Saturday, August 6, 2011

We interrupt this program... wish my wonderful husband of 17 years a very happy anniversary.

17 years ago today I was starting to get ready for the biggest day of my life:
- fixing my hair
- eating breakfast
- doing last minute things with my sisters
- savoring the final moments with my parents before entering marriage
- relishing the thought of starting my new life with Lee

Lee is everything I could have ever hoped for in a marriage partner and more.
He is an extraordinary dad to our children and grows in his role every day with lots of grace
He is a good son-in-law for my dad who only had daughters (and now also has 3 sons-in-law to do boy things with, plus 3 nephews...)
He is an exemplary friend of many
He is a faithful, hardworking employee
He is an excellent provider as a result
He is my best friend and lover
He is a most loving, kind, and generous husband in every way
He is gentle and patient, oh so very patient
He is easy-going and caring
He is musically brilliant
He is humble, never flaunting his brilliance ever
He is motivated and self-disciplined

And I could go on and on and on about this man who has been rocking my world these last 17+ years and who will be rocking it for the rest of our lives.

I love you, Funny.  You are the best of all time!!!  Happy 17th.  I don't know what the future holds for us, but I know that I want to go into it with you by my side.

[...this progam will resume after some celebrating of said anniversary and some family time...see you in a few days!]

Thursday, August 4, 2011

for 17 years: wedding talk...i-8

Did I mention that there was something in the water at the campus ministry house where we hung out? There were 6 couples who met, got engaged and got married all in the same year. One wedding was in the spring, four back-to-back that summer, and one that winter. Craziness!

Back before we were "officially" talking marriage, Lee was asked to play piano for the George Strait song "I Cross My Heart" at a friend's wedding.

[Funny story: Lee had sworn to himself (kind of like he swore off romantic relationships) that he'd never date a girl who liked country music. He got in my car and 5 out of the 6 radio stations were set to country!]

As the friend's wedding drew closer, the vocalist backed out, so the groom asked Lee if he would also sing the song. Lee begrudgingly agreed only for the sake of the friendship. When I heard him practicing, I said "Hon, you'll have to sing that at our wedding someday." Did you ever see such a grimace?!?

Not long after, Lee said he had something to show me. He took me to one of the practice rooms at UTA, sat down at the piano and began to sing me the song he had decided to write for our wedding. He wasn't about to sing someone else's song!

I just found the original note he wrote the lyrics on.  It's dated 9/14/93 (guess we were talking marriage a little sooner than I remembered) and it says: "To my honey Heather whom I love and cherish very much.  I love you.  Lee.  P.S. This is for our wedding!"  Lyrics included below for your reading pleasure.

"I Thank My God for You" by Lee Harbaugh

From the day that I first met you
You've had a place in my heart
So what the Lord has set in place
Let no one pull apart

The Lord has been so kind to me
To bless me with someone like you
I never thought that I'd ever meet
Someone as lovely as you

You are the treasure in my life
You are the gleam in my eye
So from this day til eternity
I give to you all of my heart

'Cause I love you
Yes, I love you
And I thank my God for you
I love you

And with this vow I pledge to you
To love and see you through
All the time both good and bad
We'll be as one in the Lord

Next: wedding details
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

For 17 years: the proposal...i-7

As our relationship progressed, I realized that I might not be going back to Spain to stay for an extended time anytime soon, so I made plans to go over Christmas break. This was the catalyst to us having yet another DTR - this one including the "m" word: mahwag.

We officially decided without officially making it official that we were going to get married...sometime in August sounded good and we'd discuss the particulars when I got back from my trip.

It kind of blew my Hollywood marriage-talk/proposal image out of the water. It always seemed the girl was completely taken by surprise by the marriage proposal - as if getting married was something she hopes for but is not quite sure he thinks so too...until he pops the question.

But this conversation happened in the normal course of our time surprises, no gasps of joy or fireworks or fanfare.

Now, mind you, this was not the official proposal. This was just the conversation that would eventually lead up to a proposal. But anyway...

I went to Spain for 3 weeks. This was pre-email, so Lee would fax me letters to a friend's business over there, and we would talk on the phone every couple of days. I told all of my friends about him and of our upcoming unofficial wedding date.

When I told a couple that had been spiritual leaders in my life, they handed me a $100 bill that someone had given them as a gift. They trusted me and my discernment and wanted to show their support. It was like Spanish kiss from God on this choice which would, at least for a time, keep me far away from my beloved heartland.

Upon returning from Spain, Lee and I went ring shopping. Someone had suggested we could find something reasonably priced at Gold and Silver Exchange. So that's where we went. I'll never forget the owner and his employee helping us look over rings. They told us: "We see a lot of people come in here, looking to get engaged. And we can usually tell if they're going to make it or not. You're going to make it. We're sure of it."

Nice to get a stranger's vote of confidence. Seriously. Another kiss from the Lord.

Knowing we had the rings, I kept reminding Lee that he would need to propose...and make it special. I must've nagged a bit because after reminding him probably for the 100th time, he turned to me and said: "What I'm going to do is just hand it to you on your back porch some day. That will be good enough."

