Sister by heart

This is a double duty post. Today I’m wishing my sister-in-law…well, I should just drop the “in-law” part…a wonderful happy birthday. JeannaLynn is my sister, a sister by the gift of marriage, and a sister of my heart.

And that brings me to the second thing I want to share with her: gratitude. Not for the first time, but for the first time in a public way, I have to thank her for saving my marriage last year. That sounds dramatic, and I am not a drama queen. But that is the truth. A few others who knew we were in distress were helpful, loving, concerned. But it was JeannaLynn who stepped in and did the thing I could not do for myself. She rescued me, and us. And I am forever grateful.

How do you thank someone who does that for you?

You thank them from a depth of gratitude you didn’t know you possessed. You thank them privately. You thank them publicly. You thank them with a humble heart.

All of these things I feel, and all of them I want to share.

The details are not important, and in any case, they are a private matter. The rescue, and the outcome, are the important points of my story. But it isn’t even my story, in particular, that is important. The important thing is acknowledging that this woman is making a difference. She, along with her husband, is counseling, ministering, saving, and bringing relief to couples who have found themselves on the brink: the brink of despair, the brink of divorce.

She speaks as one who knows. JeannaLynn had her own struggles with her marriage. She has known the depths. She’s done the hard work to change her own story, and she understands what it takes to maintain the victory. It is hard-won, and all the clichés that you regularly hear apply: you can’t take it for granted; you have to work at it every day; no relationship is immune from the toll of stress and life challenges.

JeannaLynn is a nurse, and for many years has focused on the area of obstetrics. For several years now she has taught childbirth classes at a local hospital, combining the roles of caregiver, mentor, teacher, and surrogate parent to the women who attend her sessions.

A few years ago, she decided to become a Life Coach, and she’s completed the coursework and testing to become a certified provider of coaching services. That dovetailed nicely with the work that has become her passion. Married to a minister, over the years JeannaLynn and Richard, her husband, had developed a marriage counseling ministry, working with church members who were in crisis in their relationships. A couple of years ago, they decided to do counseling full-time, and the rest, as they say, is history.

JeannaLynn and Richard work as a team, and they have been so effective in their ministry that they have a growing list of clients whose lives have been forever changed, and changed for the better, by their efforts. They step into lives and listen, teach coping skills, teach respect and value and honor. They are friends to marriages, not taking sides, but supporting both spouses in moments of turmoil. They share their story, acknowledging that relationships take tremendous energy, commitment, and focus. They also encourage couples to find the fun again, to prioritize each other, to understand that it is not easy to stay together. But it can be so rewarding, beyond belief.

In our situation, it was our unique relationship with JeannaLynn that made our progress possible. She knew us, knew our story, and was able, without taking sides or expressing judgment, to encourage, instruct, and be with us through the refining fire. She physically came to our house and spent several days, patiently listening, passionately lobbying us to see the big picture, to see each other with different eyes, to be true to ourselves, and to recognize that we could do that and hold on to the good that was between us.

We allowed her in. But she was willing to come in, and she did it with grace and honesty, with courage and respect.

Last year we were lost, and she helped us to find each other.

On the surface, we don’t look very different. But when you’ve been lost, and now you’re found, you sing in your heart. You appreciate differently. The smallest things are joys again. Old is new, and what was hard is soft.

Once I took a lot for granted. Now I take nothing for granted. I am humbled to think that I have another chance at happiness, and another chance to get it right. And for all the work that I have put into this renewal, and for all that Rob has done, I know who is at the heart of this opportunity. Thank you, JeannaLynn, from the bottom of my heart. And may this birthday be the beginning of another year of blessings, impact, and excitement as you witness the daily miracles of lives changed and hearts rescued.

JeannaLynn and Richard can be contacted at WGHJ

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12 thoughts on “Sister by heart

  1. Thank you, Sheila, for your kind words. I am humbled & stirred by your words!
    Humbled because where I (we) have stood with & for you guys — it’s been the 2 of you who allowed us to be fully present, to stretch & challenge you, & for you to take the steps necessary to create “a new day with new mercies”!
    Stirred because you have such a way with words that inspires me to stay the course – keep looking up!! And, reading your personal notes after each comments speaks so clearly to who you are: kind, thoughtful, genuine, encourager — Bless you!!
    Thank you again for your kind words of affirmation and birthday wishes!!
    I hold you close in my heart – loving you (both) dearly!!

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    • JL, you know my heart…always trying, but not always getting it right! Thank you for the continued encouragement you give, and for just being there. You are a blessing! And yes, we are looking for new days with new mercies, for ourselves individually, and as a couple. Well put! ~ Sheila

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  2. I kind of sensed at times that adjustments were going on in your life…as you say…private things…I am so glad that I hear joy in your voice again…Because your writings are your voice to us in Blog World…It does take hard work…determination…a lot of talking…and rekindling those times you were so in love…Taking time for ourselves to be alone…even if it’s a one nighter away from routine…is just one easy way to do this…or just a drive to another view…other than the one we are so used to seeing every day…We have to be refreshed…or things and even people we love can become stagnet…YOU DID GOOD!…and I know you are so grateful for such a friend (sister)…Best to you both…~mkg

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    • Thank you! And after reading your post on marriage today, I know that you understand how to do it well! We are working on improving our skills in this area. I think we experienced an avalanche of work, stress, time demands…and the reality is that you think you are strong enough to withstand, until suddenly you find you’re not. But we have come a long way in the last year, and I believe we will continue to grow. We’ve made a good start!
      And JeannaLynn continues to support us, along with Richard. They really stand with the couples they work with, it is not a quick fix and then you’re on your own. I continue to appreciate all she/they have done for us. ~ Sheila

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  3. This is such a sweet and heartwarming post.

