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    • Curious

      Guest Speaker 1.26.17 @ 8pm eastern   01/22/2017

      I am pleased to announce that we have are going to have a Q&A with an ex-evangelical on Thurs, January 26, 2017 @ 8pm.  The Q&A will last for approximately 1 hour.  I will be setting up a subforum for guest speakers as I hope to be able to get some other folks come talk to us. Our guest on Thurs will be Chris Stroop.  Here is his bio: Christopher Stroop grew up a rank-and-file member of the Christian Right in an Evangelical enclave community, Stroop's childhood social milieu consisting mostly of family and people associated with church and/or Christian school. From about the age of 16, Stroop found himself dealing with an increasingly acute crisis of faith that was not addressed properly by the people he talked to about it, and he was subjected to spiritual abuse. Stroop nevertheless went on to earn a BA in history and German from Ball State University (summa cum laude) in 2003, and then a Ph.D. in modern Russian History and Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from Stanford in 2012. Subsequently, Stroop spent three academic years teaching in the School of Public Policy at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow, where he kind of sort of almost got in trouble for "teaching Pussy Riot lyrics." Currently, Stroop teaches nineteenth-century European history and Russian Studies classes as a Provost's Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of South Florida and, as a freelance writer and public speaker, speaks out against the abuses of conservative Christianity in general and the the white Evangelical subculture he comes from in particular. You can find many of his writings in this vein on Religion Dispatches. If you would like to support this work financially, please click here (for monthly support) or here (to leave a one-time gift). Stroop's more academic writings can mostly be found here, and you can follow him on Twitter - @C_Stroop.   We are going to use the Q&A forum format.  I will be setting up a special forum just for Chris.  I will open the forum about 15 minutes before the Q&A starts so you can start asking your questions.   We have a few rules.  Failure to follow these rules will get you temporarily placed in the Prayer Closet so we can preview your posts.  If you get put in the PC during the Q&A you will be released once it's over, but lets just follow the few simple rules so none of that is necessary. Rules for Q&A: 1. Be polite.  This is not an event meant for snark.  Chris is taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us.  He is an expert in the things we discuss here, so let's give him respect, please. 2. One question per post.   Please don't bog him down with a bunch of questions in one post.  We are using the Q&A format so he can easily answer questions.  Putting a ton of questions in one post defeats the purpose.   You can continue discussion on the thread as he answers and ask another question in the same thread if you have one after he answers. 3. Please try to keep thread drift to a minimum during the Q&A.  After it's over, if you want to continue discussion on the topics  and they drift, that's fine. 4.  Be polite! These rules are subject to change as I and the helpmeets think over possible loopholes (cause there is always one person that has to push boundaries)
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silvia

Natalie Nyquist, formerly of YLCF, on HuffPo

48 posts in this topic

Natalie talked to a HuffPo writer about her experience of being twice-divorced at 28: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/3 ... ir=Divorce

While I'm glad Natalie's voice is being heard in a mainstream publication, I hope she includes more cultural context in future pieces. Ya think courtship/ patriarchal culture (very young, parent-directed courtship, Natalie's dad describing her as a valued possession [stradivarius violin] and exhorting her to "submit and respect" at the wedding ceremony) might possibly have had a little something to do with the twists and turns her life has taken?! Yet there's no mention of the extremist religious culture in which she was raised or its approach to romance, which denies the autonomy and agency of the female partner.

I've gotta say, I'm not sure where Natalie actually stands on all the patriarchy/ gender-role stuff. She has spoken out against courtship, yes, but she still quotes John Piper, well-known proponent of marital submission, and works for complementarian Moody Publishers.

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She has come a LONG way. Too bad she still supports Piper. My mom use to send him money for praying for us. Glad my mom finally saw the light and it wasn't him!

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She's not being honest with herself or her intended audience(s) when she says things like this:

...my divorces were analyzed and discussed online because of my then-popularity as a blogger -- two divorces did wonders for that.

Not quite. Natalie's divorces were analyzed & discussed because she and her erstwhile friends were some of the more visible proponents of courtship culture not to mention extremely conservative Christian values that endorsed Daddy-directed courtships and all the nonsensical beliefs they promoted as religious dogma. It would be a good thing if she could now be more open & honest about the problems created by her (former?) belief system and its role in her poor marriage outcomes.

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She's not being honest with herself or her intended audience(s) when she says things like this:

Not quite. Natalie's divorces were analyzed & discussed because she and her erstwhile friends were some of the more visible proponents of courtship culture not to mention extremely conservative Christian values that endorsed Daddy-directed courtships and all the nonsensical beliefs they promoted as religious dogma. It would be a good thing if she could now be more open & honest about the problems created by her (former?) belief system and its role in her poor marriage outcomes.

Being honest with herself and others has never been Natalie's strong suit... :penguin-no:

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I read the whole thing saying "Really? REALLY? You're not going to even mention the evangelical Christian subculture you grew up in that placed so much worth on purity that you got married too soon to the wrong guy and once divorced, had so little self-worth and self-confidence that you fell for a bigamist and a sociopath? You don't think that the way you grew up and what you were taught were worth mentioning? Or that your friends ditched you because THEY'RE still part of the subculture and you committed the ultimate sins of divorce and living together without benefit of marriage with a spouse your father hadn't vetted?"

