Today, I have officially been married for half of my life. I got sappy sentimental and wistfully nostalgic this week thinking about the lifetime of memories I have with Brent Kaser. In honor of our 23rd anniversary, here are 23 of those memories:
1. I knew I was going to marry him 20 minutes into our first date. The only way I can describe what happened in that curved booth in Mimi’s Café is that I felt like I was “home” with him.
2. Brent broke his jaw four weeks after we started dating. He proposed to me with his mouth wired shut.
3. We were engaged eight weeks after our first date, and married four months later. We knew each other for six months when we committed to spend a lifetime together. The crazy part about that fact is that neither of us remember anyone suggesting we wait and get to know one another better. It’s not a timeframe I’d generally recommend, but I’m not sorry it was the one we followed.
4. Our honeymoon was spent in Yosemite. The dogwood trees were in full bloom and we decided dogwoods are our thing. We spent years vacationing with our kids in the Yosemite area and every time we saw a dogwood tree in bloom, we “had” to kiss. It’s still my favorite tree, and I wish they would grow in our area!
5. We started a homeless ministry a month after we got married. The first night we served sub sandwiches to 17 people in the park and Brent led a guy named Larry to the Lord. We don’t run it anymore, but Shining Light Homeless Ministry is still serving meals at the same park.
6. The first year we were married, we got in an argument and I got super angry. So angry that I cocked back my hand and slapped him as hard as I possibly could on his bare back. I then ran out of the house and down the street because I realized I was way out of line. I came back a half hour later and he was still sitting at the kitchen table where I left him. The one thing that had changed was the giant red hand-shaped welt on his back. The only thing he said to me was, “Hey, Nance…don’t ever do that again, okay?” I was so humbled by his grace.
7. When I was nine months pregnant with Ellie, Brent walked in on me getting dressed and caught a full view of me in broad daylight. At seeing how absolutely enormous I was, he started giggling, then laughing, then fell to the ground in uncontrollable crying hysterics. It’s a good thing that whole “till death do us part” thing was part of our wedding vows.
8. We used to own a landscaping company and we did competitive landscape shows at South Coast Plaza together. We made a great design team and won the competition a few times. Working with plants is still something we both love.
9. I once had to drive Brent’s beast of a work truck to an appointment. Leaving the parking lot, I thought I was stuck on a curb, so I pushed the gas trying to get the whole truck off the curb…except it wasn’t a curb. It was a 3 foot high pole on the side of the truck…the dent was super deep and six feet long. I parked the truck across the street so he didn’t see the damage when he got home. After I fed him his favorite dinner, I told him what I did. He went out and saw his mortally wounded vehicle, sucked in a long breath and said, “It’s a really hard truck to back up.” He soon traded the truck to buy me a minivan.
10. One day he came home from work, sat on our living room floor and said, “What if we started a child sponsorship ministry?” The next day, he pulled over and called me from a pay phone. “What do you think of the name Promise Child? It kind of goes with Acts 2:39…” The rest is ministry history!
11. The biggest, messiest, nastiest fight we ever had was over…wait for it…a Christmas tree. I’ll spare you the ugly and just say that apparently my insisting on an economical, reusable, synthetic tree was an annual show of blatant disrespect. We had an epic word battle in the garage about the stupid thing. It’s the one fight our kids really remember us having, and they make sure to bring it up every December. (BTW - He won, and I have wholly converted to the real tree team!)
12. When my sweet mom went on hospice, Brent released me from all responsibility at home and encouraged me to spend every moment I could with her. He ran our entire home, cared for our kids, and worked two jobs so that I could do nothing but enjoy and care for my mom and usher her into heaven. It was one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.
13. When I asked him if I could fly across the country to go to an over-priced writer’s conference and pursue my dream of writing a book, I didn’t expect him to say yes. Money was super tight that summer. He not only agreed to send me, but made me immediately register, buy plane tickets, and book a hotel. His support in that moment gave me the encouragement I needed and convinced me writing a book was something I could really do.
14. When Seth was 12, he was hit by a car while Brent was on a mission trip. For two days, I was in ICU with our son by myself while Brent flew home as fast as he could. I will never forget the way I crumbled into his arms with relief when he came through the hospital room door.
15. When I got the opportunity to start teaching again, his only condition was that I use part of the money I earned to hire a housekeeper so I didn’t get overwhelmed. That wasn’t a hard deal to agree to!
16. Brent sings at home. Constantly. Except he changes every song to sound like some cheesy lounge rendition of the original. Even hymns. Think about “How Great Thou Art” but Vegas style…sometimes I forget how the songs are really supposed to go.
