Friday Feature Couple ~ Shari & Tom Martin
I first met Tom when I was dating my husband, Russ, back in 2002. Russ and Tom had gone to Roswell High School together. I sensed an immediate warmth to Tom’s spirit and found that he was always looking for ways to help others. Shortly after meeting him, Tom was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it valiantly but it continued to come back a couple times.
Then this angel, Shari, appeared in his life. Tom’s cancer returned for a 3rd time while they were dating in 2011 with a Stage 4 diagnosis. Shari is also a cancer survivor and together they have beat the odds. God has blessed them with a beautiful marriage and I’m so excited you get a chance to get to meet them virtually and get to know them through their responses to our questions.
How did you meet each other?
SHARI: Tom and I met for the first time in 2008 at a North Point Community Church Fusion Event. I was divorced in early 2007 and it was my first singles group gathering. I didn’t know anyone and the number of people was overwhelming. I went back again in 2010 and the number of people was still overwhelming and I still didn’t know anyone. Then I recognized this one person who was there in 2008 and we started talking. The rest is history!
TOM: We met once in 2008. We were both randomly placed in the same Fusion small group. We reconnected in 2010 when we found ourselves in the same Fusion small group once again. The odds of this happening twice are pretty astronomical, but when you factor I was attending Buckhead Church and Shari was attending the North Point campus in Alpharetta, we both believe it was a God Wink.
How did your husband propose?
SHARI: We had been talking about it for a while and then received some news that accelerated the timetable. We were actually planning a wedding before the official proposal! When he finally formally asked, it was what every woman dreams of.
He timed it for an evening when we would both be fairly dressed up. I was meeting him at his house, then we would go to our event from there. He had a sign on his back door that there was something wrong with the kitchen and to go to the front. A dozen red roses awaited me there with a note to come on in. Jack Johnson was playing in the background and rose petals and candles lined a path to a chair with a huge wrapped box beside it with a note that read, “Open me.” There was a box in a box in a box… and when I got to the last box, Tom (who had been peeking,) walked out from behind a door, got on one knee, opened a ring box with his godmother’s engagement ring inside (she had willed it to his sister who gave it to him to give to me,) and asked me to marry him. It was about as romantic as it could get! And this was after he had asked my Dad, as well, as my sons for their blessing.
How long have you been married?
March 19, 2011
What was the one thing that surprised you after you were married?
SHARI: I never knew what it felt like to be truly cherished by my husband. He has never stopped cherishing me, and I have never stopped feeling cherished. It is amazing!
What are you both really excited about?
SHARI:We are both excited about what each of us are doing professionally, both for ourselves and for each other. Tom is doing business and life coaching and absolutely loves that he is able to help people every day, as he says, to “prosper in business and thrive in life.” He loves that his work is meaningful to him and knows that he is making a difference.
I have the true pleasure of running Cobb Community Foundation. Everyday I get to interact with non-profit organizations doing amazing work and then connect them with individuals and organizations who want to help them. Our mission is “Inspiring charitable giving, building resources for the future, and connecting donors who care with causes that matter.” There is NOTHING I’d rather be doing.
We both made career changes and each took a big step backwards income-wise, and it was the best decision we ever made (other than deciding to get married!)
TOM: This next season of life. We both had our halftime moments and made somewhat radical career changes which affords both us a higher quality of life while doing work we both love.
Do you see him/her growing more godly as the years go on? How are you measuring that?
SHARI: Tom has definitely grown more godly and that will certainly continue. Tom has a very pure love for people, and as time has passed, it has become even more selfless. I’ve seen that in particular with the way he engages with my sons. I also hear it in his prayers. His relationship with God is so open, and so real. When he prays, he really is having a conversation, just as if God was physically sitting right next to him.
Does it bother you that he’s/she’s growing older? If so, in what ways?
SHARI: I think we’re both getting better with age. We’re truly becoming wiser and are more and more aware of what’s really important and what’s not. The only way it bothers me (for both of us) is that as time passes, we will be less and less physically able to do some of what we both want to do – travel. That’s less a matter of age than it is of motivation and discipline.
TOM: Not in the least bit, plus she is so young at heart I have to work to keep up.
Has God put his finger on some aspect of our marriage that needs attention? What is it and what do you believe He wants from you both?
TOM: Our fitness, we both know we need to invest more attention in this area now so we see the dividends later in life.
Name a couple who inspires you.
SHARI: My parents and my paternal grandparents inspire me. My grandfather has passed away, but both he and my dad have always treated their wives with love and respect. They never stopped opening the door for them. And my mom and grandmother have always shown respect for their husbands. They all had challenges, and their marriages weren’t perfect, but they were (and are) devoted to one another. In both cases, their love for one another has just seemed to deepen over time. That’s the way it should be.
TOM: Can I give you two? My parents and Shari’s parents. They both have been married for 55 years, and they epitomize what love and commitment looks like in marriage and in parenting, regardless of the circumstances they have faced.
What was the happiest period of your marriage and what are the reasons you think so?
TOM: I would say right now. We are doing work and serving in areas we love. The boys are in good places as is both of our families, and we are blessed with great friends.
What do you see in the character of Christ that you most wish were in you, as well?
