The Women in the Mirror
“I wish I could tell eight-year-old Dani that she will one day have what she so desires: to live in a home where dad is there, mom is happy, and the kids are safe.” Here is one woman’s story of how discipleship changes everything.
Interview with Felecia “Dani” Whidden
Wife, Mother, and Family Ministries Pastor
Winter Park, Florida
At Man in the Mirror, we recognize how essential women are to our mission. The truth is this ministry wouldn’t exist without the fervent, faithful prayers of all the wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends who care about men’s discipleship.
But they’re more than co-laborers; they’re co-recipients of the impact of everything we strive to do. Every week, we hear stories about women whose own lives have been transformed because a man was transformed by Christ.
We say discipleship changes everything because the evidence is all around us. It compels us forward, and our hope is that it will continue to propel you forward in your calling to reach and disciple men. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
This week we’re sharing Dani’s story, as told in her own words.This ministry wouldn't exist without the fervent, faithful prayers of all the wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends who care about men's discipleship.Click To Tweet
The Dream of Family
When I was a young girl, I began to see that there were things missing from my life that I needed.
My father didn’t live with us. He was the fourth husband of my mother, who often mentioned how she didn’t need a husband.
I can recall being really young—around four—and deciding what kind of life I would lead with my first husband, and how that would be different from my life with my second husband. My grandmother had been married twice, and my aunt was married five times and twice to the same guy. As a result, my beginning, formative thoughts on the role of a husband were definitely shaped according to the marriages I could view as a child.
As for a dad, I wanted Danny Tanner from Full House as a dad. When I’d watch him on TV, he was sort of goofy but always present, helping his girls in their unique spots in life. He seemed like a great dad to me.
I didn’t have friends with really beautiful families so it wasn’t a compare and contrast exactly. I just had this longing inside of me for a happy home.
I remember being about eight and kind of listing in my head what our home should look like—and what I wanted my future home to look like. I wanted to be married. I wanted to be a mom. I had all of my children already named. That desire stayed with me as I grew into a young woman—a hope of a family where I felt loved and safe and wanted.
I was 15 when I became a Christian. I don’t remember what the message was that Wednesday night in my youth group; I just remember feeling loved. Like truly, actually loved. For the first time. That is what brought me to Jesus—the truth that He loved me. I didn’t realize how unseen and unvalued I’d felt until that night.
I gave my heart to Jesus and suddenly I felt like I mattered—that there was a reason I existed, that I had the attention of the God who created all things. This identity switch changed everything—how I walked, dressed, interacted with others, and saw myself.
In turn, it also radically changed how I defined what the role of a partner in life would need to be. He would need to love me truly and sacrificially, the way that Jesus demonstrated for us.
That’s what I found when I met the man who would become my husband. Matt is the greatest man I know.
Anchored Through Discipleship
Discipleship has been a central force in Matt’s life. It has looked like ministry leaders he has sought out for wisdom and pastors who have loved him and poured into him, but it has also looked like other men chasing to do life with him.
Those tight friendships have been a safe place for him over the years to not always have to be all he feels he is supposed to be. They have provided a time of reprieve, where he can just be a guy who needs his friends. That kind of space he has found in these men has meant a place to grieve, be angry, be frustrated, or celebrate—for which I am so thankful and also a bit jealous.
I think we all need people who just see us, accept us, and let us be human without feeling like we’ve missed the mark or failed. Community has been such a beautiful part of Matt’s life in Christ.I think we all need people who just see us, accept us, and let us be human without feeling like we've missed the mark or failed.Click To Tweet
I believe that if Matt had not been discipled—if he had not surrendered to Jesus and then had other men there to help him grow in a safe space—it would be really hard for him to be that safe space for me and our kids. But God has answered those prayers of mine a little girl through Matt and through those who poured into him and continue to pour into him.
Daily, he is an anchor for me and our children. I think about the times after our kids were born; he was so calm even though our whole world had changed.
I think about the time after my mother’s passing when he was able to see the beauty in the moments where grief clouded my eyes.
I think about when the Lord called us to move after seven years in one place and Matt was able to just know that it was the right thing for us.
He has this way of keeping me tethered to the earth no matter the storm or season. He doesn’t tip over—no matter how hard I might push. Matt is a continual reminder of God’s love for me.
I wish I could tell eight-year-old Dani that she will one day have what she so desires: to live in a home where dad is there, mom is happy, and the kids are safe. She will get to go to church as a family, celebrate birthdays and big moments as a family, make memories on family trips, and send out cheesy family Christmas cards.
I wish I could tell her that she will finally get to see what life looks like where being loved is the norm.
THE BIG IDEA: We say discipleship changes everything because the evidence is all around us.