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Saturday, September 29, 2012

One After-Shift Miracle, Conclusion

Next, I phoned Curt to ask him not to pick me up until I phoned. He was a night owl so didn’t mind waiting for the call. The remainder of the shift was busy; before I knew it, the time to clock-out had come.

“Hey, Sojourner! You’re headed in the wrong direction? The door out is that way!” I had punched my time-card but headed back to the elevators. The others standing in line at the clock chimed in with their joking offerings as to why I might be so confused, all related to my newly-wed status, of course. I just waved and called back over my shoulder.

“I’m done working; now, I’m going visiting.” Turning to face the closing doors of the elevator, I smiled at their stunned stares.

Mrs. Murphy* was wide-awake and waiting for me. Before I left the Orthopedic Ward, I’d let the nursing staff know I’d be returning so they wouldn’t worry about my visit.

“Mrs. Murphy, I’d like to tell you about something that happened to me last year when I was studying in Colorado. I met God, alone in my living room. Would you like to hear what happened?” Her hand was already trembling as mine gently squeezed. She enthusiastically agreed to listen to my story. (See A New Door Opens, Conclusion)

My back was tired so I, briefly, let go of Mrs. Murphy’s hand and pulled the chair over to her bed. I raised the head of her bed so our eyes were more on the same level. Her anxiety was palpable; I longed for Mrs. Murphy to receive the Lord’s peace.

It was close to Midnight when my account drew to a close, Mrs. Murphy’s attention had never waivered. Reaching the end of the re-telling of that wonderful episode in my life, I couldn’t help but notice the longing and tears in Mrs. Murphy’s eyes. “Mrs. Murphy, Jesus loves you so much and He wants you to have His peace. Just as He gave it to me that night, he is offering it to you right now.”

“Oh, no, dear. If only… but, I’m a Catholic. We don’t really do things like that, you know.” I couldn’t help it; a chuckle escaped from my lips.

“Yes, I know, Mrs. Murphy. I’m a Catholic, too. I was a Catholic when this happened to me. It was at the foot of my crucifix, remember? No, we don’t really do things like that, but we should. It doesn’t mean that we can’t still be Catholics. It’s not about religion, Mrs. Murphy. It’s about God’s precious love for us.”

“Oh, do you think so? Can that happen to me, too?” Now her tears needed a Kleenex and I handed her the little box off the bedside table.

“Yes, Mrs. Murphy. Would you like to repeat the prayer after me? Would that be helpful?” Immediately dropping the Kleenex box, Mrs. Murphy grabbed both of my hands and bowed her head.

What a privilege it was to lead Mrs. Murphy through the simple prayer that asks the Lord’s forgiveness for her sins, thanks Him for that promised forgiveness, and asks Jesus to come into her heart. She readily surrendered her life to Jesus right there and then. As I listened to her sobs, I re-lived my own experience last May 13. I knew exactly how she was feeling and I was happy for her beyond expression.

Finally, we both blew our noses and laughed together, with the precious joy of the Lord. Mrs. Murphy’s countenance was so peaceful, her face simply radiant. 

I gave Mrs. Murphy a hug and bid her, “Goodnight,” telling her I’d stop by tomorrow, even if I was back in Maternity for my shift. Saying she’d look forward to another visit, she added, “And, thank you ever-so much, dear. I know I’ll sleep well now… for the first time in as long as I can remember.”

How marvelous to be able to share such spectacular news with my hubby as I slid over next to him for that ride home. I could hardly wait to return to work the next afternoon.

Maternity was so busy that I didn’t get over to the Orthopedic Ward until the meal break. I wolfed down my sack lunch and headed for Mrs. Murphy’s room. The bed was empty. Hmm? Maybe God had healed her and she had already been discharged? Or, could she have been transferred to another ward? I almost sprinted to the nurses’ station to ask. My break was running out. No time to lose finding Mrs. Murphy.

“Mrs. Murphy? Oh, yes, you were the one who came to visit her after shift last night, right?” I nodded, anxious as I waited for directions as to where I could find the patient. “Well, uh, how can I tell you this? As it turns out, Mrs. Murphy was right; she was dying. In fact, she died about half an hour after you left last night. I’m sorry.”

At first, I was sorry, too. It felt like I was sloshing my way through a bog as I looked for the nearest restroom. Once inside, I cried with sorrow for only a moment. Then my tears turned to real joy. Mrs. Murphy was in the arms of the Savior she had surrendered to and what better miracle could I have wanted for her? What’s so great about life on Planet Earth that I should wish an extension for her? No, the greater miracle was an eternity with Jesus, not the temporary relief from a bone tumor no one could identify. The saving of a soul, the giving of true peace,  that is the real miracle.

*Name changed.

****Have a good weekend!

Friday, September 28, 2012

One After-Shift Miracle

I’d just walked out to the nurses’ station, checked the clipboard for my assigned patients, and heard the Head Nurse calling. “Hey, Sojourner, good afternoon. You’re not on the clipboard today.”

“Hmm? Is this your subtle way of telling me I’m fired?” We were both laughing; she was shaking her head.

“No, nothing as drastic as all that but maybe you’ll think it as bad when I tell you.” Her smile drew to a thin line, but her eyes were still sparkling. I was certainly curious.

“Hey, I’m tough. Go ahead and lay it on me, Boss!”

“We don’t have enough patients and the Evening Supervisor said we have to send someone over to work in Ortho. Guess you know, being the last to join the team, that someone would be you.” True, all of the other ladies had been on the Maternity ward like forever and, believe me, none of them was the slightest bit interested in working any other place, even for one shift.

