… letting go…

There was not a single negative memory swirling through my anxious head. Only sweet ones as I was aware of the monitor tracking Tom’s heartbeat.  An early morning house call of paramedics, extended hours in the ER and admittance to the cardiac floor, caused quiet reflection on the whole of life.

The day before on Wednesday, November 17, Tom and I had laughed and remembered  the events on that same day fifty nine years earlier… our first date. A life time ago. I had planned to post a blog that day celebrating memories, but our server was down. The next day, November 18, Tom’s heart flipped, and this time, it wasn’t for me.

Here I am four days later…

As I sat those hours, remembering… the good, I didn’t give a single minute to negative thoughts. It wasn’t that I could not think of anything bad—every marriage, every relationship must work through those as they come, but in a time of reflection, I remembered the good, the best of life.

Thanksgiving week is for remembering… remembering the beautiful stuff of life and forgetting most, if not, all our hurts. It is a time of ‘letting go’ and being thankful for the journey.

So what do we remember and what should we forget?

To remember, the brain must actively forget, so suggests a July 2018 article in Quanta Magazine:

“Without forgetting, we would have no memory at all,” said Oliver Hardt, who studies memory and forgetting at McGill University in Montreal. If we remembered everything, he said, we would be completely inefficient because our brains would always be swamped with superfluous memories. “I believe that the brain acts as a promiscuous encoding device,” he said, noting that at night many people can recall even the most mundane events of their day in detail, but then they forget them in the following days or weeks.

“Maybe the brain is designed to forget information,” Davis said. Somewhere in the brain, he noted, there may be some sort of judge that tells it to override the forgetting process when it comes across something worth remembering in the long run.

This article informs us that forgetting serves as some type of filter, dismissing what is not important and remembering the necessary. Scientists continue to discover how this filter works.

What an amazing confirmation of God’s creation. This truth is stated over 250 times in Scripture, admonishing us to remember our promises, to remember God’s ways and directions for life, to remember our commitments. To remember the good things.

And forgetting…

this must activity in our lives is expressed  in Isaiah 43: 18,19. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

Paul penned this same idea in Philippians 3: 13,14. “But one thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on to win the prize…

Both of these references shout the truth of forgetting what hurts, what shames, what angers. And while true, there are tragic incidents in life requiring therapy and time; I understand completely as I walked the path of forgiving my father.  Granted, bad things happen and beg us to remember, to hold on to every detail.  The opposite is a ‘letting go’… a beautiful process.  Life is a journey of ‘letting go’ … simply releasing, surrendering, giving away the hurt.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” my friend responded immediately. I had called to ask forgiveness for my lack of checking some research I had promised to do. I smiled and thought, how wonderful to have friends who ‘don’t remember’.

Tom and I are blessed with the gift of forgetfulness. We choose to remember the good, the beautiful, the lovely moments and intentionally to ‘let go’ of those words and actions capable of damage. (Though sometimes it does take me a day or two!)This Thanksgiving is a time of immense gratitude, for you, my readers… I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy… Philippians 1:3,4

And thankfulness for every moment shared … Tom and I  tread softly into each day, never taking the moments for granted, loving each other well, thankful for learning how to ‘let go’ these many years…

A verse that encourages us in remembering: Finally, dear friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on (and remember… my added words)  such things. Philippians 4:8

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… letting go…

Do you need a gift idea this Christmas?  How about… Whispers on the Journey, available on Amazon …  many of these pages reflect lessons of remembering and forgetting.  If you would like a signed copy (US only), email me…  barb.suiter@gmail.com

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… scattering jewels…

Sometimes there are surprises in what we see.

These days my vision is often blurred, even with glasses, so until that is corrected, I will enjoy some mistakes in reading!

One morning when reading a passage in Hebrews, I declare I saw these words perfectly, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make a jeweled path for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” 12:12,13.

