Libby Baker Sweiger

Weaver of Everyday Tales

Archive for the category “Forgiveness”

Never Alone With Brothers and Sisters!

When my good friend Lynn’s mom died she was all alone in the experience. She had her faith, like I do…but she had no brothers or sisters to lean on to help her through her darkest days, or even to laugh with, or make decisions with. She had a few best friends for which she thanked God and I thank Him everyday for mine, especially Heather who has been my rock in the best friend department.

But, brothers and sisters to go through the trenches with really do help and that is my subject tonight. Some days you are closer than others to your siblings, but the fact of the matter is you have known them all your life. My sister Suzy and I are only 17 months apart. That’s hardly anything. And Bill and I are five years apart and Scott and I seven. Now Sara, she came along with our new step mom and is fifteen years younger than I am, but she was so wonderful. She drove all the way from Madison on her own to be there for us for Mom’s service and all the way home again. She stayed with dad and Trisha and was a comfort to him as well. Dad had a hard time too. He’s been unmarried to mom a long time but they had a lifetime of friendship and respect and four kids they raised between them. A lot of history.

momvideo20History is the word. Shared history when it comes to brothers and sisters helping you through the loss of a parent. And they know you so well. My youngest brother Scott knew how close Mom and I were, best friends really. He was looking out for me as emails were flying about carrying out her wishes. He knew I would need a sit down and sit down we did.  At the very malt shop my mom hung out at as a teenager and discussed where to and how to scatter her ashes. My brothers split a chocolate malt and Suzy and I a coffee malt. Maybe it doesn’t sound reverent, but it was high Holy Baker Tradition as we reminisced, discussed the service and decided on what to do next. Mom had made it clear so it was a matter of doing what she wanted.

We’ll keep that part to ourselves because it’s private. Let me just say it was legal and beautiful and one of the most memorable days of my life as we let go of the earthly ashes that were our once glorious Mom’s outer shell and thanked God that He had given us such a great Mom and now had her with Him in Heaven.

While we thanked Him for her and what a great mom she had been, we remembered. I will never forget that day, neither will my sister or brothers. It was something we shared all the way together, in responsibility, in reverence, in relief and release as we said our last “so longs”. For it isn’t really good-by is it? We will see her again someday.

That is our “sure and certain hope” the scripture says. I believe it with all my heart because the Word of God says it, Jesus lived and died this truth and rose again and our Mom lived the testimony of this truth beautifully. We live it now. Daily. And will until we join her and those who have gone before us in the Faith.

Miss you Mom. I’m thankful I had such a great Mom. You will be missed every day until I see you again my precious: Mother, Sister in the Faith and Best Friend. Love, Libby!!!!!!!! (which is how you always said my name) 🙂

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And There Were Still Six

Before:

Dad holding Scott, Bill, Mom holding Suzy, Me :)

Dad holding Scott, Bill, Mom holding Suzy, Me 🙂

I ran into a good friend of mine online this morning Veronica De La Cruz of MSNBC news. Her non-profit “And Then There Were Two” is sponsoring a campaign to keep families together called Stand Up Man Up to keep men in the home and families together.

Here is my Facebook picture supporting that campaign:
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Their website is: http://www.andthenthereweretwo.com/wordpress1/ Please check it out!

It affirms single motherhood and talks about the absentee father as the problem in today’s society…which for the most part seems to be true. But not in my family. Oh we have divorce. I divorced when I was very young. I remarried now for 34 years this month to a wonderful man. My two brothers are divorced and they both have shared custody of their youngest children. But they are their father’s sons. My sisters Suzy and Sarah both have long-term marriages to their high school sweethearts!

My parents divorced in 1963. I was 10 years old and the oldest of 4 children. Two girls and two boys. It was hard, but my parents made it easier. My father made some promises to us that he kept. He never moved farther than one suburb away. We saw him on weekends and holidays and took vacations with him and our stepmom, Betty and later on our new sister Sara. He had a big house and had us for sleepovers. He promised my mom alimony and child support for each one of the four of us which he paid until we went to work or graduated college, or got married. Sometimes longer. Never past marriage :). My mom’s alimony was until she remarried. She never did. She has Alzheimer’s now. I don’t know if she realizes it, but 50 years later he is still paying it to her custodial guardian my sister Suzy, who uses it for her care. My father is a man of his word. A man of love. A man of character.

My mom is one classy lady. She refrained from saying bad things about my dad when they split. She turned to her faith. They took care of us as always. They tried their best to keep a united front like parents should.

