Today is my husband’s 55th birthday. I’d like to tell you a little bit about him. And I want to tell you why I love him so much.
Steve was born in Fairmont, West Virginia, and was adopted at around 8 months old. His adoptive parents lived in Huntington, WV at the time. Steve’s dad was also born in Fairmont. We have lots of pictures of him when he was elementary school age, that he won’t let me post (Maybe I’ll see if I can sneak in a picture of him at Easter with his little chicken. )
His mom died of cancer when he was 12. It’s rough for a little boy to lose his mother. One night his mom wanted him to come pray with her, and being a 12 year old boy, he did not want to. After she died, in his little 12 year old mind, he felt like it was his fault that she died, because he refused to pray with her. That caused a few problems for him down the road.
When he was 13, he and his dad moved to Holland, Michigan, where they lived till he was 19. Some of you reading this knew him back then. One of you dated him. (I hope this doesn’t sound too bad, but I can’t tell you how glad I am that it didn’t work out for you, even though it didn’t seem good to him at the time )
He was raised in the Catholic church, and went until he was too old for his dad to make him go anymore. After his first year of college at Michigan State, his dad was transferred to Houston, so he moved down here, too. He went to work for Houston Lighting and Power in October 1974, in the Chemical Department (Yes, there was a Chemical Department at our electric utility company. And you thought it was only about electricity Lots of chemicals are involved in the maintenance of power plants.)
His dad was always extremely critical of everything he did (which is a huge understatement), to the point of being cruel. Nothing he did was ever good enough. That attitude later extended to me and our kids, too. Dick even once made the remark to Steve, in front of his then girlfriend, that Steve would never make it in a “real” job. I don’t know what Dick thought a real job entailed. Steve had a good job and good benefits, with the only electric utility in the area at that time. His future was good, and he had to be skilled to do his job. But it just wasn’t good enough for his dad.
His dad did not want us to get married, and he tried his best to stop it. He told Steve I was sick too much. He said it was too hard being married to someone who is sick. And, of course, I wasn’t Catholic. He and Steve’s step-mom got a little horsey around the time of the wedding. They did not attend the rehearsal dinner, and told us they didn’t know if they would be at the wedding or not. They eventually did come to the wedding, but they weren’t happy.
He’s told me many times about his dad making him give his dog away, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much that hurt him. He had that dog from the time he was a puppy. Steve complains when another cat shows up at our house (and I do admit we have too many), but he’s a big softy when it comes to animals. He can’t turn them away, either.
I went to work for Houston Lighting and Power in August 1975. So many times over the years, people have asked, “Is that how you met?” Being the smart aleck that I am (yes, I admit it), I’ve always wanted to say something like, “No…we worked for the same company, in the same power plant, but we met at the bowling alley. OF COURSE THAT’S HOW WE MET!”
He asked me out long before we actually dated. Or at least he thought he did. He came to my desk one day, and asked me if I liked Janis Ian. I said not really. Well…he asked me a question and I answered it. It didn’t occur to me that he was asking me out. He says he didn’t have a “Plan B.” And I was dating someone else, anyway. We didn’t actually date until 3 years later. We’ve laughed about it a lot. He tells me I stomped on his little psyche by turning him down that day. I didn’t even know I had turned him down!
In 1977, we moved into a big, new office building. The places we each worked were further apart in the new building, and we didn’t see each other as much. He dated a couple of other girls during that 3 years, and I dated others, also. But we did see each other at least once a week, because I was the holder of all paychecks on payday
Then…and I’m not really sure how it happened…I began in early 1979, to realize I liked having him around. And I dreamed about him (not telling you about those ). For weeks he had been having coffee breaks and lunch with some of us from my office. We got to know each other a lot better, and I was definitely drawn to his intelligence. And I won’t lie….I began to think of him as tall, dark and handsome…and HOT! (I can hear our kids snickering now…or maybe throwing up ) I liked that lumberjack look he had. If for some reason he was not there for coffee break or lunch (he frequently had to make trips to power plants), I would look for him. There was a long hallway between the main office building and the chemical lab, and I watched for him to walk down that hallway toward the coffee bar. And, as you might imagine, people who noticed began to tease me about it. The secretary in the chemical department, who originally worked in my office, tried her best for years to get us together.
We sparred a lot. We teased each other. We insulted each other, seeing who could throw the better insult. I even bought a book on insults. I think, of course, that I was better at it. It doesn’t matter what he thinks
Finally, on the Memorial Day weekend in 1979, he asked me out. Well…actually he STILL didn’t really ask me for a date. He arranged for several of us from our department, to go to Galveston. One of our co-workers (a girl I actually grew up with) had a beach house there. He didn’t think I’d go with him by ourselves, so he called for backup He learned to devise a “Plan B.”
