Profession of Love

Jeff and I went away this past weekend.  Mom and Dad had offered to keep Ella while we took a trip to their trailer in the Outer Banks.  We left Friday night after Jeff got home from work and stayed until after lunch on Sunday.  We had a great time…Just us.  We felt a little selfish about leaving mom & dad to care for our child, but they made sure we understood that they were looking forward to a weekend with their granddaughter.

We ate (and ate and ate) at most of our favorite places.  We started at The Jolly Roger for breakfast on Saturday.  Then we drove down to the Hatteras Lighthouse, where Jeff proposed June 17, 2005.

We stopped at Bodie Lighthouse and Coquina Beach on our way back up to the main drag of the Outer Banks.  We played Putt-Putt, something we LOVE to do together and have done since we were dating.

We ate lunch at the Beach Road Grill (Mahi sandwiches).  We shopped in the Used Bookstore.  Ya know, when we were dating we used to go to the Target near Willow Lawn and walk around, then next door to the Barnes & Noble and look at books for hours.  It was relaxing and we enjoyed spending that time together.  We looked at travel guides and picked out places we wanted to go.  We got coffees and just relaxed.  Granted, at the Used Bookstore there was no Starbucks in my hand or comfy chairs to get cozy in…but the feeling was there.  We were together, looking at books.
We went to the Home Depot and got a Hardy Palm (my pick) and a new doormat for our front porch.
We ate dinner at Barefoot Bernies – “our place” – which we discovered 3-4 years ago when the battery in the Jetta died the day we were supposed to come back to Richmond and we were trapped without a car for a couple days while one was ordered.  We walked everywhere we needed to go – including a couple trips to Barefoot Bernies to eat since that is close to the trailer.
I actually did not get my usual steamed sampler and ordered an actual meal this time.  I think I even shocked Jeff with that move.

Sunday, we got up and went to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and then we visited the Wright Memorial.  We shopped at The Compass Rose for 75% off pots to use in our backyard and I got a new pashmina scarf that Jeff picked out for me.  And we played more putt-putt (five games in two days – Jeff winning three of them and me losing my title of “Champion”).  We finished our weekend with lunch at Goombays.

On the way to and from the beach we talked.  On the way home, Jeff specifically started talking about our relationship.  He went back to the beginning.  Nope…not our first date…the REAL beginning.

You see, Jeff was first introduced to me and my first husband when I was engaged to my first husband.  We met at Amanda & Adrian’s “villian” themed Halloween party.  It wasn’t a pretty night – I was sick…so sick!  I barely remember meeting him since I was nearly asleep on the couch while the guys played Star Wars Trivial Pursuit.  However, I was also dressed as catwoman so Jeff remembers me well.

A month after that, I got married.  I didn’t see Jeff again until that May when he was a groomsman in the Amos’ wedding and I was singing.  I was still married, though very unhappily.  I still didn’t pay much attention to the people around me…too focused on myself again and my unhappiness in life.  I do remember that he missed the rehearsal (ironically, my husband stood in for him) and barely made it to the rehearsal dinner.

That October we once again met up at the Amos’ Annual Halloween Party.  At this party, I asked him to flip my Corona for me since my thumb was too small to seal the mouth and get the lime to the bottom.  He obliged and again, ended up playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with my husband.  Such a strange, strange world looking back… 

A month after that, I was getting a divorce.  It had nothing to do with anyone outside of my marriage, so don’t go getting any fancy ideas.

The week after announcing my separation I was substituting at Dumbarton Elementary and Leigh Foley pulled me into the clinic to tell me something that she was sure Amanda and Adrian wanted to tell me themselves, but she couldn’t hold it in…(I was sure she was going to tell me they were pregnant, but that wasn’t it)  She told me that one of their friends, Jeff, had a crush on me.  A crush that started way back at that very first introduction.  WHOA!
According to his friends, Jeff wanted to ask me to dance at Amanda & Adrian’s reception, but didn’t because I was married and his friends wouldn’t let him.  Talk about blowing your mind.

I know that it is somewhat disappointing to him, but I don’t count all of that in my story of our time together…regardless of how disappointing my first marriage was, I was still married and would never have even cast a glance in any direction – true now in my marriage to Jeff.

I first met (with eyes wide open) Jeff Cronin on December 1, 2000.  After Leigh revealed the secret to me, I called Amanda just to see what was up.  She and Adrian were estatic and immediately set up a night out – a huge group outing – to which I brought another friend as my “safety”.  We shot pool at The Triple and then decided to drive across the James to see the city lit up with Christmas lights.  Jeff offered to drive me and I ditched my safety and let her ride with the Amoses while I got in Jeff’s car.  Of course, we only drove to Jeff’s apartment and parked his car, then got into the backseat of Amanda’s beetle with my friend (yep- three of us in the backseat of a beetle) and headed across the river.  Since I was dressed to impress, I was not dressed sensibly…  Jeff, being the gentleman that he is, wrapped me up in his coat to keep me warm.
At the end of the night, he gave me his business card (with only his work number) so I could call him if I was interested.  I called Adrian the next day and got Jeff’s number at home.  I was definitely interested.

