Joy (Take 2)

I am in a second marriage.  I was widowed in 2005.  In 2015, I married my dearest friend who had been divorced for a few years.  He was also a good friend to my late husband.  We now have a blended family with five kids:  the oldest is 28 and the youngest is 18.  They’ve know each other through the years as they grew up in church together.

Marriage the 2nd time around is familiar and different all at the same time.

I married Terry in 1987.  We were in our late 20’s.  We thought we knew everything.  We did everything together, even grocery shopping.  Having lived on my own for 5 years, it took a bit of adjustment to have someone there all of the time.  But, we adjusted to life together in our little one bedroom apartment.  We learned to love together.  We learned to disagree with each other.  We learned to give up expectations and live for today.  We learned to parent together.  We grew together in our love of family and our love of God.  And then, he was gone.  I mourned the loss of my best friend, my husband, and my dreams for many years.

I’ve never understood when I hear negative comments about marriage.  I was told once after Terry died,  that I was lucky I didn’t have to put up with a man any longer.  (I definitely didn’t agree!)  I’ve listened to comments about the “poor saps” that were getting married soon and how foolish they were.  I couldn’t comprehend “out-growing” my husband and moving on to greener pastures.  How do you out-grow someone with whom you are growing daily?  Couples that lived very separate lives always mystified me.    Terry and I had our own careers.  And, we were sometimes separated due to traveling for work.  But, I talked to him every night regardless of our locations.  While I might enjoy a day or two of being able to “do my own thing”, I counted the days until we were both home together again.  And, I think he did too.   Anytime Terry and I were in the same room, people knew we were together.  He was my husband and I was his wife. I wanted every person around us to know that.  I was proud to be married to him.   Life wasn’t easy.  We struggled with finances and work options.  There were extended family issues that affected our little family.  In later years, there were health issues to consider.  But, we had committed to God and to each other to see it through until the end.  We were together!

I married Tim in 2015.  Being married in our 50’s is an experience.  We both brought our own baggage into our marriage.  We’ve endured the buying, remodeling and selling of a home,  the buying and remodeling of another home, unemployment and the resulting financial problems, legal issues, the start-up our own business, joining a new church and just learning to be married to each other.  We’ve both had to stop filtering every comment and action through our previous life experiences.  I’m still working on my own insecurities and finding my place in our life together and with our children in this new family model.

There are always challenges in blending families.  Regardless of the age of the children in a blended family there are issues.   Jealousy about who likes who better.  Protectiveness of “my mom” or “my dad”.  While we strive to build new family traditions, there is pain as the old traditions are changed or even replaced.  Each child has different expectations for family life.  There have been tears and complaints, hurt feelings and joy since our marriage.   I expect that to continue as we grow together.

I adore being married to Tim.  At the same time, there are times that I still mourn for Terry and the things I miss sharing with him: our son, Zac’s wedding, the birth of Zac’s son, Gracie’s graduation from college and the purchase of her first home,  etc.  I also walk into unknown territory as a step-mom:  Where do I fit?  How involved is too involved?

The joys far out-weigh the trials.  Maybe because I’ve endured the loss of a husband, I truly treasure my time with Tim.  My views haven’t really changed.  I still believe marriage is for a life-time.  I still believe that we are to “become one” in every way. There is no “out-growing” each other.    I still believe in unconditional love.  I believe I have been incredibly blessed to find such a deep and abiding love the 2nd time around.  I still get butterflies when I hear his voice.  I still count the days, the hours and the minutes when we are separated.  To walk into a room holding my husband’s hand, is still one of the greatest thrills for me.  I can find the happiness we all say we want, because of the joy and peace that I have in my marriage today.

I am so glad I was given a chance at joy the second time around.

Eagles

Life can be interesting. It is often a conundrum. We seek peace and calm and then complain of boredom. We look for fulfillment in our spouses and our children while blaming them for the bumps and difficulties that we face. We look for happiness in every moment, but destroy opportunities for joy along the way.