I read the same words again, and laughed, “I have never seen this before. How have I missed such a beautiful thought?” Sunlight on rocks in our driveway glistened like jewels that moment, and I began pondering on ways to walk a jeweled path; I thought of how a path of jewels would encourage others on their journeys.View from my window…

I adjusted my glasses to focus better… oh no. The correct words, make a level path came into view. Oh yes, I know this verse, but how disappointed I was to realize I am not commanded to construct a path of jewels to enable others to step carefully.

Or am I?

Since then, I have imagined jewels everywhere… literally tripping over bright gems in the house, outside in the garden, down the driveway. The scene before me was beautiful… rubies, diamonds, sapphires scattered over the path. I stepped carefully and pondered how lovely to walk through life on a path of jewels.

Pearls, symbolizing integrity and loyalty, glow and shine alongside topaz gems, said to promote truthfulness and forgiveness. A few amethysts, believed by some to change anger to tranquility, dotted the path. Several shimmering blue sapphires, a royal stone denoting truth and sincerity, lay mingled with precious diamonds indicating faithfulness and strength. What a beautiful, jeweled path.

Can a level path be a jeweled path, as well? Is it possible they can be the same?

It is possible… “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6.

A level path… straight, free of stones, briers, litter…  anything that would cause someone to stumble… would be a fine path for another’s healing.

But how much more joy to build a path of precious jewels, rather than simply constructing a level path for easy walking? It is a choice. I want to litter my path with stones of kindness, acceptance, sweet words of wisdom and truth… jewels to drop along the way.

“Gold there is and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.” Proverbs 20: 15. Then there is this verse in Proverbs 25: “A word aptly spoken in due season … at the right time… is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” v11

This same verse, Hebrews 12: 12,13 in the Amplified, gives us a bit more direction: “Make firm, plain and smooth, straight paths for your feet…Yes, make them safe and upright and happy paths that go in the right direction…”

Will you walk with me today? … casting jewels along the way…

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… today is forever…

So. I had this moment…

The treadmill, gaining speed like the little train going nowhere, transported me to the recently located book shelves in the garage. In seconds, the years of Tom sitting for hours, thinking deeply as he studied his books, rushed over me. It was as if an entire lifetime scene opened before me, and I squealed in loud anguish, “But I wanted forever…”

Now, the shelves set, anchored by other shelves with more books, in an unused, unavailable place in the garage waiting for the renovation of a reading room. That morning, they were in the right place for a vision of forever…

It was one of those surreal moments… whispered words shouted above the walking machine, “Today is forever, Barb.”

Today is forever… tears came immediately as I realized this truth. I have this moment; I have today, and it is forever. (It seems I am learning this truth over and over, as evidenced by my blogs. I guess I am a slow learner, or a fast ager!)

I have lived this thought daily these last weeks. Googling this idea, I found one photography shop named… Today Forever Photography. Isn’t that awesome? But are pictures and photos really forever?  What happens in a flood or a fire?

It was William Saroyan who penned, “In the end, today is forever, yesterday is still today, and tomorrow is already today.” I have to think about this statement from My Heart’s in the Highlands of 1939, but perhaps Saroyan understood living in the moment of today.So long, I have relished in the moment of Now… the reason for this blog title years ago… A Journey  to Now… life found in the moments.  But these days I falter and fear more than I delight in the days. It is easier to moan about China’s hypersonic missile, circling the earth, than to joy in the singing of birds.

That morning‘s vision of Tom engrossed with his books was a sweet reminder that today is forever.  This moment I hold in my hand, this moment… is forever. We are not promised tomorrow, it is already today, so “I will rejoice and be glad in this day.” Psalm 118:24

A friend shared just two days ago of her neighbors’ tragic situation. Their son, his wife and two very young girls were in a car accident. The girls survived with no injuries; the mother was killed and the father has had to learn to walk again.  My friend’s neighbors are devastated as life is no longer the same; currently their son and the girls are living with them.  The moments before the accident are forever.

Each one of us is vulnerable to life happening… every day, and herein is the reason we live this moment… it is forever. Never should we live in worry and expectation of  the what if’s; we live in the current moment, celebrating it as forever.

