A Shopping Experience

I’d like to share a short story with you.

A few months ago I was shopping in the aisle where dairy products are displayed when an elderly gentleman approached and asked if I could help him locate the whipping cream. He held a list given him by his wife and was unsuccessfully trying to find this item. Together we found the cream that needed to be whipped at home but he wasn’t sure that was correct. He thought she probably wanted the kind in the spray can however, he picked up what he saw and placed it in his cart. A store employee came around the corner so I asked if what the gentleman wanted might be in the back. As any good worker would, he offered to check. The elderly man continued down the aisle and I picked up the few things I needed. As I neared the end of the row the store employee came by and handed the needed spray can of whipping cream to me. I thanked him and looked around for the man who had requested it. Seeing him several feet away I walked over and handed it to him with a smile and spoke a quote used often in our family; “Happy Wife. Happy Life”.

He looked at me and said, “You sure have that right. I’ve been married 54 years and don’t know why I ever got married in the first place.” I’m pretty sure my heart stopped beating for a second. I was stunned. I was so sad. I was perfectly still and quiet right there in the middle of the store. It just shouldn’t be that after 54 years of marriage all you have to say to a stranger is “I don’t know why I ever got married.” It must be sad to regret 54 years of living. It ought not to be so.

Marriage is work. Marriage is teamwork. Even Cinderella and Prince Charming had to overcome obstacles! After meeting THE one, having butterflies in your stomach, spending endless hours on the phone, enjoying dates that you wanted to never end, finally a wedding and the joy of moving in together, there’s still the daily process of learning to live with and wholly love another human being. It is a never ending process because human beings are always growing, changing, having new experiences and learning new things. No matter how much you love the person you marry, in a matter of years they will be a slightly different person. You must love them continually, purposely. Embrace and celebrate the growth the years will bring. Rejoice that at 50 you are not the same as you were at 20. Allow them freedom to be all that God has intended.

My family has a wonderful legacy in that my parents will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary in a few months. My siblings and I have benefited from their tenacity in making marriage work and family life enjoyable. I know it’s not common anymore and I realize most people reading this will either have parents who are divorced or be divorced themselves; sometimes it’s unavoidable. That doesn’t mean you can’t begin to create a wonderful legacy of love for your family. Love is a wonderfully, unexplainable emotion that can be oh so fulfilling and make you a better person. Do all you can to not only find the right person but to be the right person for your spouse.

My dad has had cancer for several years. It’s a type that will never really go into remission but has been kept at bay with treatments and we are grateful. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and was recently diagnosed with peritoneal cancer. These two have been through lots of ups and downs; recently more downs that ups! But they are facing them together. Their love is more than a feeling or even more than a habit. It’s commitment as well. It’s beautiful.

Nine years ago today my Handsome left earth and our dreams of growing old together and facing the challenges and changes of life as a team will never be a reality. As is typical, when reminiscing it’s usually about the good times and the rough ones fade into the background and I’m glad it’s like that. Not because pretending the bad times weren’t real makes things better but because it shows the good times were more abundant, more normal, more us. I would love to know how things would be for us now; empty nesters, retirement looming closer, more grandkids. What vacations would we take? Would we still live in the same house? What new hobbies would we have? What would make us laugh? I would love the opportunity to begin and end every day with a kiss and be excited when his phone number showed up on my cell. To hear his car pull in the garage and know the best part of the day was about to begin would be a treasure. I hope if you are married, happily or struggling, you find pleasure in things like that because, trust me, they are indicators of the health of your relationship. Don’t live 54 years in regret.

Miss you, Eric. Thanks for 28 wonderful years of learning, living and loving! You influence me still. You have my heart.mom-dad

Bald love!
Bald love!


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Give It a Try!

January is almost over and if statistics are correct, almost everyone who made a New Year’s resolution has already broken it. 25% of us broke them even before the first week ended. Good thing they aren’t binding contracts!

 
As there are still 48 weeks left in the year, why don’t we take a different approach to making improvements? What if we simply determined to count our blessings? If that phrase conjures pictures of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney in a Vermont inn close to a beautiful fireplace, then you’re probably familiar with White Christmas and the Irving Berlin song Count Your Blessings. Maybe you can even sing parts-or all-of it. But, are you doing it? Counting your blessings I mean, not singing the song!

 
To count your blessings you don’t have to join a gym, quit eating carbs, learn to be on time, swear less, drink more water, drive slower, spend less time on your devices, curb your spending, eat out less often, quit yelling or give up TV. You can count your blessings without promising to do anything differently all year long. All you have to do is start.

