Welcome to the world of a professional volleyball player!  I remember being pretty nervous to share more about my lifestyle of spending so much time away, with the risk of him running the other direction.  I was amazed at how understanding and open to seeing where this relationship would go, regardless of the crazy lifestyle I lived. The Lord was already doing work in him.  Derek was intentional about communication and we decided to read a book together while I was on the road.  There was no pressure on what would happen or how we would communicate, but I found myself wanting to talk to him everyday.  Thanking God for technology and the growth that came along through communication despite distance.  It’s funny how you skip the small talk when all you have is communication and get to the real conversation. I look back on that 5 week trip and how much it tested our relationship and at the same time strengthened it and find myself so thankful.  I had always thought I would have to marry someone who was a current athlete to relate to all the crazy stuff that goes on between my ears, but Derek not only related, he encouraged, and has been with me every step of the way from the day we met.  


As I mentioned earlier, God’s hand was in this from the beginning. From even before the time he had both Christa and Bill upgraded and seated together. And when God orchestrates a relationship it is destined to be beautiful and a blessing to all involved. I thank God every day for Christa and this relationship. They both have taught me about God’s love for us, His grace, His promises and His faithfulness to us no matter what life throws at us.