Made to Last

“Was it love at first sight?” She asked. I looked over at him and already knew the answer.

“What?” He asked.

He looked to me for guidance because he couldn’t hear her behind the mask.

“When you met your wife, was it love, at first sight?”

The inquiry was in its processing stage, and then I saw the understanding hit.

“No!” He said as if having to endure it again.

“Really? Why not?” She asked.

He crossed his arms tightly across his chest and said,

“She was a prude!”

“Well, you were no catch either,” I said in her defense, recalling her version of their first meeting. He smiled at me, knowing I was telling the truth.

It was a blind date, set up by friends that were a couple. They thought the two of them were compatible, but it was an act of God because they were from two different planets.

While she grew up in a small town in North Dakota, highly disciplined, he was on the streets of St Paul, causing a whole bunch of mischief. He had learned how to scam people wherever he could just to get a few cents in his pocket.

While still in elementary school, he took a handful of free pamphlets from the church and sought out the homebound elderly in his neighborhood.

“I would sell them. It was a quick way to make money. I had to sit and talk to them sometimes, which was boring. Sometimes I got a cookie, which made it better. But I always got paid.”

He was also in the recycling business. A small store sold pop in bottles which he and his friends would steal. They would drink it and then go in the shop’s back door where the owner would give them change. Then, they would race around to the front and buy candy.

“You could get a lot of penny candy back then.” He always said it like he wore a badge of honor.

He attended Catholic school where nuns were at the ready to whack him across the forehead with a ruler for any infraction. This did not deter him from getting out of line. He and a friend would sneak into the empty church during recess and roll under the seating.

It was on a hill with a dramatic slope from the back to the front.

“We would get on our sides to see who could get to the front first.”

One day, the back door flew open, echoing across the empty sanctuary.

“Who is in here?”

The two boys didn’t move a muscle, hiding under the pews, hoping she didn’t find them. He saw her long, ankle-length dress and heard the swinging of the beads as she went row by row.

“Jackie! Are you in here?”

Out of all the kids, she could name from his class, he was on the radar.

His prayers were answered, and she didn’t find them. And instead of being led by fear, he and his companion continued their daily race. If he could get away with it, he did it.

He graduated with all F’s and was sent into the military.

Meanwhile, my mom was scoring at the genius level on IQ tests and was the valedictorian of her class. She walked the straight and narrow path and lived under her father’s constant verbal and tormenting abuse. She escaped to nursing school in Minnesota, and this is where their two very mismatched worlds collided.

Doctors were in pursuit of her, and she went out on dates quite frequently. The night before her encounter with my dad, a suitor had brought her a corsage that she had pinned on a dress coat; she left it on because the flowers were fresh.

“I had to come down this long staircase,” she had told me. “He was waiting at the bottom.”

When she took the last step, he turned to her, pointed at the corsage, and said sarcastically,

“What do you think we are going to a ball or something?”

That set the tone for the night. She instantly hated him. And to send the message, she crossed her arms and made sure he came nowhere close to her.

“I was getting long-stemmed red roses and gifts from men who already had graduated from medical school. There was one in particular that I thought was going to develop into something more serious.”

I always envisioned the outcome of that. By some chance, what if she had married a wealthy doctor and I had been born into it?

“But your dad and I were a marriage made in heaven.”

And just like that, the pony, the outdoor pool, and everything else I ever wanted would vanish.

An unseen force was pushing them together; they saw each other again and somehow figured it out. While she loved picnics, he abhorred them. She loved to dance, but he didn’t. But she had a way of getting her way.

One night when he refused to dance with her, she accepted the invitation of another man. He had gone to use the restroom, and when he came back, he couldn’t find her. When he saw she was enjoying herself with someone else, that was the last time he said no to dancing.

Later, they found out they had been at the same party at a house before knowing one another. As they talked about it, all the details were the same, but they never saw each other there.

“We were just supposed to be together,” she would always say even when things weren’t perfect.

