Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hope For Tomorrow

And so, you have now been party to my life's story.  Some have called me strong, I think not.  I consider myself to be more of a survivor than anything else.  I used to teach my ladies at Phoenix Revival Center as well as my children that EVERYONE has a story.  Before you judge someone harshly for being distant, seemingly unfriendly, grouchy or aloof, take into account that you have no idea what they faced last week, yesterday or this morning.  You have no clue as to the battles and demons they fight every single minute of their lives.  EVERYONE has a story.

You may wonder if I am bitter at God, my husband, the church, the organization?  Not at all.  I have never felt any bitterness towards anyone and especially not towards God.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, at times I have felt anger towards Tim for leaving our children to grieve his death for the rest of their lives, but that anger comes and goes and is only fleeting.  I mostly feel pity and sadness for Tim.  I do however admonish our organization to be more perceptive to those among us in ministry who are hurting.  Not every problem that ministers and their families face stems from whether they are labeled "liberal" or "conservative."  Stress and mental health issues are rampant among the ministry and it is quietly swept under the proverbial "rug."  That is not to say however that individuals are absolved of their responsibility to maintain their own sanity in seeking help, Tim did not seek help and thus, the most horrible of outcomes transpired.  I believe that it is a fear of rejection and criticism from their peers that prevents ministers and their families from reaching out.  I pray this is a lesson learned for some among us.

I now live a very pleasant and quiet life.  Paul is an amazing husband and treats me like a queen.  I really mean that!  I know a lot of women use that term, but I really mean it!  He is extremely tender and caring, tentative to my needs and always striving to make me happy.  Paul loves my children and my grand daughter and goes out of his way to make them feel comfortable.  He truly is a blessing from God.  He is like a healing balm to my wounded and damaged heart.  I thank God daily for his love.

Do I think of Tim?  Every single day of my life I think of the father of my children, the man that I stood by through the good times and the bad times.  The man that I fought the devils of hell for, as well as some devils on two legs who live and dwell among us.  The man that I vowed to love and cherish until death parted us, and that is exactly what I did.  The intense, searing grief has passed, but way, way, way down deep is a lingering sadness, a void in my heart that I assume will remain until I look into the sweet face of our Lord.  I told Haley the other day that regardless of how happy I am, I will always be just a little bit sad.  I don't think anyone could go through what we have completely unscathed, it goes with the territory.  I ended my discussion with Haley by saying that if Tim had finally found the peace and rest that his soul had been craving by taking his own life, then it was worth it.  I would go through it a hundred times more if I knew that he was at peace.

Paul and I cleaned out our garage a couple of weeks ago and I must admit, my day was a little tarnished as I stumbled across some mementos of mine and Tim's life that I had not seen in years.  One of those articles was a C.D. of a Sunday morning service at Phoenix Revival Center approximately six weeks before Tim died.  It starts out with a solo by our daughter Kendra.  My breath caught in my throat and tears filled my eyes as, at the tail end of her song, I hear Tim's voice mingle with hers, singing along.  I was transfixed and continued to listen as Tim took the service and began his sermon.  As Tim read his text and gave his sermon title "Go Ahead God, Make My Day" memories came rushing at me as I distinctly recalled that service.  It was as though I were taken back in time and could see the faces of our saints as they stood to their feet in worship as Kendra sang.  I could see Tim's face, reading glasses low on his nose as he read the text, and then, in my minds eye I could see his mannerisms as he began to preach.  We had so many good years at PRC, years and memories that will forever burn in my heart.

But now, it is time for new memories and experiences.  I will be busy from here on out making memories with Paul and our children, with Charlotte, Zack's daughter and our little Harlow Grace, due to arrive in February of 2012.  We cannot look back, we must look forward for there is so much life yet to be lived!  God has granted us breath, and with every breath we will praise Him and live for Him.  And then, one fine day we will stand before His throne in worship.  I fully expect to find Tim there, minus the reading glasses, busy at work, chalkboard and chalk in hand, teaching the angels a little Hebrew.......

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our Wonderful, Crazy, Sleepy Honeymoon

Our hotel in Bodega Bay was lovely and quaint.  We strolled on the beach sipping coffee, talking for hours and just getting to know one another.  There were tears as we expressed ourselves and revealed the deepest desires of our hearts to one another.  And I discovered that my husband was everything I had ever wanted and hoped for.  This man is the most loving, kind, fun person I have ever known and he brings out the best in me.

From Bodega Bay we drove to Anaheim and went to Disneyland for three whole days!  We enjoyed a lovely suite at the Marriott Hotel and just enjoyed being together.  Paul is an avid Disneyland fan and once again, I had to adjust to this new and carefree way of living which was extremely foreign to me.  I thanked the Lord over and over again that he had brought a man into my life who was not in the ministry.  It felt oh so good to just be.........well........normal.

There was, however, one negative aspect to our honeymoon.  There was the issue of both Paul and I being extremely sleepy.  For the first day or two we attributed our exhaustion to planning and executing a wedding, stress, and the late night drive to Bodega Bay from Modesto.  However, the fact that I lay my head down on a table at an eatery directly across from the Indiana Jones ride and promptly fell asleep, was indeed a point of concern for both us!  My eyes were continuously scanning the park for a "grassy knoll" on which to lie and take a little nap.  Add to that the fact that we went to the hotel every afternoon specifically to sleep, so tired we could barely walk, was cause for double concern.  What is wrong with us?  We kept asking each other.

On our last day at Disneyland, Paul had promised to take me to a nice dinner at the Blue Bayou.  Anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows exactly to what I refer.  The BLue Bayou is a restaurant inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  They serve yummy cajun food and the ambience is to die for.  There are strung lights overhead that are kept low, candles on the tables, moss hangs from faux trees and the sounds of crickets chirping and owls hooting serenade you as you sup.  White linen tablecloths and crystal compliment the tables.  I sat there, head pounding barely touching my gumbo as I fought back the urge to hurl!  Oh my word I was sick!  I prayed that I was not coming down with some sort of flu as I chilled and broke out in a cold sweat.

