Sunday, August 3, 2014

Forty Years Together

    We met on a beach in Northwest Florida. I had not planned on coming to the picnic to hang with a group of boys from MBA and Vanderbilt, but my mother insisted since the host family were long-standing friends of ours and I had grown up with their sons whom I counted among my close friends. So I went reluctantly and with some fairly obvious defiance. Even though I would be an incoming freshman at Vanderbilt, I was all too determined not to fit within the boundaries of what was considered the norm for the TVC (Typical Vanderbilt Coed). Hence I wore no make-up, my hair was long and flowing free and I was clad the way all Florida girls were in my day, especially girls who were lifeguards, hippies, and wanna-be-surfers. I felt totally cool and totally justified. I was only going because my mother insisted. And when she INSISTED in her strongest Momma voice, I usually complied, albeit grudgingly. I wasn't interested in the boys from Vanderbilt or the boys from MBA. Truth be told, I was already convinced I had the world by the tail. Ahhh, the naivete and brazen foolishness of youth.

     I had no idea that this was a day that would totally change my life.

     A mere three weeks later the phone in my dormitory rang. It was one of the boys from the picnic asking me out for my first real college date. That phone call took place forty-two years ago and the guy on the other end was the man I would marry. It was love at first sight. As strange as it may sound, I even told my roommate and the other girls that I had found the man that I would marry. That pronouncement (after my first college date and first date with him) was greeted with gales of laughter.

     We celebrate forty years of marriage tomorrow. It's been the journey of a lifetime and one I would not and could not have made it through with anyone else. It has not always been a bed of roses, but there was and is a core of faith-based commitment that binds us to one another in ways that defy description. He is the love of my life and the father of our four children. Believe it or not, he is getting better with age! I both like and love him more now than I ever have before, and am so very thankful that we persevered through the years with three children under the age of four along with the surprise "gift" of a fourth. He teases me mercilessly, loves to plan surprises and is the more romantic of the two of us. He is also fun, adventurous and concert-crazy. There have been good times and bad times, times when I was so mad I could have called it quits (but never allowed myself to really entertain that thought, even though I was furious or wounded) lots of laughter and lots of tears (on my part, anyway). There have been times when I felt lonely and alone and times when I felt as if my heart would burst with joy and that there was no one else on earth who understood me as he did (and does). There have been arguments galore and lots of "kiss and make-up." There have been sicknesses, illnesses, and scary times when I feared I would lose him. He has nursed me through three joint replacements and migraines too many to count. He has been both the rock on which I lean and the splinter that rubs in my foot. He's been my sorrow and my joy as have I to him. We have made lots of mistakes. Mistakes with each other and mistakes with our kids. What has bound us together has not only been the love, for if we are honest, that has failed us at times....but it has been the faith. Both of us believe that our marriage is sacred to God, even if we have not always lived each day as if it were sacred to us. Forty years ago, we made vows to one another, and most importantly, we made a vow to God. When we have been fickle, frail, and fragile, God has always, always, always been faithful. He is literally our saving grace. I count God as the force that has bound and kept us together through the ups and the downs that comprise a marriage.

    In addition to our vows, here are the words Ed and I chose to say to one another forty years ago. By God's grace, I would say them again and I am confident so would he.

    On August 4, 1974, my husband spoke these words from Hosea, "I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in justice, in lovingkindness, in kindness and compassion. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord." And these words from the Song of Songs, "I will set you as a seal over my heart and upon my arm, for love is as strong as death."

   And I chose Ruth's timeless words to Naomi, "Entreat me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God. Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."

   I told him then and I will tell him today: "You are the only one for me..." Thankful for forty years with a man of honor, strength and faithfulness. I love you!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

How Could I Forget Thee?

This is the first Mother's Day without my Momma who went home to be with the Lord on the day before Easter, just three weeks ago. It is an understatement to say that I am missing her terribly, yet I and my family do not grieve as those without hope. Easter embodies all that I believe. It is fitting that my Momma entered the gates of heaven to celebrate that Good Friday had come and gone, fulfilling its promise of Redemption and offering to all who believe the hope of the Resurrection! What Glory! I find a deep joy in knowing that my Momma is free from all suffering and I am replete with the memory of a mother who loved deeply and well.