Also, right, her divorce was dissected and discussed BECAUSE SHE AND THE OTHER YLCF GIRLS HAD PUT THEMSELVES FORWARD AS AUTHORITIES ON PURITY, COURTSHIP, AND MARRIAGE. If she'd just been "a blogger," no one would have given two shits about her divorces. As it was, she'd been such a prolific writer on the topics of purity and emotional purity and saving one's heart for marriage and BLAH BLAH BLAH that when she got divorced not once, but TWICE, you bet your ass it's going to be noticed.

So basically I feel like the HuffPo article was fundamentally dishonest. It presented her as just this average girl who HAPPENED to get married (for no particular reason) to a guy at 24, and get divorced at 25, and then remarry to someone she left when her kid was three weeks old. All of this just.....you know, happened, to this person who happens to be a blogger.

Bullshit. :naughty:

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I read the whole thing saying "Really? REALLY? You're not going to even mention the evangelical Christian subculture you grew up in that placed so much worth on purity that you got married too soon to the wrong guy and once divorced, had so little self-worth and self-confidence that you fell for a bigamist and a sociopath? You don't think that the way you grew up and what you were taught were worth mentioning? Or that your friends ditched you because THEY'RE still part of the subculture and you committed the ultimate sins of divorce and living together without benefit of marriage with a spouse your father hadn't vetted?"

Also, right, her divorce was dissected and discussed BECAUSE SHE AND THE OTHER YLCF GIRLS HAD PUT THEMSELVES FORWARD AS AUTHORITIES ON PURITY, COURTSHIP, AND MARRIAGE. If she'd just been "a blogger," no one would have given two shits about her divorces. As it was, she'd been such a prolific writer on the topics of purity and emotional purity and saving one's heart for marriage and BLAH BLAH BLAH that when she got divorced not once, but TWICE, you bet your ass it's going to be noticed.

So basically I feel like the HuffPo article was fundamentally dishonest. It presented her as just this average girl who HAPPENED to get married (for no particular reason) to a guy at 24, and get divorced at 25, and then remarry to someone she left when her kid was three weeks old. All of this just.....you know, happened, to this person who happens to be a blogger.

Bullshit. :naughty:

She "forgot" to mention that FJ - you know, some of the same people discussing her online - helped free her from her bigamist sociopath husband because we knew that about him before she did. In fact, that's why I got hooked on FJ, because you guys knew more about my friends than I did, or than even they did themselves.

Also, I've never heard that her first divorce was largely due to being a military marriage, and I've known Natalie a long time. It doesn't sound like anything else she's ever said about it before.

Oh wow, if you haven't checked out her "About" page on her website, she's updated it since the publication of yesterday's article, and it's all about what a great person she is! Too bad many of us could rip it to pieces pointing out the inconsistencies and omissions. pursuethebeauty.com/aboutnatalie/

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If I had the interest, that About Me page would be in tiny pieces, because it's a very carefully selected portfolio of her life experiences framed in the best possible light, with huge sections left out because they make her look maybe not so brilliant and not so take-chage.

One of the first people to criticize the courtship movement? Wow, a whole two years ago. I hate to tell her, but there were a whole crapload of people criticizing it before she came along, she was just still in that Evangelical bubble and had no idea that there was a life beyond it. And she oh-so-gently tapped the "emotional purity" movement with C. S. Lewis quotes...in 2007. When the site she wrote for was still hosting courtship stories describing the wonder of not touching one another until you got married.

What the fuck issues did she call attention to? She DISAPPEARED, she was scrubbed from YLCF, and the only people who knew any of what was going on were the folks at Free Jinger because some of us (ahem) have post-graduate degrees and have served as online researchers for major consulting firms, and others were local, and still OTHERS were ex-wives of the man she was divorcing.

I mean, don't get me wrong, it's great that she's processing and healing and writing about it.

I just she'd write about her ACTUAL history, not the selected highlights with the ugly parts left out.

She doesn't owe it to anyone to share her whole history, but I do think she's doing a serious disservice to many women trapped in the same cage she was in - where "purity" becomes such an idol that when your marriage falls apart, and you're not "pure" anymore, you're desperate. You're in a culture that tells you hey, you're now of no worth whatsoever.

If she's going to write about it, I wish she'd at least MENTION the part that her freaky conservative Christian Evangelical upbringing and beliefs played. Hell, she wrote a BOOK about purity, remember that? "Quest for the High Places." I wonder if that's going to make it into the carefully-excised version of her life. YLCF didn't, and it was a huge part of her life for a long time.

In conclusion: Bullshit, again. :wtf:

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I've known of/known Natalie for years. We were snail-mail penpals for a while, close to 15 years ago. I realize she's had a tough life.

BUT. Every time I come and check up on her (maybe every 6 months or year), it seems like she's "rebranded" herself, so to speak. Every time it's a different story, or a different version of a story. Every time there's the past writings scrubbed away.

