Tag Archives: love

Ok . . . Just a Note About that Last Author

Maybe I’ll share just one thing about the author in A Bouquet of Brides who I chose not to introduce this week: me. You know plenty about me already, right? And my writing journey has been so entwined with several of the authors in this collection, that you got bits of my story as I talked about them. But I want to share one more thing. This:

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Why that picture?

Because God sent these angels to hold me together on my writing journey, to walk with me into greater personal freedom, and to cheer me on in my calling.

It’s my prayer group, and we’re beginning our 7th year of meeting regularly. We call ourselves the Council of Kings. We believe that God has a destiny and a kingdom for each of us. (Not just in this group. For you too.)

I love you Deb, Kathy, Margie, and Jill. As I move forward in the writing and speaking the Lord is calling me to do, I’m grateful for the support God has given me by His Spirit and through loved ones.

Which means I need to add one more picture. It’s not easy having a writer for a wife or mom. She can get really distracted and disappear for hours. Her income is sporadic. Her tears come often. But these special people fill my heart with joy even on the hard days.

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Until Next time,

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Leaving Training Wheels Behind

It’s discouraging riding with training wheels again.

But that’s how we saw it, learning to live from a new paradigm.

Even if the new thing is something that sounds easy, like learning to live as one who is ALREADY LOVED instead of as one EARNING LOVE.

A friend and I talked about that today.

She read me her beautiful post On the Flip Side of Suffering, and we sat in my living room, sipping decaf and asking why it is so hard to simply BE. To simply RECEIVE love.

Especially God’s love.

It’s like we believe He loves us enough to save us from hell, then we’re supposed to earn His love from there on out. If we perform well enough, work hard enough, serve others often enough. Then we’ll deserve another measured dose of love.

Only love doesn’t work that way.

Love is freely given, no hooks, or it’s not really love.

We love because He first loved us.

God who IS love initiates the love cycle.

Once I experience love, then I can give it.

A book I’m reading says to approach God from the position of being “BELOVED.”

I know this. It’s not brand new theology. I seek daily to practice this paradigm I discovered several years ago.

I approach God as His BELOVED. I expect acceptance. I expect conversation. I expect joy and all those good things that happen when two people who adore each other hang out.

Unfortunately sometimes the old paradigm creeps into my live. I forget God WANTS to love me. Be with me. Bless me.

So my friend and I talked about training wheels even in this. Even in resting in grace, learning to be loved, it was hard, learning something new.

Then the Lord suggested we see it differently.

That we get off the bike and into the boat.

Learning to live as the beloved looks more like this:

1 rr

Found this photo on this wedding photography site

 

We look in His face and let Him row the boat.

1 r

From the Notebook

We journey as the beloved, enjoying the scenery, trusting He knows the way.

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

PS Tomorrow I’ll share my friend’s post, On the Flip Side of Suffering, in its entirety. It is lengthy but SO worth the read. You’re not going to want to miss it!

Romantic Movie Quotes

Special thanks to Robin Jones Gunn, a wonderful author whose books have often encouraged me. I loved her Valentine’s blog so much that I asked for permission to share it.  Consider it our Valentine’s gift to you.
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You know that feeling that comes when you’re watching a favorite movie and the hero delivers a line that makes you sigh? Here are a few that get me every time. You too?

“My heart is and always will be, yours.”  (Sense and Sensibility)

“You had me at hello.” (Jerry McGuire)

“I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.” (The Last of the Mohicans)

 

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Ahhh, love! What is it that resonates so deeply in our hearts when we hear those lines? Why do the words feel tenderly familiar as if we thought we heard, or hoped we heard them spoken once before?

I have a theory about that.

 

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I believe the romantic lines that melt our hearts are an echo of declarations whispered over us before we were born. Those expressions of eternal affection were spoken by the Relentless Lover and continue to echo in our souls. Deep calls to deep and our hearts long to respond.

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See if you agree with my theory when you look at the list of movie lines followed by what God said in His love letter to us.

