Scott and Lori’s love story

During the summer and fall of 2004, I read the adventures of Scott
and Lori
pretty regularly on their joint blog. I loved reading their
thoughts on marriage beforehand, and I could feel their frustration at being
separated by so much
distance—she lived in Arkansas (U.S.) and he lived in Scotland. I remember
the sense of excitement when Scott traveled to Arkansas for the wedding. I
remember the obvious elation they expressed when they resumed blogging after the honeymoon. I remember,
and personally identify with, Scott’s amazement that such an amazing woman
agreed to marry him. I remember wondering how those two ever managed to meet,
much less fall in love and marry. Which brings us to this series of e-mails:

On Sep 12, 2005, at 1:54 PM, Lori McFarlane wrote:

Hi Curt,

I came across a link I thought you might enjoy reading. Unfortunately
it appears she doesn’t have permalinks set up, and the originator of the
blog is on holiday
(so the author of this post is one of her "blog sitters") but I thought
you might appreciate it anyway. It’s the September 9 entry.


On Sep 17, 2005, at 3:23 PM, Curt Hendley wrote:


Thanks for this link. It was great. I’ve also posted links to the beginning(s)
of your list of 100 reasons you love your husband. Great stuff–keep it up.

been wanting for some time to ask you for a guest post. You may have seen
a few posts on my blog that tell the stories of how married couples
met and
fell in love. I’m intensely curious about you and Scott. How does an Arkansas
meet up with a Scottish man, fall in love, build a relationship from opposite
sides of an ocean, then wind up being happily married? All love stories
are wonderful, but yours has to be unique. Would you consider writing it up
letting me share
it on my blog?


On Sep 18, 2005, at 9:10 AM, Lori McFarlane wrote:

Sure, I’d love to. Today
being my one-year anniversary, I’m in an especially romantical mood. :)


And so it happened that Lori wrote out her love story, which I’m posting below
in its entirety. It looks long, but reads quickly because it’s so interesting
and passionate. Be sure to visit their
as well.

The story from our point of view starts back in 2001, but I believe from God’s POV it must’ve started much earlier than that (like before time). In hindsight, I can see His plan really kick into action about a year before we met. This is where I think I’ll begin the story.

I was a very young Christian- about four months old. For those four incredibly action-packed months, I’d been getting a very disturbing feeling… that I was supposed to be involved in overseas missions. This was severely out of line with my current aspirations to be a writer and editor/publisher. But the feeling could not be shaken, and I understood this to be of God. So, I got in contact with the one organisation I was most familiar with, Teen Missions Int’l, and offered my services as a leader for a team of teenagers. I expressed that I was interested in the Middle East, which is where my heart lay at the time, and said I’d be particularly interested in going to Egypt.

“Actually, the only two teams we need leaders for is Florida and Scotland. Are you interested in going to either of those places?” said the woman on the phone. Confused by what I thought God had been telling me, I told the woman I would have to pray about it and get back to her. I hung up the phone and instantly felt certain I was supposed to go to Scotland. But Scotland, Lord? Why would anyone need to be a missionary to Scotland? (I suppose I believed that heilan coos and bagpipes were enough to save any man from eternal damnation.) But this was no longer just a feeling I was having but a certainty. Not two minutes had passed when I called the woman back up and told her to Scotland I would go.

Fast forward to the the summer. In Scotland, our team’s projects were to coordinate and run a Vacation Bible School (or as the Scots called it, a Kid’s Club) for the kids living in the “schemes” or the projects. The first day we arrived on Oransay Avenue, we were met by hundreds of little devil-children greeting us with up-turned middle fingers and four-letter words that most of us had never even heard before. Our other project was to volunteer at the Haven, a rehab run by Teen Challenge. It was at the Haven when I finally realised why I’d been called to Scotland. Having had my own experiences with dabbling in drugs and having seen many of my closest friends’ lives destroyed by drug use, I immediately loved with all my heart the addicts in this place. I realised that this is the kind of missions I was meant to be involved in.

Simultaneously, I was leading a group of 31 teenagers, each with his or her own experiences and circumstances and struggles with knowing God. Enter Scott.

Of course, it was only Enter Scott for me. Scott had been living his own 17 years prior to my arriving on Scottish soil. At this point, having been at University for a year, he had come to the conclusion that there was no God and had declared himself an atheist. He came around to the church to hang out with “the Americans” with his brother and sister (all of whom attended the church we were working with) and spent practically the entire summer with us. Little did I know that our presence was slowly changing Scott’s mind about God.

