I asked God to have His fingerprints all over my love story, and boy did he add all the twists, turns, intricacies, and beauty that I never knew were coming. I look back in gratitude at every up and down. Every person not named below that played beautiful and necessary parts in it. It all displays God’s love and faithfulness. The only time I’ve really relayed it in its entirety is face to face with people as we share coffee, a meal, or even over FaceTime. So reading our quick Q&A below won’t give you the entire story… but I wanted to share a little bit for now. It’s our beautiful story and the wild thing is, it’s just getting started.
What was your first memory or interaction?
Artem: in 2017, Zoey was going through a training program to lead worship at Substance, the church where we now both work at. On the final night, I was helping run production in the Media Booth and remember hearing her sing and thinking, “Wow, that girl has some pipes!”
Zoey: It was in April 2017, and I was in the greenroom at Substance Church right before worship rehearsal, sitting next to Gina Zarletti. I was still really new to the church and worship ministry, so she was quietly telling me who people were as they came into the room before we started our meeting. There were about 20 people there and then Artem walked in. Gina said, “That’s Artem. He plays piano and is really artsy like you.” She then looked back and forth between us a few times (while Artem was entirely unaware of all of this) and then said, “Yeah i could see you two happening.” and i was like, “Okay I don’t even know him.” Haha! Way to go Gina.
What was one of the first things you noticed or enjoyed about the other person?
Artem: She was very easy to be around. I didn’t have to try to be someone or act a certain way around her. She was okay with the long moments of quiet that happen when I don’t know someone well.
Zoey: First impression, he was quiet but intriguing. The very first time we hung out was in May of 2017. I initiated it because I really didn’t have any creative friends (or friends at all yet) at Substance. We got iced tea at Sencha Tea Bar and then explored around uptown Minneapolis, taking pictures and wandering around. I enjoyed the fact that he was more interested in tea than coffee. And as far as his personality I definitely noticed that he was very introverted and closed off, but it was intriguing for someone like myself who wears their heart on their sleeve. He was very slow to give up information about himself and it drove me crazy and made me want to hang out with him more and find out everything! I was definitely the persistent extrovert that budged my way into his introverted life :)
You two were friends for a long time before you started dating. What did that look like?
Artem: We had fun and went on lots of photoshoots together, exploring the city and learning about each other. We were able to share in our common interests like music and were able to support each other’s faith journey.
Zoey: At the beginning of our friendship we would grab tea and adventure around the city, doing photoshoots. We would see each other at worship practices and church, and text a lot about whatever was happening in our lives.
What was happening during the time between when you met and when you started dating?
Artem: We were friends and then not really friends and then slowly friends again. I dated someone else for a long time and went through a tough breakup. It was a long journey of personal growth and becoming the people we needed each other to be before dating.
Zoey: We were close friends for the first few months, and I thought we were actually going to move towards dating, but he actually started seeing someone else! This was super hard for me at first, because it didn’t seem like they would work out and I didn’t understand why we had gotten so close just for us to be distanced by his new relationship. It felt like I was losing a best friend. I remember asking God about it and I felt him saying, “You two will be together, but not now.” That was a super big word to hold onto, but basically for the next year while they were together, I just gave him back to God and prayed for him and tried to respect the boundaries of him being in a relationship. I just gave him room and did my own thing. I told God, “If he’s for me, I know you’ll give him back to me.” I learned a lotttt about myself and actually transformed into a different person because of the work that God was doing inside of me through this situation. I always prayed for him. I prayed for her too! It was a year i needed to become the person that I needed to be, and Artem needed me to be before being in a relationship with each other.
How did you move from friendship to a dating relationship?
Artem: I had just come out of a relationship and was taking time to heal and grow. Zoey was there praying for me and supporting me on the sidelines. We became closer and eventually it just happened because both of us were ready this time.
Zoey: After a series of events, he actually wound up breaking up with that girl and it kind of removed the barrier that had distanced our friendship before. So we just got to know each other as friends again. Even though I still liked him and knew the word God had spoken over us, I wasn’t going to rush into anything. Especially since I’d already told him once before that I liked him AND he just went through a really painful relationship and breakup. I was ready to just be friends for a long, long while. But long story short, one night when we were together i couldn’t shake the heavy impression that I was supposed to tell Artem that I still liked him. It felt like God was guiding me into it, saying “You can do it now or you can keep feeling like you’re holding a secret every time you’re around him.” So I told him I still had feelings for him, and apologized for the terrible timing. But he surprised me by saying he could see a relationship in our future. God did a supernatural healing in him from his past relationship and gently guided me into much needed vulnerability. So we started hanging out a lot, and we were just together all the time, getting to know each other again because we had both grown and changed so much in that year.
Who made the first move? What did that look like?
Artem: Zoey - When she initially found out I was dating someone else, she met with me and told me her feelings and that she knew I was dating someone else but that it was ok. I felt SO BAD, I never wanted it to get to that point and I didn’t want to hurt her. We then went through a period of time away from each other as we went through our own journeys. After a long while I went through a breakup. Eventually Zoey and I started spending more time together like we used to, and one night I came over to do laundry since my washer was broken. We were talking about life and things the Lord was moving us into and then she became quiet for probably 20 minutes. I let her have her time and when she finally spoke up, she confessed she still had feelings for me. I just said “I know” and we laughed and then talked about a relationship being our future.
Zoey: I guess as moves go... me. I told him that I still liked him. But then once it was on the table that we both saw a relationship in our future - he was actually the one who actually surprised me by referencing me as his girlfriend one day when we were hanging out haha!
When did you start dating?
Artem: We became open with each other about our feelings late November 2018 but didn’t start officially (unofficially) dating until December 3rd. But apparently everyone knew before our planned announcement in the New Year anyways.
