Our vacation at the beach ended, and about a week later, I was loading up my car to make my move to N.C.
I hadn’t heard anything from Grant Castleberry since the day he had added me on Facebook and I had stopped thinking about him. I had so much on my mind as I prepared to move to Duke and I figured that since he hadn’t sent me a message, his “adding me” was just a random thing and that I would never hear from him again.
I packed every nook and cranny of my car, filling it with most of my belongings. This felt like the biggest move of my life so far.
When I went to Clemson, it seemed like a big move at the time, but I realized later that college is more like a transitional phase than a final move from home. I still had my bedroom at home that I would come back to on holiday weekends and summer breaks.
But now, all of that was about to change. This felt different. I was leaving home for good. I wasn’t going back to college. I was going to start a new job in a new state. This was a new phase in my life. And I would probably never move back home.
My brother Jameson helped me load up my car.
“Wow, you are packing a lot of clothes,” Jameson commented at least three times. “Well, Jameson, I have to pack everything and I just don’t know what I’ll need. And N.C. gets a lot colder than S.C. so I need every coat and sweater.” Yes, I am a true southern girl.
When we had shoved the last possible thing in that we could, it was time to go.
My mom was making the trip up to N.C. with me in her car to help transport my things and to stay a few days to get me settled in.
Jameson and my dad gathered with us in the driveway before we took off. It was overcast that day and we stood in a circle as my dad led us in a prayer before we left.
Praying before trips is something that we’ve always done in our family.
I stared down at the oyster shells underneath my feet as I listened to my dad’s voice.
This was more emotional than I thought it was going to be, and unexpectedly, I felt tears well up in my eyes.
I didn’t feel like a “grown” woman moving away. I suddenly felt like a five-year-old little girl. What was I doing leaving home? How would I live on my own? Could I really do this?
My dad’s words brought comfort as he prayed for the Lord to keep us safe on our drive to N.C. He prayed for my future ministry at Duke and that God would use me and bless my time there.
Then he prayed for something I didn’t expect him to pray for at all.
“Lord, we pray if it be your will, you would bring GraceAnna a husband very soon. I pray that he would a be a man after your own heart.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but this wasn’t the first prayer my dad or my mom had offered up for my future husband. I was later to learn that they had been earnestly praying that entire summer, on their knees, for God to bring someone into my life.
I think they knew that I wasn’t by nature the “independent” type. I grew up with a protective father and I was sandwiched between four brothers, so I had always felt and been well taken care of.
And while I was still under my father’s protection as I moved to Duke, I was, in a sense, stepping out on my own. I know that they didn’t want it to always be like that for me.
I was 13 years old the first time I ever prayed for my “future husband.” I was hanging out with a girl who was at least 5 years older than I was.
The last thing that was crossing my mind at this young age was a husband.
Obviously, it wasn’t the last thing that this older teenage girl was thinking about.
“GraceAnna,” she asked out of the blue, “have you ever prayed for your future husband?”
Oh no! I remember thinking. Is that something I should be doing?
I didn’t want to tell her that I hadn’t, and not only had I never prayed for my future husband, I had never even thought about him. Ever.
“Well, umm, not exactly,” I finally answered.
“Well, I think it would be a good idea if you did.” I remember her saying.
I thought she was so old and so wise. So I vowed to pray for my “future husband” later that day.
I don’t remember exactly what I prayed, but I remember feeling a relief afterwards that I’d prayed for him and now I could get back to being a 13-year-old.
Even though it makes me laugh when I think about it now, I do think that God used that conversation in my life to plant a seed in my heart for the future.
It wasn’t until years later in college, that I actually started praying for my “future husband.”
I joined a Bible Study my freshman year and one of my leaders shared that she wrote out prayers to God for her future husband.
I remember that evening feeling like I did that day when I was 13 years old. It had never crossed my mind to write out a prayer letter for a man that may or may not possibly be in my life one day.
I went up to my dorm room later that night and pulled out a blank sheet of notebook paper.
I remember feeling kind of ridiculous as I started to write. But nevertheless, I wrote out a prayer for my future husband.
I prayed that whoever he was and wherever he was that he would be sold out to Christ. I prayed that he would keep his heart and his mind pure. I prayed that he would wait for me.
Off and on throughout college I would write similar prayer letters for my husband.
The funny thing is, that summer after graduating from college, I hadn’t really been praying for my “future husband” at all. I had come to a place of enjoying my relationship with the Lord and trusting in His will for me, whatever that might be.
I had read a book that year called, Did I Kiss Marriage Good-bye? And after reading it, I started wondering if God might want me to be single for a while. I didn’t want to spend my days pining after a life that He hadn’t given me and that might not be His plan for me.
Maybe there wasn’t a “future husband” out there for me at all. Maybe God had something completely different in store for me.
I wanted to follow the Lord regardless of whether or not His plans matched up with my dreams.
I wanted to love God for who He was, not for what He could give to me. I didn’t know how to do that, so I just started praying for God to help me be content in His will instead of praying for him to bring a guy into my life.
So, when my dad prayed those words, it took me by surprise. It felt good to hear him pray for my future, because I realized that I did still want to get married. And I remembered all those college prayer letters and that immature, yet heartfelt 13-year-old prayer.
My dad said, “Amen” and after exchanging hugs and tears, I got in my car and pulled out of the drive.
I stared in the rearview mirror as I watched my dad and Jameson get smaller and then our yard disappear in the distance.
Well, I thought. This is it. I’m leaving Beaufort for good.
To be continued…