Any other way

Today’s post is written by Jessica Nicol, a former student of mine, who has truly had her fair share of traumatic experiences this semester. In the midst of them, she has managed to maintain her composure and serenity to the best of her ability, and I think she’s become a stronger person as a result. I’ve always heard that the situations and problems we face in life either make us better or bitter–the choice is ours. Thankfully, Jessica seems to be making the better choice.

February 12th, 2015:

“But you’re not. You’re not selfish, you hit the nail on the head, you’re human. Plus, your life is way more put together than mine. At least you have a job. At least you know what you want to do with your life. I don’t have a clue. My goals in life right now are 1) Not die and 2) Love Jessica with all that I have.”

“I love you.”

February 13th, 2015:

“I didn’t see Taken 3 playing at this theater online.”

“Checked Searcy, too, and not playing there either.”

“Are you ever going to answer me? We have plans tonight. You do remember, right? :/”

About this time, I got a call from my boyfriend’s mom asking me what I was doing and if someone was there with me that she could talk to. I knew in that moment that something was terribly wrong. You see, my parents and his parents have not yet met; yes I know, we have been dating over a year now, and our parents haven’t met. Anyway, I knew when she wanted to speak to one of them that something had happened. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched my mother’s facial expressions change with every word that his mother had uttered. “Mom, Mom, what’s wrong?” As she hung up my cellphone, she told me that Nick had been in an accident and that he was medflighted to UAMS and was in surgery as we spoke. I felt nothing just completely and utterly numb. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t move. I could do nothing. I just stared into space. At one point my mom told me I could cry, but I really couldn’t.

The night before, I had been upset with him because he hadn’t told me that he was going to be in South Carolina helping his sister move for five days and that he was leaving that Sunday. I had only learned that night, and I yelled at him and asked him if he’d forgotten to tell me something. He was almost in tears. He tried to apologize and said he had forgotten. Of course, I didn’t understand because how can someone forget to tell their girlfriend that they were going to be 12 hours away for a week? Was he going to just up and leave and I was supposed to find out after he left? We had plans the thirteenth to go to dinner and see a movie because we didn’t get to have date nights often since I had taken a full-time key holder position at work. I missed being able to see him when I wanted to. Of course, plans changed.

Once I learned of this news, I was scared. We didn’t know his condition or whether he was going to make it through. All I wanted was for him to live. Before the accident, I had not been completely certain of this relationship. I had loved him, but I was reluctant to give it my all. I had a lot of pain in my younger years of living, especially with men, and I just wasn’t completely trusting. When I heard he was in critical condition, all of that washed away. I wanted to be able to feel the touch of his hand on my face again and hear him tell me he loved me again. Everything was all a blur. I had finally known that this relationship was the one I wanted to be in for the rest of my life. He may have been struggling to find a job and get his life together, but that was only temporary. That was not going to be forever. How dare I let someone who loves me so much and would never hurt me for anything go? How could I even want someone else to have my happy ending?

On Valentine’s Day, I was able to go to UAMS and spend some time with Nick. I was given orders the day of the accident to stay home until his parents knew if he was going to be okay or not. I understood that they were trying to protect me. I was so relieved to arrive at the hospital and walk into that hospital room and see Nick again. I sucked in my tears and tried to be strong for him. I knew he was in an enormous amount of pain because of all of the injuries he had sustained in the collision. I won’t go into all of his injuries, but the one that is the most pressing right now is his hip. His right hip was shattered in the accident and had to be put back together. Because of this, his sciatic nerve was bruised. That nerve and his hip are healing well, but he feels flares of pain in his toes, and his hip hurts often. I hate to see him hurting as much as he is. Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes involuntarily.

