… 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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… seeking oneness…

I wish it were all so easy… in this gift of marriage we were given.  It is virtually impossible to become one.  Is it achievable for us as humans?  What does it even mean two can become one?

Early in the Biblical record, we are introduced to the bond of marriage between a man and a woman. God’s design is put forth, “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23,24

…the two shall become one flesh… the Hebrew word is basar. This word is used 265 times in the Old Testament and 147 times in the New Testament and has multiple usages and meanings… denoting the material which makes up the human body to understanding the creative order and how it relates to God.  It can be used in relation to the soul, the body, life.  Basar or flesh is first used here in Genesis 2.

The root meaning of basar is to gladden with good news, to bear news, to announce with good news. I have not the intelligence to comprehend all this word encompasses for the marriage relationship, but I believe there is much more than we realize. I will try with Tom’s greater expertise, seek to share our practical understanding of this awesome concept.

It is interesting to note that God created them—male and female in His own image… “let us make man in our image… male and female he created them.”  Man was created in God’s image as was the woman. Therefore, we each bear a uniqueness of God’s person. God placed His manly characteristics in the man, and in the woman He put His womanly or female qualities. It is now in the union of man and woman that a full expression of God’s nature can be seen.

I remember when I first realized this truth, how absolutely precious for me to ‘see’ Tom as having God’s strong, manly characteristics. Of course, he doesn’t have them all, or perfectly, but the potential is there to be filled with more and more of Jesus. And if I have been given God’s feminine, God-like traits, then as coming together in a union, we are able to recognize more and more of how God is.

I have learned much about God’s ways over these years as I am aware that the qualities Tom has, his responses and actions to me, to life, come from being made in God’s image.  How awesome God is… I say in those moments. This, in no way, compares Tom with God, but allows me an understanding of God. I hope you understand that!

Every man possesses characteristics uniquely for him; every female… those uniquely for her.  God has gifted each of us with Himself. Is that not incredibly awesome? You were created in His image!

Someone wrote “My wife brought lace curtains into our union; I brought the muddy boots.” In the marriage relationship, there is a union of God’s traits in both husband and wife.  Another meaning of basar is a whole life—and so “two shall become a whole life.”

One essential purpose of the marriage bond is for man and woman to show or exemplify His likeness through their union to the rest of creation. This can be done on three levels:

  1. The physical… when a man and woman have a child, they become one. The child receives equal chromosomes from both father and mother. Thus, the parents become one in their offspring.
  2. The soul… both man and woman are soul creations. This is what makes them unique from all other creations. The image of God is imprinted within the soul— the mind, the emotions and the will. Both men and women possess these qualities that make them human. The ability to think and reason is a God-like quality, as are the emotions to feel and sense life on a spiritual level and the will to make choices. To become one here is to be “soul mates”. It does not mean that we think alike or feel the same way or make all choices in agreement. However, to become one as soul mates requires a sacrificial love that can only come from a spiritual source.

I was telling Tom someone compared  ‘becoming one’ like cutting a grapefruit in a perfect half… then you just fit it back together, and you have a complete whole.  Not so, said my wise man.  Because both of us are not grapefruits! That would be too easy. What if one is a buffalo and the other a butterfly…absolutely cannot happen without sacrificial love.

There is much to be discussed here. Space and your time will not allow a full explanation of living in a sacrificial relationship. In brief, when a man and woman love each other well and are willing to put the other first, then the outcome is a compromise of oneness that is built on love and respect for each other. Balancing one another’s strengths and weakness is a result of this oneness. Ephesians 5 is an expression of such sacrificial love. When a husband and wife live by this standard, they are ‘bearing the news’ to the world of the oneness of God’s nature in and through their marriage.

  1. The spiritual level of oneness…a husband and wife can only become one spiritually when they are each united in the ONE who gives spiritual life. When both are connected to God through faith, they are one in harmony with God and with each other.

The ultimate goal of creation is to be one with God so that He becomes all in all:   “When He has done this (this being… everything placed under God), then the Son will be made subject to Him who put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15: 28

From the beginning God was One and in eternity God shall be all One. The whole of creation, especially the union of man and woman is to come together in a physical union as one, to grow in sacrificial love for each other, becoming soul-mates, and ultimately to become one in relationship to their Father. When this happens, God is honored as the One source of life and purpose… and the two have become a whole.

“My soul finds rest in God alone,” David affirms in Psalm 62. The writer of Ecclesiastes adds, “He has set eternity in the hearts of men…” 3:11. There is this desire in each of us to know God and to find His peace. Hannah Hurnard says in Hinds Feet on High Places, “It is God’s will that some of His children should learn this deep union with Himself through the perfect flowering of natural human love in marriage. For others, it is equally His will that the same perfect union should be learned through the experience of learning to lay down completely this natural and instinctive desire for marriage and parenthood… This instinct for love, so firmly implanted in the human heart, is the supreme way by which we learn to desire and love God Himself above all else.” P10

“I am thankful God let me live long enough to see what marriage is to look like,” a precious older friend told me one day in Vienna. “I never believed it was possible.”

It is possible… never perfectly…but always with much… learning, accepting, seeking… talking and touching (next week’s blog).

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… 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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