… finishing well…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Your Marriage LAST embraces four points:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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… protected by sacrifice…

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

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

I almost stepped on these two eggs last week.

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

Well, not really…

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

What…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… protected…

.

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… growing old…

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

… I do Now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… growing old… with you.

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

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

Awakened to the moments of today                                                             Psalm 119:32

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

Confident and Contented                                                                                Philippians 1:6

Dancing                                                                                                               Psalm 30:11,12

Encouraging others

Focused                                                                                                                Philippians 2:5

Gracefully

Humbly                                                                                                                  I Peter 5:6

Intentionally

Joyfully                                                                                                                   James 1:2

always in Kindness                                                                                               Hebrews 12:14

Listening                                                                                                                 Isaiah 50:4b

Mentoring                                                                                                               Titus 2:3-5                Making Memories

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

Obedient                                                                                                                   John 14:15

Prepared and living Purposely

Questioning the hard thing… Quiet in the answers

Remembering                                                                                                     Ecclesiastes 12:1

Secure in who I am Singing                                                                             Psalm 89:1

Trusting your heart                               Teachable                                         Psalm 25:4,5

Unafraid                                                                                                              Psalm 27:3

Victoriously

Welcoming

X-claiming joy in today

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

Zealous for Now

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

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… exchanging a life…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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blooming… in the litter…

I was  mad…

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

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

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

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

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

… until…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOW…

blooming… in the litter…

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

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… kissing frogs…

I have always been gullible…

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

And one day… it happened.

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

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

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

“And they lived happily ever after…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… kissing the prince…these 57 years.

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… puzzled…

… puzzled…

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

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

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

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

Amazing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the Lord knew…

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

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

He has the perfect piece of the puzzle…

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

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

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

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

… a peace in the puzzle…

 

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… connecting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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… a redo …?

Wow… the first page of the 2021 calendar is now a memory.  How quickly January  vanished. One day at a time, gone. Whatever happened… those events in our control or not, can never be undone.  We can’t turn the calendar back…

There is no redo…

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I would send a short video for a friend celebrating her 70th birthday. I labored over that request, making sure every word was special, to let her know my heart for our friendship in years past.

Each time I pushed the record button, tears stopped the flow of words. I longed for a redo… a let’s do a part of this relationship over again. We’ve all been here… wanting to  take back words and opinions. Or the unsolicited advice we easily offered.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know ‘then’ what we know NOW?  If every word, every thought and attitude, every action or reaction were stamped with well done?  How beautiful the world would be if we were born knowing:  “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  Proverbs 25:11. Or “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life.” Proverbs 15:4

I plead for a redo…

A pileated woodpecker hammered breakfast from a dead limb near my window this morning.  He attacked the home of those carpenter ants vigorously; he was going to enjoy his labors. It was the debris falling from his strong taps that caused me to question how words and opinions, often spoken in haste, leave hurt behind.  There is no delete button…

How precious is God’s forgiveness… over and over and over. We receive the gift of forgiveness daily, often hourly. So why do memories of our words or actions resurface? I believe this happens in order for us to remember and remember again God’s forgiveness.  Because of this, I… you, can live every day in constant gratefulness for this amazing gift.

And we are to give this same forgiveness to those who hurt us.

“Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22. (Some translations say seventy times seven… wow… that’s 490.) The idea is we cannot keep a record, because we forgive and forgive and forgive—too numerous to count.

This beautiful sunrise yesterday stunned me into a new realization of God’s promise of His love and mercies, new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). The promise of another day speaks, not of a redo—but another chance to do… to be… “Be kind and compassionate to one another. Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

What a gift I can give this Valentine’s.

 

 

 

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… in comfort…

“Baked potatoes are my comfort food,” I uttered to myself as I inspected potatoes in the bin at our local Spar in Vienna, Austria, years ago.  A lady nearby, understood my quiet English, and said quickly, “I have never heard that expression; what is a comfort food?”

If you can find the author of the blog… confined… but free…, please flog her for me. How naïve, gullible, or just plain foolish she is.

I need a baked potato…

In this pandemic, the absence of friends’ touch and the  loss of sweet community, cause the days to settle into a sameness that stifles even a Polly Anna’s spirit. Fear paralyzes my trust. Anticipation for tomorrow’s joy is silenced before a day is over.

A whisper jolted me into reality early one  morning. “Barb, let not your heart be troubled…” It was so gentle, so kind. There was no condemnation, only His whispered presence near me.  I read John 14 then, longing to hear more assurance. “Life is too challenging these days, Father; pain and heartache are everywhere.”

I listen… there comes a quiet, but strong command, shattering the cold darkness… trust me.  I looked at the names in my journal … the heartbroken ones, those with tears… my children, my grandchildren, health, America, friends, the future … the same soft words could be heard… trust me, trust me…

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10,11

I followed this thought … Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7

Hum–m… those who know His name will trust— What does it mean to know His name?

I have taught young women for years to know your man… study him, suggesting they become aware of one new trait, a special characteristic, a fun fact… every day.  Is that possible? After almost fifty-seven years, I am learning something  new today about Tom Suiter.

But you know what? With all that knowledge of knowing Tom… his character, his ways, his words, I trust him with my life. As a young wife, I am not sure how much I trusted him, but as I began to know him, to learn ‘what made him tick’, my trust became strong. All the things I know about him are wrapped up in his name. I say Thomas Swift with great respect, love… and trust.

So it is with knowing God… learning His ways, His character, His attributes, His words … insures we know His name. Does that mean He will mend every broken part of our/your family? That He will solve every painful area in your life or mine? It means He is here…today.

NOW…
“Because she loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she acknowledges My name. She will call upon Me, and I will answer her, I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honor her…” Psalm 91:14,15  (pronouns personalized, mine).

These days, I often forget how to trust. I admit the world is too much with me. I encourage you to join me as we know His name… to learn something new every day about this Creator God who loves us much. As we trust His Name… We can trust that He, and He alone, is our comfort and our peace.

Trust is being confident God is still here, present in this pain, and He will be here tomorrow, regardless of what happens. Whispers on the Journey, pg 67. (you can order one on Amazon!) I wrote those words years ago when difficult times came.

No, I don’t need a baked potato…

I need to renew strong trust  in Jesus’ words…  listen…”Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

 

 

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