“My heart is, and always will be, yours.”  (Sense and Sensibility)

“I have redeemed you. I have called your name. You are mine.” Isaiah 43:2

 

“I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.” (Pride and Prejudice)

“I will be with you . . . I will not fail you or abandon you.” Joshua 1:5

 

“I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.” (The Last of The Mohicans)

“I want them back, every last one who bears my name, every man, woman, and child whom I created for my glory.” Isaiah 43:6

 

“I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.” (The Notebook)

“You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.”  Isaiah 43:4

 

“I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.” (The Fellowship of the Rings)

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3

 

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”  (Casablanca)

“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

 

“I promise I’ll come back for you. I promise I’ll never leave you.” (The English Patient)

“God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

 

“You had me at hello.” (Jerry McGuire)

“You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.” Psalm 139:16

 

Kinda’ cool, huh?

The only way I can think of responding to such extravagant love that has been lavished upon us by the true Prince of Peace is to say to Him,

 

“As you wish.” (The Princess Bride)

“I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:39

 

From Genesis to Revelations, the Bible is sprinkled with love notes from God to us.  I’ve prepared a list of those “Valentines” from our Bridegroom and titled it, “What God Says About You”. You can find the list in chapter 2 of a book I co-authored with Alyssa Joy Bethke titled, Spoken For.

I’ve also made the list available for FREE in my Online Shop. Click here to download it today as a Valentine from me to you with much love.

 

That Circle Thing

flowersYou can’t give to someone else what you don’t have.

I think about that a lot.

Especially when it comes to the most important things in life, like love, grace, joy, hope . . .

And especially when it comes to the most important people in life, like hubby, kids, best friends.

My journey around this concept began around the idea of grace. I had a really hard time accepting grace. It was always so much easier to see my flaws than my goodness, especially in mothering. It took some pretty hard stuff for me to come to the end of myself and begin to receive grace.

It’s amazing when you forgive yourself how much easier it is to forgive others.

It’s crazy how when you receive grace, love, and all those beautiful things how much easier it is to share them.

In my weird life process I think it ought to be a clue. When I’m easily irritated or quick to blame or judgmental am I blocking that circle of love and grace that flows from Him to me and out of me and back to Him? (I hope I can learn to slow down and ask instead of letting the negative build.)

That’s part of the season I am in right now–trying to separate appropriate empty nest grief from anger with myself for not being able to move on more quickly. Seeking to discern what irritation is perimenopausal hormones and what is connected to something else.

As I process this stuff I am sent back to foundational thinking. Where am I putting pressure on myself that God hasn’t? (That always causes the steam to build inside.) Where is there a legitimate issue I need to work through, and where do I simply need to take more focused time to rest in Love?

Sometimes I think we get so focused on fixing (ourselves and others) that we forget LOVE.

And isn’t that where the deep healing happens?

Until Next Time,

paula cropped

A Matter of Perspective

20150130_100222Twisted.

Then untangled.

A matter of perspective.

It started with last weekend’s home improvement project. We’re building a deck. Not being particularly good at that sort of thing we hired a guy who was willing to do the skilled labor but charge less if we did the grunt work.

So we’ve dug holes and screwed down flooring while he frames. The 25 square foot concrete slab fell to our part of the bargain, and it was finally warm enough to do it. Having no clue as to what we were doing, we went to the experts on YouTube. After perusing a few videos we dug in.

ALL day.

Jerry built a frame. I carried bag after bag of 60 pound concrete. (Thankfully our teenager made a brief appearance home long enough to carry about a third of those bags.) Hubby and I took turns stirring, working until our muscles had to have a break, then giving the other person a turn. Neither of us particularly like this sort of work but what makes these projects worse is that we have no confidence in our ability to do them well.

Still, there was a sort of satisfaction at sweating together and seeing something useful take shape before our eyes. I was even a little bit proud of myself.

We ran out of daylight before the project was finished, and my poor husband had some pain that meant he was done. The finishing of our concrete slab fell to me.

In the dark.

