Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Season of Thankfulness - Day 8, Memories

It is interesting that
is today's thankfulness word.
As it happens,
today would have been
Al's 61st birthday
and my mind and heart
are full of memories today.
So, while I have many precious memories,
today, I will focus on those of Al
with tremendous gratitude!

Al and I dated for 5 years.
We met at church.
Church is a very, very good place to meet!
I was barely 13.
He was not quite 15.
He thought I had good legs.
I thought he was huge!

We  didn't connect for about a year.
I was a mere 8th grader,
he was in high school.
And never, never, never
would a high school boy
be the boyfriend to a junior high girl!
It just wasn't done!

But a year later,
I was going into 9th grade.
High school.
And I still had good legs.
And he had gotten even more muscular.
And so, we became a couple.

We were babies!
But babies in love.
And as we grew,
so did our love.

And finally,
on March 20, 1976,
we became Mr. & Mrs.
For six weeks shy of
37 years,
we were Mr. & Mrs.
Then, it was just Mrs.

Book ends.
Extreme joy.
Extreme sorrow.
And so much of each in between!

I remember the first birthday
we celebrated as a couple,
Al's 16th.
He could drive!!!
I'm not sure why that was so exciting to me.
I was still 14
and not allowed to car date
until I was 16.
But I was still excited for him!

I remember his 18th birthday.
He played football
and his team had just beaten
the unbeatable!
"The night they drove old Dixie down...."
What a celebration that was!

I remember his 22nd birthday.
We were expecting our precious baby girl soon.
He was so excited.
And nervous.
Would he be a good father?
He was!
Would he be a good daddy (because they are different!)?
He was!
How would he know what to do when.....
He did!
Would he love her enough?
Oh my, how he loved that little girl -
both of them!!! 
Would his child love and respect him?
Indeed they did and do!

I remember his first birthday
of the empty nest years.
How he missed having his girls
living there!
How he reveled in the 
second honeymoon period
of that empty nest!

I remember his first birthday as
"Big Papa".
How he loved his grandchildren!
And his birthday the year
he had the privilege of 
dedicating his last grandchild to the Lord.

I remember his 55th birthday.
The big one.
The double nickle!
He thought he was old!
For some reason,
he never thought he would live that long.
He was a very diverse man.
Tough and gentle!
His cake reflected that!

I remember his 56th birthday.
A trip to Washington, D.C.,
a lifelong dream for him.
It was before we knew.
What a time we had! 

I remember his 57th.
The great outpouring of love
and affection from his many friends!
The knowing that it would be
the last such celebration.
The mix of joy and sorrow.

I have said this before.
One never stops loving and missing.
I don't love him any less today
than I did on all those birthdays!
I don't understand why God chose
to take him home at only 57.
We are supposed to get
"three score and ten"
(that's 70).
I reminded God of that
a number of times.
But God is sovereign!
He knows what I do not!
What I do know is this:
I have precious memories
of a wonderful man!
I had the privilege of 
living and loving together
and raising children and having grandchildren
with him.
And I remember. 
Yes, I remember.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thirty Days of Thankfulness - Day 2, Home

I've thought about home a lot
over the last several years.
Just after Al's cancer diagnosis
4 1/2 years ago,
we moved out of the house we had shared
for nearly 20 years
into a lovely house in the country where,
six months later,
Al went to our true home in heaven.

It was my house.
I chose the flooring.
I chose the paint.
I furnished it.
I decorated it.
But it was not home.
It was the house I lived in.

Almost 11 months ago,
I moved into another house.
A beautiful house,
lovingly furnished and decorated
by the lady of the house
who made a warm, safe haven
for her family
before she went to our eternal home.
But it is not my home.
It is the house in which I live.

I have looked forward
to finding and moving into "our" house,
Lanny's and mine.
But that place will be
only bricks and mortar
just like the other houses.

So where is home on this earth?
Well, I'll tell you what I have discovered.
Home is not the place you live!

First and foremost,
"home" is in the arms
Of my Savior, Jesus Christ!
In all my life,
every moment,
good or bad,
He has loved and cradled me!

Then, for 37 years,
I was "home" with Al.
No matter what house,
or city,
or state 
in which we lived,
where he was,
was home.
When he wasn't there,
it was only a house.
We loved,
we LIVED together.
Al was home!
When he died,
I became very homesick,

incredibly, completely lost.
I no longer fit.

Then God moved
in a way I could never have imagined!

A year and a half ago,
I received an email,
then another,
then another,
and soon an invitation to meet,
then dinner,
miracle of miracles,
I fell in love.
The icy loneliness began to thaw.
And my Lanny Love
took me into his heart,
I took him into mine,
and our awesome God
brought us both
to the comfort of "home"
once again.

I was talking with a fellow widow
also remarried to a widower this evening.
They were each happily and joyfully married
for many years.
Then the unthinkable.
The grief.
The loneliness.
The longing.
And finally,
the loving again.
And her comment to me
is the first of its kind that I have heard.
And it echoes my own experience.
I thought I was alone in this phenomenon.
I am not!

There is something different,
something special,
something that was not part 
of our first marriages.
It is not deeper love.
We love our first spouses deeply!
It is, 
I think, 
a deeper appreciation of love.
A deeper understanding of what is -
and what isn't -
It is a recognition of a great gift,
this love from sorrow,
this beauty from ashes.
And more than I knew when he was alive,
that thing I have come to fully recognize in his death,
that Al was my "home",
is now common knowledge!
I know now,
not when it is too late,
I know now,
that my Lanny Love
is "home"!

So home is not the place we live.
As long as we are alive on this earth,
home is the people we love
and who love us!
I have been so blessed in my life!
God did not ask me to be homesick
for the remainder my earthly life!
During the darkness,
He provided me with shelter.

I was home in the love and care
of my precious daughters and sons-in-love!
I was home in the protection
my grandson displayed
each Sunday morning in church.

I was home in the teasing
of my other grandson as he gave me
smelly, sweaty hugs after football games.

I was home in the shouts of
by my little granddaughter.

I was home in the calls
and visits
and texts
from my siblings, cousins, uncle, and friends.

It was a different kind of home
than I was accustomed to,
but it was home nonetheless.

God has twice gifted me with "home"
in the arms of a good, loving husband!
And I am more fully aware now
of the precious gift of marriage,
the gift of "home".
I pray daily that
I will never again take it for granted!

So today,
as I prepare to move into "our" house
with my Lanny Love,
I am grateful that
I am only changing living quarters.
I am already "home"!

A wonderful word!