Monday, July 6, 2009

Cruising Through 25 Years Together, Part 1

June 30 was my 25th anniversary. We just celebrated it with an Alaskan cruise on the Star Princess. Twenty-five years ago I was a 24 year old English teacher who felt called to be a pastor's wife embarking on the journey of a lifetime. I met my husband Keith in a summertime seminary class. I had decided to begin working on a Master's in Counseling. The minute he walked in the classroom the first day I noticed him…in fact, I had a pretty strong reaction when I first laid eyes on him: "Oh no, Lord, You wouldn't dare!" In my defense I have to tell you that it was a windy day in Memphis, and he was already starting to lose his hair, so he had allowed the hair on the top of his head to grow a little longer, and the wind had it standing straight up so he looked sort of like a blue-eyed, suntanned mad scientist. Of course he smoothed the hair down, and after class he made a beeline to meet me. I wasn't overly impressed, so when I saw my roommate's (happily married) brother in the hall, I greeted him enthusiastically. Turns out Keith was good friends with him, too!

After that less than auspicious beginning, he began sitting with me in chapel every day, then waiting to have lunch with me. Now if you know my husband, you know he likes to eat. I had another hour long class after chapel and before lunch, so that meant he had to wait an hour to eat. The guy was pretty committed to getting to know me, I guess! After a couple of weeks of this, he finally asked me out on Tuesday for the following Saturday. I said yes only because I had promised the Lord I would never say "Yes" to a first date with a guy who didn't love Him, and I'd never say "No" to a first date with a guy who did! Be careful what kind of promises you make to God!! I spent the rest of the week dreading the date. Finally on Friday I decided not to worry about it anymore. After all, it was just one date…then I would fulfill my promise to God and be done with it. I wasn't going to marry the guy!

A funny thing happened. After I let go of my dread, I actually began to sort of look forward to getting to know Keith better. After all, he did seem like a nice guy, even though I wasn't interested in being anything but his friend. Saturday came, and he picked me up for our date to the Memphis zoo. He showed up in shorts and a polo and looked pretty good. In fact, he looked awfully good in shorts! As we walked around the zoo, we talked non-stop about our backgrounds, our testimonies, our dreams for the future. I found myself enjoying him more than I had imagined possible. After the zoo he took me to a sidewalk café in downtown Memphis where we continued our comfortable conversation. He took me home early because he had to work that evening as a security guard. Did I mention how handsome he looked in his security guard uniform??

Over the next couple of weeks we saw each other at school all the time. Now I didn't feel frustrated when he waited for me at lunch time. And I didn't try to escape from him before chapel so I could sit with somebody else. If I was studying in the library, he would send a paper airplane my way, or I would find a sweet note tucked into my books. I was really starting to fall for him! Just two weeks after our first date, he took me to Victoria Station, a fancy restaurant housed partially in an old train. It was obvious to both of us that we were certainly past the "just friends" stage. That night he kissed me for the first time. We made plans for me to accompany him the next morning to the little church in eastern Arkansas where he preached each Sunday. Then he would attend my singles group at the megachurch I attended in Memphis. Sunday was a terrific day for both of us (except for the fact that he wore plaid pants straight out of the 70's – I had a lot of work to do on his wardrobe still). That night he told me he loved me. In shock, I said the first thing that came to my mind, "My mind and my will are there, but I just don't feel that in my heart."

His immediate response, "Don't worry, you will. Just give it time," wasn't the least bit arrogant. It simply belied the confidence that he felt about our growing relationship.

So I left Memphis that night (I had an apartment there with 2 roommates) to return to Hughes, Arkansas (an hour away where I lived in a teacherage.) I spent the drive praying about Keith and our relationship. There were two other young men who were very important to me at that time. The first, Don, had sort of been my boyfriend my sophomore year of college. After his graduation, we had stayed close, but hadn't seen each other for several years. I was preparing to go visit him in Arizona for the Fourth of July. The second, Kyle, had been my best friend and partner in crime our senior year of college. He had just finished getting his MBA and was moving to Memphis in two days where he had landed a job with a large accounting firm. I'd had feelings for Kyle for a long time and had hoped that something might happen to take our friendship to the next level after he moved to Memphis. I hoped he felt the same way, but didn't really know if he did or if we'd just remain in the "friend zone" forever. As I drove and prayed that evening, I realized that what I had told Keith was true. In my mind I knew that he was exactly what I needed in a husband, and I knew that I was called to be married to a minister, and neither Don nor Kyle were headed into the ministry. So I made a commitment to the Lord that I would cancel my trip to Arizona and I would tell Kyle when he arrived in 2 days that I was dating somebody seriously.

I can't begin to describe what happened next. It was like something out of a cheesy romance novel, except it was real, and it was happening to me. Immediately after I made that commitment to the Lord, I was overwhelmed with the most amazing, incredible, dizzying sensation of being in love that I have ever experienced. It was almost a physical reaction to the realization that I was truly head over heals in love with Carl Keith Lorick! I must tell you that I have never felt anything like it before or since that night, but that night as I prayed the Lord certainly made sure that I felt in my heart what my mind and will already knew.

