Those Who Wait: A book worth reading

Those-Who-Wait-Cover-Preview-333x500

Today is the launch of Tanya Marlow’s new book “Those Who Wait”.  I was grateful to Tanya for offering an early release copy to read in advance of the book being published today.  And so I thought I’d blog about the book and let you know why you might want to read it too.

 

Tanya’s story is one of challenge and waiting.  Having waited ten years to have her ill health diagnosed as ME, she has spent the subsequent years waiting to get better.  For seven years she has been housebound.  Within a Christian culture which often assumes suffering is something to be prayed away and delivered from, it can be extremely hard to cope with the ongoing reality of ill physical health, mental ill health or other difficulties which make life difficult.

 

As I write this I am dealing with having had a plethora of viruses which have reduced my capacity immensely over the last month, I am currently in therapy seeking to deal with the challenging parts of my history, whilst in my wider family there is stuff going on that is both upsetting and frustrating, we have one child with behavioural issues, an angsty teenager and are involved in a family court case regarding our third child.  Alongside this, the ongoing coverage of powerful men who have sexually abused women and girls has left me feeling rather despondent.  Their courage and the subsequent opportunity it has provided for other women to share their stories should be celebrated.  But to be honest, I just feel so despairing, knowing that nothing is going to structurally change, and as we’ve already seen, the women will be blamed, the men will be justified and the colluders will put out shiny PR statements to reframe their collusion as ignorance.  Given this context, the advance copy of “Those Who Wait” was a real gift, in this time of challenge.

 

Although Tanya’s story is one of waiting, “Those Who Wait” is not a personal memoir, but rather a Biblical study on the lives of four characters from the Bible; Sarah, Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary (Jesus’ mother).  Approaching the text with an evangelical theological perspective, Tanya has reimagined the stories of each character, from a first-person perspective.  Sarah as the woman who waited on God’s promise, Isaiah the prophet who waited, John the prophet whose prophecy was fulfilled but not in the ways he wanted, and Mary who waited for the birth of the Messiah.

 

Each character’s story is split into four “scenes” with questions for reflection included.  The book has been designed to function for either an individual, or within a small group context.  Tanya suggests that given the season of Advent is one of waiting, it could be used over Advent with a church, small group or with a Christian book group.  She has included various prayers and other materials for reflecting on the stories.

 

Within the Biblical narrative, it is easy to forget that the stories that take up a few verses may have happened over decades.  The matter-of-factness of the text can prevent us recognising the human characters within it.  Yet Tanya’s retelling of the stories prompted me to see the Biblical characters in a new way.  Particularly with John the Baptist’s narrative, various things within the Biblical text clicked into place and made sense, whilst Isaiah’s narrative was hugely encouraging to me, as someone called to have a prophetic voice.

 

Overall, the book gave me a fresh experience of Biblical stories that are very familiar to me.  And even though it is not a book filled with answers for those who are waiting, the Biblical characters seem to become those who sit with us in our waiting, sharing their stories and encouraging us that we are not alone.  When life is hard (as it is for me at the minute), those who provide instructions on how to cope, or offer me well-meaning solutions are often less helpful than those who tell me their stories and show me that they made it through.

 

Tanya’s book offers a fresh perspective on the Biblical narratives of Sarah, Isaiah, John and Mary and provides opportunities to see God at work as we wait and when we face challenges in life.  I’m thankful to Tanya for writing this book and am hopeful it will help many of those who are waiting.

 

You can buy it here:

 

Amazon http://amzn.to/2gaik89*

Wordery https://wordery.com/those-who-wait-tanya-marlow-97819107868…

Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/…/th…/tanya-marlow/9781910786864

 

*The RRP is £9.99. BUT until Oct 26th, it’s available from Amazon for £6.99 as a special introductory offer, with the ebook reduced to £3.99.  

Advertisements

Academia and Betraying Myself

The last year has seen me taking my first steps into academia.  I began a Masters with London School of Theology (LST) in September 2016 and next week I embark on the second year of what has now become a three-year project.  I have really struggled with the year and I thought perhaps writing a blog reflecting on my experiences might help me gain some clarity and who knows, someone else might benefit from my ponderings!

 

My route into academia has hardly been conventional.  In 2016 I won the Sermon of the Year competition and the prize was free study at LST.  In looking at the options, I concluded a Masters would both be the best value I could gain from the prize and also would be an exciting opportunity to gain an academic perspective.

