Category Archives: Story of My Life

Five Years

Five years later…

My Dearest Husband,
As we pledged our lives to one another, we never could have known what was ahead. I know that these first five years are only a small dip into the well of blessing that the Lord has for us. As I write, I am reminded of the words we sang that day:

“Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.”

In joyful anticipation of growing closer every year…

Love,
Your Wife

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A Wednesday in December

Wednesday: the first week in December, 2006

I walked out the door to the babysitters with a heavy heart.  I could still hear Darcy screaming inside, but there was nothing else I could do.  Not quite 8:00 AM; it had been an insane morning already!  My mom had been suffering shortness of breath for a several weeks and was in the hospital for heart tests that day — a thought that I was trying desperately hard not to consider the ramifications of as she was Darcy’s primary care giver when I worked — so I had to get Darcy to somebody else’s house, and get her settled and still get to work on time. 

There seems to be an unwritten law of human nature that it’s the morning you most need things to go smoothly that they absolutely do not.  Late alarm, crabby child, one too many stop lights, the necessity of a different babysitter, an early meeting at work, and the far too common freight train blocking the only road I could get to work by.  On top of the full and difficult morning, it was also the week of the Christmas concert, so I had two rehearsals before Sunday.  By the time I finally sat down at my desk to work that Wednesday, I could feel the tension in my temples.  Great, just great.

I was in the process of scrolling through all the morning’s emails when I saw something from Bob.  Smiling at what was sure to be an interesting and encouraging diversion, I opened it.  The email covered a variety of topics … his years spent in Africa, his parents continued ministry there, and a few other topics random topics.  However, the last paragraph was anything but ordinary.  I stopped, read, and re-read… He asked if his friendly email banter was bothering me, and then …”I want to ask you out on a date…”

He went on to outline how he didn’t know where I was at or if I was potentially already in a relationship with somebody else, but he had put his intentions very clearly.  He wanted to go on a date.  As I write this now, it seems ridiculous that I could have been so unaware of his intentions at the time, but I was …and so I was shocked, and not at all sure how to respond.  My eyes focused on the last line “…so feel free to slap me down” …

I couldn’t handle this today.

But how could I not handle it?  I was going to see Bob at the concert rehearsal that night!  There was no escaping this.

A little annoyed at his insensitivity (How could he not know what a crazy day I’m having?”), I shelved the email, determining to come back to it later that day. 

Later on, I called my mom to see how the tests had gone.  She explained to me through a fog of drugs that the tests went well and that the results were encouraging.  I’d never heard my mom so … high.  However, she wasn’t so drugged that she didn’t question the strain she heard in my voice.  Moms are special that way.  Responding to her query, I mentioned the email I’d received. 

Should I?

Why not?  He’s a nice guy.  Just don’t keep him waiting.

Don’t keep him waiting.  Thanks, Mom. 

I silently wished that I had more time.  Maybe I could stall just a little bit.  Not to a mean or cruel level, just to an “I need to catch my breath” level…

I emailed him back later in the day with a polite acknowledgement of his question and the response that “maybe we can grab coffee sometime”.  Not quite a slap down, but at least a slight stall that could save rampant awkwardness at the rehearsal.

I should have known better … characteristic of a trait I now greatly respect in Bob, he demanded the same upfront behavior of me that he did (and does) expect of himself… 

The reply to my email was almost immediate:

“So … was that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’?”

So much for my stalling technique …

Do You Know What Part You Sing?

“Do you know what part you sing?”

The conductor’s baton was leveled at me with a smug superiority; the voice was full of condescension as it assumed ignorance.

Nothing had been resolved with the question of the music intern and now, as I attended my first Christmas concert rehearsal in over a year, I was feeling rather self-conscious.  And I was not-a-little annoyed as he proceeded to single me out. What I wanted to do was stand up and say, “Listen here, Choir Boy, I’ve been in multiple choirs and have over a decade of music training to my name, but yes, I clearly need you to tell me where ‘middle C’ is!” But I swallowed what I wanted to say and just nodded.  His behavior only confirmed my perception of professional artists: condescending, snide, aloof.*

My sole (and disastrous) relationship had been with a concert pianist, and I was done (DONE!) with musicians.  As far as I was concerned, they were all terribly high-maintenance and not worth the trouble.

6 weeks later… “Facebook?  What’s Facebook?” At the sound of my question, my youngest sister Carrie snorted and replied, “What?  It’s, like, this ridiculous MySpace-thing, but it’s supposedly for college kids.  Why?  How did you hear about it?” The emphasis on the word “you” had the intended affect of making me feel every one of my 80 years. (at least, I’m pretty sure that’s how old my baby sister thinks I am) I stared back at the computer screen, again reading the Facebook invitation sent to me by Bob, the music intern.  (because his name was Bob, and I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that in this story line before)  Initiating contact, even over the Internet, made me slightly nervous.  What was he up to?  But I was also curious.  Had he taken my e-mail off the choir list? Why?

