The Sign Language is on the Wall: Faith and Grace Carry Alumni Couple
As part of a week-long series alongside Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring stories about UF couples, past and present, called “Findlay Faithfuls.” Did you meet the love of your life on campus? We want to hear about it! Share your story via Facebook or Twitter using #IHeartUFindlay #FindlayFaithfuls.
Ah, young love. You could call it beautiful. You could call it innocent. But difficult? Depends on who you ask.
Shaun Meloy ‘06 said that, like most young, newly-married couples, he and his wife Jena ’06 shrugged off the suggestions that their relationship might get more challenging as a result of marriage. “We both got along so well together as a dating and engaged couple, marriage should be a piece of cake, right?” Shaun said. The two soon found out, like so many married couples before them, that this is rarely the case. Their faith, however, along with their respect, love and grace toward one another, has created a pair that is clearly focused on meeting the challenge.
Entering college as freshmen, Shaun and Jena Holeton were on different paths toward different ideas. Jena majored in early-childhood education, played soccer for UF and sang in the campus ministry group. Shaun, starting out, had been at a community college in Marion, Ohio. There was really no reason that their paths should converge, but as fate and faith have it, the plans were already in motion. It’s just that no one knew it yet.
Shaun transferred to UF, interested in pursuing a degree in business management. Jena was eager to start her new life as a college student. New things were happening. And one of those new things just happened to be a class on sign language. “In order to fulfill the foreign language requirement, we had both enrolled in an American Sign Language class our first semester and were scheduled into the same class,” Shaun said. “We sat next to each other on the first day of class, but it was purely based on necessity. Jena showed up just before the start of class and the only open seat near all her friends was in the row ahead of them, next to me.” The couple were both involved with others at that time, but, drawn by their mutual sense of humor, became friends. “There was a fair amount of joking around,” Shaun added. “She learned how to sign the words ‘melon’ and ‘head’ which eventually served as a term of endearment she had for me.”
It wasn’t long until they both found themselves single. They’d grown closer through their time serving in campus ministry together, the couple said, and spent many evenings, just as other students did in the early years of the new millennium, chatting over AOL Instant Messenger. But Shaun had plans. There was a new popular movie ready to be released to DVD, yet not for another week. Shaun, who had a friend who worked at a video store and could get his hands on an advance copy, saw this as an opportunity to shake the “melonhead” moniker. Surely the movie was a romantic love story, certain to sweep Jena off her feet?
“’Dodgeball,’” Shaun admitted. “It was ‘Dodgeball.’”
But Jena seemed interested, so he asked her over to watch it with his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend.
Shaun and Jena soon were inseparable, and shortly after they’d both graduated, Shaun asked her to marry him. Jena’s parents had a pond behind their home with a bridge to a small island where the two were married in a gazebo, with friends and family surrounding them. “An amazing day,” they both said.
Thus, began the time in their lives when things were supposed to be easy. But the inevitable winds of change came bustling through in the form of different job opportunities for Shaun. He was in his third year as the Worship Arts Director at Gateway church in Findlay, when, “through a lot of counsel from close friends, lots of prayer and lots of deep rooting around in our hearts, he eventually made the decision to shift into the Business World,” Jena explained. “The company was amazing,” she continued, “but he worked hours that involved shifting from days to nights every four weeks. It came down to feeling as though we were called to something else.” Shaun subsequently returned to the church. “The love he showed by switching jobs to help me pursue that ‘dream’ to stay at home, and then listening to me as I asked him to consider going back to our church was amazing,” Jena said.
Jena, a second-grade teacher at Whittier Primary in Findlay, is also currently taking classes to obtain her master’s, serving as a director for the church’s annual summer VBS, and being a mom to the couple’s two young children, Cohen and Laurel. As Jena is marveled by her husband’s selflessness in fatherhood and marriage, Shaun feels identically toward her. “She carried our children with such grace and love,” he said. “She really loved being pregnant and just had a glow to her during both pregnancies. And she’s really loved me through life’s ups and downs. I’m a better man because of her.”
Marriages do take a lot of work, Shaun said. “We’re so distracted by the world around us and by our schedules, the irony becomes that, while we live in a world where we’re supposed to feel so connected, we often feel disconnected. You add work and kids into that equation and a lot can go wrong quickly if you don’t make it a point to spend intentional time together. Phones down, kids. And you’re a human being, you make a lot of mistakes. This is why grace towards one another is essential.”
These do not sound like the words of a melonhead.*
*It should be noted that this “term of endearment” has been retired, and that Shaun is very grateful for that.