Gifted: Why 2016 Changed Everything

[You can listen to this post–read by yours truly–by clicking the play button below.]


This has been an incredible year.

Actually…that doesn’t even come close to describing it…

It’s been amazing, fantastic, wonderful, stupendous, dream-like, blessed. All of the above and so much more.

But if I had to choose one word to describe what this year has meant to me, it would be…


That’s because GOD gave me a perfect gift this year. He didn’t have to. It’s not like I deserved it. I certainly didn’t earn it. But He gave me one anyway. He reached down and touched my life with Lauren, the only woman who could walk with me on this journey.

I’ve been through a lot these past four years, ever since my first wife died in March 2013 (you can read about that here). I grieved intensely for months, and more than a year went by before I even entertained the thought of ever dating again—let alone remarrying. When I finally decided it was time to go on a few dates, I didn’t realize how emotionally difficult it would be. I thought I was ready to move on, but I wasn’t, and just realizing that was painful. I began to fear that I would never love again, that I would always be alone, and that scared me more than anything else.

The women I dated were pleasant and kind, devoted to family, church, and GOD, but at the end of the day, we were not meant to be together. I didn’t have a problem accepting that. But I was just so busy with my kids and my career that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make time for someone else.

So I gave up, decided it was best to focus on what was in front of me, and not allow myself to get caught up in a relationship. I basically told GOD that if He wanted me to be with someone, then He could take care of it. Until then, I was going to be content with where He had brought me on this journey.

And that was when He sent me His gift.

I’m no theologian, and I’m certainly no saint, but I’ve learned through experience that when I willingly give up the things I want and demonstrate that GOD alone is enough for me, He blesses me. He blesses me because He loves me, because He is merciful and gracious, because He is good. When I show Him that He can trust me with little, He then trusts me with more. That’s the only way I can grow spiritually: recognize that He is greater than I am, submit myself to Him, and follow Him wherever He may lead.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes it is. Most of the time it isn’t. But what is the alternative? Shake my fist at the heavens and do things the way I want to? I’ve tried that before. It never turns out well. Sometimes I convince myself that I know what’s best. I rationalize my thoughts and feelings in order to justify my actions, but it’s all an illusion, one that I’ve created, and one that GOD allows me to live in. He’s a gentleman, after all. If I want to follow my own path, He’ll let me. He’ll just stand at the fork in the road and watch me flounder and struggle. He doesn’t enjoy it, but He has too much respect for the freedom He gave me to force me to do otherwise. If I want to make things difficult for myself, then I can. But the most beautiful thing about GOD is that He doesn’t hold that against me. When I’m ready to turn around and follow Him, He is right there with open arms to embrace me. He’s a good, good father.

If I hadn’t trusted GOD, I never would have met Lauren. I could have hardened my heart, grown bitter, and cursed Him for taking away my first wife. I won’t lie…there were times when I was tempted to do just that. But given all the blessings GOD has poured out on me and my family since I was a small child, I know that life with the LORD is better and more fulfilling than life without Him.

And now, I have my gift, and she’s precious.

Lauren and I exchanged vows in June, and the past six months have done more to soothe my fractured heart than I thought were possible. Every morning, I have the privilege of waking up next to Lauren, telling her “Good morning,” and watching her squirm under the covers as she insists on sleeping “just five more minutes” before facing the day. And every night, Lauren is the last person I see, the last person I kiss, before bed. She’s the person I daydream about and send sappy messages to when I have a spare moment, and she’s the only contact on my phone with unique notifications so that I know she’s calling. She listens to every one of my stories, even the boring ones, and laughs at all my terrible jokes. Her loving glance from across the room is enough to excite my heart, while her gentle touch after a long day is comfort to my soul. The way she smiles when I put on a tie, or the way she cheers me on when I accomplish a goal—no matter how big or small—those are the moments I cherish.

But she’s more than just my wife and confidante. She’s also my tag-team parenting partner, my co-pilot through all the turbulence of raising two small children. I can say with absolute conviction that I hated being a single parent for more than three years. It wasn’t just physically exhausting (which it was. Believe me. Single parents have it rough. They need your love and support. Go give them a hug – and a check while you’re at it!) Being a single parent was emotionally and mentally demanding. Since I was the only parent in the home, I had to make ALL the decisions. You might think that would have made things easier, but it didn’t. I had no one to talk to, no one to conference with, whenever my kids needed guidance. It was all up to me, but I was rarely sure about the best way to correct their mistakes and model the right kind of behavior. My grief kept me in a fog and made it impossible to ever know with 100% certainty if I was doing the right thing. Doubt was my constant companion, and that took a toll on my house. So you can imagine how grateful I am for Lauren’s counsel and feedback. She has more experience with kids than I do, even though I’ve been a parent longer. We work together to teach our children how to love the LORD and love others. It’s a beautiful thing.

Lauren is everything I need in my wife. She’s my lover, my friend, my partner. She is precious, beautiful, nurturing, and compassionate. I love and cherish her more with each passing day. She makes me a better husband, a better father, and a better Christian. She sharpens my spirituality and challenges my complacency. With her, the present is lovely and the future is bright. So every day I thank GOD for my Lauren, my wife and my gift, the one I proclaimed my love for on June 11, 2016, and the one I continue to choose each day. 2016 has been a gifted year, and I look forward to what GOD has in store for us next.

Joseph and Lauren on their wedding day. Photo credit: Ashley Stone Photography



One thought on “Gifted: Why 2016 Changed Everything

  1. I have followed your journey since you have stared your blog on your life as a widower. My husband past two weeks before your wife did so I was feeling all of the emotions that you did. I was so proud of the way that you was raising your children and the pictures that you posted of them. I was excited for you when you met someone and thrilled when you and her were married. It is exciting the turn your life has taken and how happy that you are. I wish you both a world of happiness.


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