… because it is.

Solomon is considered a wise man; he spent many words speaking of a meaningless life in the book of Ecclesiastes, defining it as a chasing after the wind when life is not centered on God. Three times he repeats this concept of being happy, doing good, eating and drinking, finding satisfaction in all its toil. This is a gift of God, he writes in chapters three, five and eight. Basically one finds joy in his work and life as he lives in the moment with God as his center. “He seldom reflects on the day of his life because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”  Chapter 5:20

This happens as ‘today’ is lived in the knowledge of forever. Impossible, you say?  Try living with this thought, repeating it out loud any beautiful moment or perhaps, sad moment, of your day. Today is forever…

Truman Capote writes of an incident from his childhood  in A Christmas Memory… a day  with a friend flying kites and lying in the grass, and their happiness is amplified in  the moment: “’My, how foolish I  am!’  my friend cries, suddenly alert, like a woman remembering too late she has biscuits in the oven. ‘You know what I’ve always thought?’ she asks in a tone of discovery, and not smiling at me, but a point beyond. ‘I’ve always thought  a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don’t know it’s getting dark. And it’s been a comfort to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I’ll wager it never happens. I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are’—her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone—‘just what they’ve always been, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.’”

How content  to live every day prepared to leave this world with today in our eyes. Relationships would take on sweeter meanings; our eyes would ‘see’ differently; forgiveness would be easier; our words would be spoken more gently…

today is forever, and this is a gift… today.

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… when God smiles…

“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

You may remember these words from Eric Liddell, the 1924 Olympic champion for the 400 meters in Paris, and the inspiration for the movie, Chariots of Fire.  He is best known and loved, not for his medal, but for his determination to share Jesus with the Chinese people until his early death at the age of 43. His life is an amazing story of full surrender to his Lord. (The Flying Scotsman, Running for a Higher Prize, For the Glory… books you may want to read.)

That makes God smile… using His gifts as perfectly as one can.

Trees stand like guards to their Creator, and flowers, even the tiniest wild violet, are markers on our journey of His goodness so suggests Abraham Joshua Heschel in Man’s Quest for God… but me and you? Do our lives speak of His presence? Am I a signpost of God’s goodness? Does anyone know who and why we are?

Tom and I frequented a Hungarian owned restaurant near our home in Vienna, Austria. I loved the atmosphere of lunch or dinner under the sprawling tree limbs. One day, a young waiter stopped at our table and suddenly asked, “Do you meditate?”  Can you imagine such a question? We invited him to sit, and I asked why he asked. He said, “There is something different in your eyes; you must meditate.”  We casually shared our hope(I think we should always be ready to share this in a casual fashion); he shared of his search to find ‘something’.

I think God smiled.

But these days…  it is as if we are hidden somehow… somewhere. No one sees our eyes, no one  knows our lives. We are not running fast… anywhere.

We have been renovating a small room previously used as storage for Tom’s books … making it into a more comfortable reading room… the room between the garage and the rest of the house. We’ve not been too fast in this project, either. So much of other life takes priority. Pictures, books, boxes are stacked in the garage until the room is finished.

It sounded so loud… the quiet ticking of the clock shattered my thoughts. Almost hidden, with picture frames leaning against it, I cried, “the clock is still ticking… after three months.” I had heard a soft ticking times before as I ran through the garage door, but now, as I put on my tennis shoes for walking, it shouted.

Earlier this morning, I had focused on questions… wondering if my life speaks any longer of God’s presence as the trees and flowers are visible pictures of God’s greatness and love. Tears came immediately at the clock’s declaration, “I am here, still doing what I am to do.”

It was one of those rare NOW moments when I was given an understanding, a mindfulness of God being here with me. As long as the battery is alive, is positive, that clock will continue to do what clocks do…

…even if no one sees it.

I am to do no less… even if I am hidden or home bound.