    There are many people who will ‘be there’ but not a lot of folks these days take the time to truly help another person who is going through challenges in their personal relationships. Many are too caught up in their own lives to even help someone else.

    Right now, I don’t really know where things stand between myself and my former flame. Yes, I say former because we are not really together anymore…it’s a long and complicated story. The gist of it is, I was caught off guard with a lot of things and with everything that stands, what has been maybe just that – a has been.

    On the other hand, in terms of gratitude, I have a lot to be thankful for. It’s not been easy, these past few months, having to deal with medical issues and everything. When it gets really bad for me, I try to think about the people who have been there…I try to think about the things i should be grateful for, the people I should be grateful for and it helps.

    I think it would all help us in some way if we stopped every once in a while to reflect upon where we are in our lives and what blessings we have.

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    • Oh, this is just how I feel too! I know there are times when reality is too much to handle, and who doesn’t take a time out now and then and just feel sorry for themselves?! But when I right myself, center myself, balance myself…all these phrases represent my coming to terms with my situation, whatever that may be…I’m able to do what you describe…feel grateful for the people and blessings in my life, and begin to make lemonade from the lemons. What a wonderful attitude you have! I know it isn’t easy to see a relationship end…but if you take care of yourself, in the end, maybe it will become a blessing in disguise. I hope so!
      Thank you for reading, and for commenting! ~ Sheila

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      • I have my good days and bad ones…but a friend told me that the major changes in my life are a turning point for something better.

        It’s crazy, really – cancer scare, surgery, possibility of losing my job, lost my partner – it’s like everything came crashing down.

        I love how you describe your process. I go in and out of bouts of depression but I try not to linger there too long. Yes, I think it’s normal for us to have self pity but to indulge in it is a completely different story.

        I am hurting right now but I know there is a lesson to be learned. It will reveal itself in time. I don’t know if we will get back together…or if we can move forward as one but I’m trying not to let the negativity consume me. You are right, it may be a blessing in disguise.

        I love your blog and I’ll be stopping by on your next post!

        Blessings of love and happiness to you. Have a wonderful weekend!

        Cheers,
        Dylan

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        • Thank you, and I hope you will find healing soon, in every way! I read some of your blog last night, I can’t imagine the scare you’ve had!
          You know, the funny thing is, the older I get, the more I value even the down times. The down times in my life give me such appreciation for the good…like the starkness in a photo, the black makes the white brighter.
          I find that reading and really absorbing positive statements..all sorts of quotes and readings…helps me in my determination to be a positive person, and to find my joy. I am learning that I have to create that emotion for myself, and not depend on what others can give me. Even with the best will in the world, others may not be able to give me joy. But I can create it if I know what feeds me.
          Thank you for your good wishes! I hope your weekend is restful and hopeful! ~ Sheila

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          • Thank you so much for the well wishes :)

            I have a lot of healing to do but I am hopeful and optimistic. It was a very scary time for me but I am over the cancer scare and getting through recovery right now so I’m on the right track.

            At the moment, I do positive affirmations and I receive Reiki healing. I read and write a lot and you are absolutely right. Absorbing positive statements does help a lot. In a way, my writing does, too, because it’s cathartic. And, if we didn’t have the darker days in life, we probably wouldn’t know or understand the value of the days of light.

            I believe that one can never be complete if one isn’t whole to begin with. It’s quite the paradox isn’t it? But the point is, we cannot be fulfilled/ complete through others when we ourselves are not happy with our own beings. It’s the same concept as one cannot give love if one does not have love for himself.

            You enlighten me. I hope you enjoy your trip and your weekend.

            Blessings to you and yours.

            Cheers,
            Dylan

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  4. Reading this reminded me of occasional articles in the news (mostly in the past) announcing that couple so-and-so had just celebrated this-or-that anniversary by repeating their marriage ceremony. I wondered why anyone would do that? Cute, but what was the point? Now I begin to see that it may have been intended to either help foster or in fact to celebrate the renewal of their commitment to each other. Also, and perhaps more importantly, to help re-fuel the feelings that led to that commitment. In effect, making it possible to take a ‘big leap; over the gulf that often widens in a marriage over time. Anyway, I can now see how repeating that ceremony could ‘dramatically’ help at least some people to regain–or continue to build upon–that original sense of purpose and meaning that brought them together in the first place. So…maybe restoring that fading tradition of couples consciously, periodically ‘re-uniting’ might be just what is needed, for some at least, to regain not just what’s been lost, but also largely forgotten, gradually, over time.

    Imagine the impact of repeating that ceremony. Standing side-by-side, heart beating, knees shaking, then looking each other straight in the eye and saying (and believing)… “I do.”

    Just a thought… ;-)

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    • You know, we thought about that, and may still do it at some point. But the past year-plus has been about recommitting to each others’ presence…work had caused us to spend a lot of time apart. And recommitting to the relationship. We have learned a lot about ourselves and each other…amazing, as we celebrated our 30th anniversary last year. You would think there would be little left to discover! We’ve also committed to making some changes that help us to prioritize each other, and to appreciate what we have. Not always easy, but oh, so worth it!
      Thanks for your lovely comment! I agree with you! ~ Sheila

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