… accepting your gift…

“Are you two on your honeymoon?” Tom and I had gone away for a couple of days, and were asked this question one evening.  At that time, we had been married about 17 years. That question is still often asked… at times.  Not because we look young, but because we love young.

This week I asked Tom… how? How have we made it? There is no possible way to have known what love and marriage were all about at 18 and 19; we were committed, but to what? How did we do this?

“I liked you,” he smiled.

Is that it? I liked him, too…

We’ve been told we’re just lucky… Tom says it has nothing to do with luck. Maybe it’s a whole lot of liking, a whole lot of learning, and more accepting this person as a gift to me than one can imagine. And it insures a whole lot of love and security for the end of life…

Imagine you have just been given the most precious, the most beautiful, the most expensive gift, more special than anything you could hope for.  What do you do when you are given a gift such as this?  You receive it with massive joy and gladness.

And you open it everyday.

Recently we were walking into a restaurant and two ladies… maybe in their 40’s… came up behind us. “Oh, I like this,” one giggled. She was talking about the way we were walking. My favorite way when we walk slowly is with my right thumb in Tom’s right back  pocket. We stopped and talked with them… Tom has accepted the fact I will always talk with someone… and explained we have been walking ‘this way’ for over 50 years.

“What is your secret?” was the next question, and one repeatedly asked of us these years. I love to share how I have never gotten over the fact that Tom Suiter chose me… chose me out of the hundreds and millions of females in the world. Can you believe? To this day, I smile thinking about this.  I, too, cannot fathom that I was chosen by the Creator God, before the foundation of the world, to be His; He actually picked me out for Himself…. (Ephesians 1:4 Amplified) These two facts keep me anchored and secure.

A journal entry this May 19:  I am awed that You trusted me with Tom; You trusted me with this gift.  And You taught us how to love, how to receive each other, how to accept one another. Thank you, my Father, for the confidence You have in me for this beautiful trust.

A long time ago, I learned I could not change anyone else… but me.; I could not change Tom. The book Lord, Change Me by Evelyn Christenson, 1988, reveals that truth. For some reason even before reading this, I had accepted Tom Suiter as good and ‘perfect’ with all his imperfections. If I could have changed one thing… one tiny idiosyncrasy of his, he would not have been the person I fell in love with.

“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” Sam Keen

I love what Lori posted on the blog last week… finishing well… “I just go with ‘God made him for me.’ Everything else will work out.” Isn’t that absolutely priceless!  Does that mean they don’t struggle, cry or have trouble? I doubt it; it means accepting him as he is… just works.

“Let each man of you, (without exception) love his wife as his very own self, and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband— that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.” Ephesians 5:33 Amplified

Sounds impossible, right? I remember the first time I read this verse in the Amplified—oh, my, what amplification for the simple command of “a wife must respect her husband.” By taking one of those action verbs every month—it would take a whole year to learn how to love—. But a man is to love his wife as his very own self—now that needs to be amplified!

It is fun to know that our special song was released the year we began dating…  I Love You Because recorded by Al Martino in 1963. https://youtu.be/bgHIuSh4uCk   I can cry each time I hear the words.  “I love you for a hundred thousand reasons, but most of all, I love you because you’re you.” If you have never heard this song, you will enjoy listening… and smiling.  I make no changes, demand none… only a full acceptance of who Tom is.

There is another book I would suggest for those of you who want a great marriage.  You know when investigators must learn to recognize counterfeit bills, they study the real ones, not the counterfeit.  So it is with marriage.  Study the secrets of those who are successful. The Triumphant Marriage by Neil Clark Warren is a wonderful book revealing the secrets of 100 such married couples. I love this quote: “Magnificent marriages involve two people who dream magnificently.” p18 and “Show me a couple with a big dream for their individual and corporate lives, one that involves a deep sensitivity to both partners’ needs, and I’ll show you a couple on their way to a triumphant marriage.” p12.

You would laugh to know how we are still dreaming… what to build, where to go, what to plant (we planted a 2 feet sapling this year… oh, how it has grown), let’s go back to the mission field. But most importantly, we plan and work at how our marriage can be ‘more’. It is choosing the absolute best for the other.

A quote of Ruth Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

I hesitate to think where we would be today without constant forgiveness. Tom taught me to forgive. Early on I could pout for three days and spend a night or two on the couch—not often, but it happened.  Many times, he asked my forgiveness when I should first have admitted my wrongdoing.

Have I wanted to wrap this gift up and send it back?  Rarely, but when it does, forgiveness comes quickly now as we both desire to restore the broken connection .