I always felt, even back when we pen-palled, that she operated on a different wave-length than me. Just one of those people that maybe you have a lot in common with? But at the end of the day, somehow, you don't connect. You don't interpret things the same way.

I wish her the best of luck and a better life ahead, but wow, she's an odd duck!

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Also, I've never heard that her first divorce was largely due to being a military marriage, and I've known Natalie a long time. It doesn't sound like anything else she's ever said about it before.

This is indeed a new version of what happened. Here's the previous explanation (pursuethebeauty.com/2008/09/01/healer-1/):

As many of you know, I was married in the fall of 2007. Early in 2008 my husband forced me to leave our home. Our merciful God knows all that I did and went through to keep the marriage alive. Because of His grace, my offering of my life and my love was not and will never be wasted. But a marriage requires two people. Against the counsel of our families, counselors, and pastors, my husband divorced me.

Subsequent mentions of the first divorce were along these lines - they did NOT mention the military.

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I read the whole thing saying "Really? REALLY? You're not going to even mention the evangelical Christian subculture you grew up in that placed so much worth on purity that you got married too soon to the wrong guy and once divorced, had so little self-worth and self-confidence that you fell for a bigamist and a sociopath? You don't think that the way you grew up and what you were taught were worth mentioning? Or that your friends ditched you because THEY'RE still part of the subculture and you committed the ultimate sins of divorce and living together without benefit of marriage with a spouse your father hadn't vetted?"

Also, right, her divorce was dissected and discussed BECAUSE SHE AND THE OTHER YLCF GIRLS HAD PUT THEMSELVES FORWARD AS AUTHORITIES ON PURITY, COURTSHIP, AND MARRIAGE. If she'd just been "a blogger," no one would have given two shits about her divorces. As it was, she'd been such a prolific writer on the topics of purity and emotional purity and saving one's heart for marriage and BLAH BLAH BLAH that when she got divorced not once, but TWICE, you bet your ass it's going to be noticed.

So basically I feel like the HuffPo article was fundamentally dishonest. It presented her as just this average girl who HAPPENED to get married (for no particular reason) to a guy at 24, and get divorced at 25, and then remarry to someone she left when her kid was three weeks old. All of this just.....you know, happened, to this person who happens to be a blogger.

Bullshit. :naughty:

Wow. Is there somewhere I can read this story? It sounds like it would be fascinating for me. I was married (and divorced) young to a real a-hole (narcissist?), so stories like this resonate with me.

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If she's going to write about it, I wish she'd at least MENTION the part that her freaky conservative Christian Evangelical upbringing and beliefs played. Hell, she wrote a BOOK about purity, remember that? "Quest for the High Places." I wonder if that's going to make it into the carefully-excised version of her life.

Good point! Yeah, as far as I know, she hasn't repudiated the book, which seems kind of odd if she wants to set herself up as "the first to publicly challenge the emotional purity craze." Can't have it both ways...

I was indignant for Natalie when YLCF scrubbed a lot of her past work. But she and Gretchen do have something in common: they both act like their past advocacy of ultra-patriarchal principles never happened--and, by my lights, neither of them have really acknowledged the harm they might have caused to hundreds, or even thousands, of young girls who idolized them when they were the teenage queens of YLCF.

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Wow. Is there somewhere I can read this story? It sounds like it would be fascinating for me. I was married (and divorced) young to a real a-hole (narcissist?), so stories like this resonate with me.

Portions of it are on Natalie's website (pursuethebeauty.com) but some of the original stuff -- such as the original postings there or on YLCF -- are long since gone, scrubbed into oblivion.

Searches on the old Yuku FJ bring up some stuff: http://freejinger.yuku.com/topic/5409/S ... l-With-Him (Natalie responded to this thread). Also some more recent things, here at FJ: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=14765. Natalie's erstwhile friend, Ashleigh Baker, came on the Yuku FJ at one point, in order to set us all straight about YLCF: http://freejinger.yuku.com/topic/4343/C ... mcu6Wm9KSM

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I think the part about her About Me that bothered me the most was this:

Natalie holds a unique rapport with young women battling suffering and trauma: she is the same age, speaks as a survivor—not a professional, and infuses her faith into her choices.

Because "holds a unique rapport" is just not true. As TrueRebel1 pointed out, she's always been hard to 'get', always fond of vagueness. Also fond of disappearing, as noted above. So perhaps this line and also the "unapologetically sharing her struggles" part.

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I think the part about her About Me that bothered me the most was this:

Because "holds a unique rapport" is just not true. As TrueRebel1 pointed out, she's always been hard to 'get', always fond of vagueness. Also fond of disappearing, as noted above. So perhaps this line and also the "unapologetically sharing her struggles" part.

What I'm wondering is, where is she "speaking" with these young women? The only traces of her I find online are an article every 6 months or so on her pursue the beauty site. I'd hardly call that "a unique rapport".

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Also, why does she NEED a "unique rapport" with young women? She's an editor.