Let it be said plainly – I did not like Scott. Let it be said equally plainly – Scott did not like me. For Scott had become involved with one of the girls on my team, and this caused an enormous amount of friction between myself and the girl. One of the most emphatic rules of Teen Missions is “No Pairing Off.” Thus, I was constantly having to separate the two, causing enmity between us all. Scott, to me, was a trouble-maker, and I, to Scott, a Nazi.

Fast forward again, this time two years. Scotland and Teen Challenge continued to be a soft spot in my heart. I kept the Haven in my prayers and tried to get in touch with several TC centres around the mid-South area but no centres contacted me back. Finally, I contacted Wales, where a girls rehab was located and was immediately responded to. It was arranged that I would come visit and help out in Newport, where the actual street ministry took place. Excited about visiting the UK again, I began chatting online with my Scottish acquaintances about visiting Scotland as well. Re-enter Scott.

But of course, it was only Re-enter Scott for me. For he’d been living the last two years his own life. He had changed significantly. Though he still struggled with his faith, he no longer disbelieved in God. He had grown quite a bit over the years, taken an interest in theology and had become anxious to serve God. He, too, turned to Teen Missions, where he signed up to be part of their Missionaries to America team, a group of non-Americans who toured the US as missionaries. Scott and I began talking and started to realise how much we had in common. He expressed his disappointment that he wouldn’t be in Scotland when I came to visit, and I promised to travel to one of the nearby states if he happened to come close by while I was still around.

My arrangements to go to Wales were coming along fantastically. I found a cheap ticket, had places to stay, had the full blessing of my parents (this being my first international trip taken on my own, and me still being only 21). However, though the Powers That Be were continually working in my favour for going, the same Powers were working against Scott’s coming to the US. There were issues with his visa and passport, then issues with his college exam dates. TMI wanted him out there a week or two before his exams were over, and he couldn’t arrange his exams for any earlier. It finally turned out that he wouldn’t be able to go. We were both disappointed, but also a bit excited that we’d get to see each other while I was over. Scott promised to hang out with me while in Scotland and take me around the non-touristy areas.

When he and his brother picked me up at the airport, I was shocked at how different and grown up they both were. They, too, were shocked at how not-black-and-spikey my hair was and, I’d also like to believe, by how much cooler I was. Scott stuck to his promise, and we did lots together. We went to pubs and movies and ate fish and chips by the river. Already people were beginning to see what it would take us about another month to discover for ourselves.

One night, while staying with the Gaults, a family at Scott’s church, Scott made an offensive joke in front of the group that hurt my feelings, and I retired to my bed. Lying in the darkness, I could hear everyone laughing and joking, and I shut my eyes, trying to go to sleep. Behind my eyelids, Scott’s face appeared. He was tossing his long hair back the way he always did, and I opened my eyes. When I shut them again, his face and hair tossing returned. What the crap. Why am I thinking about Scott? I wondered. The next morning we had planned to go to a museum together. He was meant to arrive at the Gaults’ around 10 in the morning. He was half an hour late, but it didn’t matter because I had slept in. I woke up in a panic when I heard his voice in the hall and stressed out big time over the enormous zit that had appeared over night. Unshowered and zit-faced I went with Scott to the museum. Something had changed. There was a thing between us. There was a weirdness. There was a need to impress. We looked at art together and made pretentious comments. I read out an Arabic phrase embroidered in a tapestry. Scott talked of the ancient Egyptians. We were both trying to impress and dually impressed.

Then I was off to Wales. Scott and I emailed every day. If a day went by without an email, we both felt the significance (or assumed significance) of the spurn. We had an unspoken code. If he signed his email with a “Scott x”, I signed with a “love, lori”. If he didn’t, I didn’t. By this time we’d both admitted to ourselves what this all meant but weren’t quite sure if the feeling was reciprocated.

It was harder on me than on him. One of the main things I’d asked prayer for from my friends and family was that I wouldn’t meet a guy who would take my mind off my work for the Lord. I was extremely boy-crazy and had also just been out of a serious relationship. I had decided, and quite happily, too, that I would remain single. I believed that I could do far more for God if I remained single. But I felt that my emotions had betrayed me, and here I was, falling for a guy.

I explained this struggle with a woman from my church, via email. She asked me, “Why did you want us to pray that you wouldn’t meet anyone? Did God lay that specifically on your heart?” The answer? No. Not really. I’d just wanted that prayer for myself. I didn’t think a man is what I needed or wanted, and for all I could see, men only got in the way of what was really important. But she’d stumped me. I felt confused.

