It Hurts to Write These Words…

“Ben died…”

Those were the first  words I read  upon awakening  this past Friday.

“May he rest in peace and rise in glory”

I hail from a large extended family and some I know better than others.  Ben, not so well.  But, his father, my cousin, is like a brother to me, having lived in our home for a substantial  period of time when I was growing up.  He gave me my first Beatles album.  (Rubber Soul)  He let me drive his pink corvette one day.  He has an infectious smile and laugh.  I have a million memories of and with him.  Like each  of us, he has strengths and weaknesses.  Like me, He loves Jesus.   I have dearly loved him as long as I can remember.  Although he is miles away, I am grieving with him today and will be in the days to come.  There is a hard road ahead.

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Ben was his youngest.  His one and only son,  from a mother I have yet to  meet.  He was the child who most resembled him,  from where I stand. He was the husband of   a kind and  beautiful wife who loved him and a sweet daughter he claimed.  He had siblings who also grieve.  Shockingly,  his exit from this life on earth has been splashed across television screens which omit his name,  for now.  A devastating end to a sometime tumultuous life. But then, whose isn’t?

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In the wee hours of the morning while riding his motor cycle on a deserted street in a town I once  called home, Ben was struck by a car.  His broken body slammed to the pavement and abandoned.    A helmet lay on the ground near a single white shoe.   A lone witness called for help as the driver of the car fled the scene, no doubt fueled by sheer panic and fear.

Emergency crews arrived to  transport him to a local hospital, where a kind young woman tried to reach my sister, several states away,  via Facebook.  Having found Ben’s ID, she searched for his name there and and saw my sister as a friend and attempted to reach her in the hours before dawn.  The kindness of strangers. 

In a sterile emergency room, surrounded by the good people who worked hard to save him, Ben breathed his last breath.  And now,  we, his extended family grieve, praying that he crossed over to glory.

The witness at the scene of the accident shared information allowing  the police  to identify a  suspect early on.  He was urged  to surrender and  tell his story.  His  car was found, windshield shattered and other damage to the front.  But he was in the wind.IMG_1324Truth be told,  there was no where to run.   Adding more sorrow to an already tragic situation,  he was found dead,  from what is assumed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  My mind shouts “senseless-tragic-why?”   But- I am not God, hence I cannot comprehend the whys.  But, what I do believe, is that God will somehow use it all for His purposes and our good as this sad story continues to unfold.

There is more “collateral damage” than is known to us.  Both of the dead  were 41 year old- young men who  were sons and fathers,  loved by those who suffer in sorrow  today and who will grieve for many days to come. No doubt many  will ask the perennial question, “why?”  1 Peter 5:8 reminds us  that we have a ruthless enemy, described as “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He is always anxious to tear us away from everything that is good, every  gift God freely offers us.   By all we can see, it would that the enemy and his lies seem to have  won this battle.

But, God… DSC02948

 

Here’s what I know for sure:

  1. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted or lost.  His Word says that when we submit ourselves to Him, we can move forward from any situation, confident that He will work every situation, every loss, every tragedy and every triumph for our good. Romans 8:28 assures us He uses all things- the good, the bad and the ugly, for our good and His glory.
  2.  God knew both of these men’s hearts and He was there with both of them in their final moments.   While I do know Ben heard the Gospel and acknowledged  the emptiness of a God shaped space in his heart,    I cannot speak for the other victim in this tragedy.   But, God. God knew and knows. By His grace, up until the final  moments of life, He hears the cry of a sinner surrendering to him and responds with forgiveness and mercy, just as He did to the thief on the cross beside him, when he said,  “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  3. As we grieve we all  have a choice;  either to grieve as those who have no hope, (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) or to grieve in expectation of being reunited with those we have loved here on earth, changing a hard good bye to a confident,  “I’ll see you in Heaven.”  After his infant son died, David said in 2 Samuel 12:23 that “some day I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.” 
  4. When we suffer such great loss, (and we all will)  we must never forget that He still has work for us to do.  We must war against allowing  our sorrow to consume us.  When it’s time for us to be reunited with those who have gone before us, He will then  bring us Home. too.  Until then, we can either be paralyzed by grief or we can use it for His good, by serving as He calls us, waking every morning with the mindset of a soldier reporting for duty, asking for marching orders.  This is our great challenge and the proof of our faith.  This faith trusts in Him more than in the emotions that might derail us from his plans and purposes for our individual and collective lives. It’s us saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