We paid our bill and hurriedly left as I told Paul that I really needed to get back to the hotel.  I made it nearly to the exit when I made a mad dash to the bathroom as my stomach relieved itself of it's contents.  Somewhat relieved, we returned to the hotel room and I dropped into bed, slugging down two of the Tylenol that I had brought along with us with a sip of flat diet coke that sat on the nightstand.

I always carry Tylenol with me as I tend to get a lot of headaches, backaches, and well, at my age, just a lot of aches.  Paul and I both had taken quite a bit of the Tylenol on our honeymoon, wanting to feel good, free of pain during our trip.  Paul does not usually take a lot of medication and add to that the fact the he has undergone gastric bypass surgery, and any medication he DOES take enters his bloodstream very quickly.

The next evening, we were scheduled for dinner at Medieval Times.  Paul had taken some Tylenol earlier in the day and also at our dinner that evening.  We were so sleepy at Medieval Times that we were barely able to keep our heads up!  At one point, no several points, I looked over to see Pauls' head slumped forward with him sound asleep!  Oh dear Lord!  What was going on?  Why were we so sleepy?  How could anyone fall asleep with all of the cheering, excitement and commotion going on around us?  I was REALLY starting to worry at this point.  We had a serious discussion about why we were both feeling so badly, convinced that we had come down with some sort of virus.

On the last day of our trip, we visited the Reagan Library.  It was incredibly wonderful!  Other than the fact that we were both, again, feeling somewhat sluggish and sleepy, we had a wonderful time.  Of course, a little more Tylenol would help our pounding heads.  As I took a dose and prepared to put the bottle back into my purse, Paul stopped me.  "Hey babe."  he said.  "Look at that bottle.  Aren't Tylenol P.M.'s blue?" he asked.  "Well yes, I said."  "Well the pills we have been taking this whole time are blue."  "No way!"  I responded.  "I looked very carefully when I purchased these on our way out of town!  They clearly said Tylen"............ My voice trailed off as I retrieved the bottle from my bag and saw, clearly written on the bottle............................ TYLENOL............PM!!  Oh my Lord!  We had been taking sleep medication the entire time!  No wonder our heads were pounding and we were so nauseous and sleepy!  I had overdosed us!  There were days when we had taken three to four times the recommended dosage in one day!

I was humiliated and relieved all at the same time.  At least now we knew what was wrong with us.  We no longer need be concerned that we had married the biggest bore on the face of the planet.  We really WERE normal, just a little drugged.

And now, when our children family and friends ask us about our honeymoon, we don't have too much to say.  It's all a little hazy.  We don't remember much.  We were high on Tylenol P.M.  We just giggle and say, "We never got our of bed."  =)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Flowers, Candles and Music!

March the twelfth was the day we decided on.  It was February and we only had a few weeks to plan.  The big wedding and honeymoon went out the window as we struggled and pinched pennies to plan a small, intimate affair.

The wedding was to be held in the youth chapel at Modesto Revival Center.  My sister, Cindy would serve as matron of honor, and Paul's longtime friend, Scott, would be the best man.  Paul had requested that his girls play a role, so, Paul's youngest daughter Noelle was the flower girl and his middle daughter, Natalie and my niece Madison served as candle lighters.  Paul's oldest Nicole, is our daughter with special needs and there was not an army, stampede of horses or threat of death that was going to make her be in the wedding!  So, she was an observer.  Kendra was the official wedding photographer, and Haley joined Nicole in the "observation booth."

I was shooting for simple elegance.  I had chosen soft colors of wedgwood blue and butter yellow with accents of gold.  I made the bouquets, floral arrangements and the boutonnieres.  We had a reception in the church lobby of cupcakes, sparkling cider and a snack table complete with candies and a variety of nuts and snack crackers.  It turned out exactly as I had envisioned it.

I thought long and hard about the music that I would play.  I wanted each song to tell a story, to be a testament to our individual circumstances, of what we had both suffered and lived to tell about.

The wedding began with "A New Day Has Come" by Celine Dion.  It goes something like this....."I was waiting for so long for a miracle to come.  Everyone told me to be strong, hold on, and don't shed a tear.  Through the darkness and good times, I knew I'd make it through.  The world thought I had it all, but I was waiting for you."  The candle lighters also walked down the aisle and lit their candles to this song.

The maid of honor walked down the aisle to another Celine Dion song entitled "Have You Ever Been In Love?"  One of my favorite lines in this song is, "The time I spent waiting for something that was heaven sent.  When you find it don't let go, I know."  I walked down the aisle during the crescendo at the tail end of this song.

Pastor Keyes conducted the ceremony with the assistance of Paul's Pastor, Lawrence Exum.  They both had marvelous things to say with Pastor Keyes recounting embarrassing stories of me when I was a teenager and Pastor Exum addressed the idea of a blended family and the challenges that we would face.  The atmosphere was a very relaxed and joyous one.

We had thought long and hard about the song we would play during the lighting of the unity candle.  The song we eventually chose was "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascall Flatts.  I had not wanted this song, even though I dearly love it, I just felt that it had been way overused and I wanted something original.  However, the words of the song were too incredibly "dead on" for us to ignore, and that is the song we settled on.

The first notes of the song began to play and we walked over to the unity candle just as we had practiced.  We lit our candle and blew out our individual tapers and made our way back to the front.  We stood there holding hands, looking into each others eyes when I said to Paul very quietly....."I always hate this part in weddings, it is so awkward standing here with everyone looking at us."Paul shocked me by saying "Do you want me to have them stop the song?"  Before I could respond he turned to the man running the sound and made a motion as if cutting his neck, meaning to say "cut the music!"  I was appalled!  What in the world was he doing??