 

I don’t have a first degree.  Whilst others my age were going off to university at 18, I had a small being growing in my uterus.  Even before that, the idea of university hadn’t appealed to me.  I am from a northern working class family with middle class aspirations (my parents liked Gilbert and Sullivan and were professional musicians), but no one in my family had ever been to university.  When I left secondary school I wanted to do performing arts but my parents insisted I needed to be able to get a proper job, and so as a female, who quite liked children, clearly the right option for me was a childcare qualification.  Though I didn’t dislike children, it turned out that working with them fulltime was VERY BORING.  My parents promised me that when I had the ability to get a Proper Job, then I could choose to do a performing arts course.

 

However, nobody foresaw that I would begin a relationship with a young man who would abuse me (let’s call him Alan).  They didn’t see that he would coerce me into sexual activity, damage me immeasurably and refuse to use contraception.  Nobody predicted I would be pregnant at 17 (at school I would have been voted Least Likely To Get Pregnant).  I found out my status would (according to the Daily Mail) become Scrounging Teen Mum the same week I finished the childcare course.

 

As a Scrounging Teen Mum it turned out I wanted to do everything I could to reject the stereotypes that I was sure were actually a true characterisation of every other teenage mother other than myself.  I didn’t go to the teen mum pre-natal courses because I knew that all the rest of them would be Scrounging Teen Mums and they would intimidate me with their blatantly low morals.  I wasn’t like them, I thought.  I was moral and good.  My moral goodness was evidenced by my engagement to Alan, the young man who was abusing me (an engagement heavily motivated by a desire to please God and become pure again).

 

I was due to get married two weeks before my due date.  Except two days before the wedding, I went into labour and the wedding was postponed, with me becoming a married woman two months before I turned 19.

 

At 21 my son was born 3 months prematurely after I was assaulted by Alan.  It was the practical implications of my son’s birth that enabled me to successfully separate from Alan, as he was treated in a hospital over an hour from where we lived.  There was a deep, abiding fear whilst we lived in hospital (my two and a half year old daughter lived in hospital with us).  This fear was that I had actually become a Scrounging Teen Mum, and worse still a Scrounging SINGLE Teenage Mum.  I no longer had a husband and stable relationship to point to which proved I wasn’t immoral and bad.  It didn’t matter that my husband had raped me, lied to me, cheated on me, became a registered sex offender for abusing teenage girls or that he pushed me to attempt suicide. The social capital I thought my marital status gave me made me feel able to counter the judgement I felt at being a teenage mother.  And as it turned out, maintaining that social capital resulted in my living in a hospital with a toddler and a tiny baby that kept nearly dying.

 

At first, when speaking to doctors who asked me where my baby’s father was, I would feel compelled to tell them he was currently my husband and that he was also a registered sex offender.  It felt this information would show them that I wasn’t a Scrounging Teenage Single Mum, but rather a person who had tried to make her marriage work, and that my husband was so awful that all my efforts weren’t enough.

 

However, I gradually discovered how much easier it is to live in a hospital with a toddler and a potentially dying baby, than to live with an abusive man.  It took over a year to become practically free from him (becoming emotionally and psychologically free is a much longer process).  In that year I reported him to the police for assaulting me and went through a full trial in which he was found not guilty.

 

I began to embrace being a single parent.  I began to see that other people’s views of me mattered a lot less than I had thought.  Rejecting the stereotypes and refusing to care if people judged me was hugely liberating.  By the time I remarried my son was two years old I became proud of my status as having been a teenage mother.  Proud of being married twice.  Because every time I refused to feel shame or judgement for being a Scrounging Teenage Single Mum, I was rejecting the social constructs that had kept me in a relationship with an abuser.  Over the years I’ve connected with loads of teenage mothers and unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail stereotype that took hold in the early noughties is not true.

 

You may be wondering how my experiences link with my Maters challenges.  My time as a single mother, rejecting the shame and judgement of society in relation to my status was hugely formative.  My identity is deeply rooted in being a working class, teenage single mother who defies anyone telling her she is not good enough.  And even though I remarried (unintentionally) and gradually fell into consultancy work (also unintentional) both of which moved me away from that status, I have been able to hold onto my roots and reject ideas that I needed to have an academic status or more than a childcare qualification to enable me to change the world (or the small bit of it that God has called me to).