This post is from the archives:
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child 
she has borne? Though she may forget you, I will not forget thee. See, I have 
engraved you on the palms of my hand." Isaiah 49:15-16

     No mother would ever forget her child, for once conceived, a mother's children are hers forever. Yet the Lord makes it clear that His love for us exceeds that of a mother for her child. How can it be? And yet, He tells us again that no man can fathom the depth and heighth and breadth of the magnificent love He holds in His being for each of us. It is a love that defies description. A love that extends beyond all measure. It runs so deep that it forever scarred the hands of the One who gave Himself up for us. Even Isaiah who gave us these beautiful words could not have imagined the terrible price it would cost Christ to "engrave" us on the palm of His hand.
   Every mother alive would shudder to think of those selfsame nails piercing the hands of any of her children, yet that is precisely what happened to the Only Begotten Son of God. And it was love that compelled Him to go to that cross. Love for for you and for me.
   I began this Mother's Day by being thankful for my own Momma and her many sacrifices of love that have enabled me to become the woman I am today. It was she who rejoiced with me over the impending arrival of each little one; it was she who came at every birth and tenderly taught me how to love and care for my own babes; and it was she who has supported and championed me at every turn of my life as a mother. I owe her so much that I cannot begin to express my gratitude. A thank you seems inadequate.

   My heart is also filled to overflowing as I consider the treasure of the three sons and one daughter who have afforded me the priceless treasure of being a mother. There are no words to express the joy I hold in my heart for them, as well as for their wives and husbands. Daily I am also thankful for the joy of being a grandmother to Little One, Little Two and soon-to-be here Little Three. These little people are teaching me so much about the faithfulness of our God!

    Yet it is to the Lord Himself that I owe the greatest debt and the one debt that can never ever be repaid. For it is He who has given me and those I love life and breath and everything else. They and I are engraved on the palm of His hands. Those beautiful nail-scarred hands. It is simply too much to comprehend.
Jesus te ama

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Springtime on the Eastside

   The Daughter has a wonderful neighbor who in addition to serving as friend and surrogate grandmother is an author, photographer and artist of note. Sometimes she spies Little One and Brother in the yard and grabs her camera to capture some magic. Yesterday was one of those days. Beautiful. Balmy. Nearly summer but for the magnificent tulips and flowering trees still lending their colorful majesty to each day. Today it's another story altogether. Dogwood winter. Whatever. Just plain cold. But yesterday...see for yourself. Bare feet. Bare arms and lots of precious smiles to go around.
 Can you see the butterfly on her finger? 

Windy day!
A rock, a red tree and a carpet of flowers at your feet. It's spring in Tennessee!
 Ring around the rosie...this dress is one that I made for Little One's mother many moons ago!
 Peep Eye...

 My sweet girl with her boy

And one more for the road...
Brother checking out the neighbor's ride...

Thank you Marjie for sharing the love!

Monday, March 17, 2014

An Offering

  Lent. A time of reflection. Waiting upon God. Practicing the gift of sacrificial love which knows no bounds. I view Lent as a communal grace offering to the One who has no need of gifts yet bids us come with all that we are and all that we have. This year more than ever I come seeking renewal. I have become all too aware that my vision of life and faith are so easily corrupted by the flawed level of consciousness I bring to each and every day. I humbly seek and desire the very mind of Christ.
Cross at sunset

