Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Do Fairytales Exist?

I am compelled to write this morning as I need to express some thoughts stuck in my brain! Bare with me as I unload a little.
Over the last 10 years of doing ministry with single girls, I have been asked/warned a couple times about presenting marriage as too much of a fairytale. "Don't you think you are setting them up for unreasonable expectations? This could cause some serious disillusionment."  Comments of that nature. The first time I heard it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I would NEVER want to mislead the girls. 
Was I doing that?
As the years have gone by, I have seen love story after love story written by God. I have been to weddings that were so full of God's love and blessing, it was like a little slice of heaven. It has increased my faith as I watch the hand of God mysteriously working to bring 2 believers together as one in order to serve Him.
I can't promise every single girl a husband. I don't know God's plan for each of them.
But, if God does lead them to be a helper to a godly man,  that is a GIFT.
God doesn't owe any girl a godly marriage.
It is a GIFT.
The good news is our God is a GOOD GIFT GIVER.

"So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him."
Matt 7:11

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
James 1:17
The message we hear/see (from the world) when it comes to marriage is that it is 100% work and sanctification. DEATH to self. Disappointment. Sacrifice. And then (50%+ of the time) it dissolves completely. I mean, how many great marriages have you seen? 
Ones where the couple still laughs together? 
Couples who don't only have agape love but phileo and eros too? Couples who are unified in ministry and discipleship?
and makes it all the way to the end

My grandparents had this kind of marriage. I witnessed it my entire life.
They were truly ONE.
They served God together.
He loved her like IT WAS HIS JOB.

My grandfather's name is Jack. My grandmother's name was Louise.
My grandfather has an unbelievably sharp mind and a vivid memory.
After my grandmother died in August, I asked him to tell me their story so I could part of it down...

My grandmother was the oldest of 5 children.
Her family was Christian as far back as my grandfather can remember. She learned the Bible at school and memorized lots of Scripture at home. 
They gardened. Their house was out in the woods with an outhouse. They ate lots of veggies and chicken. 
My grandmother's baby sister (Jean) died from a childhood illness when she about 4. She had something called osteomyelitis. 
My grandmother kept her picture by her bed her entire life.
(The reunions in heaven are going to be AWESOME!!!)

My grandfather moved 17 times before he came to Tennessee and he changed schools 12 times.
He saw my grandmother for the first time at school.
She had a locker close to his. :)
(thank you, Lord for your sovereign hand!!! Crazy how God works in the simple to do the miraculous)

My grandfather didn't have a car so he went with his friend to see Louise (my grandmother) and her cousin, Margie. My grandfather asked to be paired with Louise.
He smiled as he told me the story recently.
He said, "I had never had a sweetheart before".
His friend said, "Harold, why don't you two go out on the swing?". :)
What he didn't know is that my grandmother (Louise) was on a mission! 
She moved over close to him on the swing and said,
"I ate onions tonight but you can kiss me if you want to."
(Ha!! My grandmother was AWESOME and hysterically funny.)

Louise was a cheerleader.
Jack was a basketball player.
They rode the bus together.
Meanwhile, a supernatural love story is being written.

In 1943, when Jack was 17, he asked his mother to get him a ring.
They went to Ohio to get the ring.
He said it cost about one hundred dollars.
Back then, that was A LOT of money.
(He said over their 70 years of marriage, he tried to get her a nicer ring but she didn't want a different one. She only wanted her original ring).

Things were good for these engaged-high school-sweethearts.

 However, as soon as he graduated from high school,  he got drafted into serving our country. 
He was so brave as he left everything he knew to fight in World War 2.
He wrote her letters about how they would get married when he got home.  HOW I WISH I HAD THOSE LETTERS!!!!!!
2 years later...
Pretty soon after he started serving with the Navy, there was a fight where 3 kamikaze planes headed toward the ship trying to bomb them. Then, out of nowhere, 2 American planes came diving out of the clouds and shot them down. 
My grandfather said there was so much "hoopin' and hollerin" it sounded like we were at a football game!
God spared his life.
In April of 1945, my grandfather was on a ship in Okinawa that did get attacked by a kamikaze. One of the gunners shot the plane but pieces of it still hit the boat 
  leaving one dead and ten wounded.
One of those wounded was my grandfather. A piece of the shrapnel (part of the wing of the plane) hit my grandfather in the head and knocked him across the room. If he hadn't had his helmet on, it would have killed him. The gun captain (his best buddy) came over and said, "hurry and get back, we have to get the guns going again". 
Jack said, "Bud, I can't get up. My leg is hurt."
Bud said, "I'll help you. You are the only one who can fire the gun."
He said, "Start firing close range!".
The plane ended up hitting the ship behind them because my grandfather's ship was able to scare them off.
God spared his life again.
So scary to think of how close he came to death numerous times.
My family would  not exist if he would have died in the war.
Thank you, God, for protecting my grandfather all those years ago!

My grandfather was then put on a hospital ship where they removed a piece of shrapnel from his thigh and tried to remove a small piece in his knee.   He was in a ward with burn victims from the kamikaze pilots and bombs. My grandfather still remembers the smell of burnt flesh.

