39 years Ago – He Met His “Barbara”

It was in January 39 years ago I walked into a church in Bethalto, Illinois, not knowing that I was about to meet my future husband. As Paul and I remember that special day, we still marvel at how God brought us together. So – once again, I share our story.

“We as a community of friends are gathered here in God’s presence to witness Paul and Barbara’s renewal of commitment to one another and to ask God’s continued blessings on them. Marriage, like our creation as men and women owes its existence to God. It is His will and purpose that a husband and wife should love each other throughout their life. Shall we pray?”

This was how our Pastor began the ceremony when my husband and I renewed our wedding vows on our 25th anniversary. We still love to remember that story.

Here’s the story!

While living in the state of Washington, my husband, Paul, found himself a single father trying to raise two teenagers. Needing support, he returned to his home town to be near family. He was very lonely and began to pray for a Christian wife. Since he was a minister and also loved to sing, he asked God if it would be possible that this wife would also play the piano and be able to work with him in the ministry.

Her name will be Barbara

While praying, he felt impressed in his spirit that God would grant him that request and that his future wife would be named “Barbara.” He was afraid at first to share that thought with anyone as he felt they would think he was crazy. But it was so real to him he needed to reveal it to someone. He finally related that information with a couple at the large church he was attending but no one else.

Four months later I walked into the church with my two young daughters.

While living in Southeast Missouri, my first husband was accidentally killed leaving me with two small daughters to care for. Everything I read about grief told me that I should make no sudden changes or moves for at least a year. However, after a year of trying to make it far from home, I decided to return to Illinois where my family could give me much-needed support. While it was great to be close to my family again, I still carried a heavy load of grief and sorrow. I tried to be strong for my two young daughters, but after a while I realized I did not want to continue living alone. Although I longed to find happiness again, I knew that my daughters’ happiness and safety were more important than my own. If I ever remarried, it would have to be a very special man who would love my daughters as well as me.

I asked God to give me a godly husband who would help me raise my daughters.

One year after moving back to Illinois, I decided to attend the church where my parents were members. When I walked in the foyer, I saw a couple that I recognized. They were friends with my first husband’s parents but I had not seen them in years. They seemed extremely happy to see me, but it was only months later that I found out why my sudden appearance at their church was so exciting to them. They were the couple that Paul had shared his secret with.

After greeting me, they hurried to locate my future husband and tell him, “There she is.”

He had no idea what they meant until they told him the red head that had just walked into the church was named Barbara. Paul told them to not say anything, but if this was the Barbara God had promised, God would work it out. A few weeks later Paul asked me on a date and the rest, as they say, is history.

And a good history it has been. Paul has proven to be a wonderful husband and, even more important, a wonderful father to my two daughters and grandfather to my grandchildren.

Today as we look back at the 39 years we have shared, we are grateful that God answered our prayers. I am no longer a red head, but he loves me anyway. 🙂

Sixty-eight Years – and He is Still Faithful!!!

I posted this in 2018 but today I celebrate 68 years of walking with my Savior, my best friend.

Life has had its ups and downs, but one thing has remained true. Jesus has been faithful to me through it all.

  • He was there when my father left my mother and I when I was fourteen. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Psalm 27:10
  • He was there when my husband was killed in an accident leaving me with two little girls to raise. “I will be with you always.” Matthew 28:20
  • He was there when the doctor told me “The odds are not in your favor” and gave me little hope of surviving more than a few more years. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me.” Psalm 23
  • He is here as I began to age and face pain of arthritis and all the other issues of the aging. “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

In 74 years of life, I have made a lot of decisions, some good, some bad. But that decision as a six-year-old was the best one I ever made and one I have never regretted.

The Garden that Love Built

It’s Breast Cancer Month – and every year at this time I remember my own story of the battle with breast cancer. It was in October of 2002 that I discovered a lump in my breast that led to a battle that thankfully, with God’s help, I won. People may get tired of hearing my story, but I will never get tired of being grateful to be alive – now celebrating 18 years cancer free. And a reminder to all my female readers: do a monthly breast exam.

Grandma's Ramblings

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In November 2001 my husband and I moved into our new home.  It had no trees or flowers anywhere on the property. In the backyard, a deck opened onto an above ground swimming pool.  The backyard was ugly and hot with lots of concrete and rock around the pool.  Two metal sheds sat on large slabs of concrete.  My husband, who loves flowers and trees wanted to get rid of the pool.  But I wanted to try to learn to swim so I convinced him to keep the pool for our first summer in the house.

