People have asked about reading our love story, which we hashtagged on Facebook, but as all tech goes… it is not super organized and you cannot read it from beginning to end… so I have compiled it all here for you, in order, complete with pictures to read. Since Cody and I each use the same hashtag, I will show either Sarah or Cody so you know who is writing. I hope you enjoy our story!!!
Sarah: January 21, 2020: So… I did a thing… *cue all the Christian Mingle jokes* Yes that’s really me, no, I did not get catfished. This is something I have prayed over for a long time… because hello… apps didn’t even exist the first time around… and I married my third boyfriend. So yes, this is putting me, yes me, Red/enneagram 8 WAY outside my comfort zone. But where else do single, 37 year old parents who don’t drink or smoke and go to church on Sunday meet people. This is a legit conundrum. And just an FYI… napping was not offered as an activity of interest. In case you were wondering.
Sarah: March 8, 2020:
March 10, 2020: It’s Not Fair! Cody:
No, it’s not. How can one man be given not one, but two godly, amazing, and extraordinary wives in one lifetime? Why single me out for such blessing? It is undeserved and yet, I am that happy man! I feel like God is being far too good to me, but just as marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the Church, the gift of Sarah reminds me that God loves me so much that He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for me, a far greater Gift to all who believe.
Do you see that woman on the far right? She is going to be my second wife! She’s smart and funny and filled with love for others and the Lord, and as you can see, she’s an incredible beauty and the bonus is that she comes with seven magnificent children! Let me first introduce you to them and then I’ll get to the treasure that is Sarah.
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate. ― Psalm 127:3-5
Second from the right is Judah. He’s 15, but will be 16 this month. He’s a bit quiet, but studious and a thoughtful leader of his siblings. He has ambitions which he has shared with me and I am grateful for his trust and look forward to seeing the man he is becoming and the opportunity to pour love and encouragement into his life.
Fourth from the right is Asher. He’s 13, but will be 14 this month. He’s an affectionate, super-outgoing young man and excels in the physical. He’s big for his age and going to keep growing if he’s ever going to fit those feet. He has already welcomed my affection and gained my admiration. Now if I can help him simultaneously tame and tap into the “wild” in his heart.
Next to him is Hannah. She’s 12 and a bit quiet, but shows compassion and care for her siblings. She’s smart and accomplished and I’ve really enjoyed spending time cooking with her on several of our “family” weekends together. She’s going to make an awesome wife for someone… you better be prepared to face the dragon that is me!
Fifth from the left is Levi. He’s 10 and is loud and loves the rules. He’s a stickler for them, but because of that he’s a great example of godliness to his little brother as he strives for obedience. They are best buddies and frequent combatants on the field of sibling rivalry. I look forward to guiding him to victory by winning his little brother’s heart.
Sixth from the left is Emily. She’s 8 and is an outgoing tomboy who charges into fun and maybe a little bit of trouble, but her enthusiasm for life is infectious. She’s one of the youngest, but I’ve seen her leading the entire troop of kids across the fields of wonder and excitement. I’ll surely struggle to reign her in as much as to not jump on her bandwagon.
Fourth from the left is Benjamin. He’s 6 and a crazy, blustery, boy-full-of-energy! He is fearless and as a result a little dangerous. I’ve already had his blood stain my clothes as I carried him in for bandages after a scooter crash coming down the hill. (Uh, Sarah, really, napping while your kids are trying to kill themselves? I guess you trust me – thank you!)
Third from the left is Ella. She’s 3 and precocious and sweet and a cuddly bundle of joy and tears and every emotion on full display. I love her authenticity of life and hope she never has cause to hide her true thoughts and feelings. I want to guard that for her with gentleness and security.
In each of them, I see God’s work and the great opportunity and joy that is before me to love and care for them. To be used by God to mold them into the unique people He intends. They won’t look like me or have my personality, but I hope to impart those parts of godly character that exist in me. My quiver is full and I look forward to launching each one of them out into the world and seeing who they have become and what good works God has planned for each of them!
Favorite quote from Noah while Sarah and I were still courting and looking for irreconcilable differences between us, “Dad! I’ve seen how some boys relate to their older brothers that they really like spending time with and I feel like Judah is that kind of older brother to me. I really hope you don’t find any ‘No’s’ and you only want to say, ‘Yes,’ after this weekend!”
Her children rise up and bless her; ― Proverbs 31:28a
Which brings me to the woman I have said yes to and who has said, “Yes!” to my proposal of marriage. The one and only, delight of my eyes and winner of my heart. She who’s children rise up and bless her. A woman who exemplifies so much of what is written in Proverbs 31, that perhaps I could just quote that in its entirety here, but instead, allow me to sing her praises.