Back in Scotland, I stayed with Scott’s family for the remainder of my trip. Things progressed. We held hands on the top of a mountain. We went out on a fancy date. We kissed. I remained confused.

As we ridiculous humans often do, we resorted to actually talking about our situation only at the end. I then explained my confusion to Scott. He was hurt but agreed we would slow things down and see what happened. Little did I know that Scott already had a suspicion that I would one day be his wife.

For the next five months we communicated through email, telephone and letters. We talked about everything, and we began to feel extremely close, despite our distance. I continued to grow spiritually and so did Scott. He arranged to come visit over Christmas. A few times, the stress of the situation and my confused state caused me to nearly break it off, yet each time, while in the moment of passionate frustration, contact with Scott was made impossible until the frustration passed and I no longer felt rash. Confused as I still was, I still at times couldn’t help but see how strangely significant all of this seemed to be. I even sometimes allowed my mind to wonder what a future with Scott would be like.

About two weeks before Scott came out, we each had our own private epiphanies. At my Bible study, I suddenly broke down in tears and told all about the pain and hurt I was still feeling from my last relationship. I told all about my decision to be single and how that decision was based also on my past relationship. The group prayed for me and I went home feeling burdenless for the first time in almost a year. Finally free to see and feel clearly, I realised something so intensely solid that I could hardly put a name to it. It was love. I realised that I loved Scott. I realised that my love for him was nothing like the love I expected it would be like. It was so honest and deep and perfectly normal that I hardly knew what to make of it. Scott, almost to the very same day, experienced the same realisation.

He came to visit. After spending only a day with me, he told me he loved me. We’d talked about the “L” word before and had both admitted we weren’t sure if we felt it. But now we both knew, independently of each other, that we did. I told him I loved him, too. But immediately I knew that wasn’t it. That wasn’t enough. Fresh in my mind was the book Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, and I remembered her saying a man shouldn’t say he loves a woman unless his next words were “Will you marry me?” Not only did I now realise I loved him, I realised I couldn’t live without him. I wanted to marry him.

The next day, while taking a walk outside, I felt moody and quiet. Scott, not knowing what had gotten into me, continued to chat away about whatever he was talking about. Finally, I stopped walking, angry that he didn’t know what was wrong with me. “Scott. Yesterday you said you loved me. But… but… I don’t know what you mean by that!” I blurted. He stopped and looked directly into my eyes. “I said I love you, and I mean that I love you properly.” Still uncertain of his meaning, I began, “But for how long…” Surprised, he responded, “Forever. Lori, I mean I want to marry you.”

My heart burst into a million pieces and I dissolved into a million tears. Poor Scott, thinking he’d said something wrong, hugged me, confusedly. Once I’d regained a modicum of composure I told him I wanted to marry him, too, and thus we considered ourselves engaged. We considered buying a ring right then and there, but Scott decided he’d rather save up for one and get me one that was perfect. For three months we were “unofficially engaged”.

This was the worst three months I’d ever lived through. It was in this same kind of unofficial engagement that my last relationship had ended. But this one did not end. I flew over to visit during Spring Break, where Scott presented me with the most beautifully hand-designed-and-made ring in the world and the sweetest down-on-one-knee-and-jumbled-up-from-being-passionately-overcome proposal any woman has ever received. I went home, not to see my beloved for another seven months.

From March to September we continued to communicate in the same way as before, through email and phone calls and letters. When he flew out in September for the wedding, we’d spent a grand total of only six weeks in each other’s presence. Counting the week prior to the wedding, it amounted to seven. Yet we never worried about this, because we knew each other inside-out. A year of nothing but communication had taught us more about each other than many years of dating ever could. Besides, we could not help but see how masterfully orchestrated by God our whole relationship had been. We didn’t need loud fireworks and writing in the sky to tell us it was meant to be; we needed only look at our love and lives. That spoke it all.

One year of marriage has brought out differences, selfishness, arguments and tears. It’s also brought out laughter, commonalities, spiritual growth, overflowing love, unspeakable joy, spontaneous song and dance, romantic moments and strength. If we had it all to do over again, we wouldn’t change a thing.

“You’re worth the trouble and you’re worth the pain,
you’re worth the worry, I would do the same
if we all went back to another time
I would love you over.” – Belle & Sebastian

Shelley’s love story

After I asked for love story and Where I’m From poetry submissions last
poems from Shelley
(of A Proverbs 31 Woman)
and Paula
(of Listen In),
and Shelley also sent in her love story. I tried to post it last night, but
computer kept freezing. Here it is, though, and it is indeed lovely. Enjoy.