“Oh, that’s fine. I worked on the Orthopedic Surgical Ward off and on last summer. I’m used to being floated to other places. Should I change out of my scrubs or just go like this?”

”No, don’t change; I want them to remember you are on loan. If we suddenly get a rush on babies just needing to see the outside world at the same time, I’ll have them send you back to us. It’ll be faster to just change to a new scrub dress if you stay like that.” Agreeing, I made my way out the closed door that separates Maternity from the rest of the hospital.

Even though the different wards of the hospital have, basically, the same floorplans, the powers-that-be rarely put things in the same place on each ward. That’s one of the hardest parts about being sent to another ward. The nurses and aides on Orthopedics were nice to me and joined in to lend a hand whenever I had need. I reckon my Maternity scrubs let everyone know I probably did need help if I asked… a foreigner in their midst.

As I greeted each of my patients that evening shift, my introduction had to include a reason I wasn’t dressed like the others who usually worked that ward. One lady, in particular, felt badly for me and expressed her concern. “Oh dear, how awful for you! You are used to being with all that joy as the new baby is welcomed into the family and, now, you’re here with all of those who are suffering so.”

I couldn’t tell her of the patients I had been caring for just two days earlier, of course. In one room a broken-hearted adolescent had held her baby for only a couple of minutes before the infant was pulled out of her arms, given to the waiting adoption agency rep. In the very next room a recently married woman of only twenty-one years had just learned that she would have a total hysterectomy the next morning. The awful, unexpected discovery of cancer crushed the young couple’s dreams of having their own family. I spent a lot of my shift drying their tears, as well as my own. “Maternity Ward” doesn’t always equal unbridled joy.

“Well, Mrs. Murphy*, it is my pleasure to help those who are suffering find some relief, too. Is there anything I can get for you? Are you hurting anywhere?” Taking her hand in mine, I sat down on the edge of her bed.

“No, dear, I don’t need anything. Nothing can be done, really. The nurse gave me something for pain a short while ago; I’ll be better in a little bit. Go on with your other work; go help someone who can be helped.” Standing, I recorded the vital signs I’d taken, and handed her the juice I’d brought for her.

“Okay, I’ll be on my way for now. Just push your call button if you can think of anything you’d like before I check back.” Mrs. Murphy just nodded her head as her lips found the edge of the juice glass.

After I’d completed the initial checking of my assigned patients, I pulled Mrs. Murphy’s chart, hoping to find the reason for her despair. Orthopedics is not usually a gloomy place; though it can certainly be a ward full of people in post-operative pain. “Oh, you checking on Mrs. Murphy?” I looked up to see the Med Nurse glancing over my shoulder.

“Yeah, she seems so terribly miserable and it doesn’t appear to be just physical pain. She is too far past surgery to be suffering with just the usual post-operative pain so I thought I’d see what I’m missing.” I’d already read the Operation Report and flipped to the Progress Notes.

“You’ll not find it in there. Not yet, anyway. She’s got an atypical bone tumor that they are just waiting to have identified before treatment can be ordered. She says that she knows she’s dying right now. The priest has been to visit her twice already today.  Not really much you can do for her, Sweetie.”

Throughout my shift, I stopped in to sit and speak with Mrs. Murphy as often as I could. It appeared to me that her stress was increasing, nearly to the point of agitation. The nurse administered her pain medication often but it didn’t really seem to help her relax that much. I wanted to offer to pray for Mrs. Murphy but it was against hospital rules; I couldn’t do that while working. She would have to ask me as a visitor not an employee.

“Mrs. Murphy, I’ll get off shift at 11:30. If you are still awake, would you like me to stop in and we can have a prayer together?” I was surprised when Mrs. Murphy squeezed my hand so hard it hurt. I had no idea she had that much strength left.

“Oh, please, would you come back. I’ll not be asleep, please.” I assured her I would not leave for home until I had stopped to pray with her.

*Name Changed



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Campus Life Changes

The weekly contact with university students at the IVCF meetings, created in me the desire to return to my Pre-Med studies. At last, we worked out a schedule whereby I could take classes in the daytime and work at the hospital in the evenings, as I had done in the autumn quarter. The only problem was that we had one car and two people needing it. When I worked days at the hospital, Curt just arranged his classes to be finished in time to pick me up from work in the late afternoon. Plus, Curt had signed up for a Radio communications class that would require him to be in the studio at times when he would, normally, be picking me up from the hospital.

There was really only one solution for a newly-wed couple on a tight budget… move closer to campus. The spring quarter would begin soon, making housing pretty scarce near the university.

I hated to bid our first little nest adieu but, alas, it was time for change. We were allowed to rent an apartment in the married student housing, only about six blocks from the Health Sciences Building, where I would be spending a lot of my time. The second floor apartment assigned to us had a flight of wooden steps to our front door, kitchen appliances and, well, that was it. The married student apartments were not furnished.

I don’t recall just how the furniture actually got to our apartment; perhaps Curt’s parents brought it in a truck. I do know that the double bed my parents had used since I was a tiny child, found its way into our bedroom, complete with matching dresser. They had moved into my older sister’s room when she got married three years earlier so their old bedroom set wasn’t being used. A bit of living room furniture had been removed from the little summer house behind my parents’ single car garage, and it was serving us well. Since we planned to have a family, the university let us rent a two-bedroom apartment. The smaller bedroom served as a study room, furnished with only my wooden typing table and chair… also brought from my parents’ home 386 miles away. Not nearly as roomy as our first little home but it would do.