What do you do that makes God smile? A favorite verse lets me know one reason He smiles: “He chose me… actually picked me out for Himself in Christ before the foundation of the world, that I should be holy and set apart for Him… Ephesians 1:4 Amplified. I encourage you to read that verse out loud… just for you.

And watch God smile.

And this one, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing…” Zephaniah 3:17

And He smiles…

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… enjoying Now…

“I believe that only one person in a thousand knows the trick of really living in the present,” wrote novelist Storm Jameson. “Most of us spend fifty-nine minutes an hour living in the past—or in a future that we either long for or dread. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle—which is exactly what it is.”

For a woman who lived to be 95, and wrote a book every year from the 1920s until the 1960s, she clearly knew how to live each moment.

The above quote was written decades ago, and yet it is true for today. A young man I know recently completed therapy in a drug rehabilitation program; he shared what he had learned about living the moments. “I was challenged to live 85% in the Now,” he smiled. “You then can spend the other 15% living in the past or the future. That’s all you get there.”

So how does one live in the present…

I was much too stubborn to allow the memory of my father’s smoker’s breath and his thin fingers to steal joy from my teen years.  I had discovered the first Polly Anna book published in 1913, when I was about 12.  I knew about the ‘glad game’, an optimistic outlook for life; my attitude could determine what I did with bad experiences. Life was good and wonderful if I let go of painful memories. True, it was a process, but I began to accept the hurts… as a part of life.

I learned to listen to God’s  whispers and I enjoyed Him…

As a young mother, I looked for moments to teach my children God was everywhere.  Butterflies, birds, worms, rainbows, storms… all daily lessons of His love and presence. We walked in the rain, we hiked in the hills, we dusted woodwork…conversations were peppered with delights of God’s love.

Anyone can eat at a table in the dining room, I would tell them. We spent hours listening to the birds, watching clouds or the antics of chipmunks while on picnics. There were lessons under trees, under umbrellas, under shelters… there is no place we didn’t find God.

Monks call their rooms cells, from the Latin word cella which is related to coelum or heaven… the very place one enjoys God. (A Place Apart, M.Basil Pennington.)  Early on my journey to discover the love and acceptance I needed, I began this practice of enjoying the Lord’s presence anywhere and everywhere.

In a house full of children’s antics… good and bad…I had to find a sanctuary for my time alone, when possible. There were always interruptions when the children were young. Those earlier years I was content to make a sanctuary whenever and wherever. As they grew in years, and I grew in my desire to enjoy my Creator, it was easier to be focused and scheduled in the same spot. A chair in our bedroom became a sacred place.

(The above is a chapter in a book I am currently writing on the scares and scars of sexual abuse on the way to… sacred. )

How do we enjoy God in these chaotic, changing days of Now…

It is more difficult today… Polly Anna fails me often. I force myself to trust (can one do that :-)) Hurts and heartbreaks in the family and world events create a dilemma that challenge  even a Polly Anna. We have only One hope… my one panacea continues to be my morning beginning… listening .

Even today after 40 years, this chair, recovered twice now… is the place where I enjoy the Lord alone in the moments, hearing his whispers of affirmation, preparing my heart for this day… “Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Ps 20:7

And this: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Ps 5:1-3

Enjoying God now… while waiting…

And you… how do you enjoy God? Maybe you can share your special places and ways.

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… waiting…

You’ve heard the statement… nothing in life is certain but death and taxes.  Let’s add another certain reality… waiting.  We all wait… for something.  Some wait longer, wait more patiently, more often. But we all are waiting.

I so wish I would write only of happy worlds, positive happenings… never imagining there are painful and tearful questions to ask.  If I did, you would think I was living in another place, another time, and you would be right. And I would be an irresponsible blogger.

I don’t have writer’s block these days. I wait… for the right words… for you, for me. I listen closely for that word.  Often it evades me in these dark, sad times.

Reading Psalms has always been part of my journey to Now.  Learning to listen to the cries and joys expressed by the psalmists was a beautiful gift. As I waited for life to begin… anew… during the months spent recovering from Lyme while in Europe and then from Q-fever in 2016. I waited… words from Psalms encouraged and soothed my troubled days.