We went on our first official date on December 8, 2000.  Jeff took off from work early – something I didn’t realize at the time was MAJOR!  His friends nearly keeled when I told them that he picked me up before noon on a weekday (it was a Friday).  He brought me star-gazer lilies, which are now my favorite and were featured in my bridal bouquet.  We went to the Galaxy Diner for lunch and then walked around Carytown.  I still have the jeans I wore that day.  After hours of walking around we walked through the Fan to Video Fan to rent a movie (Shakespeare in Love which Jeff will never watch again) and then headed to his apartment where he cooked me dinner (Shake-n-bake Chicken).  We talked and kissed and snuggled on the couch until late and then he drove me home.  I later discovered that taking me home so late on a weekend night meant that he had to park about seven blocks from his apartment when he got back home.  Thankfully, he thought I was worth it.

We had a fun courtship that included a camping trip in the Outer Banks after we had been dating for just five months.  Seriously – I went tent camping with this guy so you know I was trying to impress him!  He was my date to Josh & Ellyn Foshay’s wedding at the end of that week of camping.

On our trip this weekend he asked me when I knew that I loved him.  I didn’t answer his question well.  I obviously had very strong feelings for him before that camping trip because in the weeks following it I was put in the position by a couple friends to choose between them and Jeff.  You can see who I chose.

I know I was in love with him before that year’s Halloween because I was sitting next to his friend Chris at the Amos’ annual party when I told Chris that I was in love with Jeff.  I hadn’t told Jeff yet.  I didn’t tell Jeff until Jeff said those magic words to me first.  I used to be able to quote the date, but I can’t remember that any longer.  I just know where I was when I heard them.  It will always stay with me.

The first three songs on the playlist today:  “To Make You Feel My Love” (sung by Adele), “When You Love Someone” (sung by Bryan Adams), and “That’s How You Know It’s Love” (by Deana Carter) took on new meaning when I was dating Jeff.  I had heard them all before dating him and I had always loved all three of them, but suddenly with him…they meant so much more.  I knew what we had was special – legendary – the stuff they write love songs about.

There was a time in our relationship when Jeff was unsure of our future.  That was a scary time for me, because by then I knew that I loved him totally.  About that time the movie “Hope Floats” came on t.v.  I’d seen it and I really liked it, but one of the songs from the movie stuck with me.  Because I was sure of what Jeff and I had, even if he wasn’t and the song put into words exactly what I was feeling:

To Make You Feel My Love (by Bob Dylan)
When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love
In the song it says, “I’ve known it from the moment that we met”.  That moment for me was on December 1, 2000.

Honey, I can’t tell you the moment I fell in love with you, but I can tell you that it couldn’t have been long after we started dating.  You were my “Mr. Wonderful” and I could see our future before you could.
And look at us now…I wouldn’t change a moment of my life before you because here I am with you now…married…with Ella…perfection.

I know I don’t always make you feel my love in the best way, but I do love you more today than yesterday and I will love you even more tomorrow.

My dad, the church, Beth Moore, FORGIVENESS, and my AMAZING GOD

I find myself sitting at the computer in a sulky mood this afternoon.  I’m not sure why…

Ella and I have had a great morning.  We watched Sesame Street, then went to the gym where she played in KidWatch (which she loves) and I did cardio.  Then we met Amy & Jackson at Kangaroo Jac’s to play.  Katie was working so she ended up “bouncing” with the kids while Amy & I watched.  (Understand…we would’ve been watching even if Katie wasn’t there.  We do our best to let Ella and Jackson play together without us for as long as possible).
Ella stayed awake all the way home – even after the trip got longer due to a detour around the water main break on Hungry (forgot to call dad and ask if it was fixed yet).  She went down for her nap like a champ.

So why so blue?  I’m not sure.  I started thinking about the fact that I hadn’t finished updating the prayer list at church.  Then I started thinking about church and people and things that happened earlier this year that resulted in lost friendships.  And there it is…the source of melancholy.

See…part of what happened was a feeling from some people that my father should no longer be the minister at our church.  Some of the people who felt this way (really, all) were people that I considered to be my friends…even some like family to me.  I didn’t understand the reasoning behind their thought.

