I have known my husband, Kelly, since we were both six years old. We have a long history together and although this post is partially a tribute to him, it is more of a post about the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father and my long journey to submission to His Will.
Kelly and I have been friends since second grade. We were sporadically in the same academic classes in elementary school but shared nearly every class at Stedman Junior High School (yes, that dates me because our school system moved to the middle school concept almost thirty years ago). In eighth and ninth grade, we had crushes on each other, also sporadically. It was in the ninth grade that we tossed around words like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” He accompanied me to an athletic banquet and to our “Sweetheart Banquet” held on Valentine’s Day that year. When the school year ended, our chorus class had a party in the Bethany Community Building. (Those attended junior and senior high school with, know that it’s located in a little community near Stedman, NC.) The night was really emotional for me. I realized that in the fall we would all be in high school and that merging with the other junior high in our district was going to mean that seeing familiar faces and the closeness of our friendships were going to change, whether we wanted it to happen or not . Our chorus teacher, Gregory MacPherson, was not only leaving our junior high school, he was going to be the chorus teacher at 71st High School — a cross-town rival of our beloved Cape Fear High School, where we would attend in the fall.
It was hot and stuffy in that little community building, so I walked outside. Tears just streamed down my face. (I’m really a tender-hearted person and I wear my heart on my sleeve in matters of family and friends.) Kelly came to check on me. He made me laugh and reminded me that we would have our drivers’ licences soon. I was fifteen and had never been kissed, so when it happened, that kiss was burned into my memory forever. It was magical. His mom gave me a ride home that night and I don’t know how far up I “floated” as I made my way into the house, but I was walking on air.
Then, the rest of the summer happened. High school started. Kelly and I didn’t have any classes together. I got involved with someone I shouldn’t have and proceeded to make life difficult for my parents throughout most of my high school days. I married this boy and eighteen months later, I found myself at the end of a divorce that colored my outlook on life and men for quite some time.
Kelly and I dated, again sporadically, after my divorce and I must admit that I made him pay for things that he had nothing to do with. Once, I was very cruel to him. I still cringe to this day when I think about my behavior. If it’s any consolation at all to Kelly, I treated all men the same way. From the time I was twenty until I was twenty-four, I blamed all guys (and God) for the dissatisfaction in my love life.
But God didn’t let my disobedience to him (and my anger) stop Him from working His Will in my miserable life. On Christmas Eve 1986, I fell on my knees and begged God’s forgiveness for everything I had done since I was sixteen years old. (I didn’t know that you can pray as long as I prayed that night.) I made two promises: first, I’d make a change in my prayer life and add daily Bible reading to my routine, and second, I would not date anyone unless I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to recognize “the stirring” but I trusted God to be bold about it. I looked up scripture about relationships — not just romantic relationships, but how to treat everyone in my life. I wrote them on 3 x 5 notecards and posted them on the wall next to my bed. When the new year started in 1987, I didn’t make a list of resolutions, I made a list of the qualities that my future mate should have based on Biblical teachings. This is the scripture I prayed over first:
“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?” 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NLT
I thought about the “nonnegotiables:”
- My future husband must be a Christian.
- We must attend church together.
- My future husband must love children and he had to be “father material.”
Those were the three traits on which I just couldn’t compromise. I decided that I’d rather be alone than compromise. I listed other traits that I’d like a future mate to possess but everything except those three was up for discussion and compromise. I finally submitted myself to God and let Him handle things because I had certainly made a disgusting mess of it on my own. And all the while I was changing my attitude and making my list, God was already working on His plan.
I didn’t know it, but Kelly was working as a paramedic in Charlotte, NC and was just as miserable as I was. He was a Christian sharing the same crisis of faith as I was. He was determined to make a change of attitude toward God and had a long talk with his mother, Betty, about it. She had been praying for Kelly for a long time about this very thing. What none of us knew at the time was that God was just about to answer all our prayers. When God moves, He sometimes moves fast, so do not pray about anything unless you’re ready to receive it!
On a rainy Tuesday, January 13, 1987, my mother and I were going into the Winn Dixie (a local grocery store). I saw Kelly’s mother just ahead of us and rushed to speak with her. She gave me a big hug and held my hand while we were talking. She asked me what I was doing with my life (teaching fourth grade at Eastover-Central Elementary School and being the music director at Judson Baptist Church) and what seemed like a hundred other questions. (Never once did she ask me if I was dating or married.) I suggested that we walk inside, but Betty said she’d left her grocery list at home and was going back to get it. My last words to her that night were “Tell Kelly to call me next time he’s home.” She gave me another big hug and we parted.
