Sunshine in the Valley

humor and encouragement from my heart to yours

Surprised by Love Part 2

(continued)

As Josh and I shared in-depth conversations, I was surprised to find that he was a lot further along in the grieving process than I had initially realized. This was NOT because he did not love Amy as much as I thought, or because he wasn’t still sad or didn’t miss her. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a man who wholly loved and longed for his wife, yet recognized the fact that she was gone….and by the grace of God, had come to accept it. I was amazed by the way he managed to handle grief in such a healthy and godly way. Since he had been losing her little by little for nearly a year, he had already worked through most of the stages of grief. This was a very different scenario than if she had just suddenly been taken from him! They both had seen this coming, and she had told him specifically that she wanted him to move on, as soon as possible. She knew how much he had loved being married, and very unselfishly longed for him to find happiness again when she was gone. Initially, he had been resistant to even the idea of such a thing. He could not see himself as anyone but Amy’s husband, yet he was lonely and knew that his own life was not over yet. As he shared these things in his emails, he had many questions for me, wanting a female point of view into the situation. Would any woman be willing to walk into something like that, and could he possibly love her as he did Amy? These were honest questions without ulterior motive, and I took them seriously, mulling them over a lot in my mind.

In the providence of God, I was friends with a precious coworker who had lost her husband several years ago to cancer at an early age like Josh. She had given me many insights into what life was like for someone in that situation and how she had needed others to respond. I had no idea then that God was going to use her to help me in my future friendship with Josh…..but boy did He ever! I could not possibly have understood and known what to say had it not been for her. God works in the most unexpected ways sometimes! So as Josh and I talked through what it would look like both to love and remember Amy always and yet eventually love another woman as well, it did not seem so impossible, if he found the right person. When Josh asked those questions, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be put in that scenario and answered them accordingly…..and he liked my answers a lot. :) However, I certainly did not expect that woman to be ME! Goodness, no. Not because I didn’t like Josh (I certainly did, as a friend!), but because why in the world would a man who had just lost his wife to a serious disease turn around and get together with a woman who was sick with a chronic illness????? I had already locked away the hope and dream of being a wife and mommy at that point in my life due to that illness. Even the passing thought seemed ludicrous. It made no sense, humanly speaking. None. And certainly not so soon after Amy’s passing! Nope, I could only ever be his friend. My point in all of our discussion was to encourage him that it *was* possible, that God could very well provide a way for Amy’s wish to be fulfilled for him…and that if *I* could see it was feasible, there certainly would be other women who would think the same. ;)

I did recognize, however, that whoever that woman was to be, would be very blessed indeed! Josh was the most extraordinary man I had ever known, and I prayed for the very BEST for him and Benaiah. I was quite positive that God had something very special in store for them both….but I never dreamed I would be anything more than a spectator.

Yet as the weeks went by and we continued to write and grow closer, we both were surprised to find how much our hearts were becoming knitted together. As we travelled our individual valleys together, we were so very often of the same mind and same heart, and what started out as friendship began looking like….something else! Slowly and surely, the Lord was healing Josh’s heart…and to our surprise, He seemed to be leading us together! It all came about so very naturally, that we hardly realized what was happening until one day, it was there. As we emailed back and forth, we tried to tiptoe around” the elephant in the room”, subtly referring to our friendship as one with “a cherry on top” (a little more than friends yet how *much*, we did not know? lol) but not really sure where it was going to lead. Neither of us knew what to do with this. Could this really be? Was it ok that we were beginning to fall in love with each other? Was this really the will of God for our friendship? We didn’t want to do the wrong thing!!!

