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How I Met My Future Husband

How I Met My Future Husband

(Click here to read yesterday’s introduction to today’s post: “Hope Greater Than a Diamond Ring.”)

After writing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, I had another unexpected opportunity to trust the Lord. All of a sudden, guys started coming out of the woodwork showing interest in this self-proclaimed, formerly boy-crazy girl.

Sounds great, right? But a few wise people encouraged me to have someone else respond to guys on my behalf, and I wrote and posted the following message on the contact page of my website:

A note for the guys:

Sorry, gents, I know I just put myself out there as a boy-crazy girl, but the purpose of this site isn’t to find a guy. I’m sorry I won’t be responding to personal inquiries—too busy investing in the girls.

I knew my advisors were right. As much as I wanted to get married someday, that wasn’t why I wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl. So I “set my face like a flint” and continued investing in teen girls.

Seven months after publishing my book, I inadvertently started following a guy named Trevor Marsteller on Twitter.

I instantly noticed that he had 1,000 followers and a blog where he’d done book reviews in the past. I was still hard at work marketing my book (contrary to popular belief, your work is just getting started once you finish a manuscript!). At the time, I was reaching out to bloggers, asking if I could send them a free copy of Confessions in exchange for an honest review.

So of course, I direct messaged Trevor, asking if he’d consider reading and writing a review of my book. He responded the same day, and our friendship began. He wrote a wonderful review of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, and we began to message each other on Facebook where we weren’t limited by 140 characters.

He seemed to be as busy as me, so there was more than once where a couple weeks passed with no Facebook messages, and I was certain our conversation would fizzle out (after all, that’s how the script had always gone!).

But somehow we kept talking, and after about four months, Trevor sent me the following message. (He had vacation days he needed to use up, and he’d been considering driving to Minneapolis for the Desiring God Conference.)

I wanna shoot something by you and hear your thoughts. I was thinking, “Ya know what, Desiring God posts all of their content for free from all of their conferences, and I have been to their conferences before, and I know what the experience is like. So maybe I don’t need to drive all the way out to MN. But I certainly wouldn’t mind taking a vacation in September before my vacation time expires, and one very real option is to visit this Paula girl.” So, idk, those are some super general and preliminary thoughts, but what do ya think? Is southern MI a visit-worthy place? And will or will I not consume all of the chicken at the Chick-Fil-As in southern Michigan?

Eeeeeeee! I responded,

This Paula girl thinks that’s one of the best ideas she’s heard in a long time! MI is a swell place to vacation; an even better place to live. Let me put together a list of ideas for you and see what you think.

I was excited. I liked him. Of course I did! But still, I didn’t know if he liked me as anything more than a friend. Maybe he just thought it was cool to message an “author.” I couldn’t read him. Besides, experience had taught me that I shouldn’t ever assume a guy liked me until he specifically told me so himself.

And lest you think I never struggled again after writing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, let me share a journal entry I wrote before Trevor visited:

Wow, God. Thank You for showing me Yourself just now as I spent time in Philippians 2 reading about how I was to “count others more significant than myself” and “look not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

After reading this I grabbed my phone and went out to weed my garden. I checked and saw that Trevor was “active now” on Facebook, so I started a conversation with him about his hunting safety course.

He responded to my questions, but he didn’t ask me any to keep the conversation going. So I stopped the conversation and got back to weeding, feeling stupid and unloved.

I wasn’t counting him more significant than me. I never even considered that he might be in a conversation with someone else or . . .

How I need Your grace, Abba, to put on the mind of Christ and make myself nothing and serve Trevor without expecting anything in return. Maybe he legitimately just wants to be my friend and nothing more.

I recognize now that I’ll gladly host him on his vacation (and mine) IF he makes me feel attractive and interesting. But if he’s just not that into me, I’ll resent him and everything I plan and do for and with him.

What if this is not Your man for me? What if You want me to humble myself as You humbled Yourself and serve him as You served me, demanding nothing in return?

Ouch, ouch, ouch! Suddenly this passage became intensely personal. Oh God, thanks for humbling Yourself and obeying Your Father so You might save this proud, proud girl. Make me like Your beautiful self. Catch me up in the romance with You, not with a mere mortal.

With that I asked my close friends to pray with me that I would love Trevor well by showing him a great vacation—without expecting anything in return. I knew that apart from God’s power that would be impossible for me.

Then I journaled,

Trevor comes this week. Do you have something there beyond friendship? Lead me so clearly, Good, Kind Shepherd.

And oh, how He did. Check back tomorrow to read about Trevor’s visit.

How I Met My Future Husband was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

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Hope Greater Than a Diamond Ring

Hope Greater Than a Diamond Ring

Someone asked me if I’d write about my journey from “boy-crazy to my man.” (If you haven’t heard, I’m getting married!)

I didn’t respond to this person’s request for a while, because I was hesitant to share my “love story.” Not because I’m not excited. Boy howdy, I am!

It’s just that I remember all too well how I used to ask married and engaged couples, “How did you get together?!” I’d lean in, soaking in every word, listening attentively to learn the secret.