Before I could regain my composure, a man that Paul worked with walked up to a microphone with an acoustic guitar in his hands!  And then Paul had a microphone in HIS hand!  Much to my shock and delight Paul began to sing to me a song entitled "Let Me Down Easy." by country artist Billy Currington.

Paul has an incredible voice and I was thrilled to the very core of my being as he sang, "The smell of your perfume, floating in the air.  You're lookin' like an angel lyin' on a blanket with a halo of hair.  And those lips are too good to be true.  Once I taste that kiss I know what'll happen, I'll be at the mercy of you!"  I am blushing even now as I type.

Much to our surprise, his co-worker who was accompanying him on the guitar joined in with sweet harmony on the chorus!  It was a hit.  The audience began to feel very relaxed and there were cat calls and whistles coming from the crowd.  It was electric!  At the close of the song there was thunderous applause.  I was smiling so wide I thought my cheeks would surely crack!

Before we knew it, the ceremony was over and my Pastor gave Paul permission to kiss me.......and.......he did!  And it was good!  And now, I was Mrs. Paul Ray Moore.  I walked down the aisle to my future with ALL of OUR kids trailing along behind.

The reception was lovely and very relaxed.  We enjoyed visiting with so many family and friends.  We could not wait however to get on the road to begin our honeymoon.  We were going to Bodega Bay, and then on to Disneyland for three whole days and then the Reagan Library on our way home.  We had an absolutely wonderful time, it is just too bad that we could hardly stay awake the whole trip................

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dollar Store Flowers

I gasped, clutching my chest, my eyes as big as saucers.  No, I take that back, make it dinner plates!  "Paul!"  I said.  He was loving it, laughing his head off as Pastor Keyes just looked over the top of his glasses and gave a crooked little grin.

To my great relief, Paul hurriedly explained himself.  He clarified that he does in fact take dirty pictures.......he works for Vallejo Sanitation and Flood Control and televises sewer lines.  I don't understand everything pertaining to Paul's work, suffice it to say that he views sewers through a camera lens.  For what purpose?  I have no clue.  I have no desire to be anywhere near a sewer, much less video tape it........anyway, that is what Paul does and has done for the last ten years.

To my great relief Pastor seemed to fully understand and accept Paul's explanation, and I was breathing again.  We chit chatted about a few other items of concern to Pastor, including Haley.  Of all three of my children Haley is the most like her father and was also the closest to him.  She took his death EXTREMELY hard and her nature is such that she internalizes her pain.  It is difficult to coerce her to open up about Tim's death.  I knew that the move from Modesto to American Canyon once Paul and I were married would be very traumatic for her.  Pastor and SIs. Keyes were greatly concerned, as I was, and Pastor took the time to give me some Godly counsel on the situation.

And then, finally, the answer to our question came.  Pastor Keyes gave his blessing for us to marry!  I wanted to jump up and down in glee!  Wanted to kiss him right on the lips!  It was over!  And it had just begun!

Friends were waiting for us at a restaurant to celebrate my forty fourth birthday, and now, we also had our engagement to celebrate!  What a wonderful and memorable evening it was!

And so, we began to plan our wedding.  There were so many things we wanted to do, honeymoon spots we wanted to visit, but alas, our pocket books would not allow it.  The Dollar Store became my friend during those days as I hand crafted my bouquet and the other floral arrangements that would be used in the ceremony.  It was not ideal, but I had a lot of fun doing it.  If I had it my way, we would have just eloped, but there was family to think of, and Paul wanted our wedding to feel like a fresh start, the closing of one chapter and the opening of a new one.  So, I agreed.

But I did NOT want to wait until May!  That seemed an eternity!  I called Paul and suggested that we GET MARRIED NOW!.........

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Day of Reckoning

We chatted about benign topics for a bit and then she said, "So I hear you got engaged and have a ring and everything!"  Oh boy, here goes nothing I thought as I began to answer.  Honesty is always the best policy, so, I opened up to Sis. Keyes and told her everything.  I told her how I felt about Paul, what an amazing man he was and that he and I were in love and wanted to build a life together.  I ended the conversation by telling her that regardless, I would do whatever Pastor felt was best.  Wow!  THAT was hard to say!

There was a moment of silence and then Sis. Keyes began to tell me that she and Pastor had heard only wonderful things about Paul and she assured me that all would be well.  She chastised me somewhat of course for my hastiness, once again, but I don't think they were overly concerned about it this time around.  As we hung up the phone, she informed me that there would be a meeting between Pastor, Paul and I within a couple of weeks.

Relieved beyond measure I leaned my head against the windowpane of the window I had been cleaning at the time of her call, closed my eyes and just breathed.  Whew!  This was finally it!  We would meet with Pastor soon and then I could begin to plan our wedding in earnest!  I was very relieved and there was a song in my heart!

Paul and I were nervous wrecks on the day of our meeting, Paul especially.  Pastor Keyes gives off an intimidating air that he certainly does not intend.  It's just.........there.  When you are in his company you know that you are in the presence of great Godly wisdom.  He is by far the greatest man of God that I have ever encountered, I trust him with my very life.  Pastor, however is unaware that I lovingly refer to him as "The Godfather."  I have a feeling that if he knew this he would get a real kick out of it........but, if it's all the same to you, I think we will keep that our little secret.

We waited with sweaty palms for Pastor Keyes to call us into his office.  I was scared to death that he would have something negative to say about Paul and I!  I loved this man too much to give him up, but I had already told God that I would be obedient to my Pastor and do whatever he instructed me to do.  Some may poo poo that idea and criticize me, but I trust the man of God in my life.  Having been a Pastor's wife for many years, I saw so many people ignore the prayerful Godly guidance of Tim, only to find themselves in awful predicaments.  I believe that God has blessed my willingness to listen to council.