David was running for his life, and he was waiting… in a cave. We can see his source of Hope as he waits, “I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1b

Three hundred people were asked… what do you have to live for? They were not in a cave! Nine of ten responded: I am waiting … on a new job, a move to a new place, when I get well, when I finish my degree, a big trip I have planned… etc, etc, etc.  (Psychologist William Moulton Marston from a reprint dated in1963.)

And we are still waiting… for that elusive tomorrow.

There is another kind of waiting—in the minutes and hours of our days.  We use many words to express waiting; a hopeful anticipation, expect, look for, bide one’s time, pause… and more. What do we do while we wait?  I keep listening even in the dark times, in the storms to the Lord’s whispers: Whispers on the Journey by Barb Suiter (available on Amazon.)

According to Market Watch, February 2016, the average American will spend 43 days of his/her life on hold… literally on hold.  You know… waiting for someone on the other end of the phone to get back with you.  I am not sure if this statistic takes my breath or makes me angry. We wait in traffic; in Europe we waited for the tram, the train, the bus. We wait in the doctor’s office… we wait and we wait.

How do we wait for the next dose of dark news?  A friend recently said, “It’s as if a black curtain is hanging over the entire world… waiting to roll down over us.” Wow! How do we wait on this? Is there a way to wait in hope?

My thoughts shift these days from the world uncertainties blasted before us on the big screen to the uncertainties and questions arising locally from Hurricanes Fred, Henri and this week, it is Ida. And Covid… How are we to wait for the next storm?  Tom and I waited eighteen hours to hear from a daughter who lives in the path of Hurricane Ida.

What did I do when waiting to hear news of  her and a grandson as Ida made landfall?  Sadly, I did not wait joyfully… but I had hope. The two Hebrews words for wait are often translated hope, an expectant hope.  This would be much too long to go into a word study of qavah and yachal.  I do like the meaning ‘a hopeful anticipation’, a waiting with intention. To look forward in readiness.

Would you believe this was my whisper the morning after Ida’s entrance into Louisiana:  “I am still confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. WAIT for the Lord; be strong and take heart and Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13,14.  An army was after David, and he knew war against him was imminent, yet, he could affirm, “In the day of trouble, the Lord will keep me safe… will hide me… will set me high on a rock…v5.

You, O Lord, are our only Hope… as we wait…

Father, you are full of compassion, I commit and commend myself unto you, in whom I am, and live and know.  Be the Goal of my pilgrimage, and my Rest by the way. Let my soul take refuge from the crowding turmoil of worldly thoughts beneath the shadow of your wings; let my heart, this sea of restless waves, find peace in you, O God.                      St. Augustine in Little Book of Prayers

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… caring…

Something’s wrong…

… a dark heaviness draped the morning’s sunlight. Breakfast on the patio turned sour quickly.  I could not get my mind… or was it my heart, around the pictures being shown on the phone screen before me.

Hundreds of young men running for their lives, clinging to plane wings… I watch with helplessness. I can’t see any young women. What can I do? What should I be doing? Surely there is something for me to do.  I must help…

But as most of us do… the scene changes. Life goes on, and we waltz through another day.

Or do we?

Today a part of the world hides in fear, “Now, night is coming, and we are worried. We have turned off the lights in our homes.” A former worker with the international community in Afghanistan shares. (Intelligencer, August 15, 2021).  One news source described the scene at the Kabul airport as one of desperation, sadness and panic.

And while millions were hiding, I spent hours trying to find the owner of an uninvited dog in our garage. Trudging from one veterinarian office to the next, asking if the picture on my phone had been reported as one missing seemed so trifling in this sad day.

As mundane, silly, even… as my day unfolded, I had a sense that I was doing something positive, something worthwhile… for a dog.