“We got into a big fight, and I took my engagement ring off right before the wedding,” she told me. “I was done with the whole thing. But then he came and looked so devastated that I forgave him.”

I guess when a divine plan is at work, anything can happen. I had seen her unflinching attitude once her mind was made up. But he somehow had worn down her defenses.

“He kissed me and slid the ring back on my finger.”

There went my mansion on easy street.

I didn’t come into their lives until way after the initial flames had flickered. One child after another had arrived, and I was the last of the six. When my dad wanted my attention and said my name, he would accidentally rattle off all five ahead of me before landing on mine. One morning I woke up to my mom calling in the dog.

“Chris! Stop barking and get in this house!”

“Did you just yell my name out the door?” I asked from my room that was near the kitchen.

This had now gone to a whole other level. She opened my door and looked at me in shock; it was an expression I came to know well as she tried to keep up with so many kids and things to attend to.

Many years later, while I was in high school, I had come home one evening to find him lying on the kitchen floor trying to fix the dishwasher. He had gotten off work early because it was their anniversary, and he had walked into a pool of water.

He could usually repair anything, build what she wanted, and never took a car in for an oil change. He did everything himself. But this was proving to be a challenge.

“We were supposed to go out,” she said when I came in. “He’s been working on this for hours.”

I could tell that the tension in the room was high as his frustration was climbing, and he was hungry.

Much to his dismay, he could not remedy whatever was wrong. This meant he would have to call for someone to help, but it was way past the time to do that. It was a blow to his ego.

Their evening out turned into a pizza delivery, and she got out paper plates. He still seemed annoyed as he mindlessly ate while still trying to figure out why he couldn’t solve the problem.

Suddenly, he came back to reality and remembered this wasn’t a usual weeknight.

“I got you a card,” he said, jumping up to go get it. He came back and handed it to her.

She opened it and started to laugh to the point she had to put it down on the table.

He looked at her like she needed to be committed to the nearest facility.

“Why are you laughing? That card isn’t funny!”

She tried to catch her breath, and once she did, she read it out loud.

“To my dearest wife, on her birthday!” This put her right back over again while he just shook his head and said,

“Dammit! I hate this day!”

She laughed louder. But, I saw him start to relax. For her, it was the perfect anniversary with no dishes to do, no meal to cook, and he had made her smile unexpectedly.

When something is meant to be, God will make it happen for the benefit of both. In Ecclesiastes 4:9 it says:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: One can help the other up if either of them falls down. NIT)

That was the secret to their success, even if it looked worn out, frazzled, and all-out insane. They used their strengths to help one another’s weaknesses.

My parent’s entire relationship was filled with moments where they had to see the good in the middle of big messes. No matter how bad things got, it was made to last.

(All smiles until all the kids showed up; 68 years later this week)

Wear It

“What is this?” I asked my daughter. “It has your name on it.”

I was struggling to get a gigantic package through the front door.

“I don’t remember.”

This is a common occurrence at our house where she will order items she needs for her business and then forget what is coming.

I shoved it through the entryway into the middle of the living room. She opened the top and peered inside.

“Oh no! I didn’t know it was going to be this big!”

“What is it?”

“It’s a shoe.”

She kept staring into the box with a wary look.

“This is one shoe? For what?”

“I wanted a small Cinderella slipper that I could put under my Christmas tree. I didn’t know it was going to be this big!”

Her work involves scale, so it was quite a shock for her to see she had underestimated the size.

She took it out of the box and assembled it. My idea of a dainty princess flew out the window. When she plugged it in, it was so bright we turned off all the lights to conserve energy.

“I guess that is going to go outside.”

“It’s for the kids who drive by.”

Her goal was to set up a massive display so our house would stand out like Las Vegas in the darkness of winter.

That huge high heel began the process of more deliveries, zip ties, frozen fingers, and pounding stakes into the ground.

A gigantic engagement ring and a carriage took their places from the fairy tale of the girl who was down and out who suddenly found herself the center of attention in the eyes of the prince.

