I’m delighted to welcome romance writer Roxanne Sherwood Gray as my guest. We met online back in 2008, and I was impressed with what a sweet person she is. When we first connected, I learned that her life had undertaken an unexpected turn the year before, a sad one. In time the Lord blessed her with a wonderful surprise of the romantic kind. When I saw her at the ACFW Conference in September 2011, she was radiant.
I’ve invited Roxanne to share her real-life romance with you. Prepared to be moved.
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My husband, Jack, and I were busy, home schooling parents of six. In our early forties, life was satisfying, but we wanted more. I dreamed of publishing a novel. With a master’s degree in engineering, Jack had spent his career in computer security and yearned for a Ph.D. in computer science.
When I was pregnant with our seventh child, I urged Jack to pursue his Ph.D. I knew that if we waited for the right time—an empty nest?—to pursue our dreams, we’d wait forever.
So I wrote about a widow with a second chance at love, while Jack took college classes. We celebrated contest wins and courses completed. He was my biggest fan. I was his most avid supporter. We were on our way. It was just a matter of time.
Turns out, we didn’t have time. At least, Jack didn’t.
In 2007, on our twin daughters’ 17th birthday, Jack suffered a fatal heart attack on the way home from work. He left me with seven children—ages 1, 8, 10, 17, 17, 18 and 20—all living at home. I had to remember to breathe.
Did you notice the premise of my work-in-progress? A widow must decide if love is Worth the Risk. My heroine’s young son was named Peter. So was my youngest. She worried that her boys wouldn’t remember their father. My Peter was too young to remember Jack. It was surreal to be living my novel.
I’d written a heart-wrenching scene where Stephanie, my heroine, is forced to take off her wedding ring. I’d built up the tension, so it was a really big deal for her. One day, I decided to date and quietly slipped off my wedding ring—I’d already worked through my emotions writing that scene. I don’t know if this novel will ever be published. Maybe I was the one who needed to read it.
When I heard that high school classmate Steve Gray’s wife had died after a long illness, I sent him my condolences. He had no plans to remarry—and risk loving—again. I only wanted a friendship with him because he lived 1,200 miles away—and I’d known him since 5th grade. If we were intended to have a relationship, wouldn’t it have happened when we were young?
Steve and I began emailing and chatting. After several weeks, he finally called. God made us attracted to one another’s voices. We talked for two and three hours a night for months, revealing the depths of our hearts as God knit our souls together.
We laughed like giddy teenagers and knew phone calls weren’t enough. Finally, he visited so we could discover if our feelings were real. He’d already won my heart, and I soon fell in love with the rest of him. :-)
In some ways, pursuing a relationship was a risk. When we married in June 2011, we’d spent only 30 days together, usually 3-6 days at a time. We never dated, instead spending time discovering if we could be a family.
My children liked Steve immediately, but the four in college stayed in Texas when I moved to Florida to be married. Still, I knew God had handpicked Steve for me—and my three young sons.
People ask when I’ll publish our story. For now, I’m still a novelist—with a new, fabulously supportive husband, who makes me laugh every day. He also says the most romantic things, and I’m tempted to stop and write them down for my hero to say. Instead, I enjoy the moment—and just hope I remember the words later.
As for my decision to marry Steve? Worth the Risk!