 
Almost every day there is something to be grateful for. Some days you may have to look a little harder than others and sometimes the blessings are disguised because we are programed to think of them as ‘normal’. Not everyone is sleeping in a house tonight. Not everyone has the opportunity to walk to a refrigerator or pantry any time they want. Not everyone has a job to go to-not even one they thoroughly dislike. Those ‘normal’ things are blessings.

 
There are blessings around us daily; train yourself to be aware of them. Intentionally look for the good instead of the bad. Allow the positive to become a greater influence than the negative. A lower electric bill than you expected, sunshine breaking through a cloudy day, a neighbor lending a helping hand just when you need it, a short line at the grocery, a pat on the back for a job well done….there are any number of things that happen around us all day that, when focused on, can help us become more positive, more peaceful, more loving. Some people keep a journal and write one good thing about every day. Others write their blessings on slips of paper then place them in a jar and watch it get fuller as at the year goes on. Keeping a record of your blessings can help on those days when it seems like everything is going wrong; just pull out the journal or read the papers and let them encourage you.

 

You may not have to change to begin counting your blessings, but counting your blessings will change you!

I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the Lord has done for us….
Isaiah 63:7

What a week!

Things have been interesting around here lately and I realized that last week was multi-generational for me. Being from a family that actually enjoys spending time together and that lives in rather close proximity to one another, the multi-generational thing isn’t really all that unusual but the way it played out was.

I got to spend an extended amount of time with three of my youngest grandchildren while their parents enjoyed an anniversary celebration far away from anything but each other (now that’s an anniversary!). For several days it was Grams and the kids and we had a great time. Not that everything was peachy – we had our issues but they were minor and at the end of the week the kids still loved me!

My dad, who is 82, experienced what it is like to fall twice within a 10 day period which is not exactly an experience everyone looks forward to. Along with those other wonderful family members I mentioned earlier, I spent several hours in an emergency room and we have spent several more trying to help dad understand the meaning of the words ‘rest’ and ‘very limited activity’.  Not an easy task!

Then my twenty-something daughter was in a car accident. Her car was totaled but thankfully she and the two passengers in the other vehicle walked away with minor injuries. Another trip to the emergency room!

From the old to the young there were changes and adjustments. There was sadness from some missing their parents (or maybe it was just because they didn’t get their way!), from age making itself known in a harsh way and from the realization that accidents happen very quickly. But there was also joy when serious injury could have taken place and didn’t, when a fall didn’t mean a hospital admission and when Grams let the rules be broken since mom and dad weren’t around to know about it!

I feel blessed to have shared these experiences with those I love so much. I have fond memories of my own childhood and am grateful my grandchildren will have the same. I love my children more than I can even begin to express and to be there for them when they need me is a reward. My parents have supported me always and it’s a privilege to do the same for them now.

As I look back on my week of multi-generational care giving, I realize anew how fast the stages pass. I’m sure it was just weeks ago that my children were the age of my grandchildren and I was the young twenty-something. I turned around once and my parents were great-grandparents and I know this to be so because somehow I’m the grandparent! When? How? Watching my grandchildren play reminds me that childhood innocence is a treasure and shouldn’t be rare or rushed. Being with my grown children gives me hope that dreams can become reality and pushing through hardship has rewards. Watching my parents age with grace teaches me that you can still be joyful, kind and thankful even when being launched into unknown territory.

And me….at my current stage? Well, that reminds me that I need to remember to do more than just take up space. I need to look for the good, share the best, spread the joy and thank God that He is with me in every stage and through every experience – the happy and the hard. I want to be carefree and laugh like a child, dream and experience like I’m in my prime and be full of peace when my strength is failing. I want to live for more than just myself, to experience the best of every stage and hear “Well done*” when the time is right. I may not hit every mark but I most definitely will enjoy trying!

O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Psalm 71:17

Hey Handsome, the only thing missing is growing old with you.
You are in my heart!

*Matthew 25:21

Embrace the Challenge!

In just a few days Ohio will be casting their ballot for, among other things, their choice for a potential President who will guide our nation for the next four years. Needless to say, preparing for this particular election has been a bit different than usual! More candidates to weed through, more diverse personalities and the climate in our country have created some unique perspectives.

Whether you live in Ohio or not, when placing your vote you are not only deciding who will sit in the White House or Congress, you are deciding what kind of America you want in the years to come. Do you want government more involved in individual choices or less involved? Do you want open borders or more accountability for immigrants? What about taxes…should there be more to help with government programs or more left in your paycheck? How do you want your tax dollars spent? What about military, education, environment and international trade? Why do you feel your opinion is correct? Sometimes we have to make choices that will be better for the country as a whole rather than what will make us more comfortable for the moment.

