"Do You Still Love Me?"
"Oh. Hi. You look familiar...have we met before?"
"I don't think so. I've seen you around at this conference before. At least I'm pretty sure I have."
She tilted her head to one side.
"Ohhh that must be it. I've been here every year since they started this conference back in 2012."
"Cool! So have I. My name is Mark. Mark Barton."
He shook her hand.
"Melissa Grey. Nice to meet you!"
"Do you live near here? I live about three hours from here in a little community called Lake Victor."
"I live here in Kerrville."
"It's a pretty place."
"It's you again!"
"Hello Mark. What kind of greeting is that?"
"You're here every year."
"Hmm. Well so are you."
"True, very true. How do you like the theme for this year's conference?"
"Good question, Mark. It's good. Very good. Mr. Swanson positively broke my toes with his analogies this morning. Laziness is the monster in my closet."
Mark looked at the carpet.
"I need to work harder. Here's a quote that I find relevant. I don't remember who said it but it fits any sin-struggle. 'Be killing sin or it be killing you.'"
He looked up.
"Thank you for that, Mel. It makes sense. I needed that motivation."
"Wait...did you just call me 'Mel'?"
"I might have."
The phone rang.
"Hi. Is Mr. Grey available?"
"Yes, just a moment."
"Daddy, someone is on the phone for you."
"Thank you, Mel."
"Hello Mr. Grey. I would like to meet you for lunch this weekend to talk to you about your daughter, Melissa."
They shook hands.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Sir."
"You're welcome Mark. Melissa has told me quite a bit about you. It seems that y'all have had quite a few conversations together."
"We have. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all. It was refreshing to me to hear about y'all's conversation topics. Melissa tells me that you hold to reformed theology, is that correct?"
"Yes sir. I go to a small church and hold to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith."
"Wonderful! Credo or Paedo?"
"Credo. Very firmly."
"A have a lot of things to discuss with you before I talk to Melissa."
"That is what I expected. I hope I can give satisfactory answers."
"Me too, Mark. Me too."
"Hello Mark. It's so good to see you."
"It's good to see you too, Mel."
"What's the count at now?"
"Two-hundred and thirty-seven emails."
"Wooooow. How many phone calls?"
"Twenty-three. It's been a long year."
"Hopefully I can make it shorter for you. Are you ready to go on a walk to the park Mel?"
"Yes I am. Are our parents already outside?"
"Yes. They're waiting under the pavilion."
He got down on one knee. She gasped.
"Mel, will you be my wife?"
"I love you."
"I love you too."
They exchanged rings.
"You may kiss the bride."
The viel crinkled, and flowed down her back. They shared their first kiss.
"Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Mark Barton!!"
The bride and groom exchanged happy smiles.
"I love you, my wife."
"I love you too."
"Please don't smear cake all over my face."
He struck a match and tossed it into the fireplace, and then returned to the pile of blankets and pillows that decked the floor in front of the love-seat. Sparks flew.
Mel sat up.
"Two days since we've been married, Mark."
She put her head back into the hollow of his shoulder.
"Mm. It feels like just seconds ago. I can't wait to grow old with you, Mel."
"Do you love me?"
"Why do you ask?"
He tickled her.
"Stop it. You're silly. Do you?"
"Of course. You know I do."
"I just like to make sure you still do."
"Why would I ever stop?"
She chewed on the inside of her lip before responding.
"What if...I become ugly or sick?"
"I didn't marry you for your good looks, Dearest, and I certainly didn't marry you for your health. I married you for your heart and soul."
"What if we can't have children?"
"I didn't marry you for children, either. I married you because you've got God as your King. Good enough?"
Melissa sighed a happy sigh and leaned her head on Mark's shoulder.
"I'm so glad. Sometimes I worry-"
"That's silly. You shouldn't worry. We know Who holds tomorrow."
"This is true. I wish I could remember that as easily as you seem to. Sometimes I feel so, I don't know, bogged down in my spirit."
"You have to trust Him, Mel. You have to trust me, too."
The look of almost sorrowful gravity in Mark's eyes pained her. She burrowed her face in his neck as she whispered to him.
"Dear heart, I do."
He kissed her forehead. All was well.
"Mark!! Mark! Ohhhh Mark!"
