I love to hear stories about how couples first met. Karen and I hosted a table at a celebration of marriage event, at our church, last Saturday evening. We were supposed to ask “ice breaker” questions. I asked the couples around our table how each of them met.
One couple met on a blind date. I asked the wife if she was nervous leading up to the date. She said, “No…I was excited to see who God wanted me to meet.”
If we really think about it, didn’t God set us all up on a blind date to find our spouse?
I wasn’t a Christian when I first met Karen. I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time. As a matter of fact, I had never dated before I met Karen. Oh…I had a few crushes on a few girls in school including an attractive, young math teacher in 8th grade. But I never had the guts to ask any of them out. I mean, what if they said “NO!” My delicate psyche couldn’t handle the rejection.
My first taste of being shunned by a person of the opposite sex happened while in elementary school. A group of cute girls were playing square ball at recess. I asked if I could join them but they bluntly replied that they didn’t play with boys. I was okay with that. When I played basketball at recess the guys didn’t let any girls play with us either. But when the same girls let the most popular boy in 3rd grade play square ball with them just a few minutes later, I drowned my sorrow by drinking a second pint of milk for lunch. Needless to say, my ability to bond with girls took a big hit.
Fast forward to early in my Sophomore year of high school. While many of my male friends were experiencing the dating roller coaster ride, I was enjoying my freedom. I didn’t have to worry about writing love letters, taking up valuable time talking on the phone and spending my hard-earned money on girls. I was free to come home after school and watch all my favorite shows on T.V. like my favorite horror soap opera, Dark Shadows or the cool new science fiction show, Star Trek.
I also didn’t have to worry about some girl being jealous about the true love of my life…Basketball. I caressed my basketball the same way some of my friends caressed their girlfriend’s br….oh, you know what I mean.
On December 3rd, 1973 I played in my first varsity basketball game. I was beyond excited when during the game I made my first varsity basket on a free throw. I didn’t even care that I missed my second free throw…My destiny was set. I knew I would go on to play for the Washington Huskies and then the Seattle Supersonics.
After the game, my best friend suggested we celebrate my achievement by attending the high school dance in the cafeteria. I declined with a hearty “No Way! Steve, are you joking? And miss tonight’s episode of Star Trek.”
Well being the stubborn Norwegian he was, he wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. He and another friend literally dragged me to the dance.
As I entered the dark room my senses were assaulted by blinding strobe lights pulsating to the rhythm of the local bands drummer. The lingering aroma of todays sloppy joes and surprise casserole now reeked of testosterone and musk cologne. I dodged sweating bodies bouncing off each other as I weaved my way to the darkest corner of the cafeteria. Once I had arrived, I thought I could hide out until a slow dance and then sneak out undetected.
To my surprise, a skinny girl in glasses stepped on my foot as she walked past me. She didn’t turn to apologize but I noticed a cute girl with long jet-black hair giggling beside the foot stomper. I stared at the shapely, giggling girl hoping to shame her into a solemn state of somberness. It didn’t work.
Eventually I returned my focus on escaping this dungeon of depravity. To my utter amazement, the same skinny girl walked back in front of me and stomped on my foot…again! Did she apologize this time? No…and this time the girl with the beautiful eyes was practically rolling on the floor with laughter.
I had it! I walked straight up to the girl who was making fun of me, the one with the stunning smile and asked her if she wanted to dance. I didn’t realize what I had done until I was holding the prettiest girl in the room close to me while we slow danced.
We danced every dance together until the band quite playing and we said good-night. I was walking on air when I found my Mom’s car. My aunt was sitting in the front seat next to my Mom. When I got into the back seat of the car, my aunt asked me if I had met the girl of my dreams. I remember saying, “I don’t know…maybe.”
Later, Karen shared with me that as she got into her mother’s car, her aunt was in the front seat. She asked Karen if she had met her future husband.
We dated all through high school and two years of community college before we got married on September 2, 1977. After almost forty-years of marriage, her hair isn’t long and it isn’t jet black. It’s the most beautiful shade of gray I can imagine. Her eyes still sparkle and her smile is still stunning. She still laughs at me occasionally and when she does, whatever dark corner of my mind I’ve hidden away to suddenly fills with the most wonderful light I can think of.
Do you see the light of Jesus radiating from your spouse?