I’ve been so afraid that he is going to become tired of me or not want to be in a relationship with me anymore that it’s unreal. I’m sick of feeling insecure all of the time, but it’s always been a problem for me. I do know that Nick wants nothing more than for me to be happy, and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with him. I have sat next to him nearly every day since he has been home from the hospital and taken care of him as best I can. His parents leave me with him sometimes when they need to go out for church or something. It’s nice to feel like I’m needed and useful. In some way I’m thankful for this incident because it has made us closer and stronger. It’s hard, yes, but I think it was God’s way of giving me a wake up call. I was told that if I had been with him that morning, I would have been killed. So, in a way, both of our lives were spared. I guess that means we both have awesome things that are going to happen in our lives. I hope one of those things is for us to be together. I’m so happy we found each other. I wouldn’t have my life any other way.

Thankful for everyday love

Today’s guest contributor is my childhood friend, Leslie Ferguson Thomas, who is on a fearless journey to become who she wants to be. Be sure to check out Leslie’s blog!

My husband always refers to us as two puzzle pieces, and when we met, he says, “The world could hear the click”.

I grew up dreaming about what it would be like to fall in love. I imagined it just like the movies.  I grew up watching Dirty Dancing, Lifetime movies, and Grease. In my mind I fell in love a million times. Each time was different and special, but the girl in the image never looked like me. She always had the perfect figure, perfect hair, and pretty much perfect everything. So each year I would start a new diet and live in my fantasy land. I was always waiting for me to be perfect, so I could meet the perfect guy.

Photo by Say Cheese Photography

Photo by Say Cheese Photography

I met Josh, my husband, through an online dating site called Plenty of Fish. I was 29, and he was 32.  I had gone through a breakup about a year prior that really shook me up.  I had seen myself continue to stay in a horribly one sided relationship because I thought this guy was a great guy simply because he wanted to be with me even though I was overweight. I drove way too many miles each weekend, spent money I didn’t have, left a job I liked, and gave up who I was for someone else. After that relationship ended, I promised myself I would never do that again. So when I met Josh, I was very guarded.

Josh was nothing like any of the guys I had dated before. I remember one night in particular, it was storming outside, and I didn’t have any minutes on my phone. I had planned to go visit him, but he insisted that I stay home. He didn’t want me to get out in the weather. After being with guys who didn’t even consider me, I assumed he really didn’t like me. I soon learned that was far from the truth. Day after day, conversation after conversation, we became closer and closer. I never worried about my weight around him, what I wore, or what I said. I was totally myself with him. He told me he felt the same.

In March 2010, Josh asked me to marry him. It was a day I will never forget. Seven months later we said, “I do”!

LeslieandJoshweddingIt was the most magical ceremony. Josh has never once asked me to change anything about myself, but the funny thing is that being with my husband makes me want to be a better person. I am getting healthier. I am going after my dreams. I am letting go of hurt, and loving deeply. But what I have learned is that Josh is romantic in his own sweet way. Sometimes he will hear me singing a song, and the next thing I know he has gotten me the song. Sometimes I will think he is not listening to what I am saying, and then a week later he will bring it back up.

 

Day 27: Dear heaven-sent lady

*Thank you, Cecilia Baker, for sharing your love story with us on Day 27 of the Dear Gratitude project.*

Cecilia Baker weddingI wish I could thank the lady who decided to do her laundry one Friday night.  She was my fairy godmother.  She appeared one night, and I guess I will never know her until I get to heaven.

The thing is she was not too busy to speak to a young man who had recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to take a new job after having been in the Army for two years. He was doing his laundry as well in the apartment laundromat. She struck up a conversation and said, “What is a young man like you doing his laundry on a Friday night?  You should be out with your friends having a good time.”

He must have told her that he was new in town and didn’t know anyone yet. She just “happened” to go to Belmont Heights Baptist Church and decided to tell him they had a Single Young Adult department that had around 50 young professionals his age and that he might like to visit the class. Being shy, he probably wouldn’t have gone to the class without more encouragement.

It didn’t end there because she remembered his name, John Baker, and told the director of the Singles class and must have also told him the apartment number. A few weeks later John had a knock on his door, and the director, Joe Haynes, and a young man from the class were paying him a visit.