I loved the brisk walk to school each morning… early morning classes back on my schedule. When I had a bit of free time I walked over to the studio. It was such fun to see Curt as he prepared for his time on-air. His radio voice astounded me; I hadn’t known he was working on developing one. I wouldn’t have recognized him had I only heard the voice over my radio and not seen him speaking at the mike.

Then, a change we had hoped would never find us… the military draft. The government decided to give lottery numbers to the men over eighteen. When their number was drawn, they would be drafted into the army, pretty much guaranteeing them a ticket to the war in Viet Nam. Of course, when Curt received notification that his draft number was twelve, I did what any newly-wed bride would do… I panicked and phoned my father. Dad had been in the military so long, I just knew he’d have some good advice for us.

“Well, Honey, they aren’t really interested in calling up the officers who are still in training so one possibility is that Curt could sign up for ROTC there at the university. That way, he would get to finish his degree, at least. If Curt’s number did come up shortly after he finished, or if they decided they needed to take the officers in their final year of training or something like that, Curt would, at least, be drafted as an officer not a foot soldier. He’d stand a better chance of not being sent to the front line straight away.” Dad still advised us to give it some serious thought; he didn’t want to be making the decision for us.

My own father had been an officer my whole life so I thought his advice was good. Curt wasn’t that sure he wanted to join up now instead of just waiting and taking his chances. The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was never a blimp on the radar of his desires; that’s for sure. I must admit I did press him more than a little on this issue. A huge mistake on my part, as I look back over that scary time in the lives of all those in the range of the military draft. Perhaps, it was that low number, twelve. Curt signed up and carried his new Sergeant’s uniform home.

“What am I gonna do, Sojourner? I can’t be a Sergeant! I haven’t a clue what I’m supposed to be doing; how can I be a Sergeant? I don’t even know how to salute!” I was as shocked as Curt was.

“Why did they make you a Sergeant? Don’t they know you just signed up?”

“Oh yeah, they know all right and are just pleased as punch. I’m a Sergeant because I have enough university academic credits to be a third year student. That makes me a Sergeant, period. The Quartermaster issuing the uniform wouldn’t listen to reason. All he said is that he had his orders and ‘Welcome to this man’s army, Sergeant Curt!’”

Oh my, poor Curt. Had the role been reversed, I would have known just what to do. My sister and I had played Army all our childhood. My father had seen to it that we did it right. “Don’t worry, I’ll teach you how to salute.”

That’s just what I did right there on the spot. He practiced those forty-five degree angles in front of me and then in front of a mirror. Forty-five at the elbow. Forty-five with the body axis as the fingertip hit the right place on the head or cap. Snap that hand down and see that the middle finger rested on the seam of the pants… or strip if you had one down the side seam of the pants, as the officers always did.

Of course, there were also specific things to know about standing at attention, responding to “at ease”, and assuming parade rest. I told Curt all I knew about these things… when to do it and not just how. The kind of things the first-year Reserve Officer Training Cadets had already learned.

Next, I taught him to march and make the proper turns. The smartly done quarter-turn to the right was not a problem. A little more for the 180-degree reverse. The tip of the right toe was in the correct place but, somehow, spinning the body around didn’t always result in a perfect line from where the body began. The turn with the maximum difficulty was the three-quarter turn and I just never understood why the military couldn’t just let the guys do a quarter-turn to the left. Oh, no. They wanted that soldier’s body to always be headed to the right no matter where it was he should end up at attention. Some spills on the living room carpet and a lot of laughter, but, at last, Curt got it and looked very smart going through his paces.

“Well, I can report that I simply stunned my captain today!” Curt was so happy; I had heard him bounding up those wooden steps before he shot through the front door.

“So, things went well at your first ROTC meeting then?”

“Better than well. My captain thought he’d have to teach me all that stuff himself and I had the feeling I would be paying for my late joining of his group. Ha! We fooled him good! I knew everything he threw at me. Reluctantly, he had to admit I really looked like a Sergeant!” What a fabulous return on our living room training time! Oh, God, may Curt never have to use this knowledge outside of this university parade grounds. So many young men were losing their lives in that awful war so far away.

****One After-Shift Miracle… Next Post

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beginning a Home

Setting up our first home was full of exciting new experiences. We had lots of boxes to unpack, with many new household items from the wedding gifts. Our first home was a one-bedroom, furnished house and I loved it. The only drawback was its location. Our new nest was far from both the hospital and the university campus. Having transferred to the university on the other side of the State, Curt was, finally, able to major in Radio/Television. I arranged to work at the hospital full-time that first quarter, while Curt studied.

In the darkness of each early morning, my new husband dragged himself out of a warm bed, dressed, and, weathered the bitter cold to brush new snow off the car and scrape the ice off the windshield. Neither of us wanted any breakfast; it was just too early to think about eating. After about a twenty minute-drive, Curt dropped me off at the hospital. It was 6:45 a.m. While I was in the obstetrics locker room changing into scrubs, Curt returned home for his breakfast. His classes didn’t begin until 9:00. By the time of morning coffee break, my stomach was ready to receive that Granola bar breakfast. Curt would pick me up after work around 4:00 p.m.

“Guess what I found at the UC today?” The UC was the University Center and Curt’s question could have a myriad of answers. The building housed the bookstore, eating places, lounge area for students and a lot of other student-related shops and stops.

“Not a clue but looks like it made you happy to have found it.” Hanging up my uniform and donning my grubbies, I glanced up at a smiling Curt coming into the bedroom.