A friend shared recently, “The first apology I received from my husband was after almost 30 years of marriage, I didn’t know what to do with that; I was stunned. And his apology came at the insistence of a counselor we were seeing.” This dear couple is learning how to live in forgiveness, but look how long it has taken.

Some people have a hard time admitting an imperfection or realizing a mistake may have been made. Did you know that a sincere apology is more than saying I am sorry? It is another step in strengthening a relationship. An apology given and received by two people in love is a beautiful openness into acceptance. Forgiveness restores the feeling of completeness in the marriage relationship.

As a young wife, I was too sensitive—well, I guess I am still too sensitive.  Tom learned how to handle that part of me, while not putting me down.  “You hurt my feelings”, I have been able to say through these years. He never threw my feelings down, but asked how he had done so. Sometimes there would be a battle of my misconception of the situation or how I had misunderstood his words. An apology would always come.  You have been there…

Tom is a great forgetter… a positive gift in marriage. I am more like an elephant, remembering too much. I have a brother who never forgets a word… ever said.  He reminded his ex-wife of this a few years after their divorce, and she said, “That’s why we’re no longer married!” They remain friends, but it is impossible to be married –happily—without an admitting, a  forgetting and an acceptance of each other’s mistakes.

Excerpt  from the book, The Triumphant Marriage… “A physician from Georgia: We have as close to a perfect marriage as anyone could have. Not because we are great communicators, or because sex is so great, or because of anything I have done. It is just one of those strange and rare miracles that happens— by the grace of God.”

While I appreciate these words and the glory given to God, I personally think there is much more here. I am convinced they studied each other, accepted each other’s warts, learned forgiveness… spending every day grateful for the gift they were given.

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord.”  Psalm 104:33,34.

“I got gaps; you got gaps; we fill each other’s gaps,” says Rocky Balboa in the movie Rocky. Marriage is today, this one day, on the journey to the whole of life— giving and receiving, as we learn to fill the gaps.

It is so appropriate that this chapter on ‘accepting your gift’ is posted on Tom’s birthday…  I could write forever…my Polly Anna spirit has “expected something wonderful around the next corner” for 57 years. Yes, disappointments come, tears fall, but most days, I still peek around the corner…expecting.

A heart at peace gives life to the body. Proverbs 14:30

… accepting God’s gift to you…

This series of blogs: …finishing well…together…

Learning to Love

Accepting your gift

Seeking oneness— next week.

Talking and Touching— last week of June

 

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… learning to love…

“I’m going to marry that guy,” I whispered to my friend in church when I first saw Tom; I was 16; he was 17. How could I possibly know? I have no idea… but I have spent my life thanking God. Tom now grins and says, “She chased me until I caught her!”You will remember I mentioned in the previous blog a house painter  in Austria must complete three years of learning and practicing before he can become a professional.

Many more than three years are involved in being married successfully. It takes a lifetime of learning the subject…

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer (pleasure) his wife whom he has taken.” Deuteronomy 24:5 Amplified Bible.

Isn’t that incredible advice? Did you know that was in the Bible? Um..m. Perhaps there is something to this intentional time of learning how to live in a marriage relationship.  Many things are learned by observing, by example… but not marriage. If this were easily passed down from parents to children, Tom and I would not have survived as neither of us had lived in a strong, healthy loving atmosphere.  And our children surely would have learned how to love and ‘marry’ from our positive, growing relationship . Not so. Two of our children are divorced; one after 25 years, another after 22 years.

I am sitting here at my computer reading articles on the reasons for divorce. I crumble in sadness, in helplessness. Why do so many fail in achieving what they so long for? One study interviewed 26 couples to discover the reasons for divorce. What is interesting in this study is all 52 individuals had completed a Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program before marriage. Fourteen years later their reasons for divorce were the same as most other statistics show.

If there were books on marriage in 1964, I never found them.  But I began reading every Reader’s Digest article, every mention of marriage in our church’s magazine, Home Life, and other secular magazines.  Ladies’ Home Journal had a segment every month on, “Can this Marriage be Saved?” I devoured every word. Charlie Shedd was one of the first pastor/author/husband/lover I found in the 70s.  His books are still available; Letters to Karen and Letters to Philip answer the question, “Daddy, how can I keep him/her loving me forever?” You will enjoy these!

I had no experience, no example, but I was determined that my marriage was not going to be a copy of my parents. What else could I do but begin to read, to observe other relationships, to take advantage of every possible lead I heard concerning how to do marriage.

Tom and I signed up for every event on marriage; we joined discussions and shared with other couples seeking to learn. We taught classes at church when we had no idea what we were doing. I smiled that many of you remarked you will be following these next four chapters. You will make it!  Through these years I have learned most couples who have a good marriage are eager to participate in any conference, to read a new book… anything to strengthen an already strong relationship.

