Welcome back to 2TheHeart!
Wow! It feels good to say that! I have dearly missed 2TheHeart and our online family. Many of you are still in touch via email or Facebook, and for that I am grateful. I am very, very happy to announce that I will be resuming 2TheHeart weekly editions! I am re-launching today with a new story that is very special to me. I just finished writing it last week in honor of Valentine's Day. In the future, I will be running stories from other authors as well as my own, so feel free to submit your stories after reading our Writers' Guidelines.
Other exciting news is I have completed the 10th anniversary edition of Angel's Legacy with new stories, pictures, cover and a free gift! I worked very hard on this tribute to the most inspiring person I have ever known and am thrilled to announce it will be hot off the publisher's press in just a few weeks! Many of you have already ordered signed copies, but if you would like to order, view the book trailer, or read an excerpt, go to www.AngelsLegacy.com You can also find the book trailer on YouTube!
Today's story is longer than our usual 2TheHeart stories, but I could NOT cut it down, no matter how hard I tried, so here it is! Please do send me your thoughts on the story and on 2TheHeart in general for the Letter Box. Also, browse www.2theheart.com to see the changes and re-read old favorites in our story archives. It's good to be back!
by Susan Farr Fahncke
Sometimes it takes a crisis to create a miracle.
It was early fall and the kids and I were looking for a new house, closer to the city where we drove almost an hour every day for school, church, shopping, everything. We had found the perfect house in the perfect location at the perfect price. And then I got the phone call.
It was my (eventually to-be “ex”) husband. “What would you think about you and the kids moving in to my house and then I could get a smaller place?” His place was big and roomy and way too large for a man living alone. And it had land: my secret heart-of-heart desires. A place in the country with acreage.
A deal was struck – he would stay a couple of months in the lower level of the house and the kids and I would have the main floor and we would make the best of things, pool our finances, and put our differences aside until he found an apartment.
At first it was weird. We hadn’t shared a home in years. We hadn’t shared more than an argument in years. The months stretched out and he stayed. Financial burdens became a financial crisis and stressed us both to our limit. We had no choice but to learn to share. It became one of those “blessings in disguise” that we couldn’t see because the disguise was so overpowering for so long. Over time, we adjusted to living under the same roof and the kids had their dad with them to say goodnight and good morning and to join us for Family Night and family prayer. We all worked together in the yard and jumped together on the trampoline. We planted a garden and took pictures of every new vegetable as if it were a new baby in our family. One day it hit me: the kids were happier having both their parents with them. My own fog of worry and frustration at the situation lifted as I marveled in this blessing. We began to feel like a family again. Except for the tiny little detail of Mom and Dad not being together and not really even liking each other.
The financial struggles worsened and it seemed as if no end was in sight. Strangely though, this tremendous stressor began to create in me a compassion for my husband that I hadn’t felt in years. We had so many hurts between us that there was no way we would ever get back together, but a new sort of friendship and kindness began to blossom. My heart softened; his heart softened. God worked in us.
After two years of learning and struggling and changing, late into the night one summer evening, my husband came to me. I could see a great deal in him I hadn’t seen in so long. He was humble and gentle and I could see his heart was truly hurting.
He entered my room and asked if we could talk. I immediately felt nervous. It’s never a good thing when someone says that. He perched on the edge of my bed. The pine canopy bed with the cutout hearts he surprised me with fifteen years ago when I was carrying Noah.
“I think we should try to see if we can fix our marriage.”
My mouth dropped open. I never saw this coming and refused to open my own heart.
“No.” It was all I could believe at that moment.
The conversation deepened and the pros and cons were discussed, but inside I was terrified to trust this man again, I felt like a scared little girl and my instinct was to bolt.
The conversation continued for days and again I just wanted it to stop. I couldn’t bear to crack my heart open to him, not even to let the teeniest ray of hope in. For so long I had wanted this change and now it was here, it was too late. Years too late. It wasn’t possible. But my Father in Heaven showed me otherwise.
About a week later, Marty suggested that we begin praying together. Just the two of us, like we used to, back when we were happy. Eons ago. I agreed that this would be a good idea. What was the harm in prayer? I kept my heart firmly clamped shut and that night we prayed together, the first prayer with just the two of us in years.
I listened to my husband’s humble words, felt his good, strong spirit and something inside me thawed. Each night we prayed and each night I felt something shift more and more between us. I started to believe that maybe God really did want us to be a family again. I prayed hard in private for guidance. If this was God’s will for us, then He would have to help me find the faith. I needed proof.
