Monday, October 17, 2011

Marriage Mondays: Elaine's Story

A week ago I witnessed a wedding. When the bride and groom repeated the words "in sickness and in health," the smiling face of a faithful wife came to my mind's eye. She shared her story with me over a cup of coffee; I was so encouraged and inspired by the way she currently faces the challenges of being a Marriage Survivor.

After 18 years of marriage, Elaine found herself abandoned and left alone with 3 children. She pressed on through a decade as a single mom. Hugh was abandoned and left with 3 children of his own. They were both lonely, and Elaine felt as if she had few options to meet her needs. Despite spiritual differences, Elaine and Hugh married. She is honest and open about the challenges and consequences of marriage, when one of you is a follower of God and one of you is not. I've always respected how honoring and loving Elaine has been in her conversation and decisions, while married to a man who doesn't know Christ as his Savior. She has been a living example of 1 Peter 3:1 ~

"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives..."

Elaine has been Hugh's wife for 20 years, giving the testimony that, 
"You just have to know the vows you made weren't only to that man. You made your vows to God."  

Sometimes our vows are not easy to live out. It's in "sickness" when we show that love is an ACTION, a CHOICE, not simply a feeling.  For most of their married lives, Elaine's sweetheart was an Economics Professor, teaching graduate university students. He was the Chief Financial Officer for a large government agency in the South, testifying for Congress during the summers. He often traveled to speak and lecture regarding his field of expertise. In his free time Hugh was a master gardener, lovingly tending their yard full of manicured plants. All that has faded into their past.

Now in their early 70's, Elaine and Hugh face a new challenge. It's not uncommon for Elaine to be awakened at night, finding her husband wandering in the house. Dressed in layers of clothing, including t-shirts and suit pieces, packing pens and tools in his pockets, he'll be giving a lecture fit for a university or seminar or Congressional audience. Elaine helps put his briefcase away, assure him he's done well, removes some of the layers, empties the pens, and helps him back to bed. Most of the "Hugh" she's known has been lost to the attacks of Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD). The disease is progressive, and Hugh will degenerate rapidly. He has moments of clarity, and for those, Elaine is grateful.

Elaine is finding new ways to communicate with Hugh and meet his needs. Like she may have for her children long ago, she makes picture cards of dishes to place on cabinets and make them easy to find. She plans a notebook of pictures of food, so as the disease progresses she can "love, honor, and cherish" in new ways. "In sickness and in health" is not easy when we live it out. 

When I asked Elaine how I could pray for her, she asks for 1 Peter 3 kinds of things ...
  • Most of all, pray for moments of clarity, so Hugh will still have an opportunity to understand Christ's love for him and respond with a desire for salvation.
  • Patience to provide for his care and not become angry.
  • Health of her own, so she can care for the man she promised to care for. 
  • A sense of humor, because, with God's help, we can enjoy our mate in every season.
  • Their future, whatever that may look like. 

So did you mean it? When you promised to "love, honor, and cherish" in "sickness and in health"?

We can not know our future, but we can remember the vows we made and re-commit to being a "Marriage Survivor" no matter what the future holds. Elaine IS surviving the challenges of marriage today, and she's doing it by the grace and strength and peace of God in her life. She's a woman who stays near to God's Word, often on her knees, and close to the Body of Christ. I want to "survive" like that!

To enter this week's giveaway of another beautiful donated set of jewelry made by Antoinette, leave a comment sharing something about Elaine's example that encourages you. Today's gift reminds me of trusting, peaceful, faithful Elaine; pearls are shaped when a grain of sand is irritated, and something precious comes from something hard. Thank you to Antoinette for sharing these lovely gifts! I'll share the winner on Wednesday.

11 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Mary@The Calm of His Presence said...

Oh Julie, what a beautiful picture of 1 Peter 3:1. I'm sure Elaine's faithfulness & love to her husband has been a great testimony to so many.

Carol said...

God sees the faithfulness and obedience that Elaine has laid on the alter.  It is a sweet fragrance and Faithful God will reward her.

Shannon said...

She is truly showing Christ's love.  This is such a great testimony when people today think what is important is for them to be happy instead of  living out the vows they made before God.  Everyone should look to people like her for their examples.

Kalyn Comings said...

What an awesome example of a faithful wife! My dad suffers from Parkinson's, and I see the daily struggles my mom goes through without the true support of a "partner". She feels more like a mother/caretaker than a wife. I often wonder how I would get through our marriage if my husband were to come down with a disease that took away his mind or his physical strength, but I know God would give me the exact amount of grace I need.

Suzanne said...

What a sweet encouragement and reminder of Christ's agape love.  I love being reminded that love is a CHOICE/ACTION and that this can/should be applied in all areas of our lives, not just our marriages.

Angie said...

Elaine's story is so touching in how she pours herself out for her husband. She prays for her health in terms of caring for her husband. She tirelessly prays for his salvation, and she prays for patience for him. She is inspiring. 

Dana said...

Hugh and Elaine are my grandparents and this was very very hard for me to read. He really is not doing well but she has been so patient with's a lot like babysitting a child. She isn't in great health either but she uses every ounce of energy that she has to take care of her husband. The love they have for each other has always been incredibly apparent to me. My husband and I look up to them very much. I know Meme and I have been praying for Pop daily for probably 15+ years now. My husband and I have a 1 year old daughter (Finleigh) and the way Pop lights up when we bring her around is just uncanny. She makes him so much happier. I love my grandparents and they are in my prayers daily. I love them dearly. Prayers for our family are greatly appreciated!

Maggie said...

What a testimony that she continually tries to love him to salvation instead of nag. 

I also thought what you wrote about the pearl was interesting.  My name "Margaret" means pearl, but I didn't know that.  I do know that God can use the hard time of a husband's disease to help shape a person, though!

Julie_Sanders said...

Dana, thank you so much for sharing that. I know your love and support are invaluable. What a beautiful legacy you have to watch grandparents who have loved each other so deeply and who have truly lived out what it means to be committed and faithful to each other. Finleigh is blessed to have that heritage, and I'm looking up to their example with you! Praying for your family!

Julie Sanders


e-Mom said...

Hi Julie! This is an important post. As I age, more and more, I've been thinking about how I'll deal with end-of-life issues. Still a distance yet to travel, but better to be prepared, yes? Thanks for this timely prompt. Blessings, e-Mom

Julie_Sanders said...

You are the winner of the jewelry giveaway this week, Dana! It's very fitting, and I hope it will be a beautiful reminder, as you wear it, of the heritage you enjoy and the great "pearl" that has formed through these hard times. Send me a private message to jeffjulmission with your mailing address, and I'll get your giveaway to you. :)

Blessings to you!