“Yup, and it’ll make you happy, too. Check this out.” Curt handed me a one-sheet photocopied flyer, as he sat on the bed. “Ever heard of IVCF?” Seeing my slightly narrowed brow and tilted head, he answered his own question. “It stands for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. They meet every Friday night and I thought we might want to go check it out. What do you think? Up for it?”

“Oh yes, that’s great!” I dropped the flyer on the bed and threw my arms around his neck. “I can hardly wait! I hope it’s like the group in Colorado! (A New Door Opens, Conclusion) Oh, it’ll be so fun to meet other Christians our age!”

“Yeah, they had a table with all kinds of information and tracts in the UC. I stopped to talk with one of the guys sitting there and he invited us to join them on Friday night. Sounds like a fun group.” Curt and I had begun our life together reading the Bible and going to church but I longed to have us be a part of a young adults group. I had told Curt about the one in Colorado where I had been introduced to personal examples of God answering prayer. He, too, found that intriguing.

While I was sitting-out this quarter of study, I did enjoy getting together with the other Christian students each week at IVCF. It was a super group of kids and the organization just what we needed. We now had a place to share prayer requests, study the Bible with others and just enjoy fellowship with young people our own age who wanted to grow in the Lord, too.

As a newly-wed, I wanted to make my husband proud of his wife. Since men everywhere like to show off the cooking skills of “the little lady,” I asked Curt if he would like to invite Glen, a long-time friend, for Sunday dinner on Super Bowl Sunday. Okay, now Super Bowl Sunday in America is more about eating tons of salty snacks and drinks with all kinds of sugar treats for dessert. Way back then, however, we were anticipating only the fourth Super Bowl football game and most invited guests were served a lovely dinner, not chips and beer or Coke.

I prepared the menu and eagerly looked forward to the special Sunday meal. I figured, if I had something that baked in the oven, I could watch the game, too. I am not a serious football fan but the one game of the year I do love to watch is the Super Bowl, played the last weekend in January.

When Glen arrived, I had the table all set and was putting the finishing touches on the ham I planned to bake, using the recipe my mother always did—pineapple slices toothpicked to the ham and a brown-sugar/pineapple juice glaze poured over the top. The scalloped potatoes would only take an hour to bake so I needed to be sure to slide them into the oven for that last hour of the ham. The green beans wouldn’t take long to heat up; I just needed to not get caught up in the game and forget them. I had the salads all prepared. I’d bake the apple pie while we ate the dinner so, yup, I should be able to watch the game. Suzie Homemaker, that’s me!

In truth, I should have been able to watch the game with Curt and Glen. I was so worried that the food wouldn’t cook properly and I’d embarrass Curt; I was a nervous wreck. I had prepared this particular meal a few times while living at home so it wasn’t the first time at all. But, it was the first time as Curt’s wife and, somehow, that made a huge difference to me.

Whenever one of the guys made a comment on how good the smells coming from the kitchen were, I jumped up to “check” on things, just to be sure. Maybe it was a hint that things were not smelling quite right or something? Finally, Curt put his hand on my leg to keep me from jumping up yet another time and said, “It’s fine. Just enjoy the game.”

“Actually, it’s time to put the scalloped potatoes in the oven.” He lifted his hand and smiled up at me as I stood. That’s when I just pulled out the dining chair closest to the kitchen and sat there until the timer went off. I had the green beans in the pan but forgot to put them on the burner until the timer ding-ed to let me know the meat and potatoes were done. A little spark of panic, until I realized I could put them on right away and they’d be ready to serve by the time Curt finished slicing the ham.

Well, if you know anything about baking ham, you know that it’s really not a great idea to keep checking on how it’s baking. All that opening of the oven door tends to dry it out a bit. Such behavior also tends to make the scalloped potatoes watery so, let’s just say, it wasn’t the best meal I’d ever prepared. Half-way through the meal, I realized that the oven was heating up only air, since the apple pie was still on the countertop! This was probably the only time in history that I was super-happy that the sports commentators just had to keep the chatter going long past the end of the game. Gave the guys something football to keep focusing on while the pie finished baking.

Fortunately, Glen was a bachelor, cooking boil-in-the-pan kinds of dinners for himself, so he loved the meal just as it was. Knowing that my husband was aware I had done better with other meals, made his praises and encouraging words mean all the more. Additionally, Curt expressed his appreciation that I had tried so hard to make a great meal for Glen… and on Super Bowl Sunday, when I should have just relaxed and watched the game. Curt’s joy as Glen patted his full tummy, made me feel terrific. Yessirree, guys, there’s just nothing like a gal feeling appreciated to soothe over her cooking mistakes.

****Campus Life Changes… Next Post

Monday, September 24, 2012

A New Chapter Begins

It was cold when the alarm so rudely shattered my deep sleep; it was early enough to be totally dark outside. Of course it was, it was late December in Montana; it was still dark when folks left for work! Joyce and I had talked long into the night, getting caught up and letting her share any last minute marriage tips she might have to pass along to me. After all, Joyce and Rey had been married for three and a half months already, she must know something else I needed to know, right? It had been so good to see her again.

Not long after pushing away from the breakfast table, I made my first mistake of the day. I was so dragging; I needed a bit of pep to get me going. Final exams had finished a couple of weeks earlier; I must still have some of those over-the-counter pep pills around somewhere. I took the usual “all-nighter” dose and was off and running for the rest of the day. Goodness, but there are a lot of last minute details on one’s wedding day!

Finally, all was ready and the bride in the special room getting every single fold of that lovely white gown placed just right. Next, the veil was secured to the newly-coiffed head of hair. “Photographer’s here!” sent us all moving to the front of the sanctuary for the before-the-ceremony posed photos. I never saw just whose head had poked into the dressing room with the announcement because I was whisked out and down the aisle in that empty sanctuary with all haste.