I did my best to use the edger like the guy on the video had done. Then I took an old broom and went across the top so it wouldn’t be slick when it dried. I had very little understanding of how it was supposed to be done and couldn’t see very well in the weak light of the porch light, but I did what I could.

Then I drew a heart in the concrete. It’s silly, maybe, but I wanted to put Jerry and my initials in it. We’d done it together, a labor of love. It wasn’t going to be perfect, but it was ours. I couldn’t get the lettering to look decent, so I decided a heart would suffice.

The deck guy inspected our work a few days later. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If you’d paid for it I’d tell you to get your money back. It’s not entirely level, and the broom lines are too deep. Still, it’ll hold your stairs, and it’s okay for two people who don’t know what they are doing.”

As I shared his statement with a friend my voice caught. The joy of doing something for ourselves was overshadowed by its imperfections. An attitude of poverty washed over me. Even when we tried to do something new and nice it was substandard.

My friend prayed. As she prayed a new perspective emerged. “Oh, Paula,” she said. “God is proud of you! He loves your concrete slab. He’s not judging it on some predetermined standard. He’s delighting in it because you made it! Just as you would celebrate your child’s artwork and hang it on your refrigerator without comparing it to learned artists, He celebrates what you have created.”

And the joy rushed back.

Gone was the twisted, tangled emotions of disappointment. I again felt the pride of using my own two hands, feeling my aching back and muscles. I embraced the camaraderie of working alongside my husband, partners in improving the little plot of land that is our own.

concrete heartMy thoughts flashed back to my grandparents’ home. Established during the depression they did as many country folk did in their day. They built small, with their own two hands. Added rooms as they could. Poured the concrete for their sidewalk. The broom marks there had their own unique homemade pattern, and I thought they were wonderful. I adored their home because it was love and family and ours.

The 25 square foot block by my garage door may not be as pretty as if we’d paid a professional, but if a professional had done it I wouldn’t remember spending the day shoulder to shoulder with my husband. There’s something about the struggle and the sweat that makes that space a little more ours.

That heart I scratched into the concrete says it all.

 

Another Foot on the Bedrock

It happened years ago, so poignant I remember where I was driving–turning east, a corner from my house when it hit me.

He loves me.hearts

And it is enough.

Oh sure, there have been times it doesn’t feel like enough. Times I’ve stomped my childish size eleven and questioned. Times I’ve looked elsewhere for affirmation.

But this new paradigm, that HIS love was enough to survive–even thrive–on this planet, stayed with me. It carried me. Healed me.

And yet here I sit, years later, blogging about it to remind myself.

I need this truth.

A few nights ago, determined to get words onto a screen I typed a vulnerable post about my struggle to write. A friend’s comment grounded me, and I remembered my Audience of One.

Then Paul said, “You are not simply a writer. Not simply a mother. Not simply anything. Not even simply Paula. You are a unique, complex, multi-layered loved and loving individual. You need do nothing to carry on being that unique treasure. You are that unique treasure. You are surrounded by love . . . Always. When the writing flow flows, then the writing flow flows. You will always be you. You are always you.”

The first time I read over his words I didn’t get it. So I prayed. Read again more slowly. Asked God what tugged at my heart.

It was love.

Yes, much of my struggle to write has simply been empty nest grief and transitions. It was okay to give myself some space as I worked into this new season of my life. But beneath all that something else sneaked in, hampering my forward momentum.

Now that the schedule is opening so I can more fully pursue my dreams, the pressure has been subtly building, the pressure that said I must perform. And how.

When I NEED to perform, fear slips in that I can’t. Memories of disappointment and rejection hint at failure.

Paul’s words reminded me that I am me. Whether or not I write. Whether or not I perform. None of that affects the core.

Because of Love.

I am loved by the King of the universe.

Nothing can take that away.

Nothing can separate me from His love.

It is enough.

And strangely enough knowing this sets me free to be productive.

It’s a grand paradox. Letting go of the need to perform, stepping back onto the bedrock of love, I am secure enough that I embrace the desire to perform again. It is no longer threatening because it does not define me.

I am defined by love.

Love is my bedrock.

