Truth bears repeating: Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
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.
My earliest friends, aside from my maternal cousins, were Pam Peluski and Donna Todd in Three Forks, Montana, followed by Susie Haggerty and Johnny Mike Wilcox when we moved to Butte. They were the first friends who have marked my life of 64 years. I am no longer in touch with those early friends, but they comprise my earliest memories of friendships and are forever engraved in my heart.
I have been blessed with a long line of friends-most certainly more than I deserve. Some have come for a season and others for a lifetime. Some have moved far away geographically and others, emotionally, but all of them are together in my collection of treasured memories. Each have blessed me in their own unique way. A few have ended badly- not many, but there is still some regret for less than happy endings along with gratitude for the gifts they brought.
There were many friends in my elementary school years, mostly from our So Cal neighborhood. We spent hours playing Barbies, tether ball on the playground, roller skating, bike riding and going to the beach when our parents gave in to our craving for the sand and surf. Through the blessing of Facebook, many of us have been able to re-connect despite most having left the neighborhood we grew up in. Our childhood was sweet for the most part and we share many fond memories of growing up in a simpler, more carefree time.
In my high school years, I made new friends, some from far away places-Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee. Billy, Deb, Stephen and Evie all opened up new worlds to me. With Evie I visited New York City for the first time, went to Carnegie Hall and fell in love with the Big Apple. While Billy and Stephen travelled throughout the country, I travelled vicariously with them and engaged in copious letter writing through the years. Because of them, I visited Nashville for the first time and also fell in love with Music City. Although I see them rarely, I still consider both to be dear friends. Stephen and his wife Prilla will visit us next month, some 26 years since I last saw them in Nashville and I am beyond excited to see them. Deb and I have never lived in the same state, but through the years we have managed to meet once or twice a year in places wherever we found a good airfare. We have shared the joys and sorrows of life together for nearly half a century. (We are OLD!) She has been a shelter to me through many storms.
At home, my local bestie was Cindy. Her family lived in another town, a few miles from my home. We were the closest of friends through high school. I spent many a weekend in her home, with the two of us sleeping in her small bedroom at the top of the stairs in a single bed. I travelled with she and her sisters in their own bus, as they travelled from church to church singing their sweet harmonies as The Hammond Sisters. We had the best of times. I remember gathering around their kitchen counter for breakfast and her Dad reading from “Our Daily Bread”. Her mom was an anchor and always welcomed me with open arms. She was strong and unyielding in her faith, but warm and loving at the same time. I felt at home in theirs. Through a long series of life’s challenges, Cindy and I lost touch. She went through some very hard times and ultimately moved away and settled far North of us. Though there were occasional letters and brief visits through the years we have not been in touch in over three decades. Though time and geography have come between us, my affection for her remains strong and I know one day we’ll be reunited, if not on earth, in Heaven. That will be a day of great joy for me.
As an adult, my closest friends have blossomed under the umbrella of my faith. So many women have grown to be so dear to me. Karen and Patricia, my Maryland besties who blessed me extravagantly with their hospitality, like mindedness, listening ears, prayers and humor. Jules, who is a bestie to everyone who knows her and who taught me how to set a beautiful table among other things. Tracey, who has modeled a life of prayer and who makes me laugh hilariously in the dark hours of the night with her texts as we both battle insomnia. Nancy, who has rescued me from my impulsive actions more than once and whose wry humor makes me laugh out loud. Paula, who is an example of self-less service, devotion to knowing the Word of God and a sense of humor that I adore. Cindy, who believes me to be far better than I really am and encourages me to walk in faith believing God CAN. Jean, who has taken on the mantle of great-grandma to my littles in the absence of my own mother, and who has been a constant source of encouragement from the day I met her. My walking group and my Bible study partners who urge me to press on to the good…the list goes on…
They say you can’t choose your family, but you can, your friends. Some of us are blessed with family we also call friends. My husband, who has grown to be the dearest of the dear through many trials and heartaches and who is now my exemplary husband and friend. My closest cousins, Shelly, Linda and Dona, are literally lifelong friends, woven into the fabric of my heart. Not a week goes by that I’m not in contact with one and sometimes all of them. My sisters and sisters-in-love, Debi, Dona, Christine, Nancy and Stacie are not “just” my family, but friends in whose presence I am always at home because of the history we share.