As the story goes, he was not satisfied until he found the rightful owner of the stray shoe. Many tried to force it on, but only she was the perfect fit.

And while he is on the hunt, she goes back to her everyday life, of mundane tasks and being verbally abused by a stepmother and half-sisters. And where is her dad? I always wondered that.

She accepted her lot in life, didn’t get bitter after seeing the wealthier side for one night and the people who had it a lot easier than she did.

She was grateful for the small opportunity that she didn’t know would lead to a life-changing event.

There are over 500 versions of this tale, and many of them date back before Disney brought out their rendition. In one of them, the mean stepsisters get their eyes pecked out by birds while serving as bridesmaids at the royal wedding. That gruesome part, understandably, didn’t make the cut for children.

It can’t be overlooked that their lack of vision and hatred toward their sibling brought on trouble of their own making. When there’s a plan in progress, a path will be cleared past those who stand in the way and bring torment.

I came across a made-for-TV movie that changed the footwear to a magic stocking. A young woman attends a masquerade ball at a mansion and ends up finding the favor of the millionaire because he picks the stocking she brought.

I could only take so much between the overacting and the cheeseball lines, but the message was the same: a rescue mission.

That is the role of God in every person’s life. In Psalm 18:30, it is explained how we are taken care of,

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. (NLT)

When you hear God speak or guide you in a specific direction, it brings peace in the middle of chaos. That is the beginning of the end for aimlessly going through the motions, embattled by anxiety and feeling trapped. It starts with becoming more aware that there is a Creator of all who wants a connection with you.

Cinderella didn’t bat an eyelash when she was told to put the rags aside and get out of the house. She allowed it to happen without knowing how it would. Putting one foot in front of the other, the plan began to unfold, and she walked into it.

Sometimes you have to mentally barricade yourself from those who don’t support where you are headed. You just keep on letting God lead. Despite the negativity swirling around her, everything came together perfectly.

We are given these instructions about how to combat interruptions,

Keep your eyes straight ahead;
ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. (Proverbs 4:27, Message)

Often, we forget those moments when what we have been praying for manifests. We don’t enjoy the “happily ever after” part but rush on to the next problem.

It’s good to go back and write down all the times that blessings have come, so you don’t forget and to show gratitude.

I remember what the Lord did;
I remember the miracles you did long ago. (Psalm 77:11)

Through signs and wonders, heaven will make sure you know the truth even when all hope looks gone.

In verse 8 of 1 Corinthians 13, it is stated that love never fails, and this presented itself right before my eyes.

One evening last year, just before Christmas, my daughter said,

“Look at what the camera recorded from the front yard.”

I pulled it up on my phone after she told me a date and time. On the sidewalk directly in front of my house, a couple had stopped to look at her handiwork. She added dogs, a ballerina, trees, music, and the Eiffel Tower, which created a unique glow.

Apparently, this inspired an overwhelming, romantic Hallmark moment, and it turned into a kiss cam like at a sporting event. Seconds turned to minutes as the security footage rolled on.

I believe that your outlook on life creates your circumstances, and positive attracts more of the same.

When I watched this secret encounter happen, I knew that it had been drawn in as if by a powerful magnet. It sent a loud and clear message to me. In the middle of a pandemic where hatred had presented itself in so many ugly ways, the love of God had shown up and manifested a surprise public display of affection.

We live in a self-centered world, where it often seems that kindness is in short supply. What will you be remembered for? If your memorial service was held today, what would people say?

That you are a miser with a bad temper? Or a giver who would come to the aid of anyone at any time? A person who always has the right words exactly when they are needed? A critical nitpicker who drains the energy in every room by seeing only the bad in every single situation? Someone who takes advantage of others so you can get ahead? Or putting others before yourself for the joy of seeing them succeed?

The choice is yours, and if the shoe fits, wear it.

I don’t know if this is a big enough engagement ring…

Do Over

“We had a common-law marriage so that we could get a tax deduction,” she said in a monotone voice.

