Older and Wiser – On being happily married.

My wedding album made me cry today.

Rob is speaking this weekend on marriage and needed a wedding photo of us. He retrieved the book from the attic and chose this photograph from our engagement shoot.

Wow, would you just look at those fresh young faces! And Rob’s hair! And my Laura Ashley sweater! (I sure loved that sweater.)

I’m struck by how much older we are, but I’m not pining for that smooth, taut skin like you might expect. Rather, I am thankful for the years that have brought us to where we are now. Thankful for the wisdom we’ve gained. Thankful for Elizabeth and Nick, who made us parents and brought with them lessons that we didn’t know we needed to learn. Thankful for the trials that have strengthened and shaped our bond and for God, who keeps watch over us and helps us keep watch over one another.

Yeah, I cried a little bit while looking through the photos. But not because I’m wishing I could go back. I cried tears of joy at how much more I love Rob Perry today than I did then, even though I wouldn’t have thought it possible. There were also tears of grief, as I counted the people who helped us celebrate that day but are no longer with us. And tears because some of them, who had loved and nurtured and cheered us on, never got to see how much better at loving we’ve become…then a few more tears as I realized they were wise already – they knew how we could turn out and are part of our “cloud of witnesses.” (Hebrews 12)

As I look into the eyes of “young-innocent-bride-me,” I think, “Yeah, Girl, we turned out alright! We are better for all the bumps and bruises along the way, and our softer edges and the lines worn into our face from years of living, loving and laughing – they are trophies. And even now, the best is yet to be.”

(Photo by Brenda Saul Thomson)

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Remember the Moments

I’m a keeper of things, a documenter of moments. I take pictures of plates of food and cups of coffee. I have a difficult time parting with birthday cards and notes that people leave on my desk or the bathroom mirror. Sentimentality is one way I’m like my grandmother… and my dad… and my brother. I’m not mad about it! So last year, when I noticed that our daughter, Elizabeth, was saving meaningful slips of paper in a jar, I was all-in.

In January, I put an empty jar on the kitchen counter and jotted notes and stashed small mementos all year long. As the collection was growing, my anticipation of the remembering also grew. It took a good amount of restraint not to look through it between then and now, but what fun I had going through the jar tonight – reliving highlights, chuckling at funny experiences I’d forgotten. Some of the notes represented things we had planned and chosen, like vacations, trips, and theater tickets. Others experiences were surprises (hospital visits, important conversations, meals around the table with family and friends, unexpected blessings).

Remembering where we’ve been in the last year has got me imagining where we’ll be and what we’ll do in the next. I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness and His promises. This is a good spot to be in.

I’m starting 2018 with an empty jar and an expectant heart – and thanking God in advance!

 

Hang in There (Another Life Lesson from the Garden)

I’m no farmer.

I’m not even smart enough in the area of growing plants to be called a “gardener.” The most that can be said about me in this arena is that I have bought plants to put in the ground and have only killed some of them. While parenting feels natural and intuitive to me most of the time, gardening feels awkward; I have no instincts about how things are supposed to go. This doesn’t stop me, of course, but it makes for some great “a-ha” moments. Two examples…

This spring, Rob and I planted sweet potatoes. Our friends who really are gardeners told us about how the plants shoot out “tubers” and that sounded cool, (also, we found we quite enjoy saying,”Tubers!”) so we bought a 6-pack of the pretty plants and put them in the ground. Sure enough, the plants started shooting out vines like crazy! My understanding from the words I’d heard was that the vines were going to take hold of the earth at points along their lengths and put down roots, thus enabling the shooting out of tubers.  I inspected them from time-to-time and found that, though the vines seemed very healthy, they were not putting down roots anywhere. But they were beautiful with their dark green and purple leaves, so it was all good. Then there was the day the deer ate the vines down to nubs and I lost all hope of tubers.

The vines grew again, though, and we enjoyed their beauty all summer long. A few weeks ago, I thought I’d check for tubers one last time. As I approached the side of the garage where the plants were, a thought crossed my mind…”What if the tubers grow from the base of the plant and not from the vines.” I’m not sure if it was Divine inspiration, or whether common sense had finally taken hold, but it seemed right to call for Rob to join me. We poked around the base of one plant and found a huge, softball-sized sweet potato! We dug some more and eventually found about a dozen that were suitable to eat. Oh, did we laugh when we realized we actually had some tubers! They were there all along, we just didn’t know where to look.