Humans are supposed to be at the top of “the ladder.” We are above all of the animals. We have opposable thumbs. We think and have the freedom to make choices about our lives. We control our own destiny. At least, that’s what we like to believe. And yet, when I watch a pair of eagles work on their nest and raise their chicks, I have to wonder. Are we really better? Eagles mate for life. Occasionally, a young female will attempt to steal the nest and the male from a pair. But, that doesn’t happen often or very successfully. The claws come out (quite literally) and the fight ensues. The established female will fight to the death to protect her nest, her chicks and her partner. Why are we humans not willing to fight to protect what we have? Why is it so easy to just walk away?

I’ve not been in the situation where my spouse walked away. My husband died. There were no second chances. During our marriage we fought. We fought with each other. We fought to stay together. We fought to raise our children. There were many times that I would not describe as “happy.” But, we had a life-long commitment to work through the bad times. We were willing to fight for our marriage and our family. I guess that’s why I love to watch the eagle-cams on the internet. I can relate to the pair of eagles as they work together to protect and nurture their family.

I was blessed with a good marriage to a Godly man. For eighteen years, we worked at keeping our family together. We laughed and cried together. We faced fears and illnesses. We coped with extended family issues. There were times that we both entertained the idea of walking away. But, the promises that we made to each other were real. We were together until “death do we part.” We were committed. And all too soon, he was gone. No do overs.  There were no more options for us. As a result, I don’t have any tolerance for the common excuses for breaking marriage vows: “I deserve to be happy” or “We’ve just grown apart.” No one deserves to be happy. You choose to be happy. You choose to grow together.

Now, I’m engaged. After 9 ½ years of widowhood, I’m planning a new life with another wonderful, Godly man. And, honestly, I am scared to death! I’m also extremely happy and blessed. As we make plans to blend our lives and our families, I am so excited about what the future holds. I never dreamed that I would get a second chance at love, a second chance to build a marriage and a new life. I know there will be challenges. We are not in our twenties. We have children (and a grandchild) and all the baggage that comes with a more mature life. We have dealt with death and divorce in our past marriages and as a result we face trust and security issues. But, we are committed to building a strong marriage on Godly standards. We will face life together and weather the storms that come.

During the ice and snow storms last winter, there was a video released of a bald-eagle sitting on its nest, covered in snow. At first, it was hard to see anything but the snow. Only the eagle’s beak was uncovered. Then the snow began to move. The eagle emerged from under the covering of snow and tossed it aside with its strong wings. While inspecting the eggs that were protected from the cold, the partner eagle flew down and brought food and relief. They were a team. That’s the marriage that I want to build. Again. No matter what problems seem to cover us up, we will be together. No matter what storms approach, internally or externally, we will stand against them together, supporting each other. When one partner is covered up, the other will be there with the support that is necessary and needed. No one walks away, grateful for the happiness but seeking the joy that comes from a marriage established with God as the center.

This year will be exciting, happy, stressful, scary, fun and joyful. And that’s what makes life so interesting: the Ups and the Downs. Strap yourself in, it’s going to be a ride to remember!

“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NIV 

A Resolution to Eliminate Gossip

Gossip. We know it’s bad. We’re told not to do it. But, what is gossip? Gossip is defined as: ” casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” The Biblical definition goes a bit further: “The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it.” All of that sounds really distasteful. So, why is gossip so hard to avoid?

Maybe, we just don’t realize we are participating in gossip. And, often, it’s just too interesting, too tantalizing not to share information. It’s common in Christian circles to thinly disguise gossip as “prayer requests.” There is nothing wrong with asking for prayer for yourself or for others, but the information shared should be kept to an absolute minimum. Peter Vajda identifies gossip as a form of workplace violence, noting that it is “essentially a form of attack.” If I portray myself as a kind and truthful person, gossip would be the anti-thesis of that, right?

Gossip is distinguished from sharing information in two ways:
1. Intent. Gossipers often have the goal of building themselves up by making others look bad and exalting themselves as some kind of repositories of knowledge.
2. The type of information shared. Gossipers speak of the faults and failings of others, or reveal potentially embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval. Even if they mean no harm, it is still gossip.