My parents weren’t good together as a married couple, but they were excellent parents to us. It shows. They have kids with pretty solid self esteem. Well adjusted enough to love each other like crazy and pose together in cowboy gear at my brother Billy’s 50th birthday. We hangout together at parties with both parents. No hard feelings folks. It’s okay. We understand about you being human and not being married. We can deal. Thanks for thinking of us first so very much of the time. And there were still six of us! Actually 7, but Sara wasn’t there that day! Come one move back to Minneapolis, Sara! 🙂 Well eight counting our newer vintage stepmom Patricia! 🙂 Poor Sara’s mom died when she was in her 20’s. We are one BIG happy together blended supportive family. American family.

If you want to encourage families to stay together please sign this petition for the SUMU campaign

http://www.standupmanup.com

Thank you!

After:

Center: Me, L to R Suzy, Mom, Scott, Dad, Bill

Center: Me, L to R Suzy, Mom, Scott, Dad, Bill

Forgive Quickly!

momvideo20“Life is short, Break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.”
― 
Mark Twain

I love this quote by Mark Twain! I love all of it, but something has really hit me recently about it. Forgive quickly! That is so profound! This was a policy in my family of origin, with my brothers and sister above, that my mother strictly enforced. My parents had parted ways and it was too exhausting for my mom to be settling a lot of squabbling, and certainly grudge holding among us would be way too much. My dad, who saw us faithfully every weekend and lots in the summer and holidays, felt the same way. Bickering was to be expected at times with four kids and when my sister Sara came along five ~ but grudge holding and bitterness was not to be tolerated. The Bible’s directive “not to let the sun go down on your anger” was strictly encouraged!

What are the consequences of not forgiving quickly? I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have come to this daring conclusion: the stress of holding onto bad feelings defies any justification for having them!

I know this is logic and common sense talking. But what about at the time of the impact of anger and bad feeling? Well you are right…at the time you are not forgiving someone your emotions are in gear, not your brain. Or you might say the brain is slightly engaged, just enough to give you the pseudo-logic you need to justify your actions. Something is running through your head like this: “Well I am not really angry at so and so, and even if I were — they got me into a terrible mess — therefore, I am right to (ignore them), (withdraw my attention, or friendship), or whatever else you have done. You supply the wording in parentheses!

All this mental and emotional maneuvering is taxing to your system. It wears you out. We were designed to be true and genuine. We were meant by our Creator to be honest with ourselves and direct and honest with others. Anything else, any other way of behaving doesn’t do us justice, hurts our fellow human beings, and what we seem to forget damages our psyche, our bodies, our minds and crushes our spirit.

God knows this. This is why He tells us to forgive. It isn’t a suggestion, it’s a commandment and part of the Lord’s Prayer. “Dear Father who art in Heaven, forgive us our sins, and forgive those who sin against us.” Who is suppose to? Well yes God is supposed to forgive us, but we are clearly to forgive others, Jesus answers the disciple who asked him how many times to forgive ~ 70 x’s 7 or unlimited times. Just keep forgiving!

I don’t think God asks this of us because it’s difficult, just to make our lives hard, but rather because forgiveness sets us free! It sets us free from the smallness of our natures, the crippling effects of bitterness and the painful torment of a conscience that knows it has been forgiven many, many times, yet is sitting in judgment of a beloved sister, brother, friend.

So as for me I have made  a commitment and decision to love more and forgive more quickly in 2013 and for the rest of my life! How about you?

The Greatest of These is Love!

I  Corinthians 13:13

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (NKJV)

My husband Mike and I were  married on July 27, 1979 at Colonial Church of Edina. It was a ceremony that we planned ourselves, involved our dearest friends in and gave our hearts to in every way. One thing we did that was especially meaningful for is was to recite the entire love chapter from the New Testament, I Corinthians 13 back and forth to each other one verse at a time. It is a powerful, beautiful chapter and so much of it has remained in my heart and is there for meditation. I read it, and I treasure the memory of it. I like to try to recite it in my head to this day. “If I speak with the tongues  of men and of angels but have not love I am as a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” That part gave me pause today when I lost my temper at a circumstance in my life. Not at Mike. I was frustrated. But he heard the brunt of it. Boy was I a NOISY GONG. Not my best moment!

Later as we were reflecting on the evening before sleep, we remembered the doctor had given me a medication to take for a few days, effective in stopping rebound headaches —  a cortisone type medicine. The side effects are sleeplessness and irritability. AH HA we said. That’s where that came from. It’s not like me to blow my stack like that. I felt so badly for the calm dear man I married who heard me.

