Second chance love

Special thanks to my former professor and friend, Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, for sharing this beautiful piece on gratitude, friendship, and love with us today.

At the beginning of 2014, Bethany wrote a beautiful essay identifying still as her word for the new year. When Bethany invited other people to identify their words for 2014, I had a difficult time narrowing mine down to a single choice.

Teresa and Leisa in Carmel the summer after college

Teresa and Leisa in Carmel the summer after college

Finally, I selected friendship. During the course of my life, I have been fortunate to have wonderful friends.  One of those friends is a California girl named Leisa who was my college roommate.  From the day we met, we became friends and have remained friends over the years.  Shortly after Leisa married her high school sweetheart Scott in 2006, I wrote an essay for her titled “Boomerang Hearts” about her wedding and a long-ago memory I had of her relationship with Scott.  This post is an extension of that essay.

Friendship is a gift that yields many happy returns, and I am grateful to call Leisa my friend.

 

Two Valentine Memories

By Teresa Burns Murphy

 

Bethany's Blog, See's Candy Display (2) It happens every year around Valentine’s Day.  I walk past a display of See’s candy, and a memory is sparked of a Valentine’s when I was a college freshman.  My friend Leisa and I both had boyfriends back home, and we decided to make them heart-shaped pillows.  We had lots of fun getting the material, making the pillows, and sending them off so they would reach their respective destinations by Valentine’s Day.  My boyfriend sent me a dozen red roses, but no Valentine’s Day present arrived from Leisa’s boyfriend Scott.

During the days following Valentine’s, Leisa must have checked her campus mailbox a hundred times, returning to the dorm disappointed, but certain that Scott would not have forgotten her.  About a week after Valentine’s Day, Leisa came back to the dorm with a Valentine from Scott.  It was giant heart-shaped box of See’s Candy.  Apparently, the box had gone to the wrong address and was a little beaten up during the detour though the candy inside was unharmed.

Bethany's Blog, Leisa & Scott's Wedding

Leisa and Scott’s wedding

Several years later, just after Valentine’s Day in 2006, on the beach in Carmel, California, Leisa and Scott got married.  As they stood inside the heart-shaped rope on the sand, their smiles illuminated by the sun shining through the puffy white clouds, the turquoise sea foaming in the background, I thought about that long-ago Valentine’s Day.   Like the heart-shaped box of chocolates, Leisa and Scott’s hearts got re-routed to other relationships for a while, and they experienced their own share of less-than-gentle handling. A chance meeting brought them back together, and they discovered the love inside their hearts was still there, resilient and better than ever.

Since then, when those ubiquitous heart-shaped boxes start showing up in stores, I recall those two Valentine memories, and I’m reminded of the gift of second chances.  But most of all, I think of my friend Leisa and smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gift of a second chance

*Over the next few days, I’ll be posting essays by my amazing students who wrote in response to the question, “What are three gifts–proverbial or literal–that you’ve been given in 2013, and why are they significant to you?” Their responses made me laugh, cry, and most of all, thank God for the opportunity to invest in their lives. Today’s post is by a student who wishes to remain anonymous but wants to share her story. Names and locations have been changed.*

giftThis year, 2013, has been filled with  many life-changing events and blessings. Out of everything I have received this year, there are three special gifts that have made 2013 one of the happiest periods of my life.

The first gift I received this year was meeting my boyfriend John. We met this April on an online dating website, and we’ve been in love ever since. After a painful break-up with my ex-boyfriend in March, I was determined to find someone who would make me happy and treat me well. On a whim, I created a profile on a popular dating website and waited to see what would happen. It wasn’t long before I received a message from John, and I felt a connection right away.

At that time, I was living with my sister in Jonesboro, while he was living in Batesville. We spoke on the phone for hours every day, and we eventually decided to meet in person. My family and friends were concerned for my safety because meeting people off of the internet can be dangerous, but I was confident that everything would be fine. We met in Batesville for sushi and a movie at his place, and it was one of the best dates of my life.

After that,  we became inseparable. Even though our work schedules and distance apart made dating difficult, we were able to maintain a good relationship and quickly fell in love. Not long after our first date, John  offered to let me to move in with him in Batesville, and I was apprehensive at first. I had made many impulsive decisions in my dating life, and I didn’t want our relationship to end badly. After a lot of thought, I decided to go ahead and move in with him. Even though it was a struggle adjusting to a new town, John made the transition a little easier for me, and I am happier in our relationship than I could ever imagine. John has given me a love that I’ve always wanted, and I am very thankful to have him in my life.

The second gift I received this year was the ability to further my education at the University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville, or UACCB. In high school, I didn’t have any motivation or desire to perform well. Growing up, I had a lot of things going on at home that affected every aspect of my life and made school very difficult to handle. I ran away from home when I was 17 years old, and because of that, I was court ordered to stay at a hospital’s treatment center until I was 18. I graduated high school on the day of my discharge from the hospital in 2007, and I have kept my stay in the hospital secret for many years.

