"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."
As I sit here on my couch, staring out the window trying to find the words to describe my journey, I fight to hold back tears. I have known the depths of love, care, commitment and respect. There have only been a precious few things in my life that I have held closely to my heart. One of those treasures was the gift of my marriage.
I was just 15 years old when I met the one who would become the man of my dreams. I was sitting with my girlfriends in youth group when Trent walked into the room. As our eyes met, who could have known that would be the beginning of a fairytale-like relationship? Trent and I dated for seven and a half fun and adventurous years before we walked down the aisle in 1990.
A new path
After 11 years of marriage, a few bumps in the road and a move to Nashville, Tennessee, I was at a personal crossroads and asking myself, What is my purpose? What am I doing with my life? Should I come off the road as a recording artist? Should we start a family?
In the middle of all the questions, Trent and I were asked to go to Jamaica on a mission trip. The timing seemed perfect to get away to do a little soul-searching and at the same time to serve others. Trent suggested we include a vacation, so we added an additional week at the start of our trip to relax and enjoy Jamaica. I felt a little lost and scared about the future, but I also felt that as long as Trent was by my side, everything would be just fine.
We were in a gorgeous place — Jamaica's spectacular Blue Lagoon. The sun was shining, the water was aquamarine and Trent was ready to free dive in the center of the lagoon. He slid quietly into the water without a splash and said, "I'll see you in 15 minutes." Then Trent turned toward the deep water, sank beneath the surface and was gone.
Healing and joy
It has been 15 years since standing on the edge of the water the morning of September 11, 2001, as Trent's lifeless body was recovered from the Blue Lagoon. I have cried hundreds of buckets of tears. I have cried out to God wishing that this new plan for my life were different, but I have also learned to walk with hope and faith in Him.
On my road to healing, I have learned to give my pain purpose, and I see it each time I share my story — whether from the platform at a women's event, or right in my own neighborhood. My greatest healing and joy have come from encouraging others who are facing a really hard season in life and reminding them never to interpret their numbness as God's absence in their lives. There is never a time when Jesus is not speaking. There is never a place where Jesus is not present. Never! He says, " I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
Sometimes I wonder how long the Lord will have me in "this season," where I continue to travel the world speaking, record music and write books to encourage hurting people. There are times when I feel worn out and tired. But I also feel humbled and overwhelmed that the Lord would choose to use me to affect the hearts of others through my life.
The days ahead
Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for everything, so as I look to the days ahead, I will remain open to the Lord's timing. Even though I'm not sure what His plan is, I have a strong feeling it will still involve serving, loving and ministering to hurting people. It could be working on a mission field in Africa, hosting a TV show, running a gym or even becoming a barista at a local coffee shop. The point is, I will keep my heart open to the things of God. One thing I know for sure, I'll never stop sharing my story.
I have chosen to build a life on the promises of God — His hope, faithfulness, provision, peace and unfailing love. My life feels full and complete in Him. And, oh yeah, I've even dated a little, which has taught me that I can love again.
Thoughts on marriage
I loved being married, but it wasn't always easy. How do any of us make a marriage work? I think it's waking up each morning, renewing our commitment to the one we love and realizing that we're not promised tomorrow. But we have this day to love, to cherish and to comfort each other.
It's true that at times each of us can be annoying to one another, and you'll most likely irritate each other a little on a daily basis … clothes on the floor, dishes in the sink, music too loud in the car, too much affection, not enough affection. Even though it's unhealthy to nag and nitpick, letting anger build up and not communicating with each other are also unhealthy.
Communicating in a loving, calm, rational way was one of Trent's greatest gifts to me. He never tried to change me — I just saw him working on himself, which made me want to better myself, too … for me and for him.
There are days when I still feel like I'm standing on the edge of the water … waiting … just waiting. I wish I could go back and tell Trent how much he changed my life through his love for me and how that love, commitment and belief in me helped me cope in these difficult years.
Please let me be an encouragement to you today, even if it's been a rough week, month or year. Take the time to work on your relationship and invest in the things that produced that "spark" in the first place. Learn and respond to each other's love language. Bring home flowers. Leave a love note some place for him or her to find later (something Trent and I always did through the years). Plan a date night. Fight for your love. Fight for your marriage. Fight for every reason you stood before God, family and friends on your wedding day. Do whatever it takes to build a stronger marriage. Your relationship is worth fighting for!
A Love Note
This is one of the notes Trent left for me when he was going off to Mexico to scuba dive with friends in February 1999:
"Tammy, I can't live without you! 1 week is too long. My thoughts will be on you always & my heart will be always with you. All I pray is for God to keep you safe until the day of my return & that I may dream of you EVERY night. My heart is yours, Trent"