We were finally ushered into his office, and Paul, being so outgoing and easy to talk to, did much to break the ice.  Pastor Keyes spoke mostly to Paul, interested in his history, circumstances surrounding his former marriage, his children, his job.  It was Paul's answer to the inquiry about his employment that nearly caused my eyeballs to pop out of their sockets and me to fall right out of my chair onto the floor!  He told Pastor that he takes dirty pictures!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

All That Glitters is NOT Gold...........There Are Diamonds.

What in the world was floating in my sparkling cider?  Certainly not a piece of ice!  I picked up the glass and peered into the amber liquid.  And there, resting in the bottom of the delicate glass, the bubbles caressed a breathtaking ring.  I gasped, almost choking on the tiramisu, and then, with no hesitation at all or thought of etiquette, in went my hand to the bottom of the glass.

I held a gold ring in my hand as the cider dripped off my fingertips.  The band was wide and crowned with a cluster of diamonds set in a princess cut shape.  The sides of the band were encrusted with diamonds, almost wrapping entirely around the band.  It was gold!  It was diamonds!  It was really sparkly!  It was being taken from my hand! NO!  But then I realized that it was Paul who was taking my little beloved from me and he was lowering himself to one knee right next to me.

It was then that I understood why so many waiters had descended upon our table at once.  They were in all the whole thing and taking pictures for Paul.  The whole restaurant stopped and watched as Paul took my hand in his.  He looked directly into my eyes and said, "Shawnacee, you have made me an incredibly happy man and I would love to spend the rest of my life with you.  Will you marry me?"

That was the million dollar question!  Would I marry this man?  Could I marry this man?  After all that I and my children had been through in the past year could I really accept this proposal?  It was as though my life flashed before my eyes in those few seconds.  All of the years spent in ministry, the birth of our children, the many years caring for Tim........was I truly ready to put the past behind me and start a new life.  And then, the Lord brought to my remembrance the tears, the loneliness, the heartbreak, the sacrifice.  And here, kneeling before me was the answer.  This man offered a hand to hold as we strolled a mall, a shoulder to lean on when it all became too much, someone to share a double double cheeseburger and animal style fries with at In-n-Out, arms to wrap around me during the cold nights, and a ring, let's not forget the bling!.  He offered a life suddenly worth living and above all else, he offered unconditional love, a love that I could so easily reciprocate.

As I gave myself permission to be genuinely happy, my eyes filled up with tears and I heard myself saying "YES!"

The restaurant erupted into cheers and we began to laugh as he slipped my little darling onto my left hand.  I smiled so wide that my face hurt.  The hostess came over and snapped photographs of us as we posed for the camera.  This was it!  I was the happiest girl in the world and could not wait to start planning my wedding!  There was only one little problem that kept gnawing at the back of my was I going to tell HIM (Pastor Keyes) that I had gone and gotten engaged without his blessing?  Oh Lordy, I really did have myself in a predicament.  I pushed it out of my mind for the time being, not wanting anything to spoil the moment.  I could not bear the thought of having to break another engagement to someone I loved above all else due to my own hastiness.

It turns out that news travels fast.......REAL fast.  I, a former Pastor's wife should know that!  But I was so lost in my own giddiness that I didn't think twice a week or so later when my phone rang and I picked it up.  It was my Pastor's wife...........and she had heard the glad tidings.......

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes......

We had enjoyed a lovely dinner with his family at Benihana in Concord.  I had driven all of that way from Modesto just to have dinner with him, and  I had to drive all the way back home, so our time was valuable.  As we stood in the parking lot, kissing, embracing and saying our tearful goodbyes, he looked deeply  into my eyes and said the most powerful three words an individual can speak.  "I love you Shawnacee."  There is something about someone uttering that beloved phrase and tacking your name on at the end that makes it all the more powerful, special.

"I love you too."  I responded in kind as I buried my head in his shoulder and hung on for dear life.  Here was this man who had the ability to make me laugh, experience things that I had never experienced before, push myself to limits I had never reached before.  A simple man with a lot of responsibilities and yet so, so much to offer.  He could make me laugh until I cried and hold me and comfort me when I cried tears of sorrow, sadness and grief.  He had the ability to cause me, for small spaces of time, to forget the terrible tragedy and heartbreak that had annihilated my heart and soul for so long.  AND HE LOVED ME!  AND I LOVED HIM!  What a feeling of freedom!

We reveled in our newfound love and either he or I made the ninety minute trip to see one another every weekend.  He was my sounding board for the questions of life.  When I was stressed or upset he was the one that I would call.  He had a way of calming me, helping me to see reason and bringing something positive to the table.  Speaking of the table, this guy could cook!  He makes some of the best lasagna, chili and burritos I have ever had.  That was enough to send me down the aisle right then and there!  And, speaking of the aisle, we began to discuss marriage very, very seriously.

Unfortunately, well not really unfortunately, but something that did add to the stresses of the day was the fact that we both had to be patient and receive the blessings of our Pastor's before we could announce an engagement.  So, I proceeded to attempt to make an appointment to see Pastor Keyes.  With a congregation of over three thousand, attempting to get in to the inner chambers to see Pastor Keyes  can be a very daunting task, not for the feint of heart.  And, as I am sure you have gathered from my writings, patience is not my strong suit.  In the meantime, I was downright itching for a proposal and a little thing called A RING!

Wedding rings are certainly controversial in our movement, and having been a ministers wife from the time I was seventeen years of age, Tim and I had chosen not to wear our rings once we began to evangelize.  We felt that this would be a wise decision and would be more conducive to ministry.  But, as any woman will, I had always dreamed of sporting a ROCK on my left, let me clarify, a pebble on a band would have sufficed.