Then there’s the pink muhly grass plant we bought last fall. It was past its peak when we bought it, so we cut it way back and planted it in the ground. I’ve been eyeing it since spring. As the grass grew, I’ve been watching for the pink “fireworks” to shoot up from the base. For months, nothin.’ But a few days ago, I walked past and they were suddenly there! Guess what?! The pink fronds don’t grow out from the base of the plant like I had thought – they emerge from inside the green grass that’s been there all along. The beauty has been trapped inside the grass leaves, all this time – waiting to pop out at just the right time.

Why am I sharing this? The past several months have not been the easiest for me – I’m guessing that maybe they haven’t been the easiest for you, either. (If you’ve been in a season of ease, Hallelujah for that – tuck this away for later!) It’s nothing major, but I’ve been praying and hoping and watching for some relief – know what I mean? And now that it has shown up, just like with my sweet potatoes, I realize that I had let myself grow discouraged simply because I wasn’t looking in the right spot. And just like with the muhly grass, the beauty and relief were there all along – and have appeared just at the right time.

I’ve found that sometimes, uncertainty and discomfort are not signs that something is wrong. They can be signs that something really good is growing – something really good that God knows we’ll need for the next season.

Here are some verses I read this week that have encouraged me in the process of emerging on the “heaven side” of this struggle. If you’re in the middle of a difficult season, I’m praying they will speak to you as well!

Colossians 4:2
Pray dilligently. Stay alert, with eyes wide open in gratitude.

I Thessalonians 1:6
Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit! Taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.

I Thessalonians 2:3-5
God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval. Since we’ve been put through the battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives or hidden agendas.

 

I Thessalonians 3:11-13
May God our Father himself and our Master Jesus clear the road to you!
And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you.
May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers.

 

 

 

When Life Lessons > Summer Tomatoes

Our little backyard garden was doing amazingly well. Until it wasn’t.

A deer from the woods behind our house discovered and helped him- or herself to our plants. Overnight, our healthy vegetable plants and hydrangea were munched down to nubs. Seriously. Where there had been beautiful, strong leafy plants loaded with blossoms, baby tomatoes and cucumbers, there are now green stalks with roughly-munched ends.

The morning we discovered the thievery, we were stunned. And bummed. And a little ticked.

But hey, gardening is never a sure thing (especially with my “black thumb of death), and we have the opportunity and the means to go to the market to buy produce, so this loss certainly wasn’t the end of the world; not even close. It settled quickly into something we can chuckle about – the image of “that deer” chomping on the leaves of the sweet potato vine which led the way to the tomatoes and cucumbers like a signpost. “Dinner: This Way.”

The next day, our sister-in-law brought us a beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas “just because.” I didn’t make the connection until another sweet friend brought an armful of “extra” zucchini to Bible study two days later. As I carried my share of the veggies to the car, it hit me. What a sweet (and swift!) reminder that God has the ability and the resources (and access to people who can help) to restore us when we suffer losses of any kind. This is not the first time I’ve been the recipient of this sort of blessing. And I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I’m praying that I will remember this the next time I feel God whispering “share your stuff.”

Everyone was amazed at what God was doing. They were amazed when the apostles performed many wonders and signs. All the believers were together. They shared everything they had. They sold property and other things they owned. They gave to anyone who needed something. ~Acts 2:43-45

PS: I’m happy to report that the blueberries are still safe, and just beginning to ripen!

Promises, Promises

We planted two blueberry bushes a few years ago. This will be our second season with fruit. Take a look at these beauties! I mean, seriously. Just look at ’em.

The bushes are along the path from our house to the garage, so I pass by them several times a day. Each time, my reaction is the same.

Pure delight.

The promise of future berries is a gift in its own right. I have enjoyed watching the bushes closely this spring. There was the first sign of flowers – little white bells in clumps, almost like lily of the valley. And then the blossoms fell away to reveal the tiniest little swellings on the ends of the stems. Heavy rains in the last few weeks have resulted in plumper berries than last year, and their color is shifting slightly with each passing day.

All of this feels like a sweet miracle.

The promise season is lasting much longer than the eating season will. I’m enjoying every minute.