As we sought the Lord about it, however, He began making it abundantly clear that this was *not* the wrong thing…..it was part of a beautifully unexpected plan He had for both our lives. Rather than putting the brakes on things as we had anticipated He would do, both of us most definitely felt that we were supposed to move forward, and it remains one of the biggest surprises of my life. :) It blows my mind to look back and trace His hand at work in the midst of it all! He was using our relationship to bring tremendous healing to both of us and give us so much joy! I read a beautiful testimony on an online forum that resonated with both of us, especially this part: “I know some people will say that relationships will not fix your problems. And that is true in many cases. But in some cases, that is the very thing God will use to heal you and show you that He loves you. I truly believe in some cases, He sends another human and works through them to heal and comfort you.” We both recognized that this was exactly what God seemed to be doing, and we marveled at His work!

 Still, though, there was the issue of timing. As we earnestly prayed about certain situations that we thought would hinder – or at the very least, delay – any romance between us from moving forward, the walls kept “falling down” so to speak, and the path was opened up for us to move forward. It’s a wonder I don’t have a cracked jaw, as many times as it hit the floor during those days! ;) Seriously….the answers to prayer were remarkable and unmistakable. I think the Lord knew He was going to have to be extremely obvious in this case. It was just too sensitive a situation otherwise!
I could type all day sharing the ways God confirmed His direction in this, but I’ll limit it to two. ;) One of the most surprising confirmations came from a girl I knew from the clinic. She happened to be a close friend of Josh and Amy’s, and had been the one to tell us about Josh’s blog. Well, Josh had teased her that he had something to tell her about a good thing she’d had a hand in…which was, of course, us :), but we had said nothing to anyone but our closest family members yet. Josh fully expected to surprise her, but she beat him to the punch when she stopped by for a visit one day and casually asked Josh if he was ready to date yet. Totally caught off guard, Josh asked if she had heard anything. “No,” she replied, “I was just wondering.” Josh answered that as a matter of fact, there *was* someone he was interested in, but before he could tell her who, she exclaimed, “Is it Lydia????”
*insert jaw drop*
Entirely astonished, he gasped, “Yes!!! But…..how in the world did you know???” She burst into tears, and explained that ever since Amy had died, she had felt that Josh and I were meant to be together and had been planning to introduce us all along! She was only waiting for him to be ready! Definitely an astounding moment. :) She was overjoyed that we had found each other on our own and was very encouraging about the whole thing. It was a profound moment for both of us, when Josh told me about it, and we both felt that this was another way the Lord was indicating to us that He was in this, as crazy as it might seem. We weren’t the only ones who thought we made a good match! :D

Another major answer to prayer was my health situation. I had been doing everything humanly possible to recover from Lyme disease, and certain symptoms were disappearing, but my seizures were spiraling out of control. The neurological symptoms were unreal. I remember the morning I sat at my computer, begging the Lord to guide my mouse and show me what we were missing!! Something else had to be wrong with me, not just Lyme.

As it turned out, I landed on a site explaining the co-infections of Lyme. Aha!! We had been so busy trying to get my seizures under control that we had totally forgotten to go back and figure out what mine were. Lyme never travels alone, you see….it always has a buddy. :( As I eagerly read the descriptions of each co-infection, I froze when I reached the section about Bartonella. That was….me!! To a “T”! It specifically attacks the central nervous system, which was exactly where all my problems lay. I excitedly called my doctor, and he was cautiously optimistic. Chronic bartonella is a clinical diagnosis; it doesn’t show up in bloodwork. But the treatment is merely another antibiotic, so we knew it wasn’t going to hurt me at all to just try. I had nothing to lose!

