Carry me

This song is written for someone very close to me that I love so much. You will not always struggle!!!

My life feels like a dark and dreary day.
My spirit is broken in two.
My eyes have cried until they barely see.
It’s hard to find a future for me.

But I won’t stop believing that there is hope for me,
That even though my deepest fears are right in front of me
I won’t give up this battle , and somehow I’ll win.
But till then, I’ll need You to carry me.

I’m so tired from the struggle, too tired to even pray.
My hurt and pain go oh so deep,
I can hardly speak your name.
My nights are the longest as loneliness sets in.
Exhausted from my endless thoughts, I’m tempted to give in.

But I won’t fall, though I may stumble.
Somehow, I’ll keep my faith; I won’t be crushed into pieces.
I’ll keep whispering your name.
I will rise above this–in time my heart will sing.
But till then, I’ll need You to carry me.

Hold me softly in your arms, dear Lord for I cannot walk alone.
Let me feel your presence once again like before
And in Your still small voice speak life into my soul.
Speak of peace not seen ..speak of joy not felt, warm my cold and broken heart
Fill the void deep within.
Embrace me with Your everlasting and all consuming love.
Just You and me, until my eyes can see.
Carry me. carry me.

Words and Music by Quita Feeley, copyright 2015 all rights reserved.

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My Cinderella story, the introduction

imageI grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas and lived there until I was 16. I grew up on speed the light, missionettes, C.A.Rallies, teen talent and everything in-between.
I was a PK (preachers kid) For the most part my childhood was uneventful. We lived in a small 3 bedroom parsonage for most of my life where my dad pastored a small white church that was across the street from our home. I have an older brother and sister, and the three of us were raised on music lessons (mostly piano). I grew up playing the piano and singing, I remember being so young that I needed to stand on the piano bench so I could see and be seen. We weren’t a perfect family (by the way there is no such a thing) but for the most part I was happy and loved by my family.
The year I turned 16 my parents decided to move to Arkansas (they were both raised there). I was the only one still at home and so the three of us moved that very hot summer of 1980.
It was July 1 and would mark the beginning of my young adult life. In Arkansas I would meet the man I would marry. The next few years would play a major role in the person I would become. The interesting thing is, I wouldn’t change a moment. I cherish the lessons I learned, people I met, and the new way I learned to trust God for myself, in ways I never thought possible.
Let me stop here and say I don’t claim to be a great writer and you won’t need to look far to find an error as I write so don’t look too closely ๐Ÿ™‚ It will take me some time to share all that I want to with you, but I’ll just do it a chapter at a time. For the record I will not be throwing out ugly details, or trying to bash anyone…this is a love story, no room in it for anger, hate, or bitterness or finger-pointing.
Many of you that will read this will have played a role or part in one area of my life or another. Some only knew me in the first phase as a young child and teenager, others only around me during my twenties and then those of you who only know me now, in this part of my life. Some will be surprised at my story, while others of you lived it out with me. So many helped me through this difficult time and I dedicate this story to all of you. I won’t mention names for privacy sake but you all know who you are. Angels that were sent to touch my life along the way.
Those of you who have no idea who I am, I hope you will take from my story a new perspective on facing difficulties. Maybe you’re not experiencing the type of heartbreak as I will be sharing, but through the years of helping others (women especially) I have learned that heartbreak is heartbreak, no matter the cause. There’s an answer for all of life’s problems and pain……don’t give up!! God has a plan B and it always surpasses plan A. Hold on the dark won’t last forever!!
Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way you planned…..sometimes it turns out better!

Psalm 91:14-16
“If youโ€™ll hold on to me for dear life,โ€ says God,
โ€œIโ€™ll get you out of any trouble.
Iโ€™ll give you the best of care
if youโ€™ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and Iโ€™ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
Iโ€™ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
Iโ€™ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!โ€

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Preface to “My Cinderella Story”

I have been planning to write an update to my little mini book I wrote over 10 years ago so I’m excited to do that through my blog.
My story is about heartbreak, but mostly about survival, rebuilding my life, and most importantly not getting bitter.
It’s a love story,
It’s not a story about pointing fingers, placing blame, or pity.
It’s about divorce, despair, feeling worthless, but also about trusting God, searching my own heart, learning to be ok with being alone, and forgiveness.
It’s about being a single mom, coping, determining to be in a better place, and finding out what’s important and what’s not!
It’s about being poor, living in government housing, learning that happiness is a choice and has nothing to do with your surroundings.
My story is one of hope, it will make you believe in true love again, convince you not to give up, and show you all you need is courage and faith and you can overcome anything.
It’s a Cinderella story…..

Chapter 5: The Cinderella Setup

Weeks and months had gone by since the darkest days. Funny how you feel they will last forever, and then one day you wake up and realize they’re history.
I was busy with nursing school and loving every minute, still dropping by Sonic but only for a cherry coke, or hot fudge shake. I missed carhopp-ing in a strange way (not enough to go back ha).

I can honestly say my heart was healed. It was supernatural and much faster than I would have thought possible……now this doesn’t mean I didn’t have issues or insecurities; oh I did, and it was a work I would continue for sometime. Heart break is a deep wound, that heals in layers. It’s important to heal each one or you will experience a rupture down the line. In order to become whole you have to deal with every tiny detail; don’t skip any.

I was 26 years old, Charley had just turned 6 and Caleb 3. I had grown in so many ways throughout the previous months, I hardly recognized myself. I had my insecurities that were left over, but I had some self confidence. I never felt humiliation anymore, or shame. I was pretty impressed that I had made it out on the other side and not only was intact, I was better. I held no hard feelings, no “what ifs”, no “maybe so’s” …..I had definitely closed that chapter and stood ready to walk through the open door to my future.