My heart sunk. I just did not think he was capable of making it as special as I thought it needed to be. That whole Hollywood image and all.

One Sunday afternoon, February 13th to be exact, 1 year minus 1 day from the day he gave me that balloon, Lee was driving me home from church and asked if I'd like to take a walk in the park after while. I didn't have anything going that afternoon, so I agreed, and we arranged for him to pick me up in a couple of hours.

We went to River Legacy, one of our favorite places to take walks, and headed down the long trail. We talked about this and about that. I gave him a Spanish lesson which he dutifully engaged in. He took me on a side trip off the trail to explore and then back on the main trail again.

As we neared the end of the trail, I saw what looked like a group of musicians standing around with their instruments. I was turning to point it out to Lee when the musicians started to play. I turned back to the instruments and began to focus on the crowd behind the musicians, recognizing the faces of our friends from the campus ministry house, our parents, my sister, other friends...

And then there was Lee, down on one knee, ring in hand. He says:

"Well, here we are. Will you marry me?"

Shocked (not by the question but by the elaborate proposal I had just witnessed) I said, "Yes!" We hugged and kissed and faced the crowd of onlookers who were cheering and clapping.

You got to know I was feeling a bit sheepish after worrying it might not be special...

Lee had written out "Kiss the Girl" from Little Mermaid for a trombone quartet and asked his buddies to meet with him to practice (this is what he was doing between the time he dropped me off at home and picking me up to go for a walk) and then to come play for us at the park - walking a mile+ just to get to the spot. He arranged for our friends and families to come (also making the mile+ hike), orchestrating the timing of our walk so that it would all be in place by the time we got to the end of the trail.

And that little "off trail" jaunt? Just ahead of us, he could see the musicians hurrying with their cases, and he needed to do something quickly to distract my attention. :-)

For some reason or other, all of Lee's attempts to arrange for "hi-tech" equipment to capture the event on film went haywire - dead batteries I think were largely the culprit. Thankfully, Lee's mom had a disposable camera with her. Low tech and all, she captured the moment for us.

So while Lee may have seemed clueless when it came to planning a romantic proposal, he was anything but.

next: "wedding talk"
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For 17 years: the struggle...i-6

Technically speaking, Lee and I have known each other for 19 years this coming September. We'll have been married 17 years this coming August.

Just wanted you to know :-)

So, what was the struggle? To stay pure.

Both of us raised in Christian homes that valued sexual purity, we had committed long before meeting one another that we would stay sexually pure until marriage.

There are many who choose not too or who don't know better or who get tripped up in temptation. If that's you, don't read any condemnation into this post. None is intended. None is aimed at you. In fact, I know for a fact that God can restore virginity to any one regardless of mistakes. That's not a license to sin, but it is reassuring to know if you engaged in pre-marital sex and wish you hadn't.

But we did struggle.

We would draw lines, physical boundaries that we would swear to keep, because both of us really wanted to honor God and each other in our relationship. We understood that the lines God had drawn in the Bible were for our good, for our protection, and we wanted more than anything to enter marriage (because by now we both figured that's where we were headed and if not, well, all the more reason to stay pure!) having saved sex for after the ceremony.

We would try the "six inch rule" - not sitting any closer than six inches, especially if alone.

We failed.

We tried parting ways before midnight.

That helped.

Mostly we prayed and would re-direct after we felt we'd gone too close to temptation.

We also guarded our thoughts and our minds.

As a teenager, I read every teen romance the library had. Post highschool, I read lots of Christian romances and a few not-Christian romances. I watched "Days of Our Lives" after getting hooked during a stay with some friends when I was 13.

But the Lord convicted me of the danger of those things. The first line of defense in staying pure is having a pure thought life. It's hard to have that if I'm feeding on fictional romance and soap operas.

[I must confess that I didn't kick the soap habit until after marriage.]

If I had fed myself on a steady diet of shows like "Friends", "Sex in the City", or "Desperate Housewives", I don't know that my commitment to purity would have stuck. See, those shows promote a lifestyle that the Bible says is bad news. And watching them makes the enemy's voice louder and louder: "Did God really say?" and leads me down a path to where the absolutes of God's Word become "guidelines" at best or "options" at worse.

And not to say "hey, look at us!", but if we could do it, so can you. And if you didn't, but now you want to be pure, or have children and want them to stay pure, it's totally possible! You can do it! You can choose better things to fill your mind with and find a group of friends to hold you accountable. You can teach your children how and learn along side of them. Because staying pure is a life-long process that doesn't end after marriage.

You can learn how to have a disciplined mind, how to take thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, how not to give in to every emotional roller coaster, how to pray and trust that God really does want what's best for you and for your children, how to root out the lies that might lead to making a choice to have sex before marriage.

You can also learn about grace for mistakes. There are consequences to the choices we make, but His grace is there, and He does redeem.

If you make the choice to stay pure, the road is not as rough in the long run. The price is high initially, but the returns are enormous.