Early in our ministry, I joined a group of women to do hands on sewing for an orphans’ home. While we sat around the tables, sewing on buttons, mending torn clothes, I listened as the ladies voiced delight that their husbands left town on Monday and returned home on Friday. I was a young wife with four little children and loved Tom coming home in the evening. Older women who should have encouraged me, now caused me to wonder what marriage was all about.

Somewhere early on this journey, I realized I must know this frog-turned-prince. New books surfaced with the years, and I read each one to understand my role in marriage. If I learned only one new idea or thought from a book, it was worth it.  I learned to “study my man”. I have encouraged women for years to find something new about your man every day.  What a job this can be! I am still learning!

Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, is a game changer for couples committed to  communicate with one another. We will mention this in other chapters, but for now, Tom and I have used this in seminars and counseling sessions. It is a must to understand emotional love. We were speaking love, but didn’t understand this principle completely until 1992 when the book was published. I just Googled the best books for marriage in 2021… guess what…?  Five Love Languages is at the top, almost 30 years later. Some of you do not enjoy reading, and so, if you only can read one, I would suggest this book as a priority.

I read to Tom as we traveled, with or without children asleep in the back seat. Today most books are on audio or you can listen to a podcast. In these days of technology, learning how to love is at your fingertips.

One attractive lady scheduled a time with Tom and me in Vienna. She and her husband were on the verge of divorce.  She sat and cried, “He brings me beautiful gifts all the time, but I don’t want or need anything else. I only want him to spend a little time with me.”  How sad… they had no idea of each other’s emotional love language.  His was giving/receiving gifts, and hers was a desire for quality time. (The five love languages, according to Gary Chapman, are: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.)

You may have heard of the Enneagram Personality Test; it’s a system of personality testing that describes nine patterns in how people interpret  the world and manage their emotions. You can find this on line. Some employers currently use this for job applicants. I mention this as one avenue to help you understand and know what makes your spouse act and react as he or she does.  Other personality tests are available… Myers Briggs, DISC for example. Tom and I have learned through each.

The only way to love—is to know how.  It doesn’t just happen. We told our children  marriage will be the  hardest work you will ever do, but we failed to intentionally show them how to find the one gift we desired for them.

“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12

Marriage is life… a blending of two rivers, with bends and curves, turbulent waters at times, crashing around the debris and garbage of life, but  always flowing.  Have problems come? Losing an infant son, the same issues raising teenagers you have, changes due to Lyme disease, crisis with Q-fever that robbed me of a year… a year I felt I was losing my mind, but Tom would not let me go, prostate cancer… and on and on.

I cannot remember 57 years of mornings, but I remember this morning, and it was beautiful.  Marriage is today… Is every day great? Of course not, but when it is not, I always know that tomorrow is coming.

Disclaimer: there is no way to share 57 years of learning. Already I wish I had written many more nuggets…

… still learning…

Next week… in making your marriage LAST… Accepting your gift.

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… finishing well…

Who of us does not want to finish well? Whether it is a race, a project, a ministry, a life… a marriage. ”I  press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us…” Philippians 3:14

After reading my blog… kissing  frogs…… kissing frogs… Tom and I were invited to share our journey of these 57 years. Several friends asked us to write down everything we said during the seminar… so they would have our secrets!   While impossible to remember every word, I want to use my blog these next couple of weeks to communicate some truths we have learned.

Disclaimer from the beginning: We do not have a perfect marriage. As Ruth Graham once replied, when asked if she and Dr. Billy Graham had a perfect marriage, “If either one of us were perfect, there would be no need of the other.”  So, you have never considered divorce was another question she was reportedly asked.  “Divorce never, murder yes.”  I smile at that, and wonder if she did, in fact, say that. But I do understand!  Tom and I have a good marriage, and one we continue to work on even in our later years.

When having some painting done on the home in Vienna, Austria, we learned a painter must go through training and a three-year apprenticeship before he is considered accomplished enough… to paint a straight wall. Can you imagine?  That’s three- 3- years.

We can understand the years a medical doctor must study, train and practice. Or a lawyer? A pilot?  But a painter?  We began to question the lack of training for marriage. I wonder if doctors or painters have a degree in Marriage 101, as well.

Marriage is the single most complex entity short of nuclear fission, and nuclear fission may be the less complicated… US News and World Reports, 1984. Tom always says ‘amen’ to this quote. Notice the date of this. Thirty seven years later it must be realized good marriages do not just happen.