Curt was not there. My two sisters, best friend from high school and best friend from university were dressed in color-coordinated formal dresses, standing with me for the photos. Curt, his brother and, probably, some members from his rock band had already had their groom, best man and groomsmen photos done. They weren’t anywhere around. Probably there were photos with parents, too, I don’t really recall. Pretty much any photos that could be taken without the bride and groom seeing each other were taken ahead of the actual ceremony to save time later.

My dear auntie met me as I was walking back down the aisle to get a touch-up on my make-up before the organist began playing and guests filed in. “I’ve got just what you need.” Her whispers weren’t heard by anyone else.

“What do I need? I think I’m ready; did I forget something?” I quickly ran through the mental list I thought had all been checked off.

“You’re a nervous wreck. You need to have something to help you calm down.” Hmm? Well, I was feeling pretty nervous but I didn’t think it was more than the usual a bride would feel forty-five minutes before the ceremony began.

”I think I‘m okay, really. I don’t need anything.” I didn’t want to tell her I had already taken an OTC pep pill and it might have contributed to my nervousness a little. I had forgotten that this sometimes happened when I took them to stay awake during finals week studying. It would wear off.

Unfortunately, my auntie was not going to take no for an answer; she was convinced I would enjoy the ceremony more if I were more relaxed. That was when I made my second mistake of the day; I took her Valium. It would be a little while before I saw what happens when two opposing medications are fighting for the same body.

I was so happy; things were progressing well and everything was beautiful. Dad’s arm trembled a little as he walked me down the aisle to the traditional musical strains. Suddenly my gaze glimpsed the back of the US Navy uniform seated near the aisle. He turned as I approached and our eyes locked. What a surprise!  There sat my younger sister’s former boyfriend, a kid I really liked. What fun that he had come! The ceremony was going like clockwork and all was well in my formally-attired little world.

Now, it was time for the most solemn part of the ceremony. Curt and I had toyed with the idea of writing our own vows but decided that the traditional ones said it all. Instead, we just memorized them. We didn’t want to repeat them, phrase by phrase, after the pastor; we wanted them to be spoken, smoothly and confidently. Both of us had done fine in rehearsal the evening before. But, the evening before I hadn’t taken anything to pep me up or calm me down.

“Go ahead, Sojourner,” the pastor whispered as the entire congregation waited, eyes trained on me. “This is the place where you recite your vows.” Curt squeezed my hands, looking into my eyes and praying his bride’s memory would spit them out soon.

“I know.” I choked out my barely audible words. “I can’t…”

“I, Sojourner take thee, Curt,” whispered the pastor into my ear. So gently I felt his breath as I heard his prompting. Curt squeezed harder and his eyebrows began to arch, questioning.

“It’s not that I forgot it; I know what I’m supposed to say. I just can’t get the words out.” My whisper was a bit louder than I would have liked, my tears now flowing. Sadly, those near the front who heard my tears and explanation, quickly jumped to the erroneous conclusion that I didn’t really want to marry Curt. I heard one such remark and I just wanted to turn and shout, ”It’s the medication; it’s not that I don’t want to marry him. Of course, I want to marry him!” Instead, I just hung my head and sobbed.

“Sojourner, just repeat the lines after me. It’ll be okay.” Curt looked into my eyes with such compassion, I hoped he wouldn’t start crying, too. How embarrassing for the groom, in front of everyone.

Well, at last, it was over and Curt and I were making our way back down the aisle, hand-in-hand. Once we crossed the threshold into the foyer, I turned to look at Curt. He bent down to kiss me. “So, you still love me, then. Even if I so totally embarrassed us both in there?” He nodded, tenderly smiling.

Leaving the reception took longer than we had expected due to the fact that Curt’s brother had used black shoe polish to write “Just Married” on the back of his white car. The icy sub-zero cold air had frozen the large letters into the finish. If he left them in place overnight, the damage would be permanent. His best man (and former lead guitar) helped him scrub and most of the color was removed but so was the shiny finish of that area of the car. Finally, it was time for us to change into our formal traveling clothes. Now, I have to wonder just who thought up these traditions? Nevertheless, it was a “given” back then so I left the church in a lovely olive green skirted suit with a matching floral blouse and olive-green high heels. Curt wore slacks and a new sports jacket with a necktie. At least, he could still wear his wing-tip dress shoes.

Three hours later, we arrived at the reserved motel room and enjoyed getting to know each other, intimately, for the very first time. I know that many kids today have had a lot of practice with one another before this official wedding night; and, well, things went pretty much as one might expect with zero experience, but we had a terrific time, nevertheless. The freshness of this part in our relationship was a wonderful start to this new chapter in our lives.

****Beginning a Home … Next Post


Friday, September 21, 2012

Marriage License, Who Needs It?

The simple answer is anyone who wants to have their commitment to a mate recognized, whatever the culture, wherever in the world one lives… as well as whatever period of time it happens to be at the moment in question. The earliest of recorded history, be it etching on the wall of a cave or documents on the richest of parchment, indicate that a marriage was made with some formal, binding tradition to solidify a commitment. We, ladies, are not all that interested in the clubbed-over-the-head and slung-over-the-man’s-shoulder approach to a public marriage ceremony, so we’re relieved to not have been born during this time in civilization. Nevertheless, though the traditions vary throughout the world, even the Twenty-First Century people groups continue the practice of some kind of formal recognition of the legally-binding commitment of marriage. So binding, in fact, that one must acquire a legal document to be released from that marriage commitment.