Each friendship is unique. Some are full of laughter and others are full of heartfelt conversation, exhortation and encouragement as we share our lives. I have always struggled with the question, “who is your best friend?” My friend Betsy once asked me that question and I responded, ” I cannot narrow it down.” The truth is, I have been blessed with an abundance of good, good friends. At any given time, they have each been my “best” friend. When I am in their presence, the designation of “best” belongs to them. Each, “for such a time as this.” I marvel at the goodness of our loving God, to gift my life with the right one at the right time. Through joy and suffering, through laughter and tears, through successes and failures, this cadre of friends have walked with me through the sunshine and storms of life. They have inspired me to press on through the heartaches and trials and have rejoiced in the delights of this life.
I cannot choose one.
I choose them all.
If you have one true friend, you are fortunate. If you have a handful, you are blessed. If you have more than a handful, you are rich indeed.
Kind. Humble. Faithful. Hardworking.Content.Generous.Beloved.
I could write endlessly about him, but, that pretty much says it all. ‘Love him so.
(Original art by my dear brother-in-law, Dan Mandish @MandishDesign)
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.”
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.”
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.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mamas….
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.
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.
This week marked a momentous occasion– my 64th birthday. Were you humming along? Those of a certain age immediately recognized this classic Beatles tune which continues on to say,
“…will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”
I am delighted to report that I am not yet in need of someone to feed me. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. (Let’s just keep singing, okay?). I am, in fact , thriving; content with my lot in life and grateful that I’m still here on earth to live it.
My actual birthday began with hot coffee delivered by my dear husband, followed by a delicious free birthday breakfast at Good Stuff, a complimentary beverage at Starbucks, a massage courtesy of my friend, Paula, a free dessert from Buca De Beppo and several beautiful bouquets of spring flowers. I was showered with good wishes all day long. By way of the blessing/curse of social media, texts, voice messages, actual phone conversations, birthday cards and meals shared with friends and family, I received birthday greetings from over 100 dear friends in more than 10 states. I am a rich girl. Obvi.
I rejoice in every birthday and have never been able to grasp why thoughtful, intelligent people avoid them like the plague. There is such disdain for birthdays, growing older and letting go of youth that we have become a culture that fails to appreciate that every birthday is a blessing. They mark another year of life we’ve been given-another year to love and live and serve and grow. They also mark a new beginning, another trip around the sun ahead of us. So, why, pray tell, do we view that as a curse and not the blessing it is?
I say it’s time to rethink this whole birthday thing. Instead of wincing at the thought of another year we’d rather not admit to, why not celebrate the fact that we’re still here–the fact that we’ve been given the opportunity to do better than we did before. We’ve been given another year to right wrongs, reconcile division, serve our communities, love our family and friends and share the wisdom we’ve gained. We’ve been given an opportunity to let go of the things that don’t matter so much and focus on the ones that do. It is, in effect , a personal New Year’s celebration. So, let’s stop bemoaning the fact that we have more lines and fewer smooth surfaces on the gloriously made bodies we travel around in. Let’s own who we are and how old we are and claim the blessings that come with aging. Yes, there are many. If you are hard pressed to come up with them, you might need to look a little harder. ‘Just sayin’.
For many years I worked in the Assisted Living field. While there I came up with a theory that something happens to our vision when we reach the 4th quarter of our lives. We look in the mirror but we no longer see the actual reflection. Instead, we see the person we are inside. Hence, 90% of the people who visit an Assisted Living community leave with the same response to their families: “All those people are OLD.” But inside each of those “OLD” souls is a person with hopes and dreams still yearned for. When we dismiss ourselves or someone else because we or they are aging, we fail to acknowledge that there is still a heart beating, willing and quite able to contribute to the world around them.
