By Judy Ramos, MISDA Family Ministries Assistant
I married young compared to most of my peers. Once I graduated from undergrad, I began teaching when I was 21 years old. My now husband, Israel, and I had been dating for nearly four years and we got married after my first year of teaching when I was 22. Now, nearly two decades later, I feel I am a completely different person. Each stage of life has brought its share of joys, challenges, and devastation.
As the sign hanging in our bedroom so aptly declares, our family was established in 2004. That's when Israel and I got married. We had read through Adventist Home and went through some counseling sessions. We both had jobs that paid the bills and the mortgage of our new house. Honestly, life at that point was pretty incredible and I wondered why so many people thought life was so tough. There was no way I could have known what "adulting" actually entails.
JOY & PAIN
Time, experiences, and circumstances have a way of changing us. Our greatest joys are often accompanied with the deepest pain. The stresses of life sometimes creep in slowly, and other times it overcomes us when we least expect it. We got a puppy, but my two cats hated him. We got pregnant with our oldest son, and then I had the worst morning sickness for 5 months straight. I was over my morning sickness, and we lost my grandmother before I could visit. My husband got a call to pastoral ministry and we moved to the U.P. of Michigan, but it required him to be gone more often. We had two more healthy sons, and we lost one at 19 weeks. The longer we live, the results of sin become more inevitable, but God, in His wisdom, allows trials to help us grow.
We were always designed to change. Life was meant to be experienced in stages - not only physically, but spiritually. The goal has consistently been to become more and more like the image of God Himself. In a perfect, sinless world, I'm sure God had a plan for how that would happen. But in this life, I have come to understand that it is through the balance of pain and pleasure, in every stage, that we grow closer to His perfect likeness. The fruits of the Spirit can only be attained, and sin can only be overcome, by trusting God's process.
The lyrics to the hymn, Day by Day accurately depicts this:
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
We were never meant to deal with life alone. God's grace provided a powerful avenue to help us navigate our lives to the fullest: Family. Family can be defined in so many different ways and it encompasses every person born in this world. Family provides the safety platform for both the expected and unexpected changes we may encounter. This gift allows us to experience the greatest happiness and also enables us to endure the worst sorrow. God also teaches us that families have the capacity to change and grow. This means that the way our families are now doesn't have to determine how they will always be. This also translates into our church families too. Change is possible and is in fact the way God designed families to be - ever growing until we are one, as Jesus and His Father are One.
THE MODEL FAMILY
Looking back now, I see how powerful Malachi 3:6 is: "For I am the Lord, I do not change." Everything in this world is designed to change, so growth can occur. God doesn't need to grow. He is already everything we could ever hope for and need. In order for us to be who God wants us to be, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Collectively as families, we are also able to be who we need to be for each other as we model after the Godhead. I think it is powerful that God Himself is represented as a Family - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Trinity and their Oneness in love, unity, and mission is our ultimate Example as we build our families here on earth.
I'm excited to be a part of this mission to build strong Adventist families across the state of Michigan. I still have a lot to learn in my role as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and church member. The expectations also continue to change as I get older. But I know that one thing is certain. God designed us to experience these different stages in life so we can be prepared to live in Heaven, and one day, finally, to be together with the rest of our cosmic family. Will you join me on this mission?