If one desires the rights and privileges of marriage, one must submit to the laws of the land and go through the legal paperwork, even if choosing to forego the public ceremony. Each person needs a witness to sign the license, though, so you are back to the “Best Man” and “Maid/Matron of Honor” whether they wear jeans and a tee shirt or formal attire. Chapter thirteen in the Book of Romans deals with God’s admonition to obey the laws of the land; but, normally, this is not a matter of contention. The local legal authorities are diligent to see that the laws regulating the privileges of marriage are enforced.

Why is it that ethnic groups, who have lived centuries hidden away from the mainstream of the evolving First World societies, still have a formal, binding tradition for a man to publically declare his commitment to a woman? Those of us who believe in the Almighty Creator God have no trouble answering this question. Because, the Almighty God fashioned the man and woman to be a pair. From the very beginning of human existence, Father God put the desire for such commitment in the heart of every person, regardless of where in the world or in what century he and she are living.

Genesis 2:18-24:

 

“The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.


The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

Lest one wonder if Jesus agreed with this Old Testament writing, Check out the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 19:4-6:

 

“Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (The same is found in Mark 10:6-9)


Two of the Ten Commandments are written to protect the marriage covenant. Clearly, God never intended that men and women just switch partners around any time they had the idea to try someone new. All of the Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20, but we’ll just look at the verses which apply to marriage.

Verse 14 “You shall not commit adultery.”

Verse 17 “… You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…”

There was a definite agreement that this one man had this one wife, period. You cannot, by definition, commit adultery, unless there first is a legally binding agreement of marriage between a man and a woman. The law doesn’t permit them to have sexual relations with anyone else, which is committing adultery. But, one must not even entertain such desires towards another man’s wife, regardless of whether or not he actually touches her, which is coveting her. The commandment in verse fourteen does not clarify husband or wife so it is easier to believe that it means the adultery should not be committed from either half of the couple. The same may be implied from verse seventeen, as well, of course. Again, with no legally binding agreement to join the couple, there is no need for such commandments.

And, the New Testament, you ask? Here is a key passage in the Book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 13:4:

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

Yes, there are a lot of laws written in the early books of the Bible but one, in particular, shows God recognized the importance of a newly-wed couple’s adjustment time. To ensure they got it, a law was declared. Read about it in the Book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 24:5:

 

“If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. “


Did you see that wording there? It doesn’t say that for one year, the husband can kick back, snap his fingers for another cold drink and flip the remote control from one football game to another. He cannot present his new wife with a five-week rotating menu of his food choices or bark at her to put down that mop and come give him a backrub before the halftime entertainment is over. Nope, God’s idea is that he be excused from other duties for one year to help his wife adjust to being married to him. How much more a new wife would want to please her new husband if his sole purpose that first year was “to bring happiness to the wife he has married!” I really like that law, don’t you, Ladies?

So, what’s happening to our society that unmarried Christian couples are not willing to make that commitment and get the marriage license? It appears that they have fallen into what Colossians Chapter Two has warned us against:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

It is the world’s view that you don’t need a marriage license to live with somebody for awhile. You can just try it out for as long as you wish. “That’s just the way it is now, Sojourner, get a life! No one really needs that piece of paper to be married any more.”

Okay, I hear you; however, even should a time come when our legal system tosses off the legally binding document that says one man belongs to one woman, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage, the Lord God’s Word on the matter will never change. If you are a Christian, you will forever need that marriage license.

Matthew 5:19:

“Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom.” (The Message)

Don’t care all that much about finding “honor,” huh?

Romans 2:13:

“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (NIV)

Who cares if anyone declares you “righteous?” Hmmm? Well, anyone who cares where he or she will spend eternity. Maybe the old, English wording will put the point on the issue. Only those who obey God’s laws will find themselves in Heaven when they die!

Matthew 7:21:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (KJV)

Clearly, the “will of the Father Who is in Heaven” is that one gets a marriage license. Marriage license, who needs it? Everyone who wants to be right with Almighty God and avoid those fires of Hell, and that’s the truth.

****Have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just How Engaging Is Engagement, Reflections

One of the biggest decisions one will ever make in one’s life is that crucial question every girl waits to hear: Will you marry me? Yet, for far too many young adults, this question is answered without serious regard for what such a commitment really means. Marriage is a life-time of compromises and sacrificing of one’s own individual desires in favor of the better good for the couple. Truly, how many kids are ready to leave the rules and regulations of their parents’ home and step into a marriage, which, by its very nature, carries with it some rules and regs of its own? When, as young people, we decide to enter into a marriage covenant with another person, are we considering what we can do to make life better for our spouse or what they can do to make life better for us? Or, as was the case for me, are we not thinking about any questions or answers because, well, it is just the next step in a relationship? The natural thing to do. You meet, you date, maybe you break up and get back together again, then you get engaged.

During the engagement period, the couple should be putting more serious thought into the relationship… is this really the person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life? Some pastors have pre-marital counseling courses that help the couple discover the strengths and weakness in the relationship and future spouse. How does your future spouse deal with conflict? Does your future spouse include you in decision making? How does your future spouse handle money, budget, etc… you know, the financial stuff of which life is made? What about child-rearing practices? Are you on the same page when it comes to how to discipline kids? The answers to questions like these can be very helpful to see if one is really making such a commitment with one’s eyes open or just ignoring warning signs and pressing on because it feels right at the time… no thought to the future consequences at all.

