This is a special edition of “This Week In Paradise”, because it was 30 years ago today that Cheryl & I were married: May 28th, 1982. Of course, being a pastor and pastor’s wife, we have not had any difficulties at all; it has been smooth sailing; just one, unending “Paradise”! 😉
The King of Paradise
Cheryl had been on “Cloud 9” for weeks since we had begun dating in November of 1979, and had told everyone at her job about this great guy she was now with. They all said they couldn’t wait to meet me at the Christmas party that year, held at the owner’s home. The evening came, and we made our way to the very nice residence. As we approached the home from over a block away, with cars parked all up and down the streets, we could see that the house was lit up for the occasion, and I remarked to Cheryl that it looked like the front door was open. As we walked closer, Cheryl could see that the door was not indeed open, but rather there was a clear glass door that the lights from the home were shining out of. She assumed that I saw that too. She was wrong. I did NOT see it! I walked right up to the door and SMASH – right into it! Blessedly, I did not break it, but the impact knocked me down, and my glasses flew off my face and onto the ground. People inside were, obviously, startled, and were all staring at us as we tried to gather our wits about us. Utter humiliation now replacing any vestige of pride (or sympathy) Cheryl quickly said, “Let’s get out of here!” Dusting myself off, and picking up my glasses and whatever remained of my dignity, I said, “No, come on, let’s go in.” Thus Cheryl very sheepishly got to introduce her “dream guy” to her work associates. The initial ignominy had just abated, and we were all standing in the buffet line, when someone observed that I had left my nose print on the glass door, which everyone in line could clearly see as they passed!
Our first, ahem, “fight” occurred right after we got back from our honeymoon. We were to leave immediately for Southwestern Seminary in Ft.Worth with two of the very smallest U-haul trailers in tow, one behind my diminutive Datsun B-210, and the other behind Cheryl’s father’s Maverick, since her little VW bug could not pull a trailer. When we had finished moving, we brought the cars back to Oklahoma to return the trailers and get Cheryl’s car. We were on a tight schedule, as we had to get the trailers back, and then return to Ft. Worth at a certain hour for the gas to be turned on in our duplex. I went into my mom’s house to get something, and then I would come out and back both of the cars and trailers up, since Cheryl couldn’t back up hers, and we would get going. While I went in the house, Cheryl thought: “I will help him out, and just go ahead and turn the trailer around in the yard while he is doing that.” Nice thought. Except that it had been raining for some time, and the yard was a swamp. As I was coming out of the door of the house, Cheryl was just pulling the car with the trailer through the yard. I came running out – in my imagination it was one of those “slow motion” scenes, with my hands all-too-slowly waving over my head, and my voice helplessly crying out: “NOOOOOOO … STOOOOPPP!!!” But it was too late. In a flash, both the car and the trailer were stuck, axle-deep, in mud. In my mom’s front yard. In her dad’s car. Frustrated, I asked her why she would do such a thoughtless thing – but all Cheryl could do was just laugh hysterically. This response made me even more angry. Finally, looking at the car, I began to laugh, but it was too late to assuage Cheryl’s feelings, which were hurt; couldn’t I see that she was just trying to help?! Now it was her turn to be angry while I laughed. We took turns laughing and scowling for I don’t know how long, until finally we unhooked the trailer, left her dad’s car stuck in my mom’s yard with a note, and headed off together – for better or for worse — to our seminary “Paradise”!
I mentioned in a previous installment of “Paradise” that Cheryl has “green eyes”. From time to time, they have occasion to flare up. One summer while we were at our first church, Cheryl was with child, I believe with Libby, and we went to Florida on vacation. We stopped at the beach, and I was playing with the boys in the shallow water, while Cheryl stayed on the sand. She later said that being pregnant, she felt like a “beached white whale” – which would only make matters worse in the next moments. For all of the sudden, the cutest little toddler came up and took my hand, walking with me in the shallow water. Cheryl thought, “Oh, how cute!” Then, out of nowhere, the toddler’s mom came up and took the baby’s other hand. She said something pleasant to me, though it was difficult to understand, because she had a thick German or Scandinavian accent. (You can see where this is going! Oh, by the way, I was told later that the woman also had on a purple bikini 😉 I left the two as soon as I graciously could, and came back up to where Cheryl was. She icily asked me how it was out there. I told her it was a little too cold. She said, “It looked hot to me. Hot purple!”
The Other Book
We loved the little town of Beggs, Oklahoma, the venue for my second full-time pastorate. But at the outset, I wondered if we were really going to fit in. Cheryl & I went down to the old municipal building to participate in our first election there, and, after waiting in line, they asked us for our names. The senior adult lady who was serving as the voter registrar looked through the book and said she didn’t see that we were registered. I told here that I was certain that we had. She looked through the registration book again, to no avail. She began asking her fellow poll workers what the problem could be; we weren’t in the book. Then all of the sudden, the light came on. She asked what party we had registered as, and I said, “Republican.” Disgustedly, she turned to her cohorts and said, “Never mind, they’re in the OTHER book!” She reached behind her, “dusted off” the Republican voter registration book, signed us in and waved us through. Welcome to another “Paradise”: Beggs, Oklahoma, home of the “Yellow Dog Democrats”!
