Every Love Story is Beautiful, But Ours is My Favorite
“What about all the things you’ll want to teach Kaleb”, I said. “Like hunting and fishing, the hobbies that you grew up with and are important to you, who will teach him those things if you aren’t here?”
His immediate response was, “You’ll meet someone who can teach him those same things. You’ll meet someone who can be a better father to him, I’ll never be good enough for Kaleb, because I’ll always be sick. You’ll meet someone.”
Shortly after, of what turned out to be a 2 hour conversation with my husband, where I begged and bargained with him to NOT end his life, he chose to die.
Nothing I said, or could have said that day would have changed his mind. He was convinced that he’d never be the father our son needed, because he’d always struggle with being bipolar. He was sure of his choice; he was confident Kaleb and I would carry on.
I was angry. I was mad. I was furious. I was heartbroken that he thought he’d never be good enough, but also resentful that it seemed Kaleb got the rawest end of the deal because of a choice that was ‘for him’, but he had no say so in. How could he have been so sure that I’d just simply “find someone”? And how could he be so sure that someone else would just fulfill the father role for his son? I replayed his words over and over. He made it sound so easy, so effortless. And I hated him for it.
After years had passed, I tried dating, only to became very aware of how “finding someone” was the opposite of effortless. The harder I tried, the harder it was. Nothing ever felt right and I stressed so much about the logistics of how it was supposed to fall into place. A working, single mom, with a ton of emotional baggage really sticks out like a sore thumb on dating apps. My anxious and type A personality fought tooth and nail with the concept of, ‘just let it happen’, while my lonely heart longed for companionship again.
While it wouldn’t have been impossible to find just any ordinary companionship for myself, I knew it wouldn’t be the best thing for Kaleb.
When he was around age 5, he had started praying for what he called an “Earth Dad.” Except he wasn’t praying for just any Earth Dad, his detailed prayers outlined a very specific Earth Dad, and eventually, Earth Dad just became part of his/ours regular vocabulary. “When Earth Dad gets here, he will take us camping”; “When Earth Dad is here, he will build paper airplanes with me”, ect ect.
He had gotten old enough to realize all the other kids at school had dads and he didn’t, which was always something that made him sad and feel different. I knew introducing him to the wrong person, could have, and would have been devastating to him. And I wasn't here for breaking his heart.
One day, when leaving the cemetery, after placing fresh flowers, Kaleb said, “Mom, do you think my Heaven Dad is upset that I’ve been praying for an Earth Dad?” Crushed, I assured him that his Heaven Dad wanted him to have an Earth Dad just as badly as he did.
That conversation with him moved me. It had some serious weight to it; it confirmed yet again, that this journey wasn’t just about me not being lonely anymore, it was just as much about a little boy’s heart, who needed his prayers for love to be answered.
“You’ll find someone.”
Those words drove me to tears a million times. They haunted me, but at the same time, somehow gave me slivers of hope.
People can say words to you like, “It’ll happen when the time is right”, or “just stop looking and someone will show up.” Those words can be said, but they can just as easily go in one ear and out the other. And that’s what they always did with me. All the best words and greatest advice can be given to you, but it won’t change anything until you believe it yourself.
It was in June, 6 years after Charles passing, 1 week before my 30-something birthday, when I made a decision. I made a decision to give it to God, all of it. All of the worry about the how’s and when’s and if’s and why’s. After six years of believing I was in control of how this mystery man was going to come into our lives, I finally decided I would be intentional on giving it to God on a daily basis. I gave up online dating as a start, and I also began journaling. Honestly, I can’t tell you where the idea of journaling came from, I just knew writing had been my therapy in the past, and I knew it was something I could physically put my energy and anxiety into. I had real paper and real pens. And I had words. So I wrote.
The journaling started with just a few sentences every day, basically about nothing. But then they grew into paragraphs with my thoughts and desires, and before I knew it, they were full pages of prayers to Jesus. I told Him how lonely my heart was, and how I saw Kaleb long to have a dad just like the other kids. The words in that journal quickly became the one place I had to pour my heart out. It became the home for my most raw and real emotions that I never let anyone else be a part of.
I let God see my tears, I let Him see me vulnerably fall to my knees, and completely put my faith in Him, knowing He would provide for us. I started to read devotionals and Bible verses daily. I often came across ones about how God hears our cries and saves our every tear drop, only to use them for the good of our healing. I even thanked God for making me broken, lonely, and empty so I could know, without a doubt, what it feels like to be healed, loved, and filled-up by the right person. I started thanking Him during the darkest of days, because I knew those days would be the source of my gratitude on the day that the light would finally shine for Kaleb and me. I talked with Him about the kind of Earth Dad that might be best for Kaleb, and how I would love for him to be someone who would be sympathetic to Kaleb’s delicate heart, somehow understanding of his loss, and open to his need for a father’s love.
I wrote prayers about my own desires. I wanted someone who would take care of me when I was tired of being strong, but also someone who understood.. maybe even admired my strength to carry on, no matter what. I wanted a best friend and partner. I wanted to feel happiness again.
I prayed with intent, faithfully. I knew God had already picked someone out, so I not only prayed about him, but also for him. I prayed for his days to be blessed no matter where he was, and I prayed that his heart was being shifted in a way that would point him to us.
My prayers were heavy and complex. They were sometimes detailed and wordy, but when I finished, I always left it in God’s hands because I had faith He knew best. I turned my fears and control, into faith and letting go. And I kept writing, for about a year.
“You’ll find someone.”
Turns out, he was right. I did find someone.