2 weeks after that… having emailed each other several times (and having a newly established Facebook profile), I was coming around to the idea of Bob.  He was nicer than anticipated, and not as high-maintenance as I’d assumed.  We even had a lot in common!  I was happy to have made a new friend.

He was genuinely a nice guy, and he would undoubtedly make some nice girl a good husband at some point…


 

*Bob is always my editor on these life posts, and in reading this one, he would like me to specifically indicate to the reading audience that he feels he was not condescending or aloof in ANY way.

The Question I Couldn’t Answer

“But what would you do if he asked you out on a date?”

My father sat completely relaxed in his refurbished antique easy chair; seemingly unaware of the ridiculous nature of his question.  His chair with its nubbled and faded fabric was long termed the “decision making chair” by those who had heard verdicts handed down as a product of hours of thought and prayer in that seat.  This is where my dad came to think and converse.

I sat across from him on my parents’ bed, legs tucked underneath me belying my adulthood and continued the conversation we’d been having for some time.  Though I tried to hide it, I thought I’d never heard anything crazier than his question and my tone showed it. “Dad, it is not going to happen.  It’s not like that.”

As my now six month old daughter napped soundly in the next room, my parents and I hashed through something that had been troubling me slightly since church that morning: the music intern.

He had been on staff for over a year and I’d met him and worked on a couple things with him before being pregnant, but he was a vague shadow on my consciousness at best.  I’d only spoken to him once – on the Sunday I’d been able to share my testimony with the church – he’d sought me out afterwards and made a point of telling me how brave he thought I was.  I thanked him for his encouragement and was promptly pulled into a different conversation.  The moment passed and so did he.

Now, months later, there was no other way to describe it other than that it seemed like he was always “around”.  A Sunday rarely passed that I didn’t seem to pass him in the hall or he’d be in the foyer and come over to greet me and see Darcy.  His interest in Darcy made sense as he spoke often and with obvious pride of his new nephew.  The rest didn’t make any sense, but I felt well and truly protected in a double cocoon of purpose and baggage.

I have never experienced so serious a season of peace as I did in those months right after Darcy was born.  People often used to confide in me about their prayers for a husband for me and a father for Darcy, and though I appreciated their thoughtfulness, I couldn’t understand their urgency in this because we were so well taken care of between my actual family and our church family.  In addition, I felt called to a season of singleness.  My single-parenthood was a testimony to God’s faithfulness and grace in me and I had every intention of using it as such.  I was meant to live out my life married to this ministry.

And not at all to disparage the reality of my feelings in the season, but even IF I ever experienced a change of heart towards my future; who would choose to align themselves to a woman with such obvious “baggage”?  Lingering emotional scars, a body ruined in child birth, and most of all … a child.  No date could ever be casual and dating me meant an instant family.  Nobody wanted that.

So being at peace with a calling to single parenthood and ministry was truly for the best all around.

But what about the music intern?

 

Child of Grace

March 5th: The baby could be anticipated with joy

And what is left of this story?  The baby

Darcy (“the one who dwells in the stronghold”) Charis (“grace”) was born at 6:59 AM on Tuesday, April 18th, 2006.  My prayer for her has always been that she would live to fulfill her name: that she would dwell in the shadow of the Almighty and forever be a testimony of His Grace.  She was and is a child picture of my grace as well.

And so I began … raising my daughter while working full time to provide for us both, trusting God to meet our every need, and feeling completely led to stay single and reach others for Christ with my story of God’s faithfulness.

More than once, I was told with well-meaning intentions (or so I choose to believe) that others were praying for a husband to “rescue” me, but I really didn’t consider myself a person to be rescued.  God loved me and provided for me more and better than any human husband could and between that and the many promises of the Word to the fatherless, Darcy and I felt incredibly covered in this season.

Yet …

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” ~ Proverbs 16:9

This was not the end of a story, but the close of another chapter.

 

**Missed the rest of the story (so far)?  It’s right here!**

Story of My Life (update)

Hey!  If you’re new to e-family or even if you’re not new and you just haven’t had a chance to catch up on this, here are the different chapters from my testimony of God’s faithfulness over the last several years.  Make sure to come back tomorrow as well because there’s another chapter that I’ve been working on … short and sweet … but NOT TO BE MISSED.

Prologue: It Confounds Logic

Is There Another Way?

The Dual Road

A Moment of Insight

A Time of Joy in Shifting Sand

The Peaceful Decision

If You’re Lucky, You Get A Phone Call

March 5th, pt I

March 5th, pt II

Coming tomorrow [05/23/2011]  … Child of Grace

 

March 5th, pt. II

Missed “March 5th, pt I”?  Read it here.