My sister and I talked often by phone, back when you paid for long distance…..she was always more than happy to foot the bill so we could talk.
We laughed a lot and I started going to see her and her husband and sons on weekends occasionally when the boys had their visitation. She lived in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, which was only about a 2 1/2 hour drive. Just about perfect and a good little break for me.
She had been saying for some time (since before I was ready) that I should start dating. The thought scared me, it felt foreign, almost silly to me; yet I was lonely and longed for some companionship. I wasn’t thinking someone to love, just to enjoy, have fun. It had been over 7 years since I had dated, and the thought of starting that awkward process did not sound appealing.

Pam (my sis) would just gently encourage me here and there.
Then there was a phone call with her once where she brought up a possible option ๐Ÿ™‚
She knew I didn’t want to date anyone from the Mena area, (I had a whole list in my mind of definite “no can do’s”); so she explained she had someone she thought I should meet. She further explained that he was her neighbor (a few houses down) and that since he lived in Oklahoma (a whole state away) that would be a safe scenario for me to start off with…..just interacting with someone, possibly.
We didn’t talk about it again for a week or two and then it came back up. Apparently he fit a lot of my criteria: he was 26 (I wanted someone my age), he had never been married, (something else on my list), and he was tall (a definite must be).
She explained further that she didn’t know him, but that his sister n law (who also lived in the neighborhood ) was one of her good friends and walking buddies .
During one of their walks as they talked about this and that, Pam mentioned,”I need to find my sister a husband “, sort of jokingly but also meaning it. Her friend (Gail) said, “Well I need to find my brother n law a wife”…..and they laughed and thought it was funny. The longer they talked the more they began to think that maybe introducing us wouldn’t be such a bad idea. So they came up with a plan of sending each of us pictures of the other one, along with an address (way before email folks:) and then we could either write each other or not. I agreed to this as it seemed extremely safe from an emotional view as well as not awkward in that he didn’t know my past or think of me as the ex-preacher’s wife.

A few days later a picture of him arrived in my mail; I still remember looking at it over and over. I was very impressed. He looked fit, handsome and tall:) I thought he was super cute in fact and I had that feeling of excitement tickle my stomach, such a foreign feeling; but I liked it! I only hoped my sis would give a decent picture of me to him and that he would be interested enough to write me; that’s all I really hoped for, nothing more.
A week or more passed and then there it was, a letter from the mystery man! My fingers fumbled with the envelope , my heart skipped a few beats and I was surprised at myself how excited I was over a letter-ha.

I still have that letter, and when I look at it I remember that feeling all over again so vividly.
I felt young again, excited, intrigued. I felt like I had a secret that everyone wished they knew. I put his picture where I could see it and shared it with a handful of close friends who I could trust to be discreet.

I answered his letter and anxiously waited to hear back……but no letter came. Even better he called me!
Not only were my tears a memory, all I could do now is smile, almost uncontrollably. I don’t think I could have cried if I tried. Hadn’t met this guy, had only spoken once briefly on the phone, one letter…….but the excitement /nervousness/ giddiness was much bigger. It was different ….. I had no idea!!!

Psalm 116
I love the Lord, because he hears me;
he listens to my prayers.
2 He listens to me
every time I call to him.
3 The danger of death was all around me;
the horrors of the grave closed in on me;
I was filled with fear and anxiety.
4 Then I called to the Lord,
โ€œI beg you, Lord, save me!โ€
5 The Lord is merciful and good;
our God is compassionate.
6 The Lord protects the helpless;
when I was in danger, he saved me.
7 Be confident, my heart,
because the Lord has been good to me.
8 The Lord saved me from death;
he stopped my tears
and kept me from defeat.
9 And so I walk in the presence of the Lord
in the world of the living.
10 I kept on believing, even when I said,
โ€œI am completely crushed,โ€
11 even when I was afraid and said,
โ€œNo one can be trusted.โ€

Chapter 6: The Cinderella Slipper Fits

The letters continued, and we talked briefly on the phone at least once or twice.
We didn’t talk about anything too deep; but he did mention that maybe sometime when I made a trip to my sister’s, we could meet each other in person. Just the thought of that produced major butterflies in my stomach. I kept thinking that he didn’t have any idea what my life was like. I wasn’t sure he even knew I had boys or had been married. My sister didn’t know much about him either, just that he was a Christian and was in business with his brother. He knew I was in nursing school and that was about it, I thought. I didn’t know for sure if he knew I was divorced with kids. We had shared only one, possibly two 5-10 min conversations and a couple of letters that were “short and sweet.”
He did mention a couple times that he wanted to meet me, so I began to think of my next trip to my sister’s. After receiving my first letter from him on September 1, I soon had plans to go to Broken Arrow for the weekend of the 15th.

