Sunday, July 29, 2012

How I met my three Valentines…

How I met my three Valentines…

The thing about a valentine is that you can only have one.  He’s your one-and-only, the only one who gets to set roots in your heart.  So how do I write about Tom when I’ve now been dating a man for almost a year? How does a widow convince other widows that she understands the loss of a husband when she’s now in the process of dating to find a new one? 

Here’s the answer on my heart. Those years of walking it alone with God before dating were a time where I wanted to hear from women around me who had been there and get how it feels to be widowed, but can demonstrate that there is the possibility for a new valentine.

So I will candidly tell you how I met both my valentines—one at a time. I’ll remember Tom, but also think of the man who represents moving forward into my new future. There is a third Valentine—One that was there from the beginning and carried me between these two valentines. I will talk about Him too.

I met Tom accidently.  I was young, with no family responsibilities—my future a blank page. Tom blew in like a crazy, fun March kite-flying breeze, his page not so blank. He brought with him two kids who had been through heartache and chaos and depended on his level-headedness and fathering. These challenges along with his spontaneity turned my world upside down until we both laughed and filled in my blank page together.

The only reason I happened to be at Benny’s the night I met Tom was that my friend Suzie didn’t want to go alone.

He showed up with his beautiful grin and asked me to dance. What struck me about the grin was that it never left his face as we danced and talked and danced and talked. I started to wonder how was it possible to meet a wonderful man in a place like Benny’s—until a gorgeous redhead approached us—hands on hips and a glare at Tom.  He was on a date!!

“I’m sorry,” he pleaded. “Diane is my sister’s friend. She’s been begging me to take her dancing. She’s way too young for me and I told her I wasn’t interested, but I finally gave in. As soon as we got here, she took off to hang out with other people, so I figured I was free to dance.”

Well, Benny’s was a HUGE place and Diane obviously hadn’t been around for over an hour while Tom was dancing with me. Still, what a jerk! It didn’t take me long to forget about Tom.

But two weeks later he called.  “It took me that long to get the nerve to call you.”

All my skepticism about him melted away on our first date when he introduced me to his favorite people—his brothers and sisters with their spouses. It was the beginning of seeing Tom for the man he was—a family man. More than just a family man, a dedicated husband and father—fun, lovable, spontaneous to the point of chaotic—that was Tom.

When he was ripped from my life, I still felt him—everywhere. I thought of the incredible adoration I felt from him. It hung in the air all around me, lifted me, carried me.  Yes, I was alone, but few women have ever felt loved the way I felt loved by Tom. Do you know he used to paint my toenails, call me Lady Kathleen and himself Sir Thomas ready to serve his lady?  In those last years of his life, my friends  asked me to stop telling them about the way he romanced me because it only reminded them of how far their husbands fell short.

So when I lost Tom, I told myself I’d never need another love again. After all, few women had experienced being so adored. I rested on this for a while, and then the loneliness hit.  I was surprised how quickly it came.

That’s when my eternal Valentine stepped in. I always knew Him, but never like my true love. Never with that intensity you feel from a man who lovingly looks into your eyes. He knew how much I missed it, so maybe that’s why He gave it to me, in a dream just about the time of my first Valentine’s Day after losing Tom.  I wrote about it here at a Widow’s Might. In my dream Jesus looked straight into my eyes, The rush I got from Him was like a thousand butterflies in my stomach—that love-at-first-sight tingle!

During the next couple of years Christ as my Valentine held me tight, comforted me, and gave me that assurance of being truly beautiful and adored. Soon I found myself being able to remember Tom without so much pain.

I walked the next couple of years with my Heavenly Valentine until He began to whisper in my heart that He wanted me to be ready for another.

My new valentine comes at a new season—one where now, my page isn’t blank—there’s a purpose in my life with these boys I’m raising, and it’s I who has the spontaneity I learned from Tom—the spontaneity that allows me to let my boys be boys, happy and relaxed in the love of Christ. It’s no longer a crazy fun March kite-flying breeze I’m looking for. A whimsical breeze might turn our lives upside down, No, I want a breeze, but not a whimsical one—a peaceful one, full of gentleness and the guidance of an earthly husband who gets who we are in Christ and can lead us God’s way. Can that happen and still be capricious as a Valentine should be?

If God’s in it, it can.

Ladies, I sometimes struggle over whether to share about my experience in dating with you. If I don’t share it, I’m holding back lessons and praises I have for God showing me the benefits of doing the courtship dance His way and in obedience to Him.  But I never want widows to feel that my love for the husband I lost is in any way diminished by a new love in my life. And I know that in the early years of widowhood, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the husband you lost being your valentine.

Everything about this valentine was not accidental or whimsical. We were introduced, and started getting to know each other through phone calls and letters.  When he finally came to meet me from another state, I was amazed at how he courted me—with complete honor and integrity. He insisted on staying in a hotel, he drove up practically every weekend, he invested as much time in my boys as he invested in me—taking them bowling, playing monopoly with them, taking them to parks and on hikes. He understood that hanging out with my boys and me together was an intentional way of telling me he loves me. When I turn and see him laughing when the boys act silly, I feel love.  After almost a year of hanging out with us, he has never once lost his patience or gotten cross with us, even after seeing the boys drop things, break things, tussle with each other, run late, and climb on his good furniture. As time passes, I watch him speak gentle guidance to the boys, and the boys appreciating his wisdom. I know this man loves me enough to love the boys too. When he sees me struggle to get the boys to tennis on time, he comes along and helps me arrange my schedule so it works. He brings order to chaos, and even my boys notice and like that.

And he romances me intentionally too. Each weekend visit is planned with a night out, and each night he calls me is spent talking about our hopes and dreams along with the minutia of the little tasks we do throughout the day. Even the tiny tasks are fun to talk about because behind it, I can feel him planning and figuring out how our lives filled with all the tiny tasks would meld together as one.

Because it’s the melding of two lives that scares a widow with children. Would it be as good as before?  Will four boys, doing as well as they are doing without their father, still do well or even better with a new man in their family?  The love I feel from my new valentine is shown in his patience to wait and date me God’s way while I sort these concerns out, letting them melt away until all I see is him—my valentine, loving, gentle, confident enough to lead me, tenderly, into the future.

I’m still meeting my valentine, and the story isn’t completely revealed. Thank you, God, for stepping in when my earthly valentine wasn’t there, and showing me how much You adore me. Thank You, for bringing a new valentine this year, and helping me see that remembering my husband on Valentine’s Day can honor him.