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying, “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” ― Proverbs 31:28b-29
He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. ― Proverbs 18:22
Sarah is ageless. Beauty may be fleeting, but it’s not been fleeting from her since she was, what, 23? She is the picture of health and youth and vitality and happiness. I could go all Song of Solomon about her gates and meadows and sheep and chariots with her arms like willow branches and hair like sea grass made warm on a sandy beach and ears like oyster shells, but that’s all metaphor right? She is an amazing beauty and I’m totally captivated by her.
Her smile is infectious and lights up my day. Her laugh is like a song, sometimes soft and lilting, sometimes a raucous, bar room chorus, but always comes easy in response to my attempts at humor. She’s never patronizing or disingenuous though, towards humor or anything else and her “red” honesty is refreshing and life-giving to me. Speaking of the personality colors, she tells me I’m a blue, but I know I have red horns and green scales down my back and a yellow underbelly. Somehow, we’re not just compatible, but thrive in each other’s company. I can talk to her for hours on end (I logged our conversation time in the first three weeks and we exceeded 42 hours).
She is smart and ambitious and doesn’t struggle with priorities – the right priorities. Jesus is always first and I love watching her devotion to the Lord as she leads all of our children in Bible study or herding them to church and being surrendered in worship, yet in important ways she has already demonstrated her desire and willingness to follow me in that regard and it strengthens my faith and my commitment to leadership. She is the perfect companion on the road that we walk with Jesus.
As a parent and a mother, I have been so impressed. She has found a way to be industrious and to provide financially for her children while being present for them. Her children are all homeschooled and have a private tutor who comes and teaches them daily. My own children will be so blessed by the hard work that Sarah has done in providing a wholesome form of education for her own children as they transition back to homeschool and all three are super eager for it! (“Dad, can we just quit public school now?”) Our styles of parenting are so very similar as we strive to determine the heart behind the actions and we bring the rebuke from scripture against the sin and the reconciliation that scripture commands and the healing that love provides. That being said, she runs a tighter ship than I do, she had to and she’s a red and I’m a blue whatever that means. Our new ship will probably sail well as the crew learns their new duties, but I’ll still have monkeys in the rigging and she will smile politely and tell me gently that I am setting a bad example. I need that.
I’d like to go on, but seriously, do you really want to read all of this? I realize I’m just writing to sing her praises and tell of her worth and it’s mostly for my sake. Love needs an outlet and beauty, both inner and outer must not only be perceived to be appreciated, but draws us into itself. Sarah has drawn me in.
“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Husbands and fathers, let me urge you to renew your enthusiasm for your children and your wives. I know, it’s easy for me to say as I stand on the threshold of new relationships, but I have also been in your shoes and found renewal of purpose and commitment and excitement to be hugely beneficial.
And lest some reading this agree with me that it’s unfair because I’m getting an “upgrade” in the wife department, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve shared this metaphor with my children in relation to Sarah and our new family: God has given us a cup. He’s entrusted us with it actually. He poured into it the person of Becky and we got to enjoy her and to learn from her and to be made better by her. Eventually, we had drunk all of her that we were given and the last few drops of Becky were poured out as an offering to God, in His perfect time, when her good works on earth were complete. It seemed too soon that our cup was emptied. But God had plans to give us more. In great kindness and generosity, God is pouring into our cup a new woman and a new family. They are not a replacement as though Becky were discarded for Sarah, and they are not something better, they are different in 10,000 ways most certainly, but most importantly they are a gift of abundance and fill our cup once more.
May each of you drink deeply of your family and may God always keep your cup full!
Cody: March 12, 2020:
A mere eight days after Becky’s passing, I posted a lament from the pier at Folly Beach and in it, I shared how I knew God’s, “grace would be enough for me in raising my children well.” As I walked on that beach, screamed at God, wept and pounded the sand, and groaned under the weight of responsibility and the despair of grief, a brother began praying for me. His prayer was that God would bring me a new companion in this life.
On New Year’s Day, I took the kids hiking, my cover photo is from that day and captures the joy we were experiencing despite our great loss. As the kids bounced down the trail ahead of me, I couldn’t help but wonder at the exuberance that exuded from these little orphans. It was as though their mother still walked along behind them at my side. But as I was fiddling with my wedding ring, lagging behind, and crying a bit, Phoebe came back down the trail and held my hand. She asked me why I was crying and if I was going to take my wedding ring off. I said yes, that it felt like a lie. I wasn’t married anymore and I was crying because I missed her mother. She said, “You can get a new wife. I know I want a new mommy.” I responded with a chuckle, “It’s not that simple darling, I have some crazy high standards and I just don’t think there’s a woman who will meet them. Very few women are willing to become a mommy who will really love another woman’s children as her own and who would be interested in an old man like me.” Let’s face it, most women in their late forties are sending their kids off to college, not 2nd grade! Never wanting to discourage my children from faith and asking big things from God, I added, “We’ll see. If God has someone for us, we’ll find her.”