   These are a few of my Lenten gifts I seek to lay at His feet:
          The gift of a letter. To write a note of acknowledgement to someone whom I have witnessed extending a particular kindness or gentleness when none was required.
          The gift of friendship. To reach out to embrace and encourage someone to whom I am not easily drawn. I have been the recipient of much in the way of friendship and love. How can I continue to remain within my own selfishly comfortable boundaries, to withhold myself when Christ calls me to pour myself out on His behalf?
          To surrender my secretly superior attitude whereby I judge and condemn the actions of others. May I renounce, confess, and let go of this secret sin and the others that so readily grow alongside it.
          To allow the wounds and suffering of others to pierce my heart. I find it easy to grow callused and hard-hearted, particularly when confronted with suffering on a global scale. I earnestly desire to be faithful in prayer for those whom the Lord would put on my heart.
          To seek out the way of unexpected service, however small or seemingly insignificant it might be. I would do well to remember that a cup of cold water offered in the name of Jesus can be a precious and life-giving gift.
          To daily seek Him and to offer up to Him the praise of my lips. To turn my conscious thoughts toward Him and to meditate upon His word, then to joyfully come into His presence with songs of thanksgiving.
          To laugh more with those I love. 
          To find joy in the ordinary and happiness in the simple.
          To desire less.
          To need less. 
          To buy less.
          To give away more.
          And then to give even more.
          To practice kindness to those who have wounded me.
          To seek to forgive quickly.
          To be willing to readily forgive everything from the slightest hurt to the gravest offense. 
          To let go of old wounds and to seek the grace of healing that only He can bring.
          To speak freedom.
          To renounce all lies and to fall in love with the truth.
          To be willing to speak the truth even when it is not easy or easily understood.
          To risk reputation for the way of Christ.
          To love the unlovely. 
          To listen more and to speak less.
          To quit interrupting.
          To value another's story more than my own.
          To be willing to walk to the end of the road with someone. With anyone.
          To be a better listener.
          To be a giver of joy.
          To rest in His presence.
          To celebrate His beauty I see in others.
          To celebrate His beauty in my surroundings.
          To greet each new day with anticipation.
          To end each day with heartfelt gratitude and prayer.
          To share the story of all that He has done for me, in me, and with me.
          To embrace the reality of Easter in a deeper way.

lily of valley

Friday, March 14, 2014

Grace, Grace, and More Grace

Wishful thinking at my house...

   Consistency with daily tasks is not one of my better traits. I will leave the unfolded laundry on the kitchen table until the surface is all but obscured before I will get around to dealing with it; I hate hanging up clothes I have just taken off so I end up piling them up in a chair where they eventually collect dust and the ever-present dog-hair; and I avoid the grocery store like the plague. Yet I have somehow managed to function as a daughter, woman, wife, mother, grandmother, college counselor, friend, sister, and domestic goddess (insert a smile here, this is supposed to be funny) for one reason and only one: the grace of God. You might think, as I once did, that the grace of God is reserved for the hard things one encounters in life or as a covering for the sin that so easily besets us; but I have come to believe something very different: the grace of God is at once for everything and for all of life: the mundane as well as the sacramental; the boring as well as the glorious, and the burdensome along with the transcendent.  I don't know about you, but I have just as great a need for the everyday circumstances of my life to be bathed in grace as I do the struggles that seem destined to impact my soul.
   A while back I encountered this tiny little verse that probably comes close to rivaling the ubiquitous "Jesus wept" as one of the all time shortest verses in the Bible, but despite its brevity, it has had a profound and lasting effect upon me and the way that I view my life. It is also found in one of the books of the New Testament that I have continually struggled for many years to understand and apprehend, the Book of James. I offer these words up to you today as a gift. A gift that I want to share. I also want to challenge you to meditate upon these six little words, this logos from the heart of God to you and to me to see if they will not change your perspective on living as much as they have altered mine. Without further ado, here they are:

     "But He gives us more grace..."James 4:6a

   Think about it. Never less. ALWAYS MORE. ALWAYS MORE. I cried the first time I comprehended these words. I had seen the words before, even read them before, but for some reason they were never able to penetrate through my grey matter to traverse the distance to my heart and they certainly seemingly never traveled that mysterious and incalculable distance to my soul. Yet somehow, in a manner I don't fully understand, this logos finally made that God-inspired, God-breathed journey to the place where bone meets marrow and heart meets soul. I got it.
    And for that I am so very thankful this Lord's day...that despite all that I am, He is all that He is and so it is that He gives us more grace. 

Grace. Undeserved, beautiful, and bounteous. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Searching for Easter

   I go looking for Easter in Walgreen's. Even though one might be fooled, it is not there among the Peeps, the plastic baskets, and the fake green grass.

   I wander down the aisles of the Hallmark store replete with their perfectly aligned cards and matching envelopes. Scattered everywhere throughout the shop are pink, blue and yellow bunnies nestled alongside hand-painted eggs. This is not my Easter either.

   I join the throngs in the grocery store, filling my cart with treasures for a meal that I will serve to cousins and sisters and husband and children at Sunday lunch. The cash register goes ching, ching, ching, and I am out of there with a laden car and a tired back. This, too, is not my Easter.

   Once home, I set the table, arrange flowers, and slice mountains of squash and onions, grease casserole dishes, tear lettuces, and chop herbs. I am working ahead. It is special, this beauty I seek to create, but it is not Easter.

