dating, faith, grace, love, marriage, prayer, wedding

When God Writes the Love Story

“Can love really happen like that?”

I’d noticed the young girl’s sad demeanor even before I settled into the chair. For a split second, I was irritated, not wanting anything to mar the joy I felt at finding love after nine and a half years of loneliness. I’d asked for a more experienced student at the beauty college. Why did I have to be assigned to one who evidently had some personal issues to deal with when all I wanted was to look good for my wedding?

She’d done well faking through small talk until that moment when her voice lowered with intensity after I announced I was getting married and began telling her about the whirlwind romance, our certainty in our love and the quick engagement that would result in marriage a month and a half after our first meeting.

“Can love really happen like that?” she repeated before adding “Because I thought I was in love for two years and he just broke up with me. It turns out he wasn’t who I thought he was.”

I paused, silently uttering a prayer that God would give me the words she needed to hear.

“Yes, it can happen like that, if God is in it from the beginning. We pray together before each of our dates.”

She was silent as she worked the color through my hair. I wondered if I’d said the wrong thing, bringing up prayer and faith.

“He never prayed with me,” she finally said, so softly it was as if she was talking to herself. Our eyes met in the mirror. “I asked him to, but he wouldn’t,” she continued. “He wouldn’t go to church with me, either. I used to sing in the church choir, loved singing worship songs.”

Loved, as if there were no more worship songs in her life. We both fell silent until she continued.

“I wrote a prayer to my future husband once. I even wrote out a list of what I wanted in the perfect man. I thought I’d found him. But he wasn’t who he pretended to be.”

What were the odds that I’d end up in the chair of a young woman who had done what I had done? I was convinced. I wasn’t there for the haircut and color. I was there for her.

I told her about God asking me to pray for my future husband in the summer of 2018 because the man God had in mind for me was going through something rough. How I’d followed that prompting, transcribing a prayer in my journal so private, I’d covered it up.

I told her how I’d wonder in the ensuing three years if I’d imagined the prompting as I waited for the man God had promised me. That I’d also made a list of all the qualities I wanted in a man. I told her how Nick’s wife died in the spring of 2018. “That summer was one of the hardest times in his life,” I said, choking back tears. Her eyes widened. “He has every quality I asked for: the kind eyes, the broad shoulders, the desire for holding hands and hugging, all the way down to the neatly trimmed goatee beard he’d begun sporting shortly before I met him.”

I went silent as she worked intently on my hair. What else could I say to this wounded girl? I closed my eyes, praying.

“Will you do me a favor?” I opened my eyes and saw her nod in the mirror. “Next time you begin a relationship, will you ask him to pray with you?”

Tears sprung to her eyes as she nodded again.

“And this time, if he says no, run the other way?”

“Do you think I can have a love story like yours?” her voice was husky with longing and unshed tears.

“I know you can. And I want to hear about your love story when it happens.”

“I think God put you in my chair today,” my young friend said.

“I think so too.”

We hugged before I left.

I immediately called Nick when I got into my car.

“How did your hair turn out?” he asked.

“I don’t know, because I don’t think I was there for my hair,” I began crying as I related the encounter. My cries turned into sobs, and I could barely speak past the lump forming in my throat.

“Just think; this is what our life is going to be like together, as long as we put God at the forefront. Random encounters that are not random at all, as we grow in faith together. God brought us together and God can use us together in so many ways.”

On August 23, 2021, three years and one day after the day I wrote down a prayer for the man who would someday be my husband, I married him in the woods I’d found solace in during the pandemic, the land where I grew up that my son now owns.
dating, love

Love in the Time of Corona

I received an e-mail offer from a Christian dating site this week, giving me the unprecedented opportunity to scan through profiles and respond to messages without paying a fee. It makes sense that dating would be a challenge during these self-isolating, social-distancing times, so a website that depends on the dating scene would need to come up with some kind of special to entice potential customers. After all, how exactly would one date during a pandemic? “Hey, I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but let’s meet in a park and stand six feet apart and wear masks and talk really loud so we can hear each other.” 

I’m not sure what I think about dating sites, even Christian ones. On the one hand, I believe that if God plans for me to be with someone, he will bring the right person at the right time. On the other hand, God helps those who help themselves and I know people who have successfully navigated dating sites to meet their spouse. I’m not completely sold on the idea, feeling a bit creepy poring over photos and profiles to find a compatible mate.