The Dryer Vent
One of our favorite stories happened while I was serving as pastor at Living Oaks Baptist in Tulsa. We enjoyed a very nice, 4-bedroom brick house in the south side of town while we lived there – but since it was the first home we had ever owned, there were a number of maintenance challenges we faced for the very first time. One had to do with our clothes dryer. One week, it was not drying very well, and Cheryl said that it could be due to the dryer vent becoming clogged with lint over time. The catch was, cleaning it was difficult, as the dryer was located in the middle of the house in a closet, and the vent went way up through the roof. So I climbed up on the roof, and sure enough, there was no air coming out when the dryer ran. The vent was obviously clogged. I tried to clear the vent in a variety of ways, beginning with a number of clothes hangers linked together to form a long wire, but all to no avail. No lint was forthcoming. Finally, I had a great idea. I told the boys to bring the water hose up to the roof. I would run water from the hose through the vent, and just flush it out – a brilliant idea! So the hose was brought up, and I started the water down the vent. I told Cheryl (who was again pregnant; she is almost always pregnant in these stories!) to stand back … but after several moments, nothing happened. A minute later I hollered again and asked Cheryl if anything had come out of the vent, and she said no. I couldn’t believe it. What could be stopping that vent up in that fashion? Cheryl said she didn’t see anything coming out the bottom on the vent, except the smallest trickle of water. She began to draw closer to get a better look at it, when all of the sudden, the “dam burst”! Evidently the water had built up to the point where it finally exploded through the built up lint – just at the moment that Cheryl drew near to the front of the opening. She screamed, and I came running down from the roof to find Cheryl covered in wet lint – and even more comically, the shape of her (pregnant!) body perfectly outlined in wet lint on the hallway wall!
I’ve Learned To Duck
Over the years, Cheryl has been known to, ahem, toss something at me when she is angry. Generally she looks for something unbreakable (she tossed a bag of donuts at me one time, but that is another story). Once I said something that made her angry, and she started looking for something within reach to toss. I could see her head rapidly moving from side to side, and smiled, and said, “You can’t find anything to throw, can you?” (Hint for husbands: saying that didn’t help 😉
All this to say, one day Cheryl and our son Paul and I were a golf course in Leesville, near Lake Charles. Cheryl was getting ready to hit her tee shot, and since she had not been hitting well that day, I decided to stand behind her, where she couldn’t see me, and analyze her shot. Just before she hit, I made some gestures to Paul, and indicated that her shot was going to go to the left. It did. Paul wisely didn’t say anything, but I foolishly marched ahead and said, “Paul, didn’t I indicate that shot was going to go off to the left?” Paul started backing up; he knew what was coming. Cheryl said, “What? Were you just standing right behind me, making fun of my shot?” I said “No, I wasn’t making fun of you; I was just analyzing your shot, to see if you were lining up wrong …” But I didn’t get far in my explanation. The next thing I knew, Cheryl’s golf club was flying, end over end, right at me. Fortunately, over the years, I have learned to duck! 🙂
I Knew It
Everyone loves to be able to say “I told you so.” Well, I really didn’t want to be right on this one, but I was. A couple of years ago, the green Chrysler van that Cheryl had used to lug the kids around for so long was obviously on its last legs, so we went to look for new vehicle for her. I had an idea of the kind of car we might purchase, from the Nissan place here in Lake Charles, a conservative, economical car. We were escorted to those very cars by the helpful salesman, and we looked over the prospective vehicle. We visited with him about it: it was decent, conservative, economical; everything I had anticipated. I thought we were about to settle on it, when suddenly Cheryl looked at the car right next to it: the flashiest, bright red car you have ever seen. Her eyes got big, and she said, “Well, what about THIS one?” Well, I knew it was all over when she got her heart set on that – and unfortunately, I’m pretty sure the salesman did too! It was still in our price range, and really the only defense I could offer was: “You’ll get a ticket in that car. I’ve read where statistics indicate that policemen are more prone to stop drivers in red cars.” No matter; she wanted the red car, and that was all there was to it. Test drive; final price haggling; purchase. It didn’t take long. Cheryl was contentedly driving home in her little red car. The next day, she drove up to Louisiana College in Pineville, about two hours away, to help one of the kids with something. On the way home … you guessed it – she got a ticket! THE VERY NEXT DAY! And I only wish that were the end of the story. Cheryl had never before been issued a citation since we had been married, but now, less than 3 years after owning her little red Nissan, she has had THREE speeding tickets! It is getting hard to plan our routes to various venues, seeing as how she is known and wanted in three parishes! Oh well, that is but a very small price to pay for the privilege of life with Cheryl in “Paradise”!
I felt like I should add this last “story”; one which Cheryl & I chuckle about often. Over the years I have, as pastor, visited with a number of individuals and couples about their marriages. Sometimes they tell me of the “hardships” they have to endure — perhaps thinking that surely I know nothing of such difficulties in marriage, as a pastor. But the truth is, as I have laughingly told Cheryl, several times as I have listened to individuals or couples pour out their complaints, I have thought to myself: “That’s IT? Man, I have worse problems in MY marriage than that!” 🙂
Truthfully, marriage is not the union of two perfect people — and it certainly is not in our case. And although I have heard that it happens, rare is the couple that just “lives happily ever after” without a lot of arguments, tears, pain, and forgiveness. Most of us have to strive to make a marriage work in the world in which we live. But as Christians we believe that marriage is indeed worth working for, not only for our own sakes, but also for that of our children, our extended families, our church, and above all, God, whose relationship with us marriage is meant to symbolize. No, our marriage has not really been “Paradise” — but I can say that I am grateful for the 30 years that God has given me with my wife Cheryl, and for all the blessings, and trials, and lessons we have learned together. As you may know, due to my current illness, we had to cancel a big “30th anniversary trip” which was scheduled for this week. But although the trip was cancelled, the anniversary is still on. It will be DVD’s at home instead of “Wicked” on Broadway — but we are still grateful to be celebrating our “30 Years In ‘Paradise’!” 🙂