Thanksgiving came and went and Christmas time was nearing and we still had not had an opportunity to sit down and talk to my Pastor.  I was antsy and quickly becoming absolutely, annoyingly impatient.  And when I am impatient about a matter, it is unhealthy for all those within my vicinity.  I tried very, very hard to be patient though, praying nightly for God's help and gazing at my left hand ring finger visualizing the sparkle and imagining the weight of gold, white gold, silver............who cares??

Thanksgiving came and went and we both spent valuable time getting to know each other's families and then, of course, before we could blink, Christmas time was upon us.  Paul had instructed me to find a really nice restaurant to go to somewhere in Modesto for a romantic Christmas eve dinner.  I found one, a place that I had been to once before in downtown Modesto.  A place called Gallettos.  The food has a Mediterranean flare and is quite delicious.  It is a beautiful place with very high, punched tin ceilings, a formal yet casual atmosphere.  I gave him the phone number and he placed our reservations.  I dressed carefully for our date, spent extra time on "the hair" and paced around like a cat.  Oh Lord, I hoped this would be a proposal!  I wanted a ring on my hand for Christmas!

He picked me up looking so hot it should be illegal and off we went.  I was so nervous!  My palms were sweaty and my mouth was dry, I didn't know what to say!  I had never been nervous around him before, and he seemed a little distracted and nervous as well.  We arrived at the restaurant and ordered.  The food was yummy and I started to relax a little as we finished our meal, finally coming to terms with the fact that I would probably NOT have a proposal since we had yet to speak to Pastor Keyes and finances were tight with Christmas and all.  I resigned myself to my ring finger being shamelessly naked for a little while longer.

The waiter came and took our plates and asked us if we would like some dessert.  I looked at Paul for direction and he suggested that we share the Tiramisu.  I heartily agreed, having accepted the fact there would be no ring, I was relaxed.  We were talking, laughing, holding hands across the table when a couple of waiters approached, trays in hand and set our tiramisu on the table between us.  One waiter asked if we would care for a complimentary glass of sparkling cider?  "Of course" we replied.  And then, I choked on my espresso drenched lady fingers covered in mascarpone at what I saw!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Family and Other Weighty Matters

I loved his family!  They were so sweet, fun, pretention at all.  I believe they felt the same way about me, I hope anyway.  We had a pleasant dinner but I couldn't wait for Paul and I to be alone so that I could taste test his lips again.  I sampled them again, one, two, three more times and they were just as sweet as I had remembered them.  I will detour away from this conversation before you kind folks lose your cookies.

We began our courtship in earnest from that point on and I discovered one thing about Paul........HE LOVES TO STAY BUSY!  Oh dear Lord!  After having spent so many years living a very sedate life without much socializing this was downright overwhelming at times.  I discovered 5-hour energy shots.  These little "miracle drinks" soon became my closest friends and the only thing that kept me from dropping from sheer exhaustion!  We went out to eat, took drives to the mountains, went to concerts, played games with family and friends, had barbecues, went to San Francisco, went to baseball games.......this guy does not know the meaning of sitting still.  But I loved it!  I felt alive!  Like a kid in a candy shop I could not wait for our next excursion!  I also found Paul to be very romantic, attentive and thoughtful, and for that alone, he became a very likely candidate to be my soulmate!

I met and fell in love with his three beautiful girls and the time ultimately came for me to visit his church.  I was as nervous as a cat due to the fact that there was a lot of history there with his former wife.  Would I be accepted?  Would I be able to attend church there if our relationship progressed to an engagement?  The answers to all of these questions were a resounding "yes!"  The saints of Family Worship Center were precious and welcoming and I decided that Paul was such a gift from God to me, that I could face any opposition that came my way.  I had been to hell and back, I could handle anything.

Pastor Keyes had become my personal Sherlock Holmes.  After the disaster of "anonymous" I had been very open and upfront with him about any man I was talking to or interested in dating.  Many were the times that I would call Sister Keyes and say, "okay, I have another one for you."  From there I would give her the man's name, city and state in which he lived and his Pastor's name.  At that point, my Pastor would put on his imaginary hat and cloak and pick up his handy dandy magnifying glass to go do some snooping for me.  There was no way I was going to go thru what I had with "anonymous" all over again!  The same went for Paul of course, and both Pastor AND Sis. Keyes put their feelers out there to see if anyone had anything negative to say about Paul.  They found nothing!!  I was pleased as punch and they were happy for me as well, yet still sad that I could possibly be leaving them and the church in Modesto.

Paul had also sought the wise council of his Pastor and received excellent advice and direction.  Paul was careful to follow all of his Pastor's instructions to the letter, and this was also very impressive to me.  Paul, above all else, is a man of honesty and integrity.

Our relationship grew and deepened and we spent every possible free moment together.  We HAD discussed the possibility of marriage in a logical manner.  We WERE adults and could not rush into something solely based on feelings, there was a lot to take into consideration here.  He had three children that he has fifty percent of the time, one of his daughters being of "special needs" and I have a teenager at home who was still grieving the loss of her father.  This was not "playing house," this was real life.

 I was a little disturbed however that he had yet to declare his love for me.  I wanted to express my feelings to him so badly, but reminded myself to be patient.  My Pastor's wife had so eloquently told me once that I was too hasty and impatient, and boy howdy was she right.  So, I waited, and waited, and waited, and then, one night........

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Loving Touch

We met at Starbuck's again which would become a habit.  I had not seen him in about a week and I was missing him something fierce!  I walked into Starbuck's and he was already at the counter ordering.  He saw me as I walked in and his face lit up like a firework.  I walked towards him with my arms outstretched and we hugged for the first time.  We hugged each other so tight, as if we were each others lifelines and we never wanted to let go.  And that is exactly what we were, healing balm to one another's souls.

