Dear friends, family and loved ones,
As we walk through the next phase in this journey as a family, I wanted to bring you all into the adventure once again. So many people have supported us and fought through hell with us. And since the Lord asked us to suffer through Dana’s battle very publically, it only seems fitting to let you all rejoice in the redemption that is already happening in our lives.
As you have seen from my title…. this is a love story – one for the ages. One that seems like it was taken straight from a movie script. But, this is no fairytale. This is unfolding in our lives at a rapid pace. So here we go….
The day our journey began
Aug 28th 2015 Dana and I felt an urgency to plan her funeral. We really felt her time was coming soon and she wanted to have a say in her final arrangements. So we tried to set up a time with Baue, loaded Dana and her wheelchair up and rushed her there. But there was some confusion among the staff and apparently we did not have an appointment. We were crushed. It took so much to get her up and going and the morphine was slowly putting her to sleep for good. Today just had to be the day. So they made some phone calls, pulled a sweet woman named Amy out of a meeting with another family and she came to our rescue.
Dana was so sick. She was literally passing out from morphine and would fall asleep mid sentence. It took all the energy she had to hold her frail body up in that chair and speaking was pretty painful. But she was determined not to leave us with the task of planning her funeral. Amy was so gentle as she guided our family through the toughest day of our lives. With tears in her eyes she patiently went through every detail.
They planned the balloon release, the doves, and even designed the headstone. After all the planning was done I brought the kids in. Zac and Zoe wanted to pick the area where mommy would be buried. As we approached the available land, Zac ran about 30 yards to the left and stopped over an open area. He said, “This is the spot”. Amy looked over and said, “I don’t think there are any spots available there.” But to her surprise when she got to the spot he was standing over, it was the only spot in that area with two empty plots. It was like God gave him that moment.
Once Dana knew those were for sure our plots she sat on the grass and opened up a small bag. She asked the kids to sit with her for a minute. She wanted to give them the first of many trinkets she had prepared for them for the next twenty years. Dana had prepared a video and gift for each birthday and Christmas until they were in their 20’s and now she wanted to have a ceremony with them to give them their necklaces. She told them of her love for them but more importantly, God’s. She explained that she would be leaving them soon, but that God loved them and He would have an amazing plan for the rest of their lives. She let them know that she would always be guiding them through her videos and gifts as the gifts have a scripture on them for the kids to stand on for the year.
As we finished our talk and tried to pray, Dana began to vomit. She threw up all over the gravesite we had just selected. In one sense it was obviously horrible. But in another, her sickness and vomiting were the norm for our life then – so of course she would vomit in that moment. And Amy was there for it all…. off to the side, in tears, praying for our little family. As we came to a close and got Dana loaded up to go, Amy came over to the truck and hugged Dana. She told her what an impact her strength had on her that day and got to say goodbye. That would be the last time Amy would see her.
Dana’s Journey Home
On September 19th, 2015, at 2:01 PM, Dana slipped into eternity. I held her hand and watched her take her last breath. All her planning was done. The kid’s videos were recorded and safe. And all her final arrangements were made. She could finally rest in the arms of Jesus, knowing she had done all she could for the kids and I to succeed without her.
As many of you know, we had an amazing funeral celebration. The Lord granted me strength to speak and lead worship. And over 1,000 people came to pay their respect. God was truly glorified in it all.
A New Beginning
As the weeks went on I continued with the plan I believe God gave me – a truck, a dog, and a trip. It seems so simple and trivial. But that was what we needed. Of course we couldn’t just have one new puppy for a single dad to manage; that would be silly. We had to get two! Two fluffy goldendoodle fur balls! It’s every kids dream. So I loaded them all up in the new truck and drove to New York for thanksgiving. It was quite the adventure. We stopped half way at a waterpark hotel that allowed pets. We swam and had a great time until Zac decided to wait for me at the bottom of the slide. As you can guess, that didn’t end well. He ended up with a bloody lip and I a bloody elbow. Every parent there looked at me like I was the worst dad ever. But we were having an adventure.
Before the trip, I started thinking about this Amy woman. What an amazing, beautiful, sweet person she was. I saw on facebook that she was looking for a church, so I invited her to ours. It wasn’t a “move” on my part. I wasn’t trying to date her or anything. I just really cared about her and respected all she did for our family. And she really felt a draw to our family as well. She attended parts of the ceremony she normally wouldn’t, just to help out and love on our kids. So there was just a mutual respect and love in place.
But while I was in New York, she just kept coming up in my heart. I found myself thinking about her and wondering how she was – and yes…. thinking she was really beautiful. Lord I asked; are you up to something here? Why is this woman on my heart? We had texted a couple times after church just to say hello, but nothing serious. But this time I went for it. I simply said…. “Tell me something about you I don’t know”. And that opened the floodgates. We were texting for hours. I couldn’t wait to get her responses. It just seemed so natural. We talked about everything under the sun, and it was so full of life. By the time Thanksgiving was over I knew I had to see her when I got back. So I asked her out to coffee that Monday.
We talked for hours – five to be exact. It was like time stood still and nothing else in the world mattered.