By day 3, the seizures abruptly ceased. Completely. I was in shock, but very encouraged. By day 6, however, I had the most extreme headache of my life. The pressure and pain reached levels I did not know were possible. I will save you all the gory details, but suffice it to say, I was one sick person. I was having a major herx reaction to the medication, which, praise the Lord, meant that Bartonella was indeed my nemesis. Thankfully a Toradol shot relieved the pain, and to my amazement, my brain felt clear and clean….no more fog or pain or confusion. I did absolutely wonderfully for weeks! It was a turning point in my illness, and eventually I was even able to drive again. Oh happy day!! Josh and I had been talking for a little while about meeting in person, but there had been no way before….I was much too sick. But now….now it was actually possible! The Lord had answered yet another prayer. :)

We took two weeks of intense prayer, however, before deciding to actually meet. We wanted to be sure, both for our sakes and for our families, who did not want to see either of us hurt. They knew how vulnerable we both were at this point in our lives! During that time, we did not communicate at all, because we wanted to be sure we were hearing from the Lord without that distraction. I must say, it was the hardest two weeks of my life, in some ways! It made me realize how much a part of my life Josh had become, and how much I cared for him, and wanted to be with him. It was the same for Josh, very surprising to both of us, but also very reassuring. It gave us definite clarity, but boy was it a miserable way to go about it! (lol)

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My one and only “cheat” during those 2 weeks….I sent a “silent” picture celebrating that there were only 3 more days of no communication left! :)

Three months (to the day! and quite by accident) after we began corresponding, Josh and I met for the first time at Olive Garden. I was a nervous wreck, but so very excited to meet this amazing man at last! Of course, like anybody would, I had a thousand questions running through my head…. would he like me as much “in person”? Would we be able to talk? Would we have the same chemistry in person as we did over the phone and email? Underlying everything else was the question of whether this could possibly be the man God had for me, as crazy as the timing seemed to be. I felt a tremendous sense of peace deep inside about the whole thing, yet I needed those questions answered!

As it turns out, we had an absolutely wonderful evening. :) He met me at the entrance of the restaurant with a beautiful red rose in hand, and I was very charmed by such a sweet and special gesture (as were all the women in the vicinity, haha. The servers at Olive Garden still talk about “the man with the rose” and recognize him every time we go back!). We hit it off so well that soon we were talking as much in person as we did on the phone. There had been nothing to worry about! It was so surreal to actually get to *see* him while we were talking….I kept having this urge to pinch myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming! At the end of the evening, Josh invited me to go on our first official date a few days later. He chose such a beautiful way of doing so that I felt rather breathless. I did, however, manage to form an answer! :) Can you guess what it was?? A wholehearted YES! :D

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Josh’s very elaborate and romantic way of inviting me to go on our first real “date”. :)

After our first date, Josh presented me with a lovely delicate glass rose. He told me that the first rose he gave me would perish, just as there would never be another first meeting between us. He asked if I would accept a rose that would be lasting, thus symbolizing the possibility of “forever” that he wished to explore with me. Let me tell you, that man knows how to sweep a girl off her feet! :) I was very honored to accept such a beautiful gift – and all that it represented – and thus began a whirlwind courtship!! Josh is a real romantic, as evidenced by the above picture :), and I was very much in awe that such a man was falling in love with ME…I still am, actually. He is the most thoughtful, loving, manly, strong, big-hearted man I have ever met in my life, and the more I got to know him, the more I saw this. It was wonderful to recognize that he was exactly who I had thought he was, and so much more. We fit together so beautifully! He honestly was better than my fondest hopes and dreams of what my future husband might someday be. I could hardly believe that this was really happening….that such a man even existed, much less would love me. And while I was sick and at a place where I had given up on any hope of such a thing for the foreseeable future! It was so overwhelming, and I could clearly see the grace of God in this beautiful time of life.

Josh’s darling little son, Benaiah, very quickly captured my heart, too. I was positive that he was the cutest little boy in the world. ;) He was such a sweetheart, with a bright and engaging personality. I loved his affectionate little heart, and the way he accepted me so quickly into his little world! I have always longed to be a mommy, as long as I can remember, but due to my health issues and a few other concerns, I had always wondered if I would ever have that privilege. As I spent more and more time with my guys, though, I could see the beauty of God’s plan. Here was a little boy who needed a mommy. I was a woman who longed for a child but was not sure if it would be possible. Could this be another reason the Lord had connected me with Josh? Did He want me to become a wife and mommy all at once, fulfilling two dreams at the same time??