Wow, was I ever extremely excited and extremely nervous . He hadn’t asked me for a date just that he wanted to meet me. Pam and I were not sure how that would happen. Coincidentally, it was the weekend of the annual garage sale in her neighborhood, so we thought well that’s at least an excuse to walk down the street and see if he was in his yard or something, haha!
I let him know I was coming into town after my Friday nursing classes. I arrived Friday evening around six.
I sat around talking with Pam and waited, wondering if he would call or not, wondering if he had Pam’s number. After all he had never really met her either. Nine oclock came, and I was beginning to think he might be reconsidering. Trying not to get disappointed I refused to think about it, assuming the attitude: “If he doesn’t, he doesn’t; it’s no biggie.” All the things I was saying in my head jolted back to reality as I heard the phone ring. Could it be? Yes it was, and with my heart in my throat I took the phone from my sister and said, “Hello.” It was a brief conversation, about 2 minutes: “How was your trip,” and that sort of thing; and then he said, “Would you like to go out tomorrow night to a movie and maybe dinner?” I tried to sound calm and cool, which I was anything but! I mean after all, I thought he would ask to come down and meet me first before he asked for a date. Now there was more pressure/excitement on that first meeting. I agreed on a time to be picked up, not sure I took a breath between that and saying goodbye. He had already taken my breath away ๐Ÿ™‚
I had just scheduled a blind date. If you want to add some stress to dating for the first time after all I had been through, then make it a blind date. The excitement was almost too much. Pam was a bit anxious, too, and said, “Well, tomorrow we will still walk down the street and see if we can spot him just to make sure he’s really cute and it wasn’t just a good picture.” (haha) A sure sign of my insecurity returning a little, I wanted to make sure he saw me in person before the date in case he might want to change his mind. I still had things to work out in myself, so it didn’t take much to bring up the weak areas and scars in my self confidence leftover from divorce.
The next day Pam and I walked down the street, pretending to shop for bargains. I mean we couldn’t just walk straight down by his house; that would be too obvious!
We stopped at his brother and sister n law’s house (my sister’s friend that was helping with this setup). They lived next door to him and were in business together with him. I met them both as they were putting a few things out to sell. Neighborhood garage sales were a big thing in Oklahoma back then with people out walking everywhere; so Pam and I were blending into the crowd. The next few minutes are still a blur, I heard something like, ” Well there he is now. Let’s walk over there and I’ll introduce you.” The next thing I know I’m walking; but I’m not sure I could even feel my feet move, almost a slow motion feeling. Then I look up as I hear the introduction and catch his eye. Wow, I thought to myself…..his picture didn’t do him justice; he was so handsome, tall, fit, and such kind eyes. When he smiled at me, I felt my face flush and I managed to choke out the words, “Nice to meet you.” I returned his smile, then we quickly made up some excuse how we needed to get back to Pam’s house. It was a bit unnerving for all I think, ha. We said our “Nice to meet you.” As we turned to walk away, I heard him say, “I’ll see you tonight, Quita.” Again, I could hardly get my voice to work as I said, “Yes, I look forward to it.”

The rest of the day was spent picking out an outfit to wear, going back over every detail of the “meeting”, how cute he was, how tall he was (don’t underestimate how important that was to me Haha). In my mind, I guessed he liked what he saw since he didn’t find a reason to cancel the date ๐Ÿ™‚
I felt like a young teenage girl, spending way too much time getting ready for this date. It had been over 8 years since I had dated, so I wasn’t sure I knew “how” to date. In the mean time, my sister began to freak out a little because she realized she didn’t know that much about him, just what her friend Gail had told her. She had no reason to doubt her, but I think the thought of setting me up and the chance I would be hurt again, panicked her a bit.
She had as much fun as I did though with the excitement and waiting for 7:00 pm to get there. The closer it got the more I was sure I was not going to be able to stop shaking. To this day that’s the most nervous (good nervous) I’ve ever been.

The next thing I know he’s at the door and I’m in that blurry slow motion thing again that giddiness brings on. He looked so handsome as I opened the door, and was greeted by his smile. I realized for the first time he had dimples, and then of course my eyes were drawn to his kind eyes which were a perfect blend between brown and green. He whisked me down the drive way to his car , a very nice red 300z. He opened my door, and as I got in I was overcome with a calm. This was a night I would never forget and neither would Mike.

We talked like old friends that night, laughed, not too many awkward silences. He asked about my boys and I was relieved he knew about them. We talked about his business, his family. He was on the quiet reserved side, not shy in the least, just very good at listening. He seemed interested in every thing I said, and those beautiful eyes of his were always intent and soaking up the details. We went to a restaurant first (Charley Mitchell’s), then a movie, then a walk around the 21st river bridge/pier area. He took my hand and I felt my heart skip a few beats. Though it was a very long time since I had felt that type of touch, it felt very comfortable, very right. I could tell Mike was different than anyone I had ever met. I sensed he had a lot of self confidence, but not a trace of arrogance. His intelligence was obvious to me; his honesty was very noticeable. He was not comfortable talking too much about himself, but he listened intently to every word I spoke.
The night ended fairly early,around 10:30. He walked me to the door where we said goodbye. I walked into my sisters house to be greeted by her excitement and need for details.
I don’t think I slept much at all that night, or the next few. I replayed every moment of the date in my mind, thought of everything he said, how I could tell he loved God the way that I did. He was unlike anyone I had ever known; could it be a dream?
All I know is I had not smiled like that in a very, very long time. My steps were lighter, the sun was brighter, I felt like I had just tried on the Cinderella slipper and it had fit. My heart battled some between my hopes and dreams, and the fears and insecurities; but most of the time the hopes and dreams won. I had no idea how well the slipper would fit or the brightness of my future.
Looking back on that night I realize how God started something special in both of us. I know He must have smiled from heaven and said, “Now that’s what I’ve been waiting for.” His Plan B had been put into play.
I fell asleep that night feeling like Cinderella. I had truly been treated like a princess. I felt beautiful, I felt interesting, and I knew I wanted to get to know this mystery man more.
My heart was light and happy, the scars from divorce barely noticeable against the light of hope, the brightness of joy, the reflection of true inner peace.

Isaiah 61:3
Joy and gladness instead of grief,
A song of praise instead of sorrow.
They will be like trees
That the Lord himself has planted.
They will all do what is right,
And God will be praised for what he has done.

