Tag Archives: marriage

What Is It About Bridal Showers?

20 Jan
The marriage (detail of bride and ladies)

“The Marriage (detail of bride and ladies),” by Nicolo da Bologna, circa 1350s. Image via Wikipedia

A friend of mine, who is soon to wed in the Dominican Republic, had her bridal shower a couple of weeks ago.  According to the Evite (it was an impromptu shower since the bride was in town on a short visit), there were to be less than ten guests.  I knew pretty much everyone who would be attending.  Most were senior ministry leaders and not my contemporaries.  Only one woman was expected who is a part of my social circle.  This woman and I are friends, but not close friends.  I was glad that she would be there with me, though, like sort of a ‘single and waiting’ comrade. 

On the day of the shower, when all the guests were gathered, we began to chat and my ‘single-and waiting’ counterpart dropped the bombshell that she was engaged to be married.  The date was set.  The hall was booked.  The wedding gown was purchased.  We were all a bit joyously shocked.  How had this news of her engagement not leaked out?  More pressing for me, though, was the realization that, with this exchange of information, I suddenly became the only single in a room full of happily-coupled Christian women.  Uh-oh.

Sure enough, the conversation, and all eyes, soon turned to me and to what kinds of exciting things were happening in my life (which, of course, is the polite way that one inquires about another person’s love life).  Since I did not have an engagement to talk about, or anything remotely close to an engagement, I talked about hoping to soon buy a house.  This topic, unexpectedly and effectively, got the ladies off the topic of my love life for a good long while.  Except that the woman sitting next to me felt to share with me the memory of how, when she was my age, she too looked to buy a house on her own, a townhouse in fact.  But in the midst of her house-hunting she met her husband, and ended up getting married.  “So you never know,” she concluded.  I dummied up.  My response to her was, “So what happened with the townhouse?”

Later, the hostess asked all the guests to share relationship-words-of-wisdom with the bride.  We went around in a circle.  The others talked about their marriages.  I talked about my sister.

When the gifts were opened, there was sexy lingerie.  The most senior ministry leader in the room encouraged the bride with words along the lines of, “In your relationship with your husband you are going to discover what it really means to be a woman; what your body was designed for.”  I wondered at the implications of this statement. Is a single like me unaware of her womanhood?

Towards the end of the shower we were asked to share a prayer request.  It was to be something strongly desired or greatly needed, and too hard for anyone but God to work out.  Again we went around in a circle.  When it was my turn I sensed the other ladies holding their collective breath in hope that I would ask for prayer about marriage.  I could feel my own breath catch at the mere thought of mentioning my hope for marriage in such a setting as that one.  My prayer request was for a career change.

It was, without question, the most uncomfortable bridal shower that I have ever attended.  Mostly because I felt like I was in hiding.  For the first time in a very, very long time, at that bridal shower, among those married Christian ladies, I felt ashamed that I was still single.

To be continued.

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Treat or Trick?

17 Jan

Early last year, after a series of curious events, I decided that in 2011 I was going to take a trip to Uganda, Africa.  I pledged to the Lord, and to my family, that in 2011 I was going, even if I had to make the trip alone.  Crazy, right?  (Remind me to tell you about that summer during  my college years when I went to Alaska alone, ostensibly to work on a fishing boat and earn lots of moolah, only I ended up not working on the boat and instead lodging in a halfway house.  But I digress…).

My plan was that in December 2010, I would plot out my vacation/travel schedule for 2011, and finalize the plans for my trip to Africa.  By November, however, I had three far-flung weddings on my calendar for 2011–Dominican Republic, Vegas, and the wedding in which I would be a bridesmaid here in New York.  It was after I was invited to be a bridesmaid for my friend that I said to the Lord, “Africa might have to wait for 2012, huh?” 

Two to three days after saying this to the Lord, I was at dinner with a friend involved in short-term missions.  Over dinner she rattled off a list of trips that the missions ministry at my church would be taking in 2011.  In the midst of all the usual places she threw in a couple of new spots including, you guessed it, Uganda.  I was in shock.  Who goes to Uganda?  “Why are they going?  How did this happen?  I’ve got to go with them!”, I told her.  Within 3 weeks, through another series of Divine coincidences, I was interviewed to be a part of the team going to Uganda.  At the beginning of January I found out that I was accepted to be on the Uganda team.  Hooray!!  Still Single is going to Africa in 2011!

