My friend grew up in a traditional sense. Notice I didn’t say normal. Who could ever define that? I mean traditional in a way many of us understand.
She lived with both parents and had a couple siblings. They lived in nice homes in the suburbs, had a dog and went on vacations to the beach. Her dad worked while her mom stayed at home to keep the house in order. They went to the big Baptist church down the street. And my friend, she always thought her path would see her in a Suburban, driving home to a house in a similar subdivision cul-de-sac. She dreamed of a life like that. A houseful of kids, a hard-working husband that provided for her while she volunteered in the PTO and made sure dinner was on the table when he got home.
She married about a year after I did. A picturesque wedding along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Her fairytale had begun. Until she woke up to a reality far different than her lifelong dream. My friend’s husband got sick the week after their child was born. Not physically. Not terminally. Mentally. He fights an illness every day of his life. Medicine, plenty of sleep and a regulated diet do help. But it has left him unable to build a career of his own.
In her words:
Only a year after my fairy tale began, I found myself applying for food stamps, WIC (infant and children supplemental programs) and trying to get back to work with a newborn while juggling my husband in and out of the hospital. A world very foreign to me.
I cried as I put my child in an ugly outfit and took my wedding rings off to go to the welfare office. College grads and wives of attorneys aren’t supposed to have to go to the welfare office. Wasn’t that for people who couldn’t keep jobs or weren’t educated? Not people with unfortunate circumstances that kept them out of work temporaily.
The looks I got when I stepped out of our nice SUV broke my heart. I remember saying, 'Why me God? I got on the wrong bus, but I can’t get off.'
I felt stuck and lonely, even though I knew God was in the midst of our circumstances and wouldn’t leave me. Due to my husbands illness, he couldn’t be there for me, so I had to hold it together for him and for our little one.
For three years, her husband tried to go back to work as an attorney, but in 2008, it was obvious that wasn’t going to be a reality due to his medications. Instead, they began another horrible journey, applying for permanent SSI disability.
In her words:
This was another very sad time because I felt we were giving up any hope that my husband could continue to practice law and do political work. Hours and hours of paperwork later and lots of tear, two years worth, we finally received some financial support, allowing me a little freedom from working so much.
I have watched this story unfold. I know the faith walk my friend and her husband have developed in order to walk the new “normal” God has for them. Rather than staying home to bake the bread, she serves as their primary bread winner. While she has a flexible job, allowing her to help care for their daughter and still be the PTO president, she puts in loads of miles and hours each week to care for other families in their homes as a special educator/social worker.
A few times her husband has been hospitalized for up to four weeks. One year he was hospitalized four times. God has taught her to count on those nearest and dearest to her during these bouts and they swoop in to help. She’s had to rely on help more than anyone should. But thankfully, God has always provided it in ways my friend could have never imagined.
They have one child. Not the houseful they dreamed of but with his condition and her busy schedule, they realize multiple children weren’t God’s ultimate plan for them. This was a hard place for my friend to get to. She struggled knowing she felt God telling her not to have more, but her heart wanted more. God rested her heart and lessened her desire for more children. Instead, they welcome foster children into their home and give back to as many children as they can to fill that hole in their hearts.
My friend doesn’t always handle all of this whirlwind perfectly. However, she does handle it honorably. Her mom has had similar health issues and caring for her and watching her father love her mother, prepared my friend to love her husband... in sickness and in health.
Not once has she forsaken the vows she made to her husband before God. More than that. She loves him for exactly who he is. She amazes me in the way she’s found the things he can do well and given him those responsibilities. She still views him as the leader of their household and teaches her daughter what that traditional role looks like.
Does she wish things were different? Every day. They both do. God, however, has allowed this in their life. They continue to trust Him and put Christ right in the middle of it. In the midst of a very non-traditional reality, she’s found happiness. They kiss, hold hands, parent as partners.
In her words:
After ten years of relying on God through this life He has for us, I have come to the full realization that yes, I did get on the right bus. I don’t want to get off. I no longer feel “stuck” in my marriage.
I realize this was the marriage and life created by God - for me. It's made me a more beautiful woman than the one I thought I'd be entering my 40's. My life and circumstances have given me a servant's heart to help others who are in the same situation. Further, I help those I work with who don’t understand why God gave them a sick husband, loss of jobs or a child with special needs.
I rely on the verse Jeremiah 29:11; “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you, give you a hope and a future.’
I pray for this couple often. I know things aren’t easy for them but I also see they are good. Two believers have found a way to make “non-traditional” work for them. They could teach us a thing or two.
How about your life? Does it look like the normal you had in mind? Like my friend, sometimes the changes we don’t like are out of our control. Even in those times, we can manage two things. 1) Our response to the situation. 2) Who we are going to count on for help. I believe part of why God allows us to go through things is so a world around us can notice the big difference the Holy Spirit makes in us.
He shines in this couple. Traditional or not, I find it beautiful.