Because of Covid and the lockdown of 2020, predictions are surfacing we may see the  largest single year increase in divorce in decades. You may have seen the stats on divorce for past years: some estimates say fifty percent of all first marriages will end in divorce. In preparation for this seminar, one particular fact caught my attention and disturbed me: the divorce rate among fifty year olds and older has doubled in the last twenty years. For sure, Covid is not the issue here.

Paul David Tripp’s (author, educator, theologian) definition of marriage: a flawed person in a comprehensive relationship with another flawed person living in the middle of a fallen world. And we wonder how in the world any two people can survive a union with so much against them from the beginning. It is impossible unless you commit to a lifetime of discovery.

Tom and I knew nothing… nothing…  about being married. My parents divorced when I was sixteen; Tom’s divorced when he was thirty after their shaky, insecure thirty one years.  So how have we survived this race?

Making Your Marriage LAST embraces four points:

L… earning to love                                                                                                                              A… ccepting your gift                                                                                                                          S… eeking oneness                                                                                                                              T… alking… and Touching

Four simple, yet profound, truths Tom and I have spent 57 years learning. I want to share this journey filled with many mistakes and lots of love. The next four blogs will cover the points of LAST.

I would love for you to stay with me these three or four weeks as I share our notes from our mini seminar. If your marriage is good, it can be better; if it is better, it can be great. If you are single, you can share these words with another.

One of my favorite happy verses: “He who finds a wife, finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22. I wish there were a verse that said, “She who finds a strong, secure velvet-covered brick has discovered a gold mine.”

Join me as I share the first chapter… learning to love. .. this week.

 

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… protected by sacrifice…

“Mama, I’m having a bad day,” sad words to my ears yesterday morning. A mother’s heart never likes to hear these words. She wants to protect her children from all the wrongs of the world… to keep them dry in the storm.  I remember when this same daughter at five years old came running through the yard, crying, “Molly doesn’t want to play with me today; she has another best friend.” No longer can I scoop my children up and put a band-aid on a hurt.

I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve recently learned about a ‘brood patch’.

I almost stepped on these two eggs last week.

Wonder why they were on the ground? I hurried to set up a warm place for their survival; I was going to save these babies.  After I anchored a night light over a small used nest, the birthing room in the garage was ready.

Well, not really…

I had no clue how intricate and complex this could be. Did you know mama birds turn their eggs every 50 minutes or twice an hour in some cases… so they don’t get too warm or too cold on either side; this insures the embryo in each egg gets just enough nutrients to develop properly. (You’ve seen those tiny clocks in the nests, I’m sure). Then Google informed me I didn’t have a ‘brood patch’.

What…

This is a featherless skin patch on the underbelly of female birds… this patch develops  during nesting season. Feathers are normally an insulator for the bird and serves to keep her own body warm, but once she and her mate decide to begin a family, her feathers loosen on her tummy and shed automatically. They just fall out. She has just lost her warm sweater  under her outer jacket!  This patch has multiple blood vessels that easily transfer heat to her eggs. The patch also provides warmth and protection… skin to skin, very near her heart… to the newly hatched babies.

This information is fascinating. Daddy birds do not develop this patch except in the species where he is the one responsible for incubating the eggs. In some birds, as the eagle, both parents help in the birth process and both develop a brood patch. In the duck family, the one incubating the eggs literally plucks these feathers out and uses them to line the nest. But normally, in all song birds, it is the female, and only when it is time, does she lose her feathers in this intimate place of her underbelly… how awesome is this?

Brood patch… I’ve been brooding over this while welcoming multiple newborns at our feeders. The heart of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem as a hen covering her chicks with its feathers has taken on a sweet meaning.

Luke 13:34 and Matthew 23:37 both express Jesus’ heart for the world: “How often I have desired and yearned to gather your children together around Me as a hen gathers her young (chicks) under her wings…”

The truth of God’s protective, devoted love and mercy is expressed in hundreds of verses in the Old and New Testament:  He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield… Psalm 91:4. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. Psalm 36:7. Hide me in the shelter of Your wings… Psalm 17:8b. Deuteronomy 32:11 mentions God’s care as an eagle stirring up its nest and hovering over its young, spreading its wings to catch and carry them on the journey.

For some reason the brood patch of all the mama birds in my yard this week has given me a greater sense of God’s marvelous unfailing love.  He longs to love and protect each one of us.

Just think… what a privilege in being hidden in His wings, taking shelter in the storms. Unconditional tenderness… devotion, faithful love in action are gifts. His willingness to shed his ‘feathers’ to give me life… His presence…heart to heart.

