Category Archives: Home Life

Get Soul Scents: Bloom for Free!

FREE May 14 – May 17

In honor of moms everywhere!

This third in the Soul Scents series of devotionals leads us from struggle to acknowledging the blessing of Immanuel in our lives. Paula courageously shares the raw and intimate moments of her own struggles in the valley of the shadow of death. Incredibly, hopefully, she leads us day by day into His Light, teaching us how to walk hand in hand with God at our side.   ~Susan Irene Fox

God’s love and his extravagant grace toward us is shared through Scripture, the beauty of nature and the author’s personal stories of pain revealing God’s ever present care and commitment to our “blooming.” I . . . found myself saying, “Yes, Lord, Yes! Do that in me!” . . . . Paula clearly knows her Lord and her honesty and vulnerability are so healing. . . . I highly recommend this devotional to anyone who needs a reminder that God is beyond good.  ~ Amazon Customer

rsz_pmapprov3-01In His presence we bloom in sunshine and storm. His Spirit carries us through the struggle, offering the love, strength, and wisdom we need for the times of trial. In the joyous seasons, His smile deepens our pleasure. Bloom in season and out!

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from Scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. The week-day readings include Scriptures and prayers. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

I hope you enjoy this free gift!

Blessing to Your Home From Mine,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copy

18237796_10211980428041092_6907722748562976894_o

PS One of my Mother’s Day celebrations this year is the joy of our son Stephen’s recent graduation from Fort Lewis College. God is good and has done amazing things in his life! When he graduated high school, I wrote a piece about how he’d overcome great odds. Stephen’s college graduation was also a high day. That little boy who struggled with speech and learning to read graduated Summa Cum Laude! (If you have a struggling learner, you might want to check out that article, which includes links to resources.) He’s already started his first full-time job. He’s using his adventure education degree to serve at a camp where he will be assistant to the director of adventure activities. (If you’d like to support him in prayer or finances, email me, and I’ll have him send you more information.) Happy Mother’s Day to each of you moms reading today–I hope you enjoy your free gift!

Advertisements

The Joy of Letting Go 4

I believe how we navigate empty nest plays a huge role in how free our adult children will be to flourish in life.

This week Vicki Caruana, author of The Joy of Letting Go, shared wisdom and grace for joy of letting goparents like myself who navigate the challenges of transitioning to empty nest. I took extra time with what began as a short interview because this issue dovetails with my own passion to see people free to flourish, and these formative years can set our children on a path of freedom where they can grow and expand—or hold them back.

Find the joy in letting go isn’t always an easy process for me, yet I know how I navigate this long season of rotating doors and releasing my children into adulthood has powerful impact on them, on myself, and on how our family will function in the future. I’ve also learned that how I walk this out deeply affects how joyful or painful my son or daughter’s journey into adulthood is. I realize it hurts my teens and young adults when they have to fight for the very freedoms they should be offered as they mature. At the same time if I give freedom without responsibility, I set them up for failure. For me, one of faith’s greatest journeys is to step back and release my children in God’s capable hands when the temptation is to hover a little too closely.

In my opinion there are few things more difficult to navigate than knowing when and how to give our children the wings they need to fly free to flourish in life. I appreciate Vicki taking the time to help my readers and myself more deeply process these important issues. (Past blog interviews interviews include the process of letting gohow our approach to letting go helps with the transitions to college, and a parent’s role around a child’s identity and decision-making.)

I mentioned in the first blog of this interview series that a hardback copy of The Joy of Letting Go arrived in my mailbox the week of our oldest son’s wedding. Though I was privileged to read an advanced copy of the book and to offer my endorsement some weeks ago, re-reading selections at just that special time was a balm. (Thank you, Vicki!)

It’s interesting that during this time my son Seth was searching for the perfect song for our mother-son dance at his and Amanda’s wedding.

25He couldn’t find a song he liked, and his bride-to-be came to the rescue. She sent him several ideas, but her favorite was Mark Harris’s, “Find Your Wings.” Seth told me later he immediately knew it was the song he wanted, but that he didn’t want to influence me, so he sent me several links and asked my opinion.