For better or worse, in sickness and in health. God has prepared us for the health problems that have taken their toll on both of us. Nothing so serious as to give is cause to fear for life or limb, except maybe once. But, they have been enough to be wearing and came mostly from me. Now we believe we are seeing the end of them for a while and rejoice in the goodness of our Lord and His faithfulness through it all.

I am especially thankful for Mike. Dear one, patient, strong and always kind. Best friend of my heart and mind. Caring and loving man that I married. I will always think the best of him, do the best for him and trust him with my life. He won my heart, earned my trust my faith in him and he is filled himself with the faith of the Lord. I honor, respect him and find him wonderful, funny and huggable. The rest is ours.

Thanks Lord tonight and every night for this good man you gave me. Bless him. Bless his days and his health and work. Lead he and I in your way everlasting. Thank you for the gift of unselfish, giving Godly love and all the wonderful kinds of love!

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

– (Harry Burns) WHEN HARRY MET SALLY

The Danger Of The Little White Lie

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
― Mark Twain
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This quote had a big impact on me. Not that I’m a liar or anything, but I have been prone to the polite lies of peace-keeping society. Insidiously they can sneak into your mind and become a habit. And therein lies the danger. The more you allow the kind lies of polite society infiltrate your soul the more blurred the line between what’s true and not true will become. Suddenly you will catch yourself telling a whopper of a real lie for no reason. Now how did that happen?

You opened the door to deceit in your heart and in waltzes evil to take up residence. Now I have a girlfriend. A very good girl friend who I talk to daily on the phone. She just doesn’t lie. Then, I noticed she was telling me about a white lie she told the day before and right there on the phone she started to pray and ask God to forgive her. I was really touched. She was letting me into her personal prayer life — that we had both done before. Not only that, she was exposing a weakness and confessing it before me and God and repenting right then and there. She was making a decision to be genuine before people and before her Lord.

That is exactly how we should be with one another in love: transparent. Calling it like we see it. What she had done wasn’t so terrible, that wasn’t the point. The point was, it troubled her conscience and she wanted to make it right immediately, as soon as she thought of it, so she did.

Wow, if we could all be like that with each other, what an awesome world this would be. And if we offended someone — repenting and asking forgiveness right at the moment. Clearing the air and mending the situation with love and a hug. What a great way to live. I’m committing myself tonight to more transparency in life. More honesty with myself and with others. If we’re totally straight with people, we don’t have to try to remember anything as Mark Twain says. We don’t have to keep any story straight because there never was one.

Let’s not worry so hard about putting our best foot forward and looking and acting perfect that we’re telling polite little fibs all over the place, let’s conduct ourselves with transparency and honesty. Be real with each other. Honest. Meet each other with the truth and a genuine spirit of sharing. Not only will it keep us out of danger, it will improve the quality of all of our relationships by giving people the best gifts we have: ourselves and the truth.

Mare, my dear friend and I

Growing in Faith And Marrying Kind

2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

When I was almost 18 and a senior in High School, we had a Bible Study in our home for kids from my class. We were going to a new church that believed in following the practices and structure of the early church in the bible. We were growing, fueled in part by the Jesus Movement of the 70’s. The above was my very favorite verse. I loved to think about the idea of looking into the face of Jesus, like into a mirror, His word.

A year went by with the focus of my life being the worship at this church, helping my mom with the family and working. It was Spring of my 19th year and I signed up with at my good old Congregational Church to be on the work crew for High Schoolers on their spring ski trip and retreat. I got accepted. This meant I could ski by day and serve meals morning and dinnertime. I could also sit in on the spiritual sessions. I loved every aspect of the trip and participated all I could.

I noticed of one of the counselors on the trip. He spoke at a fireside chat and I liked what he had to say. He seemed very gentle and kind with a good sense of humor, so I asked him if he skied or anything. He said he stayed back with some of the campers who didn’t ski and worked on his teaching when we skied. I noticed up close he was pretty handsome. Well I must have grown on him a little because we road home to Minnesota on the bus together. Turns out he was in charge of the Jr. High drop in center at the Congregational church. And he was studying to be a youth pastor. Within a year we were married.

As you can see I remember our meeting fondly. I remember many things in a good light. But he was a very young man to go through all that we went through — and my heart goes out to him, too. How was he to know how well I would do in my life? My bi-polar on top of the death of our two children frightened him, I think in a time when our country was also in turmoil. At any rate, it is not for me to judge, or try to reason his actions. I have enough to manage taking care of my own.