I suspect she's also remaking herself, a la Gretchen, to try to look more mainstream in her "personal branding"

These YLCF girls have realized that they were big fish in a small pond, and these two, at least, are changing ponds. Gretchen to some dreadful mishmash of Christian mommyblogging and social media tips and blog platform programming (Gretchen, if you read here, PLEASE separate your business and personal stuff on your site; it's incoherent) , and it seems like Natalie is reinventing herself as a mainstream blogger who's a Professional Survivor.

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Part of me wonders if the reason Natalie hasn't been completely forthcoming about the way patriarchy affected her is that her father, Paul Nyquist, is still a pretty big cheese in the fundamentalist universe--he's president of Moody Bible Institute. It seems like Natalie has really depended on her family's support since things went sour with her two marriages, and I imagine she doesn't want to jeopardize those family relationships by speaking out against a lot of what her father stands for. Which is kind of unfortunate, but also understandable.

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Part of me wonders if the reason Natalie hasn't been completely forthcoming about the way patriarchy affected her is that her father, Paul Nyquist, is still a pretty big cheese in the fundamentalist universe--he's president of Moody Bible Institute. It seems like Natalie has really depended on her family's support since things went sour with her two marriages, and I imagine she doesn't want to jeopardize those family relationships by speaking out against a lot of what her father stands for. Which is kind of unfortunate, but also understandable.

Interesting that you mention this. Back when I first got to know her, when she was 15-16, it was through HopeChest magazine, and then shortly after, through YLCF. At that time, it seemed that her parents and family were mainstream conservative Christians. The kind who went to a typical church and Christian college, not the frumpy, quiverfull, fundie type. But Natalie seemed to be taken by the HopeChest crowd, and quickly was into wearing dresses and headcoverings, and not dating and being a SAHD (well, until her dad talked her into going to college, apparently.)

So where I got lost is when her dad "forced" her into a courtship with the military guy. Since when did the mainstream dad become more of an enforcer of courtship than Natalie herself? At the time of her first marriage, I assumed that she and this guy took it upon themselves to do the whole courtship thing, and that her dad just nodded and smiled and agreed with all their standards of courtship. And so we got the cute courtship story of "my parents oversaw our wonderful courtship!" Maybe I got the wrong impression! But then after her divorce, the story I heard was "my dad made me marry this horrible guy! I don't believe in courtship anymore!" So which is the dad? The Moody Bible guy who's daughter made him participate in her self-enforced courtship? Or the patriarchal, fundie monster dad who's hiding behind the mask of "nice, mainstream Bible teacher"?

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Interesting that you mention this. Back when I first got to know her, when she was 15-16, it was through HopeChest magazine, and then shortly after, through YLCF. At that time, it seemed that her parents and family were mainstream conservative Christians. The kind who went to a typical church and Christian college, not the frumpy, quiverfull, fundie type. But Natalie seemed to be taken by the HopeChest crowd, and quickly was into wearing dresses and headcoverings, and not dating and being a SAHD (well, until her dad talked her into going to college, apparently.)

So where I got lost is when her dad "forced" her into a courtship with the military guy. Since when did the mainstream dad become more of an enforcer of courtship than Natalie herself? At the time of her first marriage, I assumed that she and this guy took it upon themselves to do the whole courtship thing, and that her dad just nodded and smiled and agreed with all their standards of courtship. And so we got the cute courtship story of "my parents oversaw our wonderful courtship!" Maybe I got the wrong impression! But then after her divorce, the story I heard was "my dad made me marry this horrible guy! I don't believe in courtship anymore!" So which is the dad? The Moody Bible guy who's daughter made him participate in her self-enforced courtship? Or the patriarchal, fundie monster dad who's hiding behind the mask of "nice, mainstream Bible teacher"?

To your first paragraph, TrueRebel1, it very much was Natalie's idea to get into wearing dresses and headcoverings. The first time I met Natalie in person she was wearing a headcovering, and requested that pictures of the event not be posted online where her family members might see them. This was way back before Facebook, lucky for her. It was always very incongruous, because wearing headcoverings is generally seen as a sign of being submissively under authority, but she was being unsubmissive in insisting on wearing them. :? Even I could see the disparity way back then.

It's very hard to say about her first marriage. Her dad definitely met Rick and vetted him before he and Natalie met face to face, but I am not aware of them forcing her towards marriage. In one of her posts, I believe here on FJ, Natalie said she'd never have married Rick if she'd had a regular dating relationship instead of a courtship, but one never got that vibe from YLCF or personal interaction. On her side, everything was exciting and wonderful and dreams were going to come true. On the side of the YLCF bigwigs who gathered for the occasion, it was nothing but support and joy. It's all so unclear about what happened next...

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To your first paragraph, TrueRebel1, it very much was Natalie's idea to get into wearing dresses and headcoverings. The first time I met Natalie in person she was wearing a headcovering, and requested that pictures of the event not be posted online where her family members might see them. This was way back before Facebook, lucky for her. It was always very incongruous, because wearing headcoverings is generally seen as a sign of being submissively under authority, but she was being unsubmissive in insisting on wearing them. :? Even I could see the disparity way back then.

