Monday, May 30, 2011

Eight Years!

Eight years ago tonight I talked to John on the phone for the first time.

In case you don't already know, we met through He never could have found me because my profile was hidden (unless I saw someone who interested me and shared it privately). But the other reason he never would have found me was because he wasn't even looking at profiles. A friend talked him into signing up and creating a profile. But, once he did that, he did nothing but wait for someone to contact him. And he was pretty ho-hum about the whole thing. I, on the other hand, was a compulsive "shopper" in that I enjoyed reading profiles. However, I was only interested in Christian men who did not smoke and I didn't want anyone to see or contact me unless I initiated it. (I did not want to be "shopped.")

On May 29 I saw John's profile and sent him mine, along with an introductory email. I also sent him a picture. He told me later that he had pretty much decided not to renew his subscription to match because even when he received emails of interest, he didn't feel inclined to pursue them. He'd been set up on a few dates as well and he wasn't sure he was even interested in dating. But (I later learned) when he read my email and saw my picture, he had a feeling there was something different about me. And he responded right away. (I, of course, had no idea at the time what his frame of mind was or that he had any such feeling about me.)

On the night of May 30 we were talking back and forth online (through instant message). I type 100 wpm and John uses only a few of his fingers. He couldn't keep up with me. So he sent a message with his phone number and: "Call me!" I was living at my dad's at the time and my dad had already gone to bed. So I went downstairs and called him. He had a good sense of humor and there was interest on both our parts. And after a fairly lengthy conversation, John said, "Well, I guess we should meet in person at some point. When do you think we should try to do that?" I said, "What are you doing tomorrow night?" And the rest is history.

May 31, 2003 was our first date. We met at Famous Dave's in Hermitage. He asked me what was good (since I had been there and he hadn't) and I suggested we share The Feast. He tells people to this day how I ordered a meal that was served on a trash can lid on our FIRST DATE. LOL. (Nobody who knows me is one bit surprised.)

I love to remember that first date. John has a silly side and he was as much himself that night (being goofy) as I was (being a foodie). He listened so attentively and laughed so easily. I knew I had made a really good friend. I could picture us hanging out. But I didn't have a clue how important he would become in my life or how quickly our relationship would deepen. Every day after that date he wrote me sweet and funny emails. And he called me every night. By our second date the following weekend, I was smitten. If you've read my book, you know the story. My love and adoration for my amazing husband has only grown ever since. And I have never stopped feeling like Cinderella. I am really, really blessed.

John came home early this afternoon and spontaneously suggested we take a drive. I was expecting him early but wasn't anticipating going anywhere. So I quickly put some makeup on and we hopped in the car. We wound up at Arrington Vineyards (gorgeous place). And then we went to J. Alexander's for an early dinner in Cool Springs. On the way home, I was "thinking out loud" and telling him how unbelievable it still is to me that he is my husband. But not only that. Of the two of us, my life has changed the most since we've been together. Life is different for both of us in that we are finally so happily married. But when I moved to Murfreesboro to be with John, I'm the one who started fresh (and John teases me that I'm the one who needed to). I didn't know anybody in his world eight years ago. I remember thinking I would never connect all the names and faces of the people I was constantly meeting. But today it's very different. Not only are all of his friends my friends; these days I even introduce John to people he doesn't know on occasion. (Which always makes me smile.)

When this time of year rolls around, I always enjoy remembering our first date; how I didn't have a clue that I had just met the man of my dreams or how much my life was about to change. I will always remember John's facial expressions that night. There is an expression he has when he's listening intently and slightly amused. He raises his eyebrows and his eyes open wide. I saw that expression a lot during our first (hours long) dinner date. (Maybe that's why it has stayed with me so vividly.) I remember thinking how genuine he seemed. And I was right. He is such a genuinely good man.

Every time I see that expression on his face, I am taken back to our first date ... to that first clueless night when I met God's best for me. I am so thankful for the last eight years (the most rewarding and joyful years of my life).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Comments on Perfection and My Book...

I received two comments on older blog posts (from someone I don't know) earlier this morning. The person stated that he attended my former church in Chino over twenty years ago. Twenty years ago would have been just prior to the move to Tennessee being announced. He didn't say if he moved with the church or not. And I might be able to remember him with more information. But with nothing other than a first name, I don't remember who he is. Rather than go back to the old posts to respond, I thought I would bring the conversation to the top of my blog so that more of my readers could read it. And this is why:

I am asked frequently by current Christian friends, what in the world was the basis for the belief that one had to reach perfection in this life to go to heaven (because the Bible is clear that salvation is a gift by grace through faith). I can never really make anyone understand how certain scriptures were twisted to make it seem glaringly true to me all my life. If your thinking has never been conditioned in this way, it really is hard (almost impossible) to fathom. Because I had one of those conversations in response to that question as recently as last week, I just wanted to share these blog comments to help my current friends understand the mindset a little better. David, the person who commented on my blog this morning, says that he has not attended church in seven years, but he clearly remains faithful to the "truth" of what he was taught in the "Body of Christ" churches I was raised in.
The first comment:
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Be Perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is ...":

It's sad that you chose to leave the Body of Christ.