As crazy as this sounds, a week felt like 3 months. It was like God had opened our chest cavities and poured liquid love into us for each other. The things we talked about were so deep and not easy. It was real life stuff. And the more we talked, the more we just KNEW. We were falling in love. By the middle of that week we were talking on the phone and saying how we couldn’t explain our feelings for each other. They didn’t make sense. They were irrational. And yet… they were so strong and profound. I said “Amy, you love me don’t you?” She quickly said “yes! Is that crazy? I’ve never felt like this! How can this happen so fast?” I was so thrilled to hear she loved me, and loved that I kinda made her say it first, because my heart was bursting. How can we feel this much so quickly? God, that’s how.
Today marks 3 weeks since our first date. We are insanely in love and it grows each day. I look at her and can’t believe all that’s in my heart for her and how well we already know each other. Without God doing a work, this would be impossible. But this is real and bares so much fruit. I’ve heard from the Lord just as I have through this entire journey. God has been waking me up at 4:30 every morning and filling my heart with love and His will in this. With tears gushing out of my face I am journaling all that God is speaking so we can stand on that truth when no one seems to understand. And I finish just in time for my 6:30 phone call from Amy. She sends me her worship song for that day so I can know where her heart is and we sit and pray over our day, our children and share all that God is doing in our hearts. All this…. in 3 weeks. It is miraculous.
It was Dana’s prayer that God would find me someone quickly and she prayed that often. My children are completely on board and are pushing me to move quickly. God is doing amazing things in their hearts towards Amy. It’s really unexplainable. It’s just so full of goodness and bares the mark of the richness of the Lord. We feel like we’ve known each other our whole lives. Our children see it and want to jump in just as bad as we do. The redemptive value in it all is overwhelming. Our stories are of brokenness and loss, and yet God is bringing our lives together in so much grace and beauty. I could fill these pages with all the confirmation God has given us both in the spirit and in the natural. From death, to love.
What is happening to us is simply miraculous and we so desperately desire you all to see that and embrace it. We know it will be hard for some and have already experienced a massive range of emotion from those close to our story. Some are full of joy and acceptance. Others anger or fear. Most people are still very much grieving Dana and just can’t understand how I could be here so quickly. And all I can say is when the Lord moves it doesn’t make sense. I will also say that because God was so near to us in our suffering and spoke so profoundly to us, I started grieving 15 months ago. God spoke to us and a few key leaders in our life to start letting my heart go to losing Dana and let the Lord guide me through that, 15 months ago. So I did. And Dana knew I did and helped me through that. So I guess I’m just way ahead of the pack in my grief but it’s bigger than that. God is near to the broken hearted and He has done a miraculous thing.
In all honesty, Amy was in the middle of a huge breakup shortly before we started talking and there are children involved. So there’s a lot of pain and loss there as well. Like I said, our story is full of brokenness and loss. But isn’t that what God does? He makes beauty from ashes. He takes all our loss and all our pain and all our sin and loves us through it. And for us…. that love has built an amazing story of redemption.
So today…. three weeks from our first date, I proposed to this beautiful, sweet woman. God has so graciously brought her to my family and me to hers and there is no doubt this is my wife. The proposal was breathtaking and I hope to share pictures some day. She has 3 children and a dog. I have two children and two dogs. So this will be quite a ride.
At the funeral, one of my spiritual fathers came to me in tears and said he’d been praying all morning and God spoke to him. He said, “ You have lost the love of your life, but God is going to give you life of love.” If a beautiful wife, 5 kids, and 3 dogs aren’t a life full of love, I don’t know what is. The fathers of her children are still very much involved, so I will just be there for love and guidance to them. They will always have their daddies. But what an honor I have to be there for them in that way. And Amy is a Godsend to my children and their grief.
I know there are a million concerns that everyone has and we are so thankful for them. Believe me I have counted the cost of making wrong decisions in this time. I fully realize the frailty of all the children involved and complexity of their little hearts. But please hear me. They are doing great and God has them. The work we see God doing in them is just as miraculous. This is all part of their healing and I have not forgotten them in my love struck heart. They are right in this with me as they should be and will forever be.
So that’s our love story. It’s messy. It’s broken. And we need a lot of prayer. But it is amazing and we are running toward it at breakneck speeds. We feel like God is doing a quick… very quick work. And we honestly all really need each other now. So we are doing our best to keep up. Please pray for guidance and strength from the Lord so that we can fulfill this powerful calling He’s placed on us with the same strength Dana and I fought with.
And we want you all with us. We are inviting you into the redemptive second half of this battle. We know it is painful. We know it is way out of the norm. But we know it’s the Lord. So if you have the faith and strength to keep journeying with us, please do. If you can’t and this is all too much right now, we totally understand and will never hold it against you. We just know what God has put in our hearts and we cannot shake it, hide it or slow it down. So the word of the Lord to us is RUN!
God spoke to me in a vision from Dana. He said “look, I’ve set a beautiful field full of lilies before you…. Run to it.” As he said that I saw Dana, smiling as usual with her hand stretched out to the field. There were mountains and flowers and children running and playing everywhere and the air glistened like it had silver blowing in it. She said “Nate…please stop worrying and RUN. Once you get here we are all one and marriage will be no more. So run to her now Nate….Run.” So what else can we do? We are running into the goodness and strength of the Lord and all He has put before us. We are running to redemption for us, our children, and all of you who will witness the goodness of our God in our story. We are running from death to love. If you can…. if you’ve been granted the faith…. We invite you to RUN with us.
We love you all dearly and covet your prayers as we always have.
for His glory, by His grace
P.S. For a video version of this story please go to – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A76ATVsDcS8