I love this sentence… Pressed against the parent’s brood patch, the single egg weathers brief storms. Natural History, November 1990 (re eagle)

… protected…

.

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… growing old…

I remember hearing my Granny say, “I knew I would get old, but I never thought I would feel old.” I can see her now… staring out the window with  sadness creeping through her wrinkles. I had no idea what she was talking about…

… I do Now.

An older woman at the grocery this week barricaded the aisle with her cart while she handled every item on the the clearance shelves. I mean, she literally blocked the aisle with her buggy horizontally in place. From her back side, she looked much like Tom’s mother in her 80s, so I took the time to think on Grandma’s sweet memory. I waited… and waited.  A few moments passed. “Excuse me, please.” Not a budge. I will be an old lady one day, so I will be really kind. Perhaps she can’t even hear.

After some time, she placed one small item in her cart. When she saw me, she grinned, “Oh, I didn’t see you.” To laugh or cry… I wasn’t sure. I was probably older than she. Or close.

I don’t think old; I don’t feel old, but you know, I may be getting there.

One Christmas, Tom surprised me with two rocking chairs with big red bows and a note promising, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.” We had been married about ten years, so this was a perfect Christmas morning joy.

Growing old? Not us. We only expected life would be beautiful forever. ‘Old’ surely was very far away. In the Now, it has arrived.

We have all thought and hoped the opening words to this poem of Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra (1864) speak of a romantic love. Not so. Browning wrote this three years after the death of his beloved Elizabeth. Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be. My philosophical explanation of these words speak of trust… don’t be afraid of what comes. Experience what age brings in the Now.  All those years of younger days… growing, living, loving, forgiving, accepting, crying… are preparing each of us for the future… for the growing old. We cannot accept today without appreciating yesterday’s lessons.

For sure, it is an added joy and gift to grow old with the one you love. I cannot imagine doing this ‘old thing’ without Tom’s strength and commitment. But there is no promise of all things good and best ahead in the physical arena.

The next stanza of the poem gives the answer of why the best is yet to be… it is the last of life for which the first was made. What if we remained a youth? Life is a journey… from youth to old age. We are like homing pigeons . Remember Walter?  https://ajourneytonow.me/2020/09/18/found-a-new-home/   

We are destined for eternity, the last of life, created from the first to find the best.

Some days, I don’t do well in embracing the days of Now in preparation for tomorrow. What about you? Only as we “find rest in God alone,” (Psalm 62:1) and learn to trust His heart when going through the pains of today, can we grow old discovering the best for tomorrow.

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” Job 12:12

Recently I was desperate to understand how to grow into this next phase of life. Each one of us is growing older… everyday. No matter your age today, perhaps you want to ponder how you want to find the best.

… growing old… with you.

If you have a copy of my book, Whispers on the Journey, a practical guide using the ABCs in prayer and praise, you know I walk, talk and sleep with them.  This is available on Amazon.com… I would love for you to order a copy. So  follows my  ABC list  in the way I want  to grow old:

Father, I don’t want to grow old; I don’t know how. For some reason, this day, I am saddened at the thought of growing up… and older. I’ve never been here before. Show me, Abba Father…
With your help, I want to age…

Awakened to the moments of today                                                             Psalm 119:32

Balanced in body, soul and spirit                                                                  I Thessalonians 5:23 Beautifully….

Confident and Contented                                                                                Philippians 1:6

Dancing                                                                                                               Psalm 30:11,12

Encouraging others

Focused                                                                                                                Philippians 2:5

Gracefully

Humbly                                                                                                                  I Peter 5:6

Intentionally

Joyfully                                                                                                                   James 1:2

always in Kindness                                                                                               Hebrews 12:14

Listening                                                                                                                 Isaiah 50:4b

Mentoring                                                                                                               Titus 2:3-5                Making Memories

Never, never forgetting You will not let me go                                               Hebrews 13:5

Obedient                                                                                                                   John 14:15

Prepared and living Purposely

Questioning the hard thing… Quiet in the answers

Remembering                                                                                                     Ecclesiastes 12:1

Secure in who I am Singing                                                                             Psalm 89:1

Trusting your heart                               Teachable                                         Psalm 25:4,5

Unafraid                                                                                                              Psalm 27:3

Victoriously

Welcoming

X-claiming joy in today

Yearning for today… heaven tomorrow!                                                        Philippians 1:23,24

Zealous for Now

“Since my youth, O God, You have taught me and to this day, I declare Your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18

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… exchanging a life…

“No, no, not that one.  Give me another…”

Imagine our surprise yesterday morning when we opened a package sent from sweet friends in Vienna, Austria. In fact, our friend was on the phone in Vienna as Tom carefully cut the tape here in Tennessee.  Now, you can imagine our friend’s confused expression as he, too, saw what was in the box.