Hopefully you haven't strayed so far from the truth that it would prevent you from meriting a resurrection and getting another chance.

I have to post as anonymous since I don't have any of the accounts to post otherwise, but my name is David, and after 47 years in the Body of Christ (including attending the church in Chino when I lived in CA), I know there is no other truth in this world.
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Healing from Spiritual and Emotional Abuse":

I'm not familiar with commenting on these blogs, but I left a comment on one of your older posts. I wasn't sure if you would see it or not because of how old it is, so I'm leaving you a comment on this newer page as well. I also left a comment about CGT being a cult on the website about cults that re-printed this page. It didn't show up, so I don't know if they will post it or not.

I don't know if we ever met at CGT in Chino since it's been over 20 years since I moved to Kentucky, and then Indiana. I just came across the site about cults that is promoting your book and re-printed what your blog says. That site had the URL for your blog. That's how I ended up here.

I'm very sorry to hear that you feel the way you do about the Body of Christ, and I have to admit that I am very hurt to hear that anyone who attended such a wonderful church that gave it's people the incredible amount of freedom that CGT did could ever call it a cult. I've seen how other churches in this world operate, and CGT is about as far from a cult as you can get. Yes, some of the teaching was strict, but the scriptures are strict when it comes to killing the flesh daily as the Apostle Paul tells us we must do in order to overcome sin. If we have no further obligation than the cross and repentance of our sins, and striving to reach perfection is a false gospel, then the Bible has to be false, because there are over 20 verses in the New Testament that tell us we are to reach perfection. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." I can't see how it could be any more clear or straightforward than that.

I don't mean this in a vindictive way, but regarding your book and public outcry against CGT, please remember that that the only way to offend Jesus is by offending his people. Even though I haven't attended church for about 7 years myself now, I would never speak ill of it, if for no other reason I would not want to offend the many good people and children of God that do attend it. In fact, I try not to speak ill of any church regardless of who they are because there are good people in every church that will someday hear the call to come out of her my people, and I wouldn't want anything I said be an offence to them and cause them to miss out on the truth some day.

If you think I'm brainwashed, trust me, I'm not. I've questioned a lot of things I've been taught, and I've searched the scriptures, and my heart many, many... MANY times. In the end, I've always found that regardless of what I wanted to be true, the things our pastor taught us from that pulpit on Sunday mornings stood every test I could give it, and it always proved to be the truth.

While you probably consider me a cultist or something because I still believe the teachings we both learned are true, and I still believe that the King James Version Bible is the word of God, and is infallible, you also know that because of that very same teaching that I love you as my sister in Christ, and that I will still pray for you.

God bless you sister.
Your brother Christ
My response:

Dear David,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. I'm sorry that you feel sad for me. And I know the sadness you are feeling is very genuine because you believe I have lost my way and strayed from the truth. But you need not feel sad. While it is true that I have left the group professing to be THE Body of Christ in the earth, I have not left God. My faith is 100% in the blood of Jesus Christ -- His sacrificial death on my behalf and His resurrection -- for my salvation. I know you believe that His work on the cross did not accomplish my salvation and is not sufficient in itself to get me to heaven, but the Bible is clear that there is no other way. As far as whether or not I still "merit" another chance or a resurrection, the answer would be no. I merit nothing. God's grace is unmerited favor. If the gift of eternal life could be gained through merit, it would be a wage and not a gift. And not one single person other than Jesus would be in heaven. Because not one single person in the Bible was declared perfect other than Him. The Bible is filled with flawed, inadequate people -- not perfect followers.

I am so thankful to have been delivered from "the truth" you believe I have strayed from. And my hope and prayer for you is that you will one day be delivered from it as well. It is a false gospel. It is not the truth. In fact, many of the people in CGT today don't even claim they believe in the perfection doctrine anymore.