That was a new one, I thought, as I wrote it down in the margin. It didn’t exactly fit into any of my categories, and I would have to work my magic and present it less shockingly.

“I thought he would someday commit, but he wanted his freedom. Signing a paper made him feel trapped, and I held on waiting, thinking he would change his mind.”

Her voice was lifeless, like she was tired of answering this question.

She wasn’t my usual interview for a social history. As part of the intake information I had to gather, I met with those who were newly admitted to the nursing home to get their stories. Most of them were similar with staunch religious upbringing, early entry into matrimony, 19 kids and counting, traditional roles of running a household, and then the death of a spouse.

I usually could write it with my eyes shut, and I hadn’t had this type of answer given to me before.

She was a bit younger than most of our residents, with long, wild grey hair and clothes that were somewhat more modern. This was back when assisted living, and home health care was not yet prominent like it is today, which she would have been a prime candidate for now.

While physically she was in good shape, she had developed mental issues that caused unsafe living conditions.

She had done a lot of drugs that had contributed to the problem as she aged. Her life experiences were the exact opposite of what I usually had people tell me.

“We didn’t have any children, but I thought I was happy.”

“You weren’t? This wasn’t what you wanted?”

I was under the false assumption that everyone from the free love movement was blissfully content, living contrary to what everyone else was doing. That’s how it had been advertised.

“No. Toward the end, I tried to say that I wanted more, and he walked away. By then, we couldn’t have kids, but I wanted the paper signed. We ended up getting into a huge fight over it, and he left. He came back later to get all of his things, and that was it. He immediately moved in with someone else. I knew his behavior wasn’t right for a long time, but I just put up with it. I kept thinking he would change his mind.”

“That’s too bad,” I said.

I recall being at a loss for words. She had bought into a non-traditional way of thinking that hadn’t worked how she thought it would.

“I most regret not having kids. I feel like that was taken away from me. I thought I would be okay without that, but now I feel I have made a mistake.”

She had chosen to isolate herself as a way to cope and was struggling now to reside where she wasn’t alone.

These were the times during my social worker days where I had to help people grieve a loss. Sometimes, like in this case, I just listened and held her hand.

“None of this will be public knowledge,” I told her. “But you can talk to me anytime you want about it. You did the best you could, right?”

Somehow God would come in and calm the situation down when I had no idea how to. This was before I even had a prayer life; that is how good God is. I was rescued from many situations when I didn’t know what to say.

“Yes. I did what I thought was right at the time. I have not ever gotten over it, though.”

“You can’t go back and change it, but you can make a new life.”

She did have extended family, nieces, and nephews that visited. Slowly, she adapted to her surroundings, where I often saw her talking to other people, and she looked more relaxed. When we had kids come into volunteer and do activities, I made sure to pair her up with one because I knew she had missed out on raising her own.

Little by little, she let go of her past and let God fill in the empty places with new experiences. She quickly found herself surrounded by a supportive group of women that had gone through loss differently, but she could relate to.

Years later, I actually met a woman who had come through a worse situation.

I started with the usual questions of birthplace, parents’ names, and sibling count.

“I got married at sixteen. My family knew his, and they had a bakery in a town next to ours.”

While she became pregnant multiple times and ran the house, her husband’s responsibility at the bakery grew. He assumed the role as sole owner, and he was gone for long hours at a time, but she accepted it because they had a family to raise.

She spent many evenings alone as he would decide to stay overnight instead of making the commute home. He had to be up at the crack of dawn to bake, so it made sense not to trek back to her.

“We had eight children, so I was never without something to do. I sewed their clothes, helped them with school, made all the meals. It wasn’t an easy life, but I did what I had to do.”

I jotted down her words, and I was going to move on to the next subject.

“I thought he was at work day and night, but that’s before I knew he had a whole other family.”

I remember looking up at her trying to conceal my true emotions. Did she say that he had another family? I thought people only did shady things like this in the 1970s. This man was way before his time, and I had a lot to learn back in my early twenties.