He was able to come home on wounded leave for a month.

I'm sure seeing my grandmother again after 2 years of such trauma was incredibly sweet and healing to his soul.
He said he was so tired after he got home. But he went to see her anyway. He actually fell asleep on his way home and ran in a ditch. He ended up just sleeping in the back seat. 
He said nothing could stop him from seeing her.

You had to be 21 to sign to get married back then. Neither of them were.
I think my grandmother had been planning their wedding for the last 2 years. :) My grandfather jokes that he was married before he knew what happened to him. (rumor has it that she knew he was a catch and that she needed to marry him fast!) 

Jack's dad signed the wedding certificate.
Their wedding was in their preacher's home. There are no pictures that we know of :( 
It was a little 2 room house. 
Oh how I praise God for that day!! That day would pave the way for generations of believers.
My sweet grandparents had no idea what God was doing in that little house with their preacher.
Thank you, Lord, for that day! It brings tears to my eyes!!

My dad (Don) was born in 1946.
My grandfather was an excellent baseball player. He was lined up to play minor league baseball.
She told him that if he left to go play baseball while she was having a baby, she would kill him!
So, instead of playing baseball that day, he was there when his one and only son was born on May 18, 1946.

Again, life seemed good.
But, tragedy was lurking just around the corner. 
In 1947, his mother was in a terrible accident that left 80% of her body burned.
Jack's dad had taken the kerosene can and filled it with gasoline. She didn't know that so when she went to use the can, it blew up and caught her on fire. 
Jack's brother, Bobby, was home from the navy and smothered the fire out.
My grandfather remembers details of that day. He said it was "drizzling" outside. 
Jack also had a younger sister and an 18 month old baby brother (Tommy) at the time of the accident. 
His mom was in the hospital for 3 YEARS. His dad stayed by her side in the hospital.
They skin grafted skin off of my grandfather's legs to try and replace part of the burns on my grandmother. They used fish hooks and pinch grafts to remove the skin off of my grandfather.
It never took.
My grandfather recognized the smell of her burnt skin from the ship hospital.
Louise took on the responsibility of helping raise his younger siblings. 

My grandfather said, "most women would have packed up and went back home".
It was big job. But she did it. She took care of people her entire life.
She was a servant. 

My grandfather walked away from baseball after his mom got burned. He told me, "I realized God needed me to do something more than baseball."
He gave up his dream to serve the Lord and care for his family.
(It is so beautiful to watch my oldest son play baseball and think of my grandfather. Reece is also a left-handed pitcher.)
His mom ended up passing away from infection from her wounds.
I can't imagine her life. So much pain and sorrow. 
And not being able to take care of her 18 month old baby. 
I love that my grandfather's dad stayed by her side.

So, my grandmother and grandfather (Jack) continued caring for his little brother and his 9-year-old sister. Along with raising their own baby (my dad). 
Below is his baby brother, Tommy (on the left) and my dad (on the right).

It was a sad and hard time but they had each other. They always had each other. They worked hard side-by-side.. serving in the Church and serving each other.

In 1969, another tragedy struck. My grandfather's little brother (Tommy), the one he raised, was in an accident at work.  Tommy was now married and working at the railroad. He was standing in the doorway of a railroad car when it suddenly came unlatched and hit him in the head. It killed him instantly. My grandfather's heart was broken for years. He loved his little brother so much.

But, as they say, a broken heart keeps beating. Time went on and grief eventually began to fade some.
My dad grew up and married my mom and then had 2 girls. We had many beautiful years all together as a family.
We had a little family but it seemed perfect to me. I loved my family so much.
I have wonderful memories of being in their home. My grandmother cooked the yummiest food and her house was spotless. She was always working.
She read the Bible to me at night.
I still have dreams about it sometimes.
It was SO SAFE there.
They were such a godly couple.

(50th wedding anniversary)
My grandfather has always had my heart. He has modeled the love of Jesus to me my entire life.
The way he loved my grandmother was shocking. 
He took care of her for 70 years. They served at their Church constantly. They took care of their aging parents.
As they got older, they moved into an assisted living and my grandmother started developing dementia. He loved her the same. 
She almost died years ago. My grandfather was in the room with her and took her by the hand.
It was one of the most powerful moments I have EVER witnessed.
She lay in the hospital bed in ICU. She had to have CPR which caused a collapsed lung, cracked ribs,  other issues. This all stemmed from a simple surgery that went wrong.
He took her by the hand and bowed his head and said "not my will but yours be done". 
That was it. The love he had for her was so powerful and strong yet he still submitted to the authority of God. God spared her life that day and added many more years to it. 

The last years we had with her with so sweet because everyday with her was a miracle.
Papaw cared for her in the assisted living. She didn't talk much and had "bladder issues" :). Yet his love for her was untouched by her failing body. He LOVED her.