I know that at age twenty, I gave not a lick of thought to any of these things; it was my hormones ruling my decisions. Plus, I just liked the guy a lot. He was a ton of fun to be with and we had so much in common. I know that I loved Curt as much as any twenty-year-old knows about what love means, at least. I was very comfortable around him and, until that point, we had had no real conflicts. It was true, I was just looking at it like the next step in our relationship... We had known one another since we were ten years old and I knew he had a good character. Why shouldn’t I marry him? It was the next step.

Well, to answer my own question, because we had only known one another as children. I had not really spent any time at all getting to know the comfortable, long-time friend as an adult with whom I was planning to spend the rest of my life. Were our aspirations in life the same? As children, it was our parents and then part-time jobs that provided funds for school and personal spending. When the whole upkeep for the household depended solely on us, how would we deal with joint finances from both of us working? And, when both of us couldn’t work because of small children, what then? Would I lose all independence in spending because it wasn’t my paycheck I had just cashed? Really, none of these questions ever came up in the course of our dating or planning for a permanent future. No, it was just the next thing to get engaged and then married.

Many of my friends saw it that way in their own relationships with “steady boyfriends,” too. I’m not sure any of us were mature enough to have done anything differently, even if people would have warned us to look at things through the eyes of an adult and not as someone having just left the teen years. The pre-marital course or counseling offered from some Christian pastors, committed to their young flock seeking to have a wedding ceremony, can be extremely valuable in spotlighting these areas to which we need to give some thought.

At the very least, these sessions and the questions that participation will answer for the couple, help ease the soon-to-be newly-weds into the lifelong commitment they are planning to make. At the most, they may actually prevent marriages that shouldn’t have been in the first place or, at least, at a time too early for the maturity of those involved.

One thing I would have liked an opportunity to do differently is to first get involved in a church family with a pastor I knew and respected. He would be a man who knew God and sought Him for answers and direction. One not afraid to tell me when I was doing something wrong or pre-maturely. I know a number of such men now but was really too busy to even think about it way back then. In fact, I never even asked God if Curt was the man God had wanted me to marry in the first place. Can you imagine? Yet, we asked God to give us a date for the wedding! It just never occurred to me; it was just so obviously the next thing to do. We were just too newly-born to really be ready to be newly-weds!

Looking back on the engagement period, I would have to say we didn’t take advantage of it at all. The intention of the period of time was totally lost on us. It should have been called “Arrangement” more than “Engagement” since planning the wedding was with what I had been totally engaged. Had I been engaging in the serious considerations that would either confirm or deny the correctness of the path on which I was headed, things might have ended differently.

Often today’s young people, and some not-so-young, think it is far better to just live together until one of the couple says they want to move on. No need for an engagement period to be sure of anything. No license needed, no planning or ceremony. When things get tough or boring for one or both of the couple, just split. No fuss, no paperwork, no lawyers, just move along. Tragically, this attitude is also found inside the church. What does the Bible say about this casual practice of co-habitation amongst Christians? Check the next post for Sojourner’s findings.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just How Engaging Is Engagement? Conclusion

The rest of the engagement period had its up’s and down’s; I often remembered Joyce’s advice. The thing is, we just never had conflict so never really learned how to properly deal with it, sometimes retaining the bitterness the conflict produced. Both of us were working some evenings and lots of weekends, while going to school, so there wasn’t a lot of time for much else. Any free time was often taken up with wedding planning. We had a lot of fun together; it wasn’t all conflict by any means. I just figured things would be a lot better once the whole wedding-thing was finished and we didn’t have that hanging over our heads.

The cause of one squabble totally eludes my memory as I write today; but the one thing about it I can easily remember has two parts. First, the argument was enough that we stopped talking to one another. I mean for three days or more, even though we were riding to school and back every day in the same car. Though I do pull back in retreat at first when I’m hurt, I had never been a fan of the endless “silent treatment” and didn’t know what to do. When we both rather just got used to the tense silence for the half-hour drive to and half-hour drive from school, I began to worry. Would it always be like this? What can I say to break this silence?

Secondly, I decided to talk with my mother about it. She and Dad had been married for a bazillion years; she’d know what I should do.

“Mom, I’m worried because Curt and I are still not talking to one another. This argument isn’t ending like the other little spats. Maybe I should re-think things. Maybe I should not marry him. I mean, once we’re married, it could get worse, couldn’t it?” Well, Mom didn’t listen to anything else I had to say, so great was her shock.

“What? You mean not go through with the wedding? You can’t decide that now. There are only ten days left until the wedding! Invitations are out, dresses have been purchased, cake ordered, photographer signed up and a dozen other arrangements have already been made. You can’t call it off now!” She had a point, of course. I felt so trapped and unhappy. “Honey, it’s just the wedding jitters. Everyone gets them. Things will be okay; you’ll see. It’s just because the wedding day is so close now.” She was patting my shoulder as she spoke, trying to re-assure me.

“But, Mom, when I told you we’d get married in December, you thought it was too soon and wanted us to wait. You said we had been apart for all of last year and needed time to really get re-acquainted when we weren’t both so busy with work and school. Don’t you remember? You weren’t for this winter wedding. Maybe you were right. Maybe we should wait.” Talk about one miserable bride-to-be!

“You wouldn’t hear of it when I said that; don’t you remember? You said things were heating up and you really needed to get married before you had to get married. Or, don’t you remember that discussion we had?” Mom was right. Curt and I were committed to having our wedding night be the first time we had experienced a sexual relationship. Oh but it was hard sometimes!

“I do, Mom, but…” Maybe Mom was right; I was just nervous and letting my worries get the best of me.