This dog, maybe a mixture of Rhodesian Ridgeback, Red Heeler or Australian Shepherd… a lovely canine, trained, and lovable, stole my heart in just hours of her arrival here. Was she dropped off by a former owner, now tired of her. Or has she run away and can’t find her way home? Is our home an oasis for strays… remember Walter, the homing pigeon… … found. a new home… Though we are not prepared to care for a dog,  we want to make sure she is cared for.

“Many residents of Kabul now wait at home in quiet dread. Whatever their variety of circumstances, everyone is trying to find a way to safety and deciding what to do next.” Intelligencer, August 15, 2021

Some may know the truth God is near them, with them. They may trust the words, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You, in God, whose word I praise, in God, I trust. I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Psalm 56:3,4. I wonder if they have heard the words, “On my bed… in these dark, fearful nights… (italics mine), I remember You, I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:6,7,8.

But you know what? I doubt many know the promise of His love and care. And they are much afraid.

Yes, the plight of a stray dog pulls my emotions, and I yearn to ‘do something’.  But the dilemma of a people causes a crisis in spirit; my helplessness weighs heavily on an already broken heart.  It matters not their religion, nor their Covid status. What matters is their hearts are full of fear… for their lives, for their families. Fear for their tomorrows.

I went to sleep last evening remembering a young man who had fled from Afghanistan in 2004. Sleeping in the day hours, walking by moonlight, it took five months to reach safety  in Austria.  As one of my English students, he called me his second mama.

And I can do nothing today… but care for a stray dog.

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… keep climbing…

I ran into a tall tree this past week… a tree with a big sign posted on it: Keep Climbing.

The ant in front of me was speeding upwards through the various cracks in the hard bark. What was remarkable about this ant’s speed and direction was the fact that he (or maybe a she) had a tremendous heavy load on its back. I watched in awe, not believing such a small living insect could carry that amount of weight.  I have pondered that for days now.  If an ant can do seemingly impossible feats of carrying a large burden… upwards… surely I can. “Go to the ant, consider its ways and be wise!” Proverbs 6:6

We all know that ants can carry an incredible amount of weight, but a new study at the Ohio State University has determined that the common American field ant “can withstand pressures up to 5,000 times its body weight.” They report this amazing strength may be due to its tiny neck joint. 

Wow… I just failed my training.

It is true other insects are capable of heavy weight lifting feats, but it was this ant scurrying quietly upwards that caused me to consider how we are to carry our heavy burdens.

I am weary these weeks… too burdened to move with the burden, especially upwards. In my younger years, I managed to keep moving… and briskly, too.  Around detours, obstacles, ant hills. This Pollyanna was not daunted by the negatives in life.  After all, ‘something wonderful would always be around the next corner’. I kept climbing through the effects of childhood sexual abuse, the divorce of parents, the sad loss of an infant son.

On and on I joyfully trudged. (I wonder can one trudge joyfully!) Lyme disease couldn’t conquer an optimistic outlook; Q-fever held me hostage for a time, but eventually, I began the ascent.

These were my personal burdens; my deep trust in a loving Father kept me motivated to ‘hold on’ and progress upwards.  These days, I am overwhelmed with the troubles and trials of my children and grandchildren… and I can’t hold on.

A few days after posting the blog … holding fast… I became aware my hands were slipping; I could hold no longer.  A sweet whisper the next week while reading in Psalm 139 covered me with a gentle peace. “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” V9,10.  No matter where I am, there the Lord will find me.

I sat weeping, knowing this is true, but asking, “Lord, how are You holding me… fast? I think I know how to hold to You, but how do you hold me when I can’t hold?

Later that morning I needed to make a dreaded service call. You know, one of those calls when you can’t understand the person on the line, or you are transferred multiple times. That morning, a most beautiful voice answered, and helped me quickly and joyfully. I knew she was Filipino even before I asked her nationality. You may not understand, but it was as if God’s love surrounded me and ‘held me fast’ as I remembered the many beautiful gracious Filipinos who had loved us so well while in Vienna. I smiled and hugged myself all morning.