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Chapter 11: Weekend of Surprises

After classes for both the boys and me on that Friday afternoon, we loaded up the little car; and around 4:30pm, we were headed off to Ft. Smith Arkansas (about a 1 1/2 hour drive…..for me any way ๐Ÿ˜‰
Mike had booked our rooms (at the Four Seasons, I believe was the name ).
The drive was exciting for the boys and they were wound up. The closer we got to Ft. Smith, the more I started thinking about the evening; so I decided I better establish some rules and have a “mommy” pep talk with my little guys. I had them dressed super cute in their stone washed jeans and cute long sleeved polo shirts. Of course I had not cut any corners on looking my best as well; it was a big night after all. We had never stayed anywhere there was an indoor pool, and just the excitement of that was enough to put the boys over the top. The more rambunctious they got in the car, the more intense my mom talk was ๐Ÿ™‚
They were good, polite little boys, but they were ALL boy and I wanted them to make a good impression, not scare him off. Ha
As I drove and finally had their attention, I told them in a very serious “mom tone” how important it was for me that they would be on good behavior and show my friend what good boys they were. I told them how he was paying for our little trip and how they should be thankful for it and those type of things. Yes, I had quite a long list of items…..don’t interrupt, eat with manners, don’t ask to swim a thousand times, no wrestling, do not be loud, wait your turn…..you get the picture:). Finally at one point Caleb asked, “Mommy, what CAN we do?” to which I responded, “Not much!” haha
I started on lighter topics as soon as I was sure they knew I meant business.
My stomach was full of butterflies like I hadn’t experienced since our first date. I felt a ton of anxiety, wanting things to go well; but really it was out of my control. I could feel my hands trembling as I pulled into the area where you drive through at the hotel. I still remember the boys craning their necks around saying, “Where is he mom?” looking in all directions, with those big brown eyes of theirs searching for this guy that mom said was important to her.
I had barely put the car in park when I saw Mike walking out of the office where he had checked us in. I kind of froze. I didn’t know how to do this introduction. Should I quickly get them out? Should I just wait? I opted for getting out myself and meeting him close by the car. I was met with that smile that immediately calmed me down. We walked back towards my car where Charley and Caleb were poking their heads out of the back window they had rolled down. I introduced them to Mike. As big, huge smiles greeted him, they said hello in their best mannered voices, just like we had practiced on the car drive. Haha
Mike could sense my nerves, I think; and so he said, “Are you guys hungry? How about we all go out to dinner and get to know each other a little bit?”
I parked the car, we quickly climbed into his car, and off we went to begin our get acquainted weekend. “Denny’s ok”? I hardly heard him because I was so intent on what the boys were doing in the back….. but I agreed and it was a very quick drive. The boys were fairly quiet but popping with excitement.
We were seated in a sort of corner booth as I recall, sort of a small semi circle. I can’t remember the seating at all (my nerves blocked it out I guess) but I do remember Caleb was sitting next to Mike and staring up at him a lot. If I know my Charley, I’m sure he was by me watching over me. I’m sure they were picking up on how stressed (in a good way) I was.
We ordered, and made small talk. The boys were SO good and well mannered, I was very impressed, and I could tell Mike was too. So the longer that continued, the calmer I became. I could feel myself relaxing and starting to really enjoy myself. We were only there for a short while when little blond-haired, brown-eyed Caleb puts his hand up on Mikes shoulder and says (in his famous southern accent),”Hey….my momma’s gonna buy me a ‘tep-daddy.” I felt the heat rise from my chest up my neck into my face and my heart thumping loudly. In my head, all I can think is, “Did he really just say that? Surely this is not happening.” I mean you have to remember, we had not even mentioned the word “love.” I felt my heart beating in my head as I shifted around in my seat hoping I would realize this didn’t happen any minute. Mike, I’m sure, sensed my embarrassment and tried to act like he didn’t hear him; so Caleb, thinking he DIDNT hear him, continues to tap on his shoulder and repeat himself 2-3 more times. I wanted to crawl under the seat, disappear, run, hide, anything. “What must Mike be thinking?” I wondered. “This will scare him off.” I felt like time stood still, and all I could hear was Caleb’s sweet little voice . At this point, we were only 10-15 minutes into our get-acquainted weekend. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mike sort of pat Caleb on the shoulder and smile at him. To my relief that was all Caleb needed, just to be heard and acknowledged. “Wow,” I thought, “not how I planned on this weekend getting started,” and “Why, when I covered my very very long list of “not to do’s” did I not think of covering that possibility?”
Mike was so quiet it was impossible for me to read him, so I decided to take a deep breath and act like it never happened. I wanted to forget it, but it would be brought up again….that very night!

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Chapter 14: Will You Marry Me?

