Fifty years ago this fresh young bride was carried over the threshold! Quite a feat when you consider that the old Queenslander farmhouse was typically up on high stumps. My beloved hero bravely staggered up those 14 steps and triumphantly deposited me inside with the same aplomb that he would have had I been a heavy sack of fertilizer--whew! But he would never have kissed a smelly sack like he kissed me then… which proves he did have a romantic streak. Did!
The years passed with the transition from farmer’s daughter to a pineapple farmer’s wife, from wife to mother, passing beyond the proverbial seven-year-itch with no more than the more usual hitches--but all the romance was well and truly in the past! No longer did his fingers reach to entwine with mine on the few times when we went out, and if I ever tried to hold his hand, I was abruptly halted with a “We’re married!” as if that put a legal end to any display of affection in public! Ouch!
So, here we were three children later, (yes, he was romantic in the privacy of our bedroom!) and I was now a full-on born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, married to an unbeliever! He was still the farmer, picking pineapples with his brothers, six or more days a week, and for a few years I was needed to steer the tractor while they picked or planted. It can become very monotonous moving at snail’s pace down those endless pineapple rows, half a mile an hour, stop/start, through our hot summer afternoons. Quite often I nodded off, only to be rudely awakened with a shout from one of the men! It was then I began to memorize Scriptures and even put them into verse just to stay alert! I was renewing my mind with the washing of the Word! Splash! I had to keep that tractor straight and on track!
By this time, I was part of a very active church family, loving it and being loved, but something was missing. From reading Above Rubies I knew I needed an older woman as stated in Titus 2:3-5, “These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”
So God gave me Jean. Jean was a support and when things were tough, she was there on the other end of the phone. Jean was a challenger. She would get me thinking about some news snippet or new ways of being creative in my home. Jean was a wise woman. From experience, I knew that if Jean ever said that she felt God was telling her to share something with me, I’d better listen, ‘cos it was from God!
One day after we had put the world headlines in right perspective, she casually asked if I ever gave my Les a kiss as he left for work in the morning. No, I didn’t. I hadn’t done so for years! He would finish breakfast, pick up his pineapple-picking gloves and his heavy, well-worn knife to take the tops off the pines, pat the dog and head for the Ute (pick-up) and was gone for the day. No, he didn’t get a kiss from me. I was always on my way to doing the dishes or hanging out the washing as he left.
“Joan, I feel God is saying to be there and give Les a kiss as he goes to work.” Okay! So I had to kiss Les as he went to work!
Next morning, I was there beside the side door.He picked up his gloves and knife where he always left them, absently patted the dog and headed for the door. I was ready with a bright “Bye, Darling!” and went to kiss him. Missed! He was in the Ute and off! Oh well! Always tomorrow!
The next day I lined up at the door with a smile and another bright “Bye, Darling!” I once again aimed a kiss. This time it felt as if he turned to avoid that kiss. Ouch! The day-old whiskers that brushed my lips hurt, but the rejection hurt more! Tears sprang behind my eyes as I turned to do the dishes. Later that day dear Jean rang to see how I was getting on. “He won’t even let me near to kiss him!” I sobbed.“It’s early days yet! You are doing well! Keep at it”
Hey, he’s my husband and the father of our children and he doesn’t even want a kiss!
“Be there for him!” Okay! If I have to! Jean is doing her Titus Two thing! This has to be a God thing!
Every morning I was there to give him that kiss. Every morning I would get that same glancing brush-off! Each day it was the same. Yet each day it was different. Les shaved twice a week so twice each week I had the cycle of smooth cheek, sharp, short bristles then softer longer whiskers brushing my lips--so close yet out of reach. My poor lips and cheek! It hurt so much!
As he came to the side door where I faithfully waited, I could pick up the smell of his work clothes--the ripe old juice from the pineapples and the almost tea-like softer fragrance of the leaves themselves. Sometimes there was the lingering of his Old Spice aftershave that he loved to splash on whenever he went to town… but still I hadn’t landed even a peck of a kiss!
The weeks turned into months! Two, three, four months went by. They were long months and without my faithful “older woman Jean” there to encourage me, I’m sure I would have given up! Five, six, seven months and counting! Seasons changed from picking to ploughing to planting--dusty jobs… and the smell of his clothes changed from old juice to dusty. But I was there by the door waiting with that well-practiced, bright “Bye Darling!” every morning! And let me tell you, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes I could have thumped him good and proper!
Then one morning, at about the eight or nine month mark, I missed him. I’d had to race out to the laundry because I could hear the washer wobbling ominously as it spun out of balance. As I hurried back toward the kitchen to catch him I could see he was already in the Ute driving out toward the road. Then the Ute stopped. What has he forgotten? His gloves, his knife? I couldn’t see them by the door, so must have been something else.
Back to those dishes with a lump in my throat, trying to hold back the tears of regret that I hadn’t been there for him! Savagely attacking the pile of plates, I didn’t hear the door slide open. Suddenly I was grabbed from behind, turned round and kissed fair and square on the lips! Then he was gone! Back in the Ute and out the driveway! I was stunned! I stood there, tears streaming down my face, filling the sink, it seemed! He’d kissed me!
The next morning as I stood at the side door ready with my “Bye Darling” he kissed me! And the next! More and more he would seek me out just to drop me a kiss! The drought was broken!
Something else was broken too--that un-written law about holding hands! But the miracle is that the older we got, the more we fell in love, with more and more of those delightful spontaneous displays of love until Parkinson’s took him, nearly seven years ago.
Only a few weeks ago my precious children and grandchildren joined with me for the celebration of what would have been our glorious Golden Wedding anniversary. To be honest, as I looked back down those years, it was a time of ups and downs and there were so many times they were not what a girl dreams of, but what a change!
To quote dear “Titus Two Jean”--“It must have been all those long months of loving-faithfulness-without-complaint that wore down his stubborn resistance.” Was all that bruising of lips worth it? You bet! God first gave me Jean and through her godly ministry He gave me back my husband--sealed with a KISS!
Moggill, Queensland, Australia
Joan shared this testimony at our Above Rubies retreat in Queensland, Australia. We were all so blessed that I asked her to write it for all our readers. She also shares that soon after Les was admitted to a nursing home with Advanced Parkinson’s, plus dementia, that during a glorious window of opportunity, he gave himself to the Lord.