 It felt so good to be hugged.  During Tim's illness it seemed as though we did not touch very often.  As I have stated in previous blogs, he slept most of the time and our schedules were such that we just did not have a lot of time together and when we were together, we were discussing and taking care of business.  During that time I came to realize just how important human touch is to our survival.  Not just a handshake or a pat on the back, but a sincere, loving hug or carress is something that is vital to our mental, physical and spiritual health.  It is a basic need.  I recall one time in particular when Tim was alive, Zack came home on leave.  We were standing in the kitchen and Zack reached out to hug me.  I broke down into tears, starving for affection and human touch.  I think Paul and I  were both drinking in something that had been missing in our lives for a very long and affection.

My heart was doing aerobics in my chest as we sat at a little table and sipped our coffees and chatted.  At one point he began to stroke my arm and I had trouble focusing on what either one of us was saying, and then, he took my hand.  I felt so giddy, like I was walking on clouds!  I was a kid again!

He was on his way out of town for a funeral so our time was limited.  He walked me out to my car and I can take you to the exact parking spot in front of Starbuck's where he took me in his arms and kissed me for the first time.  A myriad of feelings and emotions exploded inside of me all at once.  It felt like my first time at Disneyland, a marching band and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" all at once.  It was.............heaven on my lips.

I was shaking as I got into my car with his promise to see me later that night still ringing in my ears.  This was it!  I"M IN LOVE!!  I wanted to shout it from the rooftops as I drove to my parents home.  I could not believe it.  The one man that I had rejected from the outset, the one who did not meet any of my criteria had stolen my heart.  I was giddy with excitement and pure happiness.  I smiled so much the muscles in my face ached.  This was amazing stuff.

We burned up our phones texting for the rest of the day.  He had felt it too.  There were no words of love or marriage spoken as of yet, and that was okay.  We were content with this newfound love that we felt, the excitement of discovery.

The plan was that later that evening after the funeral, that we would get together for dinner with his mother, sisters, nieces and nephews.  I would be meeting them for the first time.  I was nervous, like a schoolgirl.  What would I wear?  How should I do my hair?  Would they be able to tell that we had kissed?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Exciting Times and New Discoveries

It did not help my case at all that Paul practically knew everyone in my church and they ALL thought that he hung the moon AND the stars.  No one had a disparaging thing to say of his character and they all unanimously agreed that HE WAS THE ONE!  My family loved him and answered me with "so what" when I complained about his youth, children, lack of wealth and riches, so on and so forth.  I was down for the count and Paul was clearly the champion in the corner of the ring.  Oh boy did I have my work cut out for me rejecting this guy.

We went to Olive Garden following the service that evening and we found ourselves comparing playlists on our ipod's and singing loud and off key to Garth Brooks.  He was fun!  We had dinner and my mouth ran ninety miles an hour as it is wont to do when I am nervous.  He politely shook his head and asked all of the right questions.  He returned me to my vehicle in the Starbuck's parking lot and we sat in the car and talked a while longer and listened to more music.  I discovered that we had a lot in common, that we liked the same foods, music, recreational activities and that he was without a doubt, one of the nicest guys on the planet.  And he had a really nice smile.

I thanked him for dinner and we said our goodbyes.  I believe I shook his hand (insert eye roll here).  we got into our perspective vehicles and pulled out of the parking lot.  I had not gotten very far when my cell phone rang, it was Paul.  "Hello" I answered.  "Hey, this is Paul."  He said.  "I just wanted to tell you that I had a really good time."  And then he said something about there being a "next time" and I said "sure, that sounds great."  And then HE said, "So does that mean you want to see me again?"  and I said, "Of course, I would love to see you again."  and then HE said, "Okay, I will text you this week and we will get together."  And I said, "Sounds great!"  I pray you are not as confused reading this as I am having typed it, but anyway, you get the picture.......I hope.

Sure enough, first thing the next morning I began getting the texts.  We texted all day long for several days when Paul made an evasive little hinting sort of statement about not being able to "hear my voice."  So, like any polite young lady would do, I suggested that we ditch the texting and talk on the phone instead.  He readily agreed.  So, began our telephone relationship.  We talked every chance we had over the next week until we were able to be together again over the weekend.  He came to Modesto again and stayed with some friends in the area.  We strolled the mall, ate at In-n-Out and just focused on becoming better acquainted.  I recall that while at In-n-Out the subject of marriage and family came up and I was once again charmed by his view of life and relationships.  I was so impressed with him and his character.

We talked or texted constantly and I found myself waiting impatiently for his calls, and, as much as I hated to admit it, I missed him when he was not around and looked forward in anticipation to his visits.  My sister kept bugging me about whether or not I thought he was "the one."  Of course I would always remind her of the many reasons why I should not get too involved with Paul, but "the reasons" became less and less of an issue as time passed.  Finally, I told her, "I will know when he kisses me!"  For some reason, I felt like that would be the test.  As fate would have it, I didn't have long to wait.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

First Date

I was interested.  From the pictures that I had viewed on Facebook, he was very nice looking.  But to be truthful, I really did not expect it to go beyond friendship.  As I said before, Paul did not meet my criteria.  But I figured, hey, we could go out, get to know each other, become friends,, and maybe Paul would introduce me to my future never know, right?

We chatted back and forth on Facebook for a few days, and then I delicately suggested that he text me instead, it is so much more convenient than Facebooking.  I casually gave him my phone number.  So, now we are texting......a lot.  He begins to talk about us finally meeting and asks about my church schedule.  We just so happened to be in revival with Keith Clark at the time, so that gave me the opener that I needed to invite him to come to my hear Keith Clark..............of course.