Our phone conversation on Tuesday evening lasted for hours; probably about half that time was actual talking, the other half just sitting in silence while I studied for school with neither of us wanting to hang up. ๐Ÿ™‚
It was decided that night that I would come to Tulsa the following Friday October 26,1990. He told me the first thing he wanted to do was buy me an engagement ring. I could hardly wait!! We talked about possible wedding dates. With me in school and not wanting to quit and move until finished, we threw around the idea of a spring or summer wedding. I would be finished with nursing school in August so that seemed to be a great plan. I had already had the “big wedding” thing so I was way over that; however, I wanted Mike to have a wedding of his choice since it was his first marriage. Mike is extremely quiet and a bit of an introvert, so the last thing he wanted was a big wedding. We casually talked about possibilities of maybe just family, or family and a few friends. He had told his family about me, but I had only met his brother Jim and his wife Gail (my sister’s friend who set us up ๐Ÿ™‚ and their little girl Jamie. I’m sure everyone was shocked that Mike was telling them we had decided to eventually marry; like I said in an earlier blog, this was not in his personality to be impulsive.
Between October 19/20 (the weekend of his proposal) until we would see each other again on October 26, it seemed like a life time. Seriously, that week felt like a month because of all the changes and planning. I had decided not to say much or really anything about marriage to the boys (or anyone else) until I had a ring to show them. With every day that passed, I grew more and more sure of my decision. I still had moments of fear (especially when I wasn’t with him), but just a phone call and hearing his voice was calming and reassuring. I could hardly focus on anything there in Mena. It was all I could do to keep up my grades in nursing school, but I did somehow. A few times before the proposal, but several times afterwards, Mike would ask to help me financially in some way, just to remove some pressure from me. I was so funny/weird about it, I just would not accept anything. With the exception of our weekend in Ft Smith, I always insisted I pay for my own gas to go to Tulsa! Even calling him collect (long distance was extremely expensive back then) was just something I couldn’t bring myself to do. When I was the one calling he would insist I hang up and let him call me back. I’m still not sure what I thought I was proving, but I’m sure it involved my wall of defense and self preservation. He was always so kind and offering to help in any way even though I felt I could not accept.
The boys talked about nothing to anyone but their fun filled weekend in Ft Smith. They always wanted to talk to him on the phone when he called, and he took time to talk with them both as long as they wanted. What a fun, light-hearted time in life it was for us all; worries seemed like a thing of the past. Heartbreak was all but forgotten, and I had not cried in months. In fact, I would go several years without crying at all which was so strange, because I wasn’t hard-hearted. I honestly think I had just ran out of tears, and nothing about my life was telling my body to replenish the supply ๐Ÿ™‚
Friday could not arrive soon enough! After saying my sad goodbyes to the boys for their weekend visitation, I headed out as quickly as I could for Tulsa. Everything about this trip felt so different. I can still remember the feeling so vividly….the mix between butterflies and tranquility that comes with knowing you’re loved and that someone is just as excited to be with you as you are with him. He was crazy about me; and he always made sure to remind me of that, always made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. He just thought I was flawless. I kept saying, “I’m afraid you’re going to be let down at some point when you realize I’m not as perfect as you think,” but he would always remind me that every day those feelings were stronger and he had no doubts of the kind of woman I was. No one has ever made me feel the way he did…..ever ๐Ÿ™‚
When I pulled into the neighborhood I was immediately picked up and we were off to dinner. We were so comfortable with each other by this time; I loved everything about him, including his quietness. For some reason it was so refreshing to me. I had never met someone so quiet. He was very confident (not at all shy), but his silence spoke volumes to me. He listened like no one I had ever met; and even though he wasn’t a talker, he never seemed to tire of listening to me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I knew I loved him but I also was so aware of how much I respected him…so honest, so giving, so selfless. For me, he was everything; and I wanted to be with him forever, yet it still made no sense.
We decided to wait until the next day (Saturday) to ring shop. I had been looking at every married woman’s ring I came across, trying to decide what type and style I wanted.
He picked me up from my sisters house early that Saturday morning and we went to my nephew’s soccer game first. By then it was around 11:00 am, and we were officially ring shopping. We ended up at Moody’s (by Woodland Hills Mall) where Mike insisted I not look at the price but just pick out the ones I liked the most. Oh my, this was so hard for me. All my life I have always managed to like the most pricey things, so I was paranoid that I would pick something over the top. Obviously I knew the bigger the diamond the higher the price, but I also knew in upscale jewelry stores even the smallest diamonds were not cheap. Eventually I narrowed it down to liking the round stones which were very popular back then. Mike could tell I wasn’t comfortable picking out the size of the diamond so he did that for me and it was the most beautiful solitaire diamond ring I had ever seen. It was more than I had ever dreamed of wearing, and I was speechless for a moment. The size was perfect as well, so while they did a last minute cleaning and polishing on it we went ahead and picked out the bands that we liked. I picked out the wide gold band that went so well with the solitaire back then; and for Mike, we picked out a gold band that had sort of a basket weave look to it. Wow, my heart was full! This was really happening. I was going to be able to tell everyone I was engaged (I had waited to announce that until I had a ring). I snapped back into reality as I heard the lady who had helped us say “Well, Mr Feeley, here you go; here’s the beautiful ring. He took it from her, we were both all smiles and she was genuinely excited for us you could tell. Mike took the ring box, opened it, sort of grinned and said, “I guess I’m supposed to put this on you,” in a tone somewhere between a statement and a question. I just smiled as I felt myself blush a little and put my hand out toward him. He took my hand, slipped the ring on my finger and we didn’t say a word. It felt like a moment too big for any words. In that few minutes time stood still, and I cherished each and ever second.
Then there was a quick kiss, accompanied by lots of stares from people in the store, which helped make it quick. If there’s ever been a perfect moment in time, it was then. I had no idea how the end of this day would turn out; I could have never imagined! By now it was late afternoon; and we were headed to his nephew’s football game, where I would be meeting his oldest brother. It was a night of showing off the ring numerous times; but by the end of his nephew’s football game, everything had changed.

Psalm 126:5
Those who sow tears shall reap joy.