It's very hard to say about her first marriage. Her dad definitely met Rick and vetted him before he and Natalie met face to face, but I am not aware of them forcing her towards marriage. In one of her posts, I believe here on FJ, Natalie said she'd never have married Rick if she'd had a regular dating relationship instead of a courtship, but one never got that vibe from YLCF or personal interaction. On her side, everything was exciting and wonderful and dreams were going to come true. On the side of the YLCF bigwigs who gathered for the occasion, it was nothing but support and joy. It's all so unclear about what happened next...

If I recall correctly from Natalie's time here (or at Yuku?), her first ex-husband's mother was a nightmare and tried to drive them apart. Assuming she was telling the truth at the time, that is...

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I read the HuffPo article, and while I can see that this is an attempt to re-brand herself as more mainstream, the article IS fundamentally dishonest, as others have already said. I am sympathetic to Natalie's desire to take control over how her own story is told, but it's far too late for that. She isn't going to be able to take back the details of her story already published online to make it a story about being twice-divorced before 30, with no mention of the role religion played in this unfortunate situation. The actual facts are far more interesting and ought to be enlightening to those heavily invested in purity and courtship culture. Anyone who spends any amount of time googling her name is going to find "nyquist" is the author of "the quest for high places," which is all about courtship. I agree with the statement above that her closeness to her dad, the director of the Moody Bible institute, must be making her reluctant to throw her religious background, and the close family members associated with it, under the bus. Her story in HuffPo has little to offer in terms of specific insight for a secular audience, and while not untrue, it is certainly misleading in the way it skims over salient details.

I want to support Natalie's desire to move on with her life and pursue a general audience, but in my opinion, the way to do this is not through lying by omission. I do wonder about the circumstances of this piece. What's Natalie's relationship to the author, if any, and how did this interview piece come about?

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It's very hard to say about her first marriage. Her dad definitely met Rick and vetted him before he and Natalie met face to face, but I am not aware of them forcing her towards marriage. In one of her posts, I believe here on FJ, Natalie said she'd never have married Rick if she'd had a regular dating relationship instead of a courtship, but one never got that vibe from YLCF or personal interaction. On her side, everything was exciting and wonderful and dreams were going to come true. On the side of the YLCF bigwigs who gathered for the occasion, it was nothing but support and joy. It's all so unclear about what happened next...

Re bolded. In the "Courtship Story" she published at the old YLCF, there was NO indication that her father forced her or them to marry. The first part of that account describes in detail her interactions with her father after Rick made known his interest in her. In fact, she clearly & unequivocally states in the piece that her father did not force the courtship procedure on her, that she wanted his (her Dad's) protection & approval, and that Rick also wanted her to be under her father's authority. Her courtship story was called "A Gift of Grace: The Romance of Richard Christopher Klein and Natalie Marie Nyquist." She devotes a lot of it to describing what soulmates they were, that they were each other's half, etc. This was not the only the post at YLCF she wrote about their relationship; there were at least half a dozen on him & their relationship, each one more glowing than the last. I am, BTW, quite certain of all this because I have a screen cap of the courtship story.

It may well be the case that Rick's true nature did not become apparent until after the wedding and that a more normal dating relationship might have revealed any issues. Nonetheless there is no indication from Natalie's writing at the time that there were any major problems -- all was moonlight and roses.

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Please please please post that cap. I was wondering if I'd imagined it.

That and Lanier' s totally over the top description of the wedding. Come to think of it, is Natalie still featured in Gretchen's "courtship story" since she's been scrubbed?

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She has always seemed like a Fundie/grifter to me, always looking for the main chance, always re-branding herself when necessary or convenient.

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Well, I don't have a screencap, but I did copy/paste the text of Natalie's courtship story back when it was still in the wayback machine; figured Gretchen would get around to scrubbing wayback eventually. So, here goes... most interesting parts (to me) bolded. [Warning]

A Gift of Grace:

The Romance of Richard Christopher Klein and Natalie Marie Nyquist

Once Upon a Time...

There lived a young girl who longed to be wedded to her one true love. As the years passed and she grew from girlhood to womanhood she dreamed of the day her knight would come to claim his bride. Meanwhile she traveled the kingdom learning and serving those who came across her path. Loneliness threatened but she tried to be strong, even as her maiden friends began to leave with their own knights to far-away lands. Did such a thing as true love even exist? Perhaps for some...but perhaps not for her.

One of the young girl's favorite activities was writing. During a quiet afternoon she composed a summary of her quest and future dreams, closing with:

"By His grace, I believe God has gifted me to be a wife and, if He allows, a mother serving with my husband. I seek a man I can trust, who will be a gentle leader. In return I will give him a heart with depths that he cannot even imagine."

Little did she know that her hastily written piece would be read and re-read by a young man who had nearly given up on finding a maiden that fulfilled his hopes and desires.

And it was no shame to her that she so dreamed. It was no shame that she called before her, one by one, those who had asked her to cross with them the threshold (of marriage) and those who might still ask her. It was no shame that, while her heart said always, "no," she still waited - waited for one whom she knew not, but only knew that she would know him when he came. And it was no shame to her that, even while this was so, she saw herself in the years to come a wife and mother.