We were to meet at Starbucks on Sunday, the first Sunday in August, before heading over to Modesto Revival Center for the evening service.  I was nervous as any woman would be to meet a man for the first time.  I took special care with my appearance enlisting Haley's help in choosing an outfit.  I chose a straight black skirt topped with an leopard print wrap around lightweight jacket with ruffled collar and ruffles sweeping down the front and hem of the jacket.  black fishnets and black pumps completed the ensemble.  As I ran out of the house, I double sprayed my security blanket with Aqua Net.  My best feature, "the hair" looked especially lovely, big, bold and beautiful curls were lacquered  and placed atop my head to perfection.  I pondered a large feather ornament for said masterpiece, but decided not to scare the poor man off before we had a chance to get to know one another.

He texted me to let me know he was already in Starbucks as I was pulling in to the parking lot.  I told him to go ahead and order but he refused, insisting upon waiting for me.  Wow, a gentleman I thought, nice.  I checked my appearance in my rear view mirror and hopped out of the car and made my way towards my future, not having a clue.

I entered Starbucks to see Paul sitting in a chair waiting on me.  My first thought was "Wow!  He's better looking than his pictures on Facebook!  It's too bad he is not an option!"  I introduced myself and we shook hands.  I could feel his eyes upon me as I stood at the counter and ordered my grande iced caramel macchiato with an extra pump of vanilla.  He, in turn, ordered what I would soon know as his
"signature" drink, a grande iced coffee in a venti cup, (for cream......a LOT of cream) no sweetener.  I then stood at the condiment counter and watched as he doctored his poison with cream, a LOT of cream and four packages of Splenda.  Little did I know that I would experience this ritual over and over again in the months to come.

We chatted as he made his coffee, he, telling me about his children.  He went on to explain to me that his oldest daughter is "special needs."  If we had been on a television game show you would have heard one of those very loud buzzer sounds indicating that Paul had just given the wrong answer.  Special needs??!!  Oh no!  Now he was really not an option.  This certainly did not meet my list of requirements for a spouse.  Oh well I thought, he will be a great friend.  That's too bad though, he will make some lucky lady very, very happy.

As we sat down, cups in hand, Paul said "Before we go any further I want to be sure of something."  "What is it? I asked.  He replied, "If you are looking for a preacher, I just want to be up front with you and tell you that I am not a preacher and have no desire to be one."  I just about danced right out of my fishnets.  I laughed and said "I am so glad!  You are exactly what I am looking for!  Someone who is NOT a preacher!  Been there, done that!"  We both laughed and the ice was broken

He was so sweet!  This really was the sweetest guy I had met in a long time.  It was just too bad that he was not a little older than I and that he had three children at home.  We began to swap stories.  His was a story of rejection and betrayal.  He had been separated from his wife, the mother of his children for three years, divorced for one year.  I listened, my heart breaking for him.  And then, I shared my story of which he had already been informed of somewhat by my cousin Kim.  He sat in stunned silence as I recounted the tragedy that had befallen my children and I.  At one point I glanced at him and noticed that his eyes had filled up with tears!  Wow this guy was the whole package!  Sensitive too! I was overcome with emotion and MY tears came, unbidden.  Embarrassed, I apologized and fanned my face with my hand in an attempt to "dry up."

We talked until it was time to leave for church.  Paul suggested that I leave my vehicle in the Starbuck's parking lot and ride with him to church.  I agreed.  As we drove I checked him out.  He was really cute and he had nice forearms and hands.  And he was so sweet!  Oh why couldn't this guy be fifty, rich and kidless?!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Social Networking

There was the one fellow who thought he was God's gift to, correction to THE EARTH.  I chose not to accept his gift.  And what about the guy who would send me complete sermons via text and randomly break out into tongues while on the phone with me?  THAT was disturbing.  I met several men on Facebook and communicated with them via the computer or phone.  It's a little frightening I know, but that is dating in this new technological era we find ourselves in.

I will not deny that I was on, as my good friend Nathan Kesler would describe it, "the hunt."  My sister in law once referred to me as a "domestic goddess" and she has no idea just how correct she was in her observation.  I love to take care of my home and yard, cook and clean......well the cooking part might be pushing it but you get the picture.  I enjoy the dynamics of husband, children, dog, white picket  So yes, I was actively taking applications and interviewing for the position of "the man" in my life.

Any successful business woman knows that self marketing is key.  It's about the packaging, advertising and of course, who you know!  So, that is why I contacted my sweet cousin Kim Hanks from Ceres California.  It was Camp Meeting time and I had originally planned on going but alas, I discovered that I did not have the sufficient funds, so, I cancelled my trip.

I texted Kim who was already in Santa Maria enjoying her time there with some instructions that went something like this:  "Keep your eyes open for any nice, single men."  I have never been one to be vague or evasive.  Direct and to the point works for me.  She responded back to me that she was disappointed that I could not make it to Camp Meeting and that she would definitely scope out the available product.  (My words, not hers).

I believe that perhaps only twenty four hours or less had passed when I received a text from Kim.  It read something like, "There's a friend of mine I would like you to meet.  He is recently divorced and has three children.  His name is Paul Moore.  You can connect with him on Facebook."

I responded, "How old is he?"  She replied, "thirty nine."  "THIRTY NINE??!!"  No way!  My application and list of requirements for possible mates clearly spelled out no children at home and that said applicant  MUST be at least forty five to fifty years of age.  This was to insure that I would be properly spoiled and made to feel very, very special!  Three children and four years younger than I?  Why that was downright scandalous!  I think not!............I sent him a Facebook message.

Friday, September 2, 2011

God's Mouthpiece

From the moment we make our grand entrance into this harsh world, fresh from the womb, our human nature cries out for what it wants.  We are selfish creatures and we want what we want, when we want it.  We tend to view life as a cruise ship.  We board, grab an iced tea and a good book, flop down in a chaise lounge, poolside, and settle in for the ride.  Never concerning ourselves with the Captain of the ship who is attempting to dodge the hull ripping, Titanic sinking iceberg in our path.  We skim right by it due to His masterful skill and we never even know it.......we are too busy singing key.

