Day 7: Dear women

*Thanks to my friend Kenton Adler (AKA Ken Doll) for utilizing his wit while writing this heartfelt post for Day 7 of the Dear Gratitude project this November.*

Dear Women,

Thank you.  Thank you VERY much.  I am not kidding.  I am so thankful for women; it’s kind of ridiculous.

Obviously, my mother was a woman.  I thank her for my very existence.  That’s a given I guess.  I also thank her for exposing me to so many things, like the car trip with her and my dad to South Dakota the summer between second and third grade in 1964.  I got to see the Great Plains, Dinosaur Park, Mt. Rushmore, and then we went down through Wyoming and Colorado where I saw the Rockies,  a volcano in New Mexico, and a different kind of desolation in north Texas.  I thank her for the trip to New York City around my 13th birthday, when we went up in the Empire State building, and later I got a copy of “Yellow Submarine.”  I thank her for letting me sit in the kitchen and play the latest Beatles song I’d learned on guitar while she cooked dinner after a long day at work. I’m thankful for the spring car trip with her and my brother in 1974 when we drove all over New Mexico and down to El Paso and Juarez.  My whole life she took me to parties with artists and crafts people from around the world.  She taught me manners, which I occasionally use, and a thing or two about good taste.  I thank her for putting me up on trips to Dallas in the early 1980s when she was living there.  Later in the ‘80s she sent me an airline ticket to San Francisco that accompanied tickets to the San Francisco Opera to see all four nights of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” in one week.  She could be a little bit annoying at times because she liked to have everything her way, but overall she introduced me to a lot of remarkable things that a lot of other people I knew never experienced as I did growing up.  I thank her for talking frankly with me about her  terminal cancer when I was taking a class on death and dying in 1986.  She died at the age of 52 in 1988.  I’m nearly 58 now, and that weirds me out a little bit.

I’m thankful for my grandmother, Mam Ma Deaton.  She was my mom’s mom, and she taught me how to drink coffee.  We would often be the first ones up when I stayed at her house sometimes on weekends.  She was raised a farm girl and got up real early.  My coffee was mostly milk and sugar, with just enough coffee to turn it a little brown.  She would play country gospel on the radio, or sometimes sing herself as she fried sausage or bacon, or made eggs for breakfast.  She gave me my early love for harmony and fried food.  I’m also thankful for her teaching me about gardening by handing me a little shovel and letting me work with her in the dirt while she planted flowers and vegetables.  She let me go off and play in the woods down the street from her house, and she would hand me a hatchet and let me chop on an old stump on the side of the house until I was worn out.  Sometimes she would make me get a switch and would put a few welts on my calves.  I usually deserved it, and it made me a terrific dancer.  I thank her for nickels to take up to Mrs. Walker’s store, for MANY stories and songs and for unconditional love for the short time I knew her.  She died at the age of 60 in 1967.

I want to say thank you for every single girl I ever loved.  From kindergarten on, I always loved somebody.  I never really bought the whole, “Girls have Cooties,” thing.  Thanks to the little girl across the street who let me kiss her, even though my baseball cap kept whacking her in the forehead.   Thanks to the girl in third grade who didn’t die of embarrassment when I wrote a song about her and got the local radio station to record it and play it on the air.  She let me kiss her by the apartments up the street. Thank you to the little girl who liked me when we moved to Colorado, and let me walk her home from school and tell her about Batman and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with my funny Arkansas accent.  I never did get to kiss her, and that bothers me a little, but I did sing songs to her over the phone.  I am thankful for my high school girlfriend who was a great kisser.   I’m even grateful for the girls who didn’t love me back, for whatever reason.  All of those I wrote love notes to that didn’t get answered, or those who already had a date to the dance, those who had to wash their hair on nights when they could have gone out with me, or those who met someone else and went away.  I learned something from every one of them.  Or at the very least had the pleasure of seeing them and appreciating whatever the beautiful thing about them was that fascinated me in the first place.  Thank you to every girl who ever kissed me in a car, or her front porch, or on the couch,  in the middle of a bridge, on a mountain pass, or out in the woods by the river, or wherever else we might have had a romantic moment or two.  To every woman who ever inspired a poem or a song to work its way out of me, whether happy or sad, I thank you.

I spent a year in 1978 and 1979 living on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  There were no women there except for an occasional visitor.  I’m thankful for the singer from a USO band that had to stay over an extra night because of a mechanical problem on the transport plane.  She talked to me for over an hour at the radio station, just sitting on the floor in the hall outside the studio.  It was my birthday.  I’m also thankful for the governor’s administrative assistant on another island off the coast of Indonesia.  She was Australian, looked a bit like Olivia Newton John with dark hair, and even though she didn’t drag me off in the bushes, she told her friend that she wanted to.  That was quite a nice compliment.  Not being around women most of the time was really strange.  Not just because of the obvious, but because there was no feminine influence of any kind out there.  It made me appreciate even more the softness, or the different kind of strength, the emotion, and the nice smells that women bring to the table. Thanks for the nice smell that T.J. brought to the table after I got back to the U.S. and was out at a bar one night with my buddies.  She smelled really great.  It got to where I could find something wonderful about just about every woman met after that year.  Thanks to every woman who never realized that I appreciated some aspect of her being and just WAS.  Like the beautiful blonde girl on The Tube in London in 1989 who smiled at me when I gave up my seat to an older woman carrying shopping bags.  That girl validated what my mother had taught me.

