Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two Babies

For the last several months, Niels and I have had two things on our mind: getting pregnant and celebrating Christmas with Dutch Dad and Mom. Two babies. Our baby and the Christ child.

Niels and I know that good things come to those who wait. In fact, Niels' wedding band is engraved with the words, "worth the wait." Almost five months into our marriage, I am certain that Niels was worth every minute of the 35 years, six months, and 14 days I waited to marry him.

Because of our age, we talked about our desire to start our family sooner rather than later. We were thrilled to discover we were pregnant in early October, just 11 weeks after we were married. Our joy was short lived, when we miscarried at 5 1/2 weeks. Niels has been such rock to me in our grief, allowing me my sad days and helping me remember all our blessings. One thing he said that has really helped my mindset is the reminder that God has blessed us with so much this year--travel, finding each other, the financial means to pay for a wedding and two homes all year. He had to save something for next year.

As November turned to December, Niels reminded me of this again. We thought if we were pregnant in December, we would tell his parents by putting notes in their stockings. When my period came, I was disappointed for the missed opportunity. They live 6,000 miles away and we won't see them until next Christmas. This would be their only time to see me pregnant with their first grandchild, even if I wasn't showing yet. I was feeling tired and sick all week and felt bad for not being where I wanted to be with all the holiday planning. I wanted everything to be perfect for our first Christmas together.

Friday morning when I woke up, I was bleeding. We called my OB and they said to go to the ER. It was a busy day, so we ended up being there from 11:30 to almost 9. They were a little worried about my blood pressure, which was 104/45. They took some blood and came back to tell us we were pregnant. We were shocked, excited and nervous. We're 5 1/2 weeks, exactly where we were when we miscarried on October 15.

They discharged me with a diagnosis of either a threatened miscarriage or early ectopic pregnancy. I had orders of bedrest for two days when they would check my HCG levels again. For two days my mind raced with the hope of a Christmas baby after all, and fear that I would miscarry again. In the meantime, our radio played a constant stream of songs about another Christmas baby.

Sunday morning we headed to hospital for my blood test. We waited at the lab for the results. We prayed for a big number. The level should be doubling daily at this point in a healthy pregnancy. But, much to our dismay, the number went down and we were told the baby was not viable. We're devastated, again, but we are together, and because it is not ectopic, I am safe.

Niels parents had their own troubles. Weather and customs delays caused them to miss the last leg of their flight, so instead of arriving on the 23rd, they arrived on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, their luggage has yet to arrive. But they are here and they are safe.

Last night we went to the Christmas Eve service. I was doing pretty well. The pain was tolerable for the moment, and I was able to focus on the service. But when we started singing songs about The Baby, I began to weep for our baby. Niels' mom leaned over, her own cheeks wet with tears, hugged me and said, "I'm so sorry." And after such loss, there really are no other words to say.

Losing two babies this year has changed my perspective of the Christmas story. I identify with Mary more than ever. And I understand the greatness of the Gift. I want so much to hold my babies. I want so much to nurture them in my womb. I want so much to hear their cries as they enter this world. I believe that all life is sacred, and so I celebrate the very short lives they lived.
God didn't give us the son we wanted for Christmas, but He gave us His Son. I wouldn't willingly give up my babies, but God gave up His Son, for the greater good, and the gift of That Baby is life that never ends.

Sleep in heavenly peace, little ones.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My First Dutch Poem!

In my ongoing effort to learn my dear husband's native tongue, tonight we translated the poem from the beginning of my book into Dutch. So for my new Dutch family, this is for you:

- de uitbarsting-

is als een sterke aardbeving
de wereld schud
gevoed door woede
en alle boosheid
en frustraties
zo lang broedend
onder de oppervlakte
spuit dan plotseling omhoog
in een inferno van haat
of onverschilligheid...
is de wereld kalm
en je denkt
dat het schudden voor bij is
maar dan begint de cyclus opnieuw
je bent vermoeid
je wilt rusten
en dat is wanneer je realiseerd
dat het schudden gestopt is
er is een angstaanjagend gevoel
hangend in de lucht
je aarzelt
om nooit meer iets te geloven
je bent zo moe
en na zolang worstelen
rust je daarom
op het laatste stukje stabiel land
om ook dat in tweeen verdeelt te zien worden
die nooit meer
opnieuw samenkomen
elk nieuw deel
een gedeelte van jouw
en onder je ogen
drijven ze uiteen

- Jen Abbas,
achttien jaar

And for my English reading audience:

-the eruption-

is like a trembling earthquake
the world shakes
rumbling with rage
and all the anger
and frustrations
that have been festering for so long
below the surface
suddenly spew upward
in an inferno of hate
or apathy…
at times
the earth calms
and you think
the turmoil is over
then the cycle begins again
you are weary
you want to rest
and that is when you realize
the shaking has stopped
there is an eerie feeling
lurking in the air
you are hesitant to believe
you are so tired
after struggling for so long
and so you rest
on the one last solid patch of land
only to watch it split in two
that will never
come together
each new patch
supports part of you
and as you watch
they pull away.

-Jen Abbas,
age eighteen

Monday, December 17, 2007

Soundtrack for Children of Divorce

If children of divorce had a soundtrack, these would be our songs.
updated 12/17/07