How about you? What defines you? Where is your bedrock?

Until next time,

paula cropped

 

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8, The Message)

For Fencine: Faithful Mom-in-Law

Sorry I’ve been so quiet. I told a friend it feels like all I’ve done since March is say goodbye: launch kids, weather long hospital stays that eventually end in burials, and clean out homes. Have done a lot of deep processing, but too raw yet for here. Instead, I want to share part of the eulogy I was asked to write and share last week for my sweet mom-in-law’s goodbye. I’ve taken out some specific names and facts–this is the Internet after all–but endeavored to leave the heart of what I shared. My hope is to honor the woman who gave me my husband and who loved her own so faithfully.

For Fencine:

IMAG0552Fencine  was born on March 3rd, 1925, in North Dakota. A twin, Fencine was the youngest of eight children, two brothers and 5 sisters. Raised on the family farm, originally homesteaded in North Dakota by Fencine’s dad and his brother who emigrated from Holland, Fencine often talked about the joy of growing up in a busy household where an older sister was assigned to each of the twins to help them as the family went about its chores.

As Fencine grew into womanhood she captured the attention of Ray, who heard about the sisters, who lived in a Dutch community north of him and were renowned for their singing abilities and godly character. Fencine, Fennie, and Catherine formed the Sacred Melodies Trio, and sang in churches throughout the area, as well as on several radio stations. Ray and his buddy Elmer began making trips to visit the twins. The German settlement didn’t appreciate two of their eligible bachelors traveling to those Dutch girls when there plenty of fine German girls available, but Ray and Elmer were not to be deterred.

Fencine said the foursome would take walks, and Fennie and Elmer would hold hands, but she wasn’t about to let Ray take hers! To keep him from trying she swung her hands back and forth as they strolled. But Ray didn’t give up on winning Fencine’s heart, and when he proposed, she said yes. Fencine’s father asked her to wait to marry until she was twenty-one. Always desirous of doing the right thing, she endeavored to honor her dad’s wishes—and scheduled the wedding for her twenty-first birthday.

Though she would have enjoyed an engagement ring, Fencine wanted to do everything she could to support Ray’s calling as a preacher. The community where Ray was raised didn’t believe in jewelry, so Fencine told him she didn’t need a ring if it would inhibit his ministry. Years later the family got her a mother’s ring, which she treasured. Fencine’s resolve to support Ray in his ministry was tested early on when her wedding day was postponed multiple times due to a successful evangelist tour that went longer than expected. Fencine never wavered, and these early sacrifices established a pattern in which she consistently put her husband and his ministry first.

Ray wasn’t sure if he should have children. He wanted nothing to hinder his calling as a pastor. But Catherine’s husband convinced Ray that raising children unto the Lord was also the calling of a Christian man. Soon the happy couple enjoyed the birth of four children. Together they poured love and faith over them, bringing them up with high standards, a determined work ethic, and a focus on God and church.

As a young mother Fencine’s faith held her through many days of caring for the children while Ray was traveling as an evangelist. She clung to God when Ray’s return home would be delayed by a longer-than-expected revival or a Canadian snow storm. Left with hungry children and little resources, there were times she pretended not to be hungry so the children had enough food, times when Fencine prayed one of the farmers in their church would think of them and share their eggs and milk, times when she turned on the vacuum cleaner hoping its noise would drown out her need to cry.

Along with these struggles and the typical pressures of a young mother and wife, Fencine weathered the extra pressure she felt as a pastor’s wife. Anyone who knows Fencine and her excellent, above-the-norm house-keeping skills will be surprised to know she weathered criticism as a young mother of four from some in the congregation who felt she didn’t keep things tidy enough. But Fencine persevered, always doing her best to raise her children well and support her husband’s ministry. She was never a complainer.

The family’s faith went beyond the church doors and into the daily fabric of family life. When their son almost died of spinal meningitis it was natural for the couple to invite their community of faith into their home and intercede for his life. Though only five-years-old at the time, he remembers hearing the passionate prayers of his parents and their friends asking God to heal him.