The next summer I was only in the pool three or four times because every evening when I came home from work all I wanted to do was just lie down.  I was constantly exhausted.

In November 2002 we discovered why I was feeling so badly.  After a visit to the doctor and then…

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This Day Changed Everything

Several years ago on this day (I will not say how many – that’s for my daughter to tell) I became a mother for the first time.

What an awesome moment – the moment I held her in my arms.

I whispered to her how we were going to be such good friends.  We had books to read, flowers to pick, songs to sing and so much more!  What dreams I had for her.

Today as I look at my “little” girl who is now herself not only a mother, but a grandmother, I still see the little girl in her eyes.

As we have walked through life together, we have experienced both joy and sorrow.  We have laughed and cried together and a few times even argued with each other.  But through it all one thing has remained strong – our love for one another.

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Growing old myself, looking back on my life I think how I have never been famous or accomplished any great achievement.

Then I look at this daughter – a school teacher, who really loves her students and I see how many lives she has touched.  How many children came to love learning because of her interest and love for them.  How many children experienced for the first time a sense of their own ability because of her encouragement to them.  How many parents she has helped understand how to help their own children.

I see the beautiful hats she knits for each student at Valentine’s Day, the fleece blankets she has given to many at Christmas.  The hats she knits for cancer survivors.  The homeless she has fed.

If I had even a small part in helping her to become the caring person she is – then I have achieved much!

Today, on her birthday, I share some quotes about mothers/daughters that I love.

  • “A daughter is just a little girl who grows up to be your best friend.” – Unknown
  • “Mother and daughter never truly part, maybe in distance but never in heart.” – Unknown
  • “Someday when the pages of my life end, I know that you will be one of the most beautiful chapters.” – Unknown
  • “A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future.” – Unknown
  • A daughter is God’s way of saying, ‘thought you could use a lifelong friend.’” – Unknown
  • A mother’s treasure is her daughter.” – Catherine Pulsifer

And just in case she reads this blog today – here’s one for you, Beka Boo

  • “What’s it like to have the greatest daughter in the world? I don’t know ask your grandmother.” – Unknown

I’m Celebrating!

Today is a happy day for me!

Today I am exploring the western side of Michigan along Lake Michigan.  We have a hotel in the middle between Ludington and Traverse City Michigan.  What a beautiful area!  The lake, rivers, sand dunes, beaches, quaint shops and restaurants!

My heart rejoices because we are celebrating 35 years of marriage.

What a great love story we have.

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Although Paul knew in his heart that I was the answer to his prayer, he still was nervous about asking me to marry them.  We both had two children (Paul had four but the two oldest were already grown adults and on their own) – three of whom were teenagers.  Blended families could be a difficult thing.  I think he was also afraid of rejection as his first wife had walked away from their marriage after 20+ years.

So he had to build up his courage.

He took me on a picnic to Pere Marquette Park in Grafton Illinois.  Several times that day he hinted at a more serious relationship, then before I could reply, he backed away.

A few weeks later he brought me a bouquet of flowers and took me to a nice restaurant.  All evening I kept thinking he would now talk about a deeper commitment between us.  But nothing happened.  The next night he showed up again with another bouquet of flowers and again took me out to a nice restaurant.  Again, I waited all through dinner for a more serious conversation – but nothing happened.

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My thoughts were that this relationship was going nowhere fast.

But when we got to my apartment he asked if we could sit in the car and talk for awhile.  What a surprise!  He not only asked to take our relationship to a more serious level, he asked me to marry them.

During the 20 minutes or so this conversation took, our children who were inside my apartment kept turning the porch light on and off.  Believe me you have not courted until you do with four kids watching your every move!

So we were married.

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Since we both believed that God had brought us together – both as a couple and as a family, we wanted to emphasize that God would be the foundation of our new family right from the start.

After we said our vows, we had our children join us and we took communion together as a family.

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Was it easy blending two families together?  No!  There were difficult moments.  Paul and I each had different parenting styles.  I had two girls, but I had no idea what to do with a son – and a teenage son at that.

But we stuck with each other and God made us a family.

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left to right:  my youngest daughter, Jessica; my oldest daughter, Rebekah; Paul’s youngest daughter and son, Maria and Will

From this blended family we now have twenty grandchildren (three who are deceased) and nine great grandchildren.

Looking back over these past 35 years, my heart rejoices in the blessings God has given Paul and I.