"25 Years" from the album Throws Like a Girl by Vroom
"Because of You" from the album Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson (VIDEO)
"Blurry" from the album Come Clean by Puddle of Mudd (VIDEO)
"Broken Home" from the album Geek Love by Fan_3
"Broken Home" from the album Infest by Papa Roach (VIDEO)
"Breathing" from the album, No Name Face by Lifehouse (VIDEO)
"Confessions Of A Broken Heart" from the album, A Little More Personal (Raw). by Lindsay Lohan (VIDEO)
"Dance Little Jean" from the album Twenty Years of Dirt by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
"Daughters" from the album Heavier Things by John Mayer (VIDEO)
"Dear Judge" from the album Last Sessions by Ernest Tubb (VIDEO)
"D-I-V-O-R-C-E" from the album Super Hits by Tammy Wynette (VIDEO)
"Don't Give Up" from the album Face of Love by Sanctus Real
"Don't Go" from the album It's Pronounced Five Two by KJ-52
"Eye to Eye" from the album Simple Things by Amy Grant (VIDEO)
"Faheem," from the album, The Undisputed Truth by Brother Ali
"Family Portrait" from the album Missunderztood by Pink (VIDEO)
"Father of Mine" from the album So Much for the Afterglow by Everclear (VIDEO)
"Have I Ever Told You" from the album Have I Ever Told You by FFH
"Hearts of the Innocent" from the album of the same name by Kutless
"He Didn't Have To Be" from the album Who Needs Pictures by Brad Paisley (VIDEO)
"I Don't Call Him Daddy" from the Greatest Hits vol. 3 album by Kenny Rogers
"I Love You This Much" from the self-titled album by Jimmy Wayne (VIDEO)
"I Wonder" from the album Small Town Girl by Kellie Pickler (VIDEO)
"Jamie" from the album Listen by Cindy Morgan
"Making Me" from the self-titled album by Downhere
"Mommy Don't Love Daddy Anymore" from the album of the same name by Resurrection Band
"Never Been Unloved" from the album Live the Life by Michael W. Smith
"Out of Breath" from the album Stanley Climbfall by Lifehouse (VIDEO)
"Precious" from the Precious single by Depeche Mode (VIDEO)
"Prodigal Dad" from the album Out of My Mind by GS Megaphone
"The Promise" from the album Listen by Cindy Morgan
"Reconcile" from the self-titled album from downhere
"Six-String Rocketeer" from the album Hero by Daily Planet
"So Blue"
from the self-titled album by Downhere
"Stay Together for the Kids" from their Greatest Hits by Blink 182 (VIDEO)
"Still Waiting" from the self-titled album by Everman
"Stories" from the album Welcome to Diverse City by TobyMac
"Tell Me Why" from the album Empty by Tait
"The Living Years" from The Hits by Mike + the Mechanics (VIDEO)
"Tip of My Heart" from the album Big Blue Sky by Bebo Norman
"Too Bad" from the album Silver Side Up by Nickelback (VIDEO)
"What If I Stumble?" from the album Jesus Freak by dc talk (VIDEO)
"When Love Takes You In" from the album All About Love by Steven Curtis Chapman (VIDEO)
"Who Am I/Grace Flows Down" from the album All Things New by Watermark
"Why Don't Daddy Live Here Anymore" from the album "Queen of the Coast" by Bonnie Owens
"Wonderful" from the album Songs from an American Movie, vol. 1 by Everclear (VIDEO)
"You're My Little Girl" from the album Infectious by Go Fish
"We Gon A Make It" from the self-titled album from Peace of Mind
"Worth it All" from the album, Voice from Home by FFH
"You Better Sit Down Kids" from the album Story by Cher (VIDEO)

Let me know if you can think of others...

First Quote with my New Name

Thanks to my former publicist, I'm on the rolodex at Life & Style magazine. So I wasn't overly surprised when they called me once again to weigh in on the latest celebrity divorce crisis.

This week's issue includes an article on Britney Spears' rumored hope for a reconcilation with her ex, Kevin Federline.

My quote is in a full page call out with the headline: Would Getting Back with Kevin Help Britney?, complete with pros and cons...

Many divorced couples reconcile and give marriage another shot. "But I don't think there are any magical answers for Britney," says Jen Abbas de Jong, author of Generation Ex, a book about divorce. "Her divorce from Kevin has been awful, it would take a lot of work if they ever got back together." Still, de Jong notes, the couple (here in LA in 2004) "loved each other, so they'd have something to build on."

new songs for the COD soundtrack: Brother Ali's "Faheem"

As part of the "Big Clean" to get ready for Dutch Dad and Mom's visit, I'm spending the day catching up on the stack of magazines we've neglected that last few months. An article on Brother Ali in Rolling Stone led me to a new addition to the child of divorce soundtrack.

I can't recommend the overall album because the parental advisory sticker is well warranted; however, the lyrics to this song written for the albino Muslim's son are too poignant to pass up.

I gave you that name, boy...
I will never stop feelin sorry that your home got broken
I feel that I owe you for the road that I chose
But I believe things happen the way they're supposed to
And you'll always be with me wherever that I go
I was right there for your first breath
I used to lay you on my chest when you slept
I fed you, changed you, read to you, bathed you,
I'm not trying to hold that over your head,
I'm saying thank you
God put you into my arms for me to teach you
Sometimes I gotta not be popular to reach you
But boy look me in my eye when I speak to you
I tell you these things because I believe in you
Respect, patience, excellence, and truth
Make good choices and always follow through
But above all else know Allah always watch us
And Everything we do comes back upon us
Alright, let's talk about your mommy
I need you to know that I used everything inside of me
To make you as healthy as you could possibly be
And I just couldn't see a good future for us three
And you gonna have questions as you grow
But there's certain negative things that you don't need to know
And baby boy that's what this is about
We live, learn, and figure it out
I just pray that you don't remember us sleepin on the floor
And me cleanin mouse droppings out of your toys
It took alot of hard work for us to get where we at
And young man, we aint quittin at that
Just know that it hurts me to death when I leave and go tourin
I'm scared that it might make you feel unimportant
But our bond is so strong that the moment I get off
We seem to pick right back up where we left off
I try to say that I do it for you
But in my heart I know that's not entirely true
So if I ever come home and feel that I've hurt us as friends
I swear to God that I'll never tour again
I ain't never met a child quite like you
Words don't suffice for me to describe you
You have a genuine goodness inside you
I watch you and wonder if I was ever like you
It's me and you, brother, for life
So when you put me in the ground, look for me in the clouds
You make me the definition of proud
You taught me what this life is really about

Friday, December 14, 2007

Go Green. Stay Married.

Mother Nature feels the pains of divorce

AP Science Writer
Tue Dec 4, 6:48 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Divorce can be bad for the environment. In countries around the world divorce rates have been rising, and each time a family dissolves the result is two new households.

"A married household actually uses resources more efficiently than a divorced household," said Jianguo Liu, an ecologist at Michigan State University whose analysis of the environmental impact of divorce appears in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More households means more use of land, water and energy, three critical resources, Liu explained in a telephone interview.

Households with fewer people are simply not as efficient as those with more people sharing, he explained. A household uses the same amount of heat or air conditioning whether there are two or four people living there. A refrigerator used the same power whether there is one person home or several. Two people living apart run two dishwashers, instead of just one.
Liu, who researches the relationship of ecology with social sciences, said people seem surprised by his findings at first, and then consider it simple. "A lot of things become simple after the research is done," he said.

Some extra energy or water use may not sound like a big deal, but it adds up.

