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15th in a series on long marriages
High-school senior Ron Johanesen was visiting his best friend Leeroy’s house after a game of mud football when he first noticed Leeroy’s sister—a “beautiful blond girl.” Ron learned he and Sandra went to the same Portland, Ore., church. He soon asked her to be his date for a formal event at school.
Sandra, a shy sophomore, was surprised Ron noticed her. But she admired his compassion as he cared for his grandparents and befriended students with disabilities at their school. Sandra and Ron married in July 1976, after finishing college.
About five years later, Sandra became pregnant, and six weeks before the birth, they learned they were having twins and rushed to prepare. “We’d bought one set of everything,” says Ron. In the next eight years, they had four more children.
Then in the fall of 1998, things changed for the family. Ron stood on a 5-foot ladder, preparing the house windows for the approaching winter weather. As he shifted his weight, the ladder crumpled and 44-year-old Ron landed on the driveway, shattering his pelvis. Two surgeries and 12 screws followed, and Ron was out of work for three months.
With an annual income of only around $30,000 or less, the Johanesens knew those three months would be financially difficult. Yet they saw God provide during Ron’s recovery: Their church bought Christmas gifts for their kids, and Ron’s employer continued paying their health insurance premium. One night, a stranger even brought them a box of food.
There is a huge temptation to feel inadequate as a wife if you’re not seen as helping. People don’t think you’re adding to your family unless you’re making money.
Seeing God’s provision gave Ron courage, and he decided to open his own accounting practice. “If the Lord can provide for me when I’m unable to even get off my back, surely he can provide for us through these hands,” he said. Sandra agreed, and the family cleared space to put Ron’s office in the basement, beside the laundry room. Their youngest child was 4 years old.
Losing steady income and insurance was stressful: Ron paid the business expenses each month before paying himself. Sandra worked hard to stay within their budget and teach the kids to be content. Each month, they wondered if they could cover expenses, including the costs of homeschooling their kids.
Once again, God met their needs. When their daughter’s appendix ruptured, they rushed her to the hospital for life-saving surgery. The family didn’t have insurance at the time, but the hospital did not charge them for the procedure.
Sandra, though, felt friends and family members judging her for not getting a job. “There is a huge temptation to feel inadequate as a wife if you’re not seen as helping,” she says. “People don’t think you’re adding to your family unless you’re making money.” Sometimes she suggested the idea to Ron, but he reminded her how important her presence in the home was.
One morning, Sandra fought frustration as she read her Bible. Then a passage in the book of Numbers caught her attention: It emphasized the faithful leadership of Moses. Sandra felt God reminding her that He had chosen Ron to lead their home and she should trust God by not complaining and speaking against her husband. That day was a turning point for her.
Now, after 43 years of marriage, the Johanesens are empty nesters and plan to sell the large house in Portland where they raised their children. Ron still works from home and keeps an office in his garage. He is a few years from retirement, and he hopes to cut back his hours soon.
Ron reflects on the years when money was tight: “Right at the beginning, we stopped and we prayed and we asked the Lord to give us peace and that He would provide. And He did. He always did.”