Thirteen Years ago, Laina and I were married on a Saturday at Concordia University Chapel in Ann Arbor, MI. It was autumn and the leaves were at their peak. Laina was a radiant bride, dressed in white. The stained glass windows were beautiful, colors all around. We had our family and friends gathered together as they witnessed our love and commitment to each other and before God.
I cherish the beauty of that season of life and the joy of waiting for my bride. We made our vows similar to: I, Todd/Laina take thee Laina/Todd, to be my wife/husband. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, until death do us part.
When the vows were stated, it seemed we were wearing rose colored glasses. We saw all of the good things about marriage and that special day. Certainly we were mindful that the sickness, poorer and death could be a possibility, but not taking it too seriously.
When I met Laina, she was sick. She had an unknown illness that she spent a lot of time with doctors trying to figure it out. This illness had lasted 2-3 years prior to her meeting me. Daily she struggled with digestion and though she felt pain, you usually wouldn't have known it. But as we dated, I boldly stated, "Well you've had this illness long enough. I'm going to take it to the Lord in prayer!" I felt like a warrior coming in to defend my damsel in distress. Many other people were praying too. But a few months into our dating, a doctor from the University of Michigan listened to what Laina thought was going on and agreed with her. He gave her a medication that got rid of what I believe was Giardia, a parasite that she may have picked up in her travels around the world. We were relieved to be done with that awful disease. But I quickly realized that her appetite exponentially increased and my wallet thickness decreased as I took her to dinner on our dates.
It wasn't until after our second daughter was born that we began to face the trials of cancer in 2014. Here is where our vows were being tested. Could we handle the worse when health is challenged by an unexpected illness? And if she were to depart due to death, how would I manage an infant and a 2 1/2 year old? At that time, these questions faded quickly as six months into the trial we got the all clear - no evidence of disease. We decided to celebrate by attending, "A weekend to remember" retreat in Florida at an expensive resort. It was an amazing long weekend! But both of us were caught off guard when every service offered at the hotel expected a handsome tip. However we quickly adapted to the sun, sand and beach life.
One day as we walked in the ocean and enjoyed the view of dolphins just 50 feet away, all of a sudden Laina jumped out of the water and held on to my head and shoulders. Apparently she stepped on sting ray and it went between her legs. She held on to me until it swam away. We laughed and enjoyed the moment.
Laina also really wanted to take a charter boat out on the ocean. But you know, those can cost a lot of money. The boat company associated with the hotel said, if we could get the "weekend to remember crowd" to sign up, and if they had a full boat they would take us out for $20/ person. So Laina put out a notice to the conference. Then several times a day for the next 2 days she called the boat company. "Are enough people signed up!" She asked. But no one signed up. Laina however did not give up. She kept calling. Did enough people sign up? Again no one signed up. Eventually the boat captain got to know Laina a bit better. He had heard our story about her battle with cancer. And finally said, "Why don't the two of you come down and I'll give you a boat tour at the cost of $20/person." She was so excited! Our hope now was to see dolphins, sharks or manatee's. The captain said, "Well it's not the time where we see many of those." I responded, "Don't worry, I prayed that God would show us some." The captain smiled and laughed. His skipper scoffed. But as we cruised along, a pod of dolphin's began to swim along side the boat. It was amazing! We had this huge boat all to ourselves and the dolphin's were swimming along side of us! The Captain laughed and stated, "Well it looks like God heard your prayer." "I responded, "He'll hear yours as well." We then had a wonderful conversation about the Lord with both of them. God uses our trials to bless us and others.
There are so many other memories of our anniversaries and marriage. I'm blessed to have been married to Laina for twelve years. But I miss her. The ache, the sting, the void left behind is difficult to fill. I've tried to stay busy. I do believe it is God's grace that I am only working part-time currently. The girls love having me home more! They've told me so as I asked them, "What good has God done through mommy's death and going to heaven." I know this time off is good for our healing. Yet, I feel discontent longing for a purpose vocationally again. It seems like life speeds right along, leaving me behind.
I wrote in my journal recently, "Oh this pain, this void that echoes within my soul. A searching for what was lost - this grief - it gouges the inner man like a glacier. The blood of Jesus is the only salve that can heal such a wound. Everything else fills the void for a moment, but to no avail to bring wholeness. Fixing up the house, vocational changes, vacation to some exotic place or new relationships are only distractions - they do not heal the deep places within from loss. Yet through this suffering, God can make good fruit grow once again."
I need to receive His grace and mercy daily! I do not need to perform, to strive, to have an impact in the world, to make a legacy for myself or my posterity. I only need God Himself! He loves me as I am. That is enough.
I continue to remember. But I'll also continue to move forward, by God's grace.
Here you will find updates, thoughts, discussion and prayers for my life and ministry...