The United States, for example, had 16.5 million households headed by a divorced person in 2005 and just over 60 million households headed by a married person.

Per person, divorced households spent more per person per month for electricity compared with a married household, as multiple people can be watching the same television, listening to the same radio, cooking on the same stove and or eating under the same lights.

That means some $6.9 billion in extra utility costs per year, Liu calculated, plus an added $3.6 billion for water, in addition to other costs such as land use.

And it isn't just the United States.

Liu looked at 11 other countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Mexico and South Africa between 1998 and 2002.

In the 11, if divorced households had combined to have the same average household size as married households, there could have been a million fewer households using energy and water in these countries. "People have been talking about how to protect the environment and combat climate change, but divorce is an overlooked factor that needs to be considered," Liu said.
Liu stressed that he isn't condemning divorce: "Some people really need to get divorces." But, he added, "one way to be more environmentally friendly is to live with other people and that will reduce the impact."

Don't get smug, though, married folks — savings also apply to people living together and Shaker communities or even hippie communes would have been even more efficient.

So, what prompts someone to figure out the environmental impact of divorce?

Liu was studying the ecology of areas with declining population and noticed that even where the total number of people was less, the number of households was increasing. He wondered why.
There turned out to be several reasons: divorce, demographic shifts such as people remaining single longer and the demise of multigenerational households.

"I was surprised because the divorce rate actually has been up and down for many years in some of the countries ... but we found the proportion of divorced households has increased rapidly across the globe," he said.

So he set out to measure the difference, such as in terms of energy and water, land use and construction materials and is now reporting the results for divorce.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Separation Success Stories

When couples are having trouble, one often overlooked option is "controlled separation," that is, separation as a sort of time out on the marriage, with a goal of working through the issues and eventually reconciling. Controlled separation is not the same as "checking out the single waters." Unfortunately, many times separation is seen as the first step in divorce. It seems rather obvious that if you spend your separated time dating other people, you aren't likely to be putting any serious effort in working on repairing your current relationship. (Which begs the question, if you want to marry someone who honors the commitment of marriage, why would you date someone who is married? What does that say about your own commitment to marriage?) When people recycle relationships, all they are doing is putting one set of scabby band aids after another on the same wound, and not surprisingly, facing increasingly higher divorce odds with each subsequent divorce.

In this age of freedom and choice, we choose our spouse, not our parents or any other authority. And if we choose to marriage someone and spend at least a little time getting to know them before taking the plunge, there's probably a good amount of foundation to build on, and if necessary, re-build on.

It seems to me that in this generation of gun shy romantics, either we avoid marriage by over analyzing each relationship--and thus training ourselves to focus on the (potentially) negative of our significant other-- or we jump in without thinking, offended by the thought of pre-marital counsel, knowing that divorce offers an out if everything isn't all sunshine and roses every day.

As the former poster girl for the former stance, I completely understand the desire to stack the deck in your favor. But the problem is that you're always playing with your own cards, no matter who's sitting across the table. Analysis is good, as long as it leads to action and positive change. Analysis as a door to escape is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That rant aside, here are a few couples who faced separation, and have stronger marriages today because they came back together:

1. Alan & Denise Jackson.
Denise Jackson has written a book about her life with husband Alan Jackson. It's All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life offers an in-depth look into the lives of the two childhood sweethearts.

In the book, Denise shares the story of the teen couple's meeting in small-town Georgia, and their marriage when she was just 19. She addresses the couple's struggles, dreams, successes, and the near-failure of their marriage. She also discusses rediscovering her faith, and shares how that has helped to shape the life they now live.

2. Burton & Suzy Farbman.

3. This couple.

4. This couple, after the husband committed adultery. (added January 13, 2007)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Back from Betrayal

I had an interesting call yesterday from Life & Style magazine. They've called a few times before for comments on celebrity splits. The topic of yesterday's conversation was a possible reconciliation between Britney Spears and her ex-husband, Kevin Federline.

As part of our conversation, we talked about controlled separation and couples who have made their marriages work after separation or divorce. She seemed shocked by the idea and it changed the course of our conversation. I was asked if I could think of any high profile cases of reconciliation after divorce, and I drew a blank. (Darn memory issues!)

Seems like a good list to compile. Any suggestions?

Along those lines, a very inspiring book for anyone considering divorce is Back from Betrayal by Suzy Farbman. I read it a few years ago and quickly added it to my list of books to keep in multiple copies.

From Amazon:
Though she describes herself as "Generation S"-one of the cultural "straddlers" who came of age in the 1960s-Farbman admits she was more into pruning her rosebushes "than marching for peace." A virgin when she married her real estate developer husband in 1967, Farbman was a faithful, supportive wife for 30 years. She set aside her own career to raise their children, turning down job offers outside her husband's Detroit base of operations. She thought she had a very good marriage. Then her husband admitted-after she'd become suspicious and brought him to "couples therapy"-that he'd been having affairs with other women. Farbman was devastated. But rather than go straight to a divorce lawyer, she decided to deal with her pain and confusion and see if her marriage could be salvaged. She went to Onsite, a crisis intervention center in Tennessee, and also to the Deepak Chopra Institute. She consulted "spirit guides" and an astrologist. She tried realignment by "cranio-sacral massage." Her husband went to The Meadows, an Arizona facility for behavioral disorders, and together they studied "A Course in Miracles." After much rethinking and revising of their interpersonal skills, the Farbmans were able to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary together stronger, wiser and happier. Statistically, it's uncommon for couples to recover from infidelity. Culturally, it seems even odder for middle-aged, upper-crust Midwesterners to consult New Age therapists for healing. Still, readers without the means to participate in such far-flung seminars may find inspiration from reading this story.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hoping for a little help from our GR friends

Greetings from Ohio,

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Niels and I hit our four month anniversary and are loving married life. With one exception. All we want for Christmas (or New Years, or the spring, or soon) is to sell my condo. We're very grateful to have gone from three mortgages to two, but we both vaguely remember having one house payment and would like to experience those days again. We've been very blessed to keep our heads above water on Niels' income as I am still unable to work after head injury #3 last October. (And yes, I finally caved and applied for disability).

We'd greatly appreciate your help in passing the word around about it to anyone you may know who is looking for a good deal. Friends, family, co-workers, neighbors you don't like, anyone is fine with us...as long as they have good credit and are ready to buy! The condo is currently officially off the market over the winter, but we'd be glad to entertain any offers now on a For Sale By Owner basis, as we have a lot more flexibility on the selling price without the realtor commissions. (My mom is a retired Realtor and will walk us through the paperwork).