An excellent speller and grammarian, Fencine always edited Ray’s writing and sermon notes. She eventually served as a proofreader for her church’s denominational publication.

Ray and Fencine were always hospitable, reaching out to the church families. Fencine became known for her famous chocolate cake, which she prepared faithfully every Friday—along with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.

The couple moved often, from pastorate to pastorate, even after the children were grown and married. Ray and Fencine had a strong sense of family, and those who married into the clan were firmly welcomed. Their son-in-law, Larry, always appreciated the love and open welcome he and his children received. He was particularly blessed by Fencine’s Godly example. He said, “Fencine truly walks the talk as the saying goes. Until that point in my life I had not been close to or witnessed a person like her who studied the bible daily, had daily prayer, put worldly stuff aside and God first.  She definitely helped me gain a better understanding of what life is about, not through one-on-one teaching, but by her example.”

Fencine delighted in Ray’s “retirement” years when she was finally able to travel with him instead of holding down the home front. The couple based in a retirement community in California but flew throughout the United States and several neighboring countries on a special pass from Continental Airlines. Ray knew no barriers, racial or otherwise, and was well received into not only English speaking churches, but also into Spanish speaking congregations. Fencine would often provide support to the women in those churches, and she and Ray enjoyed doing marriage counseling as they traveled. During these years they also enjoyed touring Israel and later traveled with all the children and grandchildren for a vacation to Hawaii.

Fencine was rarely idle, always working hard. As a mother she wove relationship into the daily fabric of chores. If she visited in your home, she was right there, doing dishes or laundry or helping cook the meals. She was even known to clean when she babysat her grandchildren. Much to their chagrin she would clap her hands and say, “Let’s clean the house for Mommy!”

 

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Fencine is in the red jacket in the middle

Ray’s failing health eventually moved the couple closer to family. Ray and Fencine delighted in their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Highly competitive, Fencine was not the kind of grandma who let you win. She was ruthless at games. The grandchildren didn’t stand a chance at Uno or Frustration, and at eighty-years-old during a family Thanksgiving celebration, she soundly beat several grandsons in a game of horse. You should see her shoot a basketball!

After Ray’s death in 2001, Fencine worked for a time in an office. Not only was she admired for her strong work ethic and organizational skills, but the women she worked with were amazed at her agility. Though in her upper 70s she climbed stools or squatted on the ground as she did the filing. She is remembered in her small town as the woman who was daily seen getting her exercise, walking with perfect posture, erect and quick, swinging her arms at her side. When she couldn’t walk outside, she walked at the community center, finishing her exercise routine by using the stair-stepper. This continued into her 89th year. Even during her short stay at the nursing home during her last few months she wanted to walk. The staff mentioned that she would take grasp their arm for a walk down the hall, then take off at such a quick pace that they would be surprised and struggle to keep up. Many of Fencine’s children and grandchildren enjoy athletic ability and a competitive edge sure to be inherited from her.

Over the years Fencine offered many hand-written notes of affection to her family in the birthday cards she never failed to send. Fencine’s outlook on life was decided, and though a strong woman with strong opinions, she always supported her children and grandchildren as they made their own way in life. She was quick to offer advice on the best way to clean or cook or the right way to spell something, but also quick to learn from and offer support to her loved ones. Even when her own approach to life differed from that of her children or grandchildren, she found a way to appreciate the common ground. Her prayers for her children and grandchildren were consistent and treasured, and her unwavering faith and determination to do right was a solid example for all.

Fencine passage into an eternity with her God began on September 17, 2014.Fencine's service

Throughout her 89 years Fencine epitomized faithfulness to the God she loves and to her family. She weathered good times and bad with an unshakable belief that God was with her. In her years of health she was selfless, working hard to serve others. She stood beside her husband even when he spent long hours in ministry leaving her to shoulder much responsibility. She believed in him and the work he did and saw her sacrifices as her own offerings to her Savior. Fencine leaves behind a legacy of integrity, kindness, selflessness, loyalty, and faith.

She will be greatly missed.

