A Love Song For Stephen

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I love Valentine’s Day as much as the next girl. I love to be told I’m loved and adored, I love to laugh  with my husband, Stephen and I love presents. But, some years, we’ve not had enough to get a Valentine’s present and make it through the week. You know, those lean years when you just have to choose which is more important. It is during those times I have felt more love than when I am given some token of love.

Love is a state of being. It’s not just a one day thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying (or am I ?) that one day out of the year does it for most people. I somehow can’t imagine that. But, many times, people choose only to show their affection through words and gestures on this one day.

My husband is not perfect. Neither am I. That’s what makes us so perfect for each other. But, my husband brags on me, tells of when we met with a gleam in his eye, talks about strengths he sees in me even before I see it myself and I do the same . We’re crazy about each other! That’s the whole thing. We are the real deal.

It’s not always been this way. No siree. There was a time when we were divorced. For two long years. I’m here to tell you we were the world’s worst divorced couple. We were miserable together and apart. But the thing was, we were more miserable apart than we ever were together. I moved away -way far away – to Granger, Texas. A four hour drive  from Stephen. Distance made no difference. If my car broke down, Stephen was there. If I was sick, he came to nurse me back to health. Flat tire? He came Stephen from Dallas to fix it.

Eventually, I moved back to Dallas and because I had no place to stay, Stephen let me stay at the house. It was Valentine’s Day 2000, when  he and the boys came in my room and said they’d talked and wondered if I would marry him again! He had asked the  boys if it was okay with them before he asked me. It was romantic and amazing and I realized I never had lost the love of my life. So, we married that April. We still celebrate our first marriage on our anniversary and six months later, we celebrate our second wedding anniversary. What could be more perfect than that?  We have the occassional argument, but not often at all.

So, I would like to suggest that Valentine’s is a state of mind and we would all do well to practice it every day. Besides, it’s more fun. It’s not the cards, flowers and stuff. Shoot! I have those things. But, the best thing, is the state of mind.

Stephen, “Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away.”

My Husband, I Think I’ll Keep Him

I want to take this opportunity to brag on my husband a little bit… or maybe a lot. For the most part, he is the kindest, most gentle man I know. You  might think that most women would say that about their husbands, but mine has a proven track record.

As most of you know, I have had my struggles with bipolar disorder. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s part of me, but it definately does not define me. However, there was a time when I was really a pretty sick little chick. I heard voices, I was mean, I was afraid, I was another person. My husband did his best to help others understand I was not myself, that something had happened down the way and I was not the girl he married. Even when I divorced him, he stood by me. I moved to Granger, Texas to live my life separate from him. I had a boyfriend (who no one but me liked), but I went home each and every  weekend I could. Stephen let me stay at the house, took me places, fed me, helped me. I ended up divorcing him anyway. It wasn’t I was a mean and ugly person, I was sick and lost.

When I moved back to Dallas, my husband let me move into our house. I gave him checks for rent, which he didn’t always cash, and I was grateful for being there. He had worked in the mental health industry when he lived in England long years ago. He knew how to help me, how to comfort me when I was afraid.

Many people told him he should just let me go, he should divorce me, move on and find someone else, but he was adamant that the person I was , was not the person he married. He prayed, and prayed some more, he hung in there with me and he loved me despite myself. Then, on Valentines Day, 2000, he asked our children for their permission to remarry me. We remarried on April 22, 2000. I was still not 100% whole, but I was getting there. And he stayed with me during times when my own mother didn’t know who I was. Not too many husbands would stand by their wives when they are not mentally there. My husband did and I’m so grateful he did.

So, this blog post is for him as is all my love. If you have a relative who has a mental illness, hang in there with them, pray for them and love them. They will appreciate you more than you will know.

Thank you , Stephen for hanging with me. It’s been quite the ride and I know it will continue to be for lots of years to come! I love you!11060902_10205518916603978_4508978859742893733_o

Mothers and Daughters

I was the black sheep of the family. No, I was! If my mother said yes, I said no-if she said go, I said stop. I was strong willed, sometimes hateful, sometimes loving. To me, my mother was everything, but admitting that, especially in my teenage years was like pulling teeth. I’d sooner cut off

My Mother during a trip to the Holy Land
My Mother during a trip to the Holy Land

my nose to spite my face than do what I was told.

But, a mother-daughter relationship is a difficult thing at times. Even in the early years of a girls life, there is competition for the affection of the dad. A young girl sees her mom as competition, just like a young boy sees his dad as competition. But, that is a normal and essential part of growing up.

Although I loved my mom, there were times I told her I hated her. How those words must have cut her like a knife. I never meant it, but if she hurt me, I wanted to hurt her back.