I am quite blessed to be a part of a faith community that doesn’t merely tolerate the over 50 crowd, but, embraces it and endeavors to utilize the gifts and abilities of those who have over half a century of experience here on earth. Intergenerational gatherings and activities are the rule, not the exception. Young women actively seek out the wisdom and counsel of more mature women who have lived lives, had careers, raised children, made mistakes, maintained relationships, endured hardship and learned their way around the block. I walk with a group of both young and old women every week. Our conversation is always lively, often deep and sprinkled with laughter, counsel and prayer. The older bring life experience and the younger help us olders keep up with current trends, jargon and perspective. It’s a great mix.
When we stop trying to hide our age and instead celebrate it, we are choosing to live more authentic and joyous lives. That doesn’t mean we won’t occasionally look in the mirror and bemoan the wrinkles around our eyes or the awful truth that our chins are multiplying while our necks are disappearing, but, we cannot allow the passage of time to define us. We still have work to do and have been given the time to complete it. Let’s roll up our sleeves and like the woman in Proverbs 31, smile at the future. There’s still a lot of living to do.
As for me, I’m not being fed myself, but feeding someone else this afternoon. I’ll be delivering homemade, hot bruschetta soup to a young family going through a hard time. Because I can. It’s a great way to begin my 65th trip around the sun!
We all have our secrets– the myriad of things we’d just as soon forget. Airing dirty laundry is not our favorite thing. So, instead we skirt around our past failures and hide things in our present lives. We wear masks so as to appear as if we have it all together. In truth, we all hide scars and failure and sorrows, but, more often than not, even when we’ve moved past them and maybe even made restitution, we are still prisoners to our own shame. No one wants to shine a light on that muck, right?
Shine some light...
I grew up in an extended family where many stories were swept under the rug. If there was something that might be perceived as dark or shameful, it was hidden. Whether an unplanned pregnancy, a mysterious death, a divorce, or maybe even a college prank turned bad, all were swept under a massive rug. Things were withheld because “it would kill your father, (or mother, sister, cousin, grandmother, etc.) if they knew.” Hence, we learned there were some things you didn’t share, own up to or ask about. Failure was not to be discussed, but hidden away from curious eyes. We had images to maintain.
I remember for much of my life, hearing others share of their own failures, wrong turns, foolish mistakes, etc, and being amazed at the openness of the one honestly confessing their negligence. It wasn’t until I grew much older and (hopefully) wiser, that I realized shame is a prison of its own making. What we run from, hide behind closed doors, or otherwise intentionally conceal, will ultimately control us. It will hold us in bondage, causing us to believe that others won’t accept us and embrace us if they know the shame we carry.
The truth is, our failures make us human. Olympic Skater, Scott Hamilton, said recently, “If I had to list the ingredients for success, the greatest single ingredient would be failure.” Instead of seeing failure as an inevitable bi-product of living, we see it as something to be ashamed of. Some failures ought to bring shame, but, the story doesn’t need to end there. As we walk through our lives, if we are truly engaged in life, interacting with others, learning, growing and taking on new challenges, we are going to make mistakes along the way. Some are more consequential than others to be sure, but, we will all fall down at some point and need a helping hand to lift us up. Most of us, if we are truly honest, will admit to past and sometimes present behaviors that are shameful and we wish we could undo. I know that’s true for me. But, do-overs are not always possible. Shame is a good thing, when we’ve done wrong. That said, it should not hold us captive, and it doesn’t have to. Instead it should propel us to seek forgiveness and change our behavior.
While we can’t undo the cause of our shame, there is always the opportunity to be redeemed. No matter how far we fall, there is good to be found in acknowledging, repenting (which essentially means, making a u-turn and heading in the opposite direction) and even in sharing our failures. To do so, is to take off our masks, to be real, unvarnished and unpretentious– to be human. When we share our failures with others, it gives them hope that they too will survive their indiscretions. We look at others from the outside, thinking their lives are perfect, that they’ve never been wounded or scarred, but that’s a bold-faced lie. When we allow others to see us as we truly are, we give them permission to admit to their own deficiencies and to have hope that they too can overcome them.
I find it very telling that my last post, (One Good Decision) wherein I shared the very rocky road that lead to our 40th (sort-of, read it!) anniversary, received more responses than anything I’ve ever posted on Facebook. I didn’t share every intimate detail of our life together, but, enough that it was clear we had made a lot of stupid mistakes that could have been fatal to our marriage. I was so gratified by all the loving feedback from so many of you and the opportunity to be free of any notion of hiding it. The proverbial cat was out of the bag. Such freedom! The weight is lifted once you make that u-turn, seek forgiveness and accept your own frailty. Only then can one move forward, unencumbered by the weight of shame.
