Category Archives: marriage to my best friend

Dear Children… About Your Inheritance…

“I need something.”

The cryptic words from College Son flashed across the screen. After 3 weeks of minimal contact, this could mean almost anything. Historically speaking our relationship dictated this typically meant some research advice or proofeadery.

“What?” I replied while  bracing my jetlaggy brain for a challenge.

“Your recipe for spice cake.”

I stalled.

Ummm….  Seriously?

Inheritance Title

See, this is no ordinary recipe for no ordinary spice cake. I’ve been making and perfecting this dreamcake for over 20 years. This is my closely-guarded recipe for THE spice cake  I’ve kept tucked under my (ahem) “belt “ all this time.  It’s the kind of recipe a Ninja-Chef really must have in their personal arsenal for special occasions and surprise guests, new baby welcomes and potlucks. Savory, spicy-sweet and best of all: sinfully simple. I don’t part with it easily.

My daughter asked for it a year ago. Unbeknownst to me, she entered a contest and won a 250-dollar gift card to Ikea. She bought a chair. A chair. (Isn’t that like selling your birthright for stew? Never mind.)

Something they’d grown up with, now it was College Son’s turn to ask.

“Never.” I teased. Emoji-smiling, he explained that his girlfriend (the one I am trusting God to make my DIL someday!) wanted to make it for him.

At least she can cook.
From scratch.
My mock-resolve melted.
I sent it.

“There.  Now you have your inheritance.” I said Emoji-winking back. Digitally, we exchanged smiles, hugs and kisses and he was happily on his way with a piece of his family history. Truly, as silly as it sounds, he now possesses a solid piece of his shared inheritance.

Doesn’t seem like much, does it?

It’s no surprise though that if you took any of our children aside and asked them about their inheritance, three out of three times, their first response would be a mixture of low-toned laughter and chagrin. They know, by the worldly definitions, we’re “broke” and planning to be “broke-r” before it’s all over with. At least this is the current nature of our estate in terms of dollars and not a whole lotta sense!

Love And Marriage

Still I have a strong feeling in the pit of everything within me that their next response will be a knowing and satisfied smile. Because in reality, they know we have given them everything we have to give and oftentimes it’s been far more than anything our parents were able to give to us.  They also know it’s never been about money in the bank.

Make no mistake: it’s been a touchy subject through the years as they’ve reached the ages and stages where their friends were given cars, educations and luxury items we never were able to afford—at least not the way most people have done it. There have been many tears and tantrums on both sides of the equation. But we’re here. We’ve made it and we’re better than intact: we’re whole.

And while we pray there’s still plenty of time to amass more “wealth” to add to their inheritance, there are many things besides a knockout recipe for spice cake we’re striving to leave as our legacy– solid and eternal things we hope they’ll always treasure and, if Jesus tarries, preserve and pass along to many future generations.

The Family Bible

I hope they’ll find treasured comfort in knowing that we not only loved them and each other to the highest best of our ability but that it was a love deeply rooted in our shared love for God.

I hope they’ll find great inspiration in how we found this God-love so wild and wonderful that it was worth risking our place in a world-driven status quo to spend an adventure-filled lifetime stumbling along the lesser travelled path towards His greatest good.

I hope they will hold close and share often the stories of these adventures–many spent with them– and discover this same courage in themselves to step out in new directions to spend and experience their one beautiful life serving our one amazing God.

Humbly I hope they’ll cling as tightly to Jesus as we have because they’ve witnessed time and again how His grace, mercy and forgiveness have seen their two imperfect parents through many…  many….   many times of failure.     And every success.

I hope they’ll talk about how their Mom “trusted God and sought to pray the hell out of any situation!”, how their Dad was never so afraid of failure that he wasn’t willing to try—fail and try again and how both of them together fought arm in arm against the enemy who came to seek, kill and destroy their marriage and family.

And how through that same powerful grace from God, together… they won.

The Great Commitment

So that here now and in the future when they’re possibly surrounded by little ones of their own and telling the “once upon a time” portion of our newly-written family history— when they talk about the things they share together, most of the story will be told from the perspective of vast wealth and riches— of lives that were shaped and held together by God— all the while knowing and communicating that their inheritance from us was never merely “enough”:    it was always everything.

That’s our prayer.

And that amazing spice cake?
Well,  that was simply a bonus.

