When I took that summer job, it was my 2nd to last choice. I was getting desperate because I really didn’t want to work in the fields again that summer. Not that I objected to the field work. It was good honest work, but I felt it wasn’t helping me move forward in my future aspirations. Little did I know what I would find when I walked into that JCPenney 34 years ago. The credit booth lady was a lot younger than I expected, and a whole lot more attractive, but I was trying to focus on getting a job. She was good at hers though and drew me in. I was a rising Senior in college after all, so I thought I had this. Well nothing will humble you faster than being at a credit booth in front of a young lady you want to impress when you don’t have a job. That is until she asked, “Are you 18 or older?” OUCH. That plan ended like most of my plans those days.
Back to the main goal. Get a job. I scraped my ego off of the floor and dragged what was left of my dignity to basement (where the offices were) and resume in hand, inquired about a job. I was hired almost immediately and since my head was still spinning from the credit booth encounter, I wasn’t thinking straight. The only 2 thoughts in my head were, 1) I am not working in the fields again; and 2) I HAVE A JOB! Now I can go back and talk! And march right back up to the credit booth I did. Only to discover that she was busy with another family as they filled out their application. Crash and burn twice in 30 minutes.
Fortunately, my future conversations were a little more successful (although I was still pretty awkward – women were like aliens to me and this vision of beauty came from a different world than I did). We spent a great deal of time together and within 7 weeks of meeting, were engaged. That December, we were married and have been best friends and soulmates for 34 years.
My life changed forever when I walked into that JCPenney (the first store in the mall that I walked into). I could have just as easily walked into Mervyn’s, or The Bon, or even Nordstrom’s, but I didn’t. I walked into JCPenney because the parking garage was full, and I had to park on the street on the other side of the mall. I remembered my mother always enjoyed JCPenny, so I thought, I would give it a try since I was here. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the way a full garage would change my life. While a job in retail was the 4th choice on my list, it came with the greatest job benefit one could imagine. My bride.
I am not the same person I was before I met her. I cannot imagine what I would be like, if not for her. I flew by the seat of my pants in everything, having ideas but no plans (that is called dreaming young mean – it won’t get you very far). She brings out the best in me, and I hope, I in her. That is the mark of a remarkable relationship. And I owe it all to my Lord and my Beautiful. This is not a Facebook relationship where it is all roses all of the time. Hallmark, maybe (without the 3rd wheel) where there are misunderstandings and/or bad choices and someone gets upset, but it all works out in the end. We are real people and God is still working on us. That means we have had to ask for, and give forgiveness more times than I can possibly remember. Because doing anything else isn’t an option.
I look back and chuckle at that summer. I still clearly remember, even though I was pretty much over the moon the entire time. We were kids. We had no idea what we were doing. Yet because of the unshakable love of God, a dedication to always resolve our differences and to be more like Christ every day, we have decades of experiences in the rearview mirror and a full tank of gas to explore the future together.
Our journey together has brought us a whole bunch of other people. Our 7 children, 2 additional children as spouses and 7 grandchildren (2 we will get to meet when our days are done) bring a level of chaos, noise and laughter that is invaluable. This afternoon as I reflected on how full my heart is because of how full my family is, I was humbled and immensely grateful. Grateful to my Lord for bringing us together. Grateful to Beautiful for saying “yes” 34 years ago. This my friends is abundant life. A life of peace, joy and purpose.
Here is to another 34 Beautiful! May they be as exciting, challenging and joyful as the last 34.