How do I avoid participating in gossip? I need to consider everything BEFORE I share information with others. Would I share details about another person if they were standing next to me? Would the person(s) involved be hurt by what I’m sharing? Is it really necessary to give ALL of the details? Why do I WANT to share this information? Am I trying to justify my own actions? And, if I’m on the receiving end of a conversation, I need to ask the same questions. Many times, the simplest way to stop the sharing of gossip is to STOP listening. Even sympathetic listening can encourage gossip. I must learn to draw lines, to differentiate between constructive conversations and idle talk. I must learn to walk away from unhealthy talk and habits, for my own wellbeing as well as for those in my community.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phillipians 4:8 NIV

If

If Band-Aids and kisses could fix all of your hurts and wounds , I would keep an endless supply.

If I had the power, I would flatten all the hills, grind up the rocks and fill in all the ruts that litter your landscape in life.

Given the chance, I would fill your life with rainbows and butterflies and all the beautiful things in this world.

But, band aids aren’t meant to repair anything. And, kisses are temporary. It’s the scars from battling life that give us courage.

It’s from the mountaintop that the view is the best. It’s from the glorious heights that we can see what we have accomplished and begin to see what is ahead. Conquering the rocks and ruts builds strength and endurance and prepares us for the long journeys to come. 

Even the most beautiful things can become ordinary. It’s in life’s struggles that we learn to appreciate the gifts we see everyday.

So I’ll watch as you climb the next mountain and negotiate the obstacles in your way. I’ll pray for guidance, peace and healing when things seem too hard. I’ll be there when you need a shoulder or a helping hand. And when those moments of beauty come, breathe deeply, laugh long and hard, and live life fully and completely.

The brightest rainbow may be just over the next mountain.

Fear, Failure & Other Silliness

I have NOT done lots of things in my life because I didn’t want to:
a) look silly
b) fail
c) get hurt
d) lose
e) admit I was afraid
f) ask for help
g) all of the above

In school, I didn’t try out for anything unless I was fairly certain I would succeed. I avoided any activities that might be above my current capabilities. I didn’t want to fall and maybe be hurt. If I did take a risk and then I fell, I NEVER tried again. (It’s amazing I learned to ride a bicycle!) I stuck with the things I could do best and pretended I didn’t care about the rest of it.

As I matured, I learned that there were times when taking the risk was worth it. It was okay to try and to fail. I actually found that I could excel at looking silly and survive! I’ll never be a champion skater (or even very good for that matter!), but I can say that I tried. And fell. Many, many times. On a few occasions, I’ve been forced to face my fear of heights and bugs and snakes and telephones and have lived to tell about it even if I still get a bit nauseated at the memories.

One area in which I continue to struggle and grow in is developing true relationships. I’ve never had a problem meeting people. I can be friendly and even helpful. But, when it comes to really allowing another person past my personal fire-wall, that’s a different story. Because behind this facade is a person that fears the risk of transparency. You may discover that I’m actually silly or shallow. I may not be able to live up to your expectations. What if you don’t like me or find me annoying? Will you stick around if I admit that I’m afraid or that I desperately need your help? What will I do if you let me down? And those fears have tried to rob me of the joy of truly knowing and loving others.

There are no guarantees. Some people have come into my life for a specific time and now our lives follow different paths. There are people who I have loved and mourned when they were unwilling or unable to return that love. And then there are the people who are so deeply and richly ingrained in my life and memories that even time and distance cannot break the bond. I’ve had my heart broken and bruised through the years. There have been times that I promised God and myself that I would NEVER allow anyone the opportunity to hurt me that deeply ever again. But, as the pain subsides and the new normal becomes more familiar, I know that I need to step out of my safe zone. And, I’m so glad I haven’t given up on loving and caring about others. For all the tears and pain, I’ve also experienced so much love and joy.

If I had waited until love was safe and hassle-free, I would never have married. If we had waited until everything was perfect in our lives and in our world to have children, I wouldn’t have Zachary & Gracie. If I wait until there is no risk of being hurt before I love and care about others, I’ll live a very lonely, empty life. If I only live the parts of my life that come with guarantees, I’ll never know what it is to live life fully. Every day, I ask God for guidance and wisdom and protection. And every day, He reminds me that I am loved.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

Different

This year, Easter was different. I sang the same songs. I worshipped in the same places. And, I was with the same people. But, it was different.