Today is a gift. Life on earth for some is long and for others is much too short. Either way, let’s not waste any of it. Let’s enjoy the promises that come true today as well as the ones that we are still waiting to see fulfilled. There are rich blessings in both.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)

Finding Our “Bearings”

I can’t help but notice that it seems like the whole world has gone “mad” recently. I don’t mean “crazy” mad, I mean “mad” mad. I get it. There’s plenty to be upset about. But I don’t think the kind of anger I’m seeing leads to anyplace that’s good, because it seems to be turning us against each other.

I’m a peace lover. I love gentle words spoken in soothing tones over a slice of pie and a mug of hot coffee. In times like this, when there are so many issues and so many voices arguing SO LOUDLY with so much venom, I feel like a little girl – trapped while the adults fight at the dinner table. I want to cover my ears and be excused. What can I do to fix ANY of this? I am just one little girl.

But then I remember.

I am one little girl

Who knows the Great, Big God.

So I am looking to Him for the answers -for direction on what to do, and what to say. (And also what not to say.)

He says

“Love one another as I have loved you.”

“Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

“Feed My sheep.”

“Bear one another’s burdens.”

None of us (on our own) has what it takes to fix all that is wrong. But we can each do something. Let’s find our “bearings” – our ways to bear another’s burdens.

This week, Rob and I had the honor of caring for a very young child through Safe Families – a movement that offers temporary housing to children whose parents are in distress. The little guy who stayed with us has been hosted by some friends for several weeks. They needed to go out of town, so we got to keep him for a few nights. It was an easy thing to do, but what a balm to my soul to get to do it!

I’m seeing you bear burdens, too.

Your actions are speaking to my heart and overshadowing the harsh words I’ve heard and read lately. I am watching you and you are giving me hope. You are taking time to share smiles and kind words with strangers. You are showing love to children who need your help with both school lessons and life lessons. You are supplying hungry children with food to eat over the weekend. You are offering ears to listen and shoulders to cry on to people who are scared and hurting. You are preparing meals to ease the strain on families dealing with illness or grief or poverty. You are standing hand-in-hand and side-by-side with those who cannot stand on their own. You are using your strong voices to speak the words that need to be said in the places where it will do the most good.

We’ve got this, people! Let’s remember how much we love each other. Let’s remember that it is Love that has the power to overcome. Let’s stay at the table together until it is time for pie.

 

Solid Christmas

I love the holiday season. From Thanksgiving’s focus on gratitude (and the feast, how I enjoy the feast!), to Christmas with the Babe in the manger who changes everything, to the fresh start of the New Year, those 6 weeks were packed, weren’t they?

Now, as we face the wintry months when the nights are quiet and cozy,* there is plenty of time to savor holiday memories, process experiences and reflect on lessons learned.

Christmas is all about Jesus for me, but I’m not a Santa hater. One of my favorite Christmas decorations is a wooden Santa that hangs over the corner of a door. Its a treasure because of the friend who gave it to me, because it was handmade by her dad, and because it is amazingly cute. Honestly, I would like to leave it up all year.

I do, however, have a strong dislike for those inflatable Santas (and other characters – I even saw a Christmas dragon this year – what the heck?!) that populate front yards everywhere all December long. They’re not so bad at night, when they are full of air and light and “life,” but in the morning light, when they are lying in a sad puddle of polyester, I think they’re awful.

They do make a great metaphor, however, for the state of things right now. Many people think Christmas (and Life, for that matter) is about things that don’t last; putting their hope in decorations, gifts, traditions, achievements, possessions … while the Prince of Peace is right here, offering real hope and joy that endures even after the “stuff” is put back in the attic. In these postmodern days, many people don’t even know that Jesus is the Christ in Christmas. Maybe that is what was up with the Christmas Dragon?

I am thankful for Immanuel: God With Us, who makes Christmas solid and Life full. My prayer for our family and yours in 2017 is that we never stop growing in our understanding of how much He loves us.

Isaiah 6:9: For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

John 10:10: I came so they can have real and eternal life,
more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

    John 17:20-23: I do not ask for these only,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you,
that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe
that you have sent me.
22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them,
that they may be one even as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me,
that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know
that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Ephesians 3:14-19: My response is to get down on my knees before the Father,
this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth.
I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength
but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you
open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet
planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in
with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.
Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length!
Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

 

 

*Confession: there’s some “spin” here – I’m not a huge fan of winter. But calling it “cozy” rather than “dreary” is working for me so far this year.