A mere three days into what might  aptly be described as a nightmare,  I have seen God’s hand at work in so many ways…in  the kindness of strangers…in the emergency workers at the scene of the accident…in the  witness who acted so quickly to call for help and to share information with the authorities… in the  media professionals who withheld Ben’s name so as not to be the first to notify loved ones of his death…in the many who have reached out to both grieving families and– in the visit between a father and a son so recent  that it had the finger prints of God all over it.IMG_0960

It is no coincidence that come July, this extended family of Ben and of mine, will once again gather together for a long ago scheduled reunion.  We will  celebrate an imperfect, unpredictable family that reaches far and wide across our country and the love and legacy we share. Unbeknownst to us until now,   we will also  grieve and celebrate Ben.  Some of us  will come to  know him better in death than we knew him in life as we share stories and remembrances from those who knew him and loved him best.  It is going to be a glorious time of remembrance, sprinkled with some grief, but not without joy.

And I, for one, can’t wait.

 

P.S.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  If you are grieving, and in need of comfort and encouragement, please won’t you open your Bible (or your device) to the following encouraging Words from the God of all comfort. It is  my experience that

| JESUS NEVER FAILS. |

Please Read This and let me know how I can pray for you today:

Joshua 1:9

Psalm 28:7

Psalm112:6-7

Nehemiah 8:10

Isaiah 41:10

Exodus 15:2

John 14:27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Gave Up My Career as a Super Hero

 

“I cannot go to school today” said little Peggy Ann McKay. “I have the measles and the mumps…” So begins Shel Silverstein’s poem, SICK. Peggy Ann had no qualms about taking a sick day even if she wasn’t sick. I on the other hand…

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I grew up in a household where to call in sick for work was severely frowned upon. With a fever of 102 degrees and a stuffed up head, I told my Dad that I was calling in sick for my shift. He schooled me quickly, letting me know that I needed to pull myself together and get to work. They were, after all, counting on my presence and should I not appear, my absence would impact the entire shift and everyone else left to run things. Mind you, I was not a brain surgeon or even a surgical nurse. I was, in fact, a clerk at Sav-On Drug. I was 19 and my responsibilities were to man the photo department and candy register. I know. Heady stuff. But, my Dad was pretty convincing and so I went to work with my fever, my congestion and a bottle of 7-Up sipped surreptitiously between customers. Crisis averted. The night shift team was saved.

This attitude toward calling in sick was firmly ingrained in my psyche. Over the years I showed up to work many, many times when I was clearly under the weather. After all, I had responsibilities to attend to, things that apparently I believed no one but I could handle , things only I knew how to do, my team was depending on me, etc. etc… While all that felt pretty admirable, in retrospect I realize it was also prideful and careless. In reality, people nearly always carry on when we aren’t there. Often, given the opportunity, they learn new skills and sometimes they shine and feel good about the skills you’ve helped them attain.

‘Truth is, if we are really good managers, we should always be grooming others to step into our shoes should we be unable to fill them. If we have an extended illness or some sort of personal catastrophe, we will then have prepared them for the task at hand and will also have done our employer a great service. As leaders we should be preparing others to step up to new challenges. In retrospect, the careless part of my behavior was that I put countless others at risk by coming to work while contagious and put those around me at risk. My immune system may have been hearty, but I was woefully oblivious to the danger I may have been exposing others to. Having lived nearly 6.5 decades now, I no longer take my health or that of others for granted.

Fast forward forty some years and while much had changed, my inclination to go to work “no matter what” was still quite the strong hold in me. My employer was “re-structuring” and as the newest addition to the area sales management team, I was the first to be downsized. When I got the call I expected, I was told my job had been eliminated. I was immediately asked if I would consider returning to the company should another position open up and I responded affirmatively. My next response was a question regarding my accrued sick time. The company policy was if you left the company, while you would be paid any accrued vacation time, any unused sick time would be forfeited. I had accrued nearly 200 hours of sick time, a benefit of my employment that I essentially was going to lose. I was assured that should I return to the company within the next year, those hours as well as my seniority would be reinstated.

Not three months later, they offered me another position , which I accepted and, as promised, all those unpaid hours returned to me. This was a pivotal moment in how I viewed sick pay. I made a three-pronged decision at that time:

  1. I would not be put in the position again, of losing a benefit that was part of my compensation package.
  2. I would take better care of myself.
  3. I would not foolishly put others at risk because of my pridefulness.

