“Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love?” (Jeremiah 2:23-33a)
I admit, those words were more than a little discouraging to me at the time. It was 1999 and I was 18 years old. I’d just returned from a few months in Moscow, where I’d been working at an orphanage and was praying for direction. I’d been hoping that God was about to reveal His plan to bring my Prince Charming into my life, but was surprised at His response to my question. It wasn’t time. Not at all. I didn’t know the first thing about being a wife because I hadn’t spent time learning how to love God. There was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be some time down the road for me and that the Lord’s desire was for me to learn to seek Him and love Him and serve Him. Not just while I was waiting for my prince, but because loving God and knowing God was the very reason for my existence.
Thus began several years of seeking the Lord, learning who He was, and finding a true pleasure and delight in a growing relationship with Him. “When Thou saidst ‘seek ye my face,’ my heart said unto Thee, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” (Ps 27:8) This verse became the true cry of my heart and continues to be one I return to often to express my thoughts.
I returned to Russia for another school year. Upon returning home, I stayed busy with housework and helping my mom with my younger siblings’ schoolwork for a few months until I had the opportunity to work at the post office up town. At the same time, I felt led to enter a correspondence paralegal course. I was also traveling one week a month to a school district an hour south of us to help with character lessons for elementary school children. I was very busy, but was learning much. God had given me a word picture in the Song of Solomon that helped me keep my focus on Him and the work He’d placed before me rather than pining for my husband. “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” (Song 4:12) I was to be a walled garden as far as men were concerned. There may have been good things that a man would appreciate and that I was trying to cultivate in my life, but it was for my husband alone to discover and God’s duty to bring it to his attention; not mine.
This was needful for me to remember as my personality is very extroverted and by nature, I tend to draw attention to myself. I also grew up playing primarily with my brothers and their friends and found that boys were my first choice for playmates. Guys never intimidated me and I enjoyed their company and the simplicity of their friendships!
More time went by… In the fall of 2002, I passed my exam and became a registered paralegal. My dad put a halt to my new ambition to pursue politics and the legal profession, however, and suggested I spend a bit more time in a ministry position rather than a money-making field. After a bit of prayer and seeking direction, God led me to Texas, where I began working the switchboard at the front desk of a young men’s program. So south I went, and found myself thoroughly enjoying my new position, new circle of friends, and the chance to spend more time with my brother who was enrolled in the program.
One summer morning a good friend asked me why I was so set against marriage. I quoted her several verses about why it was better to be single. Thus began a series of conversations between the two of us in which she began to try to convince me to open myself to the possibility of becoming the wife of a godly man. My resistance was not due so much to the lack of desire on my part, but rather just that the last I’d heard from God on that topic was “absolutely not.” A short while later I was beginning to feel that familiar stirring in my heart again. The longing for a husband. Someone to love and serve and share life with. Children. A home of my own to keep and care for. As had become my custom, I went back to the Word of God and began to reread the verses He has given me with the desire that peace and contentment would return to me in regards to my being single. To my shock and surprise, the Lord gave me a new verse that seemed to be a nudge in an entirely different direction. “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south: blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden and eat his pleasant fruits.” (Song 4:12)
Instead of unbridled joy, I felt a mix of fear and panic. I was obviously making things up and putting words in God’s mouth. Had He really just indicated to me that He intended to start “blowing the winds” and making me noticeable to the man who would be my husband? The thought was terrifying. So I didn’t tell anyone. As the weeks passed, however, I got verse after verse in which the Lord seemed to confirm this word to my heart and I finally shared what I was hearing with my parents. Dad was thoughtful. Mom was predictably excited.
Confusion came shortly thereafter when the Lord clearly revealed His will for me to come back home. This made no sense at all to me as I was quite certain that there was no one at home for me to marry and there didn’t seem to be anyone showing any interest in Texas, either. I struggled for several weeks and yet said my goodbyes and returned to Ohio, wondering what the future held. I came home in October and spent the next few months readjusting to family life. A friend was fighting depression and I spent three mornings a week with her, going though a Bible study together. It was so wonderful to be home again and yet I wondered if I had imagined all that the Lord had said the summer before. Early in January, I asked God for a verse for that year, 2004. He responded with John 11:14b-15a “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad…” I struggled with this thought. I had been quite content to be single. It was God that had brought up marriage, not I. Now He was asking me to let that dream die again although He Himself had breathed life into it??? It made no sense to me at all. Yet a few days later, another word came: John 12:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Yes, I was to let the dream die.