Maybe you have participated in an outreach from your church before and visited newcomers to your town or visitors to your church.  Don’t ever think it’s just a minor thing to do. It can change someone’s life.  These two fellows introduced themselves and told him about the class and gave him directions and the times of services, and one Sunday when he was not going back to his home in Memphis, he decided to visit.

He walked in the door of our class which was in a house adjacent to the church. I saw him right away and really didn’t get to meet him personally that day.  I was disappointed when they put him in a different small group from mine.

He started coming when he was in town, and I did meet him later. The whole Singles department was planning a weekend retreat, and the week before the retreat, I summoned up my courage and asked him if he wanted to sign up to go on the retreat.  He said he was thinking about it.  I told him it was the last chance to sign up today, and he said he would like to go if I would ride with him!  Of course I said yes.  Cecilia Baker's wedding

He and I began dating after that, and the rest is history!  I am so thankful for the mystery lady who I now think was heaven-sent to encourage a young man to go to church, my husband, Johnny Baker.

Day 24: Dear Ricco

*Day 24 in the Dear Gratitude project is written by my friend and former fellow board member, Latresha Woodruff. I’m thankful Latresha was willing to fill in for another writer and still submit today’s post for the project, too.*

RICCO

Latresha and husband 2I want you to know I think you are the most awesome husband anyone could have.  The day I met you my life changed for the better.

You are all I could ever want in a husband; you love the Lord, you’re caring, you’re a good father, you’re a good person, you take care of me (sometimes better than I take care of myself) and you would go to the ends of the earth for me.

I have fond memories of WXVT because doing that job (even though they worked my fingers and nerves to the bone) led me to you one sunny day down by the casino on Lake Ferguson.  That day propelled me into the happiest time of my life.  We’ve had nine wonderful years together, and I pray GOD blesses us with at least 109 more.

When I have a bad day I know that when I get home you will be there to comfort me and let me know things will be alright. Wherever you go, I will follow because you are the best part of me.  You make me a better person.    Latresha and husband

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. YOU’RE MY WORLD.

YOUR WIFE,

LATRESHA

Day 23: Dear Stick

*Today’s post on day 23 of the Dear Gratitude project is written by Toi Thomas, a talented writer and fellow blogger.*

Dear Stick,

Hey man, we been friends a long time, and I just wanted to let you know that I’m glad. I mean, I’m glad that I’ve had a chance to be your friend. When I look back and think about how rocky things started out for us, it makes me laugh, but hey, you were there; you know what I’m talk’n bout.

For more than ten years now we’ve been hanging out and talk’n bout movies, especially the weird ones that none of our other friends or family seem to like or get. We been talk’n bout comic books and action figures, which seems to only become cool recently thanks to The Big Bang Theory, but we were already cool long before that. And now, even our days of vinyl hunting don’t seem so magical now that “Vinyl is back with a vengeances,” but it hasn’t stopped us from growing our collection anyway.

What else can I say man; it’s been really cool having you around for all these years. I hope to continue hanging out with you for many more.

Dear Eric,

Toi and husbandIt’s been so long since I’ve taken the time to let you know how blessed I am to have met you. I remember how much I used to be so annoyed by you and all your “cool” friends, but then one day… you were mine. I know how it happened, I was there, but it still seems so unbelievably amazing to me.

From the beginning, you have showered me with: food, laughter, culture, affection, attention, understanding, acceptance, and most of all, love. You see beauty in me when I don’t see it in myself, and you make others view me the way you do. I could be happy to sit alone with you in a room for days, but you won’t let me. You give me strength to go out into the world and interact with people. You make me look and feel good in so many ways. It’s the way you build me up and make others take notice of me when they normally wouldn’t; thank you for that.

Thank you for being with me through those years of maturing. I’ve shared so much with you, so much more than I ever have or will with anyone else. Mind, body, and soul, I am a strong and fulfilled woman for so many reasons, but one of the major ones is you. Everything I know about intimacy, respect in a relationship, and how to really “be” with someone, I’ve learned from loving you.

