Our Love Story – written on the eve of the 6th anniversary of my husband’s death.

My life was empty.  Finding that special someone was proving difficult.  Many of my friends were married, engaged or living with their special someone, but me – I had a few broken hearts but no-one that I felt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  I was soon to begin my teaching career and not long after, turn the magical twenty-one but no boyfriend!  That was old to still be single in 1979, in New Zealand.  I was walking a fine line, between my love for Jesus and my love of partying. I was embracing my favourite of Martin Luther quote –

“Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”

It was the last weekend in October and my church was hosting approximately 100 young people for the yearly national youth convention.  I was in charge of housing, feeding and transporting the visiting youth over the 3 day weekend – so I was busy!  On top of this, my Nana in Australia had suffered a stroke and my Mum had flown out the day before.  Maybe frazzled was a better word for my state of mind!

When a bus load of tired and hungry attendees arrived very early in the morning, I put on my cheeriest smile and welcoming voice as I directed them to food and drink.  After making sure everyone had something to eat, I looked around for any new faces or people sitting alone, that I could introduce myself to, that might make them feel special and a part of the wider group.  I saw a blond, sun tanned guy, sitting alone that I hadn’t seen before.  I introduced myself with a “Hi! I’m Mandy!” and was totally unprepared for the “Yeah? Well I’m eating my spaghetti at the moment!” – that was rudely muttered in my direction.  He hadn’t even looked up at me!

Okay ….. moving right along then!

My weekend continued, making sure everything ran smoothly on the food and transport front – as well as being a part of all the activities that had been organised for the weekend.  I did, however, make it my place to find out who the rude blond guy was ….. it came as no surprise when I was told he was the trainee Vicar from Australia, as his reputation as a bit of a player had preceded him.  Great!  No single, nice guys to think about for the weekend.  In a similar vein, Adrian (because that’s who it turned out to be), had been teased about meeting me, who also had a bit of a reputation (I have absolutely no knowledge why) most of the way up during the tedious bus trip!  Even to the point of being sung the hit of the day – Mandy!  There was no way he was going to pursue that little black duck!!!

So things didn’t sort of go to plan for either of us.  We both had busy leadership roles that whole weekend but every time we seemed to have a spare moment, we found ourselves enjoying each other’s company!  We chatted and got to know each other and discovered that we had both been misrepresented by the masses.  We had things in common.  We were both committed to Jesus, we both struggled with our committment at times, we were  both musical, loved sport, were nearing the end of our studies and getting ready to embark on our chosen careers.  Most importantly, we had both stopped looking for the one but were still lonely and hesitant about our futures.

A connection had been made…. when we had least expected it.  Apparently, I had patted his butt at the dance on the Saturday night and that was the sealer!!!!  I really don’t remember, as I had just got the news that my Nana had passed away.

All too soon, Adrian was back on the bus for the 6hrs 33min journey to Palmerston North, where he was to spend the final 3 months of his vicarage, before returning to Australia for his final year of study.  He said he would write …. and he did …. every day that we were apart, until we were married 12 months later!

Precious letters
Precious memories!

We had the opportunity to see each other again, a few weeks later, when I had to travel, by bus, to Palmerston North for a meeting.  Adrian’s parents were visiting from Australia but as he hadn’t told them that he had met a girl, they were shipped off on a tour of the South Island, so that we never met!!  He arrived to pick me up from the meeting in his tennis gear and I was smitten – big time!  We spent the rest of the weekend at the beach talking and making plans for Adrian to come and spend Christmas with us therefore extending his stay.  It felt like something important was happening and that we needed more time together, to find out exactly what that something was.

A  holiday in a caravan is not the best place for a traditional family to meet a new boyfriend – especially a boyfriend that I already knew was going to be in my life for a long time – even after only knowing each other for a couple of weeks and having only spent 5 actual days together!  It probably needs to be said that my sister and her husband went together for 6 years before they got engaged!  Plenty of time for Dad to get used to that idea!  Whereas, I was driving back with my Dad when I blurted out something like …..”You know that guy you met the other day, Dad?  Well, I think I’m going to marry him!”  To which my father replied, “Has he asked you?”  My answer of course was,”No but he will!”

The proposal happened on New Years Eve 1979, at another Youth Camp.  We were standing in the middle of a pond (don’t ask me why?) but Adrian made me wait until it was midnight, Australian time – 3 hours after midnight New Zealand time.  We had known each other for a whole 2 months and had spent a total of 9 actual days together!