The next night, I got a call out of the blue from Kelly! (Told you God sometimes works fast!) We talked for nearly two hours, which was a big deal in 1987 because there was no such thing as “unlimited long distance” at the time. Just before we got off the phone, I casually said “Let’s get together the next time you’re in Fayetteville.” (I promise this suggestion was offered in friendship because I was serious about letting God lead me in my dating life.) In fact, Kelly was coming home for a three-day weekend that Friday. He suggested we go out for dinner on Saturday night, and I accepted. He also told me that he sported a purple mohawk now, which I didn’t believe — or did I? It had been a long time since I’d seen him. Maybe he’s lost his mind!
I was coming home from a graduate class that Friday night (January 16, 1987) and passed his parents’ home. I recognized his car in the driveway and pulled in, unannounced. He says it’s because I wanted to check out the purple mohawk thing, and I can’t fully deny that. (He did not have a purple mohawk, thank the Lord!) All I really know for sure was that Kelly, his parents, and I had so much fun catching up that evening. It really made me glad we were going to spend more time together the next night. Let me make it clear that I was still in total friendship mode at this point. (Remember too, that I had been a “mean girl” to Kelly the last time we’d spent time together. That he even wanted a friendly dinner with me was more than I deserved.)
Tomorrow, January 17, 2012, is the anniversary of that fateful date. “Be nice to him,” my mother whispered to me as I left for the evening. At dinner, we laughed and talked so long, we didn’t realize that the restaurant was closing. I looked at Kelly with different eyes that night — with God’s eyes. I saw this incredibly wonderful man who made me laugh; who forgave me for my previous outrageous behavior; who treated me as if I were a precious gift. For the first time in a long time, I felt cherished. So at the end of the evening, we kissed. It was emotional and magical. I felt like I was fifteen again and standing outside the Bethany Community Building.
Kelly asked me to marry him on February 26, 1987. His parents, especially his mother, were ecstatic and my parents, though a little shocked at how quickly this all developed, were also happy. One night soon after our engagement was announced, Betty pulled me aside and shared some details with me, details that show how God was working while I was waiting on Him. The night we met in the grocery store parking lot, all that hand-holding Betty was doing served a purpose: she was checking out my left hand ring finger — seeing that I wasn’t wearing an engagement ring, she then proceeded to feel my ring finger to see if there was any evidence that a ring was usually on that finger. (You know the little groove you acquire when you wear a ring on a regular basis? If you’ve never noticed, check out the fingers on which you wear your rings. It’s there!) If all the evidence I’ve presented to you so far isn’t enough to make you believe that the Holy Spirit was at work, this should. Betty told me that she’d never, ever done anything like that before (and felt really weird about doing it that night) but the urging was so great, she just couldn’t help herself. She left the grocery store to go home and call Kelly. She told him all about our encounter and somehow, he remembered my phone number. (And if you know Kelly, you will know that was the Holy Spirit stirring as well because sometimes his memory is horrible.) God truly does work in mysterious ways, folks!
Kelly’s mother died two weeks after we were engaged. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but there were complications involved when she’d had her spleen removed after falling and breaking her arm. We don’t always understand things that happen. At times, in our married life, I’ve felt cheated that she didn’t get to share all the wonderful, marvelous, and sometimes crazy things that have happened to us. The night before she died, we visited her in the hospital and she asked if she could try on my engagement ring. Of course, I allowed her this privilege! She had been a willing instrument of the Holy Spirit. She willing let God use her and I was not going to deny this wonderful woman the chance to wear my engagement ring! When she placed the diamond back on my hand, she looked at me and said, “I am so glad that you make Kelly happy. In fact, I feel like I hand-picked you to be my daughter-in-law,” With God’s help, Betty Rosser did pick me. Oh how she did!
For those of you still looking for your “Prince Charming,” I completely know where you’re coming from. I don’t know if my story will give you hope, but I know that “all things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)
In 1996, Twila Paris and Stephen Curtis Chapman (two wildly successful contemporary Christian artists on their own) wrote and recorded “Faithful Friend,” a song that is a tribute to their long, steadfast, Christian friendship. It’s words cut to the heart of why having a Christian friend/partner is so important. I love Kelly Rosser more than words can express — he was my friend first and then my true love. Although “Faithful Friend” is not necessarily a love song in the traditional sense, it is our love song. One of the perks of being to married to Kelly is that he has this amazing voice and we love to sing together. We first sang “Faithful Friend” in a worship service on October 13, 1996 (the Sunday after our ninth anniversary.) If God is willing and we are blessed to have the opportunity to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this October, we have decided we’re going to sing it as we renew our vows. I’m telling you now, so you can put it on your calendar. Save the date: Sunday, October 14, 2012. Come and celebrate with us!
“Faithful Friend” (Twila Paris & Steven Curtis Chapman) http://www.youtube.com/embed/7G4oOsfyFCM?rel=0