Have you ever felt like God just chased you down and surprised you with a blessing?
That’s how I felt a couple of weeks ago. I had been planning my mom tea party, and we had a couple staying with us while they look for a job and transition to Houston who happened to be expecting a baby any day. The mother of the pregnant woman, who is also a very dear friend, was coming to stay with us, too, to help when the baby came and to help with the couple’s 15-month-old. All of these things were swirling around in my mind when Gary called from work and said that they were going to send him to Charleston for a few days. I just flippantly said, “Can I go with you?” He said, “Yeah if you want to.” REALLY? Could I really do something so spontaneous with all of these other things happening and about to happen at my house? Could I just take off and leave in the midst of all the preparations and plans and unknowns that defined my life right at that moment? It turns out the answer was “yes”!
It seemed crazy, but we started planning our escape – I mean, departure – and it all worked out. The day before I left, the expectant mommy had an appointment with her midwife and found out she was dilated to 3 and the baby had dropped and she could have it any time. Her mother was planning to drive to our home and arrive about the same time that I would be returning from Charleston. The tea party was planned for the following Thursday, and I had planned to go to Goodwill to get tea cups and other serving dishes for the tea party during the week of Gary’s trip.
But I dropped all of that and flew off to Charleston with Gary.
We had to run through airports and barely caught both of our flights. But when the dust settled, we sat beside each other and held hands as I gazed out the window and enjoyed the view from above for the first time in about 23 years. I really enjoyed it.
We got a rental car when we arrived at Charleston, and Gary drove us to our hotel. He is familiar with Charleston since he lived and worked there for a year in 2011.
We checked in and got situated, then went on an old-fashioned trolley to eat at Chick-fil-A. We found out we were in “college town”, and the restaurant was an express Chick-fil-A with a limited menu and limited space that catered to college students. It was interesting to be among so many young college students, but they behaved themselves well, and we were surprised at their civility.
Nothing spectacular, but none of the street jargon and immature behavior that I’ve come to expect from young people these days.
We enjoyed our lunch and our walk around town as we headed to the nearest Trolley pick-up point.
Neither one of us was in a hurry or felt stressed about anything. We just lived in the moment and enjoyed being together.
Gary was the most relaxed I’ve seen him in a long time.
He just wanted to please me and show me a good time.
We had some ideas of places that we wanted to see because a woman we met at the baggage claim at the airport told us some of the best places to go and even went and got some pamphlets and ran back to give them to us. We felt lots of favor, like God was really smiling on us and causing people to go out of their way to be friendly and help us.
One place she said we HAD to go was Magnolia Plantation. So we did!
It was cold! We rode on the “train”, and I had 3 blankets covering me! Our driver was a good guide, and we enjoyed our nature ride, even though we were freezing. We’re used to temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s most of the time. That day in Charleston was probably 50 or lower, so that was really cold for us.
I visited the petting zoo alone – all alone – I was the only person in there among all of the animals. Some of the deer were roaming free. There was a deer just inside the gate. I turned to him with my hands out to pet him, but he mistook my sign for “I’ve got food for you.” He tried to eat me! When he realized I didn’t have food in my hands, he went for my purse. He put his nose into my purse, and I pulled it away real fast. Then he got ahold of the zipper on the outside of my purse with his teeth and yanked his head sideways. He unzipped the front pocket of my purse! That was enough for me. I ran to the gate, opened it and got out of there! I watched from my safe place until the scary deer walked away. Then I worked up my courage and went back in.
Oh sure, look all sweet and innocent, why don’t ya.
He really did get aggressive with my purse and everything.
I walked around the corner of a building and there was this goat looking at me all curious-like.
I laughed and snapped his picture.
There were lots of pretty peacocks preening for me. I don’t know if they were trying to get food from me or what, but a bunch of them were showing off, even this poor old bedraggled guy.
Gary and I got along so well, and had so much fun just being together. There was this one time, though…
We were all excited. We had a block of time that we could just go and do something, but we didn’t know exactly what to do or where to go. I wanted to see some live oaks. It was too late to visit any plantations or the Angel Oak Tree we had heard so much about, because they all closed at 5:00. So we got in the car and started driving. Gary asked where I wanted to go. I didn’t know specifically since the places I wanted to go were closed already or about to close. I don’t know the area, and I just had a vague idea that we ought to be able to find live oaks with a pathway through them that we could walk on or something like that. I was poring over our tourist book and the pamphlets we had, trying to find a specific place with an address. Gary was driving in heavy traffic asking me where I wanted to go. I asked how far we were from Mt. Pleasant, because I saw a picture of a path going beside some live oaks, and the only information I could find on the page was that it was in Mt. Pleasant. Gary took the GPS off the windshield and told me to find it.
