Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Thanks be to God...
Thirty-nine years ago, I was twenty years old. I had survived the '60's, virtually unscathed,(not really, as I still attempt to re-educate myself) despite attending a public high school and a liberal liberal-arts college for women in Atlanta and on to another one in Bristol, TN. My parents and grandparents, aunt and other near relations were all public school teachers. Back then, that's all there was, especially in the mountains of Virginia, my home. God graced me with, not only devout Christian parents, but a community and school that honored God. But the greatest blessing of all was the young man who came to be my grandfather's summer assistant in the tiny Presbyterian church in 1965 where Grandpa had pastored since his conversion by a "home" missionary, Thomas Mowbray. He was a South Carolinian with a wooden leg and a heart for God who had led my grandparents to the Lord many years before. Grandpa left the teaching profession, took seminary classes and was ordained to the Gospel ministry under what was called the 'extraordinary clause'. Joe was attending King College in Bristol, TN, at the time a rising junior, when he came to help my Grandpa that summer. That was 43 years ago,if my math and memory serve me right.
I'd never known anyone like him. He was broad shouldered, lanky and tall--almost 6' 5"--and had the manner of another Billy Graham when he preached. His flashing blue eyes could pierce to the core of your being and his booming voice captivated the congregation and his intense love for Christ and desire that all men come to know Him captured my heart. We spent the whole summer together teaching unchurched children in Bible schools--we held sixteen to be exact--all over the beautiful wild mountains of my home in southwestern Virginia. Never had I met anyone who could draw men, women, boys and girls to Jesus like this young man and still have a great sense of humor, a combination of reserve and friendliness that intrigued me, a love of good music, history and storytelling that drew me in... I never wanted to be apart from him.
The rest of our love story will have to wait for the film or historical novel version perhaps. I wanted to take note that tomorrow, November 27th, 2008, is our 39th wedding anniversary! We were married on November 27th, Thanksgiving Day. This year we will spend our anniversary, not with our children and grandchildren, a custom we always anticipate with much joy from year to year in the past and will in the future as well, with God's blessing. But this year the two of us will give thanks for all our blessings and celebrate our devotion and commitment to each other in the hospital in Macon, GA, where Joe will rest for one more day before beginning a grueling re-hab program after knee replacement surgery two days ago. He will learn to walk and do many other things he has almost lost with terrible arthritic pain for several years. We look forward now, with God's blessings, to him regaining use of his limbs and with that a happier, healthier life.
I know that if I must experience traumatic health experiences in the future, he will be there for me, even as he has been in the past. I sit with him today, not wishing we could be somewhere else, but thankful that God is with us where we are. That's what marriage is about: not just wine and roses, laughter and arguments and kissing and making up--that's a big part of it. Marriage is about the journey together, being two who grow more and more into one flesh--struggling together, celebrating life, weeping over losses, hurting and healing together. Married life is hard sometimes, but it's beautiful, too. I wouldn't want to spend my anniversary doing anything else than being with my husband, looking into his eyes and finding a stronger love than I've ever known.
I love you, Joe. More than ever you are my best friend, my mentor, my lover, my hero. Happy anniversary, honey. Next year, let's dance!