But you see, that someone didn’t really ever need to be “found”, because he had been there all along. He had been there as a childhood family friend. He had been there as a neighbor across the creek. More importantly, he had been there as family to my late husband.
Because of their relation, he had been “there” as I shared the news of Charles’s death. He had been there when Kaleb and I had to say goodbye. He was there when we had to sit through family gatherings without him, and even when we had our first Amidon Christmas with an empty seat. He had been there, because it was a loss for him too. He lost a fishing buddy; he lost a piece of his childhood memories, spending their days with grandparents and other cousins at the lake. He experienced a loss at the exact same time that we had, by losing his cousin.
One of the many beautiful things about God though, He likes to work on plans and details behind the scenes until they are just perfect, making them a complete shock when they do start to make their debut. Russell’s life and my own, they always had different destinations, only bringing us together once a year at Gram’s house for the Amidon Christmas, where we would exchange small talk about how the kids are growing and life never seeming to slow down.
But around this time last year, in early spring, there was a shift in the world, bringing us together at the same place, at the same time. And in the matter of one afternoon on the lake, God opened our hearts just enough to feel something we had never considered before. A man I had known for years, and yet, I was truly just seeing for the very first time.
That evening, we shared a conversation that lasted hours, talking about our pasts and also our here-and-now feelings that seemed to have surprised us both. He opened his heart to me, about how he had always prayed I’d find happiness after the loss I had experienced, and how he had also prayed that Kaleb and I would be taken care of one day.
His words matched so many of the prayers I had written in my private journal throughout the year, and for the first time, I was speechless. After that weekend, we decided we would go on a couple dates and see where things took us. But the more dates we went on, the more God showed me He had heard every single word, in every single prayer I had ever written. He truly had been collecting every fallen tear and was planning to use them for good.
On our 3rd date, Russell told me he had always admired my strength, and I immediately flashed back to my prayer journal, remembering my prayer word for word, and I smiled. But then, he followed it up with telling me I didn’t always have to be strong with him; he wanted me to know I had him now, to be my rock when I needed strength.
At that time, the walls of protection I had up - the ones I knew I still had, plus the ones I pretended not to have - they all crumbled. And I fell in love like I never had before.
In addition to my heart falling in love, I had Kaleb to think about as well and up to this point, he knew nothing of the dates I had been on. He knew Russell though; he remembered playing Nintendo with his kids at Christmas, and he had recently fished with him, but how would he feel about seeing us as a couple, or even having him join us at the dinner table? I had prayed and prayed over these uncertainties, asking God to let it continue to fall into place.
When I felt the time was right, I told Kaleb the news. He was immediately ecstatic; thrilled to hear I had been asked on a date by Russell who “we already know and liked!” The news went over so well that we went ahead and invited him over for dinner. At that dinner, I mentioned to Kaleb, who was picking and shoving at the food on his plate that those potatoes were one of his Heaven’s Dad favorite foods and he had better eat them. Suddenly, Russell chimed, “oh yeah, I remember Charles really did love those kind of potatoes!” Kaleb’s eyes got big. He looked at Russell and said, “I keep forgetting you used to know my Dad.” Kaleb was smiling with a kind of hope in his eyes I had never seen.
It was that moment that took my breath away! Look at what God had done!! He not only sent me a man who truly loves me and one who had been praying for my happiness as well, but He sent a man who will always be able to share memories with my son about his Heaven Dad, from a place of love and honor. Look at God’s promises and details; what a beautiful testimony I get to call my own! I couldn’t believe it. Look what God had done!
Since then, we have found photos of Charles and Russell together, some from their childhood, doing what they all loved most - hunting and fishing, and then one from our wedding. It was a blessing and a surreal moment to get to show them to Kaleb, imagining what a comfort it’ll be in the future, to be able to have a dad here on earth, who will also be able to shine some light on his dad in heaven.
And now, only by God’s grace, here I sit.. nearly 8 years after my late husband’s passing, staring at my brand new, sparkling engagement ring, in awe of the man Jesus brought to us, almost in disbelief, because he was brought to us in the most unique and beautiful way. It's a story that has to be told, but also, it's a story that was so perfectly written by God, many moons ago, that my words will never to it justice.
This only a small piece of our whole story. It’s only a fraction of the work God has done for us, and I’ve known for months I wanted to share it. Actually, God has been nudging me for a while now to put pen to paper, even before we were engaged, He would whisper, “Share your testimony with others. Use your story as a reminder that I use ashes for beauty!”
But how does one ever truly have the correct words to portray the power of what Jesus can do for us, and for our soul?
"for I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11
It’s funny to reflect back on the old me, out there searching for answers, working so hard to get to the next chapter on my own, possibly even looking for closure that seemed impossible to grasp, all to get to this point where God reveals the truth – an ending and a new beginning are here now, together!
Our love story is beautiful. I know I'm bias, but it truly moves me to tears, so often. Our connection and love exceeds anything I’ve ever known. If I had been given the chance to write my own love story, there wouldn’t have been enough imagination in the world to write what God wrote so perfectly for us.
But our love story is more. Our love story is proof that God simply LOVES. Proof that He keeps ALL His promises. Proof that He LISTENS. Proof that He provides only at the most PERFECT time. Proof that He uses our pain for GOOD. Proof that His details are always on PURPOSE. Proof that He is the LIGHT in our darkest hour. Proof that He is Faithful.
There are so many pieces to my testimony that I will proudly carry with me the rest of my life, and I will be forever changed by the day I decided to have Faith.
I did find someone, but the truth is, I found God first, and then He led me the rest of the way.