I felt ashamed because I had graduated from a mental health facility, and thought that I would never be able to perform well in college due to my past.  Many people in my life have encouraged me to go to college, but due to financial reasons, I felt like that wasn’t an option for me. When I moved to Batesville with John, I was finally in a position to attend college. Even though I didn’t necessarily want to apply for classes, I thought I might as well give it a try to keep everyone from bothering me about it. Now, at the end of my first semester, I can say that I am very happy that I decided to go college. I never dreamed that I would become a straight “A” student at 23 years old, and it makes me feel very proud of myself. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of my courses and have made a lot of great friends. College has given me the courage to achieve more in life and to believe in myself.

The third gift I received this year was becoming employed at a gas station. Before moving to Batesville, I worked as a Licensed Certified Nursing Assistant at a nursing home and was financially independent. Despite the good pay I received, I was miserable and loathed my job. Once I was living in Batesville, I assumed that I would have no problem finding a job. I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. I spent almost three months unemployed, and every application and job lead that I followed led to disappointment.

Finally, the week before the fall semester of college started, I received a call from the gas station about a job offer, and I gladly accepted. I have prior experience in sales, and I easily adjusted to my new job. All of the employees were very warm and welcoming, and I became fast friends with all of them. I also met my best friend Savannah, who is like a sister to me. My first months in Batesville were very depressing because I had no money and didn’t know anyone besides John. If I wouldn’t have found a job, I was seriously considering moving back home, which would have been a mistake. I have never been financially supported by a boyfriend before, and not being able to take care of myself was a big blow to my self-confidence. Now, I am happily employed and grateful to have a job that I love.

The year 2013 was filled with so many things that have changed my life for the better. I am thankful for all of the gifts I have received and the good people who are now such a big part of my life.

Day 25–A second chance

*Thank you to my friend Samantha Hogan for sharing her story and her husband’s story of how a selfless act by someone else gave him a second chance at life and love. Check out the video that documents this miracle.*

Photo by Bethany Wallace

Photo by Bethany Wallace

I am thankful for so many things in my life.  My God has given me so many blessings, so many do-overs, so many second chances at life.  One of my most prized second chances wasn’t exactly MY second chance, but rather, my husbands.  You see, my husband Curtis, was diagnosed at age 14 with something called Steroid Responsive Chronic Hepatitis Auto-Immune.  He went in to the doctor for a simple sinus infection and, a few weeks later, was having liver biopsies performed and multiple blood tests ran.

He was on medications off and on throughout his life.  He was healthy for a while and then got sick.  Very sick. Things that would make you and I need to miss a day of work and stay in bed hospitalized him for days or weeks at a time.  After several surgeries, procedures and medications, his disease had developed into cirrhosis of the liver.  So in May of 2008 he was put on the transplant list for a new liver.  We were told that even though he was sick, he wasn’t sick enough to quite need a new liver just yet, but he’d be at the bottom of the list- unless he got sicker.  Talk about not knowing how to pray! Do you pray for a new liver, which means your spouse gets sicker?

We waited, and time passed, and Curtis got sicker, then better, then a little sicker.  It was a roller coaster.  One week he’d spend in the hospital, one week at home. Back and forth. Then we got the call. June 21, 2009.  Father’s Day weekend.  We hurried and rushed to Memphis.  We had been told in our counseling and training classes that the first time we were called he would most likely be the back-up for the person who ACTUALLY received the organ.  For us, God had other plans.  The surgeon told us when we got there that he had called three other people who were higher on the transplant list before calling Curtis and all three had turned down the organ.  In case you’re wondering, you don’t turn down an organ if you’re on a transplant list.  The doctor told us in his entire career he’d never seen anyone say no, but three people did.  I believe it was divinely appointed to my husband.  For his second chance at life.

His surgery went better than expected with no complications.  We were told his hospital stay would most likely be 2-4 weeks.  He was there seven days from start to finish.  Now, three and a half years later, he is healthier than he has ever been.  He is able to work full time.  He plays out in the yard with the kids. He doesn’t get as tired.  He still has to be careful when the flu and illnesses come around, but overall, he’s as healthy (or more so) than I am.  What a faithful God we serve!  My most prized second chance was the second chance he gave to my husband.  The second chance to be a husband, son, and father.  Thank you God for your blessings!

I would like to note that it does not go unnoticed to my family that another family lost a loved one so that my husband could have his second chance.  They chose to turn their tragedy into hope for someone else.  I could never thank that family enough.  Although we do not know all of the details surrounding the donor, we know she was female, close to my husband’s age (32-33 at the time), and had a family of her own.  I am forever grateful to that selfless family who chose to give life in their time of sorrow.