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Chapter 15: Forty Four Days

Who knew a middle school football game could hold so much excitement? But it certainly did on that Saturday night in late October. Mike and I had known each other for a total of 43 days and yet here we were, engaged, a sparkling diamond on my left hand to prove it to me every time I thought I might be dreaming. It’s certainly not something I go around advising people to try; but I’m also non judgmental when I hear of how serious someone is becoming, relative to time. Obviously it’s not something you would see often; but for us, it was just perfect. Two hearts brought together by God. The more about Mike I learned, the more I loved and respected him. He was very funny, with a dry sense of humor, 6’3″ (yes very important), he was on a men’s volleyball league and was very in shape and athletic. I’ve never met a more intelligent man, even to this day. He was raised Catholic and in Catholic schools, but became a Christian at a concert in Anaheim, California when he was 17. He had moved to Tulsa about 6 years before we met to start a business with his brother because it seemed to be the perfect city for it. He was six months younger than me; we were both 26 at the time. I’ll never forget the crisp feeling in the air that night, maybe partly from the excitement of the day; but it was magical, for lack of a better word.
We were at his nephew’s game, so naturally I was introduced to a few more family members for the first time such as his older brother Ron (it was one of his son’s game.)
Jim (brother and business partner) Gail (the one responsible for the match making) and Jamie (their little girl ) were also there, but of course I had already been able to get know them a bit in the few weeks before.
Mike’s sister and parents were yet to be met. Mike’s parents lived out of state, and his sister and her family lived on a ranch not far from Tulsa.
It was a light-hearted conversation during the game that became slightly more intense as the game ended and we all made our way to the parking lot where we would stand and continue the talk for another half hour or so….mostly going back and forth with when we should get married, where, etc. etc.
I had told him to decide the “where” and “when” since this was his first marriage. Mike said something to the effect of, “I’m already tired of trying to figure this out.” ๐Ÿ™‚
I didn’t really want a big wedding at all, and Mike was no fan of that either. Ron, Jim, and Gail were helping us think through some dates that might work when one of his brothers (Jim I think) said, “What are you waiting for?” They were all suggesting that if we didn’t want a wedding then don’t stress over it. One thing led to another, with Jim saying something like, “Just hurry up and do it so you can get some work done at the office!” haha
Following there was some joking around that we should just run off. They all agreed that everyone would understand and not be surprised…..more comments, more discussion, and basically they helped talk us into something so bazaar, so off the wall; but the more we talked, the more positive we were that that’s what we wanted to do. After a little bit of nervous laughter and last minute advice we all went our separate ways. Mike and I headed back to his house to finish discussing all we had just talked about. At one point we looked at each other and it was like, “Let’s just go for it!” The next few hours are almost a blur.
He dropped me off at my sister’s and went on to his house to make calls on airlines. If my memory is correct, I believe Gail made some calls for us too, trying to find flights. I asked Mike to drop me off at Pam’s so I could tell her our plans and then call my parents and tell them. They had not met Mike but knew we were fairly serious. My sister was probably the hardest one to tell; she was understandably extremely hesitant to be OK with it all. She felt a ton of responsibility because she saw herself as the main reason I had met him. She felt a huge burden of, “What if this doesn’t work?” I knew where she was coming from. She didn’t want me to be hurt, and she sure didn’t want to be left feeling responsible if I was. We both cried a bit. Just like at times before my heart was saying, “Yes,” and my brain was saying,”YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND!” but my heart kept winning. I hadn’t expected the relief in my parents’ voices, but I didn’t want to go get married and not let them know. I didn’t tell the boys, feeling that I really couldn’t without putting them in an awkward and unfair position since they were on their visitation weekend. Besides, this news was not something I wanted to share over the phone with them.
Lots of feelings were floating around in my heart and head; it was truly like being in a dream. Of course I could only follow my heart, and I had no guaranties I was making the right decision; but I did have that peace that would sweep back over me and calm my thoughts and fears down. Love is always a risk you take, no matter how long you have known or think you know the other person; but the fact that I was taking this risk after being so devastated and disappointed in love was a miracle in itself. There were many times I thought I would never love and trust again. Of course I still would battle trust and vulnerability issues, but the fact that I was willing to take the chance at all was amazing. At that point in my life I would say definitely my heart was healed, but even after you heal from anything there remain scars for sometime. In some ways I was stronger than I had ever been, but I was still pretty fragile.
We would not be able to fly out of Tulsa until 7:00am the next morning, October 28, 1990.
Then, there we were at the airport, with excitement that can’t be described; and soon we were boarded on the plane and headed for Las Vegas, Nevada. I had flown before but not often and not in a very long time, so even that was exciting. We had lots of talking to do as you might imagine, going through all the details about figuring out where to go once in Vegas. He had visited there a few times with his family and even on business, but this was not the typical trip by any means. We really weren’t sure how everything would unfold.
After a layover in Salt Lake City , we arrived in Vegas where it was still morning because of the time change, probably around 10:30-11:00am.
I never saw any nerves at all from Mike until we were about to land and it hit him, no second thoughts just a big reality jolt. It didn’t help when he suddenly remembered his drivers license had just expired and he had not had time to renew in all the busyness of our last couple of weeks. Because he had forgotten, we couldn’t rent a car. I certainly didn’t want to drive in Vegas! This was not the only issue as we suddenly realized we might not be able to be married with an expired identification . Wow, what are we going to do?
We decided to get a taxi first. When we were in the cab, Mike told the cab driver that we were here to get married and asked for any suggestions or help he might give us with the process? I’m guessing he had been asked that before, because he gave us a chuckle and said, “Well I better take you to the courthouse first and let you get your marriage license.”
Here it was Sunday morning and the courthouse was open; welcome to Vegas!
He pulled up in front of it and said he would wait. “Wait, you don’t think it’s going to take very long?” we asked. He replied, “I doubt it on a Sunday.”
As we walked up those steps, we were both pretty nervous, just not knowing what would happen with Mike’s drivers license. Would there be a waiting time before we could get married? Blood test? We had NO idea.
We walked in and there was a sign that said Marriage License and a couple people lined up, but after what felt like 2 minutes tops, we were there at the counter where it was our turn. We were given a paper to fill out which was general info type thing…..in only 3-4 minutes and we were back at the counter with it. The lady took it and said, “Thank you very much and good luck.” We just looked at her like, “That’s all?”
All that concern about his license not being current and we didn’t even have to show ANY ID
We had a good laugh over that for awhile.
From the time we stepped out of our cab to the time we got back in, couldn’t have been more than 8-10 min (closer to 8 I’d say).
So back in the cab we go to procure some more free info from our cab driver who was our friend at this point ๐Ÿ™‚
He suggested a couple of nice chapels and told us the ones that were famous for who married there.
He dropped us off in the area where we went ahead and booked a room in the “Frontier,” which is no longer there. We carried our luggage in and sat down to make a plan. I didn’t want to get married in the middle of the day (didn’t seem as romantic I guess). Besides, I wanted to look my best; and we had been traveling for hours. We decided we would get married that night after dinner (not sure who thought eating first was smart ha).
I had nothing to fix my hair with, because when I went to Tulsa to see him I always stayed at my sisters and borrowed her blow dryer, curling iron etc.
So that became our afternoon activity, to shop for me some hair equipment ๐Ÿ™‚
The only place we could find was a mall, and so he bought me a blow dryer and curling iron in Dillard’s. They don’t have the best hair tools; but it beat none, except for being pricey! Again, I had trouble letting him buy it for me (ridiculous, I know).
Then he told me he wanted to buy me something special (like a wedding gift) and so we ended up at the perfume counter where he bought me my first bottle of expensive perfume, a bottle of “Red” by Giorgio Beverly Hills (yes I still remember).
We walked a lot just looking at Vegas, the strip, it was all very new and exciting for me.
Finally it was late enough to start getting ready for the evening.
We both wore fairly casual clothes. I mean I didn’t know I was going to get married, or I would have packed differently! I had on some casual pants and cute top, while Mike wore corduroys and a casual polo shirt. With a spritz of my new perfume, we were off to dinner.
As you might imagine we didn’t eat much, just talked more. I felt some big time fear slipping up on me; but Mike just reassured me over dinner once again that he would love me for ever and ever, and I would never be sorry I gave my heart to him. I believed him!!
Around 7:00 that night, not long after the sun had gone down, we took a taxi with marriage license in hand to the closest little wedding chapel “Candlelight Wedding Chapel.”
It was lit up so beautifully. We stepped inside to find a very tastefully decorated sanctuary of sorts, decorated with gorgeous flowers, complete with pews and everything a small church would have. We were met by the minister who after finding out that we did indeed wish to be married, had us sit with her for a few minutes. Interestingly she talked with us about what an important covenant marriage was with God and how it should be taken very seriously . She talked about the beauty of a loving marriage and that we should be sure we were ready for a lifelong commitment. She called in another person that worked there (a younger woman) that was to stand with us as witness/photographer. Then we all went to the front and began the ceremony.
It was not what you might expect from Vegas; it felt very reverent and intimate. There we were, just Mike and me along with two people we had just met; but the most important One there was the One who ultimately had brought us together, our Heavenly Father. Those moments were frozen in time for me, looking at this man who had swept me off my feet, knowing he loved me and I loved him…nothing has ever felt so right, so “meant to be,” as we stood there and committed our lives to each other for ever, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…I knew this was something very special. It was more than his kind eyes and handsome face. We were connected much deeper than that; we were two souls drawn together to love each other, to build a family. Just like a beautiful painting, our lives were planned out and put together color by color, moment by moment, and the painting would have details added to it as the years went by until someday it would be a master piece of God’s plans. The painting of our lives had just started, but it was already so beautiful. I knew it was a day I would never forget. Just Forty Four days after we met, I was Mike’s wife.