17. I’ve listened to countless sermons that Brent has taught over the years. The one that stands out as my favorite was an evangelical message he gave at a concert in Asia. He had ministered in that closed country for ten years, and suddenly he had an opportunity to share about Jesus with a thousand people in a public place. It was the most powerful gospel presentation I have ever heard.
18. The most difficult season in our marriage was when we had to ask our oldest to leave our home because of his foolish choices. It was agonizingly painful for us. But God did an incredible miracle in Josh’s life and saved him during that time. Seeing our son grow into one of the godliest men we know – one we both go to for Biblical counsel and encouragement – was absolutely worth that awful time.
19. For my 40th birthday Brent (and some wonderful friends) threw me a surprise party. He got a hot dog cart (my favorite food!) and danced with me in front of everyone. Prior to the party, in lieu of presents, he asked the guests to do something for someone else in my honor. Our friends and family came up to the mic that night and shared their “gifts” of surprising strangers, caring for the poor or lonely, and loving others. It was the best party I have ever been to!
20. A few years ago, I got very sick and was unable to function normally for about two months. I then had major surgery and was out of commission for another two months. I had never felt so vulnerable and helpless, and my emotions were all over the place. Brent was an incredibly kind and patient caretaker and lived out his vow to care for me in sickness. He loved me on a whole new level in that season.
21. Our dog got sprayed by a skunk and then rubbed herself on absolutely everything we owned. It was the worst mess of my whole life. We both had moments where the only logical solution to the awful stench seemed to be burning the house down. It was three months till we didn’t get random whiffs of skunk in our home. Brent bought me a stuffed skunk for Valentine’s Day and hand-delivered it to my classroom. My students named him Sherlock and he is one of my class mascots now.
22. We rode bikes all over Paris last summer on the greatest vacation ever. There was this moment we came out of the river trail, up through a canopy of trees, and suddenly we were in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was absolutely magical and one of the sweetest days of my whole life.
23. Our 23rd anniversary was on the 42nd day of the Covid-19 quarantine. Being isolated at home for the six weeks leading up to our anniversary was actually super great. There’s no one else I’d rather be stuck at home with, and I hope I get to make memories with him for at least another 23 years.
If you’d like to read a more detailed list of all the marriage lessons I’ve learned, CROWN – 30 Wife-Changing Lessons is on sale this week at nancykaser.com!
Right there in between interceding for essential workers and small businesses, she requested something totally outrageous.
“Lord, I ask that you wouldn’t release us from our homes until you have changed us and accomplished the work that needs to be done in our own hearts.”
I opened my eyes and looked hard at the earnest face of the woman leading our online prayer meeting. Her prayer broke me from my thread of agreements. A “yes, Lord” wasn’t something I wanted to readily offer. Agreeing with a prayer like that is an invitation for certain discomfort.
It’s been a week now, and I still haven’t quite said, “Amen.”
The truth is, there are some deep things this season of forced isolation is uncovering. For starters, I’m an addict. Productivity is my drug of choice. I get high off of working more, achieving more, doing more. Like a junkie taking another hit, I cross things off my hefty to-do list and sigh with self-satisfaction.
The first weeks of quarantine offered me a fresh supply of intoxicating goals. I mastered the technology of online classes, learned to cut my dog’s hair, baked bread, re-landscaped the front yard, and organized my closet according to color (yeah…I’m that lady.)
But my supply of inebriating distractions is starting to dry up. And that’s kind of freaking me out. Productivity is how I typically define myself, and I’m beginning to experience withdrawal symptoms. I’m getting closer to having to be sober.
My friend Shannon Quintana didn’t know how hard she hit me this morning with her text: It’s a crazy thing when everything you DO is stripped away, and you’re faced with who you ARE.
Yeah, right now I’m not sure I like who I actually am. I’m certain you won’t like who I actually am. And I’m leaning toward believing I won’t like who you actually are either.
After weeks of confinement, many of us are discovering our beings have been hiding behind our doings. As the buzz of productivity wears off, we are encountering heavy-laden hearts full of fear, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, pride, and lust. It’s painful to look at the naked truth about who we are behind all the doing.
But God? He’s not discovering something new about us right now, He’s exposing us to ourselves. And as repelled as we might be by what we see, He isn’t pushing us away. Rather, He is inviting us to change.
We are running out of excuses for not dealing with ourselves. Now that laundry is caught up and the inbox is empty, there are long-ignored wounds to tend, deep disappointments to process, relationships to reconcile, and attitude adjustments that are long-overdue. The effects of busyness are wearing off, and the real state of our souls is beginning to show.
Maybe your distractions are different than mine, but I’d bet that God is wanting to do some work on your soul too. Perhaps this confinement is being allowed so that we can have the space we desperately need to do the hard things we have postponed for years.