“It’ll be all right. Just start talking to him. He has to talk to you at some point, doesn’t he? He’s probably nervous, too. It’s a big step and all the preparations are coming to the end now. Soon it’ll be finished and you’ll see; things will be better.” Mom was probably right; I’d just forget it and look for that silver lining every storm is supposed to contain.

What about the pastor? Yes, I know that now but back then, we were both too young in the things of the Lord to know we needed to talk to someone about those rare conflicts and how to deal with them in marriage. We did have a pre-marriage counseling session with the Lutheran pastor friend of my father’s who was going to perform the ceremony in his church. We didn’t have a church family together yet, and Curt, whose family was Lutheran, didn’t want to get married in the Catholic Church. This Lutheran Church, which neither of us had ever seen before the wedding plans, would do. While the pastor never said a single word to either of us, he told my father later that he had little hope that our marriage would survive. He did not see either of us as prepared to assume the sacrificial responsibility of marriage. To the pastor, it just seemed like we were doing the next thing in the boy-girl dating relationship: getting married. What he would have liked to tell us was not to get married until we matured a bit and made the decision then. Instead, he was quite positive and cheerful as we spoke with him about future plans, both of the wedding and of our future life together.

While I loved all the details of the beautiful wedding, even now I look back and think we would probably have waited had we not so much invested in the wedding. Had we just planned to get the marriage license and then have the Pastor and his wife ask the blessing over our marriage during church one Sunday, or something really simple and easy to change like that, it would have been a lot more doable to put the breaks on and re-think things. Instead, it was just too late now.

****Just How Engaging is Engagement? Reflections… Next Post

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just How Engaging is Engagement?, Scene 2

Returning from the  lovely wedding of Joyce and Rey, I reflected on Joyce’s advice. There were planning tips, of course, but one of the bits of wisdom she offered was that I shouldn’t be too surprised if conflicts sprung up between Curt and I now that we were actually engaged to be married. She and Rey had not fought at all until they began planning the wedding. Hmmmm, the same was true of Curt and I, really. We so rarely disagreed that it did worry me a bit. I had no idea how we would handle conflict when it did come. But, I was certain that I loved him and that he loved me so it would be okay. Loving one another was the important thing, right? We would work it out with a solid base on which the relationship would build. Both of us had surrendered our lives to Jesus in the past few months so our marriage would be centered on what God wanted in our life together. We loved one another; it’d all work out if conflict came.

I can still picture sitting close to Curt, my hand resting on his leg as he drove us up and over that curving overpass. We were on our way to some form of entertainment for the evening, though I can’t recall what exactly we had planned for that date. Of course, the radio was playing the music we both delighted in hearing hours every day. Curt’s passion was to be a disk jockey so I think he listened as much to the DJ as to the music they played. Leaning harder against his shoulder so I could speak into Curt’s ear, I posed a question I had been wanting to ask him for awhile.

“Why do you love me?” I had all kinds of reasons to give him as to why I loved him. In fact, as only girls would do, I was already reviewing the list in my mind in preparation for his anticipated return question along those same lines.

“What? What did you ask me?” I was still smiling and gave a squeeze to his arm, which was now encased in both of my arms as I leaned closer and tilted my head up at him.

“I asked you why you love me.”

“I do love you; I’ve told you that how many times now?”

“I know you’ve told me, but I just want to know why.” Of course, as a newly-engaged young woman, planning her wedding while going to school and working at the hospital, I had all kinds of hints I could have given him, had he asked for some kind of prompting.

You know, things like I am so sweet or kind. I am a good cook. I am intelligent and a good problem-solver. I am a hard-worker. I am fun to be with. I am not high-maintenance, expecting expensive dates; I like just hanging out, too. I didn’t need him to tell me  I am beautiful or anything not all that true; but, on the other hand, shouldn’t there be one redeeming quality that he saw in me that would cause him to want to spend the rest of his life with me? I waited in anticipation but, the longer I waited, the more tense the atmosphere in the car grew.

“Well, I love you because you love me.”

“What kind of an answer is that? Isn’t there anything about me that you can point to and say I like this about you?” I was so shocked with his answer that, well, let’s just say I wasn’t smiling anymore. My arms were at my own sides, no longer touching him. Curt was a romantic guy, crooning out love songs on his guitar as easily as anything rock and roll. It wasn’t the sensitivity thing; he was a very sensitive guy, normally.

“Well, what comes to my mind is that I love you because you love me. I haven’t known any other girls who liked me in that way so maybe there isn’t any girl who would love me but you do, so… I love you, too.”

“You love me because I’m your only option! Is that what you’re saying?” Curt never gave me an answer, which really is an answer, isn’t it? Maybe not, guys; but that’s what we girls think.

I was so devastated, words can’t express it. I was stunned, confused and so hoping I was wrong. How could I marry someone who only loved me because he had no one else to love? I began to cry.

“Oh, c’mon now, Sojourner. I love you. C’mon let’s just forget about this needing to say why. Just believe me, I do love you. Let’s not spoil the evening, okay? We’ll have a good time.”

I was deeply hurt, embarrassed, and totally confused. But we were on track to be married in a couple of months so I would just see how things went from here. He was probably right. I should just forget it and have a good time. Well, I didn’t have as good a time as I could have, for sure. I did shuck the worry off and enjoyed the evening with Curt. I never brought the question up again and he never offered an answer at any other time, either. However, just because I never mentioned it again didn’t mean I forgot it. I never did. It created deep within me an insecurity and a fear that he would one day leave me.

Just ten days before the wedding, conflict erupted between us. I wonder, today, if things would have been any different had my mother responded differently? Maybe not, but I do wonder.