I know that you see me as biased in this situation (and I am a little…), but I think my dad is a great minister.  I didn’t always.  He was too much my DAD for me to see him without the DAD filter on.  If you’ve followed my blog over the years – as sporadic as it has been – then you’ll remember that I wrote one day about how much I hated being a preacher’s daughter.  It was the year of my dad’s 25th anniversary with the church and not one word had been said about doing anything for him.  Some churches send their ministers on paid vacations as anniversary presents and ours wasn’t even thinking about mentioning it.
So I blogged about my frustrations and thoughts and within a week a party was in the works.  It was a GREAT party with many people returning to visit and share their memories.

Let me tell you – my dad is a GREAT minister.  I have spent some time researching other religions and denominations of faith and one thing I find again and again are unapproachable figure heads.  The people who work “under” the minister do the day-to-day work of visiting the sick and needy.  They are people you call in the middle of the night, not that man who stands up front on Sunday (or Saturday).  Even in some independent Christian Churches the elders & deacons in the church do all the visiting of the sick and with new attendees.

At UCC, my dad is the guy you call in the middle of the night.  My dad is the one who (sometimes) beats you to the hospital the morning of your surgery to pray with you and sit with your family.  My dad has flown home from vacations to sit by the bed of someone passing on from this life.  My dad is the one who calls you after you visit and asks to come see you to talk about our church and your beliefs.  My dad sits with those getting married and counsels them in MARRIAGE and not just WEDDING.  My dad holds the hands of those in a marriage on the rocks and prays for them…right then and there…in their time of need.
If you need him…he’s there.  Man, I love who my dad is as a minister.  I am blessed to be his kid.  I didn’t understand why he would leave home in the middle of the night or fly home before we even got to Disney when I was younger, but I think I do now…

I attend a Ladies Bible Study at First Baptist Church in downtown Richmond on Monday mornings.  I love this group and I am thankful to my mommy-friend Whitney for inviting me.  Currently we are doing Beth Moore’s Here and Now…There and Then study on the book of Revelation.  If you’ve done any Beth Moore studies then you know that this woman knows her Bible and you will to if you study with her often enough.  She jumps all around to bring understanding and clarity.  I LOVE IT.  This week we did Session 4 covering Revelation 4 & 5.  In Revelation 4 the throne room of God is described. 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Wow!  That is AWESOME! I mean…A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
Want to know the coolest thing I learned from Beth this week?

Hebrews 4:14-16

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,<sup class="footnote" value="[e]”> Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

That throne in Hebrews 4 is the very same throne as the throne John describes in Revelation 4.

WHOA!!!  I can approach that glorious thundering, lightning, amazing throne with CONFIDENCE because I “do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with [my] weakness”.

Now, my dad is not the “great high priest” and he certainly is not without sin, but he is able to identify with anyone who walks through the doors of our church.  He LOVES the people of our church the way GOD LOVES HIS CHILDREN and you FEEL IT when you’re around him.  He even loves the ones who have treated him poorly at some time in the last 28 years…That to me is a mark of a GREAT minister.

I just can’t understand why people I loved wanted him gone so badly.  It makes me angry and sad.  I struggle every day with that “why”.

And here is the kicker…I HAVEN’T FORGIVEN THEM.

I thought I had…I really did.  Until this Beth Moore study.  Last Monday (9/27/10) Beth spoke about unforgiveness.  In Jesus’ letter to Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7) Jesus says (v 4-5): Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  The church at Ephesus hated what Jesus hated, but they did not love what Jesus loved.

Beth went on to talk about the fact that if we are holding on to unforgiveness then we are not loving what (or WHO) Jesus loves.  We are not loving them in the way Jesus loves them.  She also talked about the fact that we should be holding on to God with both of our hands – not dividing our loyalty.  She went on to say, “If we are hanging on to unforgiveness, we are not holding on to God.”  WHOA!  I need to get myself right. 
I am holding on to unforgiveness – forsaking my FIRST LOVE, Jesus.  If I don’t SEND FORTH TO GOD (not just “let go” of it and send it out to who-knows-where) my anger, frustration, and hurt then I am holding on to it and not holding on to God.  And that my friend is SIN.

So…I am SENDING FORTH my melancholy feelings to God.  I’ll let him take care of them.

Well, my 23-month-old (today) princess is awake and she needs a mommy full of God’s love (and a bit of His patience would help too)!  Before I go…I need to pray so the distractions of the rest of the day doesn’t cause me to miss out on putting down what I need to say to my creator today.

God, I give to you my frustration, my non-understanding, my upset, my anger, my hurt and my sadness.  It is YOURS.  I no longer want the sin of unforgiveness weighing me down.  Take my sin and HURL IT (Micah 7:19) into your crystal sea (Rev 4:6) of forgetfulness.
You are an awesome God.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for sending your perfect son, my great high priest, to walk this earth before and and die on a cross to save me from my sins.
It is in HIS perfect name I pray, Amen.