Sunday, March 16, 2008

If You Happen To Count - Lesson Learned Series

The other day as I was sitting at my computer pondering all that God has done over the last year, thoughts of faith, mercy and love came to mind. He has been so good and active this past year, in my life and in the lives of people I’ve had the opportunity to minister to.

I was thinking of His love, and how He has expressed it flawlessly time and time again, and it hit me…”Oh no it’s almost Carl Crunch Time, and I haven’t given any thought to it at all this year!”

What’s “Carl Crunch Time” you ask? Well, it’s only the 4 most important series of days in my whole calendar year. Days that come back to back to back each and every year for me. Days that are so important that if I miss them, I’m doomed for the next 12 months for sure.

Days that should be easy for me to face with expressions of love and joy, but I must admit every year I struggle with meeting these days with the right motive. A motive of thought filled unconditional love for the 3 most important women in my life.

Here are the days…April 21st, April 23rd, May11th, and May 21st.

What is so important about these days, and probably an equally important question “who are these three women in my life?” Well, they are my wife’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday and the Grandmother of them all – MOTHER’S DAY.

Now you’re probably thinking “come on Carl you’re just exaggerating, what’s the big deal?” Well, for you it may be no big deal, because you probably just ooze with ideas, creativity, romanticism and spontaneity…Good for you!

Me on the other hand, I’m telling you its hard work! I’m the guy who waits until the last minute, goes to Wal-Mart cruises into the greeting card section, looks for the appropriate crunch time occasion and grabs the first card he sees. Then darts over to the flower section, candy section and or pink aisle in the toy department, depending on which important woman I’m shopping for that day, not to mention depending on how creative I feel that day, and heads for the 2 items or less sign and checks out. In and out in less than 5 minutes that’s my goal.

Every year I go through the same things and every year I feel terrible because in essence what I’m doing is just throwing together something that may have cost me very little in terms of thought, planning, creativity and especially money.

Now I’ve never been to therapy or anything, so I wonder if the reason I struggle is because of the way that the four “girlfriends” I’ve had in my lifetime all ended it with me…Yeah you heard me right, I had four girlfriends (before I met the love of my life) and all four of them dumped me., and for different reasons to…Check this out.

#1 – Dumped me because I was too young (she was 17 I was 16 – come on!)
#2 – Dumped me because I was too tall (she was 4 foot 11 I was 6 foot 4)
#3 – Dumped me because I was too nice – What???
#4 – Dumped me because I wasn’t cool enough – I’m sorry but me and my penny loafers, parachute pants and Flock of Seagulls haircut begged to differ.

Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time getting ready for crunch time because I’ve faced rejection in my life…or maybe it’s just because I’m cheap!

Whatever the reason is, I wish it came easy for me to express my love and genuine affection, appreciation, thankfulness and utter joy for the 3 most important women in my life, but again…it’s hard.

The one time I almost got it right with my wife (before we were married) was on our 1 year anniversary of dating. I couldn’t believe it, God had sent the perfect girl my way, and she was every thing I had been praying for. She was a solid believer, she put God first in every area of her life, she was sweet, funny, smart (in fact I actually prayed that God would send me a library girl…and once I actually found the library and went in…boom there she was!) and to top it all off she was Beautiful!

So, we started dating and sure enough the big one rolled around. The 1 Year Anniversary, the one where you need to step your game up big time. For this one only one kind of flower and only one kind of amount will do. You know what I’m saying, its a dozen red roses with baby’s breath, vase & heart felt card or it’s over!

Here’s how it went down. I got in my ’86 Charger and drove down Abington Road into the village to visit the florist. I explained my situation, and how it was crunch time and all, and asked for a dozen roses, a vase, baby’s breath & the best card they had. Did I mention I was a junior in college at this point?

Anyway the florist said to come back in about an hour and he’d have it all together for me to pick up. I had some time to kill so, of course I went the arcade and played some Space Invaders and came back an hour later.

When I walked in and saw what the florist had put together, I was amazed! It was the most beautifully arranged dozen of roses I had ever seen. I mean the vase was sparkling, the roses were gleaming, the baby’s breath was…breathing…get the picture?

Every thing was looking great until I said “so what are the damages?”

He gave me the price and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have enough money. I was short, I mean I emptied my wallet, my pockets, my secret stash in my Charger, even the quarters in my penny loafers, still not enough.

So now all kinds of thoughts are running through my mind, I won’t go into all of them, but suffice it to say I finally asked the question that seemed the most obvious to me at the time. I asked “how many roses can I get for the amount of money I have?” I assumed that in order to be a 1 year anniversary worthy ensemble you had to have babies breath, a vase & a card those were non negotiable. The number of roses however, may give me the wiggle room I need, I mean after all 10 or 11 roses mixed in with all the other goodies looks an awful lot like 12…She won’t actually count them any way…will she?

The florist said you have enough to buy 11 roses and all the other trimmings…I thought for a second and said, Deal wrap them up!

Now I must be honest, I had every intention of passing that “dozen” off as the real deal until I got about a half mile from the school, and realized…what if she actually counts them, what if she asks me if I knew there were only 11…what will I say? Then it hit me, I pulled my charger into a church parking lot down the road from my college and grabbed the card that was buried in the “dozen” and wrote these words…

“Bonnie, these last 12 months with you have been amazing! I am so thankful to God for sending you my way. This bunch of roses is just a small symbol of my love for you. Each one represents 1 month that we’ve been together. You’ll notice though (if you happen to count) that there are only 11…that’s because YOU ARE THE 12th!

Bingo! Call me a genius, this was even before Jerry McGuire and the whole “You complete me” rabble. She loved it, and after 17 years of marriage I still feel that way about my wife.

The only problem is, my motives were terrible in that whole thing. I’m just fortunate to have a wife who loves me unconditionally…hmmm, kind of like how God loves us huh?

I learned a lot about myself and my motives that day, so much that when March-May rolls around each year, I start obsessing about Carl Crunch Time, so I’ll look good in the eyes of my ladies. Truth be told though, they’ll love me either way because it’s not about what I bring; it’s about how I bring it.

God’s that way as well, He wants us to bring Him our
heart felt devotion, worship, praise and commitment because we want to, not because we have to…The difference between religion and relationship by the way.

So as I face Carl Crunch Time this year I’m going to try to put more thought into WHY than WHAT…We’ll see what happens.

Lesson Learned?

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