Now it is important to know about Still Single at this point that she does not possess the usual missions-type personality.  She is more of the American-tourist type.  Give her a 4 or 5 star hotel, ample, clean, English-speaking, dining accommodations and she is a happy visitor.  Still Single likes hotel/spas, turn-down service, fresh flowers on the credenza, and like that.

Fast forward to my first missions meeting.  In addition to the spiritual components of missions work, the Missions Pastor reviewed, what I would call, missionary protocol.  He discussed cultural differences, relational improprieties, food and lodging in the field.  He described the insects we would likely encounter in our rooms, the pests that might be found in our rooms that could be as large as one’s head, the necessity of bagging our clothes and luggage at all times while in the field, and segregating and immediately washing and spraying everything upon our return to the States.  He mentioned that we should only drink bottled water, and only eat food approved by those in charge of approving the food.

As I listened, I naturally pondered why on earth I was going on this trip.  And I began to chuckle at the hilarity of God.  He tricked me!  Many, many times my missionary friends have asked me when I would take a missions trip.  Many, many times I have answered, “Never.  Missions work is not for me.”  But there I was.  I had walked into the missions meeting delighted, eager, and compelled by the Holy Spirit to head to one of the hardest locations where one could ever hope to minister.  If God had said, “Still Single I want you to go to Africa on a missions trip,” I would have resisted hard.  I know this about myself.  In fact, I do not think I would have recognized or acknowledged even the possibility that God might say such a thing to me, as, clearly, I am not the missionary type.  But being God, and knowing my frame, instead of commanding that I take a missions trip, He drew me mysteriously towards a country that I knew nothing about, made me yearn and long to go to that country, and then provided the means for my travel.  Then, only when He’d fully secured my commitment, did He, incidentally, inform me of all the challenges and hardships that the trip would entail. 

Only God could make you want something, that He wants for you, that He knows you would not want if you really knew what was involved. 

Which reminds me of marriage.

At some point, God begins to stir our hearts with longing to go to this new relational place, a place we don’t know and have never been and which may or may not be hospitable to us.  We long to go into a marriage.  And then God (hopefully) leads us towards this place, and provides the means (i.e., the other person) for us to actually marry.  But only after we are there in the engagement or marriage, only after we have crossed the threshold of commitment, does God reveal the challenges and hardships that we will encounter in this new place.  And so it is with parenting, ministry, work, and every big step we take in life in general. 

So I am walking by faith.  And packing light.

Am I A Bad Friend?

2 Dec

This past weekend I offended a friend. 

Job and His False Comforters, Jean Fouquet c. 1460

We made a plan to pray together, and before we did, I discussed with her how difficult Thanksgiving had been for me.  Dinner was just right, just what I needed, but the lead up to the family gathering had me in a state of severe woe.  I’m ready for a different kind of family gathering already, you know? I want to have my own place, with my own china, with my own food selections, and my own choice of guests.

So my friend listened and commiserated.  Then told me that, like mine, her own Thanksgiving was quite difficult.  It capped a particularly difficult week for her.  Her car broke down on the highway at 10 o’clock at night and she’d felt scared and alone.  Though she was immensely grateful to God for the impressive rescue that He maneuvered out of the situation, she was tired.  She wanted to have a husband to call who would come to her rescue.  So later that week, during a 2 hour sojourn by bus and train, alone, to her Thanksgiving dinner, she was depressed and lonely.  My friend begged God that this be her last Thanksgiving as an unmarried woman.

Unlike her commiseration with me, I offered her insensitivity.  I responded with something along the lines of, “How could you not be completely satisfied with the Lord seeing the amazing way that He took care of you that night on the highway?”  When she defended herself, and her feelings, I realized what an idiot I was.  She is entitled to feel how she feels. “You are right and I am wrong,” I apologized.  But when we prayed, I did not pray that God would hasten the arrival of her husband. I prayed that He would bring her peace and a friend, or something like that.  Afterwards, I got the impression that my prayer was not appreciated very much.  There wasn’t exactly hearty agreement.  Which made me feel bad. Had my prayer been laced with judgment?  The next day I texted another apology.  And my friend did not respond.