The night Jeff and I met it was raining. No, that is an understatement. It
was a complete downpour.

A lady I worked with had coordinated a happy hour
at a club for all of the women at work and also invited her husband and Jeff.
The plan was to set Jeff
up with a woman named Della. The rest of us were supposed to be there so no
one would feel like it was a set up.

I didn’t want to go, and was not planning
on going until my friend and co-worker, Victoria, wore me down by calling every
hour or so during the day and asking
me if I was going. She had taken the day off work, but was planning on meeting
the office staff at the club. I wilted under the pressure and took off for
the club at 5:00.

Only 6 of the 20 some odd people who were supposed to be
there showed up. And Victoria was one of the ones who didn’t show! Needless
to say I was a little
miffed, but it was RAINING out, so I decided to stay for a little while to
see if it would let up any.

Well, Della and another woman exited soon after
their arrival and that left just my co-worker, her husband, Jeff and me. We
started talking about Seinfeld;
I admitted I watched too much television; and then the DJ played an Elvis song
(I love Elvis). I figured it was a sign to dance so I asked Jeff if he’d dance
with me and he said yes. Actually he didn’t have a choice because I was pulling
him on the dance floor.

I remember thinking that he looked like a gentle soul
and that I enjoyed talking to him.

When I went home that night I had a message
from a friend to call. "Where
have you been?" she asked.

"Meeting my future husband," I replied.

I was right.

How I want to go

Okay, my brain is still a little mushy, but that’s not the only reason my posts
this week have been short and insubstantial. I’m trying to redesign this site
and move to a new content management system. It’s not as easy as I thought it
would be, and it’s taking up more time than I expected. Hopefully, I’ll have
complete the move some time next week. In the mean time, read this
love story
about a couple who were married for 65 years and left behind a
question of whether
death did them part or not.
I got the link from Miss
, who was absolutely right about my loving it.

If you’re prompted for a user name and password, you can get them here from

Love stories

Most of the time on this blog, I write about me, my marriage, and marriage
in general. Sometimes I turn writing duties over to a guest, and sometimes
I publish an e-mail I’ve received. Some of my favorite communications with
readers has been the love stories they’ve shared. I haven’t received any love
stories in quite a while, so today I just want to call attention to them. Here
are a few:

Bill, aka Theognome (who recently
resumed blogging after an extended hiatus), shared his love story in the comment
section of a post. I’m reprinting it here
so that it’s all in one place and not broken up over 12 separate comments,
and to maybe inspire others to write down their love story and send it in.
I love stories like this.

As much as I’d enjoy making the kind of comparison that you have, It would
be quite far from the truth. Here’s how I came to know the Lord:

I was taught
my youth that Christians were stupid, hypocritical, gullible and ignorant.
When I was living in Tucson (a few years before I met Toni) I finally
got tired of these idiotic Christians all trying to ‘witness’ to
me. None of them said the same things about God, and it seemed to me that the
whole lot of them were just lemmings. So, I decided I’d beat them at their
own game. I’d steal me a Bible (I sure wouldn’t pay good money
for one), read it, and then when they came at me with their nonsense babble
I could
slaughter them with the very the book they claimed to believe but probably
never read.

I went to a local hotel first and grabbed a Gideon bible, but the fool thing
was written in the king’s English, and I didn’t want to muddle through
all of the Elizabethan garble. So, I went to a bookstore and found a translation
that was in modern English called a NIV. I wrote a check for it on a bank account
that didn’t exist and then took it home and read it, every word, cover
to cover, twice.

After that, I had to wonder. What I had been told about God and what was in
this book here didn’t agree. Just what were all of these churches out there
doing? Didn’t they use the thing? So, I went on a mission. I decided
to see if there were any churches in my city that actually taught the stuff
was in there.

Mind you, I read the Bible as if it were any other book- that what it contained
was exactly what it meant to portray, nothing more or less. At this point,
I was not a believer. Worse, I was a heathen that knew what was in the Bible.
was the worst nightmare to the Churches of Tucson, AZ.

And it showed. When I went into a goofy church, I would tell them just how
goofy they were according to this here Bible that they, as Christian idiots,
were supposed
to follow. And I would tell them these things very loudly right in the middle
of their services. I was forcibly ejected from five churches for such outbursts,
and barred from even entering two of them that I had not gone to before. I
guess that the word had gotten around.

