Sunday, July 28, 2013
Happy Anniversary to My Darling Wife
At first, I had asked Melanie's parents if I could marry her after I graduated from college, three years later. I had been away to school for my freshman year while Melanie was still home finishing high school. I gave her the engagement ring on her birthday on May 10. The more we talked about it, the more we realized how hard it was going to be for me to leave her to go back to school alone. So back to her parents we went, this time asking to get married right away - in December. They weren't happy about that at all and didn't give an answer right then. (Her Dad loathed preachers.)
A few days later, we came back and said, "We want to get married in July." Less than two months away. Her mother asked Melanie, "Is there something you need to tell me?" There wasn't. We were are pure as the fallen snow on the day we married (well, I won't promise that was true in my thoughts but it was in my actions) but I'm sure both sets of parents sighed a great sigh of relief when time passed and our chastity was verified. Our first child wasn't born until almost two years later.
Over the past forty years, our life together has been incredible. We've had heartache at times - problems with finances, church members, children, and most recently health. There's much we don't know about other people but believe me, we've shed as many tears as most, if not more. Through it all, God's grace has been sufficient.
The pleasures of life have far outweighed the pain. I was a local pastor for the first 21 years, from the age of nineteen to forty. I wrote *Grace Walk* when I was 40 and it was published the next year. I resigned the pastorate at 40 and began to travel in an itinerant ministry. Since then, Melanie and I have been amazed at the places ministry has carried us and the things we have been allowed to do.
Because of ministry trips we have walked on the Great Wall of China, stood inside the Taj Mahal in India, cruised the Fjords of Norway, seen the windmills and tulips of Holland, saw Buddhist temples in Thailand, golden temples in Japan, watched the House of Commons debate policy in Parliament in London (from the peanut gallery), petted Kangaroos and Wallaby in Australia, stood in the Coliseum at Rome and the ruins of Pompeii, gone on a safari in Africa where we slept outside and ate wild boar for breakfast. The list could continue. We've been on six continents.
The amazing thing has been that we have always had a modest income. The car I drive right now has 160,000 miles on it. Rich, we are not - at least not in money. But we are rich in grace and That Grace has *given* us these experiences.
More important than the things we've done are the relationships we have. We have four wonderful children whom we love dearly and who love us. Our fourth grandchild is due to be born on Christmas Eve.
We have dear friends with whom we love to laugh and play and vacation and share our lives.
Melanie and I have each other, and we often thank God for that. We've both agreed that this past year has been the hardest one of our lives but we have held each other in our arms and felt Divine Love and each others healing caress through it all. With health challenges, despite sincere determination to keep a positive perspective we sometimes hear nagging voices taunting our minds about a possible future that doesn't even exist in this moment. Only Grace-Filled-Agape exists in this moment and He will be with us in every moment. So, we rest and hold each other with faith in Him.
After 40 years, we are still deeply in love and that is a real gift. How are we celebrating this day? That's another miracle. Sufficient funds recently came to us unexpectedly that allowed us to plan this Anniversary Trip.
We sit here in our room now, starring in amazement out the window at the canal and St. Mark's Basilca. This evening, at 6:30, we will board a Gondola for a private tour of the canals of Venice. I will hold my sweetheart's hand as the Gondolier serenades us and I will silently wonder in amazement, "Father, why me? Why would you have chosen to give me such a woman and such a life?" And I am sure that the answer will gently surface and lovingly whisper . . . "Grace."
Grace. That's right. When I wrote "Grace Walk," almost 20 years ago, the Dedication read, "To Melanie, my most precious grace gift in this world." Today, I affirm that fact and thank God for it.