Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My future in laws

Almost fifteen years ago I took a "retreat of silence"--a weekend away by myself to think about my life, reflect on some things and really ask God for direction. It was a very significant point in my life for several reasons.

First, I sensed God give me a life mission:

To establish a godly heritage
To make an eternal difference
To choose joy, regardless of my circumstances

Some years ago, I came to realize that even if I remain single, I can help others establish a godly heritage through my book, my support and my prayers for their marriages. Granted, I don't always make the right choices for the other two aspects, but having a life mission helps me guide my decision making more often than not.

Second, I sensed God give me a vision for my life:

I would write a book, marry and raise a child.

At the time, I had no interest in any of those things, so I really wondered where that thought came from. But over time, I saw the vision come to life: in 2004, my book was published, and now I know I'll marry in 2007, and now I believe that, in time, the last part will come to pass as well.

Third, in response to some counseling from my pastor, I did a LOT of reflecting on what marriage should and could be. Though my parents are wonderful people, they weren't able to show me how to marry well the first time. The main reason I feared marriage was that I feared failing at marriage. The only way I knew to avoid divorce was to avoid marriage. My pastor reminded me that God is my heavenly Father, and that if I let Him, He will help me to find and maintain a marriage that lasts. He encouraged me to create a list of qualities that I should look for in a future husband. When I went on my retreat of silence, I struggled to make this list. I realized that before I could ask God to bring me a worthy husband, I had to first figure out the qualities that would make me a worthy bride.

I ended up with a list of ten character qualities. From there, I was able to come up with ten character qualities for my future husband. While I did receive some well-natured ribbing for my list over the years, I found it to be a very helpful tool as I started dating with marriage in mind. First of all, by having ten qualities, it prevented me from dating just anyone. However, by having only ten qualities, it prevented me from being too picky. Most importantly, since the list contained character qualities--things a guy had some control over--it became my prayer list for my future husband all those years I wondered if he even existed.

I won't publish the list here, of course, because I won't show the list to my fiance until after we're married. But for the point I want to make today, I'll share one item:

HIS PARENTS OR ANOTHER COUPLE HAVE PROVIDED A MARRIAGE MODEL—A set of mentors to guide us to a joyful, godly marriage—Deuteronomy 4:9. If his parents are not married, I want to know that he has learned from their mistakes, sought to address the negative habits he may have inherited and has found an older couple to be mentors to him (3/7/99).

The point I was getting at with this item is that he has been intentional about finding wise counselors to help us, and is humble and teachable to seek out wisdom from others. Originally, I admit, I had a strong preference for someone whose parents weren't divorced. However, I had my heart broken by someone who said that he liked everything about me but it would be too difficult for him to handle the divorces in my family. I realized how hypocritcal it was for me to require something I couldn't provide myself, so I added the addendum.

All this background leads me to my thoughts today on my future in-laws, Jan & Kitty de Jong. Niels and I have been with them round the clock for nearly a week. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God has provided me with such an amazing couple. Niels' Dad, Jan, got up at 5am to drive 90 minutes to meet us at the airport. He greeted me with a beautiful bouquet of real Dutch tulips and a three cheek kiss, Euro style. When we arrived at their home later that day, Niels' mom, Kitty, also greeted me warmly. They knew of my love for China, so they designed a beautiful necklace for me with the Chinese symbol for happiness, telling me how happy they were that Niels found me and that there only son was no longer alone in the States.

Over the last few days, I've come to appreciate both Niels and his parents better as I see how much they love life and each other. They are such a fun, affectionate couple, with a willingness to make sacrifices for the things that are really important. One of the most touching moments came when Jan brought Niels and I to his store. On the front window was a sign (in Dutch, of course, so Niels translated) stating that the store would be closed all week for important family business. I was so moved that his parents would sacrifice a week's pay to be able to spend time with me.

Of course, the highlight of the trip has been Niel's proposal in Paris. Again, Niels' parents were part of the occasion, driving with us and sharing hotel rooms with us. Best of all, they were able to take many beautiful pictures. As we walked back to our hotel fom dinner that night, I thought about how hard it must be for them to live so far away from their son. Niels told me that his dad is his best friend, and now I can easily see that it's true. I know that they will miss so many of our firsts, and even more of our everyday life, so it makes my heart smile that we were able to share our special engagement day with them alone.

I've waited such a long time to marry, and now that I've met my Mr. Wonderful, I am so grateful to God for the wonderful way that He has provided even more than I would have hoped for. It took a long time because he had to first come to the States, and then meet God. And to have such awesome in-laws is a fabulous bonus. They are an amazing couple and I look forward to many more visits and opportunities to learn from the wisdom they have gained in their nearly 38 years of happy marriage.

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