25 years! A look back, a look ahead

One of the reasons I started this blog back in 2008 was to have a place to store “stones of remembrance” in our lives. As my blog has become more public over the years, I often hold back from doing that and miss keeping a record as originally intended.

In this, my 25th wedding anniversary year, it seems fitting to write a post to give thanks to God for my husband and to remember this year. This particular year was one we couldn’t have imagined, and yet contained so many life and faith lessons. Many of these things I’ve learned by watching my husband.

To back up, on November 7, 1992, my husband and I were dating, and we flew to Dallas for the day where he proposed. It was both a look back and a look ahead. Looking back: We saw the house where he grew up while his dad was a professor at Dallas Seminary. We went past the seminary, as well as the elementary school he attended. We had lunch at the restaurant at the top of Reunion Tower that gave us views of the city, and he proposed. We even had time to shop at the Galleria and my then favorite store Harold’s. Looking ahead: we were planning to marry and then move to Dallas the following summer to attend Dallas Seminary. On that day, we remembered God’s faithfulness in the past and looked to it in the future.

We did get married and moved to Dallas for four years for seminary. We then moved to Virginia for five years for his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. And we ultimately landed in Chicago where he has been teaching for the last 16 years. Along the way, yes, we have over and over again seen the faithfulness of God. We saw it in grad school when we had four jobs between us and one newborn. We saw it during a life-threatening pregnancy and the birth of our daughter three months early, also while in grad school. We saw it when we were called to help start a school in our town. We saw it when one of our dearest friends died of cancer quickly and unexpectedly. We have seen it “in sickness and in health,” when “richer or poorer,” “for better or worse.” Through every step, God has been faithful.

Fast forward 25 years to November 7, 2017. On this particular day 25 years after our engagement, we experienced his faithfulness in yet another way, through another major life situation, the loss of a job at a place dearly loved due to financial cutbacks. Not only was there sadness in our individual situation, but for the other friends who also were part of the layoffs and for the difficulties the institute was facing. Yet it’s in the sad or hard moments that we often find His steadfast love and faithfulness most deeply, His nearness most near! 

With this in mind, here are some of the lessons I’ve been reminded of through my husband’s example this year, our 25th year of marriage:

Give Thanks

It’s easier to give thanks for the happy things, the wonderful moments when life seems altogether beautiful. (Even then, forgetful people that we are, we can often neglect to thank God.) But it’s harder in the more difficult times to remember to give thanks. Yet it’s a command in Scripture that’s worth believing and doing, for our own good, for the good of others, and to the glory of God. During our Thanksgiving Eve service at church, my husband stood up to give thanks, to desire to get from our present situation all that God would want to teach him, and to put his trust in God for the days ahead.

Seek Humility

It’s hard to write about humility. It’s something that no one possesses naturally. I find myself too often bound by pride and selfishness. So when someone aims to go lower, to humble himself, it speaks to those watching, and I have had the closest view. We can never fully attain humility, or even come close, and the times that we do, it’s because God has enabled it. But it’s something worthy to seek. I’ve seen my husband do this time and again this year in many ways.

Pray

November 7, 2017, five friends and colleagues came to our house to pray. We could both praise God and pray for the future. We could pray by name for those in leadership who were making decisions — for both them and their spouses — and that God would bless them. We could commit to God the coming days for ourselves, for our friends, and for a place we love. Prayer would become a hallmark of the year. On occasion, I have entered my dark room late at night to stumble (literally) over my husband who was on his knees by the bed in the darkness in prayer, what became his daily pattern.

There are also often outside forces at work in a situation like this that come against all of those who are seeking God’s will. The enemy delights to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Our enemy is not flesh and blood, but unseen in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). He takes advantage of these kinds of things and uses external forces, outside of the actual people and places involved, to seek to harm and divide and misrepresent and damage. Ephesians 6:10-20 tells us how to put on the full armor of God and stand firm, and it is actually the Lord who will fight for us and go before us and defend us. We must pray at all times because there are bigger things going on than we can actually see or know.

Entrust Yourself to God

In these prayers and in his actions, I’ve seen my husband over and over again entrust himself to his faithful God — not in man, whether it would seem a man could do him harm or good, could offer him something or not. There has been an overarching confidence in the sovereign hand of God who rules. And though God works through human hands, we must make no mistake — God is the One in control. So we can trust Him and Him alone and submit to His ultimate plan.