“I don’t understand,” that is all I could come up with.

“I found out from someone in town that he was married to another woman in the town where the bakery was, and they had children. He wasn’t working all those hours as he told me.”

I had to write this angle into her biography, but I didn’t want it to be like the National Enquirer!

This was supposed to be a way for the staff and other residents to get to know her. We used this as an ice breaker technique so a new person was introduced to the community. Her picture and what I wrote would be posted in the main lobby.

This was to tell others about her interests and strengths. I was going to have to do a lot of cutting and pasting.

“It was hidden from me for years. I’m not afraid to talk about it.”

“So what happened? You found this out, and then what?”

“I went looking for the truth. He had set up a whole life with this other woman, and they had as many kids as we did. He spent holidays with them and everything, but his lies were so good, he had me fooled. I was young and naive. I remember the worst thing was that I found out he spent Christmas with his other family. He was so good at making sure he covered his tracks that he got gifts for the children and me. That really hurt me. All of it was hurtful.”

Explaining it to the kids wasn’t the easiest either. They couldn’t figure out why their dad was gone and not coming back.

After her husband’s unfaithfulness surfaced, her parents stepped in and helped her get past the rough time. An older man came into the picture, and she got remarried.

“Was it hard for you to trust him?”

“Sometimes. But he went out of his way to prove to me that he wouldn’t do what my first husband did. He took on eight kids, and most men wouldn’t do that, so that helped. We had a great life. I had to put all of that behind me.”

Both of these women had given their best efforts and had been left holding an empty bag. They recovered from a betrayal in their own way. One chose to live a closed off existence while the other decided to take a chance and trust again.

God leaves that up to each of us.

What do you do when life presents you with a person described in Psalm 41:9?

Even my best friend, the one I always told everything
—he ate meals at my house all the time!—
has bitten my hand. (Message)

No one is immune to having this happen, and in my own experience, it takes time. A lot of people say…just forgive and move on. What if it doesn’t come that easy? For some, it might, and for others, it may take longer. The key is not to get stuck in it.

God wants us to see it for what it is and heal. But if we stubbornly refuse to get past it, we cripple ourselves, and we will miss out on this from Jeremiah 29:11:

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Message)

Some relationships aren’t going to make it to the ‘until death do us part’. For one reason or another, it happens. Having been through a divorce, nothing is certain except the promise that we always have the opportunity to brush ourselves off, figure out how not to repeat a mistake, and let God lead us in a new direction of a do over.

(They took the Until Death Do We Part..a little too literal…)
(This had the song I Got You Babe playing…shudder…)

Change of Plans

In the dark ages, better known as my early twenties, I was a social worker at a nursing home. Fresh out of college, I took up this position as an assistant to the director. I had interned that spring and was hired when the previous employee decided to leave. Since high school, I had already been working there in housekeeping, laundry, and the kitchen, so it was an easy transition that didn’t require much of an interview. I walked across the stage with my diploma in hand, knowing I already had a job. 

It wasn’t an easy one, though. I had hardly any real life experience, yet I often found myself comforting those who had said goodbye to a loved one. Other times, I gave a listening ear to a spouse who was visiting and watching as their better half was fading away. 

I think the saddest man I ever met was the one whose wife had gotten early onset Alzheimer’s right after they had both retired. Bill and Lydia had worked very hard to get to this stage so they could travel. They saved every dime toward their future, and now it wasn’t to be. So many tears of grief and anger flowed while we would talk. He confided so much in me, and I often would wonder why? I couldn’t fully understand what he was experiencing, yet the right words always seemed to come out of my mouth to alleviate his pain momentarily. 

In the end, I gave him the permission he was looking for to branch out into the unknown. At first, he could not fathom the idea of leaving his wife to go on an adventure for himself. He felt he had to stand guard over her even though it got to the point where she no longer knew who he was. 