Every day we have a choice about how we want to view our past and present. How we want to view our future. Are we going to look at our past with mercy and forgiveness for ourselves and others, as the Lord does — without bitterness? Are we going to live our present in love and our future in hope? I am. That is my intention. For I still love the verse,

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

“Minister” On A Motorcycle

“Never travel faster than your guardian angel can fly.”
― Mother Teresa

When I was in High School. I was a lot to handle. I was rebelling against everything. It was the late sixties and the world was in turmoil. My Junior Year my mom was spending a great deal of her spare time in women’s bible studies and I know all the women were praying for me. I was like a young wild horse with the bit in my teeth, going fast as I could in the woods, paying no attention to the low hanging branches. I loved God. I prayed, but I wasn’t following Him like I had been, I was going too fast to follow anyone. Except my tight group of girlfriends and they were a bit too wild.

I was not promiscuous however. I didn’t believe in it. I didn’t care that it was the time for free love. I was raised to be a virgin when I married and I was holding to it. I didn’t care what the boys in my class thought about the idea one bit. But I was troubled. I wasn’t close to my dad for the first time in my life. I’m not sure why. We were having trouble communicating, I supposed like many fathers and teenage daughters of that day.

One beautiful spring day a young man drove his motorcycle into our suburb. He was going door-to-door raising money for a “mission” trip he was taking to save the souls of the Native Americans in Arizona. No matter how ludicrous that sounds today, this was at the height of the Jesus Movement and people were buying what he was selling…I’m not trying to demean people of pure intent in their desire to spread the gospel, but I had reason to believe later that this guy was not on the up and up. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was an idealist. And wanted to change the world. If Native Americans would be better off as this man said, I was for it. And I would help if I could. Many of the people in my suburb felt the same way and contributed to this cause, including Colonial Church, the one I had found coming home from Junior High.

How did I meet this “minister” on a motorcycle. Well, amazingly my mother’s bible study introduced us. They thought he would be a good influence on me. Now I hesitate to write about this because I think good Christian people are often made to look foolish today and I don’t want to contribute to it. These were well meaning people trying to help me, who grasped at the nearest straw. Also, this man was a supreme manipulator.

So, I started traveling with him after school on his motorcycle. I didn’t ask God if I should, I just did. I assumed I was in His will without asking. My mom was okay with it because so many people she respected were. This went on throughout the summer. As you might imagine happened, this young man said he fell for me. He wanted to marry me and take me with me to Arizona to help him in his ministry. I was very taken with the whole situation, drawn in and captivated. I was all for the idea. Fortunately for me, I was too young to get married without parental consent. Whew!

I went out of town with my girlfriend for the weekend and had a fun time. I slowed down enough for my guardian angel to catch up with me like Mother Teresa says. I came to my senses and realized this guy was a nut, trying to marry me! He probably just wanted me! BFI “Blinding flash of insight” as my best friend Lynn would say! So I came back into town to break up with him.

I told him so and he talked me into coming to his house because he had something to tell me…I said I would and he picked me up and brought me to his place in town. He lived with his parents still. I never thought I would not be safe. We were talking in his garage and he said that while I was gone God told him that we should have a ceremony of our own. That we would be married in the eyes of God. And I could live with him. I knew something was terribly wrong and told him I had to go home. I asked him, adamantly to take me there.

Instead he raped me. I was heartbroken. Stunned and confused. No one had ever talked about date rape back then so it took me a while to figure out that I had, in fact, been raped. I lived in guilt and shame for quite some time. I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know what to say. I just lived with it. I couldn’t believe I would not be a virgin when I married. I couldn’t believe something I was protecting and fighting to keep was gone and so soon.

I cried out to God. I couldn’t hear His response. Finally I ran away. I ran to a Young Life camp I had gone to with my church where a friend was working for the summer. I thought they were someone I could tell. They weren’t. They were horrified and ashamed for me. But my father found me there. My dearest friend. He took me back to his house and I stayed there with his dear wife and my little sister Sara.

He and my step mom paid me the supreme compliment of asking me to live with them. I did for two weeks and then I knew it was time to go home. I never told another soul until I was older, and it was a friend who loved and brought healing to my heart. My dad was my rescuer, but I was my mom’s so home I went. God healed my heart. And in time healed and restored all that had been taken from me. Was I a virgin when I married? Yes, absolutely! God makes all things new!