Three weeks later, we bought my engagement ring. And we married Nov. 2. Yeah…it took him a while to get going, but once he did, he didn’t waste any time
Before the wedding, Steve didn’t have exactly the same religious beliefs I did. I was raised Southern Baptist (and still am). In fact, he was starting to have thoughts about other religious beliefs that sometimes worried me a little. Mine were definite…I believed Jesus Christ was the son of God, who came to pay the price for our sins, so that we do not have to spend eternity in Hell, separated from God. He didn’t have a favorable opinion of God.
He tells this story better than I do, so maybe he will, but I always listened to our contemporary Christian radio station. It was the station that eventually became KSBJ. When he would go somewhere in my car, he’d change the station to rock. But he didn’t do that when we were together in the car. And slowly, little by little, he began to be interested in the music, and the teachings by such men as John MacArthur, James Dobson, and J. Vernon McGee. It wasn’t long before he was hooked. My grandmother always said we’d make a Baptist out of him, but it was actually God…with the help of the teachers on my favorite radio station
He learned about having a real, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He learned about a love that accepts you with all your faults. An unconditional love….one he had never had. And he really accepted Jesus as his savior. He had a thirst for learning scripture.
He did wrestle with God some over turning control of his life over to Him. God worked some miracles in his life, I believe, to show him that God was powerful. He tried for many years to quit smoking, but wasn’t successful…until he really prayed about it, and God visibly answered that prayer. On April 23, 1983, he just stopped smoking. I won’t say he didn’t want to smoke sometimes, but he didn’t after that day.
One lesson was a little harder. He talks about it here. It involved God showing him that he needed to stop fighting God, just as our tiny daughter had to be sedated so she would not fight the doctors trying to save her life. Again, he tells the story better than I can, so I hope you will read it. Many of you already have.
I won’t say it’s always been easy. When God is changing people into what He wants them to be, it’s never easy. It’s hard work. There’s a lot of stuff He has to chip away, and much He has to add.
After a few years where we were not really faithful to God in going to church, and soaking in knowledge of Him, we got back into church full-time. We are members of the same church I grew up in…the same one my parents grew up in….First Baptist Church of Genoa. And it wasn’t long before we were both in leadership positions.
When our former pastor left in November 1993, our church, which was formed January 21, 1895, had only a handful of people. In fact, half the ones who were left the following Sunday, were members of our extended family. So we had to get to work, trying to rebuild the church.
Steve became our Adult Sunday School teacher. He was on the committee tasked with rebuilding the structure of our church and calling our current pastor. He became the head of our church Properties Committee. He runs our audio/visual equipment for our services. On January 15, 1995, he was ordained as deacon. He still has those jobs, and others besides. He teaches a Bible Study class on alternating Friday nights. And he preaches when our pastor needs someone to stand in his place. He will be preaching the evening of December 20.
I have been amazed at how quickly he learned God’s word and how much of it he knew. I had been taught scriptures all my life, but I did not know as much as he did. I believe God gave him a gift for teaching.
Steve continued to work for Houston Lighting and Power. I quit after nearly 10 years (after the death of our daughter, Rachel) to stay home and raise Brandon. Then 2 years later, in 1986, we had Bethany.
Steve spent a few years working in the Chemical lab at one of our power plants, before being brought back to the office where we both worked before, to return to stack testing. He monitors emissions from power plant stacks, and reports the results to the state.
In 2004, 2 years after Houston Lighting and Power split into Reliant Energy and Centerpoint Energy (he was on the Reliant Energy side), his division was dissolved. No more stack testers at Reliant Energy…it would be done by contractors. He no longer worked for HL&P, after almost 30 years. That was kind of scary, but he had already been offered a position at the company where he now works. And there were a couple of others that fought over him.
Now, guess what he is doing? The stack testing at the same power plants…only for more money as a contractor. I don’t like change, for the most part, but that was change we could handle. And this time, he wasn’t just a stack tester. He was in charge of all the testing at all the power plants and co-generation plants, which have sprung up at various chemical plants.
Two years ago, another company tried to hire Steve away from his current company, QA Support. And they offered him a lot of money. A lot more money than I ever thought we would make. His company more than matched that amount to keep him. We know it was God’s doing. God had laid it on our hearts to increase our giving to the church, to a certain amount. We didn’t know where that amount would come from, but we told God that if He would supply it, we would give it. And supply He did. It was less than a month before Steve’s salary increased by about 58%. And you know that has to be a God thing. Who gives raises like that these days…or ever?
