Sep 25, 2011

Celebrating 35 years of grace...

*I told "our story" on here two years ago.  I thought it was worthy of republishing today, our 35th wedding anniversary~not because we are anything special, but because it truly is a story of God's grace and love.

September 25, 1976 was a beautiful, sunny fall day, with a hint of summer still lingering in the air. It was also our wedding day, and rather unconventional as far as wedding days go. We were a little older, being 27 and 28, and both of us had been pretty disillusioned from previous relationships, and so when we decided we wanted to get married, we set out to do it simply and "our" way.

We had been high school friends, but had gone our separate ways for almost a decade before we dated seriously for two years. Our little secret is that one Friday night while enjoying pizza, we started playing "footsie" under the table, and, well, the rest is history.

We gave our families exactly 12 days notice of the time and place. We found a preacher, a Reverand Jacobs, who we were told would "marry anybody". He was connected with Kent State University's campus ministry somehow, and we had friends who had used him. We had exactly one pre-marital counseling session with him, which consisted of a little questionnaire he gave us to see if we were compatible. Then we talked about what we wanted the ceremony to look like, and he showed us several formats from a collection in a notebook. As we leafed through them, he told us if we found one we liked but it had "too much God" in it, he could always customize it more to our liking.

We ended up writing our own, changing the traditional vows that say we would stay married "till death do us part" to "as long as our love shall last". We threw in some familiar scripture verses, including the passage from I Corinthians 13 about love. Then we found a friend of a friend who would play some guitar music, and sing some songs from the '70's like "Morning has Broken" and "The Wedding Song". I stopped at a florist on the way to the ceremony and bought some flowers and candles, we had the marriage license, the rings, and we were all set.

Our immediate family and a couple close friends were the only guests in attendance. My parents hosted a small reception in their home, and at my request, my mom made us stuffed cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes, and I can't remember where the cake came from.

We were in the middle of real estate training classes at the time, so we didn't even go away on a honeymoon. Instead, Bob moved into my apartment, which he tolerated for exactly one week, and then we put an offer in on our first little house.

Thus began the journey of our lives together. While we started out thinking we were in full control of our destiny, little did we know that God had a plan for us. Because as you can see from the above description of how we started out, even though we knew better, we were not really acknowledging God's presence in our lives or inviting Him into our marriage. Neither of us were living our lives to God's glory. We just wanted to live happily ever after, but we had no clue how to achieve that.

Looking back, it was really nothing but a recipe for disaster! It always is when we try to put ourselves at the steering wheel. I share all of this because today we can look back and see God's amazing grace has been at work in us in spite of ourselves.

During the first year of our marriage, God put some friends in our lives who invited us to church, a different denomination from the one I had grown up in and felt alienated from, and it was there that God wooed me back to Him right away. It took Bob another year or so. I'll never forget the night the pastor called him and asked if he could come and visit at our home. Bob's answer made me want to crawl under the floorboards: "you're welcome to come and visit, but don't expect me to join your institution." But this faithful minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ came anyway, and he and Bob hit it off right away. Before long, we were attending an"inquirer's class", which was a non-threatening way of saying "Basic Christianity 101".

Bob began reading the Bible from cover to cover, literally. God was at work in both of our hearts. We were surrounded by a group of people from the new church who loved us and taught us. We began to grow spiritually. By the time we were expecting our first child, we drove a stake once and for all that we were committed to living not for ourselves, but for the One who died to save us from ourselves. We received God's gift of grace in our lives and have never looked back. Scripture tells us that God's paths are beyond tracing out. (Romans 11:33) We don't know how He accomplished this in our lives, but we know that He did it. Left to our own devices, our marriage most certainly would have failed. We are so grateful that He saw fit to save us.
The Wedding Song (There is Love)
by Paul Stookey

He is now to be among you at the calling of your hearts
Rest assured this troubadour is acting on His part.
The union of your spirits, here, has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love,
there is Love.

A man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home
And they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.
As it was in the beginning is now and til the end
Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again.
And there is Love,
there is Love.

Well then what's to be the reason for becoming man and wife?
Is it love that brings you here or love that brings you life?
For if loving is the answer, then who's the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you've never seen before?
Oh there is Love,
there is Love.

Oh the marriage of your spirits here has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love,
there is Love.


Diana said...

I love hearing these stories! Your story was beautiful, sweet and interesting Jacquelyn. You still look so happy together! Happy Anniversary to the two of you and God's Blessings.
Love Di ♥

Debbie said...

Ok, this is very familiar, only I think we were even less likely to end up believers and staying married which is to say that God is an awesome God and He loves "even me"! It is so wonderful to hear testimonies like this. I used to think I was the only gal at church with a 'past' but the more people I have gotten to know over the years, the more amazing stories I've heard of God's grace, forgiveness, and the positive aspect of HIS WILL. Thanks to Him for not letting me continue to do MY will.
Thanks for sharing!

Debbie said...

PS Come November we will celebrate 32 years of a marriage that would not be but for HIM. :D

Shirley said...

Awwwww! What a beautiful love story! And I so love The Wedding Song! It makes me cry.

Walking on Sunshine... said...

What a beautiful story and testimony! Thank you for sharing it again because 2 years ago I wasn't following your blog or your friend on Facebook!!! Loved the pictures you shared of your weekend.

Jess said...

Ahhhhhhhh so precious!
Did you know that I too, married my high school sweetheart and that we came to know Christ after our marriage?
Your testimony is priceless and I love the photos...especially the dear expression on Bob's face as he looks down at you before the preacher. Many Anniversary Blessings sweet friend. ((HUGS))

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I loved reading this story! I've always been a fan of wedding pictures and of hearing the "trailer" of how it all came to be. Undoubtedly, God has cemented your love to one another and to him in rich measure, carrying over and down into an entire generation that sits beneath your influence.

Keep choosing to love. You're a living witness to the grace of God.


Rebecca said...

I'm so happy that I read this, Jacquelyn. It is a great tribute to the goodness & grace of the Heavenly Father (as is EVERY story - most definitely OURS)!

Judy said...

Good thing that LOVE goes on forever.

Amish Stories said...

I was just passing through and thought id stop and say hello. Have a very nice weekend everyone. Richard from the Amish community of Pennsylvania.