For those of you who follow my blog, you can be sure I will be posting lots of pictures when I get back home of this beautiful area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Greatest Love

It’s Valentine’s Day.  A day we are supposed to celebrate our love.  I imagine it can be a painful day for those who do not have a “special” someone to celebrate with.  After my first husband died, I dreaded that day.

But although I have been single, then widowed and spent Valentine’s Day without a boyfriend or husband, I have always had a great love to celebrate.

I met Him when I was six years old.

 

My earliest memories were hearing my parents talk about Him.  Finally, at six I realized I wanted Him to be my special love.

So I asked Jesus to come into my heart/my life and I would love Him too.

I asked – He said yes.

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Being baptized after making a public commitment to follow Jesus

We have been sharing our love ever since then.

 

 

I could share so many stories of how my love has been there for me over these 65 years since I accepted His offer of friendship and love, but one of my blogs from 2014 tells it the best.

Hope you will take time to read it and see why I celebrate this love, not only on Valentine’s day but every day of the year.

Coincidence or An Act of God?

It Has Been 35 Years!

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35 years – but the memory of that time is still clear in my mind.

I had moved back to Illinois from Missouri to be near family.  My husband of 13 years had been killed in an accident and with him my dreams of a home in the country was gone.  With two little girls to raise by myself I needed the support of family.

At the time of the move the thought that I would ever love again to me seemed impossible.

But as time passed and the years ahead all alone seemed so hard, I began to wonder if I could find happiness again.

And then I met him.

Thirty-five years this month this wonderful man asked me to meet him for coffee one morning.  Nervous and wondering if this was really the right thing to do I said yes.

We both were scared as our relationship began.  His first marriage had ended in pain and sorrow as his first wife announced one day she no longer wanted to be married.  Trying to raise his two teenage children alone he was lonely too but also afraid.

Would he be hurt again if he gave his heart away to me?  Would his kids be okay with this new relationship?

I too was scared.  How would my girls feel about this?  Could I really love someone again?  Guilt also entered my mind.  If I loved again, would I betray the memory of my first husband?

During those first days in February and March I played this song over and over as I prayed and asked God for wisdom in this new relationship.

Thankful we overcome the fears and were married.  Bought our first home!

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Thirty-five years since we met for coffee.  My, what those years have bought.

  • 20 grandchildren
  • 9 great-grandchildren
  • there has been sorrow – death of our oldest son and three grandchildren
  • there has been joy – seeing our children married, grandchildren born
  • we have walked the streets of New York with a team from Teen Challenge witnessing and reaching out to drug addicts
  • lived as missionaries in the Philippines
  • been pastors of three churches, music ministers
  • survived my husband’s heart attack and my battle with breast cancer

Today as I think back to that first coffee date, I’m so thankful he asked me and that I said yes.

 

Coincidence or An Act of God?

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 Some would call it a coincidence. But the odds for it happening as it did are pretty great.

I call it an act of God.

I have recently written a couple of articles about my battle with breast cancer 12 years ago.   

I’m Still Beautiful!!!  and Life — What a Wonderful Gift! 

During that battle, I experienced a wonderful moment when God’s presence and love were very real.

Stage 3C – Aggressive and advanced

Because my cancer was very aggressive and very advanced, they had to radiate four different areas; my chest, my underarm, the back of my shoulder and the area in front around my collar bone and lower neck. We had to stop the treatment at one point because I was badly burned. The doctor had told me that this might happen since I am a redhead and have very fair skin.

Although chemotherapy was harder on me physically than radiation, I found the radiation treatments more difficult emotionally and mentally. Chemotherapy was given to me in a pleasant room with windows looking out at a small lake with ducks and flowers. I was able to sit in a comfortable recliner with my husband by my side. There were others in the room also taking treatment and if it were not for the IV’s attached to us, it could have been a row of people on vacation taking in the view on a cruise ship.

Radiation!

Radiation treatment, however, was lonely. My husband could not go into the room with me. After the technicians placed me in the proper position for the treatment, they quickly left the room and went into another room where they could view me though a window safe from the radiation. What was really frightening was the sign on the outside of the room. It said:

“Danger! High Radiation!”

The act of God came in the first treatment. After placing me in the exact position I had to be in so that the radiation would reach only those places where cancer cells might still be hidden and yet not reach my heart or my lungs, the technicians walked out of the room. I heard the heavy door slam shut. Tears began to run down my face and my heart began beating very fast as I realized that I was alone in the room with a machine about to emit dangerous x-rays into my body.