My dad's death in 2014 was the next tragedy in ALL of our lives. It was so painful. My heart was broken for me and my grandfather. He had experienced so much loss. My grandmother's dimentia left him emotionally alone to grieve the death of their son. I see it as God's grace though because she was spared the grief. God shielded her. 
I walked with her to my dad's casket and I watched her as she looked at my dad.
She adored my dad. He adored her. 
But, by God's grace, the pain of death didn't hit her this time.
I think the Lord Jesus carried it and just plain spared her.

This past August 1, we celebrated my grandparents 70th anniversary. 
It was standing room only. We sang and the kids quoted Scripture. I spoke about how much I loved them and how grateful I was for their marriage.

On August 18 of this year, my grandmother went HOME to be with the Lord and my dad.
The night of her death, my grandfather's back was causing him excrutiating pain yet he stayed up with her and the nurses. Talking to her and touching her. In one of her last breaths, they kissed each other. Soon after that, she was in the presence of Jesus.

Not because they had an easy life. Their life was full of pain and loss but they had each other.
They experienced oneness through Jesus.
They served the body of Christ constantly. 
The loved people WELL.
Their marriage glorified God.
Their marriage was a refuge.

And, AGAPE love never fails.
I saw it. I saw how he loved her.
I have seen it other places too.
Like in Steve and Pam McCary's marriage.
After his beloved Pam passed away I said, "Steve, I love watching you love her."
That was profound to me. Agape love LOVES LOVING.
It also made me think of God and how He LOVES LOVING us.
"For God SO loved the world"
John 3:16

"Dear friends, since God SO loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:11

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved"
Col 3:12

My grandfather LOVED LOVING my grandmother.
He SO loved her.
He dearly loved her.

I asked him what he loved about her most.
He said, "well... she was A LOT LIKE HOPE."
That made me so happy.

She was spunky and full of life.
She was fun and loved people well.
I want that for Hope.

Now, my grandfather is just waiting for the Lord to call Him home so he can be with her and my dad again.
I tell him God has to keep him here for a long time to pray for us!!
His prayers have been such a protective  covering over us all.
One thing that has greatly impacted me is how my grandfather ALWAYS says,
"The Good Lord".
He still knows God is good after so much pain and loss.
His respect for the Lord is so deep.
He is a man of great integrity and I am so thankful to be his granddaughter.

Now, he is here without his bride.
He says he wakes up in the night and looks for her. 
He tells me stories about her and his eyes brighten.
She was the love of his life.

So, do fairytales exist?
They do.
How do I know?
Because I have seen them and I am living in one.

All fairytales have a villain. Love stories must include a struggle and triumph...
deep heartache and great joy.

When I say God writes fairytales, I do not mean that any of us get out of this life without pain.
Jesus was very clear when He said, "In the world you WILL have trouble".
Sometimes it feels as if God has given me more than the average amount.
But isn't that how we all feel?

But, my marriage has been a REFUGE. A love story within a greater love story.
Tim and I have had to FIGHT like nobody's business to protect what God has given us.
There are 3 villains actually: the devil, the world, and ourselves.
We could destroy what God has given us with our own hands.
We can allow the world to destroy it.
The enemy will gladly destroy it.

In my own earthly love story, there has been a real battle between good and evil.
But I can run away with Tim to a place where nobody can find us.
An intimate oneness found in Christ.

A fairytale marriage consists of a man and a woman who KNOW that it is only Jesus (in them) Who will draw them closer and closer and closer.

Why does God allow us to know such oneness?
So the world may know HIM.

"I pray that they will...be ONE, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent Me."
John 17:21
It is about showing Jesus to the world through our marriages. 
There is a much bigger picture.
If you want a fairytale for your own benefit, you will be disappointed.
Marriage is a gift from God to be used for God.
It is bigger than us.

Tim is my "real-life-prince".
He really is. I have a HUGE crush on him. I still love kissing him. God keeps our love fresh and sweet. 
We have what the  world is dying to know and experience.
We both know that.
We don't deserve it.
We have almost lost it.
It is ALL grace.
We are very protective of it. 
I've seen God write so many love stories. Real life fairytales.
I'm not talking about marriages with no pain or trial but marriages that survive it all through the power of Jesus. 
My marriage is a refuge where I run. A place of safety where I feel near to God. Tim has taught me so much about love. He truly LOVES LOVING me. It is so hard to receive that type of love. I didn't believe it for years but it is true.
I didn't believe God loved loving me either but He does.
That is the real fairytale.
A love story between a Prince and an undeserving bride who He can't stop loving... no matter what. 
It's an everlasting love. 
A love that wasn't earned and can't be lost.
A love that NEVER FAILS.

So, am I misleading girls to believe that love like this exists?
True love stories DO exist but they are ONLY found in Jesus Christ.
He is the treasure.
Not marriage.
Seek the KING OF KINGS more than a prince.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
2 Corinthians 4:7

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jer 29:11

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,

and no mind has imagined

what God has prepared

for those who love him.”
1 Cor 2:9

Be Blessed~


Claire said...

THANK YOU!!! I soo needed to hear that right at this moment as I care for my husband and am overwhelmed daily...

Kim said...

You have NO idea how much I needed to read this today.

thank you!