 

When I deliver training or key note presentations, I will often finish by telling my story.  And the audience will be challenged by the seeming incongruity of a competent women who has a history of having been subjected to abuse.  This choice of vulnerability and a rejection of the professional veneer that we are often taught to have enables me to reveal people’s prejudices to them.  Their surprise that I have been subjected to abuse reveals that they have a category of people they imagine are victims, and competent professional is not within that category.

 

And yet, as I have been working on the Masters I have felt a constant resistance to the system, to the process and to the material.  Some of that is the dominance of white men who concluded ridiculous things (which my course tutor is open to addressing) and some of it is not having a background in theology.  Whilst it is also that I haven’t done a first degree and so feel like I am only hearing the second half of a conversation all the time.  But mostly, it is because I feel I am betraying a mindset that opened up liberation to me.  Every time I have to value an academic’s words over the words of someone uneducated I feel I am betraying the version of me that rejected societal prejudice.  And every male theologian I have to read leaves me feeling angry for all the women who had better ideas that nobody every listened to, and that my having to value him colludes with that system of ignoring women.  And every essay I write feels like stepping away from who I really am.

 

This week I spent 24 hours at a colloquium.  I applied to speak at it without knowing what a colloquium actually was, and then upon being accepted to speak I had to google it.  It’s basically an academic conference that’s not overly specialist.  It was great to be amongst people who had thought deeply about stuff and the discussions and content was really thought provoking.  However, it seemed that the difference between those attending who would define themselves as “academic” and me was that they all loved their subject, they loved learning, they loved thinking.  My experience of the Masters is more of endurance than love.

 

I love making a difference and challenging people and bringing about change.  I utilise any tools that will enable that to happen.  I have concluded that this Masters is likely to be a tool in what I do.  But I have yet work out how to love that tool.  Especially when it feels like a requirement of that tool is to betray myself and the way I assess something or someone as valuable.

 

It would be nice if this blog concluded in me working out how to love the tool, or how to move beyond a feeling of betraying myself, but I’m not there yet.  Perhaps I’ll write a follow up blog when I finally work out a way through!  But as for now, I hope my ponderings are thought provoking for others.

My News!

It’s been awhile since I wrote anything on here and it turns out this is actually my 100th post!  Life has been filled with study for a Masters, making space for a third child that we sort of inherited, working on various projects, publishing a Grove Booklet and a whole load of writing for Christian Today, and some other websites.  However, I have news to share and so a blog seemed a good way to share it!

You may or may not be aware of what I do when I’m not having Opinions on Twitter, but basically it involves being a specialist in addressing lots of different aspects of male violence towards women.  I write resources, deliver training, write training, speak at events and other such activities.  In just under a decade I have delivered programmes for women who have been subjected to abuse; written materials for youth practitioners about domestic abuse; delivered training to churches, multi-disciplinary groups; written multimedia resources on pornography and; worked with a national Christian charity addressing male violence against women.  I have also delivered a programme for men who are perpetrators of domestic abuse and have written a national resource on child sexual exploitation.

When I speak at Christian events or deliver training to Christian organisations about domestic abuse issues, I am asked about what resources are available for participants to learn more.  There are a couple of books I recommend, only one of which is Christian.  Although there are a few Christian books available, most were written in the 90s and don’t include anything on digital culture or recent developments in neuroscience and trauma.  As such they are helpful, but limited.

Which brings me to MY NEWS!  Over the next year I shall be writing my first ever BOOK!  It will be published by SPCK, with a planned release for March 2019.  I’m writing the book primarily for Christians who want to be better resourced in responding to abuse within relationships, but hopefully it will also be suitable for those who are realising their current partner (or ex-partner) is abusive.

I’m hoping to give occasional updates on how things are going, and I’m sure lovely Twitter people will help me on the worst days and the best days of writing.  I’ve decided to spread my MA out over three years in order to make writing a book this year more manageable.  Writing a dissertation and a proper book at the same time would have likely proved to be Quite A Challenge.

So it’s all very exciting!  Life generally continues to be quite challenging for us GLWs, with stable income seeming to elude us.  Yet God remains faithful and miracles occur on a seemingly daily basis.  If you’d like to pray for us, you can sign up for our semi-regular prayer update HERE and if the book I’m writing is something you’d like to financially support me with, you can contribute HERE either monthly or with a one off donation.

Father’s Day Resource

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 12.30.53

In the UK, Father’s Day falls on Sunday 18th June.  Many Church Leaders I know have spoken of the challenge of doing church services on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as so many people in their churches are dealing with difficult and painful circumstances related to parenthood and having children.  Yet, this also gives us an opportunity to shine a light into the darkness people are dealing with, and to celebrate the fathers and father figures who cherished by those in our congregations.