Zoey: Officially (to us) at the begging of December 2018… we would keep it a secret at work and online because we didn’t want the pressure of everyone else being involved in our relationship as it was just getting started. But then we made it public at the end of December, because all of our coworkers and close friends basically already knew.
What was one of your favorite dates you’ve had together?
Artem: Going to the Walker Art Museum! We’ve gone many times and its always a blast to look at weird art and laugh at it together as well as find some super cool looking things that we can snap photos of.
Zoey: Definitely going to the Minnesota Science Museum together. It felt like we were being kids together and it was really relaxed. Artem loves knowing information. Just like. Knowing things. So it was really fun to be in a place like that and just watch him soak it all in and be so comfortable and curious.
What do you enjoy doing together?
Artem: Everything! Going on adventures together, working at the same place, hanging out and relaxing just watching TV or playing video games. A better question would be what do we NOT enjoy doing together (watching John Wick 3).
Zoey: Honestly, most things. Very ordinary things! Running errands, working on creative projects, playing video games, writing music, cooking…eating? Haha. He’s the only person I can always be around and never get tired of.
What are some of your favortie things about the other person?
Artem: She can get along with anyone! And she’s so good with kids. She can handle all the social situations that make me uncomfortable and she has a heart of gold. She wears her heart on her sleeve so I never have to wonder who she is or what she’s thinking. She makes me feel safe wherever we’re at. She’s quick to care and she loves so strongly. She is overflowing with affection and compassion. She makes me feel seen in a room full of people.
Zoey: Artem is amazing. He is very analytical, practical, and thinks through EVERYTHING! I tend to make quick, ‘feeler’ decisions, and don’t always see all the angles or outcomes. But he does. Which makes it very easy to trust his judgements and know that he’s leading us well. I also love his sweet an playful spirit. He is so kind and gentle. I love how he has a good head on his shoulders, but has a very very beautiful heart. I love his humor. And the fact that it takes some intentional time and digging to get to know the real, real him. It’s an honor that not many people get to experience. One of my favorite phrases to use to describe him is “A haven in human form.” He is a safe place to lean into and be my full self with. He has the strongest arms to hold me and understands how sensitive and emotional I am - even if he doesn’t understand what’s going on inside of me. Hearing him pray with and over me is one of the most powerful and sweetest things.
When did you know you wanted to marry them?
Artem: Like right away. I finally had my priorities straight and knew what I wanted in a partner and she was all that and more.
Zoey: I think a few months after I met him. I feel like i’ve known so long - maybe I didn’t pin it as marriage at first… but I couldn’t imagine my life without him. We would be walking around the city or doing something mundane like going to Target and I’d think something like, “I just want to do everything with him forever.”
Tell us about the proposal!
Artem: The first thing I knew was that it had to be around plants. Plants are SO Zoey. So I enlisted the help of our friend Jo to capture the moment and help me plan the day. I met with Jo a week before the planned date at the Como Conservatory and we decided where and how it was going to happen. The next week we met up to spend some time together in prayer and reading the Bible and I suggested we go to Como together in the morning. We got there and walked through some of the conservatory rooms and eventually landed in one of the back rooms near the koi pond. We started our reading time but I kept scanning the room to try and plan the exact moment and see where Jo was at. After waiting for a couple of groups of people to leave the area, the coast was clear and I started talking to her about a passage I was reading by chance and how it really reflected our relationship. At that same time ANOTHER couple ladies walked by looking at the flowers. As soon as they moved past, I turned to her and said, “Hey” and got off the bench and on one knee. The rest was a blur and I don’t remember it. Jo had to later confirm that I actually did ask her to marry me and that she actually did say yes.
Zoey: It was a Friday morning on May 10th, 2019. We actually decided we wanted to get married and started planning our wedding before he even officially proposed! Two days before he proposed, we had already booked our venue! So even though I knew the proposal was coming, I didn’t knew when or how. And he knocked it out of the park! He did SO much planning, I was so amazed and surprised. A few weeks before the proposal, he had suggested we start setting aside Friday mornings to meet up and have quiet time and pray together about our marriage and the wedding. (He is the sweetest) So it was an ordinary Friday morning to me - he was picking me up and we were going to do our quiet time at the Como Conservatory surrounded by all the plants! It was funny because when I was getting ready that morning, I thought for a minute, “What if he proposed there??” But by the time we actually got there and started reading our bibles and everything I wasn’t even thinking about it. Then we were sitting there and he interrupted my reading to share a verse with me and said something sweet about how it made him think of us. Then all of a sudden he was down on one knee in front of me and my friend Jo ran in behind him with her camera! I don’t even remember what he said, or what I said. I immediately started crying. It was just so overwhelming seeing him being down on one knee and so heartfelt. He is amazing. I’m pretty sure I said yes because the people that had stopped to watch around us started cheering. I was so happy and I couldn’t stop smiling and saying “Wow!”
What do you hope your future looks like together?
Artem: I hope its an adventure. I hope there are ups and downs. I hope we really learn who we are and become who we’re meant to be, together. I hope its full of music and laughter (and eventually, kids). I hope we enjoy the good times and stay steadfast in the bad. I hope when we’re old and tired, we’ll always smile when we see each other.
Zoey: Better than we could hope or imagine. So very prepared by God. I hope it is rich with creativity… and sharing God’s heart with people who don’t know how much He loves them. I hope there are precious, curly haired kids with bright hazel eyes who love Jesus and share His light with the world. I hope year after year our love grows deeper and stronger, and that God stays our center through the joys and the troubles. I hope the future looks like loving and learning and growing and living out God’s adventure for us together.
(photos by Jordan)