It wasn’t until I had kids when I decided my mother knew just about everything there was to know about raising them. No, I didn’t necessarily want to raise mine as she did, but there were some aspects of what she taught my sisters and I that I wanted to keep, some I didn’t. She wasn’t always supportive of the things I let my kids do-for example,I let Micah grow his hair as long as he wanted to when he was 9. He had the most beautiful blonde hair that flowed to his mid-back. My mother, being a hairdresser, thought that was a bit much. I had my reasons for letting him control his hair. She didn’t understand them. That’s okay. We lived through it.

I did  a lot of things she didn’t understand and she did things I didn’t get at all. But, she was my mother. It was okay for me to badmouth her at times, but nobody else better try.

Mother’s Days were always special for me because she was special. She was funny, full of life, loved to laugh , always worried. She worked hard for her family to give us whatever we wanted or needed. She took extraordinary care of my dad who suffered through his own ordeals. She was by his side when he died. Even with all his troubles, she loved him more than anything -except maybe his children.

My  mother is no longer on this earth , but she is still is still with me. Sometimes when I laugh, I hear hers, sometimes when I say something, it’s her voice I hear-it’s her words coming out of my mouth. I smile  to myself each time it happens. I am so happy she is with me in this way.

My mother told me when her mom passed away, she called for her mother. My mother called for her mother too. I will call for my mother to guide me Home,too because a mother is a the closest thing to an angel  there is.

I love you Mother. Happy Mother’s day!

My Bliss For Life

My  husband  Stephen has been my bliss,  my mainstay for over 30 years now.
My husband Stephen has been my bliss, my mainstay for over 30 years now.

I would follow this man anywhere. My husband. He is my best friend, the love of my  life and the one person who gets me . He’s stuck with me through thick and thin and believe me- there has been plenty of thin. In fact, we divorced in the late 90’s. We  were so bad at staying away from each other and at being divorced in general- we just married all over again! There were no marriages in between, so, it works out that we can just pick up where we left off. Our second ceremony was in 2000. We set the date for April- six months from our original October wedding. Works out perfectly. That way, we have an anniversary every six months!

Yep, my bliss- my husband.

Chris- First to Come to Baker’s Acres-First to Go

Chris, on the left, went over the rainbow bridge today. We will miss him.
This Chris, on the left, went over the rainbow bridge today. We will miss him.

My husband fell in love with the donkey who lived in this house when we bought it. We wanted to buy Festus with the house, but the owner didn’t want to sell him. They had been together for a long time. Stephen talked about that donkey quite a bit and I had decided I would get one for him when I heard hay was so expensive, folks were giving them away. I waited til I thought we could afford it and I found two donkeys being given away . I snapped them up and they were both males.

Okay, I thought , “We’ll see how it goes.”

Stephen was on the computer when the donks were delivered . He’d stayed home from work because he had pneumonia. He wasn’t to go outside anyway, and since it was a surprise, I made him promise to stay there and not look. The guy finally got to the end of the drive where we were to let them into the pasture. First, Chris descended from the trailer and was happy to get into the pasture. Even though it was the week after Valentines, there was still grass for them to munch on.

I asked the former owner of these fine badonkadonks, “What are their names- do they have names?”

“Anthony and Chris, he said drably, I named them after mah brothers.”  I felt my eyes roll into the top of my head as I chuckled to myself.

While Anthony was fairly friendly, Chris acted as if he’d been abused at one time or another. He was very shy, didn’t want to be around people, didn’t want to be touched, and went as far as to walk off if one tried to pet his face.

When they were settled into the yard, I went to get Stephen and tell him he could come out and see his new “surprise”. Livestock! We were out in the country, after all . And didn’t he just love Festus? Here were some donkeys of his very own, I beamed with pride and a sense of accomplishment. I guess that was about 6 years ago. The years have been good to us and to the donkeys. Why, the next year, they got girlfriends, when Blanch and Bambi came to join our family. We had two foals, both males, both Bambi’s. The firstborn, Gregory, was from an unknown father- she was pregnant when she got here. Thirteen, though, was Bambi’s and Chris’s child-looks just like Chris. But, it was Blanche Chris loved . Blanche loved him back. However, Blanche lost a foal a couple of years ago and has never been pregnant again.

The boys have since been gelded, so there will be no more babies. That’s okay. We were up to six donkeys- each loved greatly. Why donkeys? Well, they are great guardians of livestock. Coyotes close by? They don’t come up where donkeys are watching. They know the donkeys will kill them if they get close. Donkeys have wonderful and diverse personalities. They are sure to get a laugh out of anyone passing by.

So, this morning- when I went to feed the animals this morning, my eyes burned with tears when I saw Chris lying by the barn door. I ran around to the door of the barn where he lay and saw he had passed away . Rigor mortis had not set in , so , I knew he hadn’t been dead too long. I pet him and walked to the house where Stephen met me bringing dog food.

“I’m sad to say that Chris has died this morning,” I hollered to him.