After careful examination with the help of the post office personnel in the afternoon, it was noted someone had perfectly cut the label from the priority package now in the box addressed to us. The contents of our intended package were gone, nowhere in sight.  Four kilos of Austrian coffee and chocolates had been removed and replaced with this lightweight priority package.

We were sad, of course.  We have never given up our appreciation and delight for this coffee since we returned to the states eleven years ago.  And someone loves us enough to insure we have this precious gift. We open coffee packages for birthdays and Christmas… this time for Easter!

We decided to Google what we had received in place of the coffee.  The more Tom researched this Watchmen #1, DC Comics, September ’86, in its tightly enclosed case, we pondered everyone’s loss in this situation.  Tom found one copy identical to ‘our gift’ listed on the Internet for a whole lot of money!

It is a terrible shame this couldn’t have been a signed copy… it would be valued in the thousands.  The person who had made the swap, yes, does have delicious coffee, and a few chocolates… but at what expense?

On that Friday, over two thousand years ago, the people shouted, “No, no, not Him! Give us Barabbas.” John 18:40. Barabbas was a robber, considered a rebel. It is interesting to note that his name, only mentioned in all four gospels in this one context at Jesus’ trial, means son of the father. He is called Jesus Barabbas. Did those shouting realize they had just chosen a counterfeit?

Did the employee in the Memphis International Customs Post office center know he/she was exchanging some expensive coffee (cost and cost of mailing) with something much more valuable?  They had no idea; they simply made a quick decision to swap something they could see and smell… we think a bit of coffee may have spilled out… and replaced it with something they could not see but would fit neatly into the now empty box.

The intended recipient has lost his order or a gift for the amount he paid.  He has lost the opportunity to add this comic book to his collection. The package was insured, but there are no tracking numbers. How long before he is compensated; is there a way to find the name and address that was meticulously removed by a razor?

We have lost our coffee; our friends are out their expense for the contents and heavy postage.

In this analogy of an exchanged life, it is the worker in Customs that has lost the most. We will forget he or she committed a crime for now, and consider the fact they could have chosen much more. He may have acted on a well- thought out plan, but he missed the best… if we are talking money.

“No, no, not Him. Give me freedom, give me riches, give me instant gratification, give me what I want… NOW”. How often we swap something tangible for what we can’t see. How often we choose what the world dictates? Not what our heart is sensing…

On this Good Friday, I encourage you to open the package addressed to you… only addressed to you. Make certain no one opens your gift, removes the contents and replaces what is yours and sends you something more valuable according to the standards of the world, but in reality, is worthless. A signed copy is highly valuable, and your gift has been signed.

Do you know the song… Give me Jesus? One phrase says it all, You can have all the world, but give me Jesus…

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blooming… in the litter…

I was  mad…

I had been picking up trash… litter…  is the nice word for the debris scattered alongside the road near our home in the country. The first day I gathered three large garbage bags in about two hours.

What kind of people would throw their half eaten lunch, container and all, to the corn fields? Why do people finish a coke or beer and toss the can out a car window?  Oh, I stalked angrily while collecting the junk of society.

Corn fields line the country lane around us, and as Tom and I walked one evening, we make a comment about the litter. “I can surely pick this up quickly—do my part in cleaning up the area.” I committed to the task.

I determined to find all the meanings of litter after my first day of collecting; I wanted to know the definition of what I was gathering. Would you believe 132 words related to litter? Some are good like jambalaya and stew! But did not include the meaning of litter as a stretcher to carry someone or for a bunch of puppies.

I gave no further thought to the words used for the garbage on the highway…

… until…

The next morning, I had two large trash bags in hand, preparing to be mad again. I have no idea what happened. I picked up a can crushed by tires, and it was as though I was holding a piece of tattered humanity.  I continued lifting broken bottles, smashed aluminum cans as tears blinded the dirt from my eyes.

Riffraff, castoffs, rejects, rubble, unwashed… whispered words came to mind as I plucked each item of scrap. Picking up cups, plastic bags, I imagined stories of heartbreak. I was no longer angry; I had experienced  a lesson in seeing a world of throwaways.

Four days later, seven bags of worthless trash were on the way to the county dump.  At the end of the week, I had stuffed a total of 12 bags. The area cleared of litter was 200 yards in both directions from our driveway. All that waste within sight of our home.

Over 51 billion pieces of litter are left on roadways in the United States each year. (Keep America Beautiful website.) That number seems about right with my bag totals.