As they’d share the details of their story, my hopes would rise or fall based on how similar my current circumstances were to theirs (as if God only has one love story script!).

That’s why I want to be careful about how I share this story with you. I don’t want you to hear, “I finally got a guy who stuck around . . . so surely there’s hope for you!”

‘Cause speaking of hope . . . I’ve noticed that lots of you are struggling not to give up hope.

Emily titled her email to me, “Is there any hope at all?” Here’s an excerpt:

My single girlfriends and I grew up in wonderful Christian homes where strong godly marriages were modeled, and we grew up dreaming of being wives and moms someday. We never dated around or tried to attract attention to ourselves and have even been told by lots of people that they don’t understand why we are still single. Neither do we!

I think the reason that we still struggle with boy-craziness is simply out of desperation. It’s not like we each have a hoard of guys hovering around us, and we just have to pick one. Nope, there really aren’t any guys—at all.

So whenever there is the smallest inkling of hope, we promptly do the “spiritual” thing and start praying for him every day, conniving ways to be where he is and give him a chance to observe us in a group setting, and get our hopes up . . . only to be disappointed when there really wasn’t much of anything there in the first place. It’s terrible.

Emily says it’s terrible because there are two kinds of hope—and she has the wrong kind.

I realized that there are two kinds of hope the day I read 1 Peter 1. Check out verses three and thirteen:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

As I read about the “living hope” we have because Christ has been raised from the dead, I realized that there are also “dead hopes.”

And although I’m commanded to “set my hope fully on the grace that will be mine when Jesus returns for me,” I realize that much of the time I set my hope on so much less: a relationship or success or [fill in the blank].

There is hope—not because you’re currently surrounded by hoards of Christian guys (or even one!), not because you’re the most beautiful girl in your circle of friends (or a close second!)—but because Jesus Christ is returning for you, and you will live forever with Him.

There is hope. But there are two kinds: the dead kind and the living kind. Which kind do you have? (You’ll know by thinking about what sends your emotions soaring . . . or plummeting.) What specifically are you setting your hope on? I’d love to hear.

If you can see that yours is a dead hope, dig into 1 Peter 1. As you do, ask God to lift your eyes from your present situation to Him. Repent of (turn from) your dead hopes, and ask Him to help you begin to set your hope fully on Christ, your Living Hope.

Then click here for the skinny on the love story He’s scripted for me. Just promise me that your hopes won’t rise and fall based on it. Deal?

Hope Greater Than a Diamond Ring was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

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How God Is Using One Woman to Reach Brazil

How God Is Using One Woman to Reach Brazil

This woman hosted me when I spoke at a school in Brazil last month. She prays. Oh how she prays! And the things God does through her prayers . . . here’s just a tiny peek at how He’s on the move as a result of her persistent asking and believing. Teach me to pray and trust like that, Lord!

In 2012, after completing the True Woman 101 study with three other women, Cindy Rast—a missionary in Brazil—just knew Brazilian women needed to hear this message. For months she thought about how to spread it to women in Brazil, but she always came back to, What can I do?

Still, she continued to lead group after group of women through True Woman 101—American women, Brazilian women; older women, younger women; divorced women, married women, single women—and she saw the same results over and over. Women were starving for this truth.

This message is in all of Latin America except for Brazil! “God, what do You want? I don’t have anything to offer.”

“We’ve let the world define us for so long, but when you look at the Word and see your Creator’s design, there’s something so affirming and beautiful,” she told me. “It’s not just someone’s nice idea. It’s what the Creator is saying! There’s the power.”

One day in December 2013, as Cindy was sitting down to lunch, she turned on Revive Our Hearts and heard Laura Gonzalez de Chavez sharing how God made her dream of starting Revive Our Hearts in Spanish a reality. As Cindy listened she thought, This message is in all of Latin America except for Brazil! She got on her knees, weeping, and cried out, “God, what do You want? I don’t have anything to offer.”

But then God began to bring to mind her connections . . . at TransWorld Radio, at the audio-visual company where her father-in-law serves as president, and more. So with trembling fingers, Cindy picked up the phone and left a message at Revive Our Hearts, sharing her passion. They’re going to think I’m a crazy lady! she thought.

When she hung up with Revive Our Hearts, she contacted Shedd Publishing and told them how much True Woman 101 had transformed her life. They don’t usually publish Bible studies, so they had no idea how consumers would respond. But after thinking about it for several months, in April 2014 they agreed to publish the workbook in Portuguese.

Cindy then went to work raising money to also publish the True Woman conference video messages into Portuguese.

“The Lord has done everything,” Cindy told me. “You wouldn’t know it, but I’m a high-functioning introvert. He’s impressed on me, ‘You be obedient, and I’ll do the work.’ It’s like this gear that has been greased so well and moves without any difficulty!”

Cindy believes the Lord will raise up a team of Brazilian women who are passionate about spreading this message. “I’m just the little match that’s striking the flame,” she told me.

Burn on, Lord, until every woman in Brazil has a chance to hear Your beautiful design for her life!

How God Is Using One Woman to Reach Brazil was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

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Love Hurts . . . And Heals

Love Hurts . . . And Heals

Thirty-three foster kids and six adopted children later, I joined Dan and Melissa Jarvis’ family for a few weeks. The stories I have learned since have boggled my mind.