Mom Plus God

The Five of Us

“Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands. Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God. Be a person in whom they can have faith. When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much.”
― Lisa Wingate

My mom tells the story that when dad and she decided to get divorced and she was alone in the house with us that she laid down on the floor and stretched out her arms and legs and gave up. She told God she couldn’t do this thing: raise the four of us without dad in the house and without his daily presence and love. She told God she needed Him to give her the strength as soon as possible, PLEASE! She just laid there until he answered her. From that day forward she always said God was her husband. She was NOT a nun, she was real flesh and blood. She got frustrated with the four of us who could be very unruly without dad to yell out our given names! But, she had a lot of love and determination and incredible energy. I’m not surprised looking back to think that it was not really mom raising us at home, but mom plus God.

Now I want to stress again that my dad took care of us, too! He was there for us emotionally and financially and on weekends and holidays. But on the weekdays and every night it was mom + God who raised us. She needed help from others too and got it when she would. She was very beautiful and dated some. I love this picture of us taken at Minnehaha Creek by my all-time favorite of her boyfriends, a doctor and a really great guy. She didn’t have very many of them, but they were all sweet to us. Some wanted to marry her. She never took them up on it, and finally stopped dating. She maintained she was married to God. That might sound a bit goofy to some, but my mom was not goofy, she was full of love. I think, however that she never really got over my dad. She is 81 now, with Alzheimers, and her face still lights up like a Christmas tree when she hears his name!

And my grandparents, were always around. I had two sets. I was very fortunate in that department. My moms parents we saw the most, because they lived near by. They were an important part of our lives. And my cousins too, of course. Yet, sometimes we were lonely. My mom started this ritual of putting is all to bed individually and lying down with us and talking to us for a good long time. My mom took a couple of hours to put four kids to bed. I mentioned she had energy. She was very happy raising us. She would get up the next day to begin the adventure again!

She depended on me for help with my brothers. My sister Suzy helped more around the house. We all helped mom when we could. I was her rescuer. One early summer day I rode home on my bike and saw her holding the window air conditioner out the window! I ran upstairs to see what the deal was and found she had it stuck outside the window, not in the brackets and could get it in or out! She was holding onto the thing for dear life. She wasn’t about to drop an air conditioner! I got on my bike and pedaled to the nearest gas station (about a mile) and the guy who knew us came and helped mom out! Wow! What a day. I get tense just thinking about it! Okay now I’m laughing. Life with mom was never dull!

Mom raised us on the praise method. She had been raised that way by her dad with a bit more of a critical style by her mom and saw no value in it. Even today, my husband Mike calls her the president of my fan club! She is the first person I call when something great has happened. Well it’s a coin toss! The second person I call is my Dad! They are two great people who built a wonderful happy family, together and apart. One of their secrets: they loved their children. A second? They never had a bad word to say about each other! I had the two best parents in the world, plus God!

When God Found Me

I was always really curious about God. I remember driving my Sunday school teachers down at Hennepin Avenue Church crazy with questions. How can we talk to God? How does He talk to us? How do we know He will answer our prayers. How can we get into Heaven?

It bothered me a lot that they didn’t have answers for most of my questions. I had asked my grandmother Meme, a Methodist — and all I got was — try your best and be a good girl and hope you get in. The vagueness of the reply troubled me greatly. Also I didn’t think I was a particularly good little girl. I teased my little brothers, sometimes my sister and didn’t help my mom enough! When I got older, 7th grade I remember getting mad and saying bad things in my head at the minister’s sermons because he sounded so vague and irritatingly non-committal about everything. When I thought about my questions and my thoughts later, I was sure a girl who was mean to a minister — even in her head — was not headed for anyplace too good at all! This continued on until I turned 13 and was in the 8th grade in Jr. High.

Now let me preface this by saying that I believe I had a big old hole in my heart. I believe I was missing God and I also know I was missing my dad. Now my parents had separated four years earlier and divorced when I was 10. I saw my dad every weekend and intellectually I comprehended the thing and was even behind it. I did not believe my parents belonged together. My dad was also much happier with my step mom, who I really liked and who really liked me and all the kids. My sister Sara, their only child hadn’t come along yet. But despite all this, I was a daddy’s girl. One who had followed my dad around every minute of my life until the day he left and I just plain missed him fiercely. After he moved out he treated us more and more like a grandfather than a dad I thought. He wanted all our time together to be special I imagine, so he spoiled us a bit and didn’t discipline us much…well we were probably on our best behavior too…at least that was my child’s impression. So I missed my dad. The one who used to YELL, Elizabeth Diane Baker if I was in trouble! The firm hand of guidance, and the safety I felt in that.

