The people's voice of reason

Happy Birthday My Beautiful Bride: A Valentine's Day Baby!

A ‘Valentine’ themed column was requested for the February Gazette… I thought, Lord help this poor wordsmith - esp. when writing from the heart. Once again, help provided via Scriptures. I believe God answers all sincere prayers - sometimes the answer is no. Seems there’s no fool like an old fool for Christ; a moniker more obvious as my life comes to a close. Oldsters seem reluctant to share ‘University of Hard-Knocks’ education with others who may benefit, in particular our posterity working their way to adulthood. How many can provide examples of a prayer answered NO, to later understand God’s reply?

I met the woman I would ask to marry and the one actually married on about the same day in 1986. This fellow grad student was much better looking than I (picture changes with my columns these past decades confirm I’m not a very good-looking nor a particularly ugly man) she was a bit smarter than I (OK, I’m a little above average there, but highly attracted to ladies who engaged in ‘cerebral intercourse’ - my earthly father frowned upon much of any intercourse before marriage) and best of all she wasn’t shy about her strong faith. Her no was devastating and further complicated by insisting difficulty staying away from me; making it more difficult/longer to complete grad school as God provided my way.

I met Theresa as a teller at the local bank. She knew I was a struggling student with no money, but doing OK with a well paying job working my way through school and buying my first home. She always looked at me awkwardly (a resplendent young woman, sophisticated - i.e., out of my league, usually dressed exquisitely enough for even a rube like me to notice) and often messed-up my transactions. I still remember my bride’s teller number because of so many corrections! In short, I thought she didn’t want me at her teller window, finding me a little weird and out of place in upstate SC… which was easy to imagine. Much harder to imagine an extraordinary, angelic woman like Theresa would settle for one God made clear was a NO to the one I prayed on years before…

Approaching a third of a century later, I still cannot explain why Theresa followed me to AU; why God shepherded such a blessing in my life. Seems in our world of free will God struggles with what’s available for one of His angel lambs navigating this world. Sobering to know how unearned this blessing has been and the only thing I could think to do… try to be a better man for my bride. If you truly love your spouse and want them to have a better life, become a better mate. Thirty years ago, I think I was doing well endeavoring to be a better man, until the government made us homeless from the house we paid off in 1995. It was one of the most amazing things to see Theresa be stronger than I ever imagined. The only explanation I can muster (seeing the result of her past experiences) is defense from exogenous evil can be weathered better than sabotage from within a marriage. No doubt external evil we’ve endured (from corrupt probate judges up to the Robert’s Supreme Court; County Commissioners to Senators) has been profound and unrelenting, yet a small internal evil/pollutant can be much more devastating. Entering the final chapters of my life, ‘status quo ni’ is daunting enough - perhaps my bride witnessing her aging, injured husband struggling to continue his tasks and duties is more endearing each passing Valentine’s Day.

A young man’s fancy rejected didn’t have the wisdom to know the beatitude God was aligning. I may not have been spiritually mature enough to appreciate Theresa until years later. Young people in similar despair may benefit from us oldsters sharing ‘Hard-Knock U.’ experiences. I can testify to the blessings described in Proverbs below; I pray God finds me a good steward of this wonderful manifestation of His Love in my life.

Proverbs 31:10-31 CEV [Contemporary English Version]

A truly good wife is the most precious treasure a man can find! Her husband depends on her, and she never lets him down. She is good to him every day of her life, and with her own hands she gladly makes clothes. She is like a sailing ship that brings food from across the sea. She gets up before daylight to prepare food for her family and for her servants. She knows how to buy land and how to plant a vineyard, and she always works hard. She knows when to buy or sell, and she stays busy until late at night. She spins her own cloth, and she helps the poor and the needy. Her family has warm clothing, and so she doesn't worry when it snows. She does her own sewing, and everything she wears is beautiful. Her husband is a well-known and respected leader in the city. She makes clothes to sell to the shop owners. She is strong and graceful, as well as cheerful about the future. Her words are sensible, and her advice is thoughtful. She takes good care of her family and is never lazy. Her children praise her, and with great pride her husband says, “There are many good women, but you are the best!” Charm can be deceiving, and beauty fades away, but a woman who honors the LORD deserves to be praised. Show her respect— praise her in public for what she has done.