TOM: Shari has never met a stranger and always sees the good in everyone.
What’s one piece of advice you would share with someone before getting married?
SHARI: To me, it’s really important to see how a person interacts with their family and to talk about what you both hope your family dynamics will be. If a man doesn’t show respect for his mother, I think it’s likely that someday he won’t show respect for his wife…and that potentially gets passed on to the way sons treat their mother. Likewise, if your future spouse’s family isn’t close at all, it’s important to understand whether that will be his or her default as it relates to your family and the one you will build together, or does he or she want something entirely different that what was experienced.
TOM: Invest a time early in the relationship getting to know what your future spouse’s ‘deal-breakers’ are. What may be insignificant to you, can be extremely important to your spouse and certainly will produce relational friction in your marriage if left unaddressed.
We didn’t realize we were doing it at the time, creamy vs crunchy peanut butter or white Christmas tree lights vs colors, but when it comes to things like finances, parenting, and values making sure you can get on the same page is critical.
Are you becoming the husband/wife you hope you’d be?
SHARI: In some ways, yes, and in other ways, no. Although I’m immensely happy, I now know that I can’t depend on my husband to be the source of that, and that makes me a much better wife. I adore and respect him and know unequivocally that he knows that every second of every day, and when he may be questioning himself for whatever reason, I reinforce it even more. I have a selfish streak in me, though, and wish I was as selfless as he is.
Has your husband/wife helped you become more mature spiritually? In what ways?
SHARI: Tom has definitely helped me mature. He senses when I am pushing God away and trying to do life on my own and very lovingly calls me on it. When I have tough questions, he is the first person I go to, and he helps me work through them.
TOM: To be more selfless. Shari knows that my tendency to overcommit can be driven by my need for approval and significance. This is something I’ve wrestled with all my life, but she helps me to examine my motives to make sure I’ve investing in what matters for all the right reasons.
How would you describe the word, ‘love?’
TOM: It is an expression of what burns in someones’ heart, and when it comes to a couple it is the DNA of their relationship.
Do you think your children and friends see your marriage as beautiful? Why or why not?
SHARI: Without a doubt. My youngest son unknowingly gave me the best compliment ever. In casual conversation, he said “I hope to have the kind of marriage you and Tom have.” Particularly given that Tom is not his father, that spoke volumes.
Do you like the way he/she responds to your family? What could he/she do to improve?
SHARI: Tom treats my family as his family. We are very close, as is his family, and he embraces that. We enjoy spending time together and often play cards. Sometimes Tom doesn’t feel like playing but he never minds my joining my parents and sister for an evening of cards. It would be easy for him to resent that. The only thing he could do to improve is learn how to play euchre. (That will make him smile!)
Do you feel that he/she respects you? How could he/she show that better?
SHARI: My husband’s respect for me, and my respect for him, are foundational to our marriage. One of the ways we show that respect is by asking the other for their input on challenges we are facing, whether they are with personal relationships, work issues, family, whatever. But we are not asking the other just to “show respect,” we truly value one another’s counsel. I love that about our relationship.
TOM: Absolutely. I can’t think of a single thing she could do to show that better. Shari’s my greatest cheerleader and my best friend. You can’t be either over any period of time without respecting someone.
Do you think he/she spends too much time or not enough time with my friends?
TOM: Actually, early into our relationship Shari asked me to hold her accountable to investing time into her friendships. As a single mom who worked in an industry which demanded a great deal of her time who was now dating, she wanted to make sure time with her friends was a priority in her life. And this is something we do for each other to this day.
Are you happy with the way you are involved with other believers?
SHARI: Absolutely. Our closest friends are couples we have met through small group. His parents, my parents, both of our siblings and their spouses, are all believers, and those from high school or college whom we have kept up with are believers, as well. It’s not that we are ‘exclusive’ and don’t want to interact with anyone else; these are simply people who share our values and think the way we do, so we naturally enjoy time with them.
Would you say that you love each other more now than earlier in your marriage?
SHARI: Without a doubt. Tom has walked me through some very difficult times with my children. Through God’s grace, we are past those now, but there were days when lesser men would have walked away. I never, ever feared that. A day rarely goes by when I don’t observe something in him that just warms my heart and reminds me of how thankful I am to be his wife.
TOM: Absolutely – I truly didn’t think it was possible but this rings true for us today.
What’s one thing you do for your husband/wife everyday?
SHARI: I hope that ever day, I let him know how proud of him I am. It may not be in those words, but somehow, I convey that sentiment.
TOM: Pray over her and our marriage. Plus, I make sure she has a cup of coffee waiting for her even on the days I’m out the door before her alarm goes off.
What worries you most about life?
SHARI: My children. I suspect that is every mother’s greatest worry. With God’s help, that worry is much less intense than it was before, and praying for them every day helps immensely. But I still worry.
What do you most wish you both could do in the future to make an impact on our world for Christ?
TOM: I haven’t really thought about a future wish, but we are both open and available for whatever God has planned for us. In the meantime, I’ll continue to support her in the work she is doing with non-profits, and I know she is supporting my work in men’s ministry.
If you’d like to join us to see more Friday Feature Couples or learn more about how you and your spouse can stay close and more connected in your marriage, join us at intentionalmarriages.net!