 

To aid church leaders in their church service plans for Father’s Day, I have written a resource that could be used by church leaders across the UK.  I have done this in partnership with The Resource, an organisation which exists to equip, support, encourage, train and develop those working with children and young people.

 

You can download the pdf resource HERE and the PowerPoint for Activity 3 HERE.  It has guidance for sensitively running a service on the subject of fatherhood, includes videos that could be used with a service and activities to do with both adults and children during the service.  If you’d like any further information about the resource, you can email me on natalie@dayprogramme.org.

 

I hope the resource is useful!  Do feel free to leave feedback in the comments!

 

The resource is totally free, but if you would like to financially contribute to my work, you can do so through my Give account, which can be found HERE.

 

 

Guest Blog: Working with Young Men

I am hugely privileged to have a guest blog from Rev. Anne Bennett, who is an Anglican priest based in Kent.  I invited her to guest blog on her experiences of working with young men after I did a live-tweetathon whilst reading “Why Men Hate Going to Church”.  I love what she has to say about working with young men!  Anne is on Twitter: @VicarofBorstal and she blogs HERE.

 

I read with incredulity GLW’s tweeted review of the book ‘Why Men Hate Going to Church’ by Dave Murrow.   This book’s basic premise is that we need to develop a specific ministry to men, a ministry that plays to gender stereotypes and which separates boys and girls. The author works from the premise that men like action movies while women like romantic comedies, and church should be themed thus[1].   Jesus is to be presented as a superhero, not a suffering servant.

 

I would like to humbly offer an alternative approach to ministry to men, based on my four years of working in a youth offending institution. I have never needed to use the stereotypes and methods of ‘men’s ministry’, nor do I think they would be helpful.  If there has been a book which has influenced me, it is ‘Contemplative Youth Ministry’, by Mark Yaconelli, which offers a gentler, holier way to minister with young people.

 

I work with young men who have been accused or convicted of crime. In our environment there is so much testosterone in the air you could bottle it as aftershave. There is nothing ‘sissy’ about this group, and sometimes they can be intimidating and aggressive.  Yet, in the five years I have worked with these young people, I have only three times had an empty chapel for worship. I have consistently found that some young people are called to come to worship, even to the point of being baptised, confirmed and publicly committing their lives to Christ.  I work as part of a diverse multifaith team that offers faith and pastoral care. It is stressful but rewarding work.

 

Our young people are surrounded by stereotypes and expectations.  As young men, especially as gang members, they are expected to be loud, strong and dominant.  They are fiercely loyal to their gang and hostile to strangers.  The atmosphere is often charged.

Yet something calls these young people into chapel.  Many have good memories of being taken to church when younger, often by their grandmothers.  Those older women, the ‘little old ladies’ so despised by some ministers, have sown good seed.  Some young people are looking for a less chaotic lifestyle.  Some are in despair and grasping at any straw.  Some are just looking for love, and we offer love without strings, unconditional, beautiful, divine love.

 

As they come into chapel these young men visibly relax.  The door is locked behind them, but the sense is that prison is locked out, rather than them being locked in.  The noise dies down and they know that they are in a sacred and a safe place.  I greet them and we have a few minutes of chat before God’s peace is allowed to fall on us in silence.  We participate in the ancient ritual of Holy Communion respectfully and reverently. At the start of our prayer time, each young person lights a candle.

 

After worship we sometimes have a discussion, but often we make art together. Creating a collaborative artwork brings young people together and avoids any sense of competition.  Our chapel is decorated with these works – a representation of the pillars of cloud and fire, a bright candle in a dark room, a burning bush, a tree of life.

 

I have learned much from working with this most demanding of groups.  I find these boys respond best to ministry which meets them where they are, but which then offers them a new hope.  They do not want the superhero narrative – every young person I have worked with has said that he wants to get away from violence.  They seek and struggle with forgiveness. Touchingly, for young people who have often had very disrupted lives, they often say they just want to ‘settle down’.

 

So what are the keys to working with young people, especially young men?  I find them to be the same keys as to working with anyone else.  Firstly, and most importantly, the gospel needs to be central to what we do.  This is not a social group, though we offer fellowship and safety.  We are there to worship, to pray and to open our hearts to the divine. It is our very difference which calls young people in. Church must always be there, waiting for those who one day will need to walk through the doors.