Big Celebrations and Simple Pleasures

20140611_145401We wore our Hawaiian attire just ’cause we could. For a joke in a way. A celebration of the memories of 25 years of marriage.

We matched. We rejoiced in the fact our clothes from that trip 16 years ago fit. That life together had held many special moments.

We got a lot of stares. Of comments. A group of teens on their break stood smoking outside a restaurant and snickered.

I smiled and waved. “Hey! We have a good reason!” I bantered. “It’s our 25th wedding anniversary, and we’re wearing a memory.”

They cheered for us then.

I never knew what a conversation starter bright, out-of-date, Hawaiian attire could be.

Honestly, I was a little embarrassed by all the attention, but I’m glad we did it. It was like a shout to the world that marriage can be fun. Can last. That you can still play together after 25 years.20140611_230050

At Trader Joe’s the comments on our floral glory drew attention to our special day. They gave us flowers. We bought dark chocolate and wine, which we shared later that night.

It was a different kind of anniversary celebration for us. We weren’t able to get away for an overnight. We didn’t escape to traipse around in the mountains like we often do on special occasions.

We ran around town.

We shopped.

We ate out.

It wasn’t really very Jerry and Paula-ish. We’re not big shoppers.

But it was glorious.

I bought Jerry really good new shoes. He bought me silver jewelry. Yes, his gift was more romantic, but I swear those are the best tennis shoes my man has ever worn!

It was a joy to buy each other gifts. There were years we couldn’t.

20140611_193408After the hoopla we returned home to dress for dinner. I wasn’t quite up to making a matching spectacle at the nice Italian place we’d chosen. Besides, when I shopped for a dress to wear to Bernice’s memorial service I couldn’t believe how many dresses actually fit, and I bought a special one and saved it for this special day, hoping Jerry would like it. Would think I looked yummy in it and show it. ;o)

He did.

I’m still stunned I can find clothes I like so easily after all those years of hating everything, struggling to find something that fit, much less looked okay.

How foreign to like buying clothes again after my weight loss journey.

Weird.

And wonderful.

20140611_205508But back to our special day.

The beautiful dining experience that evening included live music and elegant food paired with a lovely wine.

Being the writer I am I people-watched in between those moments of staring deeply into my lover’s eyes. ;o)

Some people didn’t seem that happy. It was like it wasn’t special to  them to eat that good food, to stare at each other across the table, to enjoy a beautiful atmosphere and glass of good wine.

To them it was just another Friday night.

“If it ever gets to the point  that we do this all the time, and we suddenly realize it’s no longer special, let’s just stop,” I said.

Jerry agreed.

Life is too precious to blaze past beautiful moments.

I don’t ever want to take gifts for granted.

I hope I won’t.

Our normal is a meal at home, and these days there are less and less faces around that table, but every one who is there is precious and every meal we share a joy.

And oh the glory when those kids all come home and crowd around the table! Every time someone thanks me for the meal, every time we’re together like that I feel the gift of such a commonplace thing and think it extraordinary, even though it happens at some level pretty much weekly.

So maybe there’s hope that a special meal like the one on our anniversary night won’t lose the magic either, even if it becomes a new normal when the kids skitter away to build their own nests.

If it does, I hope I’ll quit going to nice restaurants.

Life is full of gifts.

Some are very simple. Like the aroma of freshly popped popcorn.

Some are extravagant, like four dresses in one day.

But all are there for the taking–a little notice, a little unwrapping, a little celebrating.

Until Next Time,

paula cropped

Instead of Hallmark–An Anniversary Card to My Man

I awoke to these words singing in my subconscious, then smiled, remembering how well Jerry has loved me, and that today we celebrate 25 years of marriage:

Now you’re my whole life1597648_10202467803671428_1674233776_o
Now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

As this date neared I thought of the times my dear husband had told me, wonder in his eyes, that while he thought he loved me the day we married, the love just keeps growing, and he doesn’t know how he can love me more, but it just keeps happening. And I remembered, the song “Then” recorded (and co-written) by Brad Paisley.