So much of this describes my bride! OK, the parts about the husband some will find a little weak, but this is about Theresa, my Valentine’s Day baby - now 73. She’s more beautiful today than when I first saw her at 35! I love every line and little crack as the angel inside appears more brilliant with age. So appealing she doesn’t wear ‘make-up’ and in fact didn’t care about excessive material things as I wrongfully imagined. Physical beauty and sophistry has a way of concealing angel and demon… the treasure is so much clearer each passing year with my bride.

God has pressed hard upon me to put away childish and worldly things. Government taking the home I held dear, mandated insurance stealing cherished vehicles, educrats polluting teaching environs, etc. shepherds appreciation for true blessings… the greatest blessing I’ve ever known is my bride Theresa - ‘Soteria’ in Greek, meaning salvation. I forecast my bride will do well in her final judgment. In the Spirit of salvation, I have no greater motivation than doing my best pleading for God’s mercy; wanting to continue this blessing with my bride in this pure Love. I pray to be with Theresa at one of His many mansions which man can never take nor destroy. This old fool for Christ feels increasing fear and comfort having Jesus as an empathetic advocate before God when weighing the words and deeds of this sinner doing his best to follow Christ’s example.

I’ll close with Proverbs 19:14 - House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD. When asked about ‘the secret’ to our marriage these past decades, I do my best to make clear God is no secret to me and my blessed bride; the success results from our greater Love - we both love God more than ourselves. Theresa is an integral part of my salvation, I pray the Lord allows this earthly manifest of Love in heaven... this is my Valentine’s Day prayer.

Postscript: Delighted to read [https://wire.auburn.edu/content/ocm/2023/12/151430-prison-arts-graduation.php] about AU Graduation at ALDoC’s Staton facility which included APAEP (Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project) students I taught years ago. I’ve been blessed to have many students from tutoring, high school, thousands of undergraduates to international officers at the Air War College during 30+ years teaching. Among the most rewarding; teaching these attentive, hard-working prison students who genuinely appreciated the effort.

Long time Alabama Gazette readers may recall columns on APAEP and applauded former State Senator Cam Ward’s efforts to address the prison crisis in our State. Education programs of this sort can be an integral part of attenuating this problem. Ward clearly understands the long-run benefit/return via reduced recidivism and ALDoC expenditures improving prisoner’s education before parole/release.

I’m merely a lowly instructor dedicated to teach appreciative students wherever I can. The true ‘heavy-lifting’ was exerted by outstanding AU administrators like Kyes Stevens, my elected Dept. Chair (Prof. Michael Stern) and up to then President Gogue. From my vantage point this noble teaching endeavour would’ve disappeared from AU years ago without Gogue’s support. ALDoC Commissioner Jefferson Dunn proved to be another visionary in this regard and also understood APAEP could be an integral part of responding to our prison crisis. I’ll never forget how accommodating Commissioner Dunn and other officers were to allow me ‘office hours’ with my students before class -- during lunch/class breaks in some of the hottest temps I’ve ever taught. Some found me foolish… guilty as charged.

For those who may not know/recall, Kyes Stevens is Founder and Director of APAEP at Auburn, a program serving 10 Alabama prisons providing (pre)college classes. The first Alabama prison B.S. degree program was launched in 2016. Stevens received awards as an influential woman in Alabama; invited to participate in numerous White House discussions about Higher-Ed in criminal justice reform. Unusual to observe Alabama ahead of the curve on the prison issue, providing consultation and input to other States seeking solutions. Sadly those who’d be in school and getting education are not being served by the ETF, putting more pressure on the general fund as a holding place for some prisoners who do not belong behind bars and could be talented, productive participants in our State’s economy.

Reading about these former students aided retrospective enumeration of many blessings in pleasant realization of ending one’s career. The recent Wall Street Journal report placing AU in the top 4 among public universities abusing students and taxpayers via over-paid administrators, crony construction (e.g., “Rane Center” type buildings where the namesake underpays for his/her vanity) etc., makes clear I’m not an input toward being the number one the AU politburo is trying to achieve. I was a proud employee decades ago when AU placed a much more respectable 168th for this distinction. Furthermore, I tried to volunteer/substitute teach at my local High School, but it seems the Lee County School System is unable to vet someone like me who’s been cleared to teach at AU and in our prisons. So in closing, I look forward to retiring from my other volunteer duties this year to spend more time with my beautiful bride addressed above who’s been my biggest advocate and support these decades.

 

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