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From that day on, I vowed to stop pretending I was a super hero. The final five years of my professional life I acknowledged that the world would go on and work could get done in my absence. When I needed to go to the dentist or to a physician appointment for preventative care or for physical therapy, etc, I stopped doing so on my day off and used a sick day instead. When I had major issues going on in my life, or a family member was ill and needed care, I took a day or so off in order to serve my family and/or restore and rejuvenate my body and soul. While there were some instances when I believed my presence was imperative, they were rare. ‘Turns out I wasn’t as indispensable as I believed.

Sometimes our bodies need rest and sometimes our minds do. In both cases, when possible I scheduled sick days in advance, so my absence was not a hardship for those who would cover for me. But, if I woke up with a sore throat or a head cold, I learned to stay home, to rest and heal instead of sharing my germs with everyone else. When my husband had surgical procedures done, I took the day to be by his side to support him. I stopped being a workplace hero and started being more of a hero in my own home to the people I love most.

This was the same girl, who years earlier took less than a week off following a corneal transplant. My work ethic, instilled by my hardworking parents, was still strong, but I had failed to realize that our bodies need rest when they are worn down and that failing to give them time to rest and recover was shortsighted. It took losing the sick time I was so proud to have NOT used, to make me realize the folly of my actions. God knows me well and He knew exactly what it would take to adjust my perspective.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not in favor of calling in sick for every hang nail. I cannot tell you how often I took sick calls for young women unable to come to work a couple days a month because of menstrual cramps. I suffered with menstrual migraines for many years, but, I powered through and came to work. I want to be clear that I don’t believe we should call in frequently for minor ailments, but, for genuine health related concerns; sick time is for that very purpose- to maintain health and wellness so that we can do our best at home and at work.

When I retired three years ago, I left with less than one hour of accrued sick time. Prior to leaving I took care of all my looming health issues. I scheduled time with my dentist, physician, optometrist and chiropractor and used my accrued sick time to do so. I didn’t take it in big chunks but a day at a time as those appointments were scheduled in advance on days I knew would have minimal impact on my co-workers. At work I continued to give 100% to my employer. I made a good living and was compensated well. I mentored other employees and trained others to do my job and be promoted. I was a loyal team member who did her best everyday. For the last few years before retiring, when I was given opportunity to provide input on job satisfaction, I repeatedly brought up the issue of sick time not being paid to employees who faithfully executed their duties rather than calling in sick for every minor malady. Such employees should be rewarded for their loyalty, not punished. I was very grateful for the many opportunities my company had provided me and for the opportunity to do meaningful work with wonderful people, but. I left still hoping they would change their policy for future loyal employees.

Sometimes people don’t take the time they need because the work stacks up in their absence. I get that. But, working sick and/or exhausted is bad for you and everyone around you. So, do everyone a favor. Call in sick. And when necessary, call in well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Lived Out

Emmanuel. God with us.  God incarnate.  The God of creation came down to earth as an infant, born a king in the most humble of circumstances, making it possible for both princes and  paupers to be at home with Him.  

Two thousand years later, His book, the Holy Bible arguably remains the world’s  all time best-seller.  Recent estimates tell us that more than 5 billion copies have been printed in hundreds of languages.  While our society has grown more secular and less spiritual, He is not deterred or discouraged.  Jesus still rules and reigns and whether intentional or not, the world still celebrates His coming each December.  

Though it may now be called Winter Break instead of Christmas vacation,  His coming is still marked with every Christmas tree sold, every intentional act of kindness, every gift exchanged, every carol sung, every meal shared, every dollar dropped into a red kettle,  every cookie baked, every family gathered, every recital performed, every card sent, and every “Merry Christmas!” spoken.  His mark in indelible. 

He came to die. But, by His life and through His word, He taught us how to live, and  to do so in ways that often confound our neighbors and friends.  He taught us: 

  • To walk humbly when the world tells us to aim for the top
  •  To give not just from our wealth but sacrificially
  • To put the needs and desires of others ahead of our own
  • To forgive 490 times if necessary, and then, perhaps some more
  •  To seek the pleasure of God vs the praise of men.  
  • To obey His word despite a world that finds it vastly out of date
  • To be inclusive when we long for the intimacy of familiarity
  • To be content, not merely in our circumstances but in Him
  • To build community for ourselves and to be it for others
  • To value knowing Him above every worldly measure of success
  • To be generous toward God, giving Him the  best of all we have and are
  • To share the love of Christ with our lives and our words
  • To fear God more and men less
  • To be merciful when we long for justice
  • To pray for those who seek to do us harm
  • To entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly
  • To recognize the enemy but to know that lion has no teeth
  • To put our hope in things eternal 

All  this so that we could know and be known by Emmanuel,  and be called His own.  