With Coronavirus running rampant, however, my concept of an ideal dating situation (getting to know someone through e-mail or letters before ever meeting for coffee) suddenly looks like the best way to protect heart and health. So, yes, I’ll admit it; I took the bait. For one solid hour I perused the website, filtering first by distance (within 100 miles), and age (57-69), and eventually by status (widowed). The filtering system felt a little unfair, as I’m certain God has his own system for bringing someone into our lives, and I don’t like to mess with God’s plans.

I admit to having some fun on the site. I even found myself commenting out loud about some of the profile pictures. “You are way too good looking for your own good, fella.” Swish. (that’s the sound of my finger on the touchscreen, people…) Next.

“Puhleeze… You took your profile picture in a gym wearing a sweaty muscle shirt? Is that supposed to impress me?” Swish. Next.

“Ditto on the profile picture in the fancy sports car you probably borrowed for the photo.” Swish. Next.

“This photo is obviously from the 70’s! What do you look like now?” Swish. Next.

“Um, this one’s so blurry, did you take it in a dark alley?” Swish. Next.

I did learn I do have a type, and am drawn to kind eyes. But I also learned some valuable lessons you guys out there might want to take notes on; what not to do when you create a profile on a Christian dating site. Heed my advice if you want more responses than that swish, next.

#1) If you clearly state in your profile that you have no children, and I can assume then you also have no grandchildren, leave the Elmo toy out of your profile picture. You’re 59 years old, for heaven’s sake. Why do you even have an Elmo toy, and what message are you attempting to convey by cuddling up with it in your profile picture? elmo

#2) Ditch the leprechaun suit. The green tights are not flattering, and frankly, the beard dyed to match is just downright scary.

#3) Ditto on the penguin winter hat. Just no.

#4) Making googly eyes in the bathroom mirror? I’m sorry, you don’t look fun. You look demented.

#5) If, in your description, you lament your inability to find a woman “with morals,” rethink the profile picture choice of you at a theme park standing between two scantily-clad women, your arms thrown around their shoulders.

#6) In a similar vein, if you clearly indicate (sometimes with crude language) that you don’t believe in “waiting until marriage,” we all know what you want, and you might consider a different sort of dating site.

#7) Two words: spell check. I know plenty of intelligent people who aren’t good spellers, but intelligent people do know to use spell check for something important, and your profile description is your first impression. “I bean luking for a gud women for a vere lone time.” I wonder why.

I don’t think I’ll go back to that dating site, though I see in my e-mail I have a message waiting for me.  I’m scared to read it. The guy is 81. And from New Zealand.

But he does have kind eyes.

beautiful things, creativity, David, death, grief, love, mother, paper, things

What We Keep

What do the things we choose to keep say about us?

I recently shared a mixed media piece I created using objects that had either been my mother’s or reminded me of my mother, a project directly related to the theme of my upcoming book, Called to Be Creative.

Most of the those small mementos had been stored away in drawers and boxes. I love having them displayed where I can see them  now. Since then, I’ve been collecting items that remind me of my husband David; things like the last piece of jewelry he purchased for me, the tiger pin I wore when I was a waitress at Sambos, (where we met), and our 25th anniversary newspaper announcement. I’m planning an artist-facilitated “Memory Mixed Media” program at my workplace in February, when I’ll complete the project.

With all the talk today of the Kon-Mari method of decluttering and the value of simplifying our lives and homes, why save any memorabilia at all? These art pieces take me on a sentimental journey, reminding me of two very special people I loved, the mother who was the muse for my creativity, and the husband who encouraged me to spread my wings and fly in my endeavors.

What does it say about me that when I faced a move to a 760-square foot house in the summer of 2018, I easily parted with thousands of items; pieces of furniture, clothing, hundreds of books, home decorations small and large, but sifting through piles of paper, files, photos, and letters seemed an impossible task? At least two of the things I chose to keep, my mother’s cabinet and trunk, were with the intention of storing other things.

What does it mean that I saved every letter my mother had ever written me, the few my father did, and many I’ve received from siblings?