For the first time, I focused on preparing for Easter. I started an Easter devotional book on Ash Wednesday. I spent time thinking about the events that led up to the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. I studied the betrayals of Judas and of Peter. I compared thoughts about death and suffering and living and joy. I thought about confession and forgiveness. And, maybe for the first time, I recognized the great love that I have been given.

This year, I saw the connection between the Seder meal and the gift of my Lord.
This year, I left the Good Friday service wishing I could go directly to Resurrection Sunday.
This year, Saturday was a day to contemplate the silence of God.
This year, I couldn’t sleep while I waited the arrival of Easter and a time to Celebrate the Resurrection of my Savior.
This year, my heart overflowed with praise and thankfulness.
This year, I was different.

This year was different. And I don’t ever want to go back.

Winter Does End

Spring has officially arrived. After months of blah winter, we are entering SPRING! We love to talk about the seasons. Usually, lamenting the current and looking forward to the future. And it’s the same with the various stages of life. We can’t wait to get to the “next” point and too often we miss the best parts of where we are.

Spring. The word itself makes me think of bouncing. Spring is excitement, joy and everything new. The trees are putting on new green growth. The flowers are starting to bloom. The clothes are lighter and just feel more FUN. We do spring cleaning and move into this new season with a bounce in our step. In life, the spring season may be a new love, a new job, a new family member. Everything is new and exciting and still to be explored. And, we just can’t wait for summer to arrive.

Summer. Sun. Vacation. Play. Rest. Summer is FREEDOM. Time to enjoy life and take a break from the hum-drum of the normal routine. It’s a time to look at the beauty that spring provided even as the leaves turn from bright green to a darker more somber shade. School is out and camps are in full swing. Vacations are full speed ahead and we wear ourselves out relaxing. And, summer brings heat. And, we complain. We don’t like the heat. We don’t want to be hot. We just want to have fun. We want to go back to the joy and newness of spring. And we forget to enjoy the summer moments. We look forward to fall.

Fall. Crisp autumn air brings a welcome coolness after the heat of summer. The trees begin to lose their green and turn to yellow, orange and red and finally brown. The pink and red hibiscus of summer are replaced with the yellow and purple of the fall pansies. We pull out the heavier clothing and prepare to bundle up. I think fall is my favorite season. It’s a time to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. Many activities in the fall are preparation for endings, but we celebrate those endings with bright colors and lots of fanfare. Fall is the time of looking back and reflecting and remembering as we enter the winter season.

Winter. Words to describe winter are cold, dead, bleak, gray. Winter is a time of death, a time of struggling to protect what was. We look for protection. We wear heavy coats and keep doors and windows shut. We hurry from place to place to avoid winter. In many ways, we just exist while we are looking forward to the spring. Just as ice and snow can sometimes cover the landscape, I can feel encased and frozen in my personal season. It’s during winter that we prepare for growth. Winter is vital. I have a rosebush in my front yard that I grew from a cutting from a bush at my parents house. The first three or four years that I had this little rosebush I protected it from winter. I covered it in when it was too cold to keep it warm and protect it from freezing. I had no roses. One year I didn’t cover it and let it freeze. It was full of the most beautiful roses in the spring. That rosebush has to freeze to produce roses. It’s important to go thru a full winter cycle in order to bloom. In our lives we have to go through winter. We have to “just exist” for a time in order to fully bloom when spring returns.

Every season in life is important. We need the newness of spring, the full heat of summer, the changes of fall and the barrenness of winter. And, we must learn to live and I mean REALLY live in each season. If we are always looking for the “new and exciting” in life, how can we find the joy that is available to us in the comfort of the ever-changing but familiar parts of life. Instead of dreading the heat that comes with maturing and facing life, maybe it would be better to embrace the challenges as opportunities to grow. I’m not a fan of change, but there is no way to avoid the changes that will come into my life. I have to be able to celebrate the past and move forward. And, during those times that I feel frozen, unnecessary or maybe a little dead inside, I need to embrace the time to be dormant and to rebuild. I don’t just exist in a shell as a faint memory of what once was. The harder the winter, the more beautiful the blooms that will come in the spring.