Annette, it's been a year. 365 days. 12 months. 52 weeks. 8,760 hours. However I write it or say it, it's a long time in one sense, and it's just like it all happened yesterday in another. We never went even hours without saying "I love you" to one another. The only days we didn't share many kisses, hand holds, or hugs, were the days where we were physically not together.
We sang together all year round, but especially at this time of year. Man, did we sing together a lot! In church, at home, in the van or truck...worship songs, 80's Rock ballads, Grease Soundtrack, Xanadu Soundtrack (actually, only you loved that one and I just loved that you loved it!), just about every Christmas song that played, and LOTS of just made up lyrics along the way.
We prayed together, often, but that's one thing I wish we'd have done even more of together. We prayed for a family, and God blessed us with that. Then, we REALLY prayed...for patience, much wisdom, guidance and answers. God was so faithful to always provide all that we needed, and most of what we even wanted together.
You were an incredibly powerful woman in a very petite body. You were so much stronger than you ever thought you were. You were wise, calm, focused, and exactly what I wanted and needed. You were a mom to our boys that made an eternal impact. You were a wife to me that went so far above and beyond all I imagined a wife would be. And you were the best friend I could have ever imagined or asked for.
You loved God so much. You weren't judgmental to those you disagreed with. You didn't waste your time on petty, non-Gospel issues. You expected a lot from me as your husband, your best friend, your co-parent, your lover, and your head of household...and I'm so glad you did! You made me a better man, a better dad, and a better person and a better pastor than I was on my own by continually challenging me to be the Godly man, husband, dad, pastor and friend that I am called to be. We grew together to truly be one in Christ.
I hear your laugh often. I sense your "Joe" tone at times like when I'm mixing all different clothes in to wash at one time (I haven't ruined anything yet!). I start to tell you things or pick my phone up to call or text you often. I miss listening to your wisdom and input about most everything. I have awakened with the split second thought that it's a year ago and you're lying next to me in bed.
This has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do…to live alone, without the biggest part of my earthly life…to rethink a future that now doesn't include growing old with you…to be the only parent to our two special boys…to raise them in a way that honors God the way we did together, and to do all the little things you did and did SO well.
Would I change things? Would I choose to have you back? As much as I love you, God loves you infinitely more, and He chose to allow you to go home earlier than I would have liked. I wouldn't ask you to leave Heaven, even if I could (that is our ultimate goal as followers of Christ!!). If it were possible, I would re-live this entire year with all of its pains, if it meant I could see you, hold you and kiss you one more time. But I am not living in a life of “what ifs.” I am striving to walk in Him. I've done it well at times this year, and I have fallen and gotten back up at times. I've gained clarity with each passing month, and am learning more and more to be whoever the "new" me is. My life was eternally impacted by the time, friendship and love I was privileged to share with you. Without you, my life will be forever different than I ever thought it would be for as long as I live on this side of Heaven. There will always be a huge part of my heart that is filled with all you were to me, but I'm getting to a point of beginning to dream new dreams, which is strange, since every dream I had dreamed for the past 20-plus years included you. It still hurts to dream of a future without you here, but that hurt is quickly replaced with a joy that comes from knowing you are with our Father (and with your earthly father!). I pray that I will be able to live a life that seeks to honor God, which will also honor the memory of you.
For those reading this and following our journey, thank you for your continued prayers, thoughts, and various forms of contact (calls, cards, texts, emails, etc.)…each one truly seems to come at just the right time! I hope you’ve felt the love that Annette and I shared with one another, which was firmly rooted in our love for God above everything else. I would beg you each to consider the relationships in your life, especially your relationship with your spouse and your family …cherish each moment you have with one another! Forgive OFTEN…share life, live life together. Be sure you are not putting your eternal hope and trust in any of those relationships, as they will end one day. Instead, trust in the one relationship that will last for all of eternity. Put your relationship with God first, and trust in His plan and purpose for your life, and put Him at the center of your earthly relationships.
The boys and I truly continue to covet your prayers and support. I’ve known that this year of firsts was going to be tough, and it has been. Through this year, the journey has been made easier by the love shown to us by so many of you. Over the past few weeks, as I’ve taught through some different aspects of the Christmas story, God has calmed my heart with a few of the names that were given to Jesus: He is the Wonderful Counselor, always here to listen and give guidance; He is the Prince of Peace who continually brings peace back into my life as I seek Him above any anxiousness or concern about my future, whether it’s next week or five years down the road; He is Immanuel, God with me, always with me, always for me, always my all in all.
Have a Merry CHRISTmas!