When I listened to this song, I was alone in the car and free to sob–which I did! It said every single thing I wanted to say to my son as I freely offered him to the beautiful young women who now holds first place in his heart.

I’ve included the song with this last post about releasing our children into adulthood. I hope you are blessed as deeply as I was.

 

 

 

17553902_10155203843153179_2355221722148880384_n

To close our time with Vicki, I asked her to share a selection from her book that would most say what she wanted to say to us today. Thank you, Vicki!

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

___________________________________________________________________

Day 6

Don’t cry because you are leaving; smile because you were there.

Dr. Seuss

The image is still so strong. Every weekday for months, my five-year-old baby boy stood at the window of his preschool with both hands on the glass crying for me to stay. I couldn’t. I had to go to work—as a teacher I had about thirty more children waiting for me to show up. I endured the daily exercise of letting go that school year in the most excruciating way. In my mind I see the palm print of his small hand on the glass moments after his teacher enticed him away from the window. It imprinted on my heart in ways that followed us both through the next twenty years.

Fast forward five years later when our children were transitioning back into the public schools after being homeschooled for four years. I walked this same boy to his fifth grade classroom stopping just short of the door. After only a moment’s hesitation, he slipped into the brightly decorated room with the stealth of a ninja. He didn’t look back, but I lingered.

I sat in the parking lot for an hour trying to decide if I should stay—just in case—or go and let him be. Parent drop-off had ended and I was alone in the lot. I could see his classroom window from where I sat. I realized what I was waiting for—his hand print on the glass.

Thirteen years later we stood—my head only reaching his shoulders—with a jam-packed moving van and the dog nestled safely in the car that would follow. I couldn’t believe it was time to go—again. A mist-like rain covered us like dew and I felt hurried in this goodbye. How many times had I said goodbye? More times than I’ve recounted here to be sure. Why is it that each time feels like the last time?

After a tear-filled hug of this now fully grown and fully able young man, I saw through the car window clearly for the first time. In a last ditch effort, I wondered once more, should I stay or should I go? But he was fine. And it was time. We pulled out of the parking lot, and I watched him through the car window, with my hand pressed against the glass, as we now moved one mile at a time 2000 miles away.

One goodbye at a time.

Thought Poke

Letting go is a cumulative process. We have had so much practice up to the point of departure. Instead of remembering all the times you were parted, remember all the times that you were there.

~Vicki Caruana

Friends, I (Paula) wish many blessing to each sweet momma (or dad!) whose own journey into empty nest includes those tears that are joy and grief mingled.

Don’t forget! Vicki Caruana and Lisa Samson, who I interviewed last week, both offered to do a giveaway. So . . . if you comment on my blog between now and Easter, your name will go into a drawing for one of their books!

Blessings,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copy

The Joy of Letting Go is available now from:

jill s

“Our hearts are always connected to our children, whether they are four or forty. In these fifty-two devotions, Vicki Caruana beautifully shows us that cutting the apron strings doesn’t mean cutting the heart strings. This journey of letting go can be life-giving – for you and for your children.”
Jill Savage, founder of Hearts at Home
     and author of No More Perfect Marriages

The Joy of Letting Go 3 (Influencing Destiny)

Today’s interview with Vicki Caruana, author of The Joy of Letting Go, probes the issues around our role in our children’s future and identity. (Past interviews interviews include the process of letting go and how our approach to letting go helps with the transitions to college.)

Vicki, The Joy of Letting Go offers 52 daily readings that help parents by offering grace and wisdom in the letting go process. I loved the title of Day 5, “Alma Mother.” The wisdom of that particular reading is something I hold dear. One of my most passionate beliefs is that only God has the right to shape someone’s destiny. I don’t mean that parents/spouses/friends don’t get to give positive input; I mean that in the end, God and the person get to choose his or her path and destiny. You quote Psalm 16:11 which says, “You make known to me the path of life” (NIV).

The psalmist is talking about God, not his mother (lol!). It’s really hard not to constantly think Momma knows best, but I know that even when I do have a “better” way for my child, it’s his or her life not mine.  And sometimes God is orchestrating something very different than I would. You wrote, “Sometimes what you think is the best choice may not be the right choice. We need to allow our kids to tell us they don’t like peas so they don’t have to resort to hiding them under their mashed potatoes.”