 

Secondly, young people can spot pretence from ten miles away.  I am far from being a male role model.  I am a middle-aged woman priest with liberal views and a fondness for rich liturgy and poetry.  Any attempt on my part to ‘speak street’ or to pretend to be part of their culture will produce instant alienation. Teen culture has exquisitely detailed rules and it belongs to teenagers.  I can only be myself, trusting in my vocation and my faith.  I offer what wisdom I can from my different vantage point.

 

Thirdly, we must listen to young people, and understand something of what is going on for them.  I always ask them what they would like to pray for.  I look at their body language: are they withdrawn, wrapped in their own arms, hiding in their hoodies?  Teenagers will tell you a great deal, but often without many words.

 

And finally, it may seem trivial, but for young men whose voices are breaking corporate singing is agonising.  I never ask young people to sing in an environment where their voice will be heard individually.  I also take care who I ask to read – both boys and girls can have reading difficulties.  I do not pressure young people to do anything – just being there is enough for God, and it must be enough for me.  Too many churches like their young people to perform, rather than participate.

 

I have never offered ‘men’s ministry’, just ministry.  I have never offered bacon rolls and paintball, just quiet worship and an atmosphere of positive change, forgiveness and hope.  Sometimes, by God’s grace, it bears great fruit.

 

[1] ‘The Danish Girl’ made $64m dollars at the box office, but films which do not fit action or romance stereotypes are not considered worthy of analysis.

 

Ten Years Ago…

I’m not a sentimental person.  I don’t do flowers or fluffiness.  Yet today is an anniversary I’d like to remember and share with the world.

 

Ten years ago today, mine and Mr GLW’s worlds change forever.

 

It would probably be helpful for you to know Mr GLW’s name is Baggy as I share this part of our story with you.

 

I met Baggy in the year 2000.  My youth group were at Easter People and as a long-time friend of my youth worker Alice, Baggy came to help with our group.  He was old.  I was 16 and he was 29.  I was a crazy Christian teenager who loved Jesus and wanted everyone else to know Him too.

 

Less than a year after Easter People, I found myself in a relationship with an abuser.  It’s a story I’ve told in various ways on this blog and elsewhere.  I was with him for four years.  In that time he destroyed me almost completely.  I had my first child at 18 and was married months later.  I was pregnant again at 20.  Six months into my pregnancy my ex-husband raped me and my son was born three months premature.  He was immediately transferred 50 miles away.  My daughter and I lived in hospitals for five months with our tiny baby.  In that time, I had only two nights away from the hospital when I went to clear my possessions out from the house I had shared with my ex-husband.

 

Two of my greatest supporters throughout the time I was with my ex-husband (and when we lived in hospital) were Alice and Andy Smith who had been my church youth workers.  I would go stay with them when I attempted to leave my ex-husband.  They would visit us in hospital and take my daughter to stay with them for a few days.  It was Andy who I told about being raped.  They took me to the police station and looked after my toddler as I sat for three hours and made a statement about what I had been subjected to.  I don’t know if I would have made it through without them!

 

They were still in regular contact with Baggy, throughout the time I was married and when I was living in hospital.  When my ex-husband and I were both 19 he was convicted of sex offences and placed on the sex offenders register.  At the time, Baggy worked for the police and we had a phone call where I asked him various questions about police processes.  But mainly he was a friend of a friend who was kept informed about what was going on in my hugely complex life.

 

Whilst living in hospital, having lost everything, I found the God Who Is.  Previously to this, He had been the God of my parents and the God I sort of knew.  But in that hospital, He became my God, the God who saw me.  When all else is lost, God becomes real very quickly.  I began to hear God speak to me, audibly.  I know non-Christians reading this probably think it could probably be explained by the stress of life, but it really wasn’t.  He told me to read the Bible, a lot.  I was 21, but I looked about 15.  I had a seriously sick baby.  A toddler.  I had just separated from my husband.  I had no home as I had moved all my possessions into my parents’ garage.  And I was going through a criminal investigation due to being subjected to rape.  And I would sit reading the Bible, telling everyone how much Jesus loves them.

 

When my son was ready to be released from intensive care they were going to transfer him back to our home town.  I knew if I went back I would end up back in the relationship with an abuser.  God told me to move to Gateshead, where lovely Andy and Alice Smith lived.  My son was transferred to a new hospital and we moved with him.  Alice and Andy found a flat for us.  It was still a time when the social security system worked well and we were financially poor, but could survive.

