My Forever Loves

Eight years ago today I married a man that God chose for me many years before we even knew we needed one another! After losing Adam to cancer after 15 years being together, leaving behind 3 small children and a broken woman, I had given my future to God. All of it. I was encouraged to date again after almost 3 years of being widowed. A widow at 36 was something I never saw coming. Could have never prepared my heart for. And certainly wasn’t sure I could ever find a love like that again. I had too much baggage. A widow. An older mom-bod, scarred from carrying three children. Issues from my biological father leaving us and not remaining a part of my life. Three children who were grieving the loss of their father after a difficult 9 months of watching cancer slowly steal his life. Some days I could hardly get myself out of bed to care for my kids, much less myself. I was not sure we could ever overcome such great loss.

God however, had a totally different plan for our lives! After a few very bad and awkward dates I loudly pronounced to God while driving alone in my van, I was done dating forever! I knew I had baggage, but these men were a whole new level of messed up! I told God that I was fine, I didn’t need a husband or a man in my life to make me complete. I just needed Him! I would focus all my energy into my kids. I could do this all by myself, as long as I knew God was beside me. I didn’t want to expose my kids to multiple men who would potentially come in and out of their lives. (They were not involved with the first few dates! I kept that to myself.) I promptly proceeded to tell God that if He ever wanted me to marry again, I had a long list of requirements that said man had to meet!!!

All the while God was preparing Matt and his kids for me and mine. My conversation with God was summer in the second year into being a widow. That August, Matt’s wife threw him a big 40th birthday party. The kids and I were invited. We had been friends for 20 years. Matt and I met doing musical theater together at 19 and 21. But throughout our time doing shows, we both were always involved with someone else. Then both engaged, married and had kids all within a few years of each other. We had never dated each other. Just friends. We all had a blast at the party and still have fun memories of that night. The following December, his wife of 10 years told Matt she wanted a divorce. He was pretty blindsided and she was leaving the kids with him at the house. She wanted a different life. They were all devastated. As anyone would be. They were dealing with a loss and grieving it. Divorce is not the same as losing a spouse who passes, but it is a loss and there is grief involved. It hurts and breaks hearts.

I reached out to Matt to tell him how sorry I was to hear about the divorce. I told him I understood how it felt too suddenly be a single parent. I told him that I knew how hard it could be and that I was sorry he was having to go through this. I was angry at his ex-wife. He was the third male friend I had who’s wife had left them, all for various reasons. But I was MAD!!! These women were walking away from marriages. They were giving up. They were voluntarily letting it all fall apart. I didn’t get a chance to fight for my marriage. Cancer stole it from me. I could not fathom why they were just throwing in the towel. But God knew! Matt took the kids to our church and the choir sang “I surrender all”. Matt did just that right then and there. He handed it to God because the hand he had just been dealt was beyond his control. God was in control of it all.

Not long after the divorce was final, Matt asked me out! I said yes and we went on the best first date ever!!! Matt shared with me at dinner that he was done dating! He knew we were a match made in heaven. I knew it as well. It was a night neither of us wanted to end. I think he drove 5 miles an hour taking me home that night. We held hands all the way. They were a perfect fit. Our kids never wanted to leave one another. They begged to stay, eat meals together, they never wanted their time together to end. They began chanting “Get Married” while marching around the house. Three weeks after our first date, we were engaged and three months later we were married! It was a whirlwind for sure, but we all knew that this was God’s plan. We were all meant to be a family together. We blended beautifully. Yes of course we hit bumps and there was chaos and adjustments that had to be made. But all in all it was an easy acclimation. It was as if God had stitched us all back together after being broken. All of our brokenness put together brought us healing. It made us whole.

Watching Gods hand work in our lives amazes me daily. His providence was life changing. I think of the people who prayed for my kids and I. Those who prayed for Matt and his children as we all traversed through loss. For all of us to see answered prayers is glorious! We all entered each others lives and became a family that filled holes in one another that none of us knew needed filling until we had each other. I may be a bit biased, but it is my favorite story. Beauty from ashes! We all sowed many tears and are now reaping a glorious harvest of joy!

God is so good! Sit back and watch Him work. You will never be disappointed in the results.

Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

By Laurel Austin Henson

Laurel spent 8 months caring for her first husband after being diagnosed with cancer in 2010. He passed away at 33, leaving behind a daughter of 7 and 5 year old twin boys. After sowing millions of tears, Laurel sought out God daily and began to plan for a life of being a single mother, but ready to raise their children in faith, hope and love. God gave her more than she could have ever imagined when she brought Matt into her life, along with his 2 children. He was recently divorced and the providence of God had been leading up to this life for more than 20 years! Now Laurel is reaping joy with Matt and their 5 beautiful children. Thanks be to God for all the beauty created from the ashes of death and divorce.

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