Set that kitty free!
If you are still carrying baggage that is weighing you down, drop it! If you’re still imprisoned by past shame, behaviors and/or failures, consider letting your cat out, too. Joseph, in the book of Genesis, was sold to slave traders by his own brothers. Imagine their shame and their relief when years later Joseph said to those same scoundrels, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” That is perspective, my friends. Whatever you’ve done, whatever hole you’ve crawled out of, God can use it for your good. So ‘fess up. Set that kitty free.
all photos by hollykatephotography.com
“One good wish changes nothing. One good decision changes everything.” -anonymous
Forty years ago today, the husband and I stood together in front of the fireplace of our living room, and said “I do”. A small group of friends and family joined us that evening to witness two woefully unprepared souls coming together in the hopes of building a life that would endure. Who knew then, that it would mirror the name of my favorite ice-cream?
Yep. Rocky road.
Four decades down that road, this merged life has never been sweeter. Full disclosure: it’s often been more bitter than sweet. We’ve taken some pretty significant detours to get where we are today. Back roads which took us through infidelity, separation, divorce, addiction, re-marriage, rage, sorrow, hopelessness, futility and multiple mountain ranges of frustration. There have been hair-pin turns, comparable to the Amalfi Coast, where each curve left us gasping for breath, knowing one wrong move could plunge us over a cliff we might never come back from. There have been potholes the size of Montana and some ice that sent us spinning into guard rails. But, we are still standing on this side of those ledges.
I married an imperfect man and he married and imperfect woman. He thought he could control me and I thought I could save him. Obviously, we were both deluded. So we went over the cliff and called it quits. It was ugly. I moved cross-country, seeking a new life as far away as I could get from the old one. He stayed put, determined to salvage what was left of him. By the grace of God, we both survived our mostly self-inflicted injuries.
Then. one day, what had been legally pronounced dead, was resurrected. It was miraculous beyond anything we’d experienced, before or since. Twenty Six years ago, we stood in the garden of the same house and repeated vows much like those spoken forty years back. We began the long journey to rebuild what had ostensibly been destroyed. It sounds like a fairy tale, but there was no “happily ever after” in the immediate future.
It has, in fact, been the greatest undertaking of our lives. We have struggled to know and understand each other. We have failed to fight fairly. We have been selfish and angry and struggled with bitterness and hopelessness. We have forgiven offenses, large and small. We have yelled and cried (mostly me) and have been silent for inordinate amounts of time(mostly him). We have teetered on the edge of giving up. But, mercifully, we did not give in to that temptation. We have stood firm, believing the miracle that brought us back together would hold us together. And, it has.
We made a decision and we have stood by it. Through all the heartache, tears, grief, arguments, misunderstandings, lack of communication and sorrows, we have slogged through them all. Because, we made a decision. The miracle of reconciliation. The miracle of forgiveness. The miracle of life made new. The miracle of redemption and grace. We have learned a lot about patience and endurance. We have pressed in and through, knowing there was something worth all the effort on the other side. We have worked hard when it would have been easier to give up and walk away.
We are slow learners, for sure. We took the long and winding road to get here, without question. But we are here and we are standing. Through wind and rain and sleet and snow, (what are we, postal employees?) we have endured. And we are grateful beyond imagining.
What if we had ignored the miracle? Common sense told us that to reconcile was folly. Many loved ones called us crazy. We were still two dramatically different people who seemed to be traveling in opposing directions. But we chose to move forward, a little older and a little wiser, knowing it would not be easy. We counted the cost and decided it was risk worth taking, and so we dove in. We have weathered many storms to get here. We are both older, wear a few extra pounds and have a few more wrinkles and rolls, but, we are still together, stronger and more in love than we ever thought possible.
We made a decision. The conviction that it was a wise and worthy decision, has held us all these years. We are still held by it. We rest in it. We rejoice in it.
“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms.” -Deuteronomy 33:27
The family the “decision” built.