Every morning when I wake up, I’m glad to see your face, and every day when I come home, I look forward to your kiss. I hope this never ends. I hope to wake up next to you until the end of time.

Mr. Thomas,

If gratitude could be measured, or perhaps weighed, you’d find yourself only yards from Heaven and showered in gold. For everything you do for me I’d give you a gold coin, and for every sacrifice you make for me, you’d be catapulted that much closer Eternal Peace.

But let’s be practical about this, Mr. Thomas. One cannot do these things, but one can proclaim, acknowledge, and praise where praise is due. You turned your life over and accepted the mantle of husband, and a man of God, and far exceeded my expectations. You are not perfect, but:

You always take out the trash and attend to the yard when it’s needed.

You’re not a slob, and even if you were, you’d feel bad about it.

You actually look forward to spending time with me and talking with me.

You like to share life and daily experiences with me, from all those times you and I can’t be together.

You help out around the house, especially with laundry.

You take care of all the car stuff between you and me.

You actually know me well enough to pick things out for me because I don’t like to shop, and you will even go out and get things for me.

You like me just the way I am even if I’m not the prettiest girl in the room, and you’re always trying to protect me because you think some weirdo is staring at me ( Sometimes I think you’re right).

You take care of me through all my ailments, and though it’s so much more than you had imagined, you show care and nurturing effortlessly.

You know how to make me smile when I get sad for no reason, and you stick with me through all my dark spells.

You believe in my dreams, even though you don’t always know how to say so.

You work two jobs to help make our lives together more comfortable while I pursue my dreams.

You are not a demanding and needy man, unless you fall ill, but who isn’t then?

While you love and enjoy spending time with your friends, you honestly proclaim that I am your best friend.

Mr. Thomas, you have proven yourself above and beyond to be a good husband. Your methods put forth to show me love and affection have been so catered to my needs and desires, that it seems you could not have been made to love anyone else. I do not believe there is an exact or accurate way to properly express the amount a gratitude I have for you.

I am truly a blessed woman.

Eric “Stick” Thomas, I love you dearly and am eternally grateful to have you in my life.

Your adoring friend, lover, and wife,

Toinette “Toi” Thomas

 

 

Day 19–Love is a drug

Henry with his love, Shannon

Henry with his love, Shannon

*A big thank you to Henry Petty for stepping in today as the guest writer for the “28 days of love” project. Henry is one of the most loving people I know; so grateful to call him a friend! Check out his blog.*

Love is a drug – it’s euphoric, and I give and receive lots of it.

I’m grateful for those who love me because without love, there would be no reason to live.

I’m grateful that love is free of charge.  You can’t buy love.  I can’t pay my doctors to love me; they’re only there to help me and because I pay them for their time.  I can’t pay my physical therapist to love me. Although the massages are amazing, there are no hugs or endearing soulful connections.  While it feels great at the time, and is quite physically helpful, when I walk out that door, that is it.

Arguably, chocolate is about as close as one can get to buying that euphoric feeling of love, but even then it falls short of opening those floodgates to allow the love to pour in and nearly drown me.

My grandma raised me, and she is a person who gave me unconditional love.  She loved me no matter what I did or what interests I had – I was and always will be “Grandma’s peter punk”  (I still don’t know where that name came from). It was an overwhelming feeling, a lot of times taken for granted, to be unconditionally loved by someone.  I was always in good hands, and I always reciprocated that love.  I’ve encountered other people in my life that came very very close to that unconditional love, but there’s something about Grandma that is unexplained.  Not to knock anyone I’ve known since then, as I am also grateful for their love.

I’ve given love to many and received love from many – neither costing a penny.  I’m always awkward when talking business with friends, because I don’t want love to override a good deal or for them to feel I’m taking advantage of their friendship.

A friend once gave me a “get well card” and wrote “your Grandma’s love is powerful, but not touching the surface of the love of God. “  I have experienced overwhelming love while in deep prayer, and it has brought me to tears.