Discouraged and confused, I doubted my ability to hear from God. Early in February, however, my dad got an unexpected phone call. It was a young man who had been in Texas while I was there. He wanted permission to court me. In shock, my dad asked if they could write to each other for a bit so that Dad could get to know him. He agreed, and so they began to correspond with one another. I was excited at the possibility, although my initial response had been tears. I was an emotional wreck, to say the least. Dad finally ran out of questions to ask him and really was not able to find any reason to keep us from beginning a courtship. He determined to call him on a Sunday afternoon to make it official. I was such a bundle of nerves that I decided to spend the afternoon at my grandparents’, to get out of the house. I was surprised to return home and have Dad tell me he had not made the phone call and didn’t intend to call him right away after all.
I was a bit disgusted. I figured Dad was never going to be ready to make a phone call. Not until I was at least 35 or so!
What Dad didn’t tell me was that he had been begging God for a sign if he was not supposed to make that phone call. After I had left for my grandparents’ house, the phone rang. It was another young man making the same request. Bewildered, Dad hung up the phone and turned to my mom… They took that as a sign to slow down rather than move forward.
Brian had been talking to his parents about his growing desire for a wife. His mom had become a friend of mine when I was in Texas, as his family was on staff at the school where I was working. She and I had many similar interests and although we didn’t spend a lot of time together, we always managed to have very good conversations in a very short amount of time whenever she passed through the lobby where my desk was located. It had occurred to her a few times that I might be an option for Brian, but she hadn’t really said anything to anyone about it. Late in January, she mentioned it to Brian’s dad, who agreed with her thoughts. One day when Brian and his dad were working, the subject of marriage came up. Over lunch, Brian’s dad commented to him that his mom had thought perhaps he would be interested in me. The thought had never entered his mind, but after the suggestion, Brian found that he wasn’t able to shake it. He decided he had better pray about it. Shortly thereafter, he went back to his dad and told him that he really liked his idea. The two of them fasted and prayed and felt confident that Brian should call my dad. They decided on the first Sunday in March. However, the last Sunday in February, Brian awoke with an urgency on his heart about that phone call. His dad advised him to act quickly if he felt that way, and so he dialed my number a week before he’d intended to.
Brian was a bit discouraged when Dad responded by telling him that he was already writing to another young man and wasn’t really interested in trying to juggle them both. Brian gave Dad his e-mail address “just in case” and they hung up.
Dad and Mom struggled for a few weeks wondering how to handle the situation before they finally told me. Unable to control the grin that spread across my face at the mention of Brian’s name, I told Dad that I’d really like for him to write to Brian and see what sort of guy he was. Although I’d never spent any time with him or even had a conversation with him, I found myself drawn to Brian at the first mention of his interest in me.
Dad and Brian began to e-mail each other. In an effort to get to know the real Brian as quickly as possible, Dad asked if he could read Brian’s daily journal from the past couple of years. Brian agreed and my parents read the journal together, both realizing that the young man whose thoughts they were reading was indeed a very good fit for their daughter. Unbeknownst to me, Dad gave Brian permission to win my heart and I received my first letter from Brian as a wonderful surprise on my 23rd birthday, April 2nd, 2004. The e-mails flew back and forth between Texas and Ohio from that point on. Brian traveled home with my brothers who were still there and spent a week visiting us in May. He asked Dad permission to propose but Dad, still reeling from the shock of the speed at which things seemed to be taking place, asked him to wait just a wee bit longer. Brian proposed on Fathers’ Day Sunday, in June. His family had stopped for a weekend visit with us while on their vacation. We were married August 21st, 2004 and are about to celebrate six years of our “Happily Ever After.” =)
I’d like to add that Brian and Janel have been blessed with 3 little boys, Silas, Noah & Amos.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Janel!!! It has been a blessing for me to read!