 

One day we had some time away from the hospital visiting Andy and Alice who were having a party.  Baggy was there.  I had rarely seen him since I was sixteen.  As I stood chatting to him, God told me audibly that I was going to marry him.  I soon left the house in shock.  Convinced I had imagined God’s voice.  I told Him that no, I would not be marrying Baggy.  He was still old (34 by this point).  He wasn’t my sort.  In fact, nobody was my sort.  I would remain single for the rest of my life.  Marriage had nearly killed me.  End of.

 

Eventually my son was well enough to leave hospital, after a couple of attempts in which we left hospital and I had to resuscitate him at home when he stopped breathing and went either blue or grey.

 

Soon afterwards Andy and Alice moved to Essex.  I didn’t have a TV or internet and spent most evenings chatting to either God or friends on the phone.  Over the next year or so Baggy and I chatted on the phone regularly.  Whilst on one level I knew I would never want to marry him, on another I knew it was the only outcome for my life.

 

Over the months in Gateshead I attended a course in which I began to recognise that what I had been subjected to was labelled “domestic abuse”.  I accessed counselling.  I went to a large church in which I was vaguely anonymous.  I grew into myself and into God.  It was a beautiful time for me and the two small people God had given to me.  My son grew healthier.  My daughter grew happier.  Miracles of provision and transformation happened.  I learned to drive.  I learned to live alone.  My ex-husband was found not guilty by a jury.  I was prescribed higher and higher dosages of anti-depressants.  I gained some friendships and lost some.  The world was complex and messy, beautiful and desperately awful.  All at once.

 

Eventually I told God that he would have to tell Baggy to marry me.  I certainly wasn’t going to tell him.  And if it really was God, and not my imagination, this would prove it.

 

Then God told me to move to Essex.  I’d visited Andy and Alice, who now lived in the same town as Baggy.  I attended their church and God spoke to me.  They had been praying for our family for months and that Sunday they invited us to the front, to pray with us.  And so I made plans to move to Essex.

 

Baggy helped me to move.  Flying to Gateshead and driving the van down to Essex (for non-UK readers, this was an almost 300-mile journey).  Later on he told me that during this journey, God told him the he would marry me.  This came as a complete shock to him.  He’d been single for 13 years.  He was happily single and childfree, doing missionary work in Poland and that’s how he had envisaged life continuing.

 

Over the twelve days that followed from me moving to Essex, neither of us knew the other had been told by God we should get married.  Eventually I had an awkward conversation with Alice about it.  Seemingly, unbeknown to me, Baggy had a similar one with Andy.

 

Eventually on 26th February 2007 we had a conversation.  I mumbled a lot and offered him cups of tea.  And I rarely mumble.  It was very awkward.  But whilst sitting on opposite sofas we mumbled our way to realising that we God had told us to get married and so we agreed to do just that.  10 years ago today.

 

We got married six months later.  And the journey we’ve been on has been amazing and painful and wonderful.  Immediately that I found myself with someone to support me, my brain shut down and I became seriously mentally unwell.  Baggy went from being single to inheriting two children and a seriously crazy wife-to be.  I went from being poor to co-owning a house, two cars and having a super awesome husband-to-be.  We never got engaged or did engagement rings.  I gradually came off high dosage anti-depressants and Baggy described me as transitioning from being Eeyore to Tigger in about a month.  Both children quickly started to call Baggy daddy.  We attended family court to fight my ex-husband getting contact with the children and we succeeded.  Which was (and continues to be) a huge miracle.

 

Life has rarely been easy, but it has been awesome.  My wedding ring is inscribed with Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”  It was also inscribed on Baggy’s first wedding ring, but he lost that one on the honeymoon and is currently on his third wedding ring.

 

I would have never asked or imagined marrying Baggy.  He’s still thirteen years older than me (obviously!).  But I think my life experience packed in about the same levels of maturity as his stable and single adulthood gave him.  He’s absolutely the best person I could have ever married, even though I would never have chosen him.  And as a committed feminist I sit in the tension of having had a divinely arranged marriage whilst holding onto values of bodily autonomy and personal choice fought for by feminists through the years.

 

Having indulged in an uncharacteristic amount of sentimentality, I will end here.  Our relationship is not a model for Christian marriage, it is a rare and complex partnership in the midst of the more conventional romances and proposals that take place in most Christian relationships.  However, it is our story and it continues to be the best one God could write with all of us GLWs.