God continues to amaze me! In my last update, I shared how I had been so wrapped up in my to do list that I neglected my prayer and Bible study time, and as I took my eyes off of Christ, I bought into Satan’s lies that I would never again be loved or wanted and that no one would ever be as special to me as John. However, out of God’s great love for me, He led me to a place of conviction and repentance, and I began to intentionally re-focus on my relationship with Him. Two weeks later, I left for another Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat, and God proved once again how gracious He is when He introduced me to Tom Dodd, an engineer from Seneca, South Carolina, who also happens to be a widowed volunteer and Legacy Retreat recipient. Tom and his late wife, Shannon, attended the very first retreat in 2008 with their two adopted boys, Jakob and Tae. Despite the pain in his past and his present challenges of navigating life and parenting without Shannon, his spirit exudes joy. Compassion and humility flow from his heart, and his sense of humor, bright smile and boisterous laugh bring life to any conversation. I had thought no one would ever make me laugh like John. I was wrong.
We were both busy during the retreat and didn’t have too many opportunities to talk, but we didn’t waste the few we had. When we weren’t laughing, we dove into deep conversations, which revealed other substantial shared experiences, a common commitment to following Jesus and a comparable understanding of His Word and His character. The mutual desire to get to know each other more led to our first date the following Friday. He drove an hour and a half each way to take me to dinner. Though the summer has been busy and there is a bit of distance between us, we have been able to take care of our regular responsibilities, and spend time with our boys, each other, and recently all together. We both marvel at how, after only six weeks, there is an incredible richness and familiarity in our relationship (which has quite honestly been there awhile). In many ways, it is as if we walked through our shared stories and spiritual lessons together.
Having both experienced the beauty and fulfillment of a Christ-centered marriage, and recognizing the importance of stability for our children, we are dating with that purpose in mind. We are not rushing down the aisle, but we also are not putting off the hard questions, shying away from what ifs or covering up our fears and flaws in an attempt to impress. We’re evaluating each other’s parenting approaches, meeting family and friends, trying activities that allow us to see the other in different situations and seriously considering the challenges that would come from combining our families, such as selling homes, raising four unique and passionate boys together and accepting each other’s weaknesses. Basically, instead of being afraid of potential deal breakers, we are searching them out and taking them on, not because we want a reason to break up, but because we don’t want to invest ourselves and our children into a long-term relationship that is likely to fail, causing heartache for all involved. We aren’t ignoring the importance of time, but we have both learned the need to be intentional with every moment. Most importantly, we are seeking God together, as well as on our own, and striving to build our relationship on a foundation of prayer and submission to the will of God and authority of Christ.
There is too much at stake because we know this isn’t just about us, or even just about our families. The goal is not to find contentment in each other, but to constantly point each other to Jesus as we worship Him together, allowing His love to flow through us to each other and glorifying God as a team.
I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire;
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.
God gives good gifts and does bless those who wait patiently for Him. Tom and I have both experienced the mud and mire of hardship and loss, beautiful as it was. But God heard our cries. He lifted us up and gave us His Rock on which to stand, the immovable, unshakeable, unchanging rock of Jesus. We’ve sung various songs in changing seasons, praising Him the whole time. Now it is new again, and it is good…not because of us, but because of Him. With hearts full of gratitude and lives dedicated to doing this His way, we approach each moment with excitement but also caution, so that God will be exalted and all will see Him as the faithful, loving father He is.
Thank you so much for all of your continued support and prayers. You can help by praising God for this gift of a new season in our lives and asking Him to give wisdom to Tom and me and comfort to all the boys as there are so many unknowns right now. I was recently reminded that I can’t give Erik and Jason answers I don’t know, but I can remind them that we can trust the One who knows it all and has gone before us to make a way. That is exactly what they needed to hear, and God will work through our prayers to help them remember that.
With so much love,