LIGHT NOTES: It plays like a Hallmark Channel romance, but this ‘script’ is no fantasy

By Lucy Luginbill

Tri-City Herald (TNS)

It plays like a Hallmark movie. Guy meets independent woman, unexplained coincidences, love blooms, and then a happily ever after. It’s what ardent viewers — always tissues in hand — love about these romantic films.

Hallmark Channel lovers, this column is for you. A true-to-life story — minus the snowball fight.

It begins in warm, sunny California; the setting and material of a Hallmark writer’s dream. Two lonely hearts, miles apart, find love through “Godwinks” — coincidences that feel heaven sent.

Meet Janine Tartaglia, a petite, brunette reporter for a Los Angeles television network. Back in the day, she covered fires closeup, crime in bleak neighborhoods, stood in the midst of mobs, and stared death in the face. The 30-something — our heroine, of sorts — even held the world’s attention when Iranian-held hostages returned home, her riveting live report broadcasting for almost an hour.

This KNBC reporter epitomized success, a recognized TV personality. And like a Hallmark movie’s leading lady she felt a restlessness with her life’s story. Because as exciting as working in media was for her, the young woman felt a nudge to follow her heart.

“I spent 12 years of my life interviewing people and then walking away and having to deal with a deadline. It always felt unfinished, like something was undone,” said Janine, now of Richland, Wash., as she reflected on why she made a life-changing decision.

Daily reporting from the Burbank studio felt like an unfinished script, one where she never had time to comfort the hurting, to dry a weeping mother’s tears crib-side, to hold the hands of a family, their home lying in ashes.

Without a backward glance at great ratings, this determined woman listened to her church ministry calling, became a sought-after speaker and an associate professor at Point Loma Nazarene University.

But in time, the scene was filled with a bit of angst. True love was missing.

“I had plenty of people who wanted me to meet their nephew, or their brother,” Janine said with a smile as she reminisced about helpful friends. “People were really getting on my case. Like Janine, he’s breathing, he’s a Christian. What are you looking for?”

That very line may have prompted her trip from Los Angeles to Cambria, Calif., for a short stay at the Fireside Inn. There she walked Moonstone Beach, committing to prayer and fasting for two days.

“I’m Italian and I let it out before God. ‘I don’t want just a husband, I want the one you’ve selected for me,’ ” the newby pastor had said, remembering how she asked not only for the love of her life, but someone who would love people too.

Janine returned to Los Angeles, at peace, as if the prayer had been answered, she said. And that’s when the “Godwinks” began … for someone else.

A widower living in Bakersfield, Calif., feels compelled during his prayer time — a “Godwink” — to book a vacation alone on the coast, a distance of more than 140 miles from his town. The junior high school teacher is lonely and reflective about the future, his heart ready to let someone in. But how would he know “the one”?

After a quiet and prayerful stay at a hotel with an ocean view, Ed Metcalf returns home … and to another “Godwink.”

“Then God brought my name to his mind,” Janine said about this next “Godwink,” recalling how she didn’t know this guy, only a brief introduction when his gospel quartet sang at her Pasadena church a few years earlier. “And then out of nowhere a friend of his from Fresno — a couple of hours north of Bakersfield — called and said, ‘This is really weird, Ed, but Janine Tartaglia is a single woman of God that I know and I felt like I needed to tell you that name.”

One by one the “Godwinks” added up for this widowed father of two, enough to contact Janine. But on their first date there was even one more “wink” for good measure.

“He opens this prayer journal — what kind of man has a prayer journal on a date — and at the top of the page he has written Fireside Inn, Cambria,” Janine said, her voice filled with emotion at the memory of learning that Ed had been at the same quaint hotel shortly after she had left. “We find out that the two of us had been led to the same place, to walk the same beach, to pray the same prayer, for someone who would love God and have a genuine love — not for just each other — but for people.”

Cue the “Wedding March” and pass a tissue, please. Like the Hallmark Channel, it seems the Creator of this love story is into happy endings too.

Lucy Luginbill is a career television producer-host and the Spiritual Life editor for the Tri-City Herald. In her column, she reflects on the meaning of her name, “Light Bringer.” If you have a story idea for Light Notes, contact her at lluginbill@tricityherald.com.

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