   I walk outside to bask in the warmth of the late afternoon sunshine. The silver maples are showering their helicopter seeds all over me. I wink at the sky and smile. But Easter? No, this is a compelling beauty from a Divine hand, but it is not Easter.

   I climb back into my Bible, suddenly thirsty for the Holy cup and the bread. I want to linger there at the meal shared with My Beloved, but I am called onward toward a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. It is here that I find a story played out that shakes my soul to the core. It is a tale, oft told, of a suffering and a sacrifice so wretched and so raw that it is at once almost unbearable and unbelievable. I am suddenly there. I smell the blood. I see the heavy splintered form of the cross and the broken God-man upon it. I look into the faces of the betrayers and know that their shame and their guilt mirrors my own. I know what I deserve. But the God-man hanging there will have the final word. "Forgive them," he cries as he shudders and gasps for air. Then He cries out to the Father.

   In a little while, the sky grows dark. The earth shakes. The bolts of lightening accelerate as they penetrate the darkness with a terrible light. I quake inside as I turn back to the cross. It is finished. The God-man breathes no more.

    I want to run from the scene. I am a betrayer and a rebel of the first-order. I don't even have to wait until the cock crows. I know my own heart. I feel the crushing weight of my own sin and my paralyzing grief. And yet. And yet.

    I limp through the days bereft. The morning of the third day dawns bright and beautiful. The women have been busy with their preparations. Their faces are worn with grief and exhaustion but they are filled with a sense of mission and purpose. They have come to anoint the body of the Beloved One. I have tagged along.

   One of the women runs ahead, spurred and driven by a need deep within her. Yet something is amiss. The guards have disappeared, and the giant stone is no longer blocking the darkened entrance to the cave-like tomb. A deep and powerful voice pierces the quiet surrounding the tomb. It is coming from an unusual creature standing vigil by the tomb, "Why is it that you seek the living among the dead?" The air seems to quiver at the sound of his words.

  The angel looks with something akin to incredulity at the mounting disbelief in the face of the stumbling weeping woman. Like her, my human mind struggles to apprehend the words and all that they imply.

   She runs to look inside. Her voice trembles as she announces that the tomb is empty. My vision grows blurry. How can it be? THE TOMB IS EMPTY. I fall to my knees, and something inside me begins to take on a life of its own.

   What is this glorious hope, this unspeakable joy rising up within me? Can the terrible suffering of the God-man on the cross find its completion and its consummation in an vacant tomb with its empty ledge and neatly folded linen?

   Yes, yes, my soul cries. Yes. This, this is my Easter. It is an empty tomb. It is here in the dust of the dimly lit cave that I have come to find life. And hope. And victory over an ancient sin and despair that have held my soul in their clutch. This tomb, this place of burial where the body of the Messiah was laid to rest is the Easter I have sought. And it is not just mine. It is for all who dare to believe.
    My heart leaps within me at the truth and the glory of it all.

Christ the Lord is Risen. 
Indeed, He is Risen! 

Let the earth and the heavens rejoice...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Woodland Theme Baby

    My daughter-in-law is doing a woodland themed baby nursery. The inspiration for her design came from a fabric she found with trees and tiny little animals poking their heads up and around a forest. It was love at first sight for her. Then she happened upon this adorable stuffed fox and everything began to come together organically. This daughter-in-law of mine is especially creative and loves to "up-cycle," finding creative uses for vintage items that were originally designed for an altogether different function. I can't wait to see what the nursery will look like when she's finished. Maybe she will let me share a picture or two before the grandboy arrives in May!
    In the meantime, I have been seeing all manner of woodland things popping up everywhere. I couldn't resist sharing some adorable baby shower ideas that give homage to the woodland theme!

Let's start with some invitations!
How cute are these?!
 I love how the envelope mimics a woodgrain pattern on the one below!

 Now let's move on to the party decor
 I love the use of rustic and natural elements
 And the charm goes on
and on...
And it wouldn't be a party without a cake...
or two...
How 'bout these cupcake toppers!
 gift bags anyone?
 Now this is some serious hedgehog love!
But you better watch out for those foxes, they just might steal the show!

And since we live in Music City, what could be better than a very special 
Woodland Mix for guests to take home
Be creative and have fun!