This is the 18th time I am able to proudly say that the beautiful lady standing beside me is my Valentine. In the summer of 1994 I was home from graduate school, visiting my parents in southern Illinois. After a week of vacation, I said goodbye to my parents and pulled out of the driveway in my little blue Honda CRX for the lonely twelve hour drive back to Fort Worth, Texas. As I drove away my prayer warrior mother cried out in her heart, “Lord, it’s time!” You might be thinking, time for what? Time for her son to meet “the one.” In a matter of weeks her prayers (plural because she had been praying for my future wife for several years) were answered.
Here’s how it happened. The last weekend of August I got a call from a buddy of mine who wanted me to go with him to a singles fellowship that evening at Southwayside Baptist Church. I didn’t really want to go. But Tim was persistent, saying, “Oh, come on man, who knows…you might even meet your future wife there tonight!” Who could walk away from an offer like that! I truly didn’t expect that to happen.
The singles event started with a worship service in the church sanctuary. I don’t remember much about it except that there was a little bit of singing and then someone spoke for a little while. Then we were dismissed and went into a hallway where we hung out and chatted before going back into a fellowship hall for snacks. It was in the hallway that a fellow Union University friend of mine named Angie tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and she said, “Brett, I’d like to introduce you to a couple of new friends of mine…Beth and Lacey.” She went on to explain how she had met Lacey at the DFW airport just a few days before when Lacey was putting her brother Bradley on a plane to Tennessee, the same plane Angie’s friend Melissa was boarding. Both Angie and Lacey were crying as they said their goodbyes.
It took me about a zillionth of a nanosecond to figure out that I wanted to get to know Lacey so somehow I was able to keep a conversation with her going as we transitioned into the snack time. I proceeded to invite her to join Angie and I and some other friends to play cards after the singles event. She turned me down, saying, “Thanks, but I better not. I need to get back to my dorm so I can get some good rest for church in the morning.” Either she was super-spiritual or she was gently turning me down. I chose to believe she was super-spiritual.
I honestly don’t remember if I secured her phone number that night or how I was able to work so quickly, but if my memory serves me correctly I did succeed in convincing her to join me the very next night for a Christian concert at Wedgwood Baptist Church (yes, that Wedgewood).
I called her every day and the next weekend we went out for dinner and ice skating at the Galleria mall in Dallas. The ice skating part was really just a sly way to get to hold her hand for the first time. I was secretly hoping she was a horrible skater and would fall into my strong arms several times.
It was not long after that first date that she told me to slow it down and back off. I was pursuing a little too quickly. So I backed off and gave her space…no phone calls for a whole week.
When I checked back in with her, to my everlasting delight she had done a complete 180. Thank You, Jesus! I picked up where I had left off and by God’s grace we were engaged at the first of the year. On June 10, 1995 she walked the aisle of her home church (Manley Baptist of Morristown, Tennessee) to meet me at the altar. Dr. Richard Emmert officiated and asked us to exchange vows and rings. My best man then and for life, my Dad, handed me her ring and I placed it on her finger. Mercifully she said, “I do” and we were pronounced man and wife. I leaned toward her and began kissing her. Midway through the kiss, I thrust my right arm into the air and gave the congregation my Thumb’s Up!
Sixteen and a half years and four kids later she’s still a Thumbs Up! No make that Two Thumbs Up! No…even better, to play off the words of a great old hymn, “O for a Thousand Thumbs to Raise” in honor of my bride, my friend, my partner, my teammate…my Valentine….my Lacey.