Just a small thing…

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence, without fault and with great joy… to the only God our Savior  be glory, majesty and authority , through Jesus Christ our Lord…” Jude 24

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping, Your love, O Lord, supported me, held me fast (italics mine)…” and I could keep on climbing. Psalm 94:18

You may want to listen to the song, He will Hold me Fast…

 

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… holding fast…

Hold on for dear life… how often have you cautioned your child with those words when you were pushing them in a swing. “Go higher, go higher,” they squeal, and you keep warning them to hold on.

This phrase has been around for centuries… as early as the 17th and 1800s. Then, it most likely meant your very life depended on how tightly you were holding to something that could prevent a catastrophe. Today we use it to warn someone to be careful…

I have a new understanding of holding on for dear life. One early morning I noticed several bumblebees asleep in the flower clusters of my Chaste (Vitex) tree. I shook the branches; no movement. They were clinging… stuck like glue.

Wondering what was going on with these bees, I discovered they, indeed, were sound asleep… until the morning sun warmed them. Some were females who found themselves away from the nest when the temperature dropped the evening before.  These girls work all day gathering nectar and pollen to take back to the queen. When they get busy and night falls quickly, they must find warmth. Male bumblebees can never return to the nest once they leave, so when they get tired from chasing after the females all day, then they must find a place to rest.

… holding on for dear life… when it is too cool for their fat little bodies to move.

The center of a flower or the base of any source of nectar may be 10 degrees C or 50 degrees F higher than the atmosphere around. The sleeping bees must wait until the sun warms the air, and they are able to move. They are unshakeable, clinging to their source of warmth…

As the sun warms them, they begin to dance!

Caught in the cold, seeking solutions to multiple mazes in my family garden, I am encouraged to hold on for dear life. I am clinging. I want to be a bumblebee these days. But I want to be unshakeable even after I am warm in the Son!

“Fear the Lord your God and serve Him. Hold fast to Him… He is your praise, He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” Deuteronomy 10:20,21.

A sweet friend recently commented she doesn’t enjoy Facebook these days. “Everyone touts their perfect vacation, their perfect children, their perfect relationships… well, my life is not perfect these days.” I can surely relate to her heart as she shared; in fact, we cried together. True, life is rarely perfect, and we survive the little battles, the detailed detours without wavering… but it is the overwhelming  avalanches that weaken our hold.  I love the honesty, the vulnerability of some who share their hurts and pain so we can walk with them during their struggles. But more often, we and others, carry our pain alone.

What do we do when we are caught in the cold? … when life issues make it too difficult to collect nectar?  Most of us know what to do, where to go. But often we must be reminded by observing the bumblebee… caught with nowhere to go except to the source of nectar.

The definition for clinging in the Cambridge English Dictionary takes my breath: a person who stays close to and depends on a Person(my capitalizing) who is taking care of them. Another meaning is to be firmly united with strong affection. I want to cling to this source of nectar, my Center, even when life hurts.

“Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63: 7,8

“You are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.” Joshua 23: 8

Clinging, holding on, remaining faithful… till we can dance again.

 

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… talking and touching…

“Someone has taken care of your meal check,” the server told us with a smile. “Now, I wish I had ordered dessert,” Tom grinned.  While we were wondering who and why someone had given us this surprise gift, the manager of the restaurant came to us.

“The way you have talked with one another, held hands across the table, no phones—well, I just wanted to thank you for showing me a little of how a love relationship looks.” He sat down with us, and we shared a few minutes of our journey.  He was surprised we had been married over fifty years.

Sometimes we must have our cell phones on the table, but this time, it was  good we didn’t!  Looking into the eyes is a must for good conversation.  I always tell Tom, I am not sure you are listening unless you see my eyes.  Ears and eyes seem to go together.