Something that is only too apparent to those who know me is that I’d FAR prefer a root canal to public speaking.  I don’t know why … my husband is the exact opposite … but public speaking petrifies me.

This was my biggest obstacle: speaking as Daryle had asked me to speak had to be done, but I really, really wasn’t looking forward to getting up and speaking in front of the whole church.  The date was set for Sunday, March 5, 2006 (trust me, this date IS significant … but also for a future blog), so I had a week or so to prepare my thoughts and come to term with my nerves.

The morning of Sunday the 5th, I was overwhelmed by God’s grace.  I was not alone in any possible way.  The entire elder board as well as my parents stood behind me as I spoke briefly.  Daryle had prefaced what I said with some thoughts on church support, encouragement, and most importantly accountability (this is a word that you, if you’re around me for any length of time, will hear me use a LOT).  After I spoke, they gathered around me and prayed for me, my precious daughter, and our church.

These few sentences seem to be way too short a description of that incredible morning.  It was a momentous day but, in truth, I remember very little of it.  It passed in a blur.  I recall impressions, like hearing my own voice, the heat of the lights on the stage, appreciating our college pastor’s hand on my arm while praying as I started to feel faint, the almost deathly quiet in the room, the absence of fear, feeling no condemnation.

God’s lavish grace and faithfulness through my church family was incredible.  Again, I was overwhelmed.  They gave me a baby shower … so many people and so many gifts … as I looked around my living room late that night (after the shower) and saw what I would learn in future was most of my baby’s first year of life completely provided for, all I could think of was Isaiah’s response to the Lord’s presence in Isaiah 6: he realized his own sinful heart in the presence of God’s holiness.  Yes, baby gifts are hardly holy, but God’s provision for the sake of His glory is.  I was humbled in such a beautiful way.

Why discuss in such detail the role my church played in these months?  My hope then – and now, even as I write this – is that my talking about what happened in my life and seeking accountability will encourage others to do the same and/or reach out to those around them in need.  We do need each other, and as my wise father often says, “Churches should be hospitals for sinners, not museums for saints.” 

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with” (James 5:16-17—The Message).

I spoke publicly.  The issue was an issue no longer.  It was now a picture of God’s faithfulness.

The baby could be anticipated with joy.

March 5th, pt I

Far from being settled, I felt like the last weeks of my pregnancy seemed even more in a state of upheaval than the fall.

February had passed in a blur of family events and the settling of my grandma’s estate. There were now only a few weeks until the baby was to be born and I was still receiving phone calls and e-mails and having conversations in which it was becoming increasingly obvious that there were very few people around me who were at peace with unwed pregnancy in general and my unwed pregnancy in particular. Occasionally, speculation would reach me: “Where is she at spiritually? Does she understand what all this is about? Does she know how hard her life will be?” It was almost as if people needed a place to categorize me (repentant sinner, rebellious sinner, fallen, etc.) in order know how to process my life and know how to deal with me.

This was disconcerting at best.

Not just for me, but this especially plagued me for my unborn daughter. How would they treat her? When she was two and going through the “terrible twos,” would they say, “Oh, that’s so normal, every child goes through that”? Or would they say, “Oh, look at that child acting out! It’s clear she has a non-traditional family atmosphere and has no father-figure.” Would she always carry the weight of my bad decisions? This horrified me!

Yes, a little dramatic, I know, but I really thought about these things!

This was still being viewed a problem. My child was an ISSUE.

I believe that one of the most amazing aspects of pregnancy is the mother’s joy in the feeling of life. Sooner or later, no matter how difficult the stress surrounding a pregnancy, all women (or something like 99.875% of women) begin to enjoy and anticipate their child. However, any impending joy in the amazing feeling of life and my imminent motherhood was interpreted as some kind of disconnectedness from the seriousness of my situation and prospects. How long before it was appropriate for me to feel joy over my baby? Was it not possible to fully realize the gravity of my situation, the grace covering my sin, and still, STILL to feel joy at God’s gift of a child in the midst of it?

I remember one conversation with my mom in particular where I just sobbed to her, “When will my baby get to be a baby and not an issue? Will I ever be able to feel joy at her life?!”

How much time I wasted in worrying …

At the end of February, I met with Daryle (my senior pastor – I think I’ve mentioned him before) again. We talked through several things, and at the end of our time, he spoke of what he felt was the need for the church to hear my heart. He knew where I was, and my close friends knew where I was, but he and many with him felt like the church as a whole would greatly benefit from hearing where God had brought me.

This was not to be a public confession; it was about sharing the faithfulness of God in MY life and also beautiful moment of awareness for those around to support me in prayers and encouragement as I looked forward to raising this child. He said that from that point on (marking the time that I would be sharing), I would be able to look back and point to that day as a day of remembrance – I would look back and see the goodness of the Lord and could direct others to do the same. It would cease to be an issue, and start to be a baby over whom we could all feel great joy!

