1. I’m 32 years old, the oldest of 7 children. I remember first verbalizing my desire to be married at age 7, and that never changed; it was always my hope for my future. In my own plans, I would have been married at age 18, and have had a dozen children by now. I was a little disconcerted when I passed by that major milestone without even any male friends around that I thought might be potential candidates! My life has been extremely rich and full, however; I praise God for giving me countless exciting opportunities to serve Him through these single years, helping out at home in my own family first, and then being able to bless others through nanny work, administrative help, and mission trips to several different countries. Over the last couple years, 3 of my younger siblings have gotten married. I would have expected that to be hard for me, but saw God’s grace poured out abundantly in those relationships. It was such a sweet mercy that I could rejoice wholeheartedly with my brother and 2 sisters in their courtships and engagements and wedding planning and marriages, rather than being consumed by bitterness or jealousy.
I love to read, and have enjoyed working in libraries to have access to greater numbers of books; by the time I was through my teens, I’d read so many books on dating, courtship, marriage, and romance that I was tired of the topic, and just wished I had a chance to put some of those lessons into practice! God showed me that I was to wait on Him and He would lead me each step of the way; it wasn’t easy– I had my share of unrequited crushes and the tears I shed during these years of longing could fill a lake– but hindsight makes it so clear that God carefully crafted every page of my story. My life didn’t just begin when I met Robert, or when he proposed; everything I’ve done and experienced has been preparing me to be his wife, but being his wife is part of God’s preparing me for further service as well. It is the daily faithfulness in following Christ, not the “prize” of marriage, that is the point.
2. Robert and I met in February at the engagement party of my sister Katie and his best friend Raphael (who were married in May, along with another sister Rachel and her now-husband Scott). My friend Laura, who attends church with Raph and Robert, had been telling me about what a great guy Robert was, and how she thought we should get together; however, she didn’t know him very well, and all she really knew was that he was a godly man, was single, and was pretty quiet! I liked the first of those factors, the second was obviously vital, and the third concerned me a little; I’m pretty quiet, and didn’t fancy the idea of a virtually silent marriage! Also, I was a little annoyed by the sense of being “set-up”; so when Robert and I were introduced, and he politely said hello then immediately walked away, it didn’t bother me and I didn’t think any more about it. Plus, Michigan was really cold! I’d never seen that much snow in my sheltered North Carolina life, and I don’t handle cold well.
We met again in April, when I returned to MI with Katie to help with driving a van full of her belongings across the country to her new home. We were staying with Laura and her family and attended the party celebrating their 2-year-old son Truman’s life (he’d drowned the year before, and God had worked a miraculous healing in him; Katie had gone to help care for their other kids during the months of his recovery, and met Raphael during that time at a church function!), and several of the church ladies came over to say hello to me there. I was touched that they remembered me, and amused that they all managed to work the conversation around to Robert once again. Then Laura told me he was part of the group she’d invited for lunch after church on Sunday, and asked if that would be awkward for me… I didn’t think so, since I didn’t know him at all and DID know he wasn’t interested in me.
Well, not only was that afternoon not awkward, I had a wonderful time. While I didn’t spend much time actually conversing with Robert, at least not just the two of us, I noticed a lot of little things that I really admired about him. I was impressed by his intelligence, his conversation skills, his wide range of interests (many of which I shared, such as reading and singing and biking), and his adventurous spirit. I’d never met a man like that, and while I still had no reason to believe he was interested in me at all, I found myself thinking, by the end of the day, “This is the kind of man I think might be able to handle being married to me…”
So I went back to NC harboring the faint hope that maybe, after he saw me again at my sisters’ double wedding in May, and possibly again when I returned to MI for an already-scheduled visit to Katie’s post-wedding party in June, he might have enough information to know if he was interested… I told my parents about him, in the context of the news from our trip, and mentioned to my Dad that “I wouldn’t mind if he wanted to make sure he met this guy at the wedding…”
I was completely shocked and absolutely delighted when just a couple weeks later (April 23) Dad told me he’d received an email from Robert expressing an interest in pursuing me for marriage! Since by then the double wedding was just 3 weeks away, Dad was too busy to meet with Robert until afterwards; but Robert changed his plane tickets to make that meeting happen. So our courtship officially began when Dad gave Robert permission to contact me the week after my 2 sisters got married (May 23)!