Thank you especially to my beautiful, brilliant and talented wife who finally found me when I was about 48 and eventually agreed to marry me and be around all the time.  I enjoy looking at her pretty face, appreciate her wit, and relish her excellent ideas which inspire me to try harder to do cool things.  I enjoy her cooking, and her musical talent, and I am extremely thankful for her skills as a grammarian and editor.  She’s the world’s greatest traveling companion and musigator.  She’s off right now getting an advanced degree, and I will be thankful when she comes home and is able to keep me in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed.

I could go on all day.  I’ve known hundreds, or more likely thousands of women over the years.  Some friends, some fellow students, some co-workers, some bosses, some relatives, and finally one who is my wife.  I am thankful for every single one of you and what you brought to enrich my life.

Seriously.  Thanks.

Kenton

Day 17–Restoration

*Today’s post as part of our “28 days of love” project is written by one of my best friends and my true soul sister. I’m thankful for her beautiful heart and willingness to share something very personal with all of us. Thank you, Amie!*

Amie and Chris

Amie and Chris

This afternoon, my husband and I were finishing up an overnight date by having lunch together at Cracker Barrel. My mom and stepmom wrangled our two younger children for the night so that Chris and I could celebrate our Valentine’s weekend together…. alone.  A rarity for sure.  As we were seated, my husband took my coat, pulled out my chair, and waited until I was seated to seat himself.  A few moments into our coffee as we scanned the breakfast menu, an older gentleman stopped by our table, leaned into my husband and shook his hand. “Son, I saw you take her coat and pull out her chair. Don’t ever stop doing that. It’s important to take care of her. My wife was suddenly taken Home 11 years ago. I’ve been a preacher for 57 years.  I’m just finishing up business here until I can join her.”

I smiled listening to him. We chatted a minute and then he left.  I gushed at the man’s words. But, I also knew something that man did not know.

Just a few years ago, our relationship was so incredibly different. My husband wasn’t the chivalrous man he is today, nor was I one to respect and honor him. We had both come from failed marriages. We had both come from broken homes as children. I was raised by a single hard-working mother. I never had a marriage modeled for me, let alone a Godly one. When we married on October 16, 2004, the odds were highly stacked against us and our children to succeed as a family (I had a five year old daughter, Joey, and he, a 10 year old son, Dylan). Although we had both committed to follow Christ as teens, and we were crazy about one another, we both carried much baggage from broken hearts, mistreatments and past disappointments into our marriage…. a recipe for disaster.

 

Family photo taken in the midst of this difficult time

Family photo taken in the midst of this difficult time

Two years into our marriage, we had a child together, a little girl, Hollyn. Although she brought much happiness to our lives, it was about this time that our marriage began to deteriorate. You see, we still had no idea what we were doing, coupled with the fact that life just happens. We began to gripe. We began to fight. He had a vasectomy without my consent. I sobbed in the waiting room during the procedure, because God had once promised me I’d give birth to a son. Chris didn’t want more kids, so he just decided on the procedure himself. He didn’t talk to me anymore. He didn’t touch me anymore.  I hurt.  I was disrespectful to him and not supportive or understanding of him needing to spend long hours tending to the business we had just started. I complained about hunting trips and him spending time with his guy friends that helped him unwind.  I didn’t compliment or encourage him.  He hurt. We both were so concerned with ourselves, how our needs weren’t being met by the other, and rightfully so…. Needs are needs, and we didn’t care about trying to actually meet the needs of each other. What we didn’t realize is that love is like a bank account. In order for withdrawals to be made, there first must be deposits. We all know that when we spend and spend our money without depositing now and then, that money will run smooth out. Our “bank accounts” were dry… and we were suffering. I was needy and lonely, and he was bitter and emotionally checked out.

It was the summer of 2007. I made friends with a man who was single, and he quickly attached himself to our family. But, I didn’t mind. My companionship needs were being met. This man and I talked for hours. We loved the same music. He helped me with my kids when my husband worked long hours. My husband didn’t mind, at first, because someone else was doing his job for him, and he didn’t have to put forth the energy. But, obviously, this wouldn’t work for long. God didn’t design marriage to function like this. A husband and wife are meant to function as a unit, bonded by Him. We were functioning separately, and now, there was a parasite, so to speak, draining us of any life that remained in our marriage. Although I was not unfaithful sexually, I was unfaithful in my heart. The relationship was still wrong, and I couldn’t see it at the time. I had friends warning me, as did Chris, saying there were red flags all over this situation. I just didn’t understand. I began to lose friends. I was hitting rock bottom fast. Then I decided to seek God.