I don’t have much experience with a GPS, so I wasn’t sure what to do. He was fighting traffic and waiting for a destination, so he was slightly distracted and overwhelmed. I was frustrated, because he was asking me where I wanted to go when I didn’t know what was there or how to get anywhere. So we got angry at each other and raised our voices. I felt like he was blaming me for everything that was bad, including the traffic. The way he worded things and the attitude he seemed to have made me feel like he was blaming me. We had our little argument over whether it was my fault and took out our frustrations on each other, then I spotted an address of a park in Mt. Pleasant, so we put that in the GPS and headed there. When we finally got there, we were not happy with each other, but we got out and looked around anyway. There was nobody else there. It was cold. It would be really pretty on a warm day. There would be lots to do there in the summer. But it was pretty abandoned that day. And we didn’t see any live oaks there. We took a few pictures of a lagoon, and looked around some more. Neither of us was saying much.
Then he drove to the beach that he knew was near there. I’m not a fan of the beach. My lack of balance makes the whole beach experience very uncomfortable. And I’m not a big fan of sand, either.
And it was extremely cold.
So he parked the car and got out and walked to the beach while I waited in the car. He came back after a while, and we drove back to the hotel in silence.
I don’t remember how we got back into a happier mood that night, but eventually we did. If I remember right, we were okay when we got back to the hotel and the valet took our car to park it. We always enjoyed little chats with the valets when we brought the car back for them to park. And I don’t remember that night being an exception. So somewhere along the way, we must have made up. We lost our connection for a couple of hours, but we both forgave and re-connected with each other before we got back to the hotel. It’s a shame that we lost that fun block of free time that we both had looked forward to, but we did get past it and come back together in a shorter time than it used to take. I can’t remember specifics, but I know that I, at least, am being more intentional about not nursing a grudge or replaying in my mind what he said or did that offended me or was rude or inconsiderate, and I’m trying harder to re-establish the connection between us when things like that happen. Reading the book, Keep Your Love On, has helped me with this. I’m also trying harder to communicate what I was feeling and why I said what I said or reacted the way I did, so that Gary has a better chance of understanding what went went wrong instead of being clueless and trying to figure out on his own what just happened. I remember that I did pray that God would help us to get back in right standing with each other. I didn’t pray in pity party mode, telling God how mean Gary had been or a “get him, God” attitude, which I’ve done in the past. I sincerely asked God to help us get through this situation in a loving way, and He did.
These things happen, unfortunately, but I’m thankful for the keys I’ve learned recently, like protecting the connection no matter what, and doing what I can on my part to keep on acting in a loving way and communicating even when it’s difficult and uncomfortable to do so. Communicating in a respectful, calm way.
I share this, not just to air our dirty laundry, which I really don’t enjoy doing, but to give an example of how things can go awry, but they can be resolved without bloodshed if we really try to walk in love, keep our love on. It takes a continual dying to self and a constant reminding ourselves that we love each other and we are on the same side, not against each other. We are trying to have fun together, not find fault or criticize the way the other says or does things. We are trying to be unoffendable. We are far from perfect, but we are trying.
That was really the only sour time we had during our four-day getaway.
The rest of the time was very sweet!
Gary really went out of his way to please me. He wanted me to enjoy myself, and I really did.
One night we went out to eat at the Irish Pub the lady at the airport told us about where a really good violin player and his dad and another guy played. Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub.
We sat at the table closest to the musicians. We went early and just stayed until the music started. And we stayed through almost all of it. We enjoyed it immensely.
Then we went to see the highlight of our trip. Angel Oak Tree.
We had heard about it 2 years ago when Gary was working in Charleston. I did not want to miss out on it. We planned to see it on the way to the airport on Saturday. We spent an hour there just admiring it and taking pictures of it.
It was truly a marvel of God’s creation.
We both walked around trying to find the best angles for photographs.
I loved our second honeymoon so much. It was much better than the first. Married love, mature love (sort of) is awesome! Stick with your mate. It will be worth it.
I am so glad that Gary and I have held on to each other through all that we’ve been through. And I’m so thankful that God is teaching us how to get along better now when it’s so crucial. He is revealing to us hidden issues and showing us how to deal with them.
We are becoming more united, more one all the time.
Prayer works! I want to encourage you to keep praying for your mate. And learn as much as you can about building good relationships. Life is meant to be joyful, fun and fulfilling. The same for marriage. But we have to work at it. It doesn’t just happen.
God is there to help you with your marriage. Make sure you put Him at the center of your own life, your marriage, and your relationships with your children and everyone else.
The Angel Oak Tree has a fence around it. They say that tree is 1600 years old. And they want it to live as long as it possibly can. So they have warning signs telling people not to deface it or carve on it or climb it or basically touch it at all. This tree is well-protected. They close the tree at 5:00 and nobody can get near it again until they open the gate the next morning.
If people care that much about a tree and take such measures to protect it, we should be willing to take measures to protect our marriages. And the best protective measure I know of is to pray for it.
Let your love grow, spread, and shoot out branches to reach out and overshadow and protect all who come near. Like the Angel Oak.
To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3
Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. Psalm 96:12
And the sun goes down on the palmetto tree!