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In his book WAITING HERE FOR YOU, Louie Giglio says, “Christmas led to the Cross, and on both days Jesus accomplished what no one else could.”

 What He accomplished was full payment for our failures, our sins, our just punishment for our sinful inclinations and behaviors.  Not because we earned it, but because He loves us with an everlasting love.   He  came as a sweet little infant boy, wrapped in swaddling clothes,  with impossibly soft skin and  a perfect tiny mouth–no doubt a mother’s dream.  But His destiny was to live and then to die.  For us.  So that we could be transformed to His image and to live eternally with Him free from the bondage of sin and shame.  We cannot earn it, we don’t deserve it, but He came, the perfect gift from Heaven.  

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We have only to receive from His bounty.  Christmas is past, but His gift remains.  Today is the day of salvation.  Take hold of  the hand that reaches out to you with a gift tailor made for you. 

Keep Christmas in your heart. Every day.  It is the source of imperishable hope. 

In Praise of Thanksgiving

Tomorrow most of us will gather together with friends and family, to reflect on the blessings we share and the gifts we’ve been given.  A big bird will no doubt light on our tables and disappear in a matter of minutes as we celebrate the season and those in our presence.  Hopefully both our plates and our hearts will be full.  Maybe those around your table will reflect on their many blessings.  (I love that part)

In recent years, many have embraced the tradition of identifying a “word of the year,” a word to be mindful of in the year ahead.  I, for one, have never been able to settle on anything other than “Gratitude.”  It has, for many years, been the word that I hope most reflects the life I live. Hence, I am officially claiming it as my LIFE word.  

Because,  there is much to be grateful for.  In the midst of the sorrows and trials of this life, it would be easy to succumb to despair.  I feel ya. The news of the day wears me right out.  There’s too much cancer and depression and terrorism and abuse and pain all aoround us. 

But, happiness, I believe, is largely dependent on our ability to give thanks for the good, in spite of the bad.  

Many years ago, the week after Christmas and before New Years, the husband and I had a little spat that morphed into a pity party with a guest list of one.   While he watched a football game downstairs,  I made the decision to wash windows in our upstairs bedrooms.  The recent rains and winds had left them clouded with grime and I deemed it a good day to remedy the situation with a bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels.   

I worked non-stop for an hour or so and was pleased as punch with the outcome until my husband responded that he would have greatly preferred that I had begun taking down our dead and drying fire hazard of a  Christmas tree in the  living room instead of dousing upstairs windows. You know, the ones no one but the two of us would likely  see.    Gracious and understanding wife that I was/am,  I accelerated from humble servant to prideful shrew  in nothing flat.  

I retreated upstair in a rage, livid and  astounded at his lack of appreciation for my hard work.   (must I remind you that he was lounging in front of his big screen while I toiled?)  Stewing in self-pity,  (I confess I even  shed a tear or two) I stomped around a bit and then sat down at my desk with a legal pad and pen in hand and set about to write the proverbial pros and cons list, except instead of pros and cons, there were two columns: one listing the things that drive me  crazy (and not in a good way) about this man.  The other was to be a list of all the things I appreciated about him.  

You know how this story ends, do you not?  List A was written in bold angry letters and was relatively short.  An hour or so later, List B was long and still unfinished.  As  I put down my pen, I thanked God for this man I had been so angry with, for He had reminded me that this was the same man who had brought so much good to my life.  

Our patient God  used this simple exercise to remind me that my blessings are far greater than are the trials, irritations and frustrations that often blind me to the good gifts He has given me.   While I acknowledge that  many of the roadblocks in life aren’t  this small and inconsequential,  for the most part, they  do all pale in comparison to the bounty I have received and enjoy.   What makes the difference is which list I choose to focus on.  

So, that day was a marker in my life– a day I look back on as a defining moment.  A day when I chose to be grateful for what I have and to focus on the good, vs, bemoaning what is less than ideal and far from perfect. It was the  day I chose to be intentional about where I focus.  At this season of Thanksgiving, I am reminded again, that to be grateful is to be happy.  

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious– the best not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly;  things to praise, not things to curse.  Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.  Do that and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies. ”  -the Apostle, Paul, (Philippians 4:8-9 The Message)

Today we all have a choice to make.  Which list are you focusing on?  I would venture to say that most of us have enough of all the things we need.    Today, I wish you a grateful heart.  