Finally, I went to a big Southern Baptist church, and which, unknown to me,
was in theological flux i.e. going reformed. I sat down in the front row one
(I always went to the front) and, Bible in hand, waited for the fool preacher
to say something stupid. He didn’t. Through the entire service, I couldn’t
find one thing said that was not in agreement to the Bible. So, after the service,
I went up to the preacher and said, “Listen a**hole, I couldn’t find
anything you said that wasn’t in here (holding up my stolen Bible), but
I’m after you now. I’m gonna be here every Sunday until you screw
up, and then I’ll know that your version of Christianity is just as lame
as everyone else’s.” He replied, “Well, we have a Bible study
on Wednesdays, why don’t you come to those, too?”

So I did. For two months, I never missed a service or a study. I argued, cursed,
accused… oh, I was hell on Scripture. I just knew that there was no way
a church could actually be faithful to the Bible. After all, no one else was,
they were all just a bunch of idiots. Finally, one of the pastors (there were
two) gave a sermon concerning Paul on the road to Damascus. It hit me like
a ton of bricks. That was I—full of the knowledge of the Lord, and yet fighting
tooth and nail against Him. I was undone that day… and made anew.

So, that’s how I came to know the Lord. How I came to know the Purdiest is
a whole different tale…

Like most salesmen, I went through my Amway stage. I was living in Tucson,
AZ in March of ’98 and was told by my upline that I needed to attend
a seminar in Irvine, CA. I had a few folks in my group, and so I and my friend
T.J. drove
the nine or so hours from Tucson to Irvine to attend. I had broken up with
a girlfriend a few months prior, and had decided that I was destined to be
a single
guy whether I liked or not.

We arrived at the Irvine Marriot Hotel Friday morning, and began to attend
the festivities. The meetings lasted all weekend. On Saturday, during lunch
I saw that they had forgotten to lock their piano in the lobby. Now I am quite
addicted to pianos, so I sat down and began to play Beethoven’s Moonlight
Sonata. I played the first movement, which most folks are familiar with, and
then played the second movement.

Now the third movement was beyond my skill, and it still is. So I looked about
before I began to play something else, and I saw this knockout gorgeous woman
standing behind me, listening to me play. So I said, “Hi there.” We
chatted about music for a bit, and she played some Chopin for me, and I then
did likewise. We exchanged voice mail phone numbers, and parted ways, me for
Tucson, and her for Pittsburgh, CA.

I called her voice mail the following Tuesday, and gave her my home phone.
She had a bible study on Wednesday, so we spoke on the phone Thursday. We did
daily for another month, for hours at a time. Finally, in April, I flew up
to Pittsburgh CA (it’s in the Bay area near Oakland) for a long weekend.
After three days, I knew for a fact that I could not go on without this woman,
so as we were on the way to the airport to put me back on the plane home, I
asked her to marry me. She said yes, and we were married in her church six
months later.

Sorry for the length of the response, but these two subjects, the Lord and
my wife, are my absolute favorite.

An ancestral love story

I wrote yesterday a little about my grandparents’
advice for keeping a marriage
over half a century. They also told me their love story, something I
don’t think I’d ever heard before.

When my grandmother (I call her Nana—pronounced NAH-nuh) was a very young
woman, she was engaged to be married to a young man who died in a hunting accident
before they married. She lived with her parents at the time, but their house
was some distance away from the nearest town, making the commute to her job
at the county clerk’s office quite difficult. Her parents inquired of friends
whether a place existed in town
where she might lodge. They finally found a place run by a kind elderly lady
rented rooms and provided two meals a day. When Nana moved into the house,
the lady said, "You should meet my grandson. I think you’d like him." Still
recovering from the death of her fiance, Nana declined and went about her

The woman’s grandson (my grandfather) had recently returned home from Europe,
where he served in the U.S. Army during WWII. He was living in a hotel near
his grandmother’s
house and working for an electric company. The company paid the rent for several
of their employees who lived in the hotel. One day he told his buddies he needed
to go visit his grandmother. On his visit, he met my Nana and immediately asked
her out to a movie. She accepted. Neither of them owned a car, so they walked
together to the movie theater on a route that took them past the hotel where
he lived. Later that evening his friends asked him if he had any more "grandmothers,"
because they sure liked the look of the one he was walking with.

Anyway, he immediately
became smitten with her and asked her out again for the next evening.
She accepted
again. They met and went out on 13 of the next 14 days. On the 14th day,
she had a date with another young man. After that, though, she didn’t date
anyone else. They met, became engaged, and married in the months between Nana’s
March birthday and Thanksgiving. That’s a whirlwind courtship
in my book, but you can’t argue
with 57 years of love that has only grown stronger.