May I ask why you no longer attend church when you believe so strongly that God requires you to be perfect? The reason I ask is because this is one of the sad realities I observed throughout my life that helped me to see the idolatry of the group. I witnessed so many people stray from God, but always remain uncompromising in their loyalty to the group and its teachings. Even in your comments, your sadness is all about my leaving this group and its truth. You believe my ultimate salvation is in jeopardy because I have strayed from this group and its beliefs. This conveys that the group and its beliefs are paramount in salvation; even more important than the cross. Your words of concern confirm that. That is idolatry. There is nothing more important than the cross.

As far as the scripture you quoted, I now see that verse in context. The entire chapter is addressing the love we should have for others. It is not addressing salvation or how to obtain salvation.

Yes, I do believe that it is important how I live my life. I believe that obedience is the strongest evidence of my faith. I believe God expects me to love others, to love even my enemies, to return good for evil. And I want my daily life to honor Him and glorify Him. But I do not believe my works are going to be the determining factor in whether or not I make it to heaven. My works are the evidence of my faith. But it is faith that overcomes the world. I am saved by grace. I can add nothing to the cross. However, I can demonstrate my gratitude for what Jesus has done by responding to His love and mercy with a life that honors Him. I do try to crucify my flesh. I do try to overcome my selfish nature. I do make an effort to resist temptation and not sin willfully. To be perfectly honest with you, I make a much greater effort to honor God in my daily life since leaving CGT than I ever did while I was believing those teachings. A true transformation has taken place in my heart and in my life since I have believed the true gospel.

My book tells my own personal story of deliverance and redemption. I didn't write it to speak 'ill" of anyone. And anyone who has actually read the book knows that it was written in love and not in malice. I have a story to tell. I have a testimony to share. I wanted to document that testimony in writing. I began writing from the desire to help others. I had no idea how much God would use it for my own healing. But He has. If you read my book, you will find more answers to your questions (including scripture references). However, because I spent nearly a year of my life putting it all into the book, I don't feel compelled to explain myself any further in this response. I've moved on.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Charleston! (Part Three)

Sunday was our last full day in Charleston. We had planned to return to Toast again for brunch. But because it was Sunday, it was totally packed. The wait was just too long. So we walked a little further to Joseph's (another restaurant that had been recommended to us). We still had a thirty minute wait. So Anita and I walked across the street to explore a church cemetery.
The guys waited patiently on the steps and I read Joseph's menu online while we waited the last few minutes. What captured my interest most was their sandwich menu. I had decided (since it was 11:00 by the time we were seated) that I was going to have an early lunch instead of a late breakfast. I had my sandwich all picked out. And then I found out that lunch isn't even served on Sunday. Boo Hoo! But I have to tell you, what got me over the hump of my disappointment was our server, Adam Breakey. This guy should be doing stand-up. His jokes were funny and he had a dry delivery that reminded me of Jim Gaffigan (one of my favorite comedians). He really cracked me up. And he was also a great server. No matter how good the food is (or isn't) a server can make or break your dining experience. I love a server with a personality; someone who isn't just doing their job but enjoying the interaction with their customers. I will be honest. Although the food at Joseph's was not my favorite of the trip, Adam was definitely my favorite server because he was so witty and fun. Adam, I hope you're reading this. I'm paying you a high compliment because we had excellent servers at several restaurants. But you were the most fun! (And you were the only one who wrote down your full name for me!)

I had my heart so set on a certain sandwich that I wasn't really in the mood for breakfast, so nothing sounded all that great to me. I'm not an omelet person. I didn't want pancakes. And I hated to order an ordinary "traditional" breakfast with no flare in a place like Charleston. So I decided to try the Spinach and Artichoke Benedict (since I love creamed spinach). It was rich. And it was actually very good, just a little too lemony for my particular taste. John had an omelet and he said it was just as good as the one he'd had at Toast. Mark and Anita both had pancakes.
Mark had the GIANT pancakes, which were much more than he could possibly finish. But they made a great picture. I think John was the only one who cleaned his plate.

After breakfast, we drove to the Fort Sumter National Monument and walked through the museum. We got there a little after noon and the next ferry left for the island at 2:00 or 2:30. Instead of waiting, we decided to drive over to Kiawah Island. And I was so glad we did. We drove out to The Sanctuary Resort and explored. We walked out to the beach, and then the four of us sat and talked while Anita and I enjoyed a frozen drink at the poolside Loggerhead Grill. It was such a relaxing way to spend the remainder of our last afternoon.

We drove back to the hotel for a little down time before going to dinner at Magnolias.
On our last night, John and I both had a Caesar Salad, followed by the Parmesan Crusted Flounder. It was served over jasmine rice  and shrimp pirloo with sweet corn, tomato and asparagus salad, lump crab and a lemon beurre blanc sauce. It was delicious. Mark and Anita ordered one flounder and one buttermilk fried chicken and had half of each. I tasted the chicken and it was just wonderful. But I was glad I ordered the flounder. It was fresh and mild. The sweet corn was cut right off the cob and so crisp. I loved the corn and asparagus together. It was a great blend of flavors and the rice was creamy.
(Our service at Magnolias was satisfactory, but not impressive.) 