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Chapter 16: One plus Three, Equals a Family!

It was an unforgettable 24 hours and we were back on the plane headed for Tulsa. The boys were in Arkansas with my cousin and her family, and of course I had school to get back to there as well.
Funny picture in my mind is……for some reason we decided to buy souvenir T-shirts and wear them home on the plane. Don’t ask me why; I have NO idea, ha! I just know Mike and I have never since worn matching shirts in any form for any reason, but it seemed the thing to do at the time. So there we were, on the plane, exhausted from the exciting whirlwind of our weekend. Our T -shirts said, “We were married at the Candle Light Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas”…..haha, must have been a pretty funny sight. We both fell asleep and Mike said he woke up and saw someone laughing at us. Oh my. So funny, looking back.
The closer we got to Tulsa, the more somber our moods became as the reality hit us that we would be going our separate ways upon our return. Mike was a good sport and so understanding of my need to stay in Arkansas and finish school. He just made sure I knew I didn’t have to; but knowing my insecurity, he didn’t push anything. We would just be together on the weekends, we thought. While on the plane ride, he pulled out his checkbook and insisted I take money for the week. I was his wife now, but it was still difficult and felt less than normal. He wasn’t taking no for an answer and I had no good reason for saying no. I watched as he filled out my new name on the check, and I couldn’t help but smile.
It was late afternoon before we arrived back at his (now our) house, and I needed to head to Arkansas right away before it got any later. We drove up to find my car all decorated (by Pam and my new sis n law, Gail) the two that had fixed us up. We hurried and said our goodbyes. It was much harder this time, very different; and I felt that knot in my throat as I fought back tears.
A few hours later I arrived safely and called to let him know. He told me he had gone into the house to find the entire place was decorated with rice, balloons and streamers with no one there but him to see it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ….I could tell he was wishing things could be different. On the other hand I was rather shocked that it bothered me. I had felt very independent and was not thinking I would struggle with the “apart” thing; but I found myself torn.
I didn’t have time to think about it much after I arrived home. I had two very excited little boys that I needed to talk to and let them in on the updated news. We got right back Into the swing of things in our routine, but it just felt a bit hollow. I proudly drove my car around town with the “just married” and “Mrs.” written on the windows. My friends in nursing school were beyond shocked and anxious to hear details. They all thought I was quitting school but I told them that was not my plan.
By Wednesday evening, I was miserable and realizing this was much, much harder than I had imagined. It felt almost like I was pretending I got married. I had a rush of mixed emotions. I had worked so hard to be in nursing school, but yet my heart was in Tulsa Oklahoma.
It was the hardest, yet the easiest decision ever. I called Mike that Thursday evening and said, “I can’t do this; I want us to be a family. I’ll just take classes in Tulsa, but we need to be together.” He was thrilled and surprised. That Friday evening he arrived in a big U-haul truck and spent the weekend with me in my little government house. ๐Ÿ™‚
We packed up everything I wanted and gave the rest away to neighbors and friends and Sunday afternoon the four of us were headed back to Tulsa. I had a peace in my heart that I was doing the right thing. The proof of that was the fact we were immediately a family, and it felt like it had always been that way. I can honestly say there was no adjustment period for any of us. Charley asked if they could call Mike, “Daddy”; and he of course wanted that very much; so from that day on, he had a new name.
The next morning found me enrolling the boys in a private Christian school (with Gail’s help) where everything came together like clockwork. I waited until January to enroll in a couple of college classes. In the mean time, I had a beautiful home to make my own, a new kitchen to cook in, a new life. I depended on Gail (who lived next door ) to help me get in the swing of things, such as, “What does he like to eat?” She had fixed most of his non-pizza delivery meals; and since he was next door to Jim and Gail and they were in business together, it worked out quite nicely. Everything was different now, but it seemed so comfortable. The boys adored their new cousin, Jamie; and she became like a sister to them. She was 5 at the time.
I never looked back, as far as doubting my decision to marry and move. We had those who said it wouldn’t last (or so I was told). We just smiled and thought, “You’ll see.” To the hand full that claimed I married for money, well we just laughed at those few; and after over 23 years together we are getting the last laugh I do believe ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚
God had matched us up, way before we even met…..our best days were in front of us. I treasured being loved differently; I still do!