Please feel free to sing along to my version of “Oh Christmas Tree”
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, how lovely through the years
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, why then all the tears
Each year expectations are so high, when they go unmet we often cry
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, the card is maxed I fear
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, we promise to start anew
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, but our plans do go askew
Our expectations are so high, but the bathroom scale does not lie
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, I think I’ll hide the mirrors
Each year we feel the need to vent, about our winters of discontent
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time I’ll give you my two-cents
Oh how we set ourselves up for discontentment with our high expectations.
After Thanksgiving I love listening to Christmas songs on the radio. Mostly because of how they make me feel. Because it rarely snows on Christmas in the Pacific Northwest, listening to people sing about a winter wonderland, talking snowmen, overachieving reindeer and a partridge in a pear tree (things I would never think about any other time of year) causes a wave of nostalgia to wash over me.
Just this past fall, I was already looking forward to Christmas. My son Michael, his wife Signe, and their two small children were coming home for Christmas (Christmas day evening to be exact). They live in Chandler, Arizona and make it home for Christmas every other year. Also coming home from Florida, the Wednesday after Christmas, was my oldest daughter Katie and her youngest out of five children.
Needless to say, both Karen and I were very excited to have all our children and six out of 10 grandchildren home for the holidays. Four or five years had passed since the last time our three children were under one roof together celebrating Christmas. It would be a time stay up late reminiscing about Christmas’s past.
But then came the winter of my contentment. One by one, a series of trials and afflictions met me head on. It all started on September 25th with me having a mini-stroke, losing my job for a year because of my stroke, having two heart surgeries and a third surgery resulting from an accidental puncturing of an artery which led to a hematoma in my right hand and forearm. (For the whole story of this Job-like experience, see my last article) http://desiretoinspire.life/dear-job-we-have-a-few-things-in-common-suffering/
So for the first four days Michael and his family are home, I’m sleeping twelve to sixteen hours a day. When I was awake I felt ten seconds behind every conversation with all the pain pills I was taking. Because my arm was sliced open like a carved turkey, I couldn’t pick up and hold two-year-old Esther. That broke my heart. Michael did put 3 month old Daniel on my lap. I didn’t hold him for long though. He not only is a cute, butterball of love but he’s built like a Butterball turkey and I was scared to death I’d drop him.
Karen and Michael would take Esther for walks to look at the neighborhood cow and horse while I slept on the couch. While the rest of the family had the kind of in-depth conversations I enjoy, I would fall asleep on the couch. I love to take pictures but I couldn’t hold onto the camera.
I was beginning to feel depressed even though the thing I wanted most this holiday (my three children all home together for Christmas) had come true.
Our family loves to play games. I was not about to miss out on that time together. One night five of us were playing Settlers of Catan…a game where you need to think and communicate well. I’m a pretty competitive guy and my daughter Jaymi is the undisputed champion of this game. I started fast and thought for sure, despite having a distinct disadvantage of being under the influence of a drug induced coma, I was going to win. But in the end I messed up by making a few mistakes with strategy and not only didn’t win but came in tied for last.
I blamed the loss on being high on drugs and told my son-in-law Matt that the winner had to put the game away. I walked into the living room, sunk into my couch and sulked. My Christmas wasn’t supposed to go down this way. I desired to squeeze out and drink up every ounce of family time I could. Instead the drugs and fatigue were draining every ounce of energy I had.
I felt cheated. The best conversation I had with Michael came on the eighty-minute drive back to Sea-Tac airport. My head was finally clear. I had quit taking the pain pills the day before, not because I didn’t need them, but because I was so constipated. If anyone poked my belly button I would explode.
After saying good-by to Michael and his family, Karen got behind the wheel for the long drive home. As we pulled away from the airport, I began to cry; partly from the pangs of constipation but mostly because of unmet expectations. Karen said that Michael understood my situation and reminded me that we still had Katie and our granddaughter Hannah home for another few days. I still had time to enjoy them while they were home.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Don’t feel too bad though. Even the wisest and maybe wealthiest man to have ever lived struggled with feelings of discontentment.
