Friday Feature Couple ~ Jean & Tim FitzGerald
We can’t wait for you to get to know this incredible couple…meet Jean & Tim FitzGerald! Russ met Tim over 10 years ago through High Tech Ministries, a workplace ministry for the technology industry of Atlanta. Over the years, they have stayed connected by participating in HTM events including a year long mentorship program. Tim has been a great source of encouragement and support to Russ, both professionally and personally. A few nights ago, I (Danielle) met them both for the first time, although I’ve known their story for a couple years. This couple has been through and still has unimaginable pain but have miraculously turned their situation into an incredible cause.
How did you meet each other?
We met through a mutual friend who has having a party at his house.
How did your husband propose?
On Valentine’s Day in 1989 in a private room at The Mansion. It burned down several years ago.
How long have you been married?
29 years July 8th of this year
Name a couple who inspires you?
We both love and admire my aunt and uncle who have been married for 55 years. They are both strong believers although my aunt truly embodies the teachings of Christ in everything she does and says. They have had a lot of tough times in their lives. My uncle traveled almost constantly and there were unable to have children so they adopted a daughter and then a son. Both children had a lot of issues, but they prayed ceaselessly for them both and never gave up hope. They have always put each other first and obviously love and respect each other more now than ever. They also endured the loss of two of their grandchildren and their great nephew who they adored.
What was the happiest period of your marriage and what are the reasons you think so?
Between 1992 and 1999. We were just starting our family and it was exciting and new. Our financial future was looking bright. We had a church and school for our children that we loved and life was really good. We were also starting to explore our spirituality and faith more deeply than we had before. Tim had a great job and was doing well and Jean had just sold her business and became a stay at home mom. We had the American dream.
Would you say that you love each other more now than earlier in our marriage?
Do you work together spiritually to your satisfaction? What could improve that?
After the loss of our son in September of 2015 our spiritual life changed drastically. We couldn’t find the strength to attend church, where we had raised our kids and celebrated the life of Ryan. Tim was ready to go back to church but I was not. Tim turned to God and I railed at God with intermittent moments of spiritual awakening. We are working our way back to spiritual unity, slowly but surely. We share devotionals with each other and bring things to each other’s attention (that we’ve read or heard) that might help us make sense of our “new” lives and support each other in our individual faith walks. Tim’s patience with me has been phenomenal. He wants to go to church but understands that I am struggling with that and has given me a tremendous amount of grace.
How happy are you with praying as a couple? Is there something to be done to make things better?
It’s not something that we are unhappy with but certainly there is always room for improvement. Praying together everyday (which we tried to do at one point and we couldn’t quite get the timing right) is something we would like to make happen. Of course, we pray at meals but not consistently at other times of the day. This questions makes us realize we need to find a time we can do that.
Has your husband helped you become more mature spiritually? In what ways?
YES. Leading by example.
If your spouse were to be disabled mentally or physically in a severe way, do you think you can handle that? What would be the most difficult aspects?
Yes, because there is no choice here. We’ve watched some very close friends face catastrophic illness and often wonder how we would respond in the same situation. It would be horrible and difficult but this is when you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do what needs to be done. Adjusting again to a “new” normal. We promised to love and honor each other. No.Matter.What. It’s a vow we take very seriously. Would it be easy? Heck no. But we are not promised easy.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in the marriage? Why?
Not being careful with our finances. Jesus talks more about money than he does any other subject and it’s true that it becomes what can easily separate us from God. And each other.
Do you have any ideas concerning your finances that need to be examined?
We just really need to save more.
Are you suffering internally in any way? What is it?
People who lose a spouse are called widows/widowers. People who lose their parents are orphans. Parents who lose a child have no name because it is the single most difficult loss anyone could ever experience. There is nothing that compares and there is no way to explain it other than to say it’s like having a tree growing out of your heart that is ripped out by the roots and leaves a hole that can NEVER be filled. I don’t know the statistics but marriages often times cannot survive this kind of loss. There is so much hurt, guilt, blame, etc… that can cloud all judgement. We have started an organization in Ryan’s memory called Sheepdog Connection, which has helped us work together to honor his legacy and his memory.
Do you think your children and friends see your marriage as beautiful? Why or why not?
We’d like to think so! We have been through a lot in our almost 29 years of marriage and we are still going strong.
Are you hopeful about the future?
Yes. Because we know we have an opportunity to impact a lot of young people through Sheepdog Connection and of course when this life is over we know where we’ll be and who we will see again.
Do you focus too much attention or not enough attention on your children?
Probably. As the kids got older, we tried to let them make their own decisions and be independent but now with only Kaitlin to focus on, it’s hard not to wrap her in bubble wrap and lock her in her room. However, she is living and thriving in Washington D.C. and we are so glad that she has found her passion working for a non-profit. We do probably spoil her a bit and try to see her as often as we can and of course make her a top priority. It can be a bit disruptive to our lives as a couple because we make sacrifices for her that we otherwise would probably not be making if the circumstances were different.
Are you happy with the way you are involved in your life with other believers?
We would like to get back into another small group where we can build more faith based relationships. We really don’t know that many other people who aren’t believers but our friendship/relationships with them are not “faith first.”
What do you most wish you both could do in the future to make an impact on our world for Christ.
Work exclusively on building Sheepdog Connection to impact young men and women, building their faith and encouraging them to positively impact their communities and those around them.
Please say a prayer for this family as grief can be a long and winding road. If you’d like to do something to support them visit their non-profit Sheepdog Connection and/or leave them a note below in the comments section. -Danielle & Russ West