As I mentioned in this post, God's plans differed from mine.
As the story continues -
We had visited some churches, but hadn't really found one we were comfortable in. Perhaps I had been a little reserved in my search because it wasn't my intentions to remain in Illinois much longer.
Judy, my cousin, had supplied me with a range of gospel music to listen to and they were very uplifting. I had also been reading my Bible and we watched some TV preaching. There were changes going on in my life and I knew the Lord was working in me.
I had remained friends with the 10-year relationship man, and occasionally we did date. But I was praying for the Lord to send me a "wonderful Christian man". I had been divorced for 11 years and I was getting weary of making all the decisions, being the only financial source, and all that goes with being a single parent. I really turned it all over to the Lord because it was obvious to me that over the years my selection of men had not worked. Most of my relationships had been abusive in one way or another. I was completely trusting in the Lord, which I was learning to do more and more.
I had continually prayed that the house would sell and everything would come together as "I" planned.
I can remember it was a Sunday afternoon and a there was a knock on the door. This 50-ish aged couple had been walking by and noticed the "For Sale" sign in the yard and wanted to know if they could view the house. They made an offer and the house was sold. They told me later on that they never knew why they were buying this house. They hadn't even been in the market for one (they were purchasing it as a rental), but she said the day they knocked on my door it was just like "something had drawn them to it". Hmmmmm.
We moved into my mom's basement, she put her house up for sale, and I attempted to find a job 450 miles away. It was difficult, frustrating and getting discouraging.
I had been working at my present job for 10 years and the last couple of years it had gotten very stressful. The job itself I liked, but my boss was getting difficult to work with. So I made a decision that Kyle, my youngest son, and I would come ahead. I would find work, a place to live and hope mom and Lonny, my oldest, would follow shortly. Lonny was a junior so he wanted to stay with his grandma so he could continue school there. Kyle and I arrived in Arkansas on July 19th, 1993.
We stayed with my cousin (the keyboard player in the gospel group) who had 2 sons between the ages of my two. We had a great time and made some wonderful memories there. I didn't look for a job immediately as I was appreciating the break from all that stress. If you have ever been in a situation like that you may know what I am talking about here. Like I said, I knew I had been stressed but I didn't realize just how much. But I began to notice after a couple of weeks that my shoulders didn't seem to be as tense and that everyday (I'm not exaggerating here), for about a month I could feel the tension leaving.
The end of August I went to work at a family-owned business. Many times a business ran by family isn't a good environment to work in but these were wonderful christian people and they became like family.
Kyle and I attended the small non-denominational church that my cousin, Judy, went to. The other members of the gospel group I mentioned earlier also attended this church. We most always rode the bus and went to their singings. The group consisted of Jim & Rita, lead vocals; they were the parents of Paul, lead guitar; and Lisa, lead and harmony. Of course there was Judy, the keyboard player and harmony singer.
At this point in time Paul was 21, married and had an 8-month old son. Lisa, 19, was also married but they didn't have any children.
Just prior to me moving to Arkansas Jim and Rita had celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows. They had married when Jim was 16 and Rita was a few months older than him. They had grown up together and were all each other knew about love. It was so obvious they still loved each other very much.
Judy and I were close, and I considered Rita a special friend. Jim would occasionally ask me how I liked living in Arkansas, you know, small talk stuff. I enjoyed being around all them and seeing them minister in song.
The latter part of August Rita developed a rash. It was determined she had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which she had gotten from a tick bite. By October she still wasn't feeling well and she had discovered a knot on her side. Although she had mentioned it to her doctor he gave her a clean bill of health. Her husband, Jim, took her to a doctor friend and he diagnosed her with colon cancer. Since it was a fast-spreading form she was immediately sent to Little Rock for surgery. They sent her home for two weeks because they were unable to schedule the surgery until then. (Go figure!) The first part of November she returned for surgery.
In November I purchased the 3-bedroom home I had first discovered when I had visited back in March. (Again, God was at work on this). The house had all paneled walls so I was painting them an off-white color. Other than that it was move-in ready. We were excited about our new home.