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Benaiah and I loved reading books together! We still do. :)

It didn’t take long before I knew the answer. :) Josh and I were absolutely certain that we wanted to marry, confident that this whole scenario had been orchestrated by our all-wise Heavenly Father whose wisdom trumps human understanding every time. And as I had so often been told through the years, when you know, you know! (so yes, I got to eat all my “yeah right, whatever” responses I had always given, lol) Again, however, timing was a big deal to us. Out of honor and respect for Amy, we decided to wait until the new year to become engaged, so as not to be in the same calendar year as the day that she passed away. However, we knew that Benaiah needed looking after more and more; his grandmas had been taking wonderful care of him while Josh was at work, but it was a big job and we knew they needed relief soon. Unfortunately my health took a few hits as well, and even though I had resumed working at the clinic, I began missing more and more days. :( As Josh and I prayed about it, we knew what we needed to do. I quit my job (very bittersweet for me! I love my clinic family, but it was best for them and me) to take care of Benaiah during the day and help around the house, going home each night of course. That also gave me further opportunity to bond with Benaiah and allowed us to get used to each other before I took on the official role as his new mommy. It worked out well, and was very satisfying to be able to take care of my guys without distraction!

For my birthday, Josh gave me a beautiful promise ring. It was a total surprise, and remains one of the most special gifts I have ever received. He wanted me to have a tangible reassurance of his love and commitment to me, since engagement would still be a few months away, and it really meant the world to me.

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As the year drew to a close, we began to talk more and more about starting our new life together and quietly planning our wedding. We both had the most perfect peace in our hearts that this was what the Lord had for us, and we rejoiced in His work in our lives! I wasn’t sure when exactly Josh would be proposing, only that it would after 2012 had ended, and that was good enough for me. :) Little did I dream that he would be proposing sooner than I expected, and in a most special fashion….. ;)

(to be continued)

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Surprised by Love Part 1

Ever had life seemingly change in the blink of an eye? You get used to it being just the way it’s always been….and then suddenly everything is different. That happened to me. And my poor little blog was sadly left in the dust!

But here I am again, picking back up where I so suddenly left off, and trying to figure out how to condense the events of the past year into a readable post! I think I have an idea though….everyone loves a good love story, right? :)

Well…this is mine. My very own, real-life, fairytale romance. I get starry-eyed just thinking about it!

But that is not how it began. No, no…..long before “happily ever after”, there was a dark, dark road…..darker than any previously known before to myself or My Love. It was a road that looked endless, with no light in sight, leading into the valley of loss and grief and suffering. Thankfully my story does not end there…..because God had a different plan! But I’m getting ahead of myself…..

My story begins, really, where my blog abruptly ended. Lyme disease began to get the better of me, big time, and I was sick. Very sick. I missed a lot of work, and then had to go on short-term disability and spent the majority of my time in bed, cared for by my sweet little sister day and night. I had a lot of time to pray and think, and a certain situation grabbed much of my thoughts and prayers throughout this time. A sweet patient of ours had been diagnosed with leukemia just one year after her precious little son was born, and it was bad. Really bad. So many people were heartbroken for this dear family, especially as time passed and she grew more and more desperately sick. I remembered her from the clinic, and what a sweet person she always was. I begged God to heal Amy, and to help her family, and I kept up-to-date on her condition by reading her husband’s blog (which a good friend of theirs had told me about). Josh’s deep love for his wife flowed through every word. I was amazed by the beautiful bond they obviously shared, and marveled at his strong faith in the midst of this unimaginable trial. He was likely losing the person who was dearest in the world to him, yet his faith in God never wavered. He clung to His promises, and faithfully gave updates on her condition every day. HE was the one needing encouragement, yet I came away from every post receiving spiritual encouragement myself….yet with a keen sense of sorrow for all they were enduring, especially Amy. I felt for them all the more deeply because of my own health crisis. My suffering was nothing compared to hers in many ways, yet I knew what it was to be terribly sick with no end in sight, and it drove me to pray fervently for them. I found myself particularly moved by a certain post, and started to leave a comment, but hesitated. I almost felt like I was intruding on a very personal time in their lives by saying *anything*, as a stranger….but then again, as a blogger, I knew how encouraging it was to receive comments, especially to know that others were praying. I left the comment and continued to pray.