Until the winter of 2017, I hadn’t re-read Mom’s letters, but as I prepared to write a book chronicling the creative legacy she’d left behind, I did. In fact, I immersed myself in all things Mom, re-reading letters, her memory book, and notebooks, searching for nuggets of wisdom, like this, to share in the manuscript.

mom talents on loan from GodMuch of Mom’s words that appear in the book will be shared in her own handwriting because of what I kept.

In downsizing, I did manage to dispose of hundreds of greeting cards that had no personal message, only a signature. Because I saved others, I still have my very first “fan letter,” sent to me care of my publisher in 1996, after the release of Homeschooling From ScratchI also have the birthday card my pen friend and prayer warrior Pam Pierre sent me on the first birthday I celebrated without my mother, which also happened to be the anniversary of Mom’s death. That was the last note I received from Pam before she herself died unexpectedly.

I also chose to keep the ledger my mother utilized to keep track of her art sales. I’d flipped through those pages in 2017, marveling at her detailed notes and wondering how she kept track of the art work she’d done after the final listing of a courthouse carving in 1996. Surely an artist who’d carefully numbered her pieces, from the first wood carving at age 42 would have continued the tracking? Perhaps she’d done so elsewhere, in a notebook I didn’t have? I wrote about this in my book:

“If midlife means the mid-point of one’s lifespan, my mother hit hers at forty-one, a year before she’d picked up a hammer and chisel to create her first woodcarving. In the ensuing thirty years, Irma “Amy” Potter would produce 544 pieces of art, according to a ledger that tracked each piece. The entries are not dated, but begin with the first woodcarving in 1970 and end with the relief woodcarving that was commissioned for the Delaware County courthouse in 1996. Anything Mom had crafted before the age forty-two—the wall-hangings, pastel pictures, quilts, or homemade dolls—were not included in this tally. Neither was the body of work she continued to produce between 1996 and her death in 2010. That includes countless pillows, teddy bears, baby quilts, Christmas stockings, handmade ornaments, a painting that hangs in Breitbach’s restaurant in Balltown, Iowa, lavishly-designed walls my sister Pat commissioned Mom to paint in 2001 in the lower level of her Treasure Alley consignment store, along with numerous paintings and wood-carvings now displayed in homes of family members and strangers.

I could not begin to guess how many additional pieces of art my mother produced in those last fourteen years of her life, or why she stopped keeping the log, but suffice it to say, my mother was a prolific artist in the second half of her life.”

It was only yesterdaynine years after the death of my mother, as I searched the trunk for memorabilia to include in my next art project, I picked up the ledger again. Studying those pages of neat handwriting and record-keeping, I marveled at the low prices she charged for her work. Hours of toil on an owl carving amounted to a single ten dollar bill. Four small owls she sold to “David and Mary Kenyon” (me), less than that. I wondered again at that last notation. Why had she stopped keeping track? I flipped through the empty pages until something caught my eye; a lightly penciled notation on an otherwise empty page.

pencil notes about muralsSo, Mom had noted her mural work on the walls of my sister’s shop, though without a date. I flipped through a few more empty pages amazed to discover there were further records at the back of the ledger!

This list, unlike the beginning of the ledger, was not in chronological order. Many were numbers from the previous list, but some were newer, including a piece numbered 1040 (suggesting she’d completed at least another 500). An ad from a South Dakota studio was paper-clipped to the page. Did the Eng studio owner order the “carved Eskimo Girl” my mother noted, or did she own a “carved Eskimo Girl” by the artist? I’m fascinated by either scenario. (I later searched the Internet and discovered that Marion Eng, the co-owner, had passed away within days of my mother)

This. This is why I keep these sorts of things; the letters, a ledger, a list. Pieces of paper to some, precious treasures to me. A rosary, a pencil, a penny dated 1978. My mother wrote this. She drew with this pencil, prayed on this rosary. My husband kept this receipt for my wedding ring, he cherished this Valentine from his grandson fighting cancer. He wrote this note proclaiming his love and chose that necklace for me. Each foray into the trunk or cabinet, a warm hug. Each letter re-read, a visit with the beloved mother.

And sometimes, a surprise… a few previously unread pages, a clipping, a question unanswered. Who carved “Eskimo girl” and where is she?

If I ever find her, I’ll probably keep her too.