I remember that my mom and I looked at each other in speechless awe. We hadn’t told Daryle about our conversations.

Looking back, I’m still amazed at how God had all of us arriving at the same place from so many different directions.

If You’re Lucky, You Get a Phone Call

Valentine’s Day …

My mom’s voice on the other end of the phone was heavy with emotion and exhaustion.   “It’s time. Your dad and I want each of you to talk to her tonight and say goodbye.”  

There was a sick feeling as the logic of her words hit my heart … How ridiculous!   I couldn’t say goodbye because Grandma wasn’t going to die.   She couldn’t!  She had been doing so much better, and she was so close–literally just a few weeks–from seeing her first great-grandchild!

I remember very little of my final conversation with my grandmother. She couldn’t speak at all, so it could hardly even be called a conversation. I spoke to her about the baby, and told her I loved her. I think I might have even talked to her about how soon the baby would be born.  As I consider it now, I wish I hadn’t done that.   I can’t imagine being in the final hours of your life and having someone else bring up some of the things you’ll miss in the near future.

Within 24 hours, she was gone.

Another loved one, another death, another moment when I pleaded for her to not go … but there was a vast difference this time. I wasn’t bitter or resentful. My heart, while sad, was ultimately peaceful because, rather than blaming God, I was trusting Him.

I would add only this in closing – if you have someone you should have talked to by now, a relationship you need to restore, a person you need to forgive, even someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with and you haven’t … do it. Do it today.  Because you’re almost never lucky enough to get a phone call.

The Peaceful Decision

I listened to the strange voice on the other end of the phone telling me that it was a doctor at a hospital in Arkansas and my mind went blank.  Just days before Christmas, my name and number had been with my grandmother at the time of a nasty fall, so she’d given the information to the hospital as an emergency contact. That was all it took to alert the whole family. She’d slipped on some ice. It was just a broken hip.   I’ve since learned that there is no such thing as “just” a broken hip…

My parents had to go be with her. My parents … the glue holding all the craziness together … left right before Christmas.  It was awful.  That was probably one of the worst Christmases I can remember.   We were so sad, but in some ways, for the first time in months, my sisters and I had to see each other and communicate.  So, it was painful but good all at the same time.

The original thought had been to get Grandma Poole installed back in her house post surgery and return to Chicago, but there were complications, and so, despite being back in town briefly over New Year, my parents began logging what would be a little over two months of their lives in Arkansas.   During this time, we talked almost constantly on the phone.   I’d call on my way to work in the morning, and on my way back in the evenings, and sometimes on some days (depending on the circumstances), I’d call several times in between.   Our communication was strong and my ability to stand on my own in this (by God’s grace) got better.

Two really big events occurred in my life during this separation as well.

First, after much deliberation on the part of the board and discussion between the leaders of the institution and my pastor, it was decided that the institution at which I was employed, while Christian, was not a church and could not exercise authority over this issue the same way a church potentially could and so I was told that they would be happy if I would keep my job and receive all the maternity benefits therein.  I would like to stress this point as a wonderful thing – this decision alone helped me talk to students (for the rest of my time at the college) who felt as if they were drowning in a sea of legalism – there was hope – God was at work in the hearts of many.  Having this piece in place also freed me up to finally make the decision on the potential of adoption.

Over the holiday season, I had talked to a couple adoption agencies, and though they were wonderful and encouraging, I couldn’t shake the feeling of almost nauseous unease.   Every reason for adopting (for me) ended with the phrase “get on with your life.” This felt so selfish and wrong to me.   How could I ever “get on with my life?” This was HUGE and life-changing. Besides this, the best reasons for adoption (as I listed them) were to provide a good home atmosphere with a loving family for the child – something that I had to give between my nuclear family, my extended family, and finally, my church family! At this point, I don’t feel the need to go into detail about the aspects/influence of being raised in a non-traditional or single parent family, but that was a serious concern that I definitely considered and even sought counsel on. [Please note: I would also very much like to stress that these arguments are my personal feelings on my personal situation and cannot/should not be applied to the concept of adoption in other situations without deep and prayerful consideration.]

It came down to this question for me: Was this child in need of rescuing?

Birth mother is over 21: check.

Completed college degree: check.

Gainfully employed: check.

Loving and supportive family: check.

No! I could not find a strong enough reason for the necessity of a rescue.

Now came the time for prayer: “Lord, I feel that our home would be a good atmosphere for this little girl – is that what you want for her?”

I’ll never forget the night I was sitting in bed, working on a bible study, and a verse that I was reading stood out to me with the answer. I called my parents in tears, my heart finally at peace – the burden of decision gone! This baby was my firstborn, my daughter, and she would stay with me.

God’s timing on that decision and the peace it brought was perfect and good.

I would need that peace with me in the coming weeks.