Soon, we will celebrate 20 years of marriage. This is a miracle. My husband, Jeff, and I both come from extremely dysfunctional families with divorce (his mother divorced seven times), alcoholism, infidelity, abuse and neglect. Jeff was the second youngest of ten children. His mother gave away all nine children, except Jeff. Jeff actually cut his sister’s grass when he was a teenager and did not even know that she was his sister. He grew up in the projects – lived out of cars, received his meals from churches and lived through years of mental and physical abuse.
As for me, both parents were alcoholics and we lived with anger and fits of rage. I was very strong willed with the attitude that no one was going to tell me what to do! We were definitely not equipped for a healthy marriage.
Jeff joined the military in 1984 and we married on 4 January 1985, which was Friday. On Monday he went back to work and called an attorney to get the marriage annulled. The military gave him orders to move to Germany and I did not join him until seven months later. I became a baptized Christian in Germany in 1986 but we had so much baggage in our lives that we did not know how to have a normal marriage. We had a lot of changes to make and generations of cycles to break. We did not know where or how to raise our children to be godly young men. Neither of us had any communication skills, except verbal abuse and even physical abuse. If something did not go our way we let the other know it! We argued and fought about everything. And submission? I thought that was a sign of weakness.
About six years ago I went to work for my brother making about $35,000.00 a year. I became very independent. I could now support myself so I did not need my husband and all of our problems. I thought I could find someone better. Jeff and I got into another fight. I wanted to use the phone. He threw it to me and it hit me, although it was not his intent. That night I filed an EPO (emergency protective order) on him and got him out of the house. Life was now on my terms!
I prayed that God would allow my husband to die so I would not have to deal with him when it came to the children and custody would ultimately go my way. I had so much hate for him. At times, I felt I could have killed him myself. I am now filled with such remorse that I would put someone through so much pain.
One evening my husband came over and we sat in our living room with our Bibles open. My husband stated that neither one of us had had an affair and that meant we had no right to divorce. His next option was, “Donna, I will send you on a cruise, all expenses paid. Have an affair so that we can end this mess.”
“Not me,” I answered, “I’m not going to sin.”(Wasn’t I sinning already?) We looked at each other and said, “Then we have to make it work!” Our court appearance was scheduled for Monday morning. On Sunday he attended Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. After the service, he went up to the minister and said, “Tomorrow I am about to lose my entire family. What shall I do?” Even with 15,000 members in the church, Bob Russell took time to pray with him and give him words of encouragement.
We met in court and the judge dismissed the whole case. I left the court house mad, telling him that I never wanted to see him again. Christmas was a few days later. My husband begged me to stop the divorce. The children, aged 10, 6 and 5 years were begging and all balling.
That day I asked myself these very important questions:
Am I telling our children that it is impossible for God to heal our marriage?
Will our children lack faith in God because of our actions of divorce?
And the most important question of all…
Will it cause our children to lose their salvation?
This took me to my knees. I asked God to change me and help me be the godly Christian wife and mother he wanted me to be. For the next 18 months we submitted to serious counseling with a Christian facility and accountably with other Christian friends.
About six months later, a business opportunity came to head which I had been working on for five years previously. I had developed a whole new concept to the childcare industry. I wrote a business plan and found investors who were ready to give me 1.2 million dollars to invest and franchise them across the U.S. As I drove home after the business meeting I felt the Lord speak to my heart, “Why are you so worried about other children when your own family is falling apart?” I knew the answer deep down in my heart. I was money hungry. The 1.2 million we would make after opening 25 centers across the country sounded great. Was losing our family worth it? Not at all! When I got home I asked Jeff if we could give up my business opportunity, buy some acreage and could I please home school our children. It wasn’t an easy decision but I knew that this is what the Lord was leading me to do.
This was the first step towards our new life together. I can remember the first day I was truly submissive to my husband. When we drove to Indiana he asked me where we should drive to find a home. I replied, “It is your choice. I will follow you as our leader.” I had been used to telling him where to go and what to do. This time I sat back and let him lead. God directed Jeff to the home we live in today. It was the first home we saw for sale. The gentlemen was putting a new roof on as we drove into the driveway (they had just remodeled the entire home). As we took our first steps into the house Jeff turned to me and said, “Don’t look too excited, but let’s make an offer!”
Four years ago we moved to Corydon, Indiana and I started to home-school our three boys. As for our marriage, God has restored our love for each other. I would not trade my husband for anyone. Jeff is so precious to me. I relish the moment he walks through the door -- the coffee is brewing and we fellowship together. It is the best part of my day! And our children see their parents still married -- and laughing!
We have also made the decision not to run our children everywhere throughout the week to ball games and different sports. We find that constant running causes our family undue stress which triggers old habits. Our middle son said he would love to play ball but would rather eat dinner at the table every night as a family. As I write this, my boys and husband are in the kitchen playing and laughing together. If I had not humbled myself and made this decision to ask God to make me a godly wife and mother, I would be not hearing these sweet sounds in the background.
Do we struggle still? Yes, but few and far between now. We have learned to turn directly to God for his strength. Recently, I felt convicted about watching TV as it brings discontent into my life. I called Jeff and asked him if we could remove it from our home. “Yes, He replied. “Have the boys move it into the garage today.” We are working together to help each other in our walk with the Lord.
This past year we have decided to have my tubes reversed so that God can bless us with more blessings. We are now believing for the finances. Six years ago I would have laughed if someone told me we would be still married -- living in the country, home-schooling and hoping to have more children!
I give God the glory for healing our marriage. Jeff is and will be my loving, and faithful husband forever!
Jeff and Donna have three boys, Bradley (16), Andrew (12) and Dill (11)