Follow God’s Leading

If you sense God calling you to stay put, you can do this, even against the opinions and thoughts of others. Many would have begun actively searching for a new placement or a new career; isn’t that what wisdom as the provider of a home would dictate? My husband never sensed a release from the vocational work God had given him, from the ministry God had ordained him to do. So he was faithful to wait on God. If at the end of the day, God closed the door firmly, then he would in fact turn, but not before. This is not always the easy path, but following God requires that of us. In the still small voice of the Spirit through time in the Word and prayer, we must follow as God leads, despite what logic might argue.

Worship

In difficult times, the enemy can use discouragement to keep us from church, from worshipping together in the fellowship of believers. My husband hasn’t missed a Sunday at church unless he was out of town. We have been encouraged by our friends and family in worshipping God together, in remembering who He is and trusting and praising Him, in lifting our eyes above ourselves and looking into His face. My temperament is one that can often wish I could stay home when I’m feeling down (I can watch on livestream, I think). But when we push through and go, which we’ve done this year, we are so blessed. I can think of so many Sundays where I would have missed something special had I not been there physically.

One Sunday during the service, I walked out to the back, and a godly older woman saw me afterwards and asked if I was okay. She knew that sometimes, she wants to cry and needs space and hoped that wasn’t the situation for me. There’s something about being with people who also struggle, who identify with you, who can pray for you, who love you. If you haven’t had a chance to receive that love from them before, while coming and going in the fullness of life, then take that time in the brokenness and in weakness to receive it. We have built friendships with those who have been willing to help bear our burdens, and it’s a joy to go with others through life’s ups and downs. 

I also will say that our pastors have reached out to us and served and ministered to us so well, regularly checking in with us and praying for us. We’ve seen the church, the body of Christ, do what it was designed to do, in such beauty. I praise the Lord for this. 

Give

When the future isn’t clear, but God is, we can trust Him enough to know that His provision will be there. The manna for the day will arrive as needed. Giving displays confidence that the God who brought you to this valley will bring you out. It signifies trust that we can give of what God has given to us, and His supply will not run out. Our pattern of giving cannot only be reserved for times of abundance. This is pictured in Scripture over and over again — as giving of the firstfruits, believing that there will be a bountiful harvest reaped to meet the needs; the widow’s mite; etc. We can’t outgive God, but in giving, we exercise belief in His faithful provision. We have by no means attained to this either — far from it — but I’ve seen an expression of faith in my husband in this area that encourages and challenges me to ask, “What else, Lord?”

Disclaimer

Please understand: the point of this post is not to suggest that my husband or I have walked this path perfectly, of course! We are humans living in a broken world, aware of our need for Jesus. We have been on a roller coaster ride the last 6 plus months. But we are learning and hopefully growing and being transformed more and more into Christ’s likeness through this. It would be a terrible thing to walk through difficulty and come to the other side unchanged! We need to know in God’s perfect and sovereign plan, this year has had purpose and the wonderful possibilities of bearing fruit, even when in our humanness, it didn’t make sense. And we have walked through it with the Lord at our side.

Time after time, I’ve watched amazed at my husband’s responses. Those responses have pointed me again and again to a God of great love and faithfulness who is worthy to receive all glory, honor, power, riches, wisdom, might, and blessing. In this post, I desire most of all to give God praise for all that He has done, such wonderful works. And to also give thanks for my husband who seeks to walk in His ways.

Twenty-five years ago, we were young and carefree. We didn’t know what the future would hold. And we didn’t really know how each of us would respond to life’s joys and challenges. But we have found our God has held us together through it all. And we praise Him.

When my husband first started teaching and receiving letters from students, I told him we should save them as “you never know when you might need them.” I’m thankful for a file full of letters, with so many countless ones added this year. The students have so graciously honored him, and I am thankful to see their love and admiration for him.

We thank God for new work and new opportunities, doors that He has opened, and provision He has supplied. We can look to the past and remember and give thanks — and look to the future trusting God, with grateful hearts, knowing we will always find Him faithful.

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