Blessings of Friendship Through the Seasons of Life

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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.

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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.

Rich, indeed.

#agr8fulheart

 

 

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.

 

“Will You Still Need Me…?”

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.  

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Birthdays are for celebrating! 

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? 

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It’s your birthday.  Make a wish and then make it happen!

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! 

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Sins of Omission and Other Prisons

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?

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

“One Good Decision…”

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fame Game

IMG_6088We live in the age of celebrity.  Where once we aspired to do good things, write great books,  make meaningful films, do admirable work, earn a good living to provide for a good family, care for the needy and maybe even create great art, now, instead, we seem to hunger for something much less noble.  FAME.

To be a celebrity in our time is a pretty heady thing.  An actor acts. A singer sings.  Their projects are released and we are able to enjoy their work in a theater,  or other venue or sometimes in the comfort of our own living rooms.  We are entertained.  The lucky ones make lots of money, get lots of press and then, a few months down the line, we get to see them gather together to collectively pat each other on the backs as the ceremonies are televised.    They wear beautiful gowns and sparkling jewels.  In the past, acceptance speeches were about thanking all those who had a part in their success.  Now, they are also prone tell us what we should think and how we should act with regard to the cause du jour.

With Facebook, we all can have our own “15 minutes of fame.”  We can post our own photos (always looking our best, filters allowed) the highlights of our lives, those things we feel deeply about and all of our adventures.  I admit to being a tad bit guilty myself.  It’s a little addictive, isn’t it?  We check back to see who commented and how many “likes” our posts receive.  And if someone we admire, or even someone famous responds, we are over the moon.  Can I get a witness?  You don’t even want to know how excited I was when Lyle Lovett “liked” a comment I made on a photo he’d posted on Instagram.  Sigh.  I do love me some Lyle. But, I digress.

Once upon a time I had a job that required a wardrobe.  Retailer Nordstrom was my drug of choice when I ventured out to shop.  They had quality clothing, would price match other stores and had the best customer service/return policies known to woman.  I never had to hunt down a sales person to assist me.  They thanked me by name when I made my purchase.  They made me feel special.  And, as it turns out, because I carried their store credit card, at year-end, if I’d racked up enough points, (translates to spending enough $) I would be invited to their private, invitation only shopping event.

On the evening of the event, the store would close early. Hours later it would re-open for the gala event,  invitation holders lined up outside awaiting the doors to open and allow the throngs of faithful shoppers spenders to enter in.  When that moment arrived, we all got a taste of what the red carpet must feel like. Yes, friends,  there actually WAS a red carpet.  As we entered, we walked down a field of red wool, flanked on either side from end to end, with Nordstrom “associates” (high-end stores don’t have mere clerks.)  Said associates were applauding the incoming attendees as if we’d done something worthy of such adulation, when all we’d really done was come to shop.  But,  in that moment, we all felt a little more powerful. Yep.  It was slightly intoxicating. They offered champagne and appetizers and sweet desserts as we meandered around the store.   I called it dinner. Then I went home to my humble abode in my decidedly unpretentious neighborhood.

I had a similar experience a not long ago when my friend, Carlease Burke,  who actually IS an actress, had a big celebration for a big birthday. (She embraced it, people!)  She rolled out an actual  red carpet for her guests  to walk, proclaiming us the real stars of her life. She’s awesome like that.     As we strolled the red carpet, a cadre of paid  paparazzi pursued us, snapping photos  as if we actually were the stars Carlease said we were.   So we stood a little taller,  we sang and danced and ate great  food and enjoyed the company of lots of lovely people.   Alas, when we went home that night, we were still just us. We’d had our moment.

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My beautiful friend Carlease, her sweet Mom, aka “California Flo,” and I.

Imagine if you had a daily diet of that?  It makes you realize why so many celeb’s believe their own press.  Constantly surrounded by people who get paid to make you look and feel your best, feed your ego, affirm your every proclamation and make sure you want for nothing, it’s no wonder fame produces such a sense of entitlement.

It’s easy to see why our culture is  so enamored of fame and all it’s trappings.  It’s  more than a little intoxicating.  It’s not a bad thing to be famous,  but, I’m thinking, for folks like me, it may take a lifetime to learn how to be both famous and good.   As one clearly in the winter of my life, I am possessed by an earnest desire to be good, to do good. I’m leaning into  contentment,  a life that may be devoid of fame but hopefully overflowing with the riches of relationships, community and service.  I yearn for a life that has less need of self promotion and more focus on  lifting others up. A life that sparkles in the absence of the spotlight.

What kind of life are you living?  It’s the fourth quarter.  Famous or not, it’s time to double down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Am I Doing Here?

Aging with grace in a youth centric world.  Defining what it is to live boldly,  perhaps even extravagantly in the fourth quarter of our lives.  Is it just another game or do our lives have meaning?   What matters? What doesn’t? Who decides what is appropriate and what isn’t?  Starting well isn’t so important as finishing well.  That’s what’s rattling around my brain today.

What’s on your mind? pexels-photo-355988.jpeg