Never in all my life had I felt so all alone. As I have always done in times of trouble, I cried out to the Lord and said, “Help me! I’m all alone and I’m scared.” Immediately as that cry went out, a song began playing over the speakers. It was a song from my childhood:

“Yes, Jesus Loves Me.”

How comforting it was to me to remember that I was not alone, but my friend who had promised to walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death was there with me.

After the treatment I thanked the technicians for being so thoughtful to play that song at that particular moment. They told me they had nothing to do with the music that was played during the treatments. It was all programmed months before and they just turned on the music without any control over what was being played.

Coincidence?

I know many will say it was just a coincidence – that particular song playing at the very moment I cried out for help.

Act of God!

But I say it was an act of God. Between my treatments and the days it took to set up my treatment plan and adjust it, I was in that room for over 40 times. During those times they always played elevator music. Except for that one moment, there was never any music that could be counted as Christian music.

I’m so thankful I have survived and I’m so thankful that I know it is true that

Jesus loves me.

 

 

 

I’m Still Beautiful!!!

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Every October I always reflect back on the time I was first diagnosed with cancer.  During the nine months of treatment, I kept a journal.  My first response to that dreadful word “cancer” is given in my post:     Cancer Survivor

As I read the journal every year, there is one entry I love to read over and over again.  Last February, I shared this article with our newspaper in a contest they were holding for stories of love and commitment.  It was exciting to have my story selected and once again, I want to share it with you.

On our wedding day, my husband spoke beautiful words to me as he shared the vows he had written for our special day.

“I pledge myself to you alone with a devotion that shall increase as we pass together through sorrow and joy, through darkness and sunlight.”

As I listened to his words and saw the love expressed in his eyes, my thoughts were more about the joy and sunlight we would experience together than on any time of sorrow or darkness.

For 18 years we experienced a lot of joy and sunlight. We rejoiced together as our children graduated, married, presented us with grandchildren. Then, suddenly, we faced the darkness as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After the surgery which removed my left breast and almost all of the lymph nodes under my left arm, the surgeon told me the cancer had been very advanced and aggressive. He made arrangements for me to see an oncologist who told me “the odds are not in your favor.” I would need 16 chemotherapy treatments and over 30 radiation treatments. He basically told us to enjoy the days we had, because he did not think I would survive.

Now my husband’s promise to me that his devotion would increase through sorrow and darkness faced a hard test. Words are easily spoken. This valley would test the truth of those words.

Two days after the surgery, the time came to remove the bandages. How I dreaded that moment! I was confident in my husband’s love for me and I knew that he would stand by me and would say the right things. But I also knew that after all these years of marriage he would not be able to hide the truth from me. His eyes would reflect how he really felt as he looked at my deformed body.

Lovingly he helped me remove the bandages. Glancing down at the area where my left breast used to be, tears immediately filled my eyes. The left side of my chest looked caved in, as if I was hit by a big Mack truck. A bright red scar ran from the center of my chest across and under my left arm. Large staples held the scar together. There were plastic tubes under my arm with fluid draining into two small bags. It was unpleasant to say the least!

Slowly, with tears in my eyes, I glanced up at my husband. He smiled at me and his words are forever engraved in my heart. “You are still beautiful to me,” he said. Clearly those were the right words to say. What is priceless to me, however, was the look in his eyes. There was no hint of aversion, no sign of any disgust. His eyes reflected the love I had seen on our wedding day 18 years before. But, there was much more there now. The love on our wedding day had been love of expectancy for what was to come. This love had much more depth. It was love coming from 18 years of shared experiences, love that had found all it had anticipated to have been satisfied. There was a tenderness and compassion in those eyes that said, “I’m here. I’ll keep my vow.”  

After removing the bandages and getting a shower, I was exhausted. He helped me get into the new bath robe he had bought for me to wear while I recovered from the surgery. It was silky on the outside with lace trim across the top, but had a soft and warm fleece lining. He picked a color that everyone said looks good on me – a light aqua.   How thoughtful this gift was. The soft fleece lining was so comfortable, but the lace trimming made it look very feminine.

As he helped me back to bed, I looked once again in his eyes. He smiled at me and I knew I was still loved and beautiful in his eyes. I knew those words spoken to me 18 years ago were more than just words. They were the true feelings of this wonderful man I call my husband.