Orthodox Love Stories: Bobbi April Bartlett

How did you meet your spouse?

My husband Tom is American and I’m Australian. We met after I saw Tom commenting on a “Flat Earther’s” Facebook post, where he was attempting to have a conversation with those who believe in the Flat Earth theory. Tom was genuinely trying to understand them. His kindness and compassion shone through which was rare to see on Facebook from people of opposing beliefs. He wasn’t received well, but remained gentle and understanding. I decided to message him and commend him on his way of being, which is something I’d generally do, and ask him if I could add him as a friend since he inspired me. I wasn’t looking for a relationship, just a friendship. Tom was very hesitant. At first he wondered if I was just a “fake profile” or someone who wanted to scam him out of all his money. Well, he didn’t have much at the time, so he took a risk that was very uncharacteristic of him, and here we are, almost 3 years later.

How did you know this was the person you were going to marry?

Tom wasn’t my “type”. I come from an unstable, broken home. My dad left us when I was only around 5 or 6, so I never really had a father figure. I’d always choose boyfriends that were dysfunctional like myself, mostly non-committal, and Tom had never really had a proper relationship. We exchanged messages for a few weeks and something blossomed. It was fascinating to come to find that we both had recently discovered Orthodox Christianity, so we decided to learn about it together. Both visiting Churches in our area. We dated online for 9 months, video calling and sending long messages to one another. It was only after a few months we felt like we knew, yet we had not met in person, so when I decided to come for a visit, we had to trust that what we were feeling was true, and it certainly was. I’ve never met anyone like Tom. He’s so loyal and with his background as a Protestant Christian from the South, he’s not one to take anything lightly. We also loved the exact same music and songs in particular, which we found quite wonderful. We’re both creative people, but most importantly, we both were passionately searching for the truth.

How do you find that marriage changes the ways you interact with the world?

Completely. In my case it actually took me to the other side of the world. It’s been exciting, transformational in many ways, but also full of sacrifices and letting go. Tom is currently stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas with the Commanding General’s Mounted Colorguard. I’m not at all familiar with or fond of Military anything. Having only very minimal experience with religion, and not being raised in it, it’s been interesting and challenging going from a very traditional Greek Orthodox Church and Priest I was building a relationship with in Australia, to the midwest where we became Orthodox Christians together and were married in the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

We are still very new to Orthodoxy, our marriage and our relationship in general. A lot has happened and in a relatively fast time period. We are learning and growing together through the struggles and the times of great joy. We both are blessed to have one another, and to have such a wonderful relationship. I feel protected and nurtured for the first time in my life, which is allowing me to heal many wounds from my past.

What’s a favorite happy, sad, funny, or unique moment you can share from your love story?Β 

The happiest moment was finding out we were going to have a baby. It truly was the happiest I’d felt since falling in love with Tom. I’ve always adored babies, and at 34 I was eager to become a Mum. Unfortunately the pregnancy ended in miscarriage. At the time I didn’t know how I was ever going to be ok. The loss was hard to bear, very personal and painful. It’s different for the man and woman. Tom struggled to see me in such pain and heartache, not knowing what to do, and I struggled with the feeling of having a precious life growing inside, only to leave so soon. Guilt, confusion, deep, deep sadness. There’s no words to describe it really, but deep inside the grief, suddenly grace enveloped me. The experience changed me completely. It’s shown me how Christ is with us in our times of struggle, how the Theotokos is ever willing to intercede, and how learning about the lives of the Saints and written teachings of the Holy Fathers helps us continue in our faith. With this deep knowing we can overcome anything.

If someone about to get married asked you for advice, what would it be?Β 

Cherish one another as best you can and forgive yourself and each other when you fail at it, because we all do. Remember daily that life is fleeting. Try to always kiss your partner when you set out, and welcome them when they return. My husband always, always does this, and his love is transforming and opening my heart more each day.

Bobbi April Bartlett

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