“What? What”

“Chris has died.” Stephen walked quickly to the barn, bending over to pet him just as I did. Tears fell from Stephen’s eyes  and mine. Now, we had to get busy, find out what to do.

In the meantime, I began thinking of how scared Chris had been when he first came, how untrusting he was. I thought about a couple of days earlier when we had both petted his face, hugged him , without any fear from him. A bit later, Stephen and I figured out why we have so many animals. We take the rescued, the unloved animals, animals who are afraid and love them while they live out their last days here.

Chris, the first donkey here, the most fearful donkey we had was the most loved donkey. He left this place knowing love. That’s our job- to love these guys for the rest of their lives. Thank you, God for Chris- a great blessing. We return him to you-a donkey who knew love and loved in return.

Holidaze

I’m not sure how to feel about the holidays coming up. No, I didn’t misspell my title. I feel weird about them tonight. I guess I am feeling some sort of identity crisis- maybe I’ve lost whatever I thought the holidays are supposed to be.

You see, growing up, my house (well, my mom and dad’s house) was full  of relatives. Thanksgiving? My mom’s family over for dinner, which was always at noon-one o’clock should there be late-comers. (there were always latecomers.) After my mom’s family left, the next day or so , my dad’s family would come. Maybe not for dinner, but at least to visit. Needless to say, I’ve always associated the holidays with a full house of family and friends.

Last night, my husband found a video of a Christmas spent, as usual, with my mother. Just our family- my family of origin and our extended families around the Christmas  tree. My four grandsons-still just little boys, my daughter and her husband, Sean (now deceased, sadly), my sister and her family and my mother. How wonderfully bittersweet it was to see everyone together. There was my mother, complaining about having her photo on the video and Sean saying the new jacket would fit if he could lose ten pounds. No one was aggravated, there was lots of laughter, it was great to hear their voices again and see their faces. It was a reminder to me that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I have felt pretty solemn since I saw the video. All of us laughing, having fun, being surprised – just being a family. We were oblivious to anything bad or sad. Within about two years of that video,,my husband’s mother and  my mother went to be with the Lord and then so did Sean. Our family forever changed.

Now, I have my kids, all married- going their own way this Thanksgiving – and I’m happy they are able to do that. So, it will be me, Stephen and Father Charlie this year for Thanksgiving. Maybe David will  come. I hope so. Even though it is family, I’m a bit dazed and confused since the house will not be full to the brim. I am so thankful, though that each of my children have spouses who love them and feel good about being able to go to their other family’s houses for Thanksgiving.

What a great time to find a long lost video- just as we all celebrate our gratitude, I was able to see and hear the voices of those I loved so much. While I am celebrating my living family members, I will celebrate the fact that God gave me other people who have gone on to His house before me.

So, while you are celebrating gratitude, remember to tell your family and friends how much they mean to you-how much you love them. I don’t think we can ever say it too much. Happy thanksgiving!

Another Sunday Rolls Around

Back in the day, I went to church and it was okay. It was never anything special until my husband, Stephen and I began going to The Gathering in downtown Dallas. The Gathering is a church for the “unhoused”. The homeless. The Gathering has changed our lives in so many ways. It has certainly changed the way I worship God and my attitude towards others.

The first time we went to The Gathering, it was the first or second week in September 2013. I admit I was a bit skeptical. No other church had really captured my heart. But, it wasn’t just the church I was skeptical of- I’d never been around “unhoused” people. I’d seen them on the street, sometimes hanging out by a 7-11 or similar store hoping to catch some change to get a cup of coffee or maybe even a meal. I  had never really spoken to any homeless people and like so many – I didn’t really even look at them- I had no money I could share and I didn’t want to feel guilty about not giving them anything.

That first Sunday we went to worship with the folks at The Gathering- well, it was just amazing- that’s the only word to describe it. The people, the folks I had never looked at, were welcoming, loving, grateful, happy and worshipped God with a fervor and an appreciation I’d never seen before. All at once, I was inspired to worship in the same way. I wanted the happiness and love they had found. I know what many are thinking- “they are happy, because they are addicts and/or mentally ill.” While some are addicts and some are mentally ill, that is not the happiness I’m talking about. It’s a high, but right then, that Sunday, it was a “high on God” I was witnessing.

My Sundays have been transformed from a “meh” kind of worship to an amazing kind of worship that lasts all week. I saw that even though many of the people worshipping have nothing, they are happy to worship with all their hearts each Sunday. This is what worship should be. God gives us the joy to worship Him this way. We just have to find it in order to do so.

I hope everyone has a place like The Gathering to call their own. There is no better feeling than to worship God on Sunday and have it last all week. Nothing better.

many unhoused people, much joy
many unhoused people, much joy
Father Charlie brings the sermon
Father Charlie brings the sermon