Today the roadside is clear of any obvious sign of clutter. I breathe deeply. But the task is far from finished.  It is when I stepped into the ditch between the cornfields and the pavement, I discovered much more worthless rubbish. You can’t see the muck and mire hiding in the ditch… I had to feel it…

The thread of Jesus’ compassion weaves throughout the pages of the New Testament. … for the homeless, the abused, the blind, the depressed, the hungry, the sick. I am to bloom in the midst of the potpourri of hurting people.

“Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” Matthew 8:3                                                                       “When the Lord  saw her, He felt  compassion for her  and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” Luke 7:13

These mornings, I take a heavy duty screw driver to lift the buried ruins beneath the mud. It is the strangest thing; it is as if I am rescuing the wreckage of society.  I wonder if I even realize how to encourage, how to help the broken and crushed I have met along my journey.  I am reminded of the many beggars who touched my life on the trams and trains in Vienna. Did I share hope? I gave them a Euro, but did I give anything of me?

Two nights after the 12 bags were gone, Tom and I watched the KOMO News Documentary: Seattle is Dying. Coincidence?  Such blatant brokenness… I had never witnessed such litter with a compassionate heart. I cried as I watched grown men rolling, stumbling, wallowing on the sidewalk, unable to stand… as the masses rushed by them. I thought of Jesus gathering chicks under His wing (Matthew 23:37) or touching the lepers of His day.

There are issues… way too many to address here; nor is it my purpose to do so; I only know I will NEVER see a piece of trash on the road in the same way. It will be a reminder that too many people need to be lifted, must be loved … without judging… or anger…

NOW…

blooming… in the litter…

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ you are forgiven.” Ephesians 4:32

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… kissing frogs…

I have always been gullible…

… as the second oldest of nine children, I imagined myself as Cinderella when piles of laundry covered the floor on Monday, and I would iron for days. I spent many hours dreaming of kissing a frog… he would turn into a prince and take me away on his horse.  I half-way expected to find a little green frog hiding in a pile of dirty jeans. (The Frog Prince, a German fairy tale published in Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1812)

And one day… it happened.

How did I know? It was in church, and I leaned over to my best friend and said, “I am going to marry that guy.” I was 16; he was 17.

I am not sure the moment Tom Suiter became a handsome prince. Perhaps the process of becoming has been over these 57 years. In a college speech class in the 80s, I was to make a seven minute argument or persuasion. We had been married 19 years, so I decided to persuade everyone marriage was a good idea.  Points were deducted as I went over the time limit four minutes, but I received a standing ovation. An avowed ‘single for lifer’ stood and shouted with hands raised, “I want to be married… to Tom!”

Tom grinned and reminded me this morning that the ‘frog’ was a prince in disguise. You know the story, the prince had been turned into a frog for punishment, until the unlikely event that a princess would kiss him and release the spell. Perhaps ‘my  kiss’… my commitment to trust this frog prince, to love him with unconditional love has freed him to become more fully the man he was designed to be.  His life verse expresses his princehood: “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day, I declare Your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” Psalm 71: 17,18.

“And they lived happily ever after…”

For sure, that is a fairly tale folly. Marriage is the hardest work you will ever do… this is the one truth Tom and I warn couples we have counseled over the years. Changes come, mistakes are made, heart break happens, tears flow, but it is the doing life together in the pain that makes the days possible. As Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham says, marriage, a good marriage, is a union of two good forgivers.

My parents divorced when I was 17; Tom’s divorced when he was 30. Where did we learn how to be married? We had had no mentors, no loving counsel, no preparation to make a good marriage a reality.

But we had a dream, a commitment to succeed.  I have no idea where that came from, other than I am a hopeless romantic, simply too naïve, a believer in fairy tales… and we both trusted a God who declares…  “Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

“In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything and two minus one equals nothing.”  Mignon McLaughlin

In our early years, I read every magazine article I found on marriage as few books were available.  Reader’s Digest included the topic of marriage in most monthly editions. Ladies’ Home Journal had a most interesting section, Can this Marriage be Saved?  These were secular, and I was determined to understand my Prince.

“The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It is a choice you make on your wedding day, and over and over again and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband.” Barbara DeAngelis

Today, my prince continues to treat me as his princess…

Tom always reads my blog drafts and gives advice. He is not comfortable being the topic for this one… I would be the topic if he were writing this, he said.  So I am ending with his words, his gift he presented me on our 50th anniversary.

… kissing the prince…these 57 years.

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… puzzled…

… puzzled…

“This piece is not here. I know it’s missing. I have tried every piece of the same color.” Tom and I were convinced several times of this truth as we worked a puzzle last week.