The thing is, I feel bad because I couldn’t pray a more supportive prayer. But I couldn’t pray a more supportive prayer because I honestly do not support my friend’s point of view. I emphatically do not believe that marriage is the answer to what ails my friend. 

She thinks, as do a lot of singles, that marriage will make everything better.  If she were married she would not have to deal with a broken down car on the highway alone at night.  But who says so? Having a husband, even a godly husband, does not guarantee that you will get the exact kind of support that you need exactly when you need it. This kind of expectation is a paving stone on the road to divorce, even in Christendom.   Maybe your only-too-human husband would come to the scene and make things worse instead of better.  Maybe he would be so nervous and worried, about the car, about you, about the money, that you would regret even telling him that you had a problem.  Maybe he would be so tired or busy or saddled with childcare that he decides not to come out to meet you, but maybe to stay on the line with you if you want.

My friend thinks that if she were married she would not have to feel angst on Thanksgiving about being alone.  But what about the angst that she might feel because she has a family and is not alone?  Marriage is not a magic elixir that instantly takes the emotional edge off. Marriage might even add an additional emotional edge. In-laws anyone? What about having to host Thanksgiving for your family and his, doing the shopping, cleaning, cooking, and baking, while still going to work and being Mommy to the kids? What about Thanksgiving road trips with a car full of tired, cranky, or bored kids? What about the added financial strain associated with said Thanksgiving travel?

The point is that marriage is not the answer to every problem that the single woman faces.  The unpleasant emotions that surface in all of our lives, married or single, are a cue to listen to what is happening in our souls.  And then to bring our real issues or concerns to the Lord.  Sadness about breaking down on the highway at night, could be an indication that your soul is longing for intimate relationship with someone, not necessarily a husband. Maybe your soul is wondering if anyone really, truly, cares and needs to be connected to a friend or a relative who will remind you of their care and concern when you are in a bind.  Or perhaps feeling sadness signals worry about the cost of car repairs and a fear of inadequate resources.  Maybe the feeling of sadness is an indication of sheer fatigue and worry about being able to get done everything that had to be gotten done that night, and then also in the morning despite being doubly tired.  Each of these unspoken thoughts, though, because they remained unspoken, could not be addressed or refuted by the Lord.  Instead my friend’s true needs, to know that she is loved, that God will provide, and that God will give her strength and grace besides, were transformed into a fantasy wish for a husband who would make all things better. 

God help me not to be like one of Job’s comforters.  And God help my friend to know You like Job came to know you.

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Have I mentioned that I have been obsessed with homeownership all year long?

29 Nov

All year I have looked, searched and hunted for the right property, and have been unable to find it.  I have found frustration at every turn– prices too high, taxes too high, too many repairs needed, or all-cash buyers outbidding me.  Not to mention my own ambivalence about what amount I can really afford, in light of my continuing student loan debt.

During the last couple of months I have gotten the distinct spiritual impression that I have to cease being obsessed about, distressed over, and consumed with buying a home.  That I have to trust God.  Just like with my desire to be married.  Releasing this desire to the Lord has been as hard as releasing the desire to be married.  It feels even harder, if you can believe that, because buying a house feels like something that should be within my control.  But God is helping me to release the thing.  To not just think, but to truly mean that He is my security, my shelter, my refuge, my everything.

In the meantime I find myself taking first-time homebuyer preparation courses, which is humbling.  I used to work as a bank real estate closing attorney, and privately as an attorney I have performed a number of closings for clients.  But I’m honest enough with myself to admit that I need help developing a realistic budget, and assessing the current marketplace (e.g., is a short sale better than a normal sale for a buyer like me or not?), and understanding different financing options.  So I’m seeking guidance while I await the Lord’s provision.

Tonight I attended a class where there were presentations from a mortgage expert who works for TD Bank, and also from a home inspector who detailed the intricacies involved in assessing the condition of a property.

I was the only single person there.  The only person sitting alone.

I remember dreaming that one day my husband and I would go house-hunting together.  Just like on HGTV.


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Are Wives Still Supposed to Submit?

11 Nov

Excuse me while I mount my soapbox.

I went out with my girlfriends recently and my engaged friend (yeeaaaahhhh!!—more about that later) was discussing moving to a new city and a new church after she marries.  Her church-leader fiancé asked her if she was sure that she would be able to make the adjustment to the new, and very different, church.  What would happen, he wondered, if in three years she decided that she wasn’t comfortable at this new church and that she wanted to change churches?