I wanted "anonymous" now.  No, I wanted him yesterday.  I trembled as I sat in my Pastor's office a few short weeks after my return from my visit with "anonymous."  I was ushered into a boardroom and sat at one end of a very large, very long highly polished heavy wood table.  Surrounding this table were at least ten to twelve large, high backed over stuffed chairs.  The whole place had the feel of parliament or something.  I was fully expecting my Pastor and Pastor;s wife to enter said chamber in black robes and powdered wigs.  But alas, they did not, however my Pastor does have a way of adjusting his glasses on his nose that makes one's blood run cold.  

 My blood WAS rather chilly that day, along with sweaty palms and cotton mouth as Bro. and Sis. Keyes sat across from me at that long, long table.  As my Pastor began to tell me the things that God had revealed  to him about "anonymous" I sunk lower and lower in my chair.  By the conclusion of our meeting you would have been hard pressed to FIND me in that chair I was so small.  How could Bro. Keyes know everything about "anonymous" including what he looked like clear down to hair and eye color, height, physique and personality without ever having met "anonymous"?  I sat in stunned silence, in awe and reverence as I began to realize that God had intervened on my behalf.

Then, came the hard part.  Pastor told me that if I was determined to be with "anonymous" that he would be willing to meet with "anonymous" in spite of his strong feelings of misgiving.  This threw me into a real quandary.  My personality is such that I prefer solid answers, clear and direct instruction.  I did not know what to do!  I began to sweat!  I knew what God wanted me to do, but my flesh was at war with the Almighty and I needed the man that I respect above all men to tell me exactly what he wanted me to do.

"Pastor Keyes" I said.  "Please tell me what you feel that I should do and I will do it.  I would never marry anyone without your blessing."  He looked at me in his signature way and said, "Okay, do not see or speak to this man again, he is not the will of God for you."

I was devastated!!  I tell you my world had just crumbled around my feet at my Pastor's words.  I was in love!  Or at least I thought I was.  Was I?  Looking back on it now I think I was in love "with love."  I was in love with romance, with the warm fuzzies that accompany a mindless infatuation.  My Pastor had given me the answer that I knew was straight from the mouth of God, but oh boy was it hard to swallow.  How could I have been so wrong in this?  I had convinced myself that this was the will of God.  What a dummy!

I broke the news to "anonymous" and he too was devastated, or at least I think he was.  In retrospect I think he may have just been an Oscar worthy actor.  Regardless, the wedding was off.  I will not lie to you and say that I lived everyday in strict obedience to my Pastor in regard to "anonymous."  We still texted and spoke on the phone off and on for months before I got word that "anonymous" had moved on with his life and gotten married.  I felt numb at the news, as though I had been slapped across the face, yet oddly at peace.  As though I had finally closed the door on a room God did not want me to enter.  It was over, and I was serene and at peace.

I dated some, quickly realizing that I DO NOT LIKE THE WHOLE DATING THING!!  I discovered early on that men are...... well........ a little odd.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Spiritual Battle

My family went ballistic and so did my Pastor according to the looks that my Pastor's wife kept shooting my way during the following Wednesday night church service.  Either she texted me or I texted her during church, I do not recall.  Regardless, ONE of us contacted the other inappropriately during the preaching and asked to speak with the other as soon as church was over.

If this had been a movie, the soundtrack to JAWS would have accompanied me as Sis. Keyes escorted me to Pastor's office.  I sat on the sofa shaking on the inside preparing myself for what she had to say.  "So, I understand you're engaged Shawnacee?"  It was more of a statement than a question.  I should be on the olympic swim team for how quickly I backstroked against the tide of her disapproval.  "Well, yes.......but."  There it was, the backstroke.  "Anonymous" did ask me to marry him and I said yes.......tentatively."  I didn't tell her that the word "tentative" had never factored into mine and "anonymous" conversation regarding marriage.  I stammered,  "It was so sudden and even as I was saying yes I knew there was a lot to think about and talk about, and there is no way I would ever marry ANYONE without Pastor's approval...... and I know I don't really know "anonymous." ( I was rambling miserably)  She just looked at me in that way that only she can, and said, "Ya think?"

My goose was cooked and I knew it.  She lectured me for a while on not moving too fast, waiting on the Lord and such.  But we were in love!!  Couldn't anybody see that?  I listened and nodded, my heart nearly pounding out of my chest, deep down, I knew the answer, although I didn't want to accept it.  She assured me that she would pass our conversation along to Pastor and that he would get back to me as soon as possible to set up a meeting,  I breathed easier, confident that the Lord would speak to Pastor Keyes that "anonymous" was the will of God for me.

I went home and started packing.  I had left one little tidbit of information out of my conversation with Sis. Keyes......that I would be leaving the following week to go and visit my "fiance."  Even now it sounds absolutely, ridiculously hilarious.

I counted the minutes until I could board that airplane.  I had made arrangements for Haley's care, taken a leave of absence from school ( dumb, I know) and was ready to go.  The day finally came and off I went, excited to meet "anonymous" family and friends.  He picked me up from the airport and took me to the place where I would lodge during my time there.  The next day he showed  me around his hometown, his home, his place of business, etc.  I was falling deeper and deeper in love but I had an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I can remember one instance in particular when God chose to speak to me in a very direct and powerful way.  Please do not get the impression that I consider myself to be super spiritual or take the voice of God lightly.  I had never before, nor have I since experienced communication with God the way I did in the months prior to Tim's death and then, in the days that ensued.

 As I was walking down the hall of "anonymous" home God spoke to me in such a powerful way and said "Shawnacee, the devil is trying to destroy you."  I literally closed my eyes and shook my head to rid my mind of the voice of God.  I mentally pushed Him out.

I had a lovely time in spite of my misgivings and genuinely loved "anonymous" family.  When I boarded the plane to fly back to California, I fully intended to marry "anonymous" on June the 5th of 2010.