–From Their Yesterdays, by Harold Bell Wright

The bit of information on my beliefs and goals was intended to deter guys who might be interested. It included ample warning that before any suitor could think about winning my love he would have to get through my father, that I had three protective brothers, and obviously no one had yet reached the end of the gauntlet.

Rick and I first discovered each other because of a website. Considering the number of couples in my generation who have, through various connections, met their future mate somehow directly or indirectly via the Internet, that statement is not as shocking as it would have been ten years ago. Many of the aforementioned couples were not hoping to find a spouse; they were simply doing their own thing and connecting with people through writing, discussion, education etc.

Let's face it: when you help run a website with the word "fellowship" in its title which publishes new material daily for thousands of readers...not only are you going to spend a significant amount of time online but you will meet a significant amount of people. I meet lots of interesting people--mostly young ladies but a few young men as well.

When Rick and I met, each of us were battling through painful trials. Romance did not hold many threads of my attention. If a man truly wanted to pursue me once he heard about all my weaknesses and physical problems, the chance of dad approving...? "Cynical" aptly describes my then mindset. Cynical, fearful of the pain involved in a relationship...yet yearning for the trust and intimacy such a step would hold. Rick and I caught one another's eye immediately. I saw a handsome, kind-looking man committed to Christ and his church, serving in the military only a few hours north of my home. All points of which piqued my curiosity. He saw (in his words) "a cute girl in modest attire who wanted to be a stay-at-home wife submitting to her husband's leadership."

Having nothing to lose I sent him a letter full of weighty, personal questions. His answers made my jaw drop (literally). Still having nothing to lose I dropped the bomb: I was battling major physical problems and might never be able to have children, among other things. When his response came I put off reading it as long as possible, assuming it would be a polite "it was nice to meet you but no thanks" letter. No man would knowingly entangle himself with me...would he?

On Rick's side of things, he showed a friend my picture and writings. Without even hearing my voice, much less meeting me in person, he knew enough to say what he'd never said before. "If this girl is what she says she is, she's the one I'm going to marry someday. This is my future wife."

For years he and his family had known what he was looking for in a life partner. He carried the memory of a former pastor's wife and held any girl he considered up to her example. So far no young woman measured up. Rick faced the choice of compromising his standards or potentially spending a lifetime alone. As tempting as it was to give in, he knew in his heart there was only one road to walk if he was to please the Lord.

His response to my letter came. I skimmed it all looking for the expected dismissal. It wasn't there. Instead he wrote, "I can honestly say that I've never met a girl who is so similar to myself in my views." Heart pounding, I went to talk to dad. It was time for Rick to obtain permission to pursue me.

What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting? - George Eliot

I found dad outside and tried to get through the conversation without nervous laughter--partly because I was excited and partly because we'd had this conversation enough times before that keeping a sense of humor helped. It would have been nice to know then that this conversation would be the last time. "Dad? You know how I have a lot of friends..."

Dad could tell from the tone in my voice that something unusual was coming. "Yes...?"

"Well...one of those...friends...wants to be more than friends." I held my breath.

"And who might this be?"

"He--"

"Nope! No 'he's allowed!"

Despite his teasing assertion, dad agreed to meet this Air Force Captain on an upcoming trip. Rick looked forward to getting to know my parents and, through them, me; he assured them that dad would be the one to decide if the relationship went any further. Only with dad's permission would he get to meet me. The countdown began. Providing all went well, Rick would be free to come visit my whole family once I returned from a trip two weeks after his meeting with my parents.

Just a note: my dad did not force this procedure on me. I wanted his protection and approval before I entered a relationship. As did Rick: I cannot count how many times he spoke of the importance of me respecting and submitting to my dad. He had looked for that trait in the girls he with for it spoke of a woman who would one day be a respectful and submissive wife.

Our first phone conversation rendered any other form of communication inferior and mostly unnecessary. Talking on the phone is not easy for me and forcing myself to verbalize my thoughts (instead of relying on the less-intimidating route of writing) took practice. The necessary effort reaped immediate rewards; before long I began to trust Rick.

From day one we painstakingly laid a meticulous foundation of complete honesty and respect. More than just about anything, I needed the assurance that the man who received my love could keep my trust. Haunted by fear that "this is too good to be true," I took the first tremulous steps toward seeing if this man was for real. If all he said was true...but inside I braced myself against disappointment. Ever patient, Rick gave me his word that however long it took, someday I would trust him. In the meantime, he walked with me every step of the way. "I am not going anywhere," he vowed, "unless you want me to leave."

While traveling, I returned to my hotel room one afternoon and discovered a note. There was something for me at the front desk. Roses. Beautiful peach and pink rosebuds. Rick ensured that I would know he cared during my time away from home. Days later after handing me yet another box from him, the hotel clerk declared, "He's a keeper!" I quite agreed, though my heart still hesitated to believe what was happening. How could it be that a man would willingly be grilled by the father of a girl he had never met? A girl he had not known existed three weeks ago? Truly, Rick was unlike any man I'd ever known.

One Sunday afternoon my parents met an Air Force navigator with piercing blue eyes. Even though my dad could be very intimidating when he wanted to be, Rick sounded excited about the meeting. I knew he had gone through survival school, including horrific POW training for his job as a navigator. Surely this was nothing by comparison. Maybe?