Happiest of Thanksgivings my dear readers.  You are loved!


Never Forget

On this morning 17 years ago, I awoke to my radio alarm announcing that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane.  In my half conscious state, I stumbled out of bed and walked across the hall to my office where I turned on a television in time to see live, the second plane soar into the second tower.

9/11 Tribute Sounds of Silence (Doninic Bukuski)

IMG_4002For me, the world changed forever that day.  An evil I had never known existed became a part of the fabric of my life.  It had existed no doubt from the beginning of time as we know it, but, it entered my world that day and since then, I have walked through life differently.  Not, in fear or in anxiety, but in the realization that evil is all around us in this broken world and that life is fragile.

May we for this one day,  set aside our weapons of disagreement and strife and name calling and honor those who were taken?

2,974 Lives

2603 in the TwinTowers

351 Fire Fighters/EMTs

246 on Planes

125 at the Pentagon

60 Police Officers

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Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

May we take a moment to honor them and their unplanned, unexpected sacrifice and the sacrifice of all who loved them?  Might we put down our disagreements and the political rhetoric long enough to agree that evil was present that day in a way most of us had never personally experienced before?  May we grieve the losses and give honor?  May we take comfort in the fact that such evil cannot consume us when our hope is in the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross, that we might forever be free of the sting of sin and death?  And may we be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and the blessing we’ve been given by being citizens of this imperfect country?

Now, take heart.  We do not walk in fear, but in confidence and in victory.

“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies.  There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.  Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life–body and soul–in His hands.”

~Matthew 10:28, The Message

Don’t be deceived.  There IS an enemy.  The Bible tells us clearly in 1 Peter 5:8 that our enemy the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking whom to devour.  He is real.  But, in Christ, we have victory over him.  He roars loudly, but, this lion?  He has no teeth.

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This lion?  He has no teeth.   (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falling in Love Again

Growing older often  brings with it,  gifts that can only be  wrapped and delivered with the passage of time.

This post isn’t what you think it is.  And maybe you will think me a little “off” once you hear what it  is.   But, the title of this blog is the one that best describes how I feel about  the events of this past weekend.

Nearly fifty years ago, I met a friend, by way of our mutual friend and then we became friends.  We were both single and for a minute contemplated a romance, but quickly came to our senses.  Not one to let a good friend be lost to a romance that wasn’t meant to be, we  both persevered in our friendship, now for almost half a century.

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My dear old friend and I

He, a quirky guy,  married a beautiful woman with a heart-shaped face and a heart that welcomed me. ‘Bless her.  I married my own  quirky guy (whom I  later  divorced and  re-married.)  In between,  Steve and his wife travelled from Tennessee with their first-born and spent time with me and mine. Later, they came to visit us when we lived in the DC area.  When my girl and I returned to California to reunite with my  guy, the drive across the  country included a detour to  Nashville specifically designed to spend time with them before continuing West.

That was 26 years ago.  It was the last time we were in the same place together. But, now they were headed West for a wedding and my far away friend  announced via an unexpected email, that he and his beloved would be dining with us on August 4.

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They arrived at LAX early early Saturday morning, texting me that  their rental car wouldn’t be available until noon. Yikes!   I jumped out of bed and  dashed out of the house, sans make-up and in  the clothes I’d had on the day before. They are  those kind of friends–no need to impress, only to  show up.  So, show up I did.

He was mildly disappointed that I was driving a Ford and not a European sports car but, agreed to get in with a promise of breakfast to come.  We headed to a small community adjacent to LAX where we shared a meal, took some pictures and then drove  along  the coast so they could soak in the sparkle of the early morning Pacific. We  headed North on Vista Del Mar as  beach goers claimed their turf for the day.

Their rental was ready, so I deposited them just off Century Blvd. and they headed East  to one of the Presidential libraries they’d planned to visit.  As for me,   I returned home to prepare for their return for  dinner around our table. When they arrived just after 6,  they met my husband for the first time and everyone was instantly at ease.  If you’d been a fly on the wall, you’d have assumed we were all long time friends in the habit of gathering together often.   We meandered around our kitchen island drinking cold beverages and the years and distance melted away with the summer  heat.  There was no lack of ease  in the room, no extended silences, no aloofness – only the comfort that comes from knowing and being known and believing down deep that  you are welcomed as you are.