One of my girlfriends responded that, in the event that she wasn’t happy, her husband would have to take her wishes into consideration and, with prayer, they would have to find a new church together.  He could be a church leader anywhere after all.  My response was that, happy or not, ultimately she would just have to stick it out with him at that church if that is where he believes God wants them to be.  The wife is called to follow her husband after all.  I did not agree with my girlfriend’s assessment and she did not agree with mine.  My friend’s comment about a husband yielding to his wife’s complaints, is not a point of view that is limited to her. 

It is common for women to want to marry and be assured that if they become unhappy their husbands will change–their minds, their ways, or their plans–and do what the woman wants so that she is not made unhappy. And so the marriage relationship has been converted in our minds from one of authority and submission, to one of egalitarian consent.  There is no more demarcation of man and wife; instead we are partners or we are mates.  But there is no egalitarian model of the Christian family.  There is a hierarchy—God, man, wife–no matter what our culture may tell us to the contrary.

If a husband does not take full authority, but instead allows himself to be swayed or manipulated by his wife’s logic and/or emotions, not only is he responsible before God for his own abdication of his role as leader, but he might also be responsible for his wife’s failure to develop into the kind of wife that God expects her to be.  Namely, a wife who does not look to her husband to make perfect decisions at all times, but a wife who trusts God that, regardless of what decisions her husband makes, God will work things out for their family.  Likewise, if a wife does not yield to her husband’s leadership, not only is she responsible before God for her own rebellion against authority, but she might also be responsible for her husband’s failure to develop into the kind of husband that God expects him to be.  Namely, the kind of husband who does not look to make perfect decisions at all time, but who leads his family by example, in seeking God and in trusting God, so that regardless of the course the he takes, the family can rest assured that God will work things out.

Maybe the privilege of the wife is simply to prevail in prayer.  These days it is regarded as a lowly calling, compared to having final authority or signing the checks, but I ask you, is it?

Does prayer work?  Is God interested and concerned with the direction that the family is heading?  Is God able to change the heart of a husband (or wife)?  Does God want wives (in particular, I might ask) to know of His faithfulness, provision, protection, and providence?  Will not God cause all things to work together for good in each of our lives?  Is not God sovereign? Is not God worthy of praise with thanksgiving, whatever He allows to occur in our lives?

Yes, a husband should be considerate of and kind to his wife; he should talk with her, seek her opinions, and value her input, both the intellectual and the intuitive.  But he must then decide what’s best and do it.  Now because the Holy Spirit leads the husband as well as the wife, typically the husband will be led the same way that the wife is led.  Or a husband will graciously allow a wife her preference.  He will.  Most of the time.

But there will come times when a husband and wife are not led in the same direction, and the husband will not or cannot accommodate the wife’s preference.  In which case, the wife’s posture cannot be, “But I want what I want because I know that I’m right.”  It has to be, “I’m leaving this in Your hands, Lord. Let Your will be done.” 

No, this is not easy.  But He who called her to be a wife is faithful, and He will help her to do it.

What is Intentionality in Dating?

27 Aug
"Man Tickling Woman's Nose With a Feather," by Thomas Wade c.1860

"Man Tickling Woman's Nose With a Feather," by Thomas Wade c.1860

I have a confession to make, dear reader.  Judge me not too harshly. I am only a woman, after all.  This confession involves, of course, a man.  RN to be specific.  The abbreviated version of the RN story is that for many years we were friends.  Best friends.  But only friends.  Just friends.  Just friends who happened to engage in long sessions of kissing and making out, but still, we were not dating.  RN did not have a college degree, did not earn a lot of money, did not drive, and overall did not seem to me to be suitable marriage material.  But he was very attentive, caring, funny, and deep into the things of God.  We could talk about everything with each other, and we did.  Also, he was an extremely superlative kisser.  (Well he was!)

Four or five years ago, long after our relationship had transformed into a strictly non-physical friendship, RN dropped me.  Cold turkey.  He wanted to date me and knew it wasn’t going to happen, he said.  He wouldn’t so much as return a phone call or send a Christmas card.  It was like a death.  My sense was that God was behind the dissolution of our relationship.  Too entangled.  So I released him, and reconciled myself to missing him.  Then this past March a mutual friend invited me to church to hear RN preach.  I prayed and decided to go.  After the service RN came over to me and embraced me long.  He’d missed me too.