I remember after a horrible fight with Chris one night, crying in the shower, sobbing in fact. I yelled aloud to God. “What do you want me to do?! I have no idea what I’m doing! I have no idea how to fix this! You are the ONLY ONE who can do this…please help me!”

Then slowly, very slowly in the days ahead, God began to peel away the blinders from my eyes. I began to see this other man for what he was. By this time, he had wrong intentions. I began to pry myself away from the toxic friendship.  I dug into God’s word and every Christian relationship book I could get my hands on.  He revealed to me one day that the reason I was so needy was because I had an absent father my whole life. It hurt me to realize this flaw about myself. But, ever so lovingly, He promised to walk me through the healing process. He promised to be my Daddy, meeting my needs in ways I’d never known. I was elated to know I could relieve my husband of the pressure of being the one to make me happy and meet all my needs. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had found himself in a place of sheer brokenness as well, and also began crying out to God. He wanted our marriage to be restored as well. I started noticing him making efforts he had long stopped making. He began to romance me again. I was hesitant at first. But, after some time, I saw his efforts were sincere, not perfect, but sincere. He was really trying, and for the first time in awhile, I was too.

Chris and Amie's gift from God, baby Sawyer

Chris and Amie’s gift from God, baby Sawyer

That was a two year process from beginning to end. Near the end of that dark time, when the extra friendship was over, when we could finally see bright light at the end of the tunnel, Chris came to me and revealed that God had been pressing him to reverse his vasectomy. I have to believe this was God because I do not believe any man would want to do this procedure of his own accord, without some sort of prodding. He did, and a few months later we conceived. And, yes, it was my son, Sawyer.  A beautiful gift we received from a loving Father who walked us through the hurt and turmoil. We were broken into separate piles of rubble. God picked up the pieces and began building us back up, but this time… together. He taught us what love really was…. serving one another above ourselves, no matter what. He is so faithful, and He loves us so much. I am eternally grateful for the miracle God worked in and through us, and how even now He still is leading and growing us.

Thank you, God, for the man I call husband and friend.

Day 2: Loving him day by day

*Special thanks to my friend Erin Jennings for sharing her thoughts on love and gratitude today!*

Erin and Josh, 2012

Erin and Josh, 2012

Since the first night we went to watch a movie together, I have been overwhelmed with a type of love I thought only existed in my imagination. I have been shocked with how receiving that type of love has changed me (in wonderful ways), and I have made a personal vow to never let a day go by without telling him how much all the little things he does for me mean.  Every morning at five thirty a.m. I wake to the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen. Every afternoon at eleven fifteen he sends me a text asking about my day and telling me he loves me. Every evening he makes his rounds picking up our four kids and getting them home, and around nine every night (yes we realize that is early for some people) he positions himself at an awkward angle just so I can watch t.v. while falling asleep on his chest. While these things may seem small to some, to me they are straight up hugs to the soul!

My husband’s greatest legacy is his kind and giving heart. I cannot even put into words the kind of man that he is. I am blessed that God brought him into my life. While I am the organizer and structure person, Josh is the fly by the seat of your pants guy…..In most cases this is kind of like oil and water, and the two just don’t mix. But for Josh and I, it’s never been a problem; when mixed together we found a new groove….. Organization and structure in the house and with the children, but flexibility to pick up and fly by the seat of our pants when Josh gives us a cue. Our marriage is full of stability, love, mixed in with some adventure…. Seems we never have a dull moment. Life is too short to live any other way.
As with most working couples I LOVE weekends off with my husband. There have been comments made by some people who will remain nameless asking when he ever gets time to himself, time out with “the guys”, etc. What they may never grasp is that my husband has never been that kind of guy. His idea of time off IS time with his family.  He is my best friend and I am his. He doesn’t take off to be with the guys because his guys are here. He has three. One is twelve, another is ten, and the last guy is nine years old. He has a few gals, too, his very own little princess who is five, and then of course me.
I don’t know what we are planning on doing this weekend, but I know one thing. Josh will be home. My heart jumps for joy at the thought of spending time with him, and I know the kids are excited as well. But you know what else? I know that Josh wants to be here, and that means more to me than anything he could ever do.  I love my husband not only for who he is, but also because when I look into his eyes, I finally have peace.  All the bad things and the wrong roads led me to him.
Over the years I’ve learned everything that happens is exactly as it should be. This doesn’t mean that I was happy about what was taking place, but situations always seem to work themselves out, and I usually figure out the lessons learned — even if it takes years and a couple of mini mountains’ worth of  mistakes. I’ve felt loss, but it was also time to move on, move forward to bigger and better things. This is what I did, this is what I continue to do, and with each passing day I find more and more to be grateful for. God blessed me with an awesome family and an awesome husband. I am so thankful.