How long has it been?

by Steve Switzer

18 years, 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, 12 hours and 34 minutes…but who’s

Many a man (including yours truly) has found himself at an uncomfortable
loss for words when confronted with this familiar question, "So, how long
have you been married?" The crowd grows silent, the sound of crickets
heard, all eyes are suddenly turned on him (especially the glaring eyes of
his beloved). After a brief pause that seems to last forever, he responds
cleverly with, "Not nearly long enough!" or "It seems like it
was only
yesterday!" — Of course, the other infamous question involves the actual
date of the blessed event, but that’s another story.

It is somewhat of a mystery
why many men can remember the box scores of
their favorite sports team since childhood, but they seem to draw a blank when
it comes to remembering how long they’ve been married to "the woman of
their dreams." But even if the date does escape me, I know that I could
never forget the moments we’ve shared in "18 plus" years of marriage.
So far, I
can remember times when we laughed so hard that it hurt. There have been
times when I, the strong he-man, cried uncontrollably in the loving arms of
my best friend. When I stop and think about it, there has literally never
been a dull moment in our marriage journey, and we’re really just getting

I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist, David, "Teach us to
number our
days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) I think he is
basically saying, "life is brief, and full of wonderful opportunities,
cherish each and every day you have." I also see this applying to the
of my life that I am sharing with my special friend and wife, Shelley. I
believe that the better part of the last nineteen years of my life has been "a
Gift within a Gift." So, every once in a while I stop and "number
days—cherish the days" of my marriage. Just as in life there are
good days and bad days, in this relationship, there are definitely ups and
But every time I honestly consider the precious gift from God in the person
of my wife, I gain a bit more wisdom. I have come to realize and agree
completely with the words of Solomon in Proverbs, "He who finds a wife
what is good and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22)

It is hard to believe sometimes that we’ve been married almost nineteen
years. It really does seem just like yesterday that it all began. While at
the same time, I feel like we’ve been married forever. It is hard to
remember a time without her. I cherish the days, each and every one of
them, as the gift that they are from God.

So, who’s counting the days? I guess I am. There have been 6,720
of them, and I’m still counting—numbering—cherishing each and every one
of them.

the way, the date was December 28th. Honestly, some things you just
never forget!

Larry’s love story

Last week I shared Rey’s
love story
. After my request to hear others, I received
the following from Larry Lovering.

It began when I was twelve, living in Colorado Springs. I was a scrawny
and brainy kid, two deadly attributes in the company of cretins with less intelligence
than a bucket of Jell-O. I took refuge often with the youth group at First
Methodist Church, a very large church in the Springs. They had a heart
for God, and their youth programs were well attended. I was in Boy Scouts
at that church as well.

One Sunday night, there was a youth service in the gym, and communion was served,
potato chips and coca-cola serving as host substitutes. I thought a lot
about God and how Jesus lived and died; and that night I gave my life to him. Two
months later I was on a plane bound back to Massachusetts as another of my father’s
marriages was crumbling. It was his third.

The ensuing years put me in different churches but not for sanctification, but
for a place to go. The Congregational churches of New England are watered-down
ghosts of their Puritan beginnings. I didn’t feel like I was backsliding,
in fact I didn’t really know what that was. But I felt safe there, knowing
that God was watching.

High school, and I finally faced up to the demons that dogged me by punching
one in the nose after school. I never had a problem with bullies again. And
I kept on being a good kid in the face of everything that peer groups can throw. I
graduated, went to college briefly, then to work.

At 22, I found a Baptist church near where I lived and began attending, full
time now. I began to see what God’s plans were for me, and that he was
with me all those years. Well, I didn’t really realize that until, well,
that comes later in the story. As I sat in a singles class for Sunday School,
I was introduced to a list-making help to discern a mate. I wasn’t too
interested in being married at that time, but I thought carefully about my list
and resolved not to become unequally-yoked. I worked, went to church, worked
again until I was 25.

I met Joann in one of my stores. She was playing a record in the stereo
department, a record that I heard from across the store. It wasn’t an ordinary
song, though. It was Stravinsky’s Firebird, played with electronic instruments. There
was a style to the performance I recognized, and I thought that my friend Billy
and me were the only ones in the Western World who had Isao Tomita’s records. I
asked Joann whose record it was, and it was hers. Now there were
three that knew Tomita.

