The Anniversary Sequel: The Pursuit of Unfailing Love

I started writing a book in the summer of 2011. I journaled endlessly of what God was teaching me in those seasons of singleness, in dating, and in love. I {well let's give credit where credit is due- God} named the book- The Pursuit of Unfailing Love. And, I remember exactly where I was in my little bungalow house, sitting at my dining room table with cherry wood sitting at the head of the table in my gold damask hourglass shaped chenille chair. This is where I did most of my creating in those days. It came to me so vividly, as if I had heard the voice of God. I remember texting my friend Christina from college and getting her feedback on the name.

Honestly, in the summer of 2011, I don't remember where I was and what I was doing or what relationship I was in. Perhaps, I was in and out with Joel. Perhaps my facebook timeline would remember better than me. I did, however, know that the book was about Joel and I, about dating, about marriage, about faith and a little about us- ok probably a lot about us.

Little did I know that our story would reach the world, much bigger than my little circle of friends. It would reach to Australia and the UK, and we would gain friends from Canada and Mexico. Little by little we would encounter people who were hurting and aching and needed something in their darkest hours. And our story would become intertwined and woven together as part of their story.

In the previous blog I wrote To Those Who Abandoned Our Son and Me, I stirred the pot. A lot. I know. But it's my story. And it needs to be told. There were some people that just didn't want me to share Joel with the world. I may never understand why. I've heard I'm after fame and money... haha (If I were only taking care of my husband and my son, if I made a penny or a million dollars, it doesn't matter- I'm doing what I'm called to do as their wife and mother. I had to step up and be the provider, which as a wife isn't something easy to swallow for men. But I did it.) And, in my opinion, I'm doing it in an honorable way with long hours and heart and passion. With love, even if they think I'm selling our story, our story fed them and clothed them. As a caregiver and a mama, you do what you must. I've been working my tail off with little financial reward because that's what you do when you work for yourself. That is the cost of freedom. It will pay off. It always does and God always provides.

My heart is that our story would become a light for you. My heart is that by sharing Joel that you would find hope. Now, my husband, he loved attention. You can look at his timeline on facebook and see that every single time he posted something significant and he would tag 50 people just so they saw him. {Now, I know he wanted to make sure that the message- not himself, he had been given as God's vessel was given directly to the people who needed it, even if it took him HOURS to type with his eyes.} He is all about people, making friends and loving people. He had this friend that would message him on facebook always 3 weeks or 3 months late wishing him happy birthday or happy anniversary. He wouldn't correct him. He and I would giggle, but he would check on Joel and sometimes Joel would just delight in being his friend- listening, because that's what he did best. My husband is the greatest friend I've ever had and perhaps one of the greatest you may have ever had.

I had a decision to make years ago. I couldn't help but share Joel with the world. What I wanted to remain private, remained private. Certainly we haven't shared everything. You wouldn't give two craps about what it took to be a caregiver- the reality of what that looks like on a daily basis. And the same to him- he wouldn't want you knowing what he couldn't do for himself and needed assistance with and that would be demeaning. But, what we could share and wanted to share together, we did. And, it led us to countless friendships and the JPF Family {our extended social media family who has invested in our family by purchasing something from our little handmade market or just joining our journey by reading or commenting or sharing their life with us}. I've truly met the most amazing friends and family simply because we chose this path on our journey.

My heart breaks at how abandoned I would feel if I didn't have you guys. I truly mean that. I started to think about that these past couple of weeks. I stood in my kitchen, barefoot and shock. Just reeling through my mind and thinking "What would life look like without JPF? What would like look like if we hadn't shared our story?" My heart breaks.

If Joel would have passed and we didn't

... share our first dance in the NRC in Jacksonville, would you have ever met us?

... share Joel's Red Barn Painting, would we have ever bought a house (he made the down payment on it with the proceeds of that painting- providing a home for us and a place to bring a child)?

... share the hope and perseverance of Joel's recovery, would you have been inspired to believe to"never give up, all things are possible"?

... and to second that Red Barn Painting which we ended up buying and flipping with the help of some amazing friends we met on the streets of Neptune Beach randomly, would we even have the farm we have now because I wouldn't have had any money to buy a home?

... share our story with our adoption class and our village, perhaps there wouldn't even be a we. It would just be me, without Freddie.

... share our talents to create things by hand {and mouth by Joel} in our market would I be able to support and care for Freddie and provide him with the education and one-on-one learning experience he needs to succeed in school.

My reality could be drastically different. And so would Freddie's.

Joel and Lauren Jackson Wedding

Today is our anniversary, and I'll be sharing our photos so you can relive the experience of our wedding with us on our facebook page. But, our wedding was just the middle of the story. It wasn't the beginning and it wasn't end. It was simply an event. I wanted about 75 people at our wedding. My husband wanted 500- tell me who was after fame and glory. He is ridiculous. And he's whooping and hollering that his story is only growing now.

So, instead of hearing me ramble on and on, I asked our JPF Family if they would chime in on what it meant for us to be open to share our story with them... this is what they had to say:

I remember watching the video a few years back that went viral of you and Joel’s first wedding dance. Brought tears to my eyes the love you have for each other and whole approach to life. The happiness you both shared made a lot of others happy. Sending lots of hugs the whole way from Northern Ireland.
I first became aware of Lauren and Joel story by seeing them on the news recreating their first dance. Quickly after I did everything I could to find out more of their story. After many months of stalking them both on Facebook I started watching Lauren's videos and instantly felt like I was gaining a friend. I remember one time I got to speak to Joel with Lauren's help. Joel was constantly posting encouraging posts on Facebook they're really spoke to me and reminded me to stay positive despite your circumstances. See, I am wheelchair-bound, and I have always thoughts marriage was out of the question for me but seeing the love between Lauren and Joel made me hopeful for the future. Up until last weekend I had never met Lauren in person, but when I pulled up we instantly connected and after she talked a little bit about Joel I could just see still the love in her eyes and how she didn't see their marriage the way people on the outside saw it. To her, it was ordinary it was just like everybody else- she got her love story. I am forever thankful to know both of them and the support and openness they're both willing to share the world.
I had the pleasure of meeting my sweet friend, Lauren, through our Young Living family. When Lauren did a quick live video introducing herself I got the feeling that I knew her. I sat and was like where do I know her from? How do I know her? Well, as of yet, I didn’t know her but there was a connection I guess you’d call it with her personality. I jumped on her website and was scrolling through her blog. I sat that night and read her blog for hours!!! Sounds legit creeper, but her story was beautiful and fascinating. Lifetime should legit make a movie from Joel, Lauren, and Freddie’s story. I admire Joel. Even though his life wasn’t what he had planned, he did everything in his power to make it be as close as he had always dreamed. He has set high standards for other men and his son. The proposal to Lauren... can we just say breathtaking. His determination to surprise her with a dance on their wedding... awe inspiring. Joel, who could only speak through a computer and had no use of his arms and legs gave Lauren the love butterflies on a regular basis. Gah!!! If that’s not love I don’t know what is. The love Joel and Lauren shared is unconditional and true. You can see the sparkle in their eyes for each other in any pictures you