When Second Chances Are The Best Thing That Ever Happens To You

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Friday I celebrated my thirty-seventh wedding anniversary.

37 years. Lord, have mercy. (I say this with great joy!)

I told my Facebook friends on Friday when I posted this milestone that I was going to regale them with a story. How I married the man of my dreams even though we had a ‘not-so-good’ first date. A blind date, no less.

And, listen…I’ve heard my sweet husband tell this story many times over the years so I’m not telling you anything we haven’t agreed on.

We just really did NOT…and I mean, did NOT…enjoy one another’s company on our first date. Blind dates can be so…blind. You have no idea what to expect. You only know what the person who set the date up has told you. This ‘said-person’ was my sister. I mean, if you can’t trust your sister who can you trust?!?

I ask you…

Anyways, I was 20 years old. And floundering. I had spent all my life living in one little community. I grew up with the same kids, attended the same church, even lived in the same house all those years. I was pretty sheltered. I didn’t realize until I went off to college–an all-girls’ college, I might add–just how sheltered I had been. Not to mention, just how insecure I was.

My freshman year of college was miserable. I was so unhappy. Cried a lot. Couldn’t eat. Lost weight. Depressed. When I went home on my spring break my father took me to a doctor and basically said, Please find something wrong with her.

I guess Dad was hoping and praying that all the changes in my behavior wasn’t just in my head.

It wasn’t. But, it wasn’t what my Dad expected, either. As if being born with hearing loss and losing an eye as a child and growing up an asthmatic wasn’t enough, the diagnosis was…Thyroid cancer. But, don’t worry, we’ve never lost anyone to thyroid cancer. 

I finished out my freshman year of college and told my parents, I was NOT going back to that school. I had half my thyroid removed and enrolled in the nearest community college. Moved into an apartment with some girlfriends, dated some guys, had some fun, acted stupid, did things I’m not proud of, and lost all interest in just about everything. So I dropped out of school.

In all honesty, I really didn’t like myself very much. I became more and more introverted. I  had the hardest time meeting new people. I developed an inner fear that I would never be loved by any man because I just wasn’t pretty enough. I had such low self-esteem.

Growing up, I never had to talk about my hearing issues or the fact that I wore a prosthetic eye. It was a small community. Everybody knew everybody else’s business so there really wasn’t a need to talk about it, I guess, but I honestly don’t think I could have, anyway.

I had too many memories rolling around in my brain about my eye accident that I didn’t know what to do with. Memories of hospitals, doctors, bandages, eye patches, loneliness. To sum it up in one word, painful.

I just didn’t want to talk about it all. Meeting new people might mean I’d have to talk about it. So, I introverted myself instead.

Meeting guys and getting to know them was one of the hardest things I had to do at the age of 20. Sometimes I backed off after a few dates. Sometimes I ran like a scared rabbit. A few times I got too attached too soon and ended up dumped.

Without realizing it, I piled on insecurities in one giant heap.

After 5 months of living on my own–and not liking myself very much–I went back home. Back to where I felt safe. Back to where I felt loved. Back to where I could figure some things out.

And this is where the real story begins. The story that began with a blind date.

A blind date means you start fresh with someone who knows very little about you. Nothing of significance. Nothing of importance. No history. No past. What did I have to lose? I’d already lost my self-respect. Let’s face it, when you reach rock-bottom there’s really no where else to go but up.

A blind date actually stirred up something in my heart. Like, a flicker of hope. Because maybe, just maybe, my date would see something inside of me worth liking. Something besides the hearing loss and the fake eye and all my insecurities. I wanted a man who would look at my heart with a heart of his own.

But that first date…how can you really get to know someone in a bar?

Yes, that’s where Wayne took me. To a bar. A loud, noisy bar. A bar where he ordered me a few beers that I didn’t drink so he drank them for me. A bar where the lights were so low I couldn’t really read his lips very well. A bar where the music was so loud I could hardly understand a word he was saying. A bar where there was dancing but I was so uncomfortable I didn’t get out of my seat one single time.

We just sat there. And sat. And sat. And sat.

It was an early night for us that night. Wayne took me home and I really don’t think he got a goodnight kiss. I didn’t think we would ever see one another again.

But even though I was still in my rebel season, still trying to figure things out, still far from God, still not walking in a right relationship with Him, even though…even though…even though…God was still at work in my life.

The restlessness, the emptiness, the miserableness all spoke to the spiritual deficit in my heart. There was a yearning for a life with meaning. I knew God to be The God-of-Second-Chances. The God who never gives up on me. The God who never abandons me. The God who woos and pursues and continues to love all over me when I don’t feel very pretty, when I don’t act very pretty.

God loved me when I was dirty. His love isn’t based on first impressions of us, when we first come to Him, when we first give Him our whole hearts, before we clean ourselves up. His love is unconditional. So often, first impressions can be misleading. No doubt they can be very important, but what if God loved us based on first impressions? How could any of us ever hope to find favor with Him?