As you know, the housing market in GR is pretty soft right now and it's a great time to buy. We're very motivated to sell and at this point, really just want to break even.

As a thank you, we're offering a $300 incentive for any referral that results in the sale of our home.

If you don't know of anyone in the market right now, we greatly covet your prayers for a quick sale! Our budget thanks you.

$135,999 (negotiable)

3783 Old Elm Dr SE
Kentwood, MI 49512

1410 square feet
2 bedrooms ~ 2.5 baths

Schools: Kentwood ~ County: Kent

Two story Bailey's Grove townhouse offers the benefits and amenities of a single-family residence, with none of the responsibilities. Enjoy this open floor plan with lots of natural lighting. The spacious kitchen features a bay window breakfast nook, pantry, lots of counter space and beautiful maple cabinets. The twenty-foot ceiling makes the Great Room bright and inviting. Each bedroom has its own full bath and ceiling fans. The master bedroom has a separate vanity, double-mirrored pocket door, and huge walk-in closet. Spacious lower level provides lots of storage space and is plumbed and ready for your finishing touch. There are many beautiful homes to choose from in Bailey’s Grove, but this home includes brand new carpet and padding, fresh paint, a furnace humidifier and plenty of upgrades. Bailey’s Grove is a popular condo community with a pool, walking paths and clubhouse. I would have stayed here forever if I hadn’t married my Ohio sweetheart.

Listing comments...
Well-kept condo with vinyl & brick exterior
New carpet and padding installed August 2006
Most rooms freshly painted in August 2006 and November 2007
Furnace humidifier installed summer of 2004
Private entrance and deck
Master bedroom includes private bath, WIC, ceiling fan, and double-mirrored pocket door
Cathedral ceiling with fan in Great Room
Upgraded maple cabinetry throughout
Upgraded window treatment throughout
Spacious unfinished basement with daylight windows
Sheetrock attached garage with remote
Professionally landscaped
Underground Sprinkling
Snow removal and lawn care provided
Association Pool

View floor plan and photos at:

and here:

Thanks, Mindy for the great idea of posting this message on her blog. GR bloggers, spread the word!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Just for Fun

I found this on another blog, and it seemed like fun. I look forward to hearing from you!

If you read this
If your eyes are passing over this right now
Even if we don't speak too often
Please post a comment with a memory of you and me
It can be anything you want
Good or Bad
When finished, post this little paragraph on your blog
And be surprised by what people remember about you.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Just Ours

Niels and I just returned from one of our favorite places, the VV B&B in Grand Rapids, MI. We had planned to visit my old stomping grounds a few weeks ago, but attending a shower for one baby and the dedication of another was a little too much for me in the days following our miscarriage. So we rescheduled our fix for this weekend.

One of the things I miss about GR is the local radio station. On Saturday mornings, I would sleep in, dozing in and out of consciousness as I passively listened to the weekly recap of Focus on the Family. Niels and I both like to have a radio on as we sleep, so I adjusted the dial before we fell asleep on Friday night.

Our small group is studying "Sacred Pathways," based on the book by Gary Thomas. The general idea is that we all connect with God in different ways. For example, for some, being in nature draws them closer to God. For others, being outdoors draws them closer to bug bites and allergies. I've often joked that God speaks to me through sleep. Most of my book was written when I was awakened in the wee hours with an inspirational thought. I'd drag myself down the hall, type up my thoughts as they came, and trudged back to bed. The next morning, I'd read what I wrote as a reader, not the writer, in grateful amazement. I overcame countless blocks that way.

My mind has been whirling with lots of thoughts lately. Mostly due to my health. Applying for disability. Losing our baby. The biopsy on my right breast scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday).

Saturday morning, God spoke to me through the radio recap. The first segment was on adoption, a way by which Niels and I are excited to expand our family when we become eligible. (Agencies rightly want to give newlyweds time to solidify the foundation of their marriage). The second segment was on divorce, obviously a topic close to my heart. And this segment brought me peace because I felt comforted that I had done what God called me to do, and now, as I focus on my health and marriage, God has raised up others to continue the ministry I was doing. The third segment was about a couple who lost their baby at six weeks, same as us.

Niels and I have talked a lot about grieving our little one. On one hand, we don't want to fixate on it, but we also want to be realistic about our loss. We wanted this baby. We're ready to have a baby. We love this baby. One of our good friends is due the week before we were. We're so happy for them, but it is difficult not to make comparisons as we visited with her this weekend. Grief is grief, and it always comes in stages. My friend's due date will be bittersweet. We know that, but we also love our friend enough that we'll find a way to celebrate in the midst of our sorrow, even though we don't know what that will look like yet.

I realized this weekend that my delayed immediate grief may be related to the fact that on the day I was miscarrying, the doctor found a lump in my right breast. I've had ultrasounds and mammograms and a surgical consult and so far, the doctor hasn't been able to rule out cancer. So tomorrow I'll have a biopsy done. It sounds wierd, but my baby and my breast lump are almost one in my mind. The same ultrasound technician looked for our baby and found none, and examined my breast and found a lump. We're optimistic that we'll have an all clear by this weekend, but there's a possibility that I may not. But getting that answer will make an end to the "miscarriage and cancer scare" segment of my life.

Niels and I think that if I hadn't been pregnant, we wouldn't have found the lump. If we wouldn't have found it, we wouldn't have had it checked out. It's a 6cm lump, so it's grown (growing?) pretty quickly. Maybe our baby sacrificed his life for ours. We'll never know for sure.

As I listened to the couple who lost their baby, I felt God tell me it was time to give our baby a name, to make him (or her) real, to have a way to talk about him as the person we hoped he would be, without having to say miscarriage or losing our baby. I woke Niels up and almost immediately we agreed on a name. Jo. Just Ours.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Postcards from Splitsville

Thanks to the networking miracle that is MySpace, I learned of a new project for children of divorce, Postcards from Splitsville. They're just getting started, but I encourage you to check it out, and make a postcard of your own.

Inspired by Frank Warren’s PostSecret website, Kara Bishop, author of Divorce Doesn't Mean Losing Your Mom/Dad, created a website where children can share their divorce-related feelings anonymously and parents can get a new perspective on how this life-changing experience impacts their children’s lives. Similar to PostSecret.com (warning: site contains mature content), Postcards from Splitsville publishes postcards created by anonymous senders.