We spoke on the phone and emailed a little for the next 2 weeks, very general getting-to-know-you things; he told me about the vacation he was on in Arizona with extended family, and I probably told him what was going on in my family and life. Honestly, it’s pretty blurry; that first conversation was terrifying for me! He did an amazing job keeping up what was basically a monologue for the 30 minutes we spoke, and I would answer his questions with a few words and then revert into silence; my mind was spinning, but I couldn’t think of anything to say! The fact that he called back was probably the single most generous thing anyone has ever done for me.
Our first date was in June, in Michigan. When he arrived to pick me up, he had flowers for me– and flowers for my mom and the two sisters who’d come with me! That spoke volumes to me. He’d planned a nice afternoon at a nature center, and we maximized our time together that entire weekend. I got to see his house, and meet his parents; we worshiped together at his church; we ministered together by singing at a nursing home; and so much more. At the end of that weekend, he told me that his goal for our relationship was marriage and not something casual; it really helped to hear that, and it was much harder to leave than I had expected.
We became close very quickly. At our ages (early 30′s) and in our stages of life, we both knew what we wanted, and God provided great clarity and amazing blessings in our relationship. He returned to NC 3 weeks later, and before leaving that visit he told me he loved me, and I knew- and told him- I loved him as well. He came again in mid-July for another weekend, and flew me back to MI with him to spend a week with my sister during the day and him in the evenings when he got off work, and be his date at a friend’s wedding. On Tuesday of that week, while we were visiting Greenfield Village with his parents, he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and asked me to be his wife. I replied that there was nothing in the world I wanted more! That was July 23– 2 months to the day after our courtship officially began, 3 months to the day since he emailed my dad; and on September 21 we’ll be married. I can’t praise God enough; I’m so thankful for the gift of this wonderful man, and I can’t wait to start our life together!
3. The biggest thing I learned about the character of God in my singleness was how worthy He is of all praise and glory. He’s God, and I’m not, and that is good; that became a really important lesson for me, as I saw over and over through the course of my life that His plans, even when they didn’t fit what I thought I wanted, brought me such great joy. His ways are higher and better! It became easier and easier to trust Him with my longing for husband and home, for marriage and all it means, as I saw His care and His provision in other areas of my life. His perfect power carries out the decrees of His perfect love in the good time of His perfect wisdom! Jesus is my first love, and I love Robert for the ways he is like Jesus, which are legion.
4. The things that come to mind as lessons I’ve learned through the courtship and engagement are: 1) God is still God, and He is faithful. He will lead, and He is trustworthy. I’ve seen over and over in my brief experience courting Robert that God would prepare me ahead of time. I might not understand what He was doing, but it would be clear later, and as I stepped out in obedience He blessed that immeasurably. 2) It’s not about you. This takes off so much pressure! For me, it helped to focus on Robert, to pray for him and think of ways I could encourage and bless him, rather than on stressing out over what to wear and what he was thinking of me (though I did that too!). We have seen ways already that God has used us in each others’ lives, and in ministry together, and we look forward to seeing how God will use our marriage to advance His kingdom and increase His glory. 3) “It’ll be awkward, and that’s okay”. My dear sister-in-law told me that at the beginning, and that phrase was a huge help to me so many times! You don’t have to be an expert at anything in the beginning, just humble and open and willing to work at your relationship. I love how patient Robert has been with me, and how gently he leads; he seeks Christ faithfully and he has made this process so easy for me by working hard to guard and protect me while also making it clear how much he cares for me and loves me.
5. To single women who desire to be married, I would say: “Your desire is a good thing. Don’t try to fight those longings, or pretend they don’t matter. You are wise to want something that God says is good, and marriage is one of His most wonderful gifts. Do remember, though, that it is a gift. It isn’t something you can “claim” or demand of God, and if you rush ahead and grab for it at the wrong time, it won’t make you happy. Be specific as you think about what it is you want in marriage, and pray that God would show you ways to be preparing for that now. And make the most of this season of your life. I am so thankful I took advantage of the opportunities to do the amazing things God set before me: write a book, travel around the world, help many friends with their newborns (including a set of twins!), plan a double wedding for my sisters… I look forward to blessing my husband with the fruits of those labors and lessons, and to having such great stories to tell our children! What is God calling you to right now, today? He has promised to show you the path of life. Be faithful to follow Him in it, and He will give you fulness of joy.”