I guess some would argue that there are no first impressions with God. After all, He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. He knows us each more individually, personally, and intimately than any one else ever could. His first impression of us is so pure and right and holy.

And ours are not. It’s so sad that we fall so short in our ability to move past bad first impressions. They keep us from seeing others with the heart of God.

Oh, Sweet Jesus…how glad, how thankful, how absolutely grateful I am that You are a Second-Chance-God. How glad I am that I gave my husband a second-chance. How thankful I am that You allowed me to look deeper into his heart and see him for the man he truly is. How absolutely grateful I am that You stirred my heart to move past my first impression.

I don’t know why-other than the grace of God that washed over me-but I wanted to give Wayne another chance. I wanted to see him again because I believed there was more to him than a bar and loud music.

I bought him a plant. I wrote him a note with the words, “Please don’t let it die,” and I delivered it to his apartment. He wasn’t home so I left it on his doorstep.

And the rest is history. Our love story is still being written, but I can tell you this…God gave me just what I wanted. No, He gave me just what I needed. Wayne has always seen beyond my hearing loss and my fake eye. Wayne has a second-chance heart because he gave me a second-chance, too.

I love that my husband sees my heart with his own heart of gold, a heart that is pure and right and holy, kind and good and gentle. A heart that truly loves me the way Christ loves the Church, full of love and devotion, sacrifice and service.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Wayne would lay down his life for me. And if I don’t stop, I’m gonna start bawling like a baby, but can I just say? I love this man. With my whole heart. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him.

Wayne and I have lots of tales to tell. Our marriage has been full of ups and downs, messiness and craziness, tears and laughter. We’ve raised 2 sons together and our family is growing. We now have 2 precious daughters-in-law. One day we hope for grandchildren.

We are blessed beyond measure. We are graced beyond infinity.

And we will be loved into eternity. Because sometimes love…like the love of God…never dies. It lasts forever.

Because God is a Second-Chance-God.

And second chances are sometimes the best thing that ever happens to you.

And to prove it, Wayne and I were married on the one-year anniversary of our ‘not-so-good’ first date on June 3, 1979.

The Prince and The Princess

i-tXtBkPm-TiOnce upon a time there was an insecure young woman who dreamed of marrying a prince. She wasn’t interested in jewels and a crown, though. What she really wanted was a knight-in-shining-armor. A man who would love her so much he would lay down his life for her. A man who was bold and courageous. One who would drop everything, mount a horse and ride to her rescue because sometimes her insecurities came as monstrous trolls that threatened to carry her away to caves or evil ogres that desired to eat her alive. There were menacing demons that taunted her and invading enemies that robbed her of peace and joy. She knew it would take a special kind of man to save her from herself.

She dreamed of love. Not the superficial kind of love that only sees what’s on the surface, but the kind that reaches deep inside. The kind that would look past the heart into her very soul. The kind of love that wouldn’t be afraid of the dark places or the dank messes. The kind of love that would nurture and nourish all that was good in her. The kind that would see past the damage of life and the passage of time. The kind of love that would plant seeds of hope within her and then water them with patience, gentleness and kindness. The kind of love that would grow strong into a flourishing tree with roots that would run so deep no storm, no fire, no flood could tear it down. The kind of love that would make her feel special…beautiful…treasured…

Funny how love came when she least expected it. It didn’t ride in on a white horse. It came quietly with a simple knock on her heart’s door. She knew when her prince arrived because her heart laughed. And danced. And sang. Her heart began to breathe freely. She was swept off her feet and carried off into the happily-ever-after.

The prince and the young woman became one.

“I, Wayne, take you, Nina, to be my wedded wife. From this day forward I promise and covenant to love, honor, and cherish you in the midst of all we do together. To you I now commit my life, to encompass all joys and sorrows, all triumphs and hardships, every experience of living. This commitment I make in love, to be kept in faith, lived in hope, and throughout all time made anew.”

Throughout all time… 

The princess may not have been looking for jewels and a crown, but she received them, anyway. She and her prince will one day inherit a great kingdom, a kingdom not of this world because their king is King Jesus. The prince, with all his spiritual riches, holds true to the covenant he made with his bride. He loves her more than he loves himself. He lays down his life for her every single day. He loves her sacrificially, selflessly, supernaturally. He cares for her deeply, devotedly, delightfully. And he still rescues her willingly, wonderfully, wittingly. The princess is the most blessed woman in the whole wide world.

For thirty-five years the prince and princess have journeyed through life together and even after all these years, the prince still rescues his bride from monstrous trolls and evil ogres from time-to-time. He is more bold and courageous today than he was when they first met. He is her knight-in-shining-armor. Her heart still laughs and dances and sings when they are together. In his eyes, she has never felt more special, more beautiful, more treasured.

Love still reigns in the palace these days, but the prince no longer has to knock on the heart’s door of his princess for it stays wide open all the time.

All the time and throughout all time…it’s a forever-thing.

Happy Anniversary, My Prince. I love you more today than yesterday. I will love you more tomorrow. I am so glad I will spend eternity with you.