If you are a child of divorce who would like to participate please continue reading this page or click here for a printable, pre-addressed, postcard pdf.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

French President Divorces

PARIS (Oct. 18) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Cecilia, have divorced after 11 years of marriage and months of questions about their relationship, their lawyer said Thursday.

Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy in 2006
Patrick Kovarik, Pool / Reuters

Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy, here in 2006, are the first French presidential couple to divorce while in power. They separated briefly in 2005 and were married for 11 years.

Although previous leaders in France have had extramarital affairs, the Sarkozys are the first French presidential couple to divorce while in power.

"They were heard by a judge and the judge granted their divorce," lawyer Michele Cahen said on Europe-1 radio. "It went very well. There was not the slightest difficulty."

In a 15-word statement, Sarkozy's office said the two were separating by mutual consent and would not comment further on it. Sarkozy's spokesman said separation meant divorce.

Their split came as Sarkozy faced his first major political challenge: nationwide transportation strikes that caused bus, train and subway service to ground to a halt across France.

Sarkozy has not given any hint that his marital troubles will dent his determination to push ahead with his ambitious program of economic, political and social reforms for France. In the past week, as speculation about his marriage reached new heights, he continued to present an image of business as normal. He was to be in Portugal on Thursday for a summit.

Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy split for a few months in 2005, and she had seemed ill at ease as first lady since her husband's election in May. She did not cast a ballot in the runoff, and has rarely appeared with her husband in public recently.

Her one political venture came back to sting her: She raised her profile dramatically during a July mission to seek the release of five Bulgarian medical workers and a Palestinian doctor jailed in Libya. The stunned French media questioned her diplomatic credentials, and parliament is investigating arms deals signed soon after the release.

"She was shaken, murdered, wounded by the controversy," Isabelle Balkany, a friend of the couple, told France Inter radio.

"Cecilia is a woman of conviction who needs to do things, feel useful. She knew that she would have trouble tolerating the conventional side" of being a president's wife, she said.

Balkany predicted the divorce would not affect the president's job.

Even if he is "affected to his depths" by the "painful" decision, she said, "I sincerely think that it will have absolutely no impact on his mission as chief of state."

Cecilia Sarkozy accompanied Sarkozy through the recent years of his political career, acting as an aide, confidante and an ever-present figure at political events.

Dynamic and ambitious, they tried to buck conventions in French politics, she in designer denim and he jogging and speaking in straight, inelegant sound bites.

Their divorce also broke precedent and puts Nicolas Sarkozy apart from France's past leaders.

In 2005, photos of Cecilia hand-in-hand with another man on a Manhattan sidewalk were splashed across a magazine cover.

Sarkozy talked about it on national television, saying: "Like millions of families, mine has experienced some difficulties."

Observers wondered then whether Sarkozy could become president without her support and presence beside him. The question turned out to be moot, as she came back in time for his presidential push.

Both Sarkozys have been previously married. They have two children each from their previous marriages, as well as their own son, Louis.

Until the Sarkozys, French presidents' private lives remained largely private. But Sarkozy courted the spotlight for years in his long run-up to the presidency - and that has meant his marital troubles were front-page news.

"The couple was quite extraordinary, really fused together," said Christine Clerc, political journalist and author of "Tigers and Tigresses," a book about presidential couples in modern France.

"They became an ordinary couple, a couple like many others who don't get on well anymore after 14 years, but who have a child in common, who had many projects in common, who have a deep bond, and who have lived many things together," she said.

The timing of the announcement could help Sarkozy on another front, by knocking the nationwide strikes off front pages.

The daily Liberation devoted five pages and its front page to Sarkozy's marriage on Thursday, relegating the strikes to inside pages - even though the newspaper traditionally leans left and might have been expected to devote more attention to the labor unrest had the presidential couple not overshadowed it.

Protesters at a union-led march in Paris on Thursday had little sympathy for Sarkozy's personal woes.

"There are problems more serious than that," said Yvelle Franck, a 63-year-old marching to protect retirement benefits.

Associated Press writers John Leicester and Elizabeth Ryan contributed to this report.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chinese Proverb

In a broken nest there are few whole eggs.

Doesn't that about sum it up?

This is was another treasure found in my finally dwindling email box. It came from an interesting article by David Stewart, Jr.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hearts of the Innocent

One of the great things about being a homemaker is that I finally have time to go through the last four years of paperwork, clean up my files and attack my overflowing email inbox. Each day, my goal is to take care of 25 old emails (in addition to the new day's email).

My email has often been used as own personal to do list. So today I found a reminder to myself to add the Kutless song, "Hearts of the Innocent" to the COD soundtrack. The email's only a year old, so I'm not too far behind!

Hearts of the Innocent
by Kutless

I’m looking down into the eyes of hopelessness
They’re crying out to me
I see the pain it’s so much more than youth should know
It tears me apart
What can I do to change what I see
This vicious cycle must come to an end

Can’t you see, we’re crushing the hearts of the innocent
We’re teaching them to fail
And how it breaks me to see how we’re living and punishing the ones that need us to care
To see them hurting
Feels like knuckles to the back of my head
Where have the days gone that a promise was forever
Families stuck together
We wonder why their generation struggles to get by
There’s no one to help what can I do to change what I see
This vicious cycle must come to an end

Sunday, September 09, 2007

All I Want For September...

Jen's new teeth!

Jen's old teeth...

Many moons ago, when I was a young pre-teen girl, I was on vacation with my family in Colorado. We were visiting my mom's sister and her family. One day we were out on a golf course. I had never been golfing before. My stepdad and uncle were showing my cousin and I how to swing the club. Apparently, I missed the part about keeping proper distance from someone armed with, I mean, swinging, a golf club. My cousin made a hole in one...in my two front teeth.

Fortunately, my uncle was a plastic surgeon, and know a dentist who could see me right away. When he finished giving me my new teeth, he warned me that they would only likely last a few years...or until I fell face first into a icy cement sidewalk.

In the last few years, I had more urgent priorities in my recovery. But now, thanks to my husband's insurance policy. I finally have nice new two front teeth!

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Official Wedding Photos: The Ceremony

More wedding photos are now available. These are from our official photographer. There are several groupings. The first batch is our ceremony.

One Year Ago...How Niels & I Met

I've had several requests for this story, and since today marks the one year anniversary of Niels in my life, this seems the perfect time to tell it.


