James and I spent endless hours sharing stories and teaching one another lessons laced with love. The first year we took down Christmas trees at his house was interesting. He put each ornament from the den tree in an individual box. I wrapped ornaments in tissue and placed them inside the box that held the dining room tree and needed no individual boxes.
When my tree was all packed away, I began helping James with his tree. He was perplexed at first. Then, he humbly admitted my way worked better. I never insisted on being right all the time, neither did James. We had different ways of getting things done, which could have been a problem. We chose to learn from one another and enjoyed teaching one another new tricks.
He mowed the grass in straight lines; I did figure eights and never used reverse. I lost keys; he taught me to put them in one place. He loosened up; I tightened up! We worked and played together as a team. He told me to wait when the Sunset stop light turned green because sometimes big trucks couldn’t stop and would run red lights. I listened and think of him every time I stop at that light, sometimes three or four times a day. Last week, I waited and watched a transfer truck run the red light. James’ lesson saved my life.
My pace was wide open, multitasking and making every minute count; James was laid back, taking time to enjoy every moment and do things right even if it took longer. He taught me to do things right the first time and to savor every minute spent with loved ones.
Working in the yards made James a happy man. One cold day, only weeks after we were married, I came home from work to find James pounding his ax on roots in our front yard. Rushing out for a hug, he explained why he cut slots in the roots even though we’d had the big tree removed months earlier, “Little shoots can become big trees again if we don’t keep them cut back.”
That night while eating our meal together I thanked James for seeing the importance of keeping little things done that can become big problems. I said, “That is how sin works. If we let little sins grow, they become big and overtake us.”
Every time I mow our front yard and ride over the big roots James cut, I remember that cold day and my heart is warmed by his love. Once, I was cleaning my kitchen tile while James worked in the yards. He came inside for a water break, so I thought. James picked me up from the floor and held me close in silence. Seeing tears in his blue eyes, I asked, “Baby, what is wrong”?
His words echo in my heart with confirmation of his true love and Christ like life, “It’s not fair Becky. I’ve been talking to God out there, thanking Him for Tim, for us, for being here, and seeing things Tim did in the yards and feeling so blessed but thinking it should be Tim to enjoy this time with you. I could feel his presence as I worked. I told Tim I love you and will take care of you, and will keep his yards done right, but I love you so much that I would give up our life together if Tim could be here.”
I held his face in my hands, kissed his forehead, and knew God had just given me a great gift and what I did with it as his wife would touch our tomorrows. Those precious moments that interrupted cleaning my floor are worth more than rubies or gold. They play over in my mind when I work in the yards. Often, I wake my neighbors mowing, singing songs I make up as I work, and telling stories to the top of my voice that recount my love for Thee and them. The story of the red letter day in our kitchen when James said it was unfair and made me feel like a princess blessed with two knights in shining armor to love and cherish me until death parted us is a classic I hope to share with Christ and a whole host of whoever will stop to listen in heaven one day. Wow! How fantastic knowing that all will be fair in that celestial land!
With more love, respect, and joy than I can recount, I replied to my sweet husband that day in our kitchen, “…and unfair to Sarah too. I think about those same things when I kiss you goodnight, play with our grandchildren, sit with you in the big chair she picked out to share with you, and wear her clothes. It’s not fair James, but they are in paradise, a place where there are no tears and unfair doesn’t exist. What we do not understand, God takes care of when we keep trusting and doing what we believe is right in our hearts. Some things will seem unfair until we get to heaven and it will be so wonderful that those things won’t matter anymore. Sarah and Tim are happy there; we are happy here, and one day we will join them in heaven for eternity. I love you more, James Earl Vann!”
James loved from a big heart filled with honor for God, loyalty to his family and friends, humility, integrity, honesty, appreciation, ability to work hard, play golf, baseball, horse shoes, hunt, fish, and love out loud with a gentle spirit. Our life together was a gift of love with never a boring moment. We made the most of our time together and enjoyed the good life God gave for eight awesome seasons.
Ending with a funny story makes my heart smile. James always accompanied me to places where I was invited to speak. On one such occasion, I read over my notes as he drove in silence to the event. He opened my car door and helped me out, for he was a gentleman to me and all who knew him. Then, he kissed my forehead and handed me an unwrapped lifesaver. When we first started seeing one another, I asked him to tell me if my breath was offensive, and shared how I battle halitosis, especially when I talk a lot. Ok, I can hear your laughter. Yes, I love to talk and hate bad breath. Anyway, James promised to be on guard. He kept a pocketful of lifesavers and gum to rescue me when I had no idea I needed it. (Jesus does this for all His children. He rescues the perishing even when we are unaware of danger zones.) Countless times James lovingly slipped a lifesaver in my hand and smiled. Oh, how I miss those little things from one who colored my world with love. Are you with me? Many reading this miss loved ones and little things they did that no one knows but you, them, and God.
Anyway, as we walked toward the auditorium hand in hand, I began saying a little prayer aloud, “Lord, please help me say the right words to bless the people and help the little children here today.”
James gripped my hand with words that ring in my ear as I write, “Lord, I know you’ll give Becky the right words today, just please help her know when to hush.”
I squeezed his hand and said, “James Vann, you stinker – I love you so much!”
We stopped in the sunshine to enjoy moments of laughter and love. I wrapped my arms around his lean body and held him close as people passed by. It didn’t matter to us that they witnessed our passion. When we’re happy and we know it, we should show it! You never know when your loved one or you will take your last breath. Don’t waste time being complacent, hateful, or distant in your relationship with the Lord and loved ones! Take time to stay closely connected to Thee and them! Love out loud, enjoy writing your story, be happy, be prepared, and make precious memories every day!
James was right but I dared not be offended, for I do talk a lot. Yet, when I am sharing about God’s blessings in my life and telling the stories of Jesus and His love…I really don’t know when to hush! Jesus said, “go and tell”, so we must keep sharing His sweet story until every person knows and loves Jesus like you and I know Him and love Him. And if you don’t know and love Him, I pray that you will accept Jesus in your heart, love, trust, and obey Him, and listen as He guides and gives you stories to share too. We may be working and sharing our stories ‘till Jesus comes…then we’ll be gathered home!
Back to the story… Then, James’ strong arms lifted me in the air and my husband whispered a promise that touches eternity…”Becky, I love you more!”
I looked in the blue sky and felt the presence of our heavenly Father, who gave Sarah and me a husband of honor and humility to love and cherish for as long as we lived. James’ blue eyes sparkled and boom went the strings of my heart. Being crazy in love with the good Lord and a good man felt Great-t-t-t-t!
Hopefully, sharing stories of our red letter days will help you feel Great too!
Becky Spell Vann is the owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.