What are some warning signs that we’ve fallen into the “momma knows best” trap?

Well, momma does know best! It’s funny. . . I’ve spent a lot of time promoting that parents know their kids better than anyone else and can and should be their greatest advocates. As a teacher I know this is true. But I also know that we tiptoe (or should) around being an advocate without being an adversary. There are times when going to bat for your child is warranted, while at other times it will only delay their development into independent and responsible adults. There is a tug of war always being waged. It began when they were about three years old and said to us “I do it by myself!” They’ve been telling us in so many words that they know what they want and would like the chance to make their own decisions. When we fall into the trap of basically sending them away with just a pat on their sweet little heads as if to say, “Oh, aren’t you just the cutest?” and disregard the assertion of authority over their own lives, we foster one of two responses. They’ll either hide their peas under the mashed potatoes or they will throw their peas at you in a food fight!  Many of our kids may not be developmentally ready to confront us and assert their independence. But don’t mistake their compliance with agreement. Eventually they will find a way to live their lives on their own terms; it may not be in a positive life-giving way if we silence their disagreement.

One of your daily reading is entitled, “Lord , Shut My Mouth!” Talk a little bit about the danger of our words (and unspoken attitudes!) in the letting go process.

It is said that silence means agreement, but the silent treatment conveys just the opposite. So it isn’t always a matter of keeping your mouth shut about what we think about our children’s decisions; it’s about being discerning about the power our words or our silence has on our children’s confidence. I picture walking hand in hand with our son – Chip on one side and me on the other – and we hold on tight and if we come to a puddle on our path, we lift our son up and over it. That only works when they’re two to five years old. After that, they’re too big to lift up over that puddle. I can walk side by side with our son and point out the puddle, but it’s up to him to step over or around it. If he doesn’t pay attention, he’s going to find himself ankle deep in muddy water. Do I say “I told you so”? Do I belittle his lackluster efforts to avoid the puddle? No. I myself step around the puddle before us and keep walking. When he catches up, he’s learned that he needs to watch where he steps.

In that same entry you talk about how sometimes it is good to speak wise words, but even in this how sometimes they will fall on deaf ears. How can one know when to speak and when to be silent?

Knowing when to speak and knowing when to be silent is very individual. Each situation, each child-parent relationship requires its own discernment. I still believe in the litmus test that if there is danger for a child’s mind, body, or soul you must speak up. But if it is a matter of preferences, likes and dislikes, then my opinion is let it go. All of this may fly out the window if our kids come directly to us for advice. Once they do that, the door opens and I guess so does my mouth!

You talk about the very real angst of watching our children make decisions we know will bring them pain. Is it our job to protect from pain?

Angst – yes, that’s the perfect word for this experience! I’m not convinced it’s my job to protect them from pain. I do believe it’s my job to keep them safe. As our children grow into their own “firsthand faith”, they will learn, just as we have, that suffering – and with it often pain – is part of our perfecting; it’s part of our good and God’s good purposes. Admittedly, watching my sons make decisions I suspect will bring them pain brings me straight to my knees! Maybe that’s where God wanted me all along.

What about decisions that seem contrary to how we raised them? How can we wisely navigate this situation?

This is happening to all of us – I doubt any of us can escape it in one form or another. I recognize that it can be disappointing, discouraging, and maybe embarrassing. After all, how often do we post on Facebook that our son no longer goes to church or that our daughter has dropped out of college? We don’t or if we do, we’re really looking for sympathy from our friends.  Those realities are benign compared to what is really going on in the lives of parents of teens and young adults. Again I compare this to our relationship with God. How often do we stray from how He raised us? He is so set on relationship with us that He chooses to love and to remain steadfast with arms wide open even as we run around like our yellow lab, Bella, after a squirrel in our backyard. Make home a safe place always to come home to and remain steadfast. That way, when our children run in a zigzag after that squirrel, they still know they can come back to you because they can rely on you being right where they left you – with arms wide open.