Rick told me later that "it felt like I told him everything about myself from conception up til that moment!" But my would-be knight did not do all the talking. He asked about me and my parents confirmed that I was who I said I was. "Natalie doesn't need someone who wants to be just a friend," Dad told him. "She has been preparing herself to be a godly wife and mother and is looking for a man who will be a strong leader."

"So dad, is there anything you have a problem with?" I was out of state when the portentous meeting took place so my debriefing with both parents and Rick came via phone. "Nothing? Really?" I asked mom the same question. "So...do you think I'll like him?" Excitement began to build. This fascinating man was coming to meet me. To meet me!

And he did. When he stepped from his car and came up our walk I nearly fainted from nervousness...until I looked into his eyes. Before the day was over I'd discovered a new favorite pastime. Countless hours were spent talking and looking into each other's eyes. Everything was new and frightening and wonderful and amazing all at the same time! Because we had learned so much about each other before we met, already it felt as if we had been friends for years.

I never knew how much like heaven this world could be, when two people love and live for one another! -Amy in Little Women

To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it ... right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it, so that when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. -Marmee in Little Women

On our third day together face-to-face Rick invited me to go for a walk up and down the street in front of the house. Following him along the sidewalk all my senses were on overload. Several times I murmured how all this must be too good to be true: Rick and I together and happy and falling in love. The night seemed more real than most--one of those nights where you hope you caught a tiny glimpse of what heaven will hold. A moment when the dim view through murky glass became a bit more clear. Moonlight reflected in his eyes and I began to cry for joy at something he said.

"Now do you believe it's real?" he asked.

I nodded, trying to stop the tears. "Oh, yes."

There are not words to paint my life since meeting Rick. Mom told him that she has not seen me this happy since I was a little girl. She's right--I cannot remember ever feeling so happy or being so contented and at peace. He is my missing half--and together we are so much more than we could be as individuals. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. This oneness, this...utter fulfillment when I am with him can only be felt, not spoken.

In his book, I, Isaac Take Thee, Rebekah, Ravi Zacharias writes: "From the beginning God positioned this relationship of man and woman in a unique context. Having created Adam, God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone' (Genesis 2:18), so He created a partner for him. Man's aloneness was an impediment to his complete fulfillment. I find that to be thought provoking, because in a very real sense, man was not alone. God was with him. Adam experienced companionship in his relationship with God...yet God said that man was 'alone.' Interestingly, He made this pronouncement before Adam's disobedience ruptured his relationship with God. So when God says, 'It is not good for man to be alone,' He must have had in mind a kind of companionship uniquely human to help meet Adam's human finitude in a way that God designed and orchestrated.

"In other words, God has made each of us with certain needs that are an intrinsic part of being human--needs that only a fellow human being can meet. We must step back and take note of that. Once we understand this, we realize that though God uses marriage to represent His relationship with us, the Church, that relationship with God is not identical to marriage. God has designed marriage to be a distinctly human relationship, different from all others" (bold emphasis mine).

If man in a sinless world and perfect fellowship with God needed woman by his side, how much more do we need each other in the midst of this fallen and corrupt age? To need each other is not just a subtle "wouldn't it be nice to have a companion" sort of wish. It is a genuine hunger which will not quiet itself just because we want or think it should.

Ravi continues: "When God said that it was not good for man to be alone, even though he was in a close relationship with God, He created a woman. The fact that God did not create another man ought not to escape our attention. The companionship and complementariness in that created pattern is defining for all the rest of procreation. The woman met the desire, the need, and the insufficiency of the man in a way that God precluded Himself from and that another man was not intended to meet. Neither the gender of maleness nor the man's spiritual relationship with his heavenly Father was to provide this particular relationship...the man and the woman have a created distinction with an implicit codependence...in human terms, romance, marriage, sexual consummation, and commitment became the very fabric of society. There is a primacy of relationship that is ascribed the ultimate commitment in human terms." Wow!

Finally having the freedom to enjoy romance and become best friends with my sweetheart was a blessed relief. Years of denying those desires and using self control to contain all those longings--it all spilled out. We had both been hurt in the past so there was a reasonable amount of caution and apprehension on both sides as we began our journey...yet by God's grace our relationship was so different from anything either of us had ever known. My married friends laughed at and with me; I finally "got" all their comments about love and finding the one with which you want to spend the rest of your life. I remember telling Gretchen, "I had no idea it was going to be like this! This is all new. Wow!" That was when I could find words. Many times I just cried with joy.

This does not mean that everything was perfect, or that there was never tears of pain, confusion, etc. It seems like we slogged through more than our fair share of that. The keys to peace and joy lay in maintaining a firm focus on our goal and savoring the beautiful moments. Sometimes they were abundant, sometimes they were few and far between but none the less special.

Long before I (or Rick!) expected, I heard some of the most beautiful words in all language: "I love you." One unforgettable night he committed himself to me with those words; after earnest prayer I knew my own heart and could give him my love. Those days were like a dream. Free to fall in love and give each other our hearts, we were soaring among the clouds.

