Saturday, January 31, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Several couples renew their commitments to each other after being married between 30 and 60 years.

Christian musician Michael W. Smith was a huge influence on me during my teenage years. He recently celebrated his 22d wedding anniversary with his wife and occasional lyricist Debbie.

The Catholic Exchange considers what God meant for marriage to be. (Link via Ryan's Head.)

Children teach adults a lot about how to love and how to relate to God. (Link via Patriot Paradox.)

Alan over at Imago Veritatis examines the nature of sex as God intended it.

Check out all of this week's posts at Little House. They have more touching stories of marriage and family than you're likely to find in one place anywhere else.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

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, getting 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 Tomita'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 Southstation.org, 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 with the loving support of her husband.

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

RLTB  

I have lots to do today and not enough time to do it, so regrettably I must invoke my Real Life Trumps Blogging™ rights until tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this week's Christian Carnival at Patriot Paradox.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

My (non-)Mannersly wedding  

I love Miss Manners. She seems to be the only person in the media lobbying for a return to general civility. Twice a week, her column advocates people respecting each other, children showing deference to their elders, and adults behaving like adults. I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything she writes, and she often teaches me something new.

Her January 25 column focuses on weddings, one of her pet peeves. When she writes about weddings, she reminds me of Steve Martin's views on irony in the movie Roxanne: "Irony? No, no, we don't have that here. You see, in this town people ski topless while smoking pot, so irony is sort of a non-issue." (I'm quoting from memory, so that's probably not verbatim.) She holds the opinion that weddings are quickly becoming as irrelevant as irony in Steve Martin's town for a host of reasons, including the fact that many are part of a series for either or both central participants, many feature a pregnant bride and the five-year-old son of the bride and groom as the best man, and many are superfluous ceremonies since the couple eloped but didn't want to miss out on having a party in their own honor. I should say here that all three circumstances have occurred within my own family, and I don't judge anyone for their desire to have a ceremony they can share with family and friends.

I wonder, though, what Miss Manners would have thought about my wedding. We had a gift registry at three different stores, and Miss Manners despises gift registries. I sang a couple of songs (both of them precious to my bride in some way) during the prelude, a practice which she hasn't addressed in her columns but would surely frown upon. My friend Matt (my favorite singer in the world) sang several other songs important to us both. We had my best man tell a condensed version of our love story for members of our extended family who didn't know how we met, became friends, fell in love, and committed to each other. We had the pastor explain the concept of salvation and why we see marriage as a sacred and holy union, neither of which is essential to the ceremony. I don't think Miss Manners would approve of any of that.

On the other hand, we exchanged the traditional wedding vows, something I feel passionate about. Mrs. Happy (appropriately, I might add) wore a white wedding gown, and I a black tuxedo with a white shirt and no non-traditional colors. We let people know where we registered for gifts, but never insisted that gifts come only from those places, and we never solicited money in lieu of gifts. We also required commitments of time and effort (and as little cash as possible) only from the members of the wedding party. We did not throw ourselves a bridal shower, instead allowing friends and/or family to do so as they desired. I don't think Miss Manners would shake a disapproving finger at any of that, except possibly the gift registry.

I have heard that some people complained about our wedding being "too much of a show." Maybe it was for some people. But of all the weddings I have attended, mine is still my favorite. That's as it should be.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Working together  

I've mentioned before that my wife is an artist. Sometimes she gets me to draw things even though I can't create anything more sophisticated than a stick figure. She says art is therapeutic. A person's art, even when formed by an untalented hand, can express what the heart feels when words fall short. This happens even (and maybe especially) when we don't intend it—just as we can't speak what we don't think, neither can we draw what we don't feel.

So sometimes I draw pictures for her, sometimes she draws pictures for me, and sometimes we draw pictures together. Our favorite collaborative medium is something we call panel art. For a piece of panel art, you divide a page into at least four sections. One person draws something in one panel, making sure that lines in the picture touch every edge of the panel in at least one place. The other person then does the same in an adjacent panel, drawing a completely different picture. The two artists pass the paper back and forth until every panel contains a picture. The catch is that all lines that touch the edge of a panel must meet the lines that touch the same edge from the adjacent panel.

Panel art is a wonderful creative exercise and provides a chance for two people to communicate and create without using words. My favorite piece of ours is one we did in six panels. I'm too tired right now to analyze it and put into words what we were feeling or communicating, but you can see it yourself here. My panels are the upper-left, upper-right, and bottom-center. Mrs. Happy's are the upper-center, lower-left, and lower-right.