Friends, I find myself constantly on my knees asking the LORD to guide my adult children and to show me when to speak and when to be silent. Perhaps that’s why today’s questions with Vicki were especially meaningful to me. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did! We’ll have one more interview with Vicki on Friday. Looking forward to sharing an excerpt from her book!

Don’t forget: Vicki Caruana and Lisa Samson, who I interviewed last week, both offered to do a giveaway. So . . . if you comment on my blog between now and Easter, your name will go into a drawing for one of their books!

Until Friday,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copy

The Joy of Letting Go is available now from:frannie.jpg

“Vicki lovingly mixes her sense of humor, wisdom, and insights together in such a way that I know my friends will love this devotional as much as I do. Even though my own children are forty, thirty-eight, and thirty-seven, and I have a grandson in the Air Force, the challenge to find joy in the letting go remains. This devotional helps moms of all ages do just that. I’ll be picking up multiple copies as gifts.”
Francine Rivers, author of Redeeming Love

 

The Joy of Letting Go 2 (College Transitions)

Welcome to Day 2 of the series of interviews with Vicki Caruana, mom, college educator, and author of the new book, The Joy of Letting. (Click here for Day 1.)

Today we explore how a parent’s approach to letting go can help–or hinder–their child’s college success.

Sending a child off to college is no small feat. Our oldest son, Seth, started at community college and then transferred to CSU in Fort Collins, living in the dorms, then back home for the summer, then moving into an apartment. On the SAME DAY his younger brother and I loaded the van with IMAG0049his stuff to drive him to his first apartment, my husband helped our middle son, Stephen, load up the car to head to Fort Lewis College in Durango.

That week there was a lot of teasing mom as my young men caught me crying and wrapped a strong arm around my shoulder while I said repeatedly, “It’s okay for me to be sad, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to go. You are doing exactly the right thing!”

I did receive validation when my dry-eyed husband admitted that he cried a lot of the six-hour drive home after dropping Stephen off!

13178784_10208670204167564_5675041590976387399_n

My three young men

Somehow we survived. Last spring Seth graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine, and this spring Stephen graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in Adventure Education.

I gotta admit, though, that I find the constant transitions of college exhausting. You drop them off (or watch them drive away) and then cry until you can dry your tears. Just when you get used to not cooking for the masses and the house staying clean–just when the  quiet grows less invasive, winter break is around the corner. You are wild with excitement. Cook up a storm. Welcome your children home. Only to have them leave and the house be too quiet again in January.

This cycle continues for years. *sigh*

Jerry and I have had exactly two weeks of no one but us living here in our most recent transition, but even now our youngest is considering moving back home in a few months to save money while he goes to college. Honestly? I love my son and will adore having him here if that is what he chooses, but my heart is tired of the revolving doors of the empty nest process. The transitions are easier than they were the first time, but it still feels like someone is playing tennis with my heart. I think I’m actually (finally) looking forward to the doors opening only when they want to come for a visit.

So, Vicki, as an assistant professor you observe students whose parents’ approach to the letting go process deeply affects the student’s college success. Could you share some positive approaches that help our children succeed in this difficult transition?

Teaching at the college level, I see first-hand how parents approach letting go of their newly minted adult children. I realize that not every 18 or 19 year old is at the same level of maturity when they arrive on campus, so possibly a parent’s approach to letting them go may match that level of maturity. But I’ve also seen students struggle to pry their parents’ hands off of their new found independence. I’ve also seen students crying in the hallway over being incredibly homesick. Like the story I told about Nikki in my book, it’s important that we remember that our presence should not be required in order for (1) our kids’ well-being, and (2) our own well-being. I admit that I desperately miss our now grown sons. I also admit that I really wish they’d move to NY so we could all be together again. I know my mom wished the same thing for her and her children. But I didn’t know how much my mom wished for that until after she died. She not only allowed us to pursue our lives where and when we needed; she did not press her needs ahead of our own – as much as I’m sure she wanted to. I feel that same pressure now. As much as I want our boys close, I won’t let them think I can’t have a happy life unless they are by my side. I focus on supporting them without dictating to them how and where they should live their lives. Not an easy thing to do, but the opposite would be life-sucking instead of life-giving.

What are some things we might do out of good intent that actually holds them back?