“The wise in heart are called discerning, understanding and knowing; and winsome speech increases learning in both speaker and listener.” Proverbs 16:21 Amplified Bible

Early in our marriage, Tom would say, “Barb, I can never know you unless you reveal yourself to me.” I talked more than he, but perhaps I said less! I was scared of revealing my self… due in part to being told I was stupid most of my life, I am sure. I was afraid to be real.  As he shared his feelings, his hopes, the deep things of his heart, I began to expose the parts of me no one had ever known.

Sharing hearts is the beginning of a relationship that moves towards intimacy… this is much more than a sexual encounter. I love the word ‘in-to-me-see’ for this depth in marriage. It encompasses a closeness you can’t describe, a deep understanding of another, a confidence filling you completely that this person will never intentionally hurt your heart.  It’s a walk in the dark when holding hands is the only communication needed. When I am crying and Tom simply holds me, never asking what is the matter.   He knows…

We have plenty of time these days for talking… we begin the morning that way; I told Tom last week that our hour over breakfast anchors me for the day, wraps me… Life with  four children presented challenges for listening, so we grabbed the moments… we made time for this necessary part of our relationship.  Bedtime was the one time we would talk over the day, share what needed sharing.  I have always said my two favorite places in the whole world are in ‘my chair’ early mornings listening to the Lord and in Tom’s arms at evening, listening to his heart.  You just make a time…  (an added little note here: We have always, with few exceptions, these fifty seven years, gone to bed together… a sweet ending to each day.)

I could write a book on the places and ways we made available times, but you are writing your own book on this subject. Tom says we have had a fairy tale journey, one packed with schemes and spells of witches and wizards, dragon fights and more, like any other story book… we just keep believing there is a ‘happily ever after.’The following quote whispers intimacy and acceptance in every phrase, and it is beautiful in marriage: “Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” Dinah Maria Craik

You can talk all day and all night, but there needs to be some touching going on.  When we first began leading marriage workshops, we called each one of our married children and asked them: What is the one thing you remember most about us—in the home?  All four of them said… the way you two have always touched.

“I love to come to your house,” a young friend who visited often, whispered to our daughter. “I love to see your mom and dad touch each other. I have never seen mine do that.”

“Affectionate touching is one of the most critical elements of a strong and healthy marriage, and it is one of the easiest to neglect. Regular, sincere, spontaneous nonsexual affection helps to sustain the emotional closeness needed in a marriage.” USAir Magazine, October 1992. This was written 30 years ago.

It is true that each one has a different  level of need for touch.  You will remember physical touch is one of the five love languages (The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman). It was interesting how long it took me to realize this was a language Tom spoke. Touching was always a part of our relationship, but I never associated this as his love language… (and we had taught the book!) Until… one day he told me how he felt when I reached for his hand as we walked in Vienna.

For most of my younger years, I was not hugged and touched  except in a negative way, other than when I spent  summer time with aunts and uncles who were loving and kind to all of us.  I had to learn the lesson of touch.  Marriage is a constant learning class.

John Gray, author of Mars and Venus, Together Forever, asked his mother why his father had felt the need to stray. “Your father and I loved each other very much. But as the years passed, I became his mother, and your father wanted a wife.” p2.  Not only do we need touch, we learn to love romantically, too. The website, itsovereasy.com states in one particular study, the number one reason given for divorce is … absence of romantic intimacy/love.

Sadly, this often happens. Charlie Shedd, our first mentor in marriage, declared a woman should be a lady on the street, a queen in her house, and a lover in the bedroom. (He has a stronger word than lover.) Never be a mother… I am sure some of my readers may think this is far too outdated. After all, we live in 2021, and we are equal in every way.  This has nothing to do with being equal; it has all to do with learning ways to finish well… together.

“For I am confident and sure of this very thing  that He who began a good work in you… in Tom and me… (italics mine) will continue until death do us part (italics my words), Philippians 1:6

… as long as we keep learning to love, accepting each other, seeking oneness, talking and touching…

… we will last… you will last; it begins NOW.

To my single readers I may have lost the past five weeks with these five longer blog posts on ‘finishing well… together’, be assured I will be back with truths from the garden soon… shorter!

 

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