Then the day came when Josh posted that God had taken Amy home. Her suffering was over, and she was with the Savior she loved. The news was heartbreaking. It was so hard to understand why God did not heal her. Countless thousands of prayers had gone up for her healing, and we knew God was able….so why didn’t He? It’s an age-old question, and the only way I knew to deal with it was simply to acknowledge that He is sovereign, and in that sovereignty chose that she should live with Him. She was certainly in a better place, but my heart ached for her husband and son, and parents and in-laws she left behind. Josh’s faith in the midst of it all, again, was an inspiration to me as I faced my own battles, and I continued to read his blog. His heart was laid bare during that time, for all the world to see, and I knew that the Lord was receiving much glory from the testimony he maintained in the midst of the darkness of grief and loss. I didn’t know him from Adam, and never expected to, but the Lord used his words to help me. I left a couple more comments on his blog, but certainly never expected to hear back from him. I leave comments all the time on blogs, and rarely does the author contact me! But I was in for a surprise….. :)

What I did not realize was that since we both have Word Press blogs, my comment linked back to my own blog. As Josh went through and began replying to comments a few weeks after Amy’s death (he’s one of the few bloggers I know who does that, ha), he found my blog and began reading it.  Recognizing a fellow believer going through a fiery trial, he reached out to me in a short email, thanking me for my prayers for his family and asking if there was any way he could pray for me as well since he saw that I was sick. He felt the same empathy I had, upon hearing of Amy’s trial. I was very touched, and wrote back, sharing with him my latest prayer needs and asking if there was any further way I could pray for him too. I was astonished that he would even think of taking on someone else’s burdens while dealing with such a heavy one of his own! But that’s Josh. He always thinks of others!

Thus began a friendship. :) I was surprised by how quickly he opened up to me, and how easy it was to talk to him in return. When you hit rock bottom as we had, you’re just very real. You cut through the silly stuff that so often comprises ordinary conversation, and get straight to the heart of the matter. We both found that it almost seemed easier to talk to an “outsider” about these things than to those closer to us who would be more affected by our pain. We were just very open with each other, and I think that is why we “clicked” so quickly. We were two believers, enduring the darkest times of our lives, and God used that open, often raw correspondence to help us both in ways we could never have imagined. Josh was mourning the loss of his love, and balking at any sense of returning normalcy. I, on the other hand, was mourning the loss of my health, and longing for that sense of normalcy to be restored. Both the similarity and difference of our situations made us remarkably suited to encourage and uplift each other, and we quickly became very good friends. We wrote to each other every day, and his emails began to be the highlight of my day. I was stuck at home thanks to increasing seizures and weakness, and it was so refreshing to be able to talk to someone who understood so well!

We began discovering that we had an extraordinary amount of other things in common, as well. We shared a love of music…the same beliefs about God and viewpoints of suffering….liked the same movies/books….both loved to hike but disliked sports….and that barely scratches the surface. It was rather…..eery. :) When we began talking on the phone, we would sometimes talk for hours, yet it felt like only minutes! I began to realize that Joshua Grenier was a kindred spirit….and it totally confused me because I thought only girls could be kindred spirits, lol. But no, he definitely was, and in time became my best friend! We talked about serious things, silly things, and everything in between. Neither of us expected anything to “happen” romantically because the timing was totally wrong. I was very sick and he was very much in sorrow. No way! We were only just friends, and would stay that way.

Or so we thought….

(to be continued…)

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