I’m Jim Pharaoh, and this is how I’ve been living deeply.
“I’ve had so much happen. I’ll start by going back about 15 years. My wife Inga and I thought things were good- we had a happy family, happy home, and were doing well professionally. I wasn’t aware of how fragile life is and how much you need to be investing in your marriage and getting more deeply rooted in your faith. The reality was Inga and I were slowly drifting apart. I was in my mid-40s. I wouldn’t say I had a midlife crisis, but I started thinking about things: What do I want in this life? What’s important? What’s on my heart? What do I need to be doing? So it was more of a reckoning than a crisis. Being a physician, I worked every other weekend and couldn’t always make it to church. So I started attending Bible Study Fellowship, deepening my faith and spending time working on my marriage. I don’t know if things were just too far apart or if Inga had given all she could but we ended up getting divorced in 2011. Divorce is just a horrible place. You feel broken. You’re in despair. I was depressed. I went six months without sleeping a full night, didn’t have much of an appetite, and lost weight. So I was a total wreck for a while. But there were people from my church family at Cedar Springs helping me the whole time through this and I came out a stronger person, an enlightened person, and a more appreciative, sensitive and engaged person. So I could still have joy and pursue good things in my life. It was about this time that I found myself at a KnoxCAM event. I was there with a singles group that met at CSPC at the time. In the middle of the presentation, my attention was drawn to a person sitting a little ways away. This was someone I knew- her name was Ginny. I had this strong sense that I was supposed to seek her out for some reason. I didn’t know why.
Long story short- I sent Ginny a card in the mail. I knew her as single and divorced. So I just wrote, ‘Hey, I saw you at church. How are you doing? If you would be interested in getting together sometime, just let me know.’ She responded and we met at a casual place for a couple hours and had a good time but had no plans to get together again. About a week later, she called and said she’d been invited to a friend’s lake house and wanted to know if I could go. Within several weeks it became clear we’d been drawn together. We got married and it was a blessing across the board. Through God bringing us together, He also brought a lot of other people together- Ginny got to spend more time with her kids and reunions with her siblings happened. There was a lot of restoration, joy and pulling everybody together. Ginny had lived with a low-grade cancer for multiple years, and during the later part of our marriage that worsened. There were tons of scans, imaging, doctors visits, and treatments. Before the cancer got more serious, we began looking for a new home. As we were getting out of the car to look at it, I just got an impression that this needed to be our house and it was going to be good for us. So we moved into a neighborhood with a built-in CSPC community. So Ginny was surrounded by many of her good friends when she got sick. I also got this crazy idea to throw a surprise birthday party for Ginny when she turned 57. This was another impression that just came to me like ‘Okay, you have to have this birthday party.’ So we went downtown and had this great party. It was when she still felt well but right before she had tests that showed worsening problems. She even said, ‘I don’t know why everyone’s making this such a big deal. It’s not my last birthday.’ But it actually did turn out to be her last birthday. Ginny passed away in December 2016. We were married for three and a half years.
At the same time Ginny fought her cancer, my first wife Inga called me and said she was diagnosed with cancer. It had spread to various parts of her body. Inga passed away about a year after Ginny’s death. I had my son who had lost his mom and three stepchildren who’d lost their mom. Two funerals in twelve months. When a spouse passes away, the only kind of relief is God’s peace. You almost have to separate yourself from this world to get close enough to Him. I was able to do that and get through this sad season with the help of God’s presence and peace. All these things kept happening in my life, but I felt it was always going to be okay. God was going to take care of me and I felt the presence of the Lord and His assurances. You know, you read these things in the Bible and of course you believe them. But now I feel like I’ve lived them. With the friendships of the CSPC community, I felt so supported and loved. What happened may not have been my earthly first choice, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t thrive and grow in other ways. Then around the end of 2020, I started having this new sense that something else was going to happen. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be. But emotionally, personally, and physically, I felt like I needed to be all in the present. I scheduled one trip out to Colorado with my son in early 2021, but other than that I left the year open. So then a close friend had this idea that maybe Ann Seaman and I should meet- both of us having shared the reality of losing a spouse. That friend hosted a wine tasting night for couples where we met.
At first I thought maybe Ann and I were just supposed to be friends because our spouses had passed away- it could be a supportive type friendship. However, quickly we realized God was intertwining our stories. Happily we’re getting married in January 2022. We are growing our relationship, working hard to join families, and planning on finishing strong. You know, Ann and I were driving on a road trip recently. She had this interactive game with conversational questions, so we drew out a card and it asked, ‘What would you change in your life if you could change one thing?’ I hadn’t even thought about that before, but I quickly said I would have had more than one child. And yes, I only have one biological child, but now I have three stepchildren and I’m working on four more. Not only that, but during this time my stepdaughter Becca (Ginny’s daughter) and her husband, Tim, have had two children and they’re pregnant with another child. I’m really involved as one of their grandfathers. Families are not subtractive, they’re additive. If someone marries someone else or someone passes away, the loved ones who are left don’t stop being family. Sometimes God gives us an abundance of what we ask for, so He’s blessed me in that way with this expanding family. The bottom line I’ve seen from all this is that God has his plan. It involves many people, life events, and unforeseen changes. It may not be an easy plan- I mean, there are definitely going to be hard times in your life. But it’s amazing- even with all of the things that have been so hard, it’s just a very full, rich life. I have seen God be incredibly faithful to me in any and all circumstances, so my faith is steadfast whatever comes along. That gives me reassurance in all circumstances. It encourages my faith, my obedience, my patience, and my encouragement to others. God’s going to be there continuously, He has a plan, and His plan is better than anything I could ever imagine. I can’t wait for what God has in store for me next.”