Did we ever stray "too far"? We did. Too far into the place that stirred up feelings and emotions that it wasn't time for yet, emotions that made it especially hard to put on the brakes before we ventured into an area God had made clear was forbidden.

But waiting is so worth it. So very worth it.

And can I say yet again how amazing Lee is? He was honorable and gentlemanly at every turn then.

He still is.

Next: The proposal.

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For 17 years: A slight disagreement...i-5

I was taught growing up, correctly, the importance of not dating, not marrying, someone who did not believe in God. It would bring tension and division. It would cause us to be unequally yoked.

So, all my life, I knew that I needed to marry a Christian, someone who had a relationship with God and had given his life over to Jesus. In Spain I realized that it was not enough that he know and have a relationship with God, he also must be a spiritual leader and be, at least, as passionate about serving God as I was.

Then our campus ministry leader did a teaching on Christian relationships and how sometimes even all of that isn't enough if each individual has a different call on his/her life.

I had never thought of that before, but it seemed that with regards to call, Lee and I were on the same page.

Except when it came to foreign missions.

I have known since I was a little girl that I was called to missions of some kind. Living in Spain solidified that calling, and "my plan" after leaving Spain had been to finish college as quickly as I could and get back over there so I could serve amongst the people and culture I had grown to love so dearly.

God obviously had other plans. No sooner had I started on my fast track to finish college than I met Lee and Spain went on hold indefinitely.

But I still had missions in my heart and knew it was to be a lifestyle for me.

Not so with Lee. He didn't like missions. I mean, he knew that missions was for some people, just not him. He had the heart of an evangelist and preacher. He did not see himself going to foreign places to serve.

I remember one particularly heated conversation on the trying to convince Lee to get a heart for missions, he insisting that it just wasn't for him. And with our leader's words ringing in my ears, I despaired of our relationship as I could not compromise God's call on my life, nor could I ask Lee to.

And then I heard God say: "Just wait until he gets back from the Ukraine."

See, in the midst of this crisis, actually before the crisis ever came to a head, Lee had agreed to go with my mom's friend to the Ukraine as a keyboard player. They were going to do street ministry, and Lee with his amazing keyboard skills was convinced to go to "help them out."

He really is that kind of a guy. He will do something to help someone out, even if it's not his favorite.

It only takes willingness. And Lee had that, and so he went to countless meetings and practices to prepare for the trip, becoming friends with a group of people who were wild about missions and passionate about seeing God move in miraculous ways through them.

And he spent 3 weeks in the Ukraine eating borscht and mystery meat and hard bread, taking cold showers, getting his mullet cut off so that he could wash his hair more easily...and seeing God move in miraculous ways.

He returned a changed man, with a heart set on fire for the nations, and, incidentally, more in love with me. And I with him. And with God.

God took our hearts that seemed to be headed in different directions and gently showed me how He would continue to knit them together in areas where we seemingly differed. Sometimes it would be I who got nudged and sometimes it would be Lee, but as I am faithful to trust Him and not walk in fear, He smooths the way.

I don't want to get ahead of the story here, but for those of you reading, know that God is so very faithful. He has done this very thing time and time again. Many times it has been after I have tried to "force" it to happen through convincing arguments (obviously not so convincing as nothing changed) and impassioned pleas, finally getting past my fear to a place of trust and peace. And it is always from that place of rest that God moves. Fear hinders Him. Trusts opens up the way for Him.

So trust, dear ones. Trust. His plans are good. And the ways He works out His plans, well, they are very creative, often hard, but very definitely good.

Next: "the struggle"

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Monday, August 1, 2011

For 17 years: "April Fools"...installment four

It was an interesting season in our lives. What season isn't. But even looking back, I have to say that it was unique. Is it because we were starting to fall in love? Perhaps. But something was definitely "in the air" within our group of friends. Several serious relationships springing up. I seriously wonder what was in the water at that house!

Moving from the disappointment of breaking up to the joy of being in a relationship with the man I hoped to one day marry was a bit slow at first.

Some have been in relationships for years, wondering if theirs is truly going to last. I had only been in this one for a few short months (with a small break-up period), but I really wanted to know if it was worth spending my heart on.

I knew he was worth it. But did he think he was the one?

Lee is one of the most authentic and genuine people you could ever meet. He is what you see. No guile. No masks. No hidden agendas. No games.

He wore shorts to the symphony and burped at the table (in a restaurant).

He played trombone at a campus ministry meeting and had a mullet.

All kidding aside,though, you always knew that Lee meant what he said and stood by his word. There wasn't any "reading between the lines" for hidden messages. Thankfully, he is still that way to this day.

So on April 1, 1993, sitting together on Basi's sofa, Lee turned to me and said: "I love you."

Taken off guard, the first words out of my mouth were, "Is this April Fools?"

I knew better. Well, I know better now, but then I was wanting to be sure that he really meant it...that it wasn't just an accidental choice of words...kind of like the balloon not being a random selection.

He smiled and reassured me, "No, funny, I really do love you."

With that settled, the walls around my heart came down. He had decided.

Next: "A slight disagreement"
[installment one] [installment two] [installment three]