We went back to the room after dinner, thinking we would just pack and go to bed. But John suggested we walk back over to Coast (the first restaurant we had eaten at) to have one last drink and listen to some live music before calling it a night. We had such a good time. The guitarist was Graham Worley and we thoroughly enjoyed his playing. It was a romantic ending to a wonderful long weekend in a very charming city.

In the words of our boat tour guide, "I wasn't born in the South, but I got here as fast as I could." : )

Charleston! (Part Two)


On Friday we had the complimentary breakfast at Embassy Suites Historic Charleston. They offer a full hot breakfast bar, including omelets. I took the opportunity to have a healthy breakfast of Raisin Bran with walnuts and skim milk. (They had chopped walnuts for the oatmeal and since I know walnuts are good for cholesterol, I sprinkled them on my cold cereal. I will be eating my Raisin Bran this way from now on. I loved it!)

After breakfast we drove to Magnolia Plantation. If you do all the tours they offer, you will spend the whole day there (six hours). So we decided on the house tour, the nature boat tour and walking through some of the gardens on our own. I think Anita's favorite thing was the Biblical Garden. She loves gardens and knows the names of almost everything she sees. I, on the other hand, was once teased by a good friend about describing food in such intricate detail while describing the flowers at Buschart Gardens, in Victoria, B.C., as "pink ones" and "red ones" and "yellow ones." LOL.

Although I have grown in my appreciation and knowledge of florals and foliage, I'm still no expert and I never will be. Gardens do not draw me the way history does. I wanted to learn all about the people who lived on Magnolia Plantation. So my favorite part of the day was the house tour. It made me want to buy a book and read all about the Draytons. This is the front porch. Below is the view from the porch and the front of the house.

After touring the house we boarded a pontoon boat and took a relaxing nature ride through the marsh. We saw many alligators, snake birds (Anhinga), and other birds. We took way too many pictures of alligators. So I will not attempt to share every bump in the water I have recorded. But here a few pictures we took while cruising the river marsh...

After our boat tour, we walked through some gardens, saw the family tomb and took pictures at the scenic bridge. It was over ninety degrees and the guys were ready to wrap up the touring. So ...

We headed back to the hotel and strolled the outdoor market next door. After that, Mark and Anita did a little shopping on King Street. But John and I headed for the a/c of our room to relax before dinner.

Saturday night's dinner reservation was at Peninsula Grill, which was one of the restaurants recommended to us by more than one friend. I checked out the menu online and was dying to try the Lobster and Corn Chowder.

Oh, my. This soup was to die for. We all ordered it and finished every last drop. To say it was a hit would be an understatement. Our server, Billy, assured us we would love it and he was absolutely correct. It's topped with basil butter, which you stir into the soup before eating. I'm going to have to try to recreate this. I've made corn chowder before, so I actually think I may be able to come close. But the atmosphere I certainly cannot recreate. Once again, we had excellent service and a beautiful setting.

I ordered the Grilled Peach Glazed Jumbo Shrimp, served with Hoppin' John (rice with black eyed peas), green onion horseradish hush puppies (delicious!) and brandied peach butter. I asked for more brandied peach butter on the side. It was so good!

Anita and I both had the shrimp. Mark had Red Snapper. And John had an oh-so-succulent filet.

The chef's specialty dessert is the coconut cake and after seeing and reading about it online, I knew I was having dessert this night no matter how full I was at the end of the meal. It was large enough to share between four people. But we had ice cream as well. Here are a few more pictures to finish off this fabulous second day in Charleston...

Mark and Anita so generously treated us to this dinner for my May birthday and we continued the celebration of their wedding anniversary. To my amazement, I did not gain weight on this trip! I think it's because we walked so much every day. I also put myself on the wagon for the drive home, ate a very light dinner and worked out for 50 minutes on my semi-recumbent bike last night.

Sunday in Charleston will be Part Three.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Charleston! (Part One)

By the time I finish this post, we will be home. But as I begin writing, we are still enjoying a wonderful long weekend in Charleston, South Carolina with friends. This is the first trip to Charleston for all of us and we've had a memorable time.