The proof came in small, unexpected ways. Ways that showed me two stubborn people really can change. Each of us began to make changes within ourselves, not putting pressure on the other to change, just focusing on what we needed to improve on our own. Marty wasn’t the only one who needed to change, I knew that. I began to be kinder to him, letting go of years of hurt that had festered into an armor of anger. I felt peace inside at this change in myself. The change affected him, but it healed me. As I let go of my hurt, the walls I put up between us began to come down. Little, everyday things helped pave the way for big changes to fall into place. The little things opened up the door so the big things just settled in.
One way in which Marty had changed was the little hurtful things he used to do stopped and he replaced them with loving, thoughtful gestures. After years of wishing it, flowers arrived from him weekly. Also gone were the snide remarks about my daily Diet Coke. In their place arrived a giant Diet Coke in our fridge every morning, the lids decorated with little love notes. The first one shocked me. I opened the fridge and couldn’t believe my eyes. Not only had he bought me a soda that morning (of his own, free will), but he wrote “I love you” on the lid in bright colors with little hearts. The second one surprised me and the third one had me eagerly awaiting morning so I could see what was on his next “love lid”. I felt a warmth inside at his kindness. His little notes made me smile all day. I secreted the lids away in a drawer and pored over them again and again. My husband is not a demonstrative man, so this was a tangible change that showed me he really was trying. I needed to try too. My faith began to grow with each love lid.
As part of our self-assigned “marriage homework”, we watched the movie “Fireproof”. It opened my eyes to the realization that the sacred vow of marriage is not about how much the other person deserves love, or how happy they make you. My vow was to love unconditionally. Regardless of pain, irritation, disappointment, or temptation, my vow means I give love freely, as Christ gives to me. It’s not my job to punish or withhold my love: it is only my job to keep my promise to love.
We had decided to attend any conference or marriage retreat we could find, and Marty searched far and wide, but all were too far away and we had no one to take the boys overnight. Finally he gave up, frustrated. One night on a whim, I thought maybe I should try too. The little seed of faith was growing in me. I scoured the internet for anything we could go to and BAM! I found an all day Saturday conference called “The Marriage You've Always Wanted”, taught by none other than Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the Five Love Languages. It was only an hour away and tickets were not too expensive. I felt my heart speed up at this stroke of luck. I felt a nudge from Above to put my heart into this endeavor to save our marriage.
I surprised Marty with the tickets, excited and nervous and proud at my find. It ended up being the turning point for our marriage and one of the best days of my life. Our eyes opened, our hearts opened and God worked a miracle in us. We took notes and listened raptly, soaking in a million lessons and reminders about how to be married and how to be good at it. Sitting next to my husband, watching the tears slide down his handsome face, I realized I was head over heels in love with him again. He was a Godly, strong, beautiful, loving man and a truly wonderful father. I felt so very, very blessed. My eyes filled and my heart overflowed at this gift of a second chance. Leaning on him, I knew we could actually put our marriage back together. And my fear evaporated.
I have a drawer full of "love lids" and it’s still growing every day. We are renewing our wedding vows on the weekend of our anniversary next month. The road is still bumpy at times, and like a delicate flower, it needs care and attention. We nurture it with nightly devotionals geared for couples and supported by scripture and prayer. We have actual dates where I shave my legs, wear jewelry and he opens doors for me and makes me feel like a teenager again. We play question-and-answer games that help us learn about each other’s dreams, hopes, fears and the things that make us feel happy. The nurturing part is new for us and takes work. But the reward is greater than I ever imagined. My heart is full again and our family is whole; our children are happy.
I know that without the financial crisis we faced, we never would have healed our marriage and our family. God forced us to depend upon each other and learn to work as a team to get through that crisis. The financial stress itself was horrible. But without it, we would still be a broken family.
Sometimes it takes a crisis to create a miracle. But it is worth every moment of pain, of worry, of fear. You just have to have the faith to walk through the fire, look for the path God wants you to be on, and get to the other side. Where the miracle is waiting.
Susan Farr Fahncke copyright 2012
I live with my family in America's Heartland, where I am busy running the world's most amazing volunteer group, Angels2TheHeart, teaching writing workshops, writing, homeschooling my youngest son and learning to ballroom dance with my husband. I truly love my life in the country and am excited for my new book, Angel's Legacy: How Cancer Changed a Princess into an Angel to be released very soon! I am also working on a book of "Noah stories", about my amazing deaf son, as well as collaborating on a book about how to heal a broken marriage with my husband, Marty. In my free time I eat chocolate. You can learn more about my workshops and book projects on my personal page at 2TheHeart.com