On Sunday we had some quiet moments while the kids were gone, and I played the ballad for him, suggesting we call it our anniversary song. He readily agreed. He was even a bit misty-eyed.

After cuddling while we listened to the song, we danced (very badly) to it right there in our living room.

Later, when I was alone, I took the original lyrics and played with them a bit:

I remember trying to wait while
You found your courage
You had me mesmerized
And on Fourth of July
In firecracker light
You finally decided to kiss goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet
I thought I loved you then

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1988

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

I remember Lake Tahoe Shore
Where you pledged to me your heart
Love in your blue eyes
Your voice the only sound
Showing me your care
And I said yes right then and there
And once again
I thought I loved you then

1989 wedding

1989 – I DO!

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

35319_100144653377668_6218392_n

I can just see you
Wrestling toddler’s in play
I can just see you
On our daughter’s wedding day
What I can’t see
Is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before

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2013 – Sarah and Dad

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

2013 Sarah's wedding

And I thought I loved you then

People say 25 years of committed marriage is an accomplishment, but to me it is simply a gift. I’m not saying we didn’t put effort into this because we did. I’m not saying there weren’t hard times because there were. But always there has been love. Never once have I doubted I was your beloved. Never once have I questioned my decision to choose you.

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1998 – Mom with the little ones, ages 1 – 7

Those early years I worried I couldn’t love you enough. You were so giving, had such a servant heart. I must have prayed Proverbs 31 most every night for the first five years of our marriage, asking God to show me how to  bring you “good and not evil all the days” of your life. When you loved unconditionally, serving me with all you were, I worried I was selfish, and begged God to help me love you as well as you loved me. To cleanse me of selfishness.

After four little ones in six years, giving and giving beyond what I thought I could give, I quit praying that prayer!

When I was overwhelmed by the demands of nursing babies, toddlers whose diapers rattled as they ran up and down the hall, and preschoolers begging for just one more story, you’d smile at me over the tops of their downy heads, and I’d know I would make it.

Sometimes 2 or more children would pile in bed between us. We’d wrap our long legs around their sides and touch toes beneath them. Remember each other.

Those early years were a lot about me. You taught me to stand tall in who I was, not worrying about people-pleasing and performing and being perfect. You showed unconditional love. All you needed me to be was me. And slowly my tension disappeared, and I grew to be at peace with myself. I learned to protect my heart so it could become the well-spring of life it was designed to be.

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2007 – Dad baptizes Sam

You weren’t the Bible-thumper with all the answers who checked off boxes with prescribed religious behavior. You lived your faith in love. You modeled gratitude to God and to me. (Every time one of the boys thanks me for dinner I am reminded that you taught them to notice and appreciate.)

No wonder our boys follow your example of loyalty and faith. No wonder our girl searched for a man with a heart like yours. Faithful. True. Both to God and his woman.

You were there for us.

Your quiet, steady leadership set the tone.

And as the kids grew you didn’t dictate religion or anything else. You asked them questions. Taught them to think for themselves. Expected them to forge their own journey with God rather than forcing them to look like you. You taught them to be real and dedicated.

And all of us grew.

There came a time it was my turn to be strong for you. Life hit hard: crashing, crushing hard. Your very life hung in the balance. After your heart surgery I crawled in right next to you in that hospital bed, laid my head upon your chest, and listened. Listened for a steady thumping. Knew I would never again take the sound of your beating heart for granted.

I prayed hard as you fought to come back to life in every way: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Sometimes you would get a far away look in your eyes, and I would know your brush with death had changed you forever.

Changed us forever.

We shared fun moments. Coach pitch baseball where Sarah drew pictures in the dirt and Seth circled home plate, determined never to be tagged. Climbing mountains, Stephen in the carrier on your back, Sam in mine. The “big” kids running ahead. The children kept growing. Forts in the back yard changed to baseball diamonds which grew into obstacle courses. You drove Seth to those 6 a.m. hockey practices, letting me sleep. We both cheered when he experienced success–MVP, top teams choosing him. We yelled for Sarah at gymnastic meets and tried not to be too proud when she won awards there and in speech and debate. We grinned like crazy when Sam and Stephen were All-star team players in baseball. Whatever the kids accomplished we celebrated.

