Valerie Venables – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience

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Every storm of life has a beginning, and every storm has an ending. Storms can be bittersweet. This means difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

At fifteen, I was dating a boy who, five years later, became my husband. We entered our marriage full of hopes and dreams. Our future was bright. We talked about a family. Three years later, we were excited to have a daughter. Then, our family was perfect with the arrival of our son. Seven years into marriage, I was so happy. I loved being a wife, and I loved being a mother. I had a perfect family and a good marriage. My husband and I loved each other. Life was good. Unknown to me, I was heading towards a shipwreck that would be the worst storm of my life. Two weeks before my son’s first birthday, my husband left carrying a suitcase with a few belongings. He said he loved us and walked out the front door. I stood at the top of the entrance stairs, numb and in shock. 

What just happened? Three months earlier, he had been acting strange. Amazing what guilt does. I thought he was stressed out about work. Our home was peaceful. The next day, things got even worse. I received a troubling phone call. A friend told me my husband was having an affair with a woman I thought was a friend. My heart was broken. My spirit was crushed. Being a child of divorce, I made a vow my children would never experience a broken home. But a good marriage takes two committed partners. Now, at twenty-seven, I was a single mom. Not a place I wanted to be. I was scared and had no idea about my future. I could not eat or sleep, and I lost a lot of weight. I was in the hospital for five days. Everyone was concerned. 

Days passed into weeks, months, and then years. I tried to be strong to keep life as normal as I could. What’s normal anyway? During the day, I was busy with the children. Evening routines remained the same: bath time, storytime, prayers, cuddles, and bedtime. After the children fell asleep, the house became so quiet. It felt like it was dead. I listened to the clock’s ticking; it did not comfort my loneliness. I had many questions: what did I do wrong? My husband had many outdoor toys and enjoyed many activities with his friends. He had a lot of freedom. I watched the clock frantically, waiting for ten o’clock so I could go to bed and put the day behind me.

My mind was a battleground, and I was losing the war. How could a woman have an affair with a married man, especially a so-called friend? This question haunted me for a long time. I had a problem trusting women for years. Snuggled in bed, I would turn my lamp off. The room was dark now, with a bit of light shining through the blinds from the bright moon outside. I tried to pray, but I must be honest; my prayers were very feeble. It was hard to know what to pray. God seemed so far away. The Bible talks about faith the size of a mustard seed. So, with mustard-size faith, I prayed for peace and rest. Night after night, the darkness was my enemy. I dreaded those long, lonely nights.

Morning always came too early. Rays of sunshine dawned outside and shone brightly into my bedroom. It felt like I had just fallen asleep. I yearned for the darkness. Sounds of pitter-patter of little feet came from the hallway. The house was coming alive. The children ran into my bedroom, jumped on the bed, dove under the covers, and snuggled beside me. Their warm bodies were so comforting. They wanted to play, and I just wanted to sleep. I was exhausted. We played, then got up for breakfast. While sipping on my warm cup of coffee, thoughts raced through my head. It seemed like I was at the starting line of an Olympic marathon. How was I going to get to the finish line?  After breakfast, daily routines began, and then I’d drive my daughter to play school. Back home, chores began like yesterday and the days before. 

I embraced these days with little strength, energy, or confidence. A mother’s duty is a labor of love, and I loved being a mom. At noon, I picked my daughter up, and we came home for lunch. After lunch, time was set aside for the children—Storytime, pool time, walks, or visiting. My children were a gift from the Lord. They were my world! They brought so much joy and gave my life purpose. I believed I would be single for the rest of my life. I was shy, and the thought of dating was scary. I was willing to be single and lonely for the rest of my life. I was not going to sacrifice my children for my happiness. I told my mom, “If I ever remarry, that person has to love the children the same way I do.” I thought that was impossible.