We began a puzzle Valentine’s day—a diversion to change routine and see visible progress on these days filled with sameness. All the straight edge pieces found their place on the table without much difficulty.

We decided quickly it had been more fun walking the streets of Hallstatt, Austria, lunching in cozy cafes, cooling off in ancient dark churches. Certainly putting a thousand pieces of Hallstatt in perfect order would be a challenge.

There were so..oooo many shades of blues and greens, you know, just a tiny difference; at times, completing this appeared impossible… hopeless. We almost dumped it back in the box one day; we had reached an impasse. We found no way to proceed in one section.  It was then I ‘felt’ with gentle touching… ever so carefully, and discovered that one of us had placed two pieces almost identical in shade and shape in wrongly. They just didn’t work. That one error kept the whole next line from fitting together.

Amazing…

Webster defines puzzle… are you ready for this?  More than 40 words, either nouns or verbs, are synonyms for puzzle. From astonished, bewildered, confusion, mystery, riddle, tangle, maze, issue, question, perplexed…  uncertain, mystified, ambiguity, paradox. Shall I list more? I like this one: to exercise one’s mind, as over a problem.

All these words sound like life to me. It’s all such an enigma.

What happens when the pieces just don’t fit? When I want to throw away what I began. When I’m convinced the right piece is missing…

I awoke in the middle of the night this week… puzzled. Issues in our family discourage me, uncertainties in the world bewilder me, causing questions and confusion. I am perplexed  as in which direction I should go in this maze.

A  thought whispered in the dark, “When your spirit grows faint within you; when you are overwhelmed, it is I who know your way.” I pondered this verse in every translation. (Psalm 142:3

These are the very words David prayed when he was in the cave at Adullam. This future king of Israel was running for his life, forced into a cave. The Hebrew word translated faint or overwhelmed means muffled… as to cover with a garment—covered with darkness. David could not see a solution, he had no heart to try.

But the Lord knew…

David was caught in a tangled web. He had no idea which way to go, but he affirms… it is You, Lord, who know my way.

The puzzle is answered; it is complete; it is finished. He knows the way. When I am…  when you are… overwhelmed, and in the dark, when faint… when the pieces of life don’t fit together. “It is You who know my way…”

He has the perfect piece of the puzzle…

Everyone gets cave time says Ray Noah. https://raynoah.com/2018/03/30/everybody-gets-cave-time-3/ Maybe we need the cave these weeks to find the right piece to the uncertainties of life. God can do his best work in the cave.  After all, David became King of Israel soon after these very dark moments.

There is no way Tom and I could have begun this puzzle without the picture on the box . How would we have known what went where? How could we have seen how colors changed without warning…

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“I am the way, and the truth and the life,” Jesus answers. John 14:6

… a peace in the puzzle…

 

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… connecting…

The weather here in southwest Tennessee has been dreary, cold and gray for days. Perhaps that’s the reason for this longing of past days. Or the lack of hugs in the isolation and lock down.  Whatever it is, I am missing every one of you.

I have heard there are two kinds of people: those who connect slowly and disconnect quickly or those who connect quickly and disconnect  slowly. What about those who never disconnect?  That would be me. I want to hold tight to every sweet memory I have of you— never letting go.

And for sure, that is not possible, but if I could, I would.  And this Valentine’s weekend, I am remembering all the banquets I cooked at our church in Kingsport, Tennessee. What perfectly, wonderful fun times. And then all the dinners in our homes… wherever we lived at the time… for Valentine love feasts.  The dinners in Vienna shared with internationals from around the world will forever bring joy.

I remember the time Tom resigned from our very first church; we sat on the porch that Sunday afternoon and cried.  He said, “If I had known leaving is this hard, I think we should  stay.”

Then we would not have ventured to parts of the world and met you. Today, I counted the different houses and places we have lived since we married 57 years ago… would you believe 23?

Every move, every place brought someone special into our lives. We loved quickly. What a sad day when we said good-bye to the Vienna United Nations Bible study group in August 2008. A sweet friend from India softly said, “We just knew you loved us, Barb.” And so I did.  It is difficult to turn lose when you love fiercely.

“Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… I John 4:7.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” V 11-12.

I often say memory is one of God’s essential gifts to us. How poor we would be without the joy of remembering each other. This Valentine’s I pray you are blessed with special memories of those you love and have loved. And for you, my unknown reader, I am sure I would love you.

Tom is my first and forever romantic Valentine, of course, but this day, I am thinking of each of you. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…” Philippians 1:3

I can’t be too homesick… I have you in my heart.

 

 

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