The four-year-old who lovingly laid his head on my lap the night I arrived had a breathtakingly awful beginning. He came to the family as a nine-week-old baby, having been mercilessly shaken and brutally beaten. He had twenty-seven broken bones (and no, that’s no typo) and his brain had been severely damaged.

Her life was so deprived and desperate that redemption looked . . . well, impossible. But God.

The doctors predicted he would not progress beyond a nine-week-old mental state, if he lived at all. But God. Last night I put together an A–Z puzzle with him and learned that he not only knows his alphabet, he can say it backward. He’s one of the most cheerful kids I’ve ever met!

Another three-year-old had been so neglected that she operated in pure survival-mode, with almost no knowledge of the outside world. After arriving in the Jarvis home, she thought she was in heaven when she first visited Walmart and saw the milk jugs lining the cooler.

Her life was so deprived and desperate that redemption looked . . . well, impossible. But God. Last night this little girl helped me make a fruit salad, and after dinner we all feasted on homemade popcorn while watching the movie Frozen.

I can’t begin to fathom the cost Dan and Melissa have incurred over the past nine years. Not only the financial costs, but the much-more-expensive emotional costs.

The pain of choosing to love others’ children for a short time and then giving them back, the pain of adopting children who may never recover from their broken beginning. (This, I’ve learned, is often tied to how well they “bonded” emotionally just after birth. Without a parental bond, it’s incredibly difficult for kids to grow up and trust people, bond with others, or love fully, even if they’re later placed into a loving home.) It makes my insides hurt just thinking of the excruciating pain of Dan and Melissa’s one-way love.

Only the Father’s love can thaw our sin-frozen hearts and warm them to embrace and heal this broken world—one heart at a time.

And yet . . . as I ponder this mind-blowing love, I realize it really isn’t one-way. They first received God’s one-way love for them, and now they pass it on. It’s more like a beautiful circle. They were first adopted into Father God’s family, and now they’ve opened the doors of their own home and family to welcome in new sons and daughters.

The same is true of you, you know. Whether you had a father who shook you and abused you and trash-talked you, or whether your father fed and clothed and comforted you, you too are one-way loved by the Father God and can be (if you’re not already) adopted into His family:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:3–6, emphasis added).

Our Father sent Jesus to be broken and bruised so you might be accepted and welcomed—accepted and welcomed when your life was a wreck, when you had nothing to offer Him.

It reminds me of the movie I watched last night that said, “An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.” Only the Father’s love can thaw our sin-frozen hearts and warm them to embrace and heal this broken world—one heart at a time.

How has the Father’s one-way love for you opened your heart to one-way love another?

Love Hurts…And Heals” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

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The Bitter, Salvaged Life of Jennifer Smith

Jennifer cussed the chaplain out when she arrived at prison to serve her sixteen-year sentence. But in the privacy of her cell, she repeatedly beat her head against the concrete wall until it bled. Without drugs, she knew no other way to mask the anger and bitterness she had known from childhood.

For most of her twenty-two years, Jennifer’s parents said she was a mistake—that she was supposed to be a boy. So, Jennifer believed that God makes mistakes.

At ten, a nineteen-year-old from church began molesting Jennifer. To add to this evil, he asked her to act out Bible stories such as Adam and Eve. At this point, Jennifer wanted nothing to do with God.

She started drinking at age eleven to make the pain go away. By twelve, she was cutting, participating in criminal activity, and abusing drugs. By seventeen, she was a “mule,” trafficking drugs from Tulsa to Memphis.

One night, wondering how her life had turned out the way it had, Jennifer breathed a simple prayer, “Help. If You’re listening, help.”

She didn’t think about that prayer again until twenty-seven days later, when she saw six squad cars in her rearview mirror. As Jennifer was slammed to the pavement and cuffed, a load lifted from her. While she didn’t know what it would look like, she was certain life as she knew it was over.

After arriving at prison, Jennifer mocked the inmates in the PAL program (Principles & Applications for Life—a Bible boot camp of sorts). But she watched them. Their joy haunted her because it was something she had never known.

So she caved and joined them. For ten weeks, she heard things she’d never heard before: Forgiveness equals freedom; God uses authority for direction, provision, and protection for our lives. And, if she would believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for her sins, He would give her a new identity.

Ten weeks came and went, and the chaplain asked Jennifer to stay ten more. She couldn’t understand why—after the trouble she’d caused—but Jennifer agreed.

And on December 21, 2000, God’s Spirit interacted with her through His Word for the first time in her life. When that class ended, Jennifer got on her knees and told God if He could salvage what was left of her life, it was His.

And it has been, ever since.

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Catch the whole story in Nancy’s radio interview, “From Bondage to Freedom: Jennifer Smith’s Story” on ReviveOurHearts.com.

PS: Jennifer got out of prison on May 31, 2011, only to go back in . . . this time as denominational chaplain. God is now using her mightily to help salvage other bitter, broken lives.

The Bitter, Salvaged Life of Jennifer Smith” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

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