This past Thursday Andrea and I spoke at the cancer survivors banquet. There were many significant things about that night.
1. Andrea was still alive
2. We were speaking as survivors
3. It was a large crowd and Andrea and I both felt our job after the Air Force would involve speaking. We did not know how or to whom so when we walked into the room and saw all the people it was as if we saw a vision complete
4. The words that left our mouths seemed "normal" but the response came back was disproportionate. It was God's hand and it was awesome to see God use what seemed as nothing to us as such a blessing to those in the room
It made me think of how great this experience has been. Yes it has been hard very hard in fact. We have faced some very difficult times and we have had to stay faithful in spite of bad tumor markers, scans and reports that told us Andrea's condition was not improving. It has been a test of faith like no other and it is relentless. Everyday you fight it. It can be tiring but that just allows to cast your burdens on Him and to rest in the shadow of His wings. It allows you to live the words of the Psalms, it allows God to become real in your life.
The other day I thought of this in a different light. Not at what we had to suffer and how others must look at us and say, "I'm glad I'm not the Ravella's." I thought what would I have missed had I lived my life without this trial.
1. The closeness of God
2. Hearing God's voice
3. Praying and feeling His presence in our room
4. Letting go and being caught
5. Seeing the body of Christ in action and being on the receiving end of such love.
6. Being so close to God you could feel His hand on you
7. Finding out what's really important
8. Experiencing the words of the Bible and finding them to be true
9. Loving my wife, not for what I get from her but as my partner in life
10 Becoming more of a spiritual leader
11 The absolute joy of living in the will of God. A joy that never disappoints
12 The joy of having your steps order by God
13 Having the creator of all things hear and answer your prayers. The smaller the better
14 Looking back and seeing and knowing it was all God
15 Being loved by God, feeling it and knowing it
16 Learning that spiritual healing is more important then physical healing. One is eternal one is temporary.
17 Feeling insignificant and feeling like you are the only one that matters, all at the same time.
18 Watching Andrea witness in public, but more in private
19 Watching God work in your weakness
20 Ending everyday with God
If I could add to this list today I would add the following blessings:
21 Andrea did not suffer as she should have with her cancer. No unending pain of bone cancer, it never spread to her brain, and she was comfortable to the end and alert all but the last hours.
22 The boys and I were able to say goodbye, just us.
23 This is my greatest blessing. I had no regrets as Andrea died. I did not have a need to apologise for my past. We both knew how much we loved each other. We both knew we had placed our trust in Christ. We both had grown in our faith, we had talked about this day and we were okay. I did not have any regrets for misplaced priorities in my life. I'm thankful for bosses and a job that allowed me to be with Andrea in her treatment. I'm thankful I do not regret working instead of being with Andrea. But the thing I am most thankful for is there was nothing I had to say to Andrea. We knew how we felt and we expressed our love to each other every day. There was no need to "catch up" in the last minutes, leaving a feeling of missed opportunities or regret. That is a gift that has no price. That is what is truly "Priceless."
If I had one piece of advice from all this it would be to take the time to tell your spouse how much you love them, not sometimes, not only on birthday's or holidays like Valentine's day all the time. Do it just because. Leave a card or a note when you leave for work or go to the store. Don't let society, the movies/TV or this world dictate your priorities. Send flowers just because. Wish them a happy Monday and take them to dinner. Spend time alone if you have kids. Make plans to go out once a week. Go on a date with the one you fell in love with. Remember how you ached when you were apart even for a day and thank God you don't have the ache of being separated for the rest of your life. Don't be so practical that you forget to be in love. Be spontaneous, be a little silly and laugh together. Kiss them when they don't expect it, hug them when they need it.
Live life so you won't regret your choices. In the end there is little that matters. Your faith and relationship with God, then your marriage and your family, then your work. Many of us say this is our priority. My advice is let your life reflect it, it has to be more then just a slogan. Enjoy the love of your spouse, enjoy each other. Sacrifice for each other. I told Ginger my only competition I will have with her is to show her I love her more. So far she is kicking my butt. But I have the rest of my life to catch her, and I intend on spending everyday trying to express to her how much I love her and how thankful I am to God for blessing me with a woman who loves me so deeply and for 7 beautiful kids.