My confession is that, between March and August, RN and I have re-established our friendship (without getting physical).  I let him know that I am dating and seeking marriage.  He let me know that he does not intend to marry.  And week by week we have drawn steadily closer.  Closer like: after prayer meeting, around 9.30pm on a Tuesday night, RN calling to find out if I wanted to grab some dinner and me saying sure and us being out until midnight.  Closer like: me going on a date with an eharmony guy and on my way home calling RN to see if he wanted to go have tea somewhere.  Closer like: RN calling me right before he goes to sleep and right after he wakes up.  Close.

Mercifully, I began to realize that all this closeness was not good.

Intentionality, living like you are planning to marry, is one of the four principles espoused in A Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well.  The principle of intentionality includes letting go of intimate friendships with the opposite sex that are not leading to marriage.  “No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what’s happening as “just friends,” your actions are constantly saying, ‘I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction),’” writes Scott Croft in A Girl’s Guide.

I think I got to this place with RN because he is a known, relatively safe, quantity.  Loving RN is not going to hurt me like loving Mr. X might.  But, loving RN will not lead to marriage like loving Mr. X might.  It’s the immediate gratification of having a limited love reciprocated vs. the risk and delayed gratification of having an enduring, loving marriage.  The root of my problem is that I have not completely believed that God has a loving marriage in store for me.  Hence, my wanting intimate friendship with a man now, as opposed to waiting for intimate friendship as part of the full package of committed relationship later.

One cannot practice intentionality, live like she is planning to marry, without fully, completely, and wholeheartedly trusting God that marriage is possible.  I am noticing that where there is doubt, there are dead-end relationships, datelessness, and worse. 

RN and I talked it over and have agreed to draw back radically.  I choose to trust God.  How about you?

What Do the Experts Know?

25 Aug

GirlsGuideWhat do the experts know?  Evidently a lot.

Reading Boundless’  mini-book, A Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well, blessed me so immensely that I think I need a series of posts to recount my reactions.

Why Buy The Cow…?

30 Jul
Bachelors Walk

"Bachelor's Walk" Image by Antonio Rull via Flickr. Creative Commons License.

I’ve noted that a number of the men that I have met on eharmony are in their forties and single, never having married. These men, and others like them, have thoughtfully and deliberately chosen to remain single for a much longer period of time than is typical. Single, female, aged 35+ enquiring minds want to know why. Here are reasons that I’ve heard and observed:

Why Buy The Cow When The Cow Is Likely To Run Off To A Different Pasture Leaving You With No Milk, No Steak, And No Money Because You Now Have To Pay For The Estranged Cow’s Upkeep and Grazing Fees In The New Pasture?

If you’ve never heard of Marriage 2.0 perusal of an article or two on the subject would be worth the read. Men, apparently, are very, very worried about financial ruin in the form of lump sum settlements amounting to almost everything they have, and/or alimony payments that stretch into perpetuity. Why would any sane and reasonable man risk such a dire financial fate? The more a man earns and acquires as he advances professionally, and in age, the more he has to risk if he marries, and the more reluctant he is to do so. Thus, we have men who are single into their forties.

Why Buy the Cow When the Cow Milks Itself Without Any Help From You and Then Serves You the Milk?

When a woman will support herself, maintain the home (or agree to a man having the freedom of his own living space), share her body, and ensure that pregnancy and children do not become issues, what need is there of a marriage? Indeed, for many men who enjoy such full-service relationships, marriage will only result if and when the self-sustaining woman involved forces the issue on threat of leaving.  Sometimes the man will marry the woman because he values what she adds to his life. Other times, the man will balk at the woman’s ultimatum, the woman will then leave, and the next self-sustaining woman will be found to take her place. Thus, we have men who are single into their forties.

Why Buy the Cow When a Different, Better Cow Might Come to Market in the Coming Weeks or Months or Years?

The root of the root is that many men, most men even, want to be married.  Those who are not married in mid-life will tell you that they simply have not yet met the right woman.  They looked and did not find her in their twenties.  They looked and did not find her in their thirties.  They are looking and have not found her (yet) in their forties.  Thus, here they are, still single.

