I married my wonderful wife sixteen years ago on June 27, 1998. We changed careers four times total, had eight places we called home, learned to pull out of life's valleys, and overcame health challenges both to ourselves an our seven children.
Yes I said seven children. See we have four with us, and three who passed in miscarriages. I believe those three are in the embrace of God as I write this. My wife chose the photo above to remember each one of them this past April.
In this voyage between 15 and 16 years of marriage losing a child at nine weeks of pregnancy delivered us the worst emotional pain we've endured as a married couple. The reason this became the worst pain stemmed from three major factors. First we know we are nearing the end of our time to bring children into the world. Second we never grieved properly for the first two lost children many years ago. Finally our spiritual growth growth over the last several years of homeschooling made us more aware of God's calling to participate in creation by raising children to know and love the Lord.
As painful as the time was, I know God's care for us surrounded us in a hundred ways. We met two women who had four and five miscarrages before having two children make it to birth describe the joy they had when they held their new arrivals. We had family and friends pray so hard for us, that when I started to collapse on hearing the bad news I could literally feel them holding me up in prayer. Melanie Levergood responded to a prayer request with "Absolutely! Storming Heaven. What do you need?" It was amazing to get notes from the His Light team: Nick Coury, Jim Begley and Bill Fortney out of the blue filled with prayer hours just after the bad news. My wife received good health care, and she is doing as well as ever thanks to a good doctor and his team. I also had supportive bosses at work, in the midst of a few critical incidents, let me run to my wife's side to care for her and the children.
Equally important to us was the fact that two clergy from church provided blessings and sacraments to us with love and compassion. Over the last few years my family gained a greater understanding of the form and meanings of prayer and sacraments. As a result, we were fully open to receiving the graces they offered in our times of need. For all the bad press people hurl at our Catholic clergy, I wish they could see the millions of good people beyond the few bad apples. Without those two men (Father Mario and Deacon Joe) ministering to this family, I know my family would still harbor damaging grief and pain. They follow in the tradition of my good and faithful friends who minister with love and kindness (yes I'm looking at our wedding priest/friends Father Mark Spring, Father Ed Kacena, and my Army Ukrainian Orthodox friend Father Peter Dubinin).
So after sixteen years of marriage I will offer the two greatest lessons I've learned. The first is that both parents must make our first priority for the house to stand with the Lord in heart, mind and action. This creates a foundation for love to grow between each family member and God. The second lesson is that when we travel through life we need to be attentive to the messages God sends us. God sent us those women, friends, doctors, my job to pay the bills, and clergy to help us get through the pain. By choosing to embrace the goodness God sent our way, we left bitterness behind and rejoined the community of life he wants us to travel in. Now we are ready to help someone else at God's beaconing.
Oh...and I do love my wife Carrie Anne Baker Wojtkun more now than ever.