I was twenty years old. More humble than the Autumn before, but just as stubborn. I thought I would never marry and end up teaching in an orphanage an ocean away. After a summer in Latvia I realized my weakness and need, but still knew little of my heart. I first noticed Jeff explaining his sculpture piece to a disgruntled professor in the middle of a courtyard. The professor did not go easy on Jeff. Jeff spoke of God and our frailty and the professor disagreed with everything he shared. I hid in the bushes that surrounded the courtyard listening to his response and was late to English.
That began a friendship that grew into a relationship. We were both independent, stubborn, and unwilling to settle. We both knew God had amazing things in store for us as individuals and struggled with the thought of lifetime commitment. What I saw in Jeff that first day carried through some difficult seasons as we dated, got engaged, broke up, and began to date again. Even in the harder seasons I saw integrity, an unwillingness to be fake, and a lion heart. He didn't talk about loving others he just did it. He didn't talk himself up or down he just showed up faithfully. And through his eyes I saw more than what I thought sacrifice was all about and began to understand what it meant to take one faithful step at a time. Jeff had and still has an unwavering love of Christ. Not an easily won, nicely packaged love. But a bleeding, broken love that doesn't quit. He sticks it out, he plods on trusting that it is less about him and more about HIM. When Jeff and I decided to get married (the second time) we knew full well that our hearts were still afraid. Afraid we would mess it up, afraid we would not know how to love when feelings ebbed and hard times came. But we made vows knowing God was bigger than our fears. That the God who called us together would help us walk the million steps forward. I remember thinking there were many in the world I could laugh with, many I could walk the normal days with. But when I looked at Jeff I knew I could walk hard days also. I knew I was safe. I knew I could laugh, walk, and even struggle beside him.
We still joke that it was only God that could have brought us together. We naturally messed so much up it shouldn't have happened. But we made it. We stood face to face on June 9th and repeated our vows in humility and love. And after years of good and hard I am so grateful I said I do that day.
We took some weeks to fully settle into Jeff's childhood home. The boys explored the same woods he did and biked the same trails. We had nightly fires and smores, and early morning back porch bible readings while sipping coffee. I began teaching the boys and Jeff helped to check their work. I started emailing friends back and having them slowly trickle in to see Jeff and share memories.
And then the next wave hit. It started as the normal cough,dry turning to deep chested and rattling. It has come and gone many times in this past year. But this time it stayed. It racked his body and stole his breath away. He began sleeping more and his legs weakened. Oxygen was delivered and he became breathless walking from room to room. The hospice nurses brought more medicine to dry him out and cough medicine to give him rest in the late hours of the night. Nothing seemed to work. In one week we went from "we can do this" to "no please, not yet". Jeff is confined now from bed to recliner. He is tired, he sleeps more than he is awake. The nurse will now come twice a week instead of once. His voice is weaker still, his body thinner. His heart however is not wasting away. His heart beats as strongly for God and for us. Not because God has healed him, or made this path easier. And he loves us deeply. He uses the little words he can speak now to whisper prayers and love. His body is spent. His heart is not.
And the nights when God has seemed too silent and too distant, we talked about how in heaven there will be no distance, no silence. There will be no pain, or weak limbs. No fear, no tears, no more questions. When we stand face to face with our Maker we will be known and know in full. Jeff knows this and there have been many nights he would have gone gladly. But tonight he asks me not to give up on him. He prays to stay longer to raise his boys. He asks to have more time in a world that is broken and so far from perfect. A request more motivated by love than fear.
Tonight after a seeing Jeff's body heave and cough Ian ran to his room. I stayed to help Jeff and checked on Ian after. He was at his desk drawing so I came back and wrote a quick update to friends asking for prayer and sharing the hard. Just as I finished he ran up with a drawing for Jeff for me to see. "Remember in the cabin when we read the story of Jesus in the boat sleeping during the storm?" I answered yes. "Remember when we prayed and asked him to wake up." I answered yes again. "Well this is him waking up!" He walked over and gave the picture to Jeff. With shaking hands and heavy lids he took the picture and thanked him. I framed it and hung it above the basket of pills.
We don't know how this storm will end but we know it will end. We know the waves will eventually be stilled. We know Jeff's body will be made whole. This part of the journey feels unbelievably hard. We are broken watching Jeff's body fail. But we cling to the hope we have in Christ. The hope that all things will be used a thousand times over what we can comprehend. Jeff has reminded the boys, that in all the many ways this can go down, he has already won. So grateful I said yes to this life shared with him. We love you all and continue to covet your prayers. Much love, Becca