In contrast to those who say that God will send Mr. Right when you have your life in order, my life had to first get complete un-ordered. One year ago...

• My heart was broken from a relationship that didn't work out.
• My adopted family had moved to China.
• I lost a job I loved because my post-head injury health never got back to a point where I could no longer work full time
• I realized that because of the above point, I'd have to sell my house.

Happy times, eh?

I knew I needed a change of scenery to start the healing process. In August, I spent a week in Ohio where, oddly enough, where my ex lives, handing out with some new friends trying to figure out a new life plan.

For reasons I couldn't articulate, I had felt God leading me to move to Ohio. When I first sense to prompting, I was dating someone there and the move made sense. But after our breakup, the leading didn't go away, thus leading me to a very frustrating time of questioning my ability to discern God's will.

I decided to pursue the, move until I sensed a closed door. But I moved slowly visiting for a week a month, for several months. During my second visit, in September of last year, I was staying with my friend, Becca. One night, we drove up to Cleveland to go ballroom dancing. Unfortunately, the place had cancelled the lessons...without updating the website. We drove an hour for nothing. On the way back, we were talking about guys (She had also just broken up with her boyfriend). I was telling her about Match.com and that I was starting to browse but not sure my heart was ready for anything yet. When we got home I logged on to show her how it works. I did a search of guys in Cleveland, "if, for example, I wanted to find a guy to go dancing with."

Niels' profile came up and laughed when I read the part about "I'm looking for someone who won't mind that her in-laws will live half the world away." I learned that up until a few years ago, he lived in the Netherlands. He loved to read and travel and his profile made me laugh. I moved my mouse over the "wink" icon to show my friend how that works (at that point, I wasn't about to initiate any conversations). I logged off, went to bed, and didn't think anything of it.

Turns out I had clicked "wink" when I showed Becca the site. Niels got my wink and checked out my profile. As a good Dutchie, he knows all about Grand Rapids--in fact, it was the first US city he visited--and has "adopted" family in Holland, MI. So we started writing...then talking on the phone...and then he made plans to visit me in Michigan.

As he tells it, he was smitten from the first time he saw me (about two weeks later). It took me a little longer, and because he came on so strong, my messed up heart got confused. But he was amazingly patient and won me over.

When we first met, my comment to friends was, "I've never been a fan of the idea of having a guy as a best friend, but with Niels, I can see the appeal." He's smart, fascinating and I love spending time with him. But I don't think my heart knew how to accept real love, so I was unsure of my romantic feelings.

In October, while in Ohio, I was rear-ended. Niels drove from Cleveland to Canton to check up on me. But the first romantic spark came for me later that month when he was visiting me in MI. I was still pretty sore from my accident and I needed to go to Chicago to get my visa for my upcoming trip to China. Niels took a day off work (making me feel special) to drive up to GR, and then take me to Chicago. The night before we left, Bailey needed to go out. Niels saw that I was finally comfortable on the couch so he took her out. She went #2. Niels didn't have a dog, but he came in, got a little baggie and got the do. I saw him go into the bathroom to flush it, and heard him gag as he did. But he never said a word or complained about it. At that point I thought, "There's a guy who's willing to love sacrificially"

We had a great time in Chicago the next day. He impressed me by driving to Chicago for the first time and finding the consulate without once referring to a map. (He had Googled directions before coming to MI). We were able to take care of business at the consulate by noon, and spent the rest of the day enjoying the great city. We had a great time and on the way back we had an amazing conversation that really turned my heart to him.

Shortly before I went to China for Christmas and he went to Holland we had a really good talk about what a future might look like together. We didn't have any timeline in mind, but we liked the overall idea. My heart was still afraid he might change his mind...after all, there are plenty of non-head injured, employed, thin American girls for him to choose from. Fortunately, he was undeterred. He wanted me. :-)

Two days after I arrived in China, there was an earthquake in Taiwan, which destroyed the internet cables connecting mainland China to the rest of the world. I was there three weeks, and never had a connection to US sites. But, after a few days, I could connect with Niels because he was in Holland. So it was a trust exercise for me. He was my only connection to the US.

So he was checking my email and telling me if I got anything interesting. Dad sent an email telling me he was going to Israel and had a layover in Amsterdam. I hadn't told my parents about Niels yet, so my comment to Niels was, "That's not fair that Dad gets to go to Holland before me!." That led Niels to the Net where he found a cheap flight to get in Amsterdam the same day as dad.

In January when we got back to the States (I was starting to live with a family in Ohio at this point), we decided we never wanted to be apart that long again. We started talking dates, again, kind of as a joke. I said that my COBRA expired in November and he's at a point where it would be cheaper for him to get a green card than face the legal fees of the next step in his residency process. From there, we knew that the Kennedys would be in the States in July, and my friend Jen was due July 9. So we called Lakeside Banquet Center, recommended by friends, and they were free July 27 and 29. When I realized that July 29 would have been my mom and dad's 40th anniversary, we decided to redeem the day.

Things went pretty fast after that. I help Niels buy a house in North Canton in February. We went to Europe in March. I met his family, he met my dad, and on March 20, he proposed to me in Paris in a garden at the foot of the Eiffel Tower (sigh)...

We had a hectic but wonderful four-month engagement, and on July 29, 2007, I became Mrs. Niels de Jong!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gates and Walls

On Tuesday night, Niels and I were at small group with our house church. In recent weeks, we've been focusing on the topic of Good News, and what it means to live out Christ's gospel in a practical way. We've been talking about the people in our lives...friends, family, co-workers, neighbors. Those who have been part of life for all of our lives, those who've moved or we've moved away from, and new friends.

Sometimes in conversations like this, I discover word to describe concepts that have been hidden just out of my mind's reach. On Tuesday, I found new words: Gates and Walls.

It's not always easy to connect with the people of lives. Sometimes physical distance creates a hurdle. Sometimes emotional distance create the block. At the same time, the people in our lives tend to come in groups: family, church friends, co-workers, fellow sports enthusiasts, etc.

On Tuesday, a friend shared a list with us, of friends and family with whom he'd like to more closely connect. The list was overwhelming, so he asked us for help getting started. As he spoke, I made a mental list of my own. I think we'd all like to be in the position of knowing that everyone we values, values us equally in return. Unfortunately, reality tends to look differently.