Becky was a remarkable woman. You all know that. At her celebration of life here in Charlotte, I heard a couple of people share things that she had done and said that were new to me and a great encouragement. One woman came up to me and said that she had no idea how amazing Becky was until she heard her life story. Becky was a blessing to so many in surprising ways. One surprising way that Becky loved well was in being willing to have hard discussions with me.
Perhaps the most difficult of those discussions took six attempts before we could get through it. It gutted me each time. But each time, she knew it was good for me and for her children and she insisted on it for the good that would come for us. She fervently wanted me to promise that I would pursue a new wife and mother for our children if God did not heal her. I was angry at her, at the situation, at myself for even giving a listening ear to her. It felt like betrayal, but in the end, her reasons were good and loving and her advice was filled with wisdom.
I wish I had recorded that conversation, but her comments could be summarized as follows, “Cody, you should find and marry a widow with children. You aren’t willing to marry a divorced woman and a single woman may love you enough to choose to love my children well, but she may come to resent them just as easily because she really can’t know what motherhood requires. A widow, on the other hand, does know the joys and challenges of motherhood and wants a godly father for her children. You can be that man and you are an excellent husband.” Yes, I need such words of affirmation and she knew it. She continued, “I believe a widow will be able to love my children well because she will be trading her love for them in exchange for you loving hers. It would be a beautiful blessing to both families wounded by death and loss.”
It’s strange how recounting those words still fills me with gratitude and great admiration for her and also anguish at having lost a woman who could have the courage and selfless love to speak them. She heard my objections about the incongruity of my age and stage of life, about how I don’t EVER encounter widows in my daily life, about how I’m a challenging man to love, and so much more. But she picked out a Christian dating website and helped me write what were the essentials for me in a wife (some I didn’t even know about myself). I shoved it all as far away as I could until she was gone and my little girl declared that she wanted a new mommy.
So that night after we returned from our hike, I logged into Christianmingle.com and posted my profile. Phoebe sat on my lap and picked out the pictures I should post. All but one is of me with the kids. That’s good. I think it demonstrates my priority for them. We put in the criterion: widow, with kids, welcomes kids, doesn’t want more (maybe I should be open to that, but God, I’m going to be a really old man if you give me any more babies!), willing to relocate, goes to church weekly, a small subset of evangelical denominations, 49 and younger. My profile was written in such a way as to add an even more filters on beliefs, ethics, world view, and priorities. I figured, if she can get through this, she is either deceiving herself, or deceiving me, or a truly extraordinary woman. I honestly did not expect to find anyone even amongst 1.5 million women on the site. I won’t share my entire profile, but it starts like this:
I love Jesus madly. Some might say I’ve done mad things following Him. I expect they might say it again. If that kind of devotion scares you, you aren’t (yet) the woman for me. Surrender to WHATEVER Jesus calls you to and I promise it will be the most exhilarating, fulfilling life you’ll ever live!
There’s a lot more that places the bar pretty high. I expected to find it was unrealistically high. My views on divorce are extreme and make just about every divorced woman ineligible for me. I searched the site with my preferences entered and I found… one widow. ONE! And she lives in Washington state. It was exactly as I had expected. It was depressing, but I mustered the enthusiasm to write to her. She didn’t respond. Her last login was December 11th, so she’s probably remarried and forgot to remove her profile.
I confess, the whole episode really discouraged me. It felt like those agonizing conversations with Becky and a few with some of my friends were in vain and embarrassing and I wish that I had not had them at all if God had no plans for a wife for me and mother for my children.
