June 25, 2013

A Love Story

Our first official date
I actually heard Keith's voice before I ever saw him. I was nine years old and my family had just moved to Ruston, Louisiana and we were visiting area churches. That particular Sunday landed us at Emmanuel Baptist Church on Farmerville Highway. I had already started fourth grade at Hillcrest Elementary and I didn’t see any of my new friends there so I was suitably unimpressed. But during a rousing rendition of 'How Great Thou Art' a melodic, distinctly masculine voice from the pew behind me reached my ears. I nonchalantly turned my head and in my peripherals I beheld the most beautiful sight my nine year old eyes had ever seen. He was tall, he was tan with dark tousled hair, and he was extremely handsome. And I was immediately and soundly smitten. But he was a sophisticated THIRTEEN year old in the eighth grade, much too old to take notice of a bespectacled, skinny, brace face in grade school. 

Well my parents did eventually join Emmanuel and I didn’t protest a bit. Our parents even became close friends much to my delight. And better yet, my cousin became his best friend which put him at our house on a regular basis. When my cousin allowed it, they let me tag along after Sunday night church for pizza. Thankfully Keith wasn't unkind. He included me. He teased me. He gave me a nickname- Bug. That’s all he ever called me. I absolutely loved it. I wrote his name on the back of my school notebooks and then drew pictures over them. But I knew what was underneath. And I never quit hoping. Every bit of attention paid, every perceived flirtation, all my tender young hopes of romance were wistfully penned in my diary. My dream of one day marrying Keith Johnson never wavered. 


Well, the years passed and he joined the Navy when he was nineteen. Before he left, he hugged me and called me my name, not Bug. I wondered if he was finally seeing me as a woman (after all I WAS sixteen years old now). But life took us in opposite directions. I had high school to complete and the Navy took him far away so what might have begun at that time was delayed. He got into relationships. I got into relationships. He was stationed in Florida and then South Carolina and I was stuck in Louisiana. But one Christmas he came home on leave and I finally caught his eye. And although I had a boyfriend, we started writing each other letters. He called me one day when I wasn’t home and although I wanted to, because I was in a relationship, I never called him back. Then on the very day I broke up with my boyfriend, I finally returned his call. And we talked. And we talked. And we talked some more.  We talked so often and so long that Keith eventually had to sell his truck to pay his phone bill. My dad knew Keith and his family and he knew he was a catch. At that point in my troubled young life I'd made enough wrong choices that my dad was nervous I might miss this golden opportunity (He needn't have worried). He viewed paying our enormous phone bill as an investment in my future and he did it without TOO much grumbling ;). For four months we talked every day for hours on end. I was a senior in high school and many a night I reluctantly hung up the phone an hour before my alarm was set to go off. Keith often showed up to work red eyed after talking to me all night long. Then oh happy day- he finally came home on leave. By our second date, we were engaged. He flew back home once more before our wedding in the spring to attend my senior prom with me.


I graduated high school in May and a month later on June 25, we married.  



June 25, 1983And here thirty years later, I have no regrets.
I can truthfully say that I have spent the last three decades with the man of my dreams and my best friend and it has far exceeded my girlhood expectations.
Stationed in Scotland
We’ve been blessed to travel the world with the Navy, to have four beautiful children and now a grandson.

We've lived in South Carolina, Florida, Hawaii (twice), Connecticut (twice), Scotland, Louisiana and now Missouri. We've moved more times than I can count. 


Hawaii
But maybe the most beautiful thing has been discovering and journeying together in our pursuit of God. We’ve grown up together. We’ve gone from foolish and worldly to curious and hungry, to ultimately determined that ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. We’ve laughed a lot, dreamed a lot, loved a lot and have prayed a lot. Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve made our share of mistakes. We’ve had disappointments and failures. We’ve suffered loss and rejection. We’ve walked through a lot together these many years. But I can stand here thirty years later and say that we are profoundly blessed and I wouldn’t change a thing.


There's not another person i would rather do life with than Keith Johnson. There's not another person on earth who understands me and sees me as I am yet accepts me and loves me and honors me. And there's no other who I respect like I do him, nobody who can make me laugh like he can. He's a man of great wisdom. There's a high level anointing on his life to preach and prophesy. The authority he carries bring a sense of peace wherever he goes and young people are drawn to the shelter of his daddy's heart. He has selflessly provided our family with a protective covering and a loving foundation. 

Our relationship has matured and evolved over the years. It's amazing what God has done. There's so much more to our love story that is locked away in the secret places of our hearts but our beautiful story is still being written and I look forward to many more decades of love, laughter and adventure together.
Our beautiful grandbaby Gabriel Michael Ortego


So today on the thirty year anniversary of our marriage, I want to honor this man who caught my eye when I was nine years old. I've loved you almost 40 years, Keith Johnson. We've come a long way! I am blessed among women. Happy Anniversary honey. You still are my sunshine!
From two kids who married in 1983 has come this beautiful anointed family. God is indeed good!