Funny you should ask this right now – as I sit here at my computer searching for jobs for our youngest son as I know he is looking to make a change. To be honest, I’m looking here in NY hoping that if I find just the right job for him, he will move here! But I will also tell you that this is an exercise for me that he will not hear about (unless you tell him!). If I do all the research for my kids on a problem they have to solve, then whatever solution appears they will not be invested in. They will then wait on me to do the research in the future and rely on the solution I present. They become passive participants in their own lives. There is a difference between teaching our kids HOW to do something and doing it for them. Whether it’s that science fair project or preparing their resume or applying for college or even challenging a grade with a professor in college (which you really shouldn’t do), you hold them back from being their own advocates. So, I will NOT send my son the three really cool jobs I just found for him right here in my neck of the woods. I will NOT! 😉

You mention that the Journal of Adolescence reported higher levels of depression and less satisfaction in life in college students. It indicated this is a result of our emerging adults having limited opportunities to practice and develop important skills for becoming self-reliant adults. What are some practical things we can do to help our progeny become self-reliant?

College turns out not to be what many of our kids expected it to be. It’s much harder, more isolating, and more challenging than they thought it would be. Many of us have spent a lot of time orchestrating our children’s different spheres of existence. If we ran too much interference in their schooling – most notably their completion of work and projects or challenging grades they earned – then they don’t have those skills when they go to college. If we determined where and with whom they socialized – then they will have trouble finding friends on their own. And if we ensured that they were engaged in activities in which they were guaranteed success, then the challenges at the college level will be both overwhelming and devastating to their identities. Although “But I’ve always gotten A’s” is a common reaction, it won’t change the direct correlation between how hard they work and the grades they earn in college. We need to give our kids opportunities to navigate these waters on their own – in their swimming pool at home before they head out into open waters.

For a lot of us sending our children to college there is a disconnect between our children’s need for some financial support and their need for independence. How do we as parents help our children make the transition to financial dependence without setting them up for failure?

The college financial conundrum! First, let me say that the fact we have this problem is actually a good thing. What I mean by that is that for those of us who do have money to financially support our children for college means we are ourselves doing well. That being said, I am not an advocate for “everyone should go to college.” Not just because it may be cost prohibitive, but because it may not be the right “fit” for every child. A college degree does not equate a job, or a good paying job at that. We have many students who are not academically ready for college, yet are accepted because our society (beginning with No Child Left Behind in the 90s) pedaled the every child should go to college agenda. That aside, life is more expensive for our kids than it was for us. It is harder and harder for a young adult to move out on his own and afford what that entails. Personally, we’re still paying our youngest cell phone bill. The goal, as we’ve spelled it out for him, is that he needs to be financially independent before he decides to marry. He needs to be able to care for himself and pay his own bills before he becomes responsible for someone else. The transition to financial independence begins with us, parents. Passing the baton onto our children so they can run the last leg of their race is important – after all, they’re the ones who will cross that finish line.

Hi Friends, hope you’re enjoying this series as much as I am. Join us on Wednesday for some deep questions around our role in our child’s identity and future.

Here’s a treat for you! Vicki Caruana and Lisa Samson, who I interviewed last week, both offered to do a giveaway. So . . . if you comment on my blog between now and Easter, your name will go into a drawing for one of their books!

Until Then,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copyjoy of letting go

The Joy of Letting Go is available now from:

Grandma’s Recipe

There’s something satisfying about being bonded through food to someone you love. Several years ago I happened upon a recipe for banana pudding in one of my cookbooks. It delighted me to see adjustments written next to it that said, “Grandma’s way.”

20160528_140939I started making the pudding. First it was a Fourth of July tradition, then the kids started asking for it more often. Pretty much every time I made it I thought about how happy it would make my sweet grandma to know her great-grandchildren loved one of her specialties.
Time passed. Our family is growing. Soon after our daughter, Sarah, married, I found out banana pudding is one of her husband’s favorites, and my making of the treat increased in20160517_153924 frequency. That’s why our youngest son’s girlfriend, Ariel, discovered it. It delighted me when I offered to bring it to her graduation party, and her eyes lit with pleasure.