We sat at our table and ate too much food.  We  talked for hours, not about superficial things but about the many things that had transpired in our lives since we’d been together last.  There were the expected “catch up” conversations about our children and their lives today, our families and how they’ve evolved.  We came current as we  took in   braised short ribs and strawberry shortbread dessert. There was a lot of laughter, and then some  sorrow too, which morphed into deeper conversations.  We shared joys and sadness because the best lives are  full of both.    And- because there was no sense of risk involved.  We were safe together.

My husband, still recovering from a recent illness, said goodnight early,  but the three remaining compadres sat up late, sharing more stories , unwilling to let the one night we had together end too soon. They had a full day planned for Sunday and it was unlikely we’d meet again before their departure on a train early Monday morning.  Still, as I stood at the front door  sending  them off to their hotel,  I couldn’t help interjecting (okay, I was kinda pleading)  that “IF” they were up to it after another day at another library on Sunday, we’d be so happy  to meet for another meal at a local  restaurant. (a girl can dream, right?)

I fell asleep with a full heart and a prayer that  it might possible to reunite just one more time.  The next morning we texted and I was thrilled to receive her response, which said in part,

“…Such a precious time last night. I hope we’re up to dinner tonight.  We are planning to unless the day gets too long.  It’s good to be here and to be near you guys.  ‘Don’t want to miss the opportunities God has for us…”

My heart swelled with hope.  I prayed for a burst of energy that would bring them back to us.  By 5:30 there was a text that they were headed our way.

BINGO

So there we were, once again, sharing a meal and our lives for another three hours.  And, then,  at the end of a long day,  we said good bye knowing it would be our last for a  long while.

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“Re-united and it feels so good” The husband and I along with our beloved far-away friends, Prilla and Steve

 

It was more than a little heartbreaking for me.  You see, I was reminded anew how very much I love them.  I realized that though 26 years and 2,022 miles had come between us, the closeness I felt for them had never gone away.   Added bonus:  the husband now had come to know and  love them, too.  Although I knew I loved them, it felt  like “falling in love again.”  I was reminded afresh, how very special they are, how like-minded we are, how we share values,  faith and  perspectives on so many important things.  It was a little glimpse of Heaven.  For reals.

WINNING

“I felt my heart strangely warmed.”   -John Wesley                                                             First love.

 I had forgotten what it felt like.

But-then, I was reminded.

They arrived back  home just yesterday.  We  now have a group text going and  I vow it’s going to keep going.  They are the next-door neighbors we’ve always longed for.  We’ve rediscovered a long-lost love and it has left my heart bursting with joy.

May it burn strong for all my days.  And, Lord, if it’s not asking too much?   May they be our next door neighbors in Heaven, if not on Earth? Please and thank You.

Amen and Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Things I Love About Growing Older

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The world around us celebrates all things young, shiny and new.  I am blessed to comprehend  that there are distinct benefits and blessings associated with growing older–  a blessing many aren’t afforded. Some of us long for days gone by.   I,  for one,  would not  trade today for  the sweetest yesterday.  Each day that has passed has brought me to this day, and I am grateful to have travelled  where the road of life has taken me.    As I contemplate the day ahead, I am especially grateful for these gifts:

  1. I get to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want.  My time is my own to use as I wish.  What joy to sleep late or go to bed  late–to spend hours working at something I love or spending time with  someone I love without worrying about an ever present ticking clock.  That said, don’t waste a moment!
  2. Grandchildren.I’m with  the guy who remarked that, if he knew grands were  this wonderful he’d have had them earlier! If you don’t have your own, borrow some.  Little ones help us re-discover the joy of the new while allowing us to share with them perspective and wisdom that come with aging.  The world needs more of this.  _Y9A8246edited
  3. Senior discounts.Free coffee at McDonalds and so much more. There are loads of lists on-line that will point you to deals reserved for the more mature crowd.   I love a bargain and you should, too! Never pay top dollar if you can avoid it. Using our resources wisely is  still smart.  
  4. Retirement. Don’t even get me started. THE BEST. If you aren’t there yet, prepare well.  Relationships are deeper, marriage is better and faith is stronger.  Years of commitment and  sacrifice will pay off.  Trust me on  this. Press on!  
  5. Hours in my garden. My little section of this rainbow has never been prettier.  Time stops there, whether I’m pulling weeds, watering or planting.  I put on my headset, listen to an audio book or just enjoy the sounds of bees buzzing and birds chirping.  So many hidden treasures.
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  7. Knowing enough is enough. Not needing more, but realizing you have more than you need. Looking forward to weeding out what is unnecessary and being content with what’s left. Abundance.
  8. No hurry, no worry.  Whether on the road, waiting in line or completing a task, I am now willing and  able to say, “you go ahead, I’m in no hurry.”  To fall back in traffic and let others zoom past me in their quest to get somewhere quickly is a gift I gladly embrace. The rat race may go on, but,  I’m no longer in the running.
  9. Meals that take more than 20 minutes to prepare.  This is a sweet luxury to one who worked very long days for many years.  To be able to find a new recipe, leisurely prepare it and present it as a gift to my family is pure joy.
  10. The company of good women.  I’ve always had more friends than I deserve, but to be able to actually spend significant chunks of time in their presence is like a tall glass of cold lemonade in the desert.
  11. The end of coloring my hair. Before I turned 60 and at the urging of my husband, I cut my hair within an inch of my scalp and went completely gray.  I’ve never looked back.  With the help of a gifted beautician and a great cut, I’ve never been happier with my hair. (Thank you Julie@TanglesManhattanBeach!)

