“Love is lovelier the second time around,” Frank Sinatra crooned. “I totally believe it,” Lynne Ballard Vestergaard says. “Michael and I managed to find each other and find love the old-fashioned way–the second time around.”

Their relationship bloomed in the shadow of Covid–but they didn’t use dating apps, social media, or even know what each other looked like. They courted by telephone, talking and sharing prayers, for months before they met in person. And though close in age–Lynne is fifty-three, and Michael will turn fifty-three this month–very different paths led to their wedding last July.

A native of Denmark, Michael was raised on a dairy farm and knew early on that it was his passion. But before he finished his degree in dairy management, he decided to see the world. In 1986, a YMCA program placed him as a counselor in Camp Nissokone in Oscoda. He taught horseback riding and made close friends.

He’d told his family he would stay “only a while” in the U.S., but the next year, he was invited back to run the camp. A few years after that, he met an American woman, married, and moved to Michigan permanently.

The couple found a farm on E. Delhi Rd. in Scio Township, where they raised two boys, a few cows, and pigs while Michael began a playground construction business. In 2010, they bought, gutted, and renovated a century-old farm on Wagner Rd. in Scio.

Though the marriage ended, their sons stayed on to work the farm. On 112 acres, they have a horse, alpacas, goats, and 110 cattle and 2,500 chickens raised for meat.

In 2019, Michael fulfilled another dream by building an organic meat and dairy shop. And he continued to travel for his playground business.

“I had a good life,” he says. “But at the end of the day, I longed for adult companionship. I just wanted someone to talk to.”

He shared his feelings with an old friend from Camp Nissokone, Marcos Valdez. And Valdez thought of another lonely friend, Lynne Ballard.

Raised in Redford Township, Ballard, too, had married in her twenties and raised two children. After years of struggling with her husband’s alcoholism, she divorced. Then she unwittingly entered an abusive relationship that left her, she says, “completely broken in spirit.”

To rebuild her confidence, she became a bodybuilder. For fifteen years, “I competed in figure competitions on the national level … I dressed in sparkly suits, spent hours on my hair and makeup, lived in high heels, and focused on my ‘appearance–my exterior. But inside, I felt empty.”

Her children were launched, but then her sister suffered a debilitating illness. She left competition to help her and began exploring her Christian faith. And then Valdez called to tell her about a friend who “just wants someone nice to talk to.”

That was in March 2020. Before the two could meet, Michigan went into lockdown.

“I was disappointed,” Lynne recalls, “but Michael and I agreed to talk by phone. It was fun, so we agreed to do it again.” Soon, there was a routine: phone call at 9 p.m. every night.

“I loved his accent,” Lynn recalls, “and the stories he told of life in Denmark and life on the farm. We also connected over our desire to know God and Jesus more.”

They agreed not to look each other up on social media. “Honestly, I didn’t care how old she was or what she looked like,” recalls Michael. He found her “honest, and open, and fun to talk to. That was all I wanted–at the beginning.”

Later, Lynne confessed to him that she had dreamed of standing in a beautiful kitchen and hearing a man say, “I might as well kiss her when I marry her.”

“I knew that meant God wanted me to hold onto innocence, unlike in my past relationships,” she says.

Michael was raised in a devout Lutheran family but drifted from the church as a young man. But in midlife, he’d begun wondering about his purpose in life, and “suddenly felt a longing to belong to a church.”

After visiting ten churches, he settled on 2|42 Community Church, a few miles up Wagner Rd. There, he found a spiritual home and a new circle of friends. Simultaneously, in Redford, Lynn was undergoing a similar experience at Redford’s Ignition Church.

One night on the phone, she asked if Michael would mind if she prayed. “I’d love that,” he said.

When Michael decided to be baptized at 2|42, he invited her to the celebration afterward. They agreed that after five months of phone calls, they would finally meet, surrounded by fifty friends and family members.

That day in August 2020, “I saw a stunningly beautiful woman walking up to the barn, and I thought she was the caterer,” Michael remembers.

“What beautiful blue eyes you have!” Lynne greeted him. They hugged and cried and talked late into the day.

“This is the first time I felt I was in control of my life and where I should be,” Lynne says. “The next day, Michael asked if we were dating. I said, ‘Yes! Let’s do this!’

“I have yet to find any awkward moment between us,” she adds. “We have been completely honest about our pasts, our mistakes, our strengths and weaknesses, and who we are.”

Her faith had changed her perspective. “I don’t need the glitz and glamor anymore,” she says. “I don’t need to hide behind fancy makeup and clothes.”

That November, on her birthday, Michael proposed. They’d hoped to travel to Denmark so she could meet his family, but Covid changed those plans. They were married last July in the Vestergaard Farms barn, surrounded by their closest friends and family members.

“The room was full of people,” Lynne says, “but I only saw him.”

The kiss at the end of the ceremony was their first.