Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finding What I Never Looked For

Jerry and Diane Durham
April 22, 2013
Our Wedding Day

I have been trying to write this post for some months now.  I have had a difficult time getting my thoughts together and conveying what I want to say. 

I posted a while back about one of the lessons I learned from the film A Walk To Remember.  I reiterate that I have watched that film many times in the past.  It speaks to me on so many different levels.

Several weeks ago, I did something I have never done in my life; I mailed a fan letter to Shane West, the actor who portrays Landon Carter in the film and I emailed Nicholas Sparks, the author of the novel from which the film was adapted.  Whether either will ever see or read the communications, I know not.  However, there were some things I wanted to say to each of them. 

It has been over 10 years since the release of A Walk To Remember and perhaps neither of them will remember much about the film at all.  However, I wanted both Mr. Sparks and Mr. West to know that their God-given talents made an impression on my life.  An indelible mark was left on my spirit by the way each developed and interpreted the character of Landon Carter in both the book and the film. 

I know that any successful actor or author has to work hard at honing their skills in order to be successful in their chosen field.  By all accounts both of these men are successful. 

Mr. Sparks has written more than 17 best selling novels and has co-authored one other.  Of those, nine have been adapted to film, with the latest being released this year.  He is a philanthropist and is generous with both his time and his financial resources.   In 2008, Entertainment Weekly reported that Sparks and his wife had donated "close to $10 million" to start a Christian, international, college-prep private school, The Epiphany School, which emphasizes travel and lifelong learning.  This is just one of his philanthropic gifts.

Although I know little about Shane West and his personal life, I do know he has been a very successful actor, having had a recurring role as Dr. Ray Barnett on the NBC series ER for three seasons and who is currently cast as Michael in the CW network series Nikita.  He has been fortunate to have come of age in the era of the teen movies of the early 21st century and was always busy.  He has managed a transition from teen idol to a serious adult actor well.  He starred opposite Sean Connery in "A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and has many other film and TV credits.

When it all comes down to it though, what really defines success?  Some would say financial security, some would say job security, some would say having the 'things' one has wished for, some might even say having the family one has wished for.  For me, true success comes when I know I am living in the center of God's will for my life.  For too long, I was not.

Losing Terry was an horrific and devastating event in my life.  The grief overtook me, even when I was acting 'normal', inside I was very 'not normal'.  I smiled, I laughed, I stayed connected to friends and family, I made a point of being out and about...I looked like any average person on any average day living any average life.  Inside, I was broken in so many ways I could barely function.

Sadly, that was my life. I got better as time passed but I held on to a place deep within my heart that just would not let go, seemingly could not let go.  Watching this film helped me finish the 'letting go' process.  The last vestige of holding on was the pain I felt because Terry won't be here to help me through my own dying.  I cannot tell you how many times I have cried into my pillow with bitterness because I wasn't going to have him with me when I needed him so badly.

I honestly don't know exactly what it was about this film that helped me let go of that.  But, it did.  In that closing scene when Landon is on the boardwalk and gazing out over the inlet as the sun sets, we hear his voice as he talks about how Jamie saved his life and changed him and how her love was like the wind, he couldn't see it, but he could feel it.  That's exactly what it is like. 

At that moment, after seeing that same scene many times, it finally clicked in my heart.  Terry is in heaven; I have loved him since I was 15 and will continue to love him, but it is time to release all of that to eternity and live again, not just SAY I'm ok, but really BE ok.  I honestly had no tears at that point.  Instead, I smiled because I knew my heart had finally healed.  God had brought me on this journey, had been patient with me as I learned my lessons and had now given me that one last little nudge I needed to finish the journey.

Some will think it absurd that this film could do for me what four years of grieving could not do; what four years of seeking the Lord through His Word had not done; what four years of prayer had not done.  To those I simply say this........God knows my heart, He knows my needs, He decides what it will take to get His message to me.  He has never let me down and He never will.  Do you know why?  Because He understands me; He created me and He gives me what I need, when I need it, in order to further my walk with Him and draw me into closer relationship with Him.

I never knew God could be like this.  I had Him closed up in some little "God box" that was, if you really think about it, an insult to Him and who He really is.  He works so differently than I have known or understood for most of my life.  The events of these last weeks have been as much of a surprise to me as to anyone.  I honestly thought I was doing fine with grief.  The enemy had me convinced that this was as good as it gets after losing someone you love to death. 

I will always miss Terry, I will always love him; I will no more languish in sorrow and yearning for what was or close myself off to life.  That is an insult to the Lord, to Terry and to all that we shared together.  So, I move forward, really move forward. 

Life is an adventure that only gets better as we go if we allow it to.  How do we allow it to?  We yield ourselves to God, ALL of ourselves....our pain, our disappointment, our pride, our anger, our bitterness...yes, all of that; but also our false sense of security in our relationships, our dependence upon what we have (people and/or things in our life) for happiness and peace, our hope in anything temporal.

To that end, God changed my life drastically once I let go off ALL that lay behind me.  Within days of taking off my wedding rings and opening myself to new experiences in this new life God was birthing within me, I met the man that would forever change me and the way I see myself.  For the second time in a lifetime, I had a lifetime love.

I re-connected with a man whom I had known since we were both 13 and met at church.  We were in touch over the next 4-5 years and then went our separate way after high school.  I married Terry and he moved on with his life, ending up in Texas and building a very happy and successful life there.  For the next 35+ years, I heard nothing from him.  He found me on Facebook in the late summer of 2010 and we re-connected as friends.

I was still grieving the loss of Terry and was involved in caring for Daddy, who was dying at the time.  We were very casual friends and enjoyed the occasional hellos from each other.  Then, after I was willing to let go of what was behind me, God brought him back into my life in a very different manner.  We began to  chat on Facebook and felt something more than friendship growing between us.

Within a couple of months, we knew God had brought us together again and that we were in love.  We married on April 22 of this year.  He is a wonderful man with such a good heart and a pure love for me.  He has been hurt deeply in the past and knows the pain of that hurt.  Our hearts are connected on so many levels and we have that early history to draw us together.

Unless I had found the grace of God to guide me into this new life, I would have missed this wonderful man and the amazing love he gives me.  Jerry is in my heart for eternity, and I know I am in his.  It is an awesome experience and an amazing God who brought us back together.  Every day I question what I ever did to deserve this love and I don't know, but I do know I'm thankful I did it!  I could not imagine my life without Jerry in it.  I could not imagine growing old alone now.

Terry won't be here to walk with me, but Jerry will.  God gave me what my heart yearned for in a way I could never have imagined or planned.  Every day I am in awe of Him and His love for me.  He is, indeed, an awesome God!

Jerry
Smoky Mtns. Vacation
May, 2013


Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Psalms 37:4   (NLT)