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    The shoe just didn’t fit! Yay for Grey!

So, that’s what’s on my mind this morning.

No doubt, this list will expand in the days to come, but, for today, allow me to encourage you to resist reminiscing too much about “the good old days.”  Instead, fully  enjoy this moment in time.  It’s a gift.    Don’t miss this beautiful day because you’re straining  to look back.    Instead, open your eyes wide to the present.  It will be past, tomorrow.

Look up and BLOOM.

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Look up and BLOOM!

Fighting for Marriage

This last week, the husband and I celebrated 26 years of marriage.  Note, I did not say 26 years of wedded bliss.  Marriage, without question, is the most challenging relationship on earth. The Bible refers to “iron sharpening iron,”  and I find that mental image to be  an apt one. Iron sharpening iron is noisy and hard and seems to be unyielding.  Yet,  as those two forces merge, both are polished to a smoothness they would never achieve on their own.  This is marriage.

I am grieved as I survey the number of marriages crumbling around us.  Not just young ones who are more immature and who struggle through the inevitable challenges of  two lives coming together, but more mature ones who have raised families, served their communities, walked through the fires of life, instructed others  and celebrated decades of marriage, only to watch their own families implode. Not just a marriage, but a life, a family,  a home and a life time of traditions and more.   It is heartbreaking to me.

As a Christian believer, I view marriage as the merging of two souls into one, with Christ at the center.  Ironically, this is a commitment that requires more of us than any of us would fully yield to if we knew the scope of it.  We start out with stars in our eyes, but, over time the clouds cover those stars and it becomes challenging  to persevere.     It is hard work, but it is the good work of sacrificial love and a tenacity that can only be achieved by His grace and His strength.    It is a picture that Christ uses to reflect His own relationship with His church.  We are the bride of Christ and  He,  the bridegroom.  His enemy and ours, seeks to destroy that very reflection.  When we think we are safe, we are probably  at our most vulnerable and must be on our guard.

Author Madeleine L’Engle once said,

“No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover.  And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface.  A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again–till next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged.”

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Those “silver fins” just below the surface…

Sometimes it feels as if we really are drowning. But,  we can emerge from those dark waters. If only we could remember this, when we are tempted to yield to despair and throw up our hands surrendering to dark waters.

Divorce, like suicide is most often a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  I speak from experience.  You  see, the husband and I originally married some 40 years ago and divorced a few short years later.  Fortunately, we were blessed to be  reunited 26 years ago, older, wiser and with a firm commitment to enduring all things as we renewed our vows.   We did not expect  an easy road and it has not been one.  That said, it has been a road that has shaped us and has yielded the most beautiful fruit we could have imagined.

Our culture no longer honors marriage in the way it did in years past.  People talk about “starter” marriages as if we are each entitled and even destined  to make  one trial run before getting it right.  Promises are no longer kept.   Many among us eschew marriage all together, viewing it as an unnecessary  and outdated institution.  Even in the church, marriages are crumbling at an alarming rate.  As I think about my own community, I have visibility of  three marriages on the brink…couples who have been married decades, who have served faithfully, been immersed in ministry and who have instructed others in the faith. One has ended in divorce, another is awaiting a  final decree and the last couple are physically separated.   The reasons are many, I know.  Addiction, infidelity, anger, defeat, frustration and  weariness all come in to play.  And finally, one day, there is just no will to keep fighting for  survival or we can’t bring ourselves to forgive what feels unforgivable.   It just seems easier to give in and give up.  We fall out of love instead of growing through it.  Hence,  we are all the losers.