It can be so easy to choose or oppose a candidate based on their personality or the good/bad press. When making such an important decision we need to do our homework and not rely on what our friends, family or coworkers think. It can be difficult to wade through the rhetoric and we most likely won’t find a candidate that agrees with us on everything but maybe we can come close. There are internet sites that will allow you to do a side-by-side comparison of all the top candidates and even allow you to answer questions then see who your closest match is. When you take hype out of the equation, it might be interesting to see who leans the same way you do. Embrace the challenge of finding out!

I encourage you to spend time truly thinking about why you are casting a vote and who it is you are giving it to. Every time someone is elected we give them the right to speak for us; make sure you like what is being said.
As with a lot of things we are used to, the act of voting may not seem overly important….until we are no longer allowed to do it. Research, pray, vote and trust God to watch over America so we as a nation can be a shining light of hope.

Pray for rulers and for all who have authority
so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives
full of worship and respect for God.
1 Timothy 2:2

Old and New

Here we are, ending our eighth year since Eric died. It seems almost impossible. Can it really have been that long ago yet often seem as though no time has passed? Isn’t it odd how that happens – that time can fly and stand still all at once?

Most people are now used to me being a ‘single’; I actually have friends who never knew me as a married person. Another fact that seems odd to me but, hey, it’s reality. Reality is that my life is vastly different than it was nine years ago. Many, many things are different; not bad, just different. Adjustments have been made, new ventures enjoyed and life is still a precious gift.

I have adjusted to sleeping alone, bypassing the mens department when shopping, not making coffee daily….or twice daily….or even more often 😊. I no longer automatically expect Eric to be home when I get there nor do I pick up my phone to give him a call when something amazing happens. I am used to traveling without him, making changes to our home and knowing there is no one else to consider when writing events on my calendar. These things that once were such typical parts of my life exist no longer, but I have adjusted. And I am happy.

However, I have not adjusted to praying alone, not starting the day with a hug and a kiss or being pampered on a regular basis. I don’t like checking the box that says ‘widow’ or trying to find a handyman for all those annoying projects around the house. I miss having a truly honest sounding board and being the center of his attention. It’s sad to have memories that no one else shares because the only other person who experienced them with you is missing. These are adjustments I have not made. But I am happy.

Out of necessity, people who used to be central parts of my life are people I hardly see any more. I might not ‘see’ them at all if it wasn’t for Facebook! Looking at their pictures, reading their posts and realizing how far apart we’ve grown can make me rather nostalgic. Then I think about all the new friends God has blessed me with and I get almost giddy. I have renewed friendships and enjoy the company of some people I did not know nine years ago. I count myself very blessed because of them! And I am happy.

So many emotions. So many questions. So many tears. Loosing a spouse is a roller coaster ride at best, a horrible nightmare at it’s worst. It’s a step-by-step, day-by-day decision to come out on the other side and be able to say “I am happy”. It may be a different kind of happy, but it’s happy. There was a time I was not convinced I would ever be able to say that. And since I’m still moving forward, maybe someday I’ll be able to say it is the same kind of happy I used to have. Maybe my heart will be full again in all aspects. Who knows. But if not, it’s ok because I am happy now. I am amazed at God’s faithfulness and kindness. His grace truly is amazing and His patience must be, well, indescribable! If you are walking this road as I have, take heart because you do not walk alone. Jesus walks with you and He slows down when you need to and prods you a little when you need it. You will be happy, truly happy, as you allow Him to mend your heart. You can trust Him …… He loves you beyond compare.

…“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,…
Jeremiah 31:3-4

https://www.youtube.com/embed/eUHRDCYnFfg“>Enjoy this beautiful song.

SHOUT!