As I considered the groups in my life, I realized that some people are Gates and some are Walls. I tend to get down when the Walls don't open like Gates. I tend to underestimate the power of Gates to open the way to make new Gates. When overwhelmed by the relationships in our life, it seems that a good start is to go through the Gate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First Month of Forever

Today is our one month anniversary!!! Lots has happened in the last 31 days, and it's still easy to say I'm thrilled to be Mrs. Niels de Jong.

In honor of our first 31 days of marriage, here are top 31 reasons I love being married to Niels:
  1. He is a godly man, worthy of my heart and definitely worth the wait!
  2. He cracks me up. We laugh a lot!
  3. He appreciates the little things I try to do for him--be it Rasta Pasta or burnt pancakes. (I cannot make pancakes for the life--and a lifetime of trying--of me!)
  4. He loves our dog, but he loves me more. And she knows it!
  5. He protects me by serving as my advocate and by helping me learn my limits as I continue to heal from my TBI.
  6. He provides for me. Though he encourages me to do what I love, he supports the fact that right now, I love being Suzie Homemaker.
  7. He comforts me. God gives me just the right words to say when I need it--and He listens to God to say it.
  8. He's a human GPS and loves to drive, making him my ideal travel companion. And he loves to travel!
  9. Even when I might disappoint him, he can still see the heart behind my good intentions.
  10. I love to hear him sing bass at church.
  11. He's teaching me Dutch so our kids can be raised bilingually--ik hou van jou, mijn liefje!
  12. He is a peacemaker and an agent of healing in many ways, with many people.
  13. He loves my family.
  14. He loves my friends.
  15. He has an amazing, loving family. And I can still stay that after hosting them for a week before our wedding!
  16. He makes good decisions (most of the time) and helps me make wise decisions (all the time).
  17. He was patient enough to wait for me to see what a great catch he is!
  18. He's so stinkin' smart.
  19. He shares my addictions for Wiki, Google and books.
  20. He makes me a better person.
  21. He takes care of me on my bad brain day, and looks out for me so I have fewer bad brain days than I did before I married him.
  22. He's more accepting of my quirks and faults than I am.
  23. He has hope--even when I don't--that my ability to write will return.
  24. He has made my priorities his own.
  25. I love the sense of partnership I have with him, that whatever we face, we face together.
  26. Since our engagement, we haven't had a single big fight, and when we have disagreed or disappointed each other, the "love bank" is still full enough that we can quickly come to a resolution.
  27. He shares my love for creating rituals and traditions.
  28. I love the amazing vows he wrote and made on our wedding day.
  29. This the only the first of a lifetime together!

Happy Month-iversary, Sweetie!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

More Pictures!

Click here for pictures from Niels' dad.

If you were a guest, please send yours as well...don't hold out on us!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bailey still loves me!

While Niels would say that Bailey has become HIS dog. I present the above documentation as evidence that she still loves me!

Jehovah Jireh on Guitar!

This is a great guitar version of one of my favorite worship songs.

Jehovah Jireh

Jehovah Jireh
My provider
His grace is sufficient for me
(for me, for me)

My God shall provide all my needs
According to His riches and glory
He gave His angels charge over me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me

oh yeah, I just learned how to post videos on my blog. Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One Year Later...House STILL For Sale

It's been a year of incredible changes, but I realized tonight that one thing that hasn't changed is that my condo is still for sale.

Niels and I are keenly aware of this fact, especially as we're on the Jehovah Jireh plan for paying our bills this month!

We're very grateful that we are no longer paying for his apartment, and that we have found renters to help offset some of the costs of the condo. However, it would greatly help our budget to have the place sold.

If you know of anyone looking for a great home in Grand Rapids, please spread the word! You can learn more about it here. Even better, take a peek inside here. Regardless of where you live, we'd appreciate you joining us in prayer that God would quickly unite my home with its new owners.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Remembering Dave

Dave Heilman
June 3, 1971 - October 10, 2003

I made the switch to Gmail about a 18 months ago. Now that it's free, I haven't cancelled my AOL account, but I only check it every few weeks.

This morning I received an email from the mother of a friend of mine. After Dave's death, his mom and I have stayed in touch. I've been thinking about Dave lately. Several years ago, for some reason--probably a friend getting married--I started making a list of people I would invite to my wedding--should I ever marry. After Niels and I got engaged, I found the list, and of course, Dave's name was on it. Dave wanted so much to marry, and thoughts about marriage dominated many of our conversations, including our last one.

Dave's mom asked for permission to use a poem I wrote for Dave on his tombstone. I am beyond humbled and honored that his family would use my words in such a permanent way.

I re-read the tribute I wrote for Dave today and remembered my friend. I still miss him.

From October 26, 2003

Even as a writer by trade, it’s taken me two weeks to put words to the emotions stirred by Dave’s death...

I think Dave's death shook us because he is one of the strongest Christians most of us know. He was always the first one to serve, to make someone feel welcome, to help a person move, to meet the needs of those least likely to ask for help.

He was a faithful volunteer at a soup kitchen for the homeless. He arranged countless work days at a camp nearby. He went on missions trips to Albania and Okinawa.

I don't believe that Dave finished all God had for him to do, but I know that God welcomed him home with open arms and told our brother, "Well Done." I know I will see my friend again.

Dave's death is teaching me about grace. God will redeem Dave's death in ways I cannot yet see. Dave's death is teaching me to fear less and love more. I am learning to tell my friends how I feel about them without worrying about how they might respond. The important thing is not reciprocity; the important thing is that they know they are loved. I am better for having known Dave and part of his legacy is that I want others to be better for having known me.

I Weep For Us

In Memory
David Lance Heilman

I do not weep for Dave
I know he is at peace
I know he is God’s son
I know he is at home.
I weep for us
He is our friend
He is our brother
He is our son.
I weep for us
Dave’s work was not yet done.
His love was not yet spent
God’s plans were not yet fulfilled
I weep for us
Dave left us too soon.
His place at the table of our lives
Is prematurely empty
There is football still to watch
Softball still to play
Trips still to take
Talks still to have
God’s love still to share
I weep for us
Our future has been changed.
You have skipped ahead
And left us behind
Wondering why and when
We’ll see you again
We find our hope in eternity
But we weep
Eternity is still too far away
We love you
We miss you
We can’t wait to hear your giggle again.
So long, dear friend.
Your impact on our lives
Will not be forgotten.

Jen Abbas

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A wedding highlight

This week has been so wonderful and lowkey. I've been spending my time in all things domestic. As I type this, I've got our inaugural loaf of bread rising in our bread maker. We've also been able to enjoy reminiscing about our wedding day.