And it’s fixing to get even better. Since this deal has not been officially announced yet, I’ll have to wait to tell you about it. But his position is going higher. I am just amazed at God’s blessings.
This year, Steve’s testing schedule has dramatically increased. He’s been so worn out and stressed, because he has not had enough help, and there’s only so many hours in a day. Even though he’s in charge of the testing, he still goes out and does most of it himself. Even the company owners still go out to the plants to work when they need to. I am very glad the company owners are the type of people willing to get their hands dirty. They built this company from the ground up.
I’m very proud of my husband. He works extremely hard on his job. One night in November, he worked about 30 hours straight to get an important job done. He’s memorized much of the huge volumes that contain all the EPA regulations he must go by. Last year, he went to Pennsylvania, to be tested and certified in his line of work.
As a young person, Steve had never really properly grieved for his mother. And the rejection and criticism from his dad just piled on more hurt. Any other rejection on top of that, just made it so much worse. Years ago, he was having many anger issues. A psychologist pointed out that he was becoming angry every week, at about the same time his mother died. It was a subconscious thing. Recently, he realized why Christmas was so stressful for him every year….Christmas was his mother’s favorite time of year, and she loved decorating. Christmas decorating has always been a battle for us, because I couldn’t get him interested in it. Sunday he realized that another reason this time of year is stressful for him, is he found out his mother was really sick on his 11th birthday, 44 years ago today.
We’ve now been married a little over 30 years. Stresses on the job, don’t just affect the one doing the job…they affect the spouse and the rest of the family as well. We are unashamedly Christian. That doesn’t mean we just go to church on Sunday. It means God is in everything we do. He guides us, and we always check with Him before we make decisions. And because we are, our marriage is not just between the two of us…it also involves God. Some things have fallen by the wayside this past year, because of the added work load. We’ve done far less together than we used to do. We’ve always enjoyed doing everything together, but we haven’t had much time for that in many months. That’s why it’s been so much fun in the last few weeks, to have all the “hot dates” we’ve posted about on Facebook. Even going to the grocery store can be a hot date for a loving couple. We’ve been dating all over again, and it’s been wonderful.
He takes care of me. Most of you know I have a lot of health problems, largely in the form of auto-immune diseases. On October 7, 2008, I had total knee replacement (still waiting to do the other one). Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis have not been kind. Steve took off work to take care of me. He did everything for me, and enjoyed doing it. Me, being an independent type person (my mom says since the time I was 2 years old, I always said I could “do it myself…”), never wanted to burden anybody with taking care of me. It’s my job to take care of people. It’s been tough learning how to let him take care of me.
He loves me even though I have gained a little weight since we married. Ok…a lot of weight (I just tell people I’m twice the woman I used to be ). Many men would not. Steve tells me he still sees me the way I was when we first dated. The weight doesn’t matter to him. I am working on losing it, but he’ll still love me, even if I don’t. Every morning he tells me, “Good morning, beautiful.” How can a woman not love that?
We aren’t just a man and a woman who live in the same house, share the same last name, and have children in common. We aren’t two separate people…and we aren’t the “other half.” We are one…not just physically, as scripture says, but spiritually. This is the way God meant for it to be…2 lives that grow together into one. Even my knee surgery reminds me of the way God intended for marriage to be. The part that caused pain was cut out and replaced with new. The bone in my leg grows around the new part, till they are no longer separate…they are one strong unit.
I have been so blessed to be married to Steve. There is no marriage that doesn’t have some minor problems at some time. I’ve always said that if you hear somebody say they’ve been married 50 years and never had a fight, they are lying. But just as scripture says:
Rom 8:28….And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. NLT
God allows things we consider bad, to happen in the lives of His children (that means those who have accepted Jesus Christ), in order to make us stronger. The death of our daughter did not seem like a good thing when it happened. But it worked to bring about good in our lives.
God has recently used something else to bless us. Another opportunity happened for Steve to uncover more pain and anger that was buried deep inside, without him even realizing it was still there. When you bury it, it can stay for a lifetime. But getting rid of it has opened up tremendous blessings. I want to thank one of you for unexpectedly bringing that about. You didn’t know you were going to be a blessing. But God did.
God is so good. And He is still in control.
So, to my precious husband…I love you more and more every day. I want another 55 years with you.