Psalms 91

14-16 โ€œIf youโ€™ll hold on to me for dear life,โ€ says God,
โ€œIโ€™ll get you out of any trouble.
Iโ€™ll give you the best of care
if youโ€™ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and Iโ€™ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
Iโ€™ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
Iโ€™ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!โ€

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Chapter 17: Things Don’t Always Turn Out The Way You Had Planned

Not long after the wedding I was able to meet Mike’s sister, Sheri, and her family as well as his parents, Bob and Alice. His entire family completely welcomed Charley, Caleb, and me with open arms as part of the family. They accepted and loved us and made us feel like we had always been in the picture. I still feel so blessed with that fact! The first year was filled with lots of “first’s,” including a honeymoon trip to Cancun in June of ’91and then a family vacation to Disney World in September. We also bought a new house that July. Mike taught the boys how to swim right away (in our very fun indoor pool), and they both started playing soccer.

They loved their school, Grace Fellowship, and continued to attend there for several years. Our church home became Victory Christian Center, where we still attend.

Around 5:50 a.m., July 26, 1992, we welcomed a beautiful little baby girl into our family. Our 7lb. 14oz. Stephani Lynn arrived very quickly for me after only 7 hours of labor. Mike practically had to deliver her, because she came before the nurses or doctor could get things ready. I finally enjoyed my first epidural and loved it of course! ๐Ÿ™‚
Stephani was such a little princess; I couldn’t believe I finally had a girl, and she had two very proud big brothers. I was wondering one day (as moms will do) if in their minds they might think Mike loved her differently?! One of the boys had been told by another child that Stephani was only their half sister, and man did that ever cause an argument. Ha! So I decided to have an impromptu talk with them one day about the whole dynamics, and most likely made it a little more complicated than I should have. I had never for a moment sensed a difference in Mike around the boys; he truly loved them as his own, but I went ahead and took the opportunity to ask them. I finally got to the point and said, “Sometimes in these situations where there is a new baby, children might feel like their step parent loves the baby more.” They looked at me with big brown eyes full of mostly interest but also dipped in little confusion. Before I made my closing statement about how that wasn’t true and all…..I asked, “Do you boys ever feel like Dad loves baby Stephani more?” I assured them that they could tell me honestly.
They looked almost startled and Charley (who was now 8) looked up at me and in the most matter of fact voice said, “Oh…..I think he loves US the most,” to which Caleb nodded in agreement. I can assure you that was the truth in their little hearts, and that describes the type of dad Mike was (and is) to this day.

January 9,1995, we welcomed our second daughter, 8 lb. 2 oz. Jessica Lynn, (both girls share the same middle name with me) into our family. Jessica was the first of my labors that I felt no pain at all from start to finish, and I loved it!! Now we had two princesses, each one playing such an important role in our lives. We had become a family of 6, two boys, two girls….everyone had a buddy ๐Ÿ™‚

Our children have always been close, and we cherish each one of them!
Life’s road has taken many turns, as it’s known to do; but I have been abundantly blessed, and I’m forever grateful.

This year Mike and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary. It seems so hard to believe that he was ever not a part of my life.
The past year we became “empty nesters,” and we love this part of our lives just like we have loved every season through the years. This is quite different for us, however, because we were never “just us two;” but how we treasure our alone time together…..making plans, being grandparents, we just never get enough of each other.
My heart still skips a beat when I hear the garage door raise and know he’s home from work. He still tells me I’m perfect (which I know I’m not :), but it always makes me smile. He loved me right through those first few years when my insecurities and fears would creep up, always being faithful and true to me, never giving me any reason to doubt him or lose trust. He’s never made me cry (except in a good way:), never spoken a harsh word or shown any anger towards me. We cherish each other, and not one day goes by that I don’t stop at least once (often more) and thank God for my husband and this Plan B that I’m living. Sometimes things don’t turn out like you planned……sometimes they turn out BETTER!

Only a couple more chapters left……

Jeremiah 29:11
Iโ€™ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what Iโ€™m doing. I have it all planned outโ€”plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

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