I love to tease my mother-in-law Darlyne because the first time my husband John saw me we were at church. I was the 16-year-old cutie sitting in the back row. He was the 20-year-old Marine who was on leave for the weekend and was visiting is family. (John’s father was the pastor.) After church, when John asked his mother about me, Darlyne narrowed her gaze. “That’s Tricia Waddell, stay away from her, she’s trouble.”

Yes, well, her son married “Trouble” just a couple of years later

Of course, to her credit when John asked about me I was trouble. I only went to church on rare occasions. I didn’t like going because being there made me feel guilty—guilty about sleeping with my boyfriend. Guilty about drinking on the weekends. And guilty for swearing like a sailor when I wasn’t in earshot of an adult.

To my credit, I was lost and I was looking for love in all the wrong places. “Trouble” really got herself into trouble when she (I) found herself pregnant at age 17.

It was then that I really felt guilty, and I didn’t go to church at all. My mom and grandma’s Bible study group didn’t pay that no mind, though. They invited me to Bible study and reached out to me. Darlyne, the pastor’s wife, helped with my baby shower. Darlyne even came over one day to pray with me. I didn’t want her prayers—at least that’s what I told her. But she prayed anyway.

It was because of the love of those women that I started thinking about God again—really thinking. And when I was six months pregnant I dedicated my life to Him. When I accepted Jesus’ forgiveness the guilt was gone. I went to church, and I worshiped God. I also prayed for God to bring me a godly husband someday. I didn’t know who would want to get involved with a single mom, but I dared to hope.

When Cory was born, John—the pastor’s son—reached out to me as a friend. I liked him. He was sweet … and then our mothers started playing match maker. Yes, you’ve got that right, the same woman who told John that I was trouble was now encouraging him to ask me out. Why? She saw God’s transforming work in me, and she dared to hope, too.

Fast-forward through a very lovely dating relationship, and John and I married when my son Cory was just nine months old. (John officially adopted him a few years later.) God answered my prayer. He answered Darlyne’s, too. I imagine when she was praying for that rebellious, pregnant teen girl that God was preparing both of our hearts for me to be part of her family.

Cory is almost 24 now, and John and I have been married 23 years. How amazing is that? And to make this story even more beautiful, I’m now a mother-in-law to a beautiful young lady named Katie—someone I’ve been praying for since Cory was just a toddler. Someone I was eager to welcome into our family

There are lots of people who give mothers-in-law a bad wrap, but I have a great one. Darlyne’s been open, but not pushy. She’s been caring, without smothering. She gives good advice … when asked.

I’m hoping to be a mother-in-law just like Darlyne. I know now what a beautiful mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship looks like. And I also know how prayer makes all the difference.