Again, it’s that connection thing. My grandma loved people through food. The family even teased her that she had some kind of a disease that required her to keep people feed. She was a good-old-fashioned-homemade-simple-country-kind-of cook. Nothing was fancy. Everything was GOOD. And there was always PLENTY of it.

Now those who are part of us get a little of Grandma’s lovin’ through my cookin’. (Hear the southern click in? I am from Oklahoma originally.)

As a mom of three boys, I soon discovered there is something to the old adage that food is a way into a man’s heart. My husband loved it as I learned favorite recipes from his side of the family, too. Traditions have grown from that–like homemade cinnamon rolls to start a holiday morning (or just because it snows).

For the gluten-free set, I’ve found my mom’s apple crisp to be a hit. For birthdays it’s a toss-up whether the one celebrated wants the “famous” Moldenhauer chocolate cake, a recipe from Jerry’s mom, Fencine, or my famous banana cake, a recipe from my mom. (Then again, David still votes for banana pudding no matter what!) When I make Grandma’s chocolate gravy for breakfast, I make homemade biscuits from a recipe from my brother, Curtis.

Then there are my own discoveries. Like the “holly” (Challah) bread which I learned to make, in part, because it pleased my Jewish neighbor, Bernice. It was a childhood favorite for her back in New York. My daughter, Sarah still loves to braid the dough, something she’s delighted in since childhood.IMAG0704

My grandma was well-known for her pies. Sarah and I spent hours covered in flour when she was little. I showed her how to feel the dough to know how much flour was needed, and how to “work” it as little as possible to keep it flaky. She now claims to make better apple pies than I do. (Her brothers agree; her father doesn’t. Smart man.)

Isn’t it all about relationship? I love making food that triggers a memory of someone I love. Grandma, Fencine, and Bernice are now all with their Lord, but I love watching the new people in my circle of love as they connect to a circle of those who have passed on and left their recipes of love for me to share.

Now . . . for those of you on Facebook who requested the recipe, I share this family treasure. (For more on the step-by step process, visit this post, which doesn’t have ingredients, but does show pictures and further explain the process.)

Grandma Eunice’s Banana Pudding

In large serving bowl:

Layer vanilla wafers and bananas

Cream together in medium sauce pan:

1 C sugar, 2 eggs, 3 heaping T flour

Add the following and place on medium heat:

3 C whole milk

Stir pretty much constantly!

When pudding thickens and begins to boil, keep stirring and add:

1 t real vanilla, 2 T real butter

When butter is completely melted pour over wafers and bananas. Crumble some wafers on top and line round wafers around the sides if you want just ’cause it’s pretty.

(If you’re making this for Ariel, Sarah, or David, go for more cookies and less bananas. If you’re making it for Stephen, go lighter on the cookies and heavier on the bananas. Then again your special people might like it however you do!)

Confession: Grandma used margarine and imitation vanilla, but even the best recipes can use a little tweak. ;o)

My 2015 Christmas Miracle (Part 1)

SS CollectionToday I’m telling a secret.

Talk about biting the lower lip to keep the old trap shut! Now it’s finally time to share!

It started with a little tap-tap on the shoulder and grew into something more.

Unexpected.

Miraculous.

God’s majesty and provision is ever-present. But maybe sometimes He likes to show off for His kids in a really personal way.

Or maybe it’s not showing off. Maybe it’s simply LOVE.

Here’s the big news. It is totally a “God-thing.”

My latest book releases Christmas week!

Called Soul Scents~A Spiritual Journey in the Son’s Embrace, the devotional set offers 52 weeks of week-day devotions. The writing spans more than a decade of my discovery of a God Who is more graceful and loving than I ever dreamed. Meeting Him in this way truly changed my life, and I can’t begin to describe the joy I feel at sharing with others what He has shown me. Offering this series is like offering the most precious treasures of my heart.

God is not Who I once thought He was.

He is so much more and so much better than I ever dreamed.

His love has depths I’ve yet to plum and heights I’ve yet to climb. His grace is bafflingly beautiful. But what I have grasped is more than enough to re-shape my schemata of life. I pray Soul Scents is a tool the Lord uses to do the same for readers.