Solomon was King David’s son from Bathsheba. When he became king of the nation of Israel, God found favor with Solomon because of the king’s love for him. God told Solomon, “…Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.” 1 Kings 3:5
Solomon humbly asked for, “…a discerning heart to govern your (God’s) people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” 1 Kings 3:9
God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he gave him the things (wealth and a long life) he did not ask for along with wisdom. Solomon’s life was filled with many great accomplishments:
“It was during his reign that the kingdom gained its highest splendor. Solomon was renowned throughout the ancient world of his time for his wisdom, his wealth and his extensive political and commercial alliances with the nations in the region. It was he who built the First Temple of Jerusalem, thus establishing the city not only as the political capital of the kingdom but also as the religious center of the People of Israel.” Excerpt taken from http://www.kingsolomonlegend.com/King-Solomon-Great-Construction-Achievements.html
“The royal palace of Solomon took twice as long to build as the Temple, and was much more complicated. In fact, it was a whole complex of buildings, with many different functions. According to the Bible, our only source of information, there was:
the cedar-pillared House of the Forest of Lebanon, perhaps an audience hall
a treasury or strongroom
the Judgement Hall where Solomon’s magnificent ivory throne stood
a special palace for the daughter of Pharaoh, Solomon’s most high-born wife
living quarters for Solomon’s multitude of wives and children. Though the ‘thousand wives of Solomon’ is probably an exaggeration, there were certainly many of them. Solomon cemented alliances with neighboring territories by marrying their rulers’ daughters, and by giving his own daughters in marriage to governors of provinces.” Excerpt taken from http://www.womeninthebible.net/bible-archaeology/solomons-palace/
Finally in Solomon lists all the ways in which he strove to find fulfillment in his life. In Ecclesiastes 2 he says, “…I tried to find fulfillment by inaugurating a great public works program…next I bought slaves, both men and women…I also bred great herds and flocks…I collected silver and gold as taxes from many kings and provinces…In the cultural arts, I organized men’s and women’s choirs and orchestras…and then there were the many beautiful concubines…Anything I wanted, I took, and did not restrain myself from any joy….But as I looked at everything I had tried, it was all so useless, a chasing of the wind and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.”
In his youth Solomon loved God. But throughout his rule as King, he began to turn his focus on other things. At the time of writing Ecclesiastes, he is an older man reflecting back on his life with what I believe is regret. During his reign, Solomon constantly strived in vein for what would make him happy. Instead of happiness he found discontentment. So what was missing?
He soon forgot to look up to heaven to rediscover his true joy. In the conclusion to his book he acknowledges the folly of his ways. In chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes he states the following:
“Don’t let the excitement of being young cause you to forget about your Creator. Honor him in your youth before the evil years come – when you’ll no longer enjoy living….Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man.”
Wait a minute! I’ve heard that God = Love. How do we reconcile the phrase ‘fear God’ into the equation?
While at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, I have no fear toward any of the animals while enjoying them from the safety of the walking trail. I will wet my pants if I ever find myself in the same cage as a tiger. I know what they are capable of, especially if hungry or provoked.
Most of the world doesn’t fear God because they either view Him from afar or don’t consider Him at all. Christians who understand the nature of God fear (respect, have reverence for) Him because that fear helps to prevent us from giving in to our sinful desires.
Now a tiger can no more love me than share a steak dinner with me. Actually, I am the steak dinner. God, on the other hand, loves us so much that, “… he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
This past Monday I was having another pity party. My hand hurt, my arm full of stitches was itching like crazy, I felt 100 years old just walking up our stairs, and we received a letter from the insurance company questioning one of the surgical procedures. Then my daughter Jaymi called and wondered if Karen and I wanted to go for a walk out at her house on Camano Island. We did go even though I wasn’t convinced I was up to it. I can’t tell you the joy I felt just being around my daughter and her three kids. When we left their home I felt 100% better.
Was it just being around my family which made all the difference? Maybe some but not all of it. It was what I did on the way to their house which paved the way for an attitude adjustment. I prayed that God would help me change my perspective on today’s circumstances. I thanked God for my family and thanked him that I was well enough to enjoy this day with them. That was it but it changed everything.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
Remember ‘Where’s Waldo’? Because of my recent hiatus from the blogging world, you probably have been asking…”Where’s Terry”? If you speculated I enjoyed my time at the Providence Luxury Hotel so much that I decided to extend my stay, you are partially correct. I did extend my stay; I have not yet learned to enjoy suffering.
She knew how much I enjoyed my previous stay. The accommodating staff had worked hard to meet my every need while repairing a hole in my heart. So on December 23rd, I once again found myself reclining on one of the hotel’s Swedish massage tables while eagerly awaiting my surgery to place a stent (angioplasty) in an artery not feeding enough blood into my hungry heart.
You know the saying…”Time flies when you’re having fun”. No sooner had I kissed Karen good-by, I awoke to her smiling face. A band, wrapped around my right wrist, applied pressure to the opened artery. A nurse told me my surgeon couldn’t proceed up the artery to my blockage, so he had to use the same right artery he used in my groin when repairing the hole in my heart. The bruising from that last procedure was just going away…oh well.