Sometimes there are things I want to shout as loudly as I can. Things like “Slow Down!” It seems like we all have so much to do and we can’t seem to convince ourselves it’s ok to relax or do nothing for a bit. It’s an art trying to keep an updated activity calendar! There’s so much jostling and rearranging and squeezing in going on that it’s exhausting just looking at what we have planned for the next 30 days.
Being busy isn’t always the best use of our time. That ‘stop and smell the roses’ cliche has some merit. How many things do we miss when we schedule an activity away from home rather than a game night around the table? Do you notice how blue the sky is and the images the wind creates as it blows the clouds around? Enjoying silence even for just a few minutes can be healing to mind, body and spirit. A good book can’t truly be savored without time to simply sit and read. Slow Down! It’s not a sin. 😊
What about shouting “Failure Isn’t Final”? That’s something I’d like to shout …. often….at myself! We are never going to get everything right. Even with our best intentions we are going to mess up and feel awful about it, maybe even cry or retreat to our solitary place away from probing eyes. No matter how much we’d like to live without making costly mistakes, it’s not going to happen. We now know what not to do and we’ve added a piece to our story that will eventually help someone else. If we don’t try because we are afraid of failing we are only half living. Be wise, be cautious, count the cost but don’t let fear of failure rob you.
“Let Jesus Define You” needs to be shouted continuously. All to often we decide who we are based on what our family/friends/co-workers expect us to be. Even worse, we decide who we are based on the things we know we lack. Why is it so much easier to see our weaknesses than our strengths? And when we see them, why do we stop there? Why don’t we counter those negatives with positives?
We need to train ourselves to say what Jesus says. Yes, I mean train. We have equated humility with not allowing ourselves to believe we are capable, wonderful, efficient or amazing. Humility isn’t being ‘less than’ – it’s making sure those around you don’t feel ‘less than’. Jesus considers us to be precious, anointed, loved, chosen, beautiful, strong…..and many more wonderful things; let’s not buy the lie of the enemy that we aren’t allowed to believe those things. Read the Bible, find out what Jesus says and train yourself to battle the world’s negatives with His positives!
“Have More Fun” Those who know me might say I want to shout this just because I love to have fun and they could be right! I think a day without laughter is not complete. I think doing something just because you enjoy it should be part of every (normal, whatever that is) day. Five minutes of fun beats no minutes of fun. I’ve had times in my life where laughter was not normal and it was too much work to have fun. I’m sure you have, too. Thank God those are seasons and not permanent.
If we take ourselves or our days too seriously, we miss the joy God intends to accompany us here on earth. All we have to do is spend time with each other and laughter comes easily because humans are funny creatures! A good way to make sure your day will include some fun is to learn to laugh at yourself (it’s a big stress reliever, too). Also, make sure when you are filling that calendar you leave some play dates available; they are good for adults as well as kids 😊
I believe we are to enjoy our life and it’s the devil’s job to see that we don’t. It’s easy to slip into ways of thinking that Jesus never intended us to so, as we start a new year, become aware of the ways you are being cheated out of enjoying the life you’ve been given. Then shout to others and spread the good word!

And so I heartily recommended that you pursue joy,
for the best a person can do under the sun is to enjoy life.
Eat, drink, and be happy. If this is your attitude,
joy will carry you through the toil every day that
God gives you under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 (The Voice)

The Daughter

The Daughter was on the couch wrapped in her favorite blanket holding an untouched chai latte while His book laid open on her lap.

How did this work? She’s been pondering it for days and still couldn’t understand. Actually, she had been pondering it for months, even years but the past few days it had been a focal point.

It was that time of year when thoughts of love were bittersweet. Her memories made her smile but they were all of the past and there would be no new ones. No new experiences together to make her heart sing. No surprise gifts, no secrets shared, no future to dream about. But that wasn’t really where her focus had been lately.

The Daughter looked once again at His book. It was this love she was struggling with. This love she didn’t understand. How, when she was so imperfect, could He promise a love that will never fail? Why would He make such a promise? Yet even that wasn’t what truly caused her wonderings.

Taking a sip of the latte and stroking the cat who had joined her on the couch, she pondered the idea that there was nothing she could do to add to that love. He would love her even if she didn’t love Him? But she did love Him, which brought on it’s own set of questions. Just as He wouldn’t love her less if she was awful, He wouldn’t love her more if she was perfect. Say what?! If she fulfills all His plans for her or messes up things completely, the depth of love is still the same? If she looses her temper or keeps her cool, is selfless or selfish, works hard or is lazy, His love stays the same? How wonderful! But wait, that means the jerk down the street and the hussy at work are loved as much as she is? For real? Back to square one: how can this be?

His book says this love is for everyone. His book says a price has been paid for everyone to have the love. His book says….oh so many things about His love. Then she realized something. Maybe she was getting it after all! Doing what would please Him was a way for her to say thanks for His love! Every act of obedience, kindness or giving was like saying, ‘I love you’! While the jerk down the street or the hussy at the office may very well be loved, if they don’t acknowledge the love or ever find joy in expressing love for Him, they lose the benefits of being loved at all. She wasn’t trying to rack up points, she was expressing love! Racking up points was unnecessary!

Maybe one kind of love was no longer in her life, but love wasn’t all together lost. While missing the love of her Handsome, the Daughter was overwhelmed by a Love that was truly unconditional and found pleasure in the gifts she could give.

John 3:16
Hebrews 13:5
Matthew 6:1-4
Psalm 37:23-24

Eric, Seven years is a long time to go without hearing your voice or seeing your smile yet I am forever thankful for the 28 years we had. I can’t wait to see you again and tell you all that has happened but I have a feeling your experiences have been much more exciting than mine! You have my heart; I miss you still. Love goes on.

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Aubri, Levi and Owen enjoyed Disney World this week!
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Alivia’s beautiful smile.
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Sam meets Chase for the first time!
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Jack holding his new brother!
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Madilynn loves Chase Philip!