Lorretta signature

what a father’s love can look like

She was there before me.

He loved her—maybe more than he loved me at first— and I knew it. Not in the “classical” sense of love however, there was no denying  she owned and occupied a significant piece of real estate in his heart and I would have to learn how to deal with it.

What else could I do?

what a father's love can...

Even his mother understood this and the story is told how when they first met she asked, “David… what kind of girl is going to go around with you in that thing?” His response?

“One who can climb up in it!”

I was more than willing (ahem) and “she” was a 77 Jeep CJ-7, the love of my husband’s life.  Big ol’ tires and a bikini top, this vehicle was the stuff of his rough-and-tumble, adventure-seeking dreams come true! Honestly, I might have loved him just a little more for having her around.oil check jeep

I knew just enough about vehicles and mechanical things to pitch in where I could so I learned to care for her the way he did. I could do little maintenance things and once I changed her water pump. Yup…we were family.

Five months later to the day, he and I were married and she carried us off on our “exotic” treehouse honeymoon at the youth hostel in Brunswick, Georgia.

Just Married HostelJeep at hostel

Then came the Air Force because sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. With a mound of debt between us and no job offers in sight, it seemed like this was the best option for getting back on solid ground.  A month and a half after we said “I do”  we said “goodbye” sending him to Lackland, Texas for basic training.

For eight weeks, it was just me and the ol’ CJ-7 looking forward to tech school and the day we’d all be together again. Packed to the gills (with a cat and 4 kittens– don’t ask) I drove West to breath-taking Colorado for a short but glorious chapter in our lives.

From Colorado we were on to Illinois and finally able to explore what the stable, married life could be like. He worked at the base while I tried going back to school and working full time at a daycare center.Airman Stembridge

Truth be told, we had a lot of growing up to do but enjoyed life while learning what that meant. We found a church and began to deepen our understanding of God, ourselves and what a Godly marriage was supposed to be like. Money was tight and we argued over our poor decisions a lot occasionally. Some things meant walking through to the end but we were in it together.

I’m pretty sure we were both very involved in the planning of our first child or at least we thought this was a good idea whether we understood how to plan or not! I’m can’t lie— we were clueless. We only knew we had love to share and so…we did.

Medically, the military takes care of it’s own so affording the pregnancy was never a problem. However, even our combined salaries couldn’t do much to take down the mountain of debt incurred before we met— school loans,  poorly managed credit cards— two car payments all collided with daily living expenses. Now a baby was on the way and we knew— something would have to change.

I don’t remember the discussion. Even now I can’t imagine it was easy for him to place the ad to sell our Jeep. I get choked up just thinking about it… I mean he loved her. However,  he was now a husband ..about to be a father and  tough decisions needed to be made. It wasn’t an easy sell but eventually someone came along and we waved good-bye.

This should have been the end of the story. UGH! we were so naive. Because we mercifully floated the loan to another Airman trusting that with his steady job, he would make the payments to us and we’d pay the bank. That worked for a few months. Then nothing. He was discharged and went silent.

It took a long time to find him and when we finally went to get the Jeep… the damage was unimaginable. No way could we afford the towing fee. We had to leave her… and our hearts, behind. Oh… it was terrible. Now not only did we not have the Jeep…  we had no choice but to continue paying her off.

So.   much.   ouch

These words came:Baptism

This was 24-ish years ago.  I know there are things we should have-could have done, but it was too late for a do-over. We had to keep moving forward.  It was sad and we had regrets. He loved her, no doubt about it… but he loved us more.

daddy and chelsea babyThe “happily ever after” part of this story was born later that November. Now a new girl had won his heart.. one who would be the first to call him “Daddy” and one for whom he’d gladly sacrifice a Jeep…. and so much more. 

Oh.. I know he still thinks about those days and the time we spent running around in the CJ-7. I’ve caught him looking at other “girls” and getting a little hot with Jeep-envy from time to time!  Maybe someday.

The Three Kids

In the meantime, three of the best decisions we ever made will truly celebrate him as their father on Sunday and from what I can tell, there’s nothing in the world he would take to go back to or trade for the priceless position he holds in their lives.

Father Daughter Dance

Somebody wiser than me once said: “Most any man can become a father but it takes a real man to be a Daddy.”

That’s Him: my God-fearing man…husband of one and proud Daddy to three… the love of my life.Lorretta signature.

the daily do

By now, it’s common knowledge….a done deal.