Having already shared this much of the story with those who are close to me, I know there will be responses across the spectrum from, “You must have lost your mind in your grief,” to, “It’s too soon,” to, “I believe God has a wife for you, go find her!”, I know that many reading this are somewhere in the middle. I was too and I know that I and others have been praying ever since that walk on the beach and especially since posting myself on a “dating site” – yuck! It still makes my skin crawl. The self-promotion, incentive to be less than authentic, and sense of self-disdain at being overlooked and ignored by others. I have pity on the many who are enduring it. And yet, God has answered those prayers! Before you jump to judgement, meditate on what the Israelites did after God heard their groaning:
Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” Exodus 14:11-12
If God hears our prayers and delivers us, why would we turn away from His goodness because of the timing or the faith required or the un-natural qualities of the blessing? I felt like giving up because it was too soon, too difficult, too humiliating, too absurd. Instead, a couple of weeks later, I tweaked one little setting on my search criteria. It’s embarrassing, but sometimes the truth hurts. It wasn’t one of the essentials that Becky and I came up with, but for some reason, I had indicated a level of education that neither she, nor I had held. I wanted a really smart woman with the letters after her name to “prove” it. Suddenly, there was a new prospect and she was really smart, even though she didn’t have the letters to prove it.
She was very clearly a godly woman with seven magnificent children and a heart for sharing the good news of Jesus in all of her life. In my, what, pride, I could have missed her and went back to Egypt.
But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. Exodus 14:13
That is what I urge all of you reading this to do: Stand by and watch God work! This note is intended to be one of explanation; to help bring understanding and insight into how God is bringing a husband who has lost his wife and children who have lost their mother and a wife who has lost her husband and children who have lost their father through suffering and grief and into their own Promised Land. After you have read my note, I hope you might read Sarah’s post on events from her perspective and then return to read my own celebration of her and her children and my children and the life God is forging for all of us together.
Sarah: March 24, 2020
His ring I said during the exchange of our rings is the wood of our two family trees grafted together. The arrow symbolizes the 10 arrows we have been charged to raise and shoot out into the world.
Sarah: April 3, 2020: Happy Friday!!!
Cody: April 4, 2020:
When widowed adults marry, they make wedding vows to each other that are born out of experience and loss and hope and joy, on the other side of grief. When I married Sarah I had the great honor of writing much of our wedding ceremony. This was a good thing as the #coronavirus kept the minister who was planning to marry us from traveling to Tennessee and thankfully Andy stepped in at the last minute and did a wonderful job despite presenting a ceremony he was unprepared for. I’m truly grateful to him and amazed at how smoothly he pulled it off!
Whitney was a hero as well and turned our illicit gathering of about forty people into a live broadcast that has had over 3,700 people watching, but what you only get a short glimpse of, at the tail end before the signal dropped (that’s Whitney on the left in the photo above, valiantly trying to capture the moment), is that after making our wedding vows to one another, we called all ten of our little ones up in front of us and we proceeded to make vows to each of them. What do you say to a child that is not your own, but to whom you are about to make a lifelong commitment? What do you say to your own child who is standing in the midst of children who have just become their lifelong siblings?
It was a gesture that we had discussed and had great meaning to us, but Sarah and I had not discussed what we were about to tell each of them. During our first honeymoon to the Biltmore Estate (cancelled) we shared with one another what we had told each of them and their reactions to us and it was yet another glimpse of how God had been preparing us to be parents to the tremendous ten. Both of us promised to love and care for each child as our own, to show them no preferential treatment, but to love them fully and completely. It was a moment of incredible joy and gratitude for all of the children and I’d say even glee for a few of them. I wish I had some of those Google glasses to record their responses! I was reminded of how I feel on any given day when I remember that God made just such a promise to me; to love me no matter what.
Tomorrow, on Sunday, the Lord’s day, the day on which the Bride Groom, Jesus, rose from the dead and claimed His bride, the Church, to be His to love for eternity, remember your vows and those made to you: Jesus promised that He will never leave or give up on His disciples. He promised that those whom the Father has given to Him cannot be taken from Him. He promised that whoever believes in Him will not die, but will live forever. Worship Him anew and if you have made vows to your spouse, reiterate them again – it’s okay to do that! And if you have children, promise them a love that is reminiscent to our Heavenly Father’s unceasing love for us.
When we eventually go on our second honeymoon to Italy (planned for May, but also cancelled), I wonder what we will say about this amazing family God has entrusted to us. Will it continue to be the delight it has been so far? Will we have been faithful to our vows? Will our children’s love for us have grown to match the love they had for Jacob and Becky? Will they say that they know our love for them is as much? I hope so. I believe it can be. I know that only by God’s grace, it will be.
April 4, 2020: Sarah:
Sarah: May 17, 2020:
What an amazing weekend! Cody, the kids and I went to Maggie Valley, NC for the weekend to visit with his amazing Mama (Mary Robin Bobst) while my awesome Dad stained our stairs… which needed no feet on them for the entire weekend, which is impossible when the older boys room is in the basement.
Sarah: May 30, 2020
Sarah: June 11, 2020:
Sarah: July 21, 2020:
Last night we went on our third date… and celebrated 4 months of being married!