I still remember the day we met Bruce. We piled out of the car, in a mix of nerves and excitement. I looked up and saw him standing in the window with the rest of the pastoral search committee and they met us with wide smiles. I will never, ever forget my emotions in that moment. I brushed away brimming tears and walked through the front door to gripping handshakes and hugs. That morning, my husband asked and answered questions while I played with the boys in an adjoining room. As we walked through the door, they had handed me a large bag with gifts for the boys-- puzzles, games, a teddy bear for Jobie, and two packages of chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe's for me-- 'we read your blog and we knew you'd love those!' As I stood there, literally unable to name all of the kindnesses of those moments, I took in a gallery wall to my right. There were tens of beautiful family pictures. And all of the sudden, I knew it. I knew Bruce had lost his wife. Even though I hardly knew this man, a deep, deep sadness came over me.
Later, I would learn that his wife had passed away from cancer. I would cry as I watched her memorial service on video, as I learned more and more about this incredible lady who has now been in the presence of Jesus for over five earthly years. I still remember the day that Steve came home from his weekly breakfast with Bruce at the Dairy Queen and said, 'we need to pray for Bruce. He's really lonely. He's beginning to pray that God would provide a wife.' And I still remember the moment, just weeks later, when I finally caught up to Bruce after a Sunday morning service and asked, probably way too excitedly, how his first date had gone. But as it turned out, his excitement would put mine to shame! A couple of weeks later, I sat down in the coffee connection as Bruce told me they were going to get married the day after Thanksgiving. 'And, would you and Stephen meet with us? We'd like some marriage counseling.' I don't remember my exact words back to Bruce. There was probably a bit of stuttering involved, to say the least.
On the day after Thanksgiving, my husband, that hottie of a baptist preacher, performed his first marriage ceremony. It was an intimate, meaningful ceremony filled with endless smiles. And on that day, my eyes again filled with tears as Anita's son, who Bruce flew in from North Carolina as a surprise, read a few lines before giving his mom to Bruce. He talked about how, when he was a little boy she'd sit on his bed and sing to him until he fell asleep. Years later, he was the one sitting at the foot of her bed, telling her the good news of Jesus Christ. Today, she believes!
This story, it's true! Looking back on these last, fast months, it seems unreal. But the goodness of God, it's real. It's here and it's this-- God gives, God takes, blessed be the name of the Lord.
*Bruce and Anita, we are incredibly thankful for you. I am most thankful that, when I gave you my best piece of marriage advice-- always argue naked because it can never last long-- you laughed. But most of all, thank you for the joy that you have given to our souls through the process of your meeting and marriage. It's God's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. We love you.
Stories from Here is a series that is being written and photographed because I want to remember all of the people and places, happenings, findings, and friendships that we are experiencing here. You can find Stories from Here / Part One here, Stories from Here / Part Two here, Stories from Here / Part Three here, and Stories from Here / Part Four here.