Each day this week I’ll share a tid-bit about the miraculous journey to Soul Scent’s Christmas release and why it’s the project of my heart.PMApprov1-01

Watch for details on the first book in the series, Soul Scents: Awaken, which releases Christmas week offering devotions for the first 13 weeks of 2016.

One of the things I’m especially excited about is Amazon’s Kindle program which will allow us to offer the digital version on periodic free days. What a wonderful way to get the word out about Who He is and the love and passion He has for us!

Two *Free* days will be scheduled for Christmas week so readers can begin the spiritual journey with Soul Scents the very first day of 2016.

I can’t wait to shout from the roof tops (or at least the blogoshere) how God orchestrated what I’m calling my Christmas miracle. Tomorrow’s post goes way back to the beginning!

Marriage Reflections

20140704_205157-1No disrespect intended to those couples who say the best years of marriage were when they had nothing but love, staring into each others eyes in that first, tiny apartment, only peanut butter and jelly in the cupboard, but as I celebrate 26 years of marriage I’m thinkin’ the best years are yet to come.

After all, as love grows so does joy. And if those bare cabinet days don’t separate, they bind. Tight.

Reflections are strange sometimes. There is much good to celebrate today–and I do–but I find my musings today have taken an unexpected twist.

I’m thinking of what we DIDN’T do instead of what we did.

In those years of lack and hardship we didn’t blame each other.

When one of us struggled–with life, faith, forward movement–we didn’t give up on each other.

When people came against us, throwing conflict and discontent into relationships we didn’t allow them to divide us.

When grief sometimes silenced one of us, even immobilized for a time, we didn’t push each other to get over it.

When there were problems we didn’t ignore them. We also didn’t rush the fixing process.

When one of us succeeded we didn’t get jealous.

When life grew hard we didn’t look for greener pastures.

When opportunities came for a spouse we didn’t hold them back. We also didn’t let opportunities rob us of our priorities for each other and the children.

We didn’t compare our jobs or roles or claim we worked harder than the other.

We didn’t expect the other person to be our only person. We also didn’t expect love to grow between us without giving it a lot of attention.

We didn’t assume the other person made hurtful choices out of a desire to hurt.

We didn’t set unrealistic expectations of each other.

We didn’t do any of the above perfectly. And, perhaps most important, we didn’t expect each other to.

Early on my sweet Jerry taught me the value of trusting each other’s heart. When I was (much) less than perfect in my efforts to love him, or when I struggled with choices he often told me, “Honey, I trust your heart.”

Over the years I learned that if we had that core belief–that the other person always, at the heart level, wanted the best, we could weather a lot of stuff. Mistakes became simply mistakes instead of a premeditated attempt to wound. Conversations became about understanding perspective instead of assuming conflict and duking it out.

I (eventually) discovered that I often let my anger grow toward my husband not because I was truly upset but because once I got hurt I imagined what he was thinking or feeling toward me. As I made assumptions my anger and self-justification escalated. Soon a full-blown battle was raging inside of my head. When I learned to ask Jerry if he was actually thinking those things his look of shock taught me that I could imagine far more conflict and condemnation than he came up with on his own.

So, as I grew, I didn’t make assumptions about what he thought or felt. Instead, I trusted his heart and asked questions to clarify.

We’ve weathered a lot of stuff, my man and me. We’ve seen more joy than any couple edit j adn p 1 (2)deserves, and we’ve had more disappointment and pain than we ever wanted to experience or would invite again. But when I think back to early days I don’t long for something we’ve lost. What we had then has only grown and reshaped itself, not disappeared.

I’m sure there are things we DID do that helped our love mature, but I can’t help but believe it was the things we didn’t do that kept our marriage from self-sabotage.

And so it is maybe largely in part to the “didn’ts” that I can’t wait for the next year of marriage and the next and the next. I think since we didn’t give into blame on those empty cupboard days (and I’m not just talking finances here) that as our days are rich they will be richer. We won’t take the good for granted because we know the bad. And (I hope) we won’t let the bad send us as quickly to despair because we have walked hard days and come out on the other side together. Stronger.

One.

So it is with great gratitude I celebrate 26 years of NOT doing and wait in eager anticipation for the love and joy to come.