I watched as the months and eventually years dragged on, and he would come in the door with his shoulders slumping more and his eyes filled with an ever increasing depression. As much as she was leaving the earth, so was he. When I would greet him, he would acknowledge me with a quiet voice and eyes to the floor. His withdrawal was apparent to all of us. 

One day, he came into my office, shut the door, and pulled out a pamphlet from his jacket. His hand shook a little bit. 

“What do you think of this?”

It was an advertisement for a group that was going to take a trip to another country.

“I think this is an excellent idea if you think it’s something you want to do. You know your wife is in safe hands here.”

I saw the tears start to well up in his eyes again.

“I think I should try it. It’s not how it was supposed to be. We had it all planned out. We made a decision not to have kids but to work as much as possible. We missed out on so many things together to keep working. But, we thought we would have all our time together now. We chased after money thinking it would give us a safety net. Now, most of it is going for her care.”

“When are you going to do something for yourself? Would she want you to be this unhappy?”

That seemed to strike a chord. 

“No. She would want me to go on without her. I know she would.”

By the time he left, I had a feeling he was going to make a brave move forward.

On his next visit, he held his head high, and a long forgotten smile radiated his whole face. 

“I booked my trip!” 

He excitedly sat in my office in the same spot that was tear stained and told me all the details. There was still a nervousness to his demeanor, but making these plans for himself had given him purpose. He still had some guilt about going, but the joy he was feeling seemed to override it. 

“There’s a group of us, so I won’t feel alone, and that’s important for me right now. I made arrangements for an emergency contact in the family in case she needs something while I’m away.”

I leaned inside the doorframe of her room when he came to tell her goodbye before his excursion. Even though she sat staring at him with absolutely no indication that she knew him, he told her everything and promised he would return with many pictures to show her. 

I saw her take his hand and squeeze it. He looked over at me. 

“I guess that is your sign to go have a great time!”

He agreed. 

He returned with great stories and beautiful scenic photos of where he had been and who he had met. He left nothing out. 

By the time his wife passed on, Bill had an enormous circle of new acquaintances who shared common interests. He had listened to that inner push to put aside what he “thought” he should do and followed a path that seemed a bit less conventional. He was able to grieve the dreams that he and his wife had built by surrendering to another plan that was presented to him. 

Death, divorce, financial loss, retirement, illness, friends moving away…these are all possibilities that can present themselves. And how do we cope? What’s “our” plan then? Usually, we don’t have one. Most of us can hardly handle a slight detour while out driving. Like Bill, we are sidelined and many times try to cling to what’s familiar. 

I have found through my turbulence that God isn’t one to keep you in a comfort zone if there are other plans for you. The resistance to change is what brings unhappiness. I saw Bill blossom the minute he gave up his ideas and traded them in for God’s. He learned a great truth found in Isaiah 43:19:

Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now even as I speak,

and you are about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert;

Waters will flow where there had been none. (The Voice)

Once the initial shock of the event has transpired, and we let ourselves take a moment to sit quietly, consider that ‘our way’ may not be correct, we can be assured that God will always provide the best change of plans.

Wedding Bells and Empty Shells

“She is dating a co-worker of mine. I see them together everyday while I am here and they flirt with each other right in front of me.”

“And you have been married how long to this woman?”

“A month.”

“So, you were married a month ago and already she is cheating on you?”

“She says she isn’t, but at the end of her shift she goes home with him for the night.  She has told me that nothing is going on.”

“Have you known her for awhile?”

“Yes. We have a two year old son together.” He pulled out his phone to show me a picture of himself and an adorable red headed boy.

“Was she like this before you got married?”

“She flirted with men, but it wasn’t like this. She won’t let me touch her or kiss her. She is like a totally different person.”

“Who helps you with the baby?”

“Her parents do.”

“Have you discussed her behavior with them?”

“Yes. They don’t approve but they told me that they love their daughter and it wasn’t their business to get involved in our marriage.”

“Did you tell them you might divorce her?”

“Yes, and they told me to go ahead with whatever I felt was right.”

He continued talking about how miserable his life was with this person.

