Still newlyweds, we were holding hands and happy for a cheap date. Our lives were unrecognizable compared to a year ago. It was 1989 and Mike had a college degree neatly tucked under his belt; I had drop-out status under mine -- pinching hard. I had married him with the condition that I could stay in school to finish my last year of college. I was nineteen years old at the time of our plan, and still naïve to how life's unfolding doesn't always mirror the best-laid plans.
Mike had had a string of career doors slammed shut in his face. His desire to become an FBI agent (believe it or not) was so intense, he was willing to get into any federal department as a stepping stone - including border patrol and internal revenue. Bluuuh! Federal exam after exam led nowhere. He didn't even pass the Spanish exam, and he's bi-lingual! God was just flat out saying, "No."
With our wedding date looming large, Mike called his cousin in New Orleans, the president of a local grocery store chain, and we both ended up with gracious job offers. We returned from our honeymoon to foreign lives: a new city, new jobs, a search for a new church and new friends. New furniture, new-found freedom (we had both been living with our parents), and nothing that resembled the lives we had known and loved. The only constant was each other, and even that was different because we were trying to get comfortable in our new grown-up roles of husband and wife. It felt like someone had kidnapped us from out of our own lives and dropped us in someone else's.
Mike was terribly unhappy as a grocery store manager, and one night he rolled over in bed and said, "Dawn, God is calling me into ministry. I'm going to call the seminary on the other side of town tomorrow."
Giving no credence to the gravity of his confession, I flippantly said "Why not? God's closed every other door so far, what do you have to lose?" And with that, I rolled over, stewing about his broken promise that I would be the student. We had moved across state lines, and that meant a college transfer and out-of-state tuition unless I waited a year to establish residency. That night, God graced me with sleep before my cheek felt the distinct draft from doors flying wide open.
Six months into our marriage, we were now living in the married dorm. God moved us from the bottom to the top of a year-long waiting list for housing, and we never did figure out how that door flew from its hinges. Mike was elated the night he showed me the humble room. I was trying to hide my tears. The cinder-block walls and institutional tile floor I surmised to be a jail cell. Mike, who had hated every minute of higher education, was once more the student; and I, who was itching to return to the classroom, was banished to the workforce.
And thus began the three years of seminary that Mike crammed into two. The sweetest years of our lives.
That heavy Spring night, Mike and I entered the chapel doors to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. He was fairly new to the Christian music scene back then -- the chapel had a seating capacity of 250. He played with the passion and heart of someone on the front end of not-so-sure-this-will-work-out-as-a-career. It was raw and zealous. He did things with a guitar that were musical genius, and he left it all on the stage that night. Somewhere about two thirds of the way through, he dimmed the lights, dragged a stool center-stage and strummed mindlessly, spoke from the heart, and sang a quiet song or three as if we were really in his living room. It was very intimate. Among those songs was "My Redeemer Is Faithful and True."
And while I was cooking tonight's dinner yesterday morning, darn if that song from long ago didn't fill my kitchen with the sweet memory. I stopped chopping peppers and stood before the singing computer to testify through song with my heaven-raised hands. My mouth formed the words, but my mind raced to that splendid night so long ago and back: across every night -- two decades worth -- until now. I surveyed years of God's goodness and provision.
How does one say thank you for a lifetime of such faithfulness and mercy?
We will try again tonight, Mike and I and our three children. We will gather at the kitchen table and bow our heads in reverence before we eat. A recipe that has warmed me through years of winter nights. A man who has loved me and nourished me body, soul, and spirit. Our children who carry us into their futures. And a God who touches it all with his love. This is grace, served warm and hearty.
Baked Bean Stew
1 large can of pork and beans
1 can kidney beans
1 small can chili with no beans
1 can fiesta corn
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
Combine in slow-cooker and simmer 4-6 hours on high. Serve with soda crackers. Partake with family, friends, and fellowship.
Chatting at the Sky is wrapping up a series on grace. If you'd like to explore more grace, join in or read more over there.