Engagement Stories: Martha and Tom

couple standing in forest
When after our first date Tom emailed me with, "I do hope for an opportunity to prayerfully pursue you, should you wish to be pursued," my jaw dropped.

A Sunday morning a little more than a year ago, my pastor invited anyone who wanted prayer to come forward. My heart and head wrestled. I knew I needed prayer. I knew I had some things to hash out with God. I knew there were things I needed to surrender.

But I was scared. What if I go up there and God asks me to give up marriage and family altogether? What if He finally breaks the news to me that I’ll be single the rest of my life?

Instead, I tapped the shoulder of my friend sitting next to me. “Will you pray for me?” I whispered.

Having known me for the past 11 years, my friend — married and with three children of her own — knew exactly what I wanted her to pray about. She knew the burden I carried. So she prayed, shed a few tears with me, hugged me, and sent me on my way.

August 1, 2016, I received a newsletter from Reinvent Ministries, an organization I learned about from Greg and Erin Smalley with whom I worked while serving as the editor and producer of Boundless.org. The line that struck me said,

“Do you know many cynics? . . . Modern cynicism can be seen as a jaded prudence — a reluctance to hope or believe in something more often due to a series of disappointments. . . . A person with a fully developed cynical attitude probably has even convinced themselves that they don’t desire more, perhaps even losing touch with desires.”

“A reluctance to hope” and “losing touch with desires” described me. At age 34 and not married, I was becoming a cynic.

Curious — and a bit desperate — I visited the ministry’s website and registered for the September 2016 Impact Training in Long Beach, California.

My primary motivation for going to the training was to see if there were any stones yet uncovered that would explain why I was still single. Having spent years hoping for marriage, I was anxious to put a bookend to that season. I expected that bookend to be a husband, but in this training, the Lord showed me the bookend I needed was to stop believing several lies swirling in my mind.

Lies such as, “I’m a disappointment to my family because I’m not married and don’t have children.” “My life doesn’t matter. Marriage and family is what makes someone valuable.” “I’m an inconvenience to others.”

I remember one night weeping in my bed as I thought about how I had let these lies influence my relationships with my family and with God. It saddened me deeply.

The next morning I turned to the book of Psalms and randomly decided to read chapter six:

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord — how long?

Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?

As I reached verse six, my eyes widened:

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

By the end of the chapter, my tears returned as I experienced God’s love for me and presence with me like never before. “The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea.” I was astounded that in my place of regret and shame, my God met me with compassion. He spoke to my heart that He had heard my prayers. I had not been speaking into thin air all these years.

I returned home from the training feeling like I was wearing a new pair of glasses. I matter. Other people matter. Jesus loves me. He is at work!

Following my return from California, I signed up for a three-month stint on eHarmony. It wasn’t the first time I had tried online dating, but this time I had a new strategy: take a chill pill and have fun. What profiles looked interesting to me? Who might I enjoy meeting over coffee?

Being more secure of my identity in Christ and not placing my value in my relationship status, I relaxed. I decided I’d no longer look at a guy’s profile for what he could offer me but I’d look for men I’d like to get to know more.

After about a month or so of exchanging messages with various matches, I came across one from a guy named Tom. He lived in Colorado. We had some similar interests like reading and writing. He mentioned enjoying a book by C. S. Lewis. We were close in age. And he was tall — 6-foot-7-inches tall! On a whim, I sent him a smile. (Part of my new strategy was to be freer with making the first move, whether sending a smile or the first set of multiple choice questions.)

Tom smiled back and sent me the first set of multiple choice questions. We moved through all the stages of eHarmony within a week. In his first email to me, Tom asked if I’d like to go out for coffee. We hadn’t even talked on the phone! So while I was surprised, I was also impressed that this guy had no desire to drag things out and “test the waters” for months and months.

When after our first date Tom emailed me and ended it with, “I do hope for an opportunity to prayerfully pursue you, should you wish to be pursued,” my jaw dropped. He used the “P” word! He wanted to pursue me! And that’s exactly what he’s done the past several months.

He had a near-three-hour dinner with my dad the first time they met. He immediately memorized my brothers’, sisters’, nieces’ and nephews’ names. He willingly gave me his pastor’s and mom’s contact information when I asked about others vouching for him. He asked to pray with me in the Des Moines airport before I met his parents for the first time. He eagerly toured my family’s old turkey barns during a visit to Minnesota. He agreed to join me in pre-engagement counseling. He vacuumed my house and watered my flowers when I was stuck on the couch following an excision on my foot. He took a Myers-Briggs personality test. Tom has won my heart!

On July 29, 2017, Tom proposed. He arranged with my sister Grace to write on my Scrabble board, “MARTHA KRIENKE WILL YOU MARRY ME” while I was at work. Then the following day when I grabbed the game from my closet and opened the box for Tom and me to play, I discovered the surprise of a lifetime! After he slipped the ring on my finger and I said yes, we spent the next couple of hours calling family and texting friends across the country. Now we look forward to celebrating with many of them at our wedding November 11, 2017 in Colorado.

If there’s one Boundless article I can point to that teaches what I personally experienced while dating Tom, it’s “How to Date to Get Married” by Paul Perkins. I dare you to take Paul’s four lessons to heart and just see what happens!

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