We were going to get our furniture and things during the Thanskgiving holiday. My aunt and uncle also went so he could drive the U-Haul. We headed out early Tuesday morning, arriving in Illinois early enough we could rest up a little that evening. On Wednesday we were able to visit, pack up the rest of our things, and finish preparations for Thanksgiving dinner. On Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving and my mom's birthday which was going to be Saturday, the 27th. We spent all day Friday packing the truck. We were leaving out early Saturday morning so we could be back in Arkansas late afternoon, early evening. We would be able to unload some that evening and still have all day Sunday.
Meanwhile Rita was taking a turn for the worst.
We had just arrived back home and I was making my way to the carport when I received a phone call. After only nineteen days, Rita had gone on to be with the Lord.
She was going to be missed greatly. She was such a sweet person and had blessed many people around the country. Ohhhh how she loved the Lord!
There is no doubt that there were difficult moments as the group continued without Rita ministering with them. But they pressed on.
I can remember telling Judy I pitied the woman who tried to follow Rita's footsteps. It was apparent to me that Jim and her had cared deeply about each other. I, for one, couldn't imagine him with anyone else. But then again, he was young at 41 and both his children were grown and married.
Over the course of the next few weeks Kyle and I were enjoying the weather very much. It was hard to believe it was December and we were wearing short sleeve shirts.
One Sunday after church Jim asked me what we were going to do for lunch. I told him Judy and her boys were coming over and we were eating leftover spaghetti. He asked if he could join us, along with Dale, the drummer. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and we all had a good time.
The next evening Jim called to thank me for the meal on Sunday. He asked if maybe sometime we could get together over coffee or something because he was desperately needing some adult conversation. All that was available at his house were "young" adults and his 1-year-old grandson, who hadn't achieved verbal communcation yet.
Christmas was getting closer and Kyle had gone to spend the holiday with his dad in Illinois. Everyone always looked forward to Judy' Christmas Eve party. Naturally I was excited because it was not only my first Christmas in Arkansas but the first Christmas I would be spending with my grandma and other family members in years.
Christmas Eve had arrived. My aunt, uncle and grandma had stopped by for a brief visit on their way to Judy'. They had left and I was on the floor finishing some wrapping I had left to do. Suddenly I heard a vehicle in the drive. I went to the door as I saw Jim heading to my door. He asked if I had any coffee and I told him I didn't drink coffee but I had some tea. He mentioned he was on his way to Judy' also but realized he was going to arrive earlier than he intended to so thought he would visit me for a few minutes. I hardly knew Jim really, except in passing and pleasant small talk. I had always loved to hear him talk though, especially with that southern accent, so I enjoyed myself, in spite of being a little nervous.
Then we both headed to Judy'. There was a lot of activity with everyone talking and laughing, kids playing, eating food and just enjoying being together.
I got up early Christmas morning and headed over to Judy'. My aunt, uncle and grandma arrived soon after. Then came Judy' sister, Etta, and her husband, as well as Jim. After opening gifts and visiting we all headed down to Etta' for Christmas dinner.
After everyone ate too much and was winding down for naps, Jim asked if I would mind riding with him to visit some family in a town close by.
It was a very nice Christmas holiday for me. It was so good to be around family and friends. I missed my boys and mom of course, but it felt so good to be where I was.
The next morning I had to return to work. I wasn't sure if I should be having these thoughts but I was actually wondering when I might see Jim again. (Now I had butterflies in my stomach.) Suddenly the phone rang and it was him. He wanted to know when he might could see me again. I suggested he come by this evening and I would fix us something to eat. (More butterflies!)
He arrived at my house just as I pulling in from work. We entered the house and I was putting groceries away. He was leaning against the cabinet and said to me "What would you say if I asked you to marry me"? And without hesitating a moment I answered "I would probably say yes".
Now where was all that coming from and why was I so agreeable!!
Three days later, and me with a terrible case of the stomach flu, we were married.
I knew that he had loved Rita wholeheartedly and I would never want to take away from that. Perhaps it was the way I saw his love for her that prompted me to say "I guess I would say yes" to his proposal. He had been faithful to their wedding vows to the end and put them to rest with her death. The importance really lied in being right with God and the people that mattered....his children.
He says he had realized he had two choices. He could either wither up and die or he could choose to live. And he chose to live.......for his children......grandchildren.....his ministry for the Lord.....and whatever plans God had for him.
Jim, this "wonderful Christian man" and I will be married 13 years this December.