Rick's creativity and capacity for romance surprised me. One afternoon he told me to close my eyes and hold out my hand. I felt the light weight of a chain and the cool smoothness of the object strung upon it. The gift was the most tangible, symbolic item he could offer. It represented the fact that he was entrusting to me what he had never given to anyone else: his heart, trust, and genuine love. From that day on, I wore his gift around my neck day and night--and I will continue to do so until our wedding day.

Rick wears something around his neck too. Only hours before he gave me his gift I was journaling and jotted a note to myself about a surprise I planned to present to him at an opportune time. The same day we had the same idea and now we both wear each other's gifts...a reminder that love is a choice and a commitment based on trust and respect.

Sometimes Rick would remind me of what I wrote last year: "I seek a man I can trust, who will be a gentle leader. In return I will give him a heart with depths that he cannot even imagine." He told me that when he read that he knew he wanted to be that man--the one who won my love and trust. No matter how long it took, he was determined. The combination of his steady commitment and unpressuring patience likely contributed to the swiftness and depth--surprising both of us--with which I began to love him.

The winter months were an intense season of seeking God, learning about each other, and realizing all the ways we were different. Our common beliefs, doctrine, goals, dreams, etc. had been readily apparent--the challenge became to begin to intertwine our lives together in the areas where we differed. Some of this was fun and adventurous; some of it was frustrating and confusing. Even growing up with three brothers and a dad, plus multiple cousins, friends, etc. I still needed to learn more about how men's minds work. But I would not trade any of it--not the tears...not the hurt...not the work. Nothing of value comes without cost--and time and again I reaffirmed that our relationship was worth the sacrifice. We had faith that it would continue to become a thing of beauty to the glory of God.

What I have with him is worth it. It is worth every lonely night, every tear I cry from missing him, and the pain I feel from not having him close. It is worth it because he is my one and only. When I picture myself years from now, I see only him. No matter how painful distance can be, not having him in my life would be worse.

You know it is love when you want to share everything with him, even his pain. You know it is love when you can't stop thinking about him. You know it is love when you'd rather be in a relationship but apart than not in a relationship at all. But, most of all, you know it is love when your happiness is dependent upon his. At least that's how I know. - a maiden in love

For anyone who might be thinking that "if only" they were in a relationship, or "if only" they were engaged, that they would never be discontent again...sorry to blow away the illusion. The discipline of waiting on the Lord, trusting His work in our lives, being patient when things are out of our control--all these things only intensify in a relationship and marriage. There was a season of our relationship, before we knew exactly when we could get married, when the overriding emotion with every breath was longing. I longed to know how much longer the wait would be. I longed to be with Rick and begin making up for lost time--all those years before I knew him. I longed to cook for him, help him, experience every bit of life with him. The urgency and intensity of these feelings is hard to put into words.

For me it became a challenge of living hour by hour, taking small steps even though seemingly everything further up the path was obscured in mist. Where would we live, what would Rick be doing, when could we marry, should we do this or that....and so much of it was completely out of our control. People would ask us questions and I'd just have to laugh. The response "I don't know," came out of my mouth so often it was difficult to imagine ever knowing what the future held more than a few weeks out.

One lesson impressed itself in my mind in particular. In what are we placing our security? Sometimes we may think we are trusting God. Until the ground falls out from beneath our feet. We must live our talk now. True security is not found in a job, or a home, or money, or even relationships. In that season all of those comforts were held before our eyes. Were we willing to give them up and keep finding our refuge in the Lord?

Is He our refuge even in this? Can He provide? As Rick and I read through the Psalms in our devotions many chapters seemed written just for us. I saw the Lord meet our needs completely--though sometimes it was at the very last minute! But the message rang clear: if we will obey Him and do what He asks us to do, He will come through for us. What that will look like is a mystery, but He will be our faithful Father. So simple...so profound.

Young husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you into my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you. - John Chrysostom

All the pieces began to fall into place; we were finishing up needed tasks and aching to get married. Longing to set the date...to know when we could finally be together. The not knowing was more painful than any reality could be. But our patience was tested as Rick tried to nail down a start date for law school, whether to remain active duty or not, where to live...just minor stuff like that. Ha! It seemed the red tape and questions and uncertainties and waiting would never end.

But they did. In the fullness of time, at a moment I see now as absolutely perfect, Rick slipped his ring on my finger. That night--and the night when he first said "I love you," stand out as the happiest of my life thus far. I do not say that lightly. One cannot live for those unforgettable moments--and they are few and far apart. They must be, for the very joy and bliss of them is built upon the thousands of other moments--happy, sad, exhausted--of which life consists. Yet they are beautiful, perhaps even more so because they are so rare.

More waiting...more praying...more of everything and then we set the date. October sixth: exactly 80 days away. I threw myself into planning and all of us grew excited in anticipation of spending the wedding week with old and dear friends from all over the country. My childhood church rallied around us to help far above and beyond the call of duty. I think I am the most blessed bride-to-be on earth. I certainly have the best friends...and a man who loves me with all his heart.

So. The rest of our story has yet to be seen.

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Insulin, please.

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