At least I’ve jumped up and down enough about it so that few could have missed the fact that my husband and I have passed the 25-year mark of our marriage.  And when I say “celebrate”… I mean celebrate.

To those here reading who’ve “been there— done that” or know others who have and it’s no big deal, thank you for the grace I need to say it again. Because, in my family’s history I’m the first for known generations to make it this far and in this day and age of disposable-everything, it’s almost unheard of. 

And for us… well, it’s absolutely a miracle.

the daily do

I used to joke that if we had a dollar for every naysay that we’d ever make it this far, we’d have enough to take that trip to Greece we’ve always wanted! In fact— we’re “fairly certain” (wink wink) that God is calling us to serve the Good People of Greece someday! Oh but I digress…

Let me tell you the one thing I could not at the beginning: today. Of course, how could I? But what I mean is that I could not see this day because it never occurred to me to think any further than the moment I was in. Call it youthful ignorance — it was more like being blinded by selfishness and some sort of “carpe diem” fatalism.

Even on the day I was married, I had zero concept of what it meant to keep a lifelong promise or to faithfully protect a relationship— I’d never experienced such a thing.

Covenant was not a part of my vocabulary or my understanding. But there I was; fresh-faced and ignorant, standing in the midst of a handful of family and friends, about to say “I do” to a man  I’d only known for 5 months.

Line Art Bride and Groom

At this point, I’m not ashamed to admit— I truly had NO idea what I was doing.  Neither of us did. All I knew was to say “I do” then and to somehow wake up every day and say “I do” again no matter what else was going on. By the grace of God, and most imperfectly, I’ve managed to do it… so far, for twenty-five years.

The daily-ness of  this “I do”  has expressed itself in countless numbers of intentional and unintentional moments:  matching socks, wiping spills or gathering up the worn, sweaty tee-shirts draped across the lampshades to air out– AGAIN.  Putting down the toilet seat, wiping toothpaste off the mirror, working side by side in the kitchen or video editing while listening to the ruckus and row of three kids bouncing around the house.

There were long seasons…  seasons when it barely rose above a discernible whisper… drowned out and nearly crushed beneath the weight of a hundred other “I do’s” while an endless line of others stood on the sidelines shouting, “Do ME too!”.  In those seasons…blinded by false light, it nearly gave itself away.

It almost got lost in years of confusion, disappointment and broken promises…when “I do” was growled through clenched teeth, struggling to get past the pain inflicted by the many other hard and ugly words that set fire to our home, leaving ashes in their wake.

Then “I do” meant untold hours of tense conversations and wadded up tissues and searching hard for the wedding band which had been thrown across the room in a fit of rage.       It was under the piano.

In the midst of it all,  that wounded “I do” was met by the healing of I AM and was restored and recovered from the fires that threatened to consume but forged and fused it inseparably–and most intimately– instead.

No Easy Marriage

And while we’re on the subject of intimacy….people, I thought I had that stuff all figured out. But twenty-five years has taught me that all those early years of “I do” behind closed doors were only scratching the surface compared to the intimacy of the ones we now know. 

It’s shocking really… how little I understood about this deep intimacy and yet how I craved and continued to seek it. I laugh now at how shy and exposed I felt when my husband took me by the hand and sitting side by side we finally…..  prayed together. 

I had no idea—entrusting your unclothed body is little compared to being able to share your naked soul with one another. Truthfully, it’s been the trust shared and built between us here that’s made all the difference in every other area of our relationship.

This is what I could not all those years ago.  I didn’t have the eyes for it. I had NO idea what it meant for “two to become one”.   I get it now.

It’s not that either of us is less than who we are by ourselves. It’s that blended and before God, we are each more than we could ever be alone.

And this “two becoming one” thing of marriage…it’s not some mystical and covenantal change of status found in the instant of that first “I do”.  No, it’s discovered all along the way…in the becoming… the daily choosing and the time it takes to get there— in every moment of every day and every “I do” that follows.

Love Makes

Recently,  I stood on the beach holding hands with that man of mine and  together again, we prayed…thanking and praising God for our life together and for all it took to get us here. I cried just a little bit… so grateful for the miracle… for the privilege of this “I do” life together. 

I’m glad I didn’t miss it. And you….married one….. keep fighting.   It’s worth it.

Doing the daily do,Lorretta signature