So, what if God answers my friend’s prayer?
What if we aren’t set free from this season until His desired change is accomplished in our hearts? How long will we let it go on? Will we stay confined by our own aversion to discomfort, or are we willing to do what is hard in order to be set free?
I’m dreading the pain of self-confrontation, and I’m reluctant to endure the discomfort of being exposed as a fraud who hides behind my to-do list. I suppose you might feel the same way. Will you agree to the intervention God has set up for us both? Will you go to soul rehab with me?
As much as we may want to avoid the pain of the process, we really do want sobriety, don’t we? We really do want to be set free from the clutter, chaos, confusion, compromise, complacency, and cumbersome sin. We just don’t want to do the scary part of working through it all.
But it would be scarier for us to NOT accept His invitation.
Let’s remember a God-sent invitation to change is also a promise made by the One who cannot fail. If He is calling us to change, then He is also promising to do whatever it takes for us to be set free.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
I’m honestly having a hard time with this whole online church thing.
This last Sunday, I watched our church’s Palm Sunday service. Seeing members of our worship band on the screen (six feet apart) was a blessing, but it definitely wasn’t the same as gathering in our building for corporate worship. My pastor gave a wonderful, powerful message, but watching him on a screen lacked the connection I am used to. It’s the best we can do in this season, but I still feel like I haven’t been in church for a month – because I actually haven’t.
Since I got saved in high school, my Christianity has included church services, small group Bible studies, prayer meetings, mission trips, conferences, and retreats. Gathering with God’s people makes up the bulk of my socializing, and I’d even call it my culture. But all of that has come to a halt, and it has been quite disorienting. And I know I’m not alone. When we are used to connecting with God in a certain way, the disruption in routine can be shocking to our whole relationship with Christ. While we know it’s not the case, many of us have felt as if the absence of corporate church, worship, and fellowship is the absence of God Himself.
So what will Easter Sunday be like without the lilies on the stage? Without little girls in new dresses and boys in starched shirts arriving to church with Peeps dust in the corners of their smiles? Without grandmas in hats, without ushers in ties, without the well-rehearsed full worship band, and without the polished pastor in his Sunday-best suit? It will just not be the same.
But perhaps the church actually needs a different Easter. Perhaps what the church needs more than anything this Easter is this stripping away of everything except the plain striking beauty of the empty grave and the risen Savior.
Could this time of forced separation from our faith communities actually be a disguised gift of reconnection to the direct access we have to God? Is the removal of religious routine a recipe for revival?
Perhaps we have become so dependent on our modern forms of worship that we have diminished the simplicity of connecting with Jesus through His word and through prayer.
We are used to being spoon-fed solid messages, led into worship by gifted musicians, and cheered on by other faith-filled Jesus followers. But what kind of Jesus followers are we when we have none of that? What does our Christianity look like when there is no one else around but the people we live with, or when we are totally alone? Most of us have never had to find out, but now we will.
Paul spent a total of five and a half years in either a prison cell or under house arrest, away from the congregations he loved so much. We can be sure that he did not spend his time binge-watching TV or mindlessly scrolling through social media like many of us have done these last weeks. With nothing but the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, Paul drew near to God and advanced His kingdom while in confinement. He labored in prayer, received visions and revelations directly from God, and wrote letters of encouragement that nourish our souls thousands of years later. Isolation made Paul a deeper follower of Jesus. Oh, to have even half of that fortitude and grit to pursue Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom in our present circumstances!
The truth is, I have the same scriptures and the same Holy Spirit available, but I often lack the self-discipline and motivation to pursue Christ on my own. I prefer to be a spoon-fed consumer who can conveniently grab what I need of God and go on with my easy life. I am a lazy Christian, and I don’t think I’m alone.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7) Asking, seeking, and knocking are all active verbs that require me to intentionally pursue Christ. It is surely how Paul spent his time in prison, and it’s what I am being challenged to do in my own season of confinement.
So I’m wanting to repent. I truly want to get to the end of this season having spent my time exercising the spiritual disciplines I’ve allowed to get out of shape. Because of the cross and the empty tomb, I have all I need to run this race of asking, seeking, and knocking with endurance. So do you.
So let’s allow the void of our normal forms of worship to bring us to a renewed understanding of the simplicity of the gospel and an increased pursuit of intimacy with Christ. In our time of isolation, may our appetites be increased for the foundational things of our own private faith – Bible reading, scripture memorization, prayer and worship. May His word become more precious to us as we read it for ourselves, and may we expect a more intimate understanding of the heart and mind of the Savior as we redeem the time we have been given in isolation.
This Sunday, I want the world around us to watch as God’s people proclaim that Jesus is worthy of our worship - because like our churches, the tomb is empty.