We're staying at the Embassy Suites (in the remodeled building that was once The Citadel). After driving all day Thursday, we checked into our rooms, dropped our luggage off and headed for dinner. Someone on staff recommended Coast for good seafood and the shortest walk, since we were all hungry. John had a healthy meal of grilled Escolar (which I tasted and really liked). I had a less healthy Lobster and Crab Gratin (a half lobster stuffed with blue crab meat, lobster and parmesan cream in an herb breadcrumb crust, served with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans). It was great. But, unfortunately, I ate half of it before I realized I had forgotten to take a picture!

Friday John and I got up early and walked up and down King Street before meeting Mark and Anita for a late breakfast at Toast. It was highly recommended on Trip Advisor and it definitely lived up to its glowing reviews. Toast is a cozy casual restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. But they serve breakfast all day, including bottomless mimosas for $10 (which we decided to skip this visit).
Anita and I shared Eggs Meeting Street and Peach Stuffed French Toast. Both were delicious, but Eggs Meeting Street was possibly the best and definitely the most unique breakfast I have ever had. It's a Southern version of Eggs Benedict. A fried green tomato, topped by a fresh lump crab cake and a poached egg, then drizzled with remoulade and served with a fresh buttermilk biscuit and either home fries or grits. This picture doesn't do it justice. The blend of flavors was out of this world. The freshness and quality of the crab cake was outstanding. Roxy, our server, was warm and friendly. She took the time to give us a lot of helpful tips and walking directions in addition to the excellent service. If I'm ever in Charleston again (and I hope to be), this is the first place I will want to go.

After breakfast, we did a little browsing at The City Market before taking a Classic Carriage Tour of Charleston. We got to see historic areas and beautiful houses. And it was relaxing. Here are a few pictures that don't involve food...

After our carriage ride, we walked back to the hotel to relax a bit before getting ready for dinner. We had reservations at Grill 225 ... a very special restaurant ... to celebrate Mark and Anita's 24th wedding anniversary. (We had originally planned this trip to coincide with their April anniversary and postponed it to May.)

Anyone who knows me knows how important food is to me. I am euphoric when a meal is fabulous and my disappointment can be just as disproportionate when a meal is not good or when I order the wrong thing. I take a lot of good-natured teasing about this. But no worries about disappointment on this occasion. Grill 225 was a purely euphoric dining experience from beginning to end.

We waited only five minutes in the lounge ... just long enough to take a few pictures.

I have never seen so much stemware on one table. It was such a beautiful table setting. We didn't have wine, so they had to clear all but our water goblets. However, Anita and I had to try a Grill 225 Nitro-martini. (Peach for Anita, Watermelon for me.) They are nitrogen infused martinis that arrive dramatically at your table. They are ice-cold, fun and delicious (also quite expensive -- definitely a vacation splurge). See the smoke?

I have a few recommendations if you ever try this restaurant. First, ask for Jeff. He provided first rate service, which greatly enhanced our enjoyment of the meal. Jeff was personable and attentive to every detail,
 without hovering. His assistants were also poised and professional.

My food pictures speak for themselves. I would recommend every dish on the table this particular night. The first picture is my plate. I ordered the Halibut with Lobster. We shared two family style side dishes; Potatoes Maxim and Creamed Spinach. As usual, I was offered a taste of everything on the table. And everything was amazing. Mark teased me later about my exuberant exclamation of "I'm so happy!" during dinner. If you've ever shared a great meal with me, then you know about my food euphoria. ; )

John also ordered the Halibut with Lobster and we shared a delicious Chopped Caesar Salad. Anita had the Filet and Mark had the Lamb Chops. And they shared a BLT Salad (every bit as good as the Caesar) with a very tasty cranberry vinaigrette. Grill 225 steaks are aged fifty days and the filet was so tender and flavorful, encrusted in cracked pepper. I was "so happy!" when Anita could not finish it and offered me a few more bites. I'm not even a lamb fan, but Mark's Lamb Chops were incredible!
We ate early, so it was still light when we finished. Dusk is so pretty in Charleston. And it was a perfect night for a long walk down East Bay and Battery Streets. We walked up to the rooftop pool and bar atop the Market Pavilion Hotel (and saw Steven Colbert at the bar). Then we walked to the harbor and all along the shoreline walkway before calling for a Charleston Rickshaw Tricycle Taxi Service (which was really fun). The weather was absolutely perfect for our open-air taxi back to the hotel. Here are some pictures from our walking tour. First, the view from the roof! ---->

Right after this we boarded our Rickshaw Taxi and headed to our rooms. It was an unforgettable day.

We're home now (Monday night) and I was eager to get at least the first day on my blog. But as you might guess, I REALLY need to get in a workout tonight. So I'm going to publish this much and hopefully add a Part Two tomorrow.