“She tells me that nothing is going on, and that I am being unreasonable about all of it. She took off her wedding ring because she said she has a rash on that hand and can’t wear it. Everyone here at work knows they are together. This guy has had four kids with four different women.”

Alarm bells and red flags!

“Why are you still with her? I know you just got married a month ago, but what keeps you in this marriage?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“I love her.”

“That is admirable of you, but do you see that you are being used? She is carrying on with another man while you are working, raising your son and she is making you out to look like a liar while she is cheating.”

He fiddled with his wedding ring spinning it around on his finger. “I know, but I love her.”

“Are you happy? Is this what you consider marriage?”

“No. But I love her. I want to punch the guy in the face everytime I see him.”

“What about her? She is participating along with him.”

“I know.” I saw a few glints of tears in his angry eyes.

“I am not trying to tell you what to do. I have been through a divorce and it isn’t fun at all for anybody. This person is married to you and using it as a front to be with someone else. Is this really what you want out of life?”

“No, I didn’t think it would work out like this at all. I thought things would be different.”

“Then maybe your next step should be to pack it in, start fresh, raise your son and move on and let her find her way.”

“I can’t. I love her.”

No matter what I said, it came back to this same answer. This conversation began when I had gone to the front desk of the resort where we were staying to pick up a card that would offer me discounts on area attractions. Little did I know that the representative behind the desk would begin telling me his whole life story.

I had simply asked for my card, told him the neighbors above our unit were extremely noisy and the next thing I knew he was unloading his pain on me in massive doses.

“If you are this unhappy now, what will it be like ten years from now?  Will she go to counseling with you to get help?”

“No. She claims she isn’t doing anything wrong so she won’t go with me.”

“What if she gets pregnant with this man?” At this, his neck became red up to the roots of his hair.

“I am worried that might happen.” I sensed the slight tremor of fear.

“You have to take some time and think all of this through,” I said. “I have to say you are doing the best you can in a very tough situation.” He thanked me for listening, and I began my walk down the long hallway.

I have had situations such as this happen over my years where someone I don’t know very well will begin to spill very serious and intimate details of his or her life. Usually, my inward reaction is shock, and I want to check my shirt to see if it reads: Please tell me all your problems right now!

I cannot explain it fully, but while those emotions are going on, something else takes over. I often feel a calm settle over me as I listen, ask questions and try to sort through the mess. On the outside it appears that I am cool and collected while many times I am thinking,

“What is happening?!?”

As I walked away from him I began to think of how I had ‘trapped’ myself into situations over the years. I think many of us get our hearts set on something and even when it is going very badly, we cling to it hoping things will change.  We make up stories in our heads and dismiss the fact that our problem is in fact our unwillingness to look things squarely in the eye and make a decision to save ourselves from agony.  Sometimes, as in this man’s case, it is too painful to acknowledge the pain.

I believe in prayer.  I do believe miracles can happen. I have experienced prayers being answered in ways where things that were not serving me were removed. I have prayed for burdens to be lifted and to walk in freedom only to find that I was hindering my own progress by not letting go.

As I approached the door of my condo, I saw a couple walk by holding hands and having a lively conversation. You know the kind where you can feel the electricity in their attraction as they talk and walk. I thought of the wounded and dejected guy behind the desk. This is what he was longing for deeply but missing it because his partner was not on board.

I thought about the vow he had so recently taken about being together “until death do us part”. I never used to think of it this way, but there have been times in my life where something has ‘died’ so to speak, and I have not wanted to part with it.

Relationships fizzle out when one doesn’t reverance and honor the other party.  A picture comes to mind of a shell on the beach that has washed up without the creature inside. The housing still exists but the contents are empty. It appears that you have stumbled upon a treasure but when you flip it over you realize that whatever lived there before is gone. The shell is just a remnant of the life that was.

I send my best prayers to this man who so deeply loves a woman who does not love him back.  He deserves a good outcome that is more than living life like an empty shell.

shells