My groin felt fine…my wrist was hurting like a son-of-a-gun. As I visited with Karen, my forearm and hand also began to hurt like a misplaced migraine headache. Soon, my hand turned an ashen shade of gray and I lost feeling to my fingers. Was this the result of a manicure gone wrong? I buzzed a nurse. As I showed her my hand, her face turned the same shade of gray as my numb limb. A phone call was placed; a vascular surgeon appeared; a declaration was made and I kissed Karen once again as a faithful staff member wheeled me away for another salon treatment.
A few hours later I returned to my private room. As I recovered from the potent cocktail served at the salon, I noticed elastic bandage wrap covering my right arm from the elbow past the palm of my hand. Because I was still recovering from the hangover of my first surgery, I hadn’t fully grasped what the second surgery entailed. Something about a hematoma and needing to release the pressure in my hand and arm. I really didn’t know what to expect… maybe a large Band-Aid over my wrist. Instead, my arm looked like the decapitated appendage from an Egyptian mummy.
The surgeon soon appeared and unwrapped three layers of bloody gauze covering my arm and hand. Karen and I gasped. An impressive 12 inch long by 2 inch wide window into my forearm had been opened. The wound was held open by a network of blue rubber bands hooked to staples. I was in awe (shock) at the sight of the inner workings of my arm. It looked like a salmon fillet which was ready to throw on the barbecue. No…a fillet is a boneless piece of meat. I had a clear view of one of my tendons and I watched a busy little artery pulsate in rhythm to my beating heart.
After rewrapping my arm, the vascular surgeon left. My cardiologist then appeared and explained that while he entered the artery in my wrist, he accidentally punctured the back side of it at the same time without knowing he did it. This caused the blood to pour into my hand and forearm. Talk about a blood-bath!
I spent Dec. 23rd and 24th in Providence and came home late Christmas day. After some of the swelling went down, I returned to Providence on the 29th to have the rubber bands replaced with stitches. Now I have an arm full of sutures Frankenstein would be proud of.
Some may look at this as a tragedy but I see opportunity. How many people take the time to invest in developing the coordination and strength of their weak hand. I’ve got 3 to 6 months to train my left hand to perform as well as my right. Even now, as I type this post, my left hand is doing all the work. You never know when you will be forced to use your weak hand to brush your teeth or wipe your fanny. I’ll be ready!
Oh how we take for granted so many things in our lives…like the good fortune of a steady paycheck, the freedoms we possess for living in America, the love of a loyal spouse, and our good health.
Job and I have a few things in common: We both understand how our fortunes can change in an instant. (Well my fortunes changed over the course of a few months, while Job’s actually did change instantly). Let me show you a comparison…Me first:
September 25 -I suffer a mini-stroke. Recovered quickly but found out I couldn’t drive school bus for an entire year.
December 13 – I can’t breath and almost pass out. Karen calls the ambulance and I’m rushed to the emergency room. (Yipee!!!) Diagnosis: Dehydration.
December 15 – A wind storm rips off a big branch from our cedar tree and takes out part of our chain link fence and our grandkids’ swing set. (Glad it missed our house).
On December 23 another heart surgery to put a stent in one of my arteries. Ooops! Doctor punctures artery resulting in a hematoma.
Now for Mr. Job, “…a good man who feared God and stayed away from evil”. Job 1:1 “Job’s sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother’s house when tragedy struck.” Job 1:13 :
.”A messenger rushed to Job’s home with this news: Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us, drove away the animals and killed all the farmhands except me.”
“While the messenger was still speaking, another arrived with more bad news: The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the herdsmen, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
“As he was still speaking, another arrived to say, “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert, and engulfed the house so that the roof fell in on them and all are dead; and I alone escaped to tell you.”
A short time later Satan, who was behind all the mischief to begin with, asked God for permission to hurt him. God relented and gave Job a horrible case of boils from the tip of his head to the bottom of his feet.
So why does God allow suffering? That’s a question Godly men have wrestled with throughout the centuries, including Job. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.”
How can suffering be “working for our good“? James, the brother of Jesus, answers this question in James 1:2-4: “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”
God wants us to love him by having faith that He knows what He is doing in our lives. When life is good, we are happy with our circumstances and feel God loves us and is pleased with us. When life takes a U-turn for the worse, we often feel distant from God. God must be punishing us. He doesn’t care and doesn’t love us enough to rescue us from our negative circumstances.