Niels and I chose July 29 as our wedding day for several logistical reasons, and one very important sentimental one: it would have been my mom and dad's 40th anniversary. My matron of honor helped us make the decision. She reminded me that so much of my life has been about redemption: living my life in response to Christ's atoning work, but also seeking to redeem the hurts in my life, like writing Generation Ex for other adult children of divorce. With the prospect of my own marriage having been such a terrifying prospect all these years in the shadow of my parents' divorces, it seemed very fitting to us to redeem July 29 for our family. No longer is it a day of what could have been. Now, what a wonderful day it was, and we look forward to celebrating forty or more July 29ths together in our future.

In our ceremony, Niels and I both offered tributes to our parents, and our parents each welcomed their new children into their family. But the moment that made me most proud of my parents was when my mom and dad danced together briefly before mom turned dad over to my stepmom, Carole. It was a very symbolic moment for me, seeing my parents set aside their pasts, and for a moment, acknowledge the history that made me come to be. I couldn't have asked for a better gift. Mom has often said that she's happy that Dad found love again, which in instead, I think, is evidence of healing and redemption.

I had a little heads up that the dance would take place, and I was able to choose a song that reflects my thoughts and gratitude for their gesture.

In My Daughter's Eyes
performed by Martina McBride

In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It's hangin' on when your heart
has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes

Thank you, Mom and Dad. In this daughter's eyes, I see two parents who love me enough to show me in the way I most wanted to see it.

A few new blogs

Now that I am home all day without wedding plans to create, I am relishing my new career as a homemaker. Niels has joined me in praying for the return of my ability to write. The ideas don't come as easily or as often as they did, but I'm grateful now for the time to make time to jot down my thoughts when they do come.

For that reason, I've started two new blogs.

In an attempt to return this blog to its focus on issues relating to parental divorce, these other two blogs will be a neat orderly place for me to direct my thoughts as they come.

The Man I Married

A few days before our wedding, I gave Niels' mom and dad handkerchiefs with these words, "Thank you for raising your son to be the man of my dreams." We're only two weeks into our marriage, but every day I am more amazed at the way God has answered my years of prayers. Neither Niels nor I are perfect, but he is perfect for me, and it's clear to me that God has brought us together as a way of perfecting each other.

Today I did a radio interview, my first since the wedding. One of the topics discussed was the way parental divorce impacts an adult child's views of marriage. I remember, early in my adult life, seeking perfect love. I wanted to take the risk out of loving. I was terrified of offering my heart to someone less than fully vetted and committed to not breaking it. Of course, the men I dated were imperfect, and disappointed me, and some broke my heart. In all honesty, I have disappointed those I dated, and I have broken a few hearts myself.

It took me a long time to marry, I think, because it took me a long time to learn that without risk, love is impossible. True love--the kind that is lasting and unconditional and capable of commitment from better to worse to better again--is a mysterious mix of risk and revelation and restraint. It's taking a risk to give someone the opportunity to love or reject you. It's the willingness to open up your heart, share your thoughts, merge your dreams with another. It's the choice to define another by his best moments, and to extend grace and forgiveness in his worst.

Twelve years ago, I began praying for the man to whom I would have the courage to risk my heart, reveal my soul's hidden hurts and highest hopes, and for whom I would restrain my urge to run when love was hard or hidden. Twelve years ago, I didn't know if this list of characteristics would ultimately culminate in an actual, in-the-flesh man who would become my husband, but the process of defining him was a healing one. In the twelve, often lonely, years, this list was my prayer guide for the man I hoped to meet.

Twelve years later, I've met and married the man I've been praying for, and in--at last!--sharing this list with Niels, we can both see God's perfect timing in bringing us together after so long. When I first began praying for Niels, he wasn't living in the States. He was a twenty-year-old college student in The Netherlands. More important than that, he was not yet my spiritual brother. He needed time to develop a personal relationship with our Savior, and to deepen in his maturity as a man and as a Christian.

The list is essentially the same today as it was when I first drafted it in the spring of 1995. I made one tweak in 1999 when I realized my own hypocrisy in ruling out those from broken homes. Though it was still strongly my preference--and one God did chose to grant--I realized I needed to extend the same grace to others that I was relying on for myself.

Over the years, I've shared my list with a select few, mostly women, with the slight exception of husbands of my closest friends. Others have asked for my list, either to help me pray for my husband or to help them consider their own. Now that I have married the man I've been praying for, I'm happy to post my list here:

The Man I’m Praying For…

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart—I Samuel 16: 7

COMMITTED CHRISTIAN— His faith is his top priority. His obedience has been tested and he has been found faithful. His life and those of his male friends offer growing evidence that his character is more closely resembling that of Christ—Matthew 6:33.

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).

COMMITTED TO MARRIAGE—It is a matter of integrity that he not only avoid divorce, but that he has an enjoyable, godly marriage that our children will want to emulate. He has never been married and shares my understanding of Matthew 19.

FINANCIALLY STABLE—He doesn’t have to be wealthy, but he needs to be a good steward of what he has so that we can live on his income when the kids come—Deuteronomy 15:10

INTELLIGENT—college-educated, articulate, someone I can talk to, share ideas with and discuss books, sermons and the Bible—Proverbs 27:17

STRONG, COMPASSIONATE LEADER—A man of integrity who embraces his God-given masculinity and to whom I can submit because I know he seeks to love me as Christ loves the Church—Ephesians 5:25-29

COMMITTED TO MINISTRY—Someone who looks beyond his needs to the needs of others, by investing time and/or money to support the Church. A man who can support me in what God has called me to do—I Corinthians 15:58 & 2 Corinthians 8:7

CONFIDENT, YET HUMBLE—Derives self-worth from what God did & who he is in relation to who God is. A man who has been intentional about discovering God’s will for his life and vocation. A man who leads by example—Psalm 78:72

AFFECTIONATE—A man of whose love I am assured by his words, actions, gestures and prayers—Ephesians 5: 25-28.

MY BEST FRIEND—A man who wants to spend time with me in domestic support and in fun, laughs easily and often (and rarely at the expense of another). We have shared interests (faith, music, football, volleyball, golf, water sports, reading…), values and life goals. He is a life-long friend—Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Niels, Thank you for letting God mold you into the man of my dreams--and prayers.

Ik hou van jou, liefje.