While I am a frugal person – love is always something that has been free of charge and thus readily available to me.  The feeling of knowing that I am good enough to be loved and to give love to others is completely awesome.

And it doesn’t cost a penny.

Day 18–True love

*Big thanks to Betty Gail Jones for sharing her parents’ true love story with us today on Day 18 of our 28 days of love project. She’s living out her own true love story today with her husband, Mickey, and their love is inspirational to all of us who know them.*

The war was in full swing – I mean the big one, World War II.  Clif was stuck on the family farm and spent most days dreaming of just leaving it.  He had graduated from high school at 16 and spent a hard winter in the CCC camp at Blanchard Springs.  There was no money for furthering his education, and being the youngest, he was needed at home.

Some local folks knew the young people were restless so they would throw get togethers on occasion at their homes.  They would push back the furniture and crank up the phonograph and have a dance.  Clif didn’t really like to dance, but he was desperate for the faces of the other local youth who were in his same predicament.

Clif and Jane

Clif and Jane

He was greeted at the front door by Violet, a pretty dark headed gal whom he had known in school.  She smiled and welcomed him.  He really wanted to command her attention, but she was quickly swept to the dance floor by one of the gents who had come from Peace Valley.  He looked around to see who else might be there.  Quickly his eye was drawn to a tall, thin, dark haired girl who seemed to be surrounded by some other girls with whom he was also familiar.  They were locally known as the Knothole Gang.  He decided to put on his best smile and join them.

He found out that the beauty upon whom he had gazed was actually Violet’s little sister, Jane.  She looked up at him with snapping green eyes and quipped, “Well, if it isn’t little Cliffy”.  Though not impressed with her jab, he was intrigued by her spirit and really liked the way she looked in her red dress as she engaged him face to face.

One thing led to another and soon he realized that joining the Navy would be his way off of the farm and a ticket to an education afterward.  He signed up without a thought.  As many of the sailors did, he gave a last stab at romance.  He loved himself and Jane suited him just fine.  With this realization, he popped the question, “Will you marry me?”

Just about as quickly, she answered with a definitive and quick, “No.  I’m too young to be a widow and you might…well, not come back.”  She was immovable on her answer, and he was mad.  So they parted – he going to the South Pacific on a submarine, and she going to Austin, Texas with a cousin to work.

He found many girls willing to follow and befriend lonely sailors. He would have his picture made with them and send them home.  He enjoyed the female company and would hang out with other sailors and their girlfriends, but still, his heart was in Austin, Texas, and he knew that wouldn’t change.

His submarine pulled into the bombed out Pearl Harbor following the catastrophe there and he quickly made up his mind.  He found a store on the Islands that sold diamonds and liked to take the US sailors’ money.  He purchased the prettiest one he could afford and put it in the mail.

Back in the US, Jane was living it up.  She was working in an egg candling factory and then found a job as a waitress.  She had a lot of time to think about her sailor sweetheart and how things had ended badly.  Mail call was announced at her cousin’s house as he produced a small package – a box.  She could see that it had been mailed from Hawaii and couldn’t get it open fast enough.  Reflections of the diamond facets danced in her green eyes.  He truly did love her, and now that she had had time to miss him, she knew she loved him, too.

The war was over, and as Clif stepped on the banks of the US, his spirits were high.  He had come home to claim his bride and to finally attend college to be an engineer – his hopes and dreams were coming true.  Jane waited anxiously for his train to pull into the sleepy little Arkansas town with her soldier and future husband aboard.

They did, indeed, marry and had four children, of whom I am one.  It is with a grateful heart that I tell this story of love and romance.  They have been a model for me and my siblings to follow – each of whom married and have lived life with our best friends and sweethearts totaling 147 years of happy marriages.   They were happily married for 66 years.  Clif has once again sailed away to a distant land and so now they are apart once more – but not for long.  This time he will be waiting for his lovely green eyed girl from Heaven’s shore.  Perhaps she will arrive in a pretty red dress, who knows… and they will never have to be apart again.