And even in this you would whisper to me to grow and expand and write and become fully me, not just fully mom.

When the kids (or you or me) didn’t come out on top we bought ice-cream, listened to each other’s pain. Sometimes cried for them. For us.

It’s what families do.

Our baby girl grew up, and we danced at her sweet sixteen party.

2007 Sarah's 16

2007 – Sarah Turns 16

Then life became a whirlwind of letting go as all four reached milestones, stretching their wings and leaving the caterpillar behind.

Dating and graduations and even a wedding.

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2009 – Sarah graduates

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2011 – Seth graduates

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2014 – Stephen graduates

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2013 – Sarah and David Marry

2011 family pics

2011

And while life was so much about them, it was still about us.

You loved me.

Always.

Fat or skinny I was beautiful to you. You always said so.

You believed in me. Told me I was a writer. A speaker. A great mom.

The best wife.

And the years passed this way. You holding my hand. Taking walks with me. Kissing me in the kitchen to the moans of children who told us to “get a room.” Whisking me away when the chaos got too deep or the world too loud. Holding me in your arms and never letting me go.

If I ever finish this blog you’ll take me away again today. A few stolen moments for just two. We’ll stroll hand in hand, maybe listen to a little Brad Paisley as we drive to a restaurant, me wearing the new dress I bought just for this moment. It won’t be so much about what we do. It’ll be more about who we are together. We’ll talk about the kids, how our whole world is changing, but we’ll talk about us, too. How the more we change, the more we stay the same, only deeper. Deeper in love. Deeper in us.

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2014 – Us (and the kids) in our 25th year

Sweet, precious Jerry,

Thank you for marrying me.

All my love,

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Spirit Seeker Sunday ~

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Photo taken in the Rocky Mountains by Stephen Moldenhauer

Funny how something that sounds so simple can be such a profound journey. The first snippet of Scripture I learned as a child was probably, “God is love.” Yet my life journey is somehow about discovering that love, believing in that love, receiving that love, living from that love.

Sometimes I get it. Several years ago I was thinking through all kinds of worries, stresses, and questions. Then suddenly they all just vanished. I thought, “None of it really matters. All that really matters is God loves me. He LOVES me. I AM LOVED.”

The years since have included a lot of testing of that ideal. It’s too easy to get into the mindset Lysa TerKeurst pointed out in her book, the Made to Crave Devotional, “When I’m trying to be loved, I wonder why God would allow trials.”

Or what about this one: “When I am loved, I can cast all my anxiety on Him. When I’m trying to be loved, I cast all my anxiety on my performance.”

Living from a place of knowing, deep down, that I am loved changes my whole perspective on life. It builds my ability to trust God. It gives me hope in trials. It makes me stronger when I am tempted. It takes the churning of life and changes it to peace.

Let’s focus these thoughts on weight loss: When I’m trying to be loved I look to the scale or others for validation. When I’m trying to be loved I am hard on myself, angry with every step backwards. When I’m trying to be loved I am angry and fighting the food cravings, trying to fill a void. When I’m trying to be loved the weight loss journey is about my performance. I seek to prove myself to God, to others, to myself.

But when I’m loved I rest in love. The scale and other’s opinions can bring joy or frustration, but they don’t validate or invalidate me. I am already validated by HIS love. When I am loved I can forgive myself when I am not perfect and draw on love to do better next time. When I am loved I can eat for sustenance, not to fill an empty emotion. When I am loved I can lose weight to embrace God’s gifts, seeking to be all He created me to be. My sacrifices of calories or sugar or fatty foods can be offered in praise and done to honor Him, taking care of my body because it is loved and because it pleases Him when I value the body He gave me.

How About You? Can you think through one or two phrases that contrast When you’re trying to be loved with when you ARE loved?

When I live in Love I eat for sustenance, not to fill empty emotion