She was very attractive, and I decided to ask her out before I left for the day.
She gave me her number, and for the next three weeks I dialed that number,
no response. Finally, I did get through, and we set up our first date for
September 6, 1980. We spent that day until almost midnight in Boston, and
it was very close to the end of the date when I found out she was a believer,
which made my heart jump. I was respectful, always, and kissed her on the
cheek leaving her that night, with a promise that I’d call her back. I
did, the next day, and the next day, and the next…

Our second date was at a church picnic, her church, but we wandered away for
most of the time and talked. Our third date was dinner at my house, and
I prepared a home made Italian feast, a specialty of mine. To set the stage
for this, I thought she was French, ok? Well, she comes up the stairs and
says, "You have a nerve, cooking Italian for an Italian." Fortunately
she liked my cooking, a lot.

Six weeks later, I proposed to Joann, and she accepted. Five months later
we married, on her birthday. And for twenty years, our marriage was one
with the Lord, a storybook almost every day, and when the day wasn’t so, the
night was. We couldn’t have children, so we adopted an infant boy
ten years after we married. And though our relationship got a little rocky
at times, God was still at the head and in control. Even when we found
out she had ovarian cancer.

The world didn’t stop then, only slowed down a lot. I went with Joann to
each of her chemo sessions, and stayed with her every night in her hospital room. We
hoped and prayed for a miracle. She lived for four and a half years after
that, and for most of those years we traveled and made the most of our lives. She
died, at home, in August 2001.

Joann’s testimony lived on, spreading her Gospel message about trust and hope,
and peace in Him through our web site. It is amazing to me, but two people
that I know of, came to know the Lord as their Savior after reading the web site. And
my life, cut apart as it was, is slowly regaining life because of God and His
promises to me. We knew after our first date that we would be together,
and many years later, after she died, I found her list, the one she used to see
if I met her "standards." Number 3 on the list was, "would
like to cook for me once in a while." I did, for almost two years
after we were married, as she arrived home later than I did from work. But
of course, that isn’t the reason our marriage was so successful. It was
God being the head of our marriage.

After reading Larry’s story, I downloaded Isao
‘s rendition of The Pachelbel
Canon from the iTunes Music Store (which introduced me to a fascinating artist
and also taught me the proper spelling of Pachelbel). Larry recommends
the album Snowflakes
Are Dancing
(featuring the music of DeBussy) for newcomers to his music. Larry
runs the Web site,
where he offers information on a variety of fascinating topics and also publishes
a blog
At the site, you can also read about Joann’s
ordeal with cancer
(in her own words) and how she handled it
through faith
the loving support of her husband.

Please continue sending me love stories. I love to read them, and I love sharing them even more.

A friend’s love story

I think my favorite kind of story is a true-to-life love story. Movie love stories tend to just make me mad. Hollywood doesn’t seem to understand how real people experience love, affection, commitment, and sacrifice. But I love to hear a real person tell how he came to know and love God or how he met and married the love of his life. Bill (a.k.a. Theognome) shared both of his love stories in the comments section of Tuesday’s post. It’s wonderful. Go read it. (My comments have a limit on how long a single comment can be, so he had to break up his story over eight entries. My apologies.)

My favorite kind of love story is one in which a person’s heavenly and earthly love stories are bound up in one another. Rey (the driving force behind The Bible Archive) recently shared his with me, and gave me permission to share it with everyone. Here it is.

Letting go is hard.

I was eight when I saw the Exorcist. It made hell evident to me. At a prayer meeting, one of the brothers preached the gospel and it made sense: It was a way for me not to go to hell.

Then saved, I lived my life without making God my ruler. My focus was on doing what I wanted. I was saved, but my life was mine. I realize in retrospect that even when I prayed, I prayed selfishly. My prayers were about saving me from danger and for girls to like me. Thank God that He is merciful, and even in such prayers He listens, although He may say “wait.”

After some time, I wound up going to a Christian conference in Connecticut where the preacher connected the Word in ways which boggled my green mind. I knew I was saved and I knew I wasn’t dedicated. I spiritually bent down then and dedicated my life to Him. I went home and read the Bible in its entirety. I prayed, got baptized.

I backslid.

High school was filled with a constant struggle of fighting the Old Man in my spirit. I came to an understanding of Paul’s words: Those things I don’t want to do…those things I do! Doubt crept into my life and for a time I wanted to die. I thought the answer to “Who will deliver me from this body of death!” might’ve been myself.

It was one night at the edge of my bed that I broke down before God and realized that I thought I could be a believer without heavenly help. Somehow, I missed the point of being saved in the spirit. While studying the book of Galatians I fell in love with the thought that “I am crucified with Christ and yet I live, but it is not I but Christ who lives within me.”