We were in love and it would last forever!  We bought my engagement ring on 26th January 1980, with money borrowed from my Mum.  Adrian always remembered the date because it was the Australia Day holiday, which as a New Zealander, had no significance to me at the time.  We celebrated a joint engagement / 21st  party in early February, after which Adrian returned to Australia to complete his studies and I began teaching in New Zealand.  We had set our wedding date as 13th December 1980.  Still the letters came….

In May 1980, I flew to Aussie to meet his parents and friends.  The 2 weeks we spent together were intense and wonderful and awful at the same time.  Continuing to get to know each other and never wanting to let each other go but knowing that all to soon we would once again go our separate ways.  The September school holidays were much the same, but add to that having my wedding gown made by Adrian’s aunty, choosing material for my sister who was to be my maid of honour and now also lived in Australia and the death of my Australian Grandfather – emotion was high!

Bearded Adrian
Surprise beard!

The next time we saw each other was 2 weeks before our wedding  in New Zealand and my dearly beloved had grown a massive beard in the interim, and forgotten to tell me!  Needless to say, we travelled home from the airport in different cars and Adrian, never a morning person, was up at 6 am shaving!  The remaining time before our wedding was tense –  with me finishing up my teaching year; nerves setting in; introducing our parents for the first time, the night before the wedding; my sister just fitting into her gown (we found out  later that she was pregnant with my nephew); extreme happiness at our approaching marriage and extreme sadness because soon after, I would be leaving my home, family & friends forever and moving to our first parish in Queensland!  Wedding

Our wedding was everything we had wished for.  We loved every moment of our day and to this day, I would not change one single thing.  We were in love.  We were married –

to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

We were married for 28 years, 4 months and 1 day.  We used up every part of our marriage vows – even when we really didn’t want to anymore.  Our love was enduring, committed and real.  Our marriage ended on 14th April 2009 but this was our love story.

Adrian Grave

Christmas Thoughts.

I am struggling!

I so want to write about the wonderful anticipation and joy I am feeling about the approaching season of Christmas but I am just not there.  My thoughts are crowded by all the pain and hurt that the world keeps doing to each other and the distance from my extended family seems greater than ever this year.

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I am a Christmas fan.  I love everything about it.  I love the music.  I love the food.  I love the decorations.  I love the mail.  I love the gift buying and wrapping.  But most of all I love the gift giving.  Gift giving is my thing.  I find it so hard to describe the utter joy I get from finding exactly the right thing for the right person and then seeing the joy on the face of the recipient when they open the gift.  Don’t get me wrong – I love to receive gifts too but nothing gives me joy like giving!

Can you imagine, then, how suffering from extreme anxiety has played havoc with my Christmas preparations?  Gone is the ability to wander aimlessly around the shopping centres and malls, waiting for the right gift to jump out at me, shouting “Pick me! Pick me!”  Gone is the joy of last minute late night  shopping excursions for food.  No more do I have the “gay abandon” to play my Carols loud and long.

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I am plagued by what if’s and maybe’s and almost’s!  I may have found the right gift for the right person but it is yet to be wrapped – in case I find something better!  The CD may be in the player but it is not playing, in case I offend my neighbours.  My fridge is full of homemade goodies but what if they are not tasty enough to share?  Alternatively, some gifts have not yet been bought because the drive to the shop seems too hard.  Or posting the cards and parcels will probably be to late now – so why bother at all?  And church – where do I begin?

All my life, Christmas has stemmed from my belief that Jesus is the reason for the season!  I know that the babe in a manger  and the love freely given that day is and should be the focus.  But when your concentration is so shot to pieces that you have trouble walking the 100 metres down the drive to get your mail from your letterbox – it is sometimes too hard to get to church and sing his praises.  It doesn’t mean I love Him any less!

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So, as I stand in my almost completely, decorated home, next to my almost completely trimmed Christmas tree, with many gifts waiting to be wrapped and some still waiting to be bought.  I try to focus on the things I have completed and not that my house needs a clean or Mt Washmore is once again threatening to have a landslide or my yard is not a pretty sight!  I try to celebrate my have done’s not my still to do’s!

And if I do make it to church during the Christmas season, try not to think poorly of those Christmas & Easter worshippers!  Stop for a moment and consider what it may have taken for them to actually get there! And if you do receive a gift from me this year – know what it has taken to get it for you.  You are one of my special ones that have forced me out of my safe place – to take the risk because I think you are worth it!

Christmas is about how God Gave

Kind of like how God sent that tiny babe at Christmas.