Mark dashed through the hall.
"Mel! Are you-are we?!"
"YES!! You're gonna be a daddy! Oh, Mark!"
He danced her down the hall.
"I think blue, Mark."
"I think pink."
"We'll have to get some of each. Oh Mark, just look at this! Isn't it the sweetest? I want one."
"Do we need one? It's a bit pricey."
"Well...no, we don't really. But I do love the way this bassinet looks much better than the little crib we looked at."
Mark kissed her cheek.
"Let's get it."
"What is it, Mel?"
"This doesn't feel right."
Mark snapped to attention.
"What? What doesn't feel right?"
"This. This pain. This isn't what Braxton Hicks are supposed to feel like. It hurts more....I think I'm bleeding, Mark!"
Mark leapt out of bed and rushed into his clothes.
He pulled the car around and ran back inside for Melissa. By now she was moaning almost constantly, in too much pain to move.
He carried her. He carried her to the car, and in the hospital he never left her side.
She blinked at the bright lights.
"Is, did the..."
Quiet tears slipped through closed and weary eyelids.
"Do you still love me?"
"Darling, I will always love you. Trust Him. Trust me."
Quiet, breathless sobs could not be held back. And then,
"Dear heart, I do."
"I will still love You, Lord. I will still love You."
Mel turned the movie off, and sunk to her knees in front of the couch.
"Lord. I want to have that attitude. I want to give my womb to You...but I want it to be genuine. I want to mean it. You know my heart, Lord. You know if I'm sincere."
She shed quiet tears.
Mark found her asleep in front of the couch when he came in from work. It had been a long day.
"Mel? Mel, are you okay?"
"Hmm? Oh, yes. I guess I fell asleep praying. I'm sorry that dinner will be late..."
"Don't worry about dinner, Dear. We can just eat sandwiches or something. Come here."
She got up off the floor and was lost in his strong arms. She sighed.
"This is home. This is enough."
"You are enough."
"I feel queasy."
"Are you sick?"
"I don't think I'm that kind of sick. Mark...it's been seven months since, since...Mark, I think I need to take a pregnancy test. I skipped my cycle last month."
Mark dropped his book on the coffee table and sat up the rest of the way.
"Do you want me to run to the store and pick a few tests up?"
He held her close and whispered a prayer into her hair.
"Don't forget, I love you."
"I trust you, Mark. I love you too."
He found her sitting on the bathroom counter. She was crying over three positive tests.
"Oh Mark! Oh Mark!"
He held her again.
"God is good."
"He is indeed."
He kissed the baby. He kissed her.
She looked up with a twinkle in her tired eyes.
"Mark, do you still love me?"
"Of course I do."
"I trust you, Love. I trust God, too."
"God bless you, my heart."
Glass shattered. Mel walked around the corner, and her heart melted.
"Mommy...I broke the jar."
"Mommy asked you not to play with this jar, Jonny. You shouldn't have gotten it down. Can you help me clean it up?"
"Yes Mommy. Jonny is sorry."
"I forgive you, sweet boy."
"Do you still love me?"
"Why, of course I do! Why did you ask that?"
"I thought that since I broke your jar you would hate me."
"Jonathan, when you disobey Mommy it hurts her heart to know that you don't care enough about her to listen to what she said, but even when Mommy is disappointed in you she will never, ever stop loving you."
Jonny tilted his head to one side.
"Just like God?"
"What do you mean, 'just like God'?"
"Well, God gets sad when we do bad things, but He still loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us. Daddy told me."
"I suppose it is like God when we do that."
She hugged him close to her heart.
"How was your day, Mel?"
"It was good. Karen took a long nap, so I was able to catch up on all of the laundry. I won't speak for the kitchen, though...it's high time I mopped in there. Jonny broke my favorite vase today."
"I'm not. I thought I'd be angry, but he was so repentant. He asked me if I still loved him."
Mark smiled into her hair.
"He's so inquisitive. Yesterday he asked me if the Bible is 'All of God's words'."
"I love him for it. He said I was 'just like God' to love him even though he had been bad. It was a good reminder to me of His love for us."
"You know it's been a good day when God uses your five-year-old to remind you of a theological truth."
"Pink or blue?"
Mark sat up.
He hugged her close.