I was so excited! I couldn't wait to tell the whole world, especially Keith, that I loved him. On Mondays we didn't have class because, like Keith, many of the seminary students preached in small churches on Sunday. So I had invited him to dinner that night at the teacherage. Our wonderful cook, Victoria, was making a special meal because she knew love was in the air. That day I visited the nursing home in West Memphis where I occasionally went to minister. One precious little lady was always such an encouragement to me. As I told her my story, she rejoiced with me, and urged me to always keep Christ first and let Him lead. Driving back to Hughes where I lived, I prayed again about Keith. I went through I Corinthians 13 in my mind and compared Paul's ideal of love to what I felt. I thought I was in pretty good shape, but I still didn't have peace in my heart about telling Keith I Ioved him. It was really distressing, but then the Lord reminded me of the promise I had made to Him my freshman year of college.

Towards the end of my freshman year I had begun dating a wonderful, Godly young man named Tim. He really kept Christ at the center of our friendship, and I fell hard for him. That summer I longed to hear from him more than I did, and when we returned to school in the fall, it was obvious that he didn't feel about me the way I felt about him. In fact before long he began dating someone else. I was devastated. (He married her, and they have had a wonderful life and ministry. As I look back now, I'm so thankful that Tim taught me to wait for God's best, and I'm thankful that he has enjoyed life with God's best for himself!) During that time I spent a lot of time on my knees. One night when I was still a freshman, I was in my room praying he would call and trying to keep my eyes on the Lord. It was then that I read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 which talks about two being better than one and the "threefold cord" that isn't easily broken. It was as if God burned those verses into my very being telling me that I needed to wait on Him to bring me the right mate for me. I acquiesced, promising Him that I would wait on Him (it got awfully hard at times). I even promised Him that I wouldn't marry anyone until God gave him the same verses.

So here I was, eager to tell Keith I loved him, but constrained by the promise I had made to God. I knew that I could rush in with my declaration of love and do things my way, or I could wait on the Lord and let Him lead. Fortunately I had enough common sense to wait on Him. Keith arrived, and we had a wonderful dinner after which we went into the parlor. We were finally alone, and I just gazed into his eyes. He could tell something had changed. I began, "I want to tell you I love you, but I just can't quite yet."

His logical response, "Why not?"

"Well, there's this verse that God gave me, and I'm sure He'll give it to you, but I just have to wait," I stuttered somewhat awkwardly.

"Is it in the Old Testament?" He immediately asked.

I thought, "Great, we're going to play 20 questions now!" But I simply said, "Uh, yeah…"

"Is it Ecclesiastes 4:9?"

The fireworks exploded as it sunk into my consciousness that out of the millions of verses in the Bible, Keith had just identified the ONE VERSE that God had given me 6 years earlier. Remember how I said that we didn't have school on Mondays? Keith regularly met with a friend to pray every Monday morning. That morning Keith had been telling his friend about our growing relationship and his feelings for me. His friend had prayed our verse during their time together, and Keith, struck by the power of those words, had gone home to look up the words in his concordance and figure out what verse it was. So it was fresh on his mind. He had planned to share it with me at some point in a letter, but when I mentioned that there was a special verse, he just knew that was it!

Now I must admit it takes a lot of faith to say, "Okay, God, I won't get married until you give some guy this verse." But I knew that if I tried to pick out my own husband, I might really botch it. I wanted to get married one time and spend a lifetime loving one man, building a family with him, and growing old together. I never wanted either of us to be able to second guess our decision or even consider divorce as an option. By allowing God to be my Heavenly Matchmaker, I got all that and so much more!

We met and fell in love in May of 1983. In October his cousin got married in South Carolina. I had met his parents, brother and sister-in-law and niece and nephew, but not the extended family. Keith turned 27 in July after we met, but his mother made comments about not getting married until he finished seminary. Hah! Not likely! (But I couldn't tell her that!)
The week before we left for the wedding, Keith took me to dinner at a revolving restaurant high over Memphis called Windows on the River. He suggested I dress up. Though it wasn't particularly cold, I noticed he was wearing his overcoat – rather odd, I thought. We enjoyed a lovely meal seated adjacent to the piano player, then he excused himself for a moment. When he returned they brought dessert: a fruit volcano with dry ice smoke – very elaborate. When the smoke cleared Keith began, "Glenni, I've really enjoyed these past months with you. I love you and I believe God has brought us together. I'd like to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?" I think he dropped to one knee, but it was all such a blur! Before I knew it the most beautiful marquis diamond ring was sparkling on my finger, and I was crying tears of joy. I think the whole restaurant knew what was happening by now, and the piano player played a love song as we embraced and Keith dried my tears! (Okay, I admit, writing about it now after all these years still brings the tears…am I not incredibly blessed??)

The next week I traveled with him to South Carolina as his fiancée. His whole family was ecstatic! We had 8 months to plan our wedding. During that time we attended pre-marital counseling with our pastor Billy Spink of Riveroaks Reformed Pres. Church in Memphis. As the time drew closer for our wedding, we found that we had to spend less and less time alone together! We were so excited about getting married for so many reasons, but the fact that we hadn't slept together certainly increased the anticipation! Finally June 30, 1984, arrived, and we entered into a lifelong covenant with each other and with God. We've had lots of highs and lows, but it has been a remarkable journey so far, and we still have a long way to go!

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