Let me interject here that I don’t believe divorce to be the unforgivable sin– not by any means.  I know there are situations that are untenable, particularly those involving physical abuse, mental illness and chronic unfaithfulness.  While I have seen marriages brought back from the brink of despair, I understand that  there are times when divorce is the last and final option. I also believe such cases should be  rare.   God hates divorce.  But He loves His children and forgives our failures.  His grace is sufficient when divorce is the only remaining option and we’ve made the most of every opportunity to reconcile.   But, far too many marriages fail without having made every effort to save them.  Those efforts may take time, effort, counsel, prayer and determination to stay the course until every roadblock has been cleared. And–it’s hard.

Even so,  there is hope even when it seems most hopeless.  I speak not as a Pollyanna, but  as one who endured years of seemingly hopeless circumstances.   If we are not actively fighting for our marriages, we will likely one day be tempted to surrender to divorce.  Sometimes we  need to set our emotions completely aside for a period of time and just commit to standing firm as we keep the promises we made at the altar. We have to guard our marriages, even when we think we are  most secure. We need to  encourage those on the brink to press on, to press in and to press through, while praying for our own marriages and those around us.   We are all one step away from a life-changing fall if we do not.  We are told in 1 Peter 5:8-10:

“Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 

Note that we are not told we will have unending bliss at all times.  We are told that throughout the world, our brothers and sisters are also suffering.  Life is hard.  Marriage requires tenacity.  Suffering is a part of the human condition and our marriages are not exempt.  We need to know that hard times not only will come, but they may go on for far longer than we expect or believe ourselves capable of enduring.   Psalm 30:5 reminds us that,

“…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

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sometimes you just need to dial 911

The nights may be long, but, if we will just hold on, the fever will break, and we can rise again to joy in the morning.  Note that I said hard times will come.  Even when it appears that all hope is gone, we cannot give in to defeat.  We need to seek help before we are hallucinating from said fever.  So, “dial 911” if you will– seek counsel, pray hard and remember what you’ve built together. Pray for your spouse to change, but, and perhaps more importantly,  pray that you will be changed.   Be assured that your circumstances are more likely to  change with the passage of time than not.  Hard days may morph into months and even years.  Yes, I realize that’s a hard pill to swallow.  But, hold tight to the vows you made.  Trust the God who knows the beginning and the end.   When you are most weary,  He is most present.  He will make a way where there seems to be no way.  Our job is to fight the good fight, never succumbing to despair, believing that He can heal what appears to be dying.  He is in the resurrection business.  When we see death, He sees another opportunity to bring a marriage back to  life.

Mine is a marriage resurrected.  I thank God for all the times we stood on the brink but chose to keep fighting for our life together. Decades down the road, I rejoice in what He has done, hard times not withstanding.  Trials  will come and they will go, but,  by the grace of God and the prayers of the saints, we can endure and even thrive.  Don’t accept a death sentence.

Rise up.  You are braver and more courageous than you know.

Press in. Press on.  Press through.

To All the Mamas

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mamas….

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Marjorie Ann.

To my own Mom, now in Heaven, who gave me life and the opportunity to treasure the blessing. For all  she did and for all she was and for all she taught me.  She loved me and for that and I am grateful.    To all those who shared their mothering chops with me, teaching  me to to mother my own child well– I am ever grateful for your loving instruction and wisdom.  To the ones  who sacrificially relinquished infants they were unable to provide for, allowing others to become moms.  To the moms who fell short and to the moms who picked up the slack.  To those  who became moms the minute they held  a child from another’s body.  To those who welcomed daughters by marriage and made them  their own.  To those who, while they have not birthed children themselves, mothered those placed in their care with wisdom, guidance and  immeasurable love.

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My sweet Mom and her first great- grand

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My beloved Mother-In-Law and her great grand

To my own daughter who continually blows me away with her own mothering and who made me an Ommie to two precious grands.  To my two “bonus” daughters who have brought added joy to my life and to their own mother who has generously shared them with me.  To the eldest of the two who has become a second mother to two young boys we have claimed as the grandsons we prayed for.  To all who have willingly  taken on the mantle of motherhood with such grace and dignity.  To the mothers with empty arms and broken hearts. To the mothers of prodigals who dare to keep praying. Finally,  to all the spiritual mothers who have loved and guided daughters not their own to the foot of the cross.  There are many opportunities to mother well.  I am grateful for them all and for the women who have mothered me and mine.  Let us all pause today and drink in the gift of motherhood. May all our children rise up and call us blessed.