I didn’t know what to do with my new-found freedom, so a big part of me was looking for God. Probably the best idea I could have had. That all brings me back to the year I was 13 and in the 8th grade. I was walking home from school one day. I probably missed the bus because it was a two mile walk and I didn’t usually make my way on foot. I was passing by a church and noticed some pretty cool looking kids hanging out, playing in the side yard. I went over and talked to them, liked their banter and decided I’d go there the next Sunday when they asked. As the oldest child in the family I had certain privileges, as well as the safety of our neighborhood and those long ago times. When I told my mom I was walking to a new church on Sunday she let me go! My family drove down to Hennepin Avenue and I walked on a sunny spring day to Colonial Church of Edina and sat myself down in one of the pews.

Well, what did you know but my quest had ended? God had found me! On that sunny side street among friendly, playing children He had set the stage for me to walk right into a place that didn’t intellectualize tired old dogma, but told the story of the New Testament and the love of God in His son Jesus. I was home!

So that’s why I say God found me. Sure I was looking. But I think He set a pretty attractive trap and caught Himself a Libby and changed the course of her whole life! What do you think? Oh, by the way, my mom and my sister and brothers followed me to that church. It was great driving with the family again. We all felt we were home.

First Love

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

When I was a senior in high school, all of 17 years old, I was very much in love for the first time in my life. His name was Dimitri and he had been born in France. It was the 70’s and our type of love was not widely accepted. Dimitri was black. That was not my attraction to him. He was handsome, but also older, an artist and the kindest young man I had ever met. We met through my best girlfriend who was dating his friend, so on a double blind date. Blind dates have always been good to me! (See post “Made for Each Other”) He went to the University in our town and I lived in a conservative suburb. The police, he told me, often followed him into my neighborhood when he got off the freeway. He endured humiliation to date me and I only had to endure love. I adored his parents. His mother loved the ink and watercolors I used to do back then and framed them and hung them in her house. I considered it high praise, considering her son was the artist.

I was going to a very non-traditional, non-denominational new church back then and I was pretty into it. I loved my God and felt the church was filled with true Jesus People as they were called in those days. As you will see these two worlds were destined to collide.

Dimitri and I had a lot of fun together. Our favorite places were an Italian restaurant near his house, and hanging out at each other’s parent’s houses. I didn’t see him a lot. He was busy with his studies and the National Guard, it was Vietnam War time. The country was troubled and there were protests at the U, some of which he took me to. He respected my belief in Jesus and soon we were thinking alike on that subject. I was so in love, he could do no wrong and really, rarely did, except to get quiet on me sometimes. But he was a guy!

My whole family loved him. Almost all. I had been raised to believe that God loved all the children of the world, as the song goes, regardless of color. The only one who was having a problem was my dear grandfather who was raised in Missouri. He couldn’t be estranged from me though, so one day when Dimitri and I were at my house he drove over and talked with us. It was honest, painful, heart-wrenching and difficult for all of us to face his feelings, but we had the conversation. My grandfather saw the man Dimitri was and we were fine from that day on. Grandpa drove home and Dimitri and I went to the Italian place to talk about our relationship. We discussed if it was worth taking resistance for, decided it was, ate spaghetti and recovered like young hearts can do.

We rode this wonderful wave of young love for my entire Senior year. I had never been in a relationship like this before. I never wanted it to end. Then came the springtime. I went off for a retreat with my church. It was uplifting, captivating and as it turns out, maybe a little brainwashing time. Towards the end of the retreat the pastor who I thought was the next thing to God (WARNING!!!) asked to meet with me. He prayed with me and told me that God wanted him to be my spiritual father because my parents were divorced and I needed guidance. I bought it. I almost cry now to think of the next part. Then he said that God didn’t want Dimitri and I together, because my ministry was very important to God and that the race issue would get in the way. (OUCH!) I feel so bad now that I believed this. Never a prejudiced bone in my body and I fell for this because I wanted to be used of God more than anything. He took my greatest heart’s cry and used it! I was manipulated out of my first love.

One disagreement Dimitri and I had always had was that he didn’t believe men and women could be friends. He thought love got in the way, feelings would always intrude. So it didn’t surprise me completely when I told him we couldn’t date anymore that he refused my offer of friendship. What really killed me was what he said, “I love you too much Libby to stand being just your friend.” And there went my first love.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

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