I cried.

God is the one who justifies and he has declared me just in the cross of Christ. He will deliver me from this body of death. It had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Him.

Letting go is difficult. Even now I still hold on to aspects of my life and it pains me.

During my junior year of college I went on trip with my church to a camp where the Word was taught and preached in a way I had never known. Vibrant, pulsating, and powerful, it gave me a taste akin to that of small group studies and private time, but magnified. The people there were saturated in the scriptures, and the singing of hymns sounded like the heaven opened.

Jokingly, I threw my arms around a few girls asking them to go play volleyball. One of the girls was really cute but I had decided that I wasn’t going to be doing any chasing anymore. Plus this cute girl just kept reiterating her boyfriend’s name. These girls told me about working in the camp during the summer and about how washing the pots was fun.

I’ve done my share of pot-washing in another camp and I never heard it described as fun. I hated it and I hated how the camp managers would yell at us saying that “You’re working for the Lord! Is THIS how you work unto the Lord?”

I acquiesced that I would try to stay for the summer but I also warned that my parents were strict and that I haven’t gone to camp for more than two weeks since I was 14 because I had to work in the factory where my father worked. They told me that this camp pays, and though very low, it’s better than nothing.

I asked my parents and surprisingly enough, they said yes and drove me down a week later.

Away from the city, the noise, and my siblings, I studied. Man, how I studied. I loved it. I could read the Bible in the morning, run over to the kitchen to work, run over to the morning message, have a little free time and then get back to the Bible. All of this was interspersed with hanging out with those girls and some good guys I met there. I carried with me a black guitar re-made by some awesome college friends of mine. I called it the True-Dee after the people who handed it over to me.

Pot-washing WAS fun. It’s where I learned to sing while I work.

Those friends are still dear to me. I wrote letters to them all, and this continues even today. At the end of that summer, those dear friends purchased a guitar and gave it to me as a gift. I named it Summer.

For it was that summer that the love for my God grew. It was that summer that a young woman became a close friend, and years later wound up marrying me on those very same camp-grounds in August of 1999.

Laura, the cute girl who I played volleyball with, who convinced me to stay at the camp, has been my greatest help since our summertime conversations on everything from the stars to work in the church. In our relationship, love came softly, entering into marriage as a natural progression. It felt completely comfortable. We’ve been married going on five years, have a child and we can still laugh like idiots at two a.m. about something or other.

God answers prayers in amazing ways, and in my case, usually after letting go.

By the way, if anyone wants to share their own love story, please e-mail it to me. Like I said, it’s my favorite kind of story.

Falling in love

A commenter on ireneQ’s site recently posed this question:

How did you fall in love with God? In an instant, or through ongoing exposure and getting to know him better? Or, because of fear of the consequences of not loving him?

I’m taking the question completely out of the context in which it was offered, but the thoughts it provoked in my mind surprised me. As I pondered the question, I realized that I fell in love with God in much the same manner that I fell in love with my wife.

I have gone to church my entire life. I met and accepted God at the age of five. I was truly pumped about my new life for a while, then the excitement died down and I didn’t pay much attention to God. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I learned quite a bit about God, but I didn’t really get to know Him in a personal way. At the age of 14, I attended a youth event (known locally as Disciple Now Weekend) that consisted of groups of teenagers congregating at a house and going through two days of intensive Bible study led by a seminary student. Something clicked in my mind and heart that weekend, and I finally understood everything I had been learning about God. I finally, truly understood (at least as far as I was capable of understanding) who God is, why He loves me, and why I owe Him my life. It took me nine years of knowing about Him to suddenly fall in love with Him.

I met my wife at the age of 22, in the summer of 1994. I immediately liked her friends and felt more or less neutral about her. She felt fairly neutral about me as well (actually, she thought I was a “dud,” though a harmless one). She tolerated my presence because her friends liked me. When the fall came, her friends returned to their universities in other states, leaving her and me alone with the other 50,000 students at The University of Texas. Stuck with each other, we started spending time together and eventually became best friends. I developed attitudes of friendship, loyalty, affection, protection, encouragement, and intimacy toward her.

I don’t remember the exact moment, but an exact moment did occur early in 1997 when I suddenly realized that I loved her as a husband should love a wife. It took a little over two years of steady emotional development for me to reach that lightning-bolt epiphany.

I had two life-changing experiences that built up for years before exploding, and both explosions continue to resonate through all areas of my life. Thank God.