I was a Christian and was amazed when the Lord allowed us a second chance to be a family. This time, my husband would be God’s choice. This man was respectful, kind, and had a soft heart towards the Lord. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He had an amazing sense of humour. When he entered a room, it lit up. His name was David, the same name as my ex-husband, which made things awkward for me. I liked the name, David. It was my son’s middle name, meaning “beloved of God.” The best thing about this man was he loved my children. All his attributes made me feel extremely comfortable. He was the type of man most women would dream of. I was feeling blessed. I remember telling my mom, “Mom, he makes me laugh, and it feels so good.” I had not laughed in a long time. It was his personality that won my heart.

After two weeks of dating and spending time with the children, Dave asked me to marry him. I said, “No.” He asked two more times. Each time, I said, “No”. The third time, he cried. I was sad that I hurt him. That was not my intention. He said, “I will never ask you again. I will wait until you’re ready. Just let me know.” I tried to explain that he was not the problem. I was the problem. I had baggage I had to deal with. Three years later, I was ready to trust again and commit. 

We talked and set our wedding date for May 28th, 1980. Plans were set in motion for a small, intimate garden wedding with family and a few close friends, and the big day arrived. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The garden was in full bloom with an array of beautiful colors and sweet fragrances. Our guests had arrived and were waiting for us. The children were excited even before we got to the garden. Everything was perfect. In front of our guests, David and I said our wedding vows, making a lifetime commitment to each other. The next day, we left for a little honeymoon in Victoria. We knew God was writing our love story. It is truly amazing how one can find love when least expecting it. 

Marriage Box

People often get married believing a myth that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, intimacy, friendship, etc… The truth is that marriage, at the start, is an empty box; you must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage; love is in people, and people put love in marriage. There is no romance in marriage, and you must introduce it into your marriage. A couple must learn the art and the habit of giving, loving, serving, and praising one another. This keeps the marriage box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.

Dave and I were unaware that God had big plans for our future. He planned to create a beautiful family and prepare us as a couple for ministry. Years after we moved to Kamloops, Dave became the Worship Pastor of our church. We went through some painful trials to prepare us for ministry. It was a walk of faith, one step at a time. Ecclesiastes 4:12: “A three-strand cord is not easily broken.”  In every trial, God was the third strand that held us together. He was our source of peace and our strength. He helped us overcome every obstacle and trial. Romas 8:28: “In all things God works things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

On May 28th, 2020, we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. It seems like our journey began yesterday and feels like forever, all simultaneously. We have weathered many storms and have learned to ride the waves of the high seas.  It has been a life full of joy, laughter, and tears all rolled up together. Retirement plans were in our future, and we looked forward to growing old together. Our best days were ahead of us. We had come a long way, yet it felt like we were just beginning. We enjoyed being together, and our love was stronger than ever. Our eyes were fixed on the Lord. Ministry never ends; it just changes. We felt that our ministry would be outside the church’s walls. Just like Jesus, we would go to the lost. Little did we know another shipwreck was around the corner. This would be even worse than my divorce. 

Shortly after our 40th anniversary, my husband passed away suddenly from cancer, and I became a widow. I lost my husband, my best friend, my companion, my provider, my protector, and my lover. God had given Dave forty-four years of grace as he had the same cancer at twenty-one. After that, Dave embraced every day as a gift and lived it like his last. My husband lived well and touched many people, both young and old. His legacy lives on in the hearts of all those he touched over the years. Here, I stood in front of another crossroad. The process of grief is a long, difficult road. This was an unexpected season for me. I was older than my husband, so I never thought I’d be the partner left behind. Now Dave is in heaven with the King of Kings, the one he loved the most. He is with our two babies that we lost years ago. Dave is one more treasure in heaven.  God promises us that we will be reconciled with our loved ones in glory. I stand on that promise. The Lord said he would be the husband to the widower. My faith is strong, and I have peace knowing that I will see my husband again someday. Oh, another storm behind me. Some days are harder than others, but I am good. Almost three years now, and I still miss my husband every day. I have no idea what my future holds, but I do know who holds my future. Whatever storm you are going through, know there will be an ending and a new beginning. Once again, I choose to make lemonade. Cheers…

Remember, “When Life Gives You, Lemons Make Lemonade”.

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Valerie Venables - RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience
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