If you ask me, all of above reasons for why a man in his forties is not married are bogus.  The main issue is one of fear.  And the fear of losing money, or of losing freedom, or of making a mistake, are all clever covers for an underlying fear of making a commitment.   It’s been said that women fall in love and then decide to get married, while men decide to get married and then fall in love.  This sounds about right.  Where is the man who is ready to commit to marriage (which is different from simply wanting to be in a relationship), yet who is unable to locate a woman who would make a suitable wife?  I doubt such a man is out there.  Men who decide to marry, marry.

Men in their forties who have never been married probably will not be getting married, sadly.

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Would You Marry an Addict?

9 Jul
Meister von Heiligenkreuz, "Ein Sterbender empfielt seine Seele Gott"

Meister von Heiligenkreuz, "Ein Sterbender empfielt seine Seele Gott"

The issue of whether or not I would marry an addict came up recently when I mentioned, over lunch with friends, that one of my eharmony matches made a comment that had me wondering if he was a substance abuser, or a former substance abuser.

One of my friends suggested that addiction was simply one type of besetting sin to which each of us is susceptible.  A believer who is caught in this type of sin should be regarded as no different from any other believer, she urged.  God is merciful, she continued, and wouldn’t necessarily allow a person’s struggle with drugs or alcohol to hinder them from getting married.

While I understand giving pause and due consideration to all that could be involved in entering a relationship with someone who has a history of addiction, I find it hard to understand not giving pause and due consideration to all that could be involved in such a relationship. Suffice it to say, my friend and I disagreed on this issue, and a perfectly lovely lunch turned edgy before we were able to restore harmony by agreeing to disagree.

After that lunch, the issue came back up for me in a different context.  Comments that a different eharmony match made caused me to wonder if there was homosexuality in his background.  Which got me to thinking–would I marry a man who had practiced homosexual sex?


My answer is:  maybe.

God is a Deliverer.  Full, complete, total, and irrevocable deliverance is available to us as believers.  If a man has experienced salvation and deliverance from any manner of trouble, then, for me, the past is a non-issue.

On the other hand, it’s not everyone who experiences full deliverance.  If a man has not been fully delivered from a destructive habit, like an addiction, then to what extent is he managing it?  Is he in a recovery program? Does he attend group meetings?  How long has he been abstinent?  Does he have a support network in place, and how often does he avail himself of support?  These are questions that matter when it comes to addiction.  My willingness to get involved would depend upon the maturity that the  man shows in dealing with his addiction.  It would matter, for example, if he were a sponsor as opposed to simply having a sponsor.

When it comes to homosexuality, my scrutiny of the situation would only grow stricter.  And my acceptance of man who formerly engaged in homosexual sex would come even more reluctantly.  One’s sexuality goes to the heart one’s fitness and ability to genuinely participate in a marriage.

Ultimately, addiction and homosexuality are types of brokenness of the soul.  God can and does restore our souls.  Let the restoration of a man’s soul be complete before his soul is yoked together with mine.  That ‘s what I say.

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Is My Husband Praying for Me?

6 Jun

Image via jesuswalk.com, Unknown Artist, "Kneeling at Prayer Wall"

It’s Day Five of the 30 Day Prayer Challenge, which committed my friends and me to praying for our (future) husbands daily for 30 days.   What I am enjoying most, I think, is the praying itself.  This week the prayers that I have prayed have been focused and directed, more purposeful than usual.  I have missed this kind of intentionality in prayer.

Besides the actual praying, I’m enthralled by the unfolding of God’s grace.  The point of this prayer challenge is for me to pray for my husband—that he would become fully the husband that God would have him be.  What I perceive happening, though, is that I am being changed.  I am being led towards becoming fully the wife that God would have me be.  While I am praying for my husband, God is pointing me to the truth about where I stand relative to getting married (I am far, far away).  While I am praying for my husband, God is asking me to look at myself and observe my patterns, my history, my ways, my thoughts, my heart.  While I am praying for my husband, more and more as the days progress, I am running to God desperately asking Him to help me to change.

So I wonder.  What is happening in the spiritual realm?  Perhaps while I am praying for my husband, somewhere–near or far away–my husband is praying for me.

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