As for me, I believe suffering is an opportunity to test my trust in God. Do I enjoy suffering? Do I consider it pure joy? Are you crazy? Sorry James but I guess I’m not mature enough to “be happy when the way is rough.” I am mature enough though to understand that God loves me no matter what. If I am going to give Him control of my life, I have to be ready to accept the fact that He will, at times, bring difficult situations into my life for training purposes.
Remember the greatest commandments? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” is first. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is second. A part of love is having empathy toward the suffering of others. If we have no personal experience with suffering how can we learn to love those who suffer? If we haven’t experienced suffering, how can we hope to even come close to understanding the suffering Christ experienced for us on the cross?
Yes, through suffering our faith is tested but also our capacity for empathy grows. We must first acquire the faith necessary to humbly allow God to do his good work in our lives. This good work (which at times involves suffering) then allows us to feel the pain and suffering of others, including Christ. It is then, through suffering, we can truly begin to love others as we love ourselves and to truly love the Lord with our hearts, souls, and minds.
If you would like to see a photo of the inside of my arm, keep scrolling down.
I want to thank all of you who have been praying for Karen and I. For those of you who don’t know, for Christmas this year, Karen obtained reservations for me back at the Providence Luxury Hotel in Everett this Friday. I’m looking forward to another heart-warming experience.
I had a hole in my heart I presumed from having 7 out of our 10 grandchildren not make it home for Christmas last year. It was my Doctor who told me about spending a night at the Providence Hotel.
They told me not to eat before coming. I imagined they had something special they were preparing for me and boy was I right. They first put me in a blue (my favorite color) patterned, open backed, lounge jacket. Wearing such a bold article of clothing made me feel uneasy at first. I told Nurse Bobbie I was straight but she assured me the jacket is gender neutral and that it looked great on me. (Blush)
By some bizarre coincidence, all the staff had the same first name. One-by-one as they entered my penthouse suite to serve me, it was Nurse Bobbie or Nurse Heather or Nurse Karen. I’m horrible with remembering names so it was actually a relief of sorts.
After some casual chit-chat I was getting hungry. Then Nurse Bobbie told me that my Doctor was delayed so my special appointment had to wait. That was okay. I got to spend some romantic alone time with Karen (not Nurse Karen but my wife Karen).
After four hours on a rock hard bed, I have to admit, the romance part was beginning to fade. But then it was time to leave for some much needed pampering. I waved good-by to Karen while being whisked away toward paradise.
I was really hungry by now and to my surprise I was wheeled into the largest, stainless steel kitchen I’d ever seen. Chefs clothed in white and carrying carving knives rushed around the room. One told me he would give me something to help me relax. Now I don’t do drugs and will only occasionally have a glass of wine. Whatever he gave me though put me under the table faster than a hard mule kick to the head.
I awoke an hour later with two Nurses massaging both upper thighs. Karen (my wife) was right beside me and didn’t seem upset by this seductive massage so I shrugged and went with the flow. I think they went a little overboard though…I’m still bruised down to my knees.
After the message one Nurse decided it was time to teach me some yoga. She told me to lay flat on my back with my arms at my side and to not move until the bleeding stopped. I had no idea they would resort to the ancient art of blood-letting to heal my heart.
So I obediently assumed the Corpse Pose. I reclined in this position every night while sleeping in my own bed. This would be a piece-of-cake. What I didn’t know was that my bleeding wouldn’t stop until nineteen-hours later. I quickly discovered that holding the Corpse position for that long will bring a grown man to tears. Every part of my body began to cramp up…especially my lower back. I begged to be able to lay on my side…the nurse said no. I begged for her to put pillows under my knees…the nurse said no. I begged to get up so I could walk to the bathroom…she handed me a jug to pee in while lying flat on my back. She wouldn’t even let me try a new yoga pose so I could let gravity do it’s job.
I finally broke under the pressure from pain and politely asked (screamed) for morphine. The nurse had no problem doping me up.
The dedicated staff delivered breakfast in bed the next morning, so all that yoga discipline was worth the pain… that is until trying to eat it while lying flat on my back. I finally got the hang of it until attempting to drink my orange juice.
Well those were the highlights of my last trip to Providence. This Friday I will go back to open up a blocked artery (I presume it became blocked from trying to eat while lying flat on my back). All kidding aside, keep praying for me (and Karen). All these stays at the Providence Luxury Hotel is taking a toll on her. I think she’s just jealous.