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.

Five Minute Friday – Grateful

Featured Five Minute Friday:
Here’s the deal. Five Minute Friday. You go find the little prompt at the wonderful Lisa-Jo’s blog, set the time and write for five minutes, and then just stop. Where you are, no edits, just publish raw words.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on the word:::

Grateful
GO

Some mornings, I look around and wonder if it’s really worth all of the hassle and effort. It would just be easier to stay in bed and hide from the world. I listen to that inner voice that keeps telling me that I’m not good enough or that I’m failing in some way. But, I’m reminded of the truth in Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” And, I remember.

I remember that no matter how sad I may feel at time, God is there to lift me up. He provides friends and encouragement. I don’t need to spend time thinking about what was or what will never be. God has my life planned. He has “eternal pleasures” for me.

I remember the gifts He has already given to me: a good (if too short) marriage, true and faithful friends that listen and encourage, beautiful kids that have joined with me to overcome the grief that death brings, a supportive and loving family. How can I doubt?

When life doesn’t go quite as planned (or even reasonable close for that matter), I am still grateful. Not always for the events in life, but definitely for the experiences, the learnings and the love.

I am grateful.

Memories

My mind floats back to days when life just seemed simpler:
Playing chase or hide-and-seek with the neighbors.
Hours of pretending the cellar door was a mountain that had to be conquered and then rolling down the gentle hill to start over again.
Taking turns being the “mother duck” and letting the real ducks follow us all over the yard.
Sitting in the back seat with my brother and cousin while our mothers would look for birds and being told to “Be quiet”. A lot.
Staying up late and then rushing to turn the TV off before the National Anthem was played and the test screen signaled the end of another day.
Climbing the antenna tower that held the TV antenna that provided all three television stations.
Trying to crawl under the house, only to chicken out because is was dark and spooky and just thinking about it made it hard to breath.
Walking along the creek and gathering cattails and wild flowers or running through the deep gully’s that were cut into the red dirt.
Gathering eggs in the evening with my grandmother or watching her scoop the cream off the top of the bucket of milk that Grandpa brought in after milking the cows.
Watching Grandpa “saucer” his coffee in the morning while eating hot biscuits with fresh churned butter.
Going to the lumber yard with Daddy to get a new jump ropes: one long enough to use with friends at school and one just long enough to jump alone.
Learning to jump rope and hula-hoop and climb the monkey bars and play kick-ball and twirl a baton with my friends at school.
Complaining about the pins when I had to try on new clothes my Mom was making for me.
Taking my sister to the swimming pool in the front basket on my bicycle.
The excitement of a birthday party.
Sitting on Granny’s front porch eating watermelon or Easter eggs or home-made ice cream.
Hours spent selecting and then playing with paper dolls cut out of the Sears, Montgomery Ward and Penney’s catalogues with my aunt.
Taking a cold drink on a hot day to my dad while he plowed the wheat fields and then getting to ride the tractor with him.
Early morning swimming lessons with Mr. Erwin in the COLD water of the City Pool.

I was always so eager to be older and to be an adult. Adulthood has its good points, but it also comes with LOTS of responsibilities. Enjoy today. You will never get it back.

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Five minute Friday – Encouragement

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on:::

Encouragement

My son is an athlete. Actually, a very good athlete. He was recruited to play football and to wrestle after high school. I watched him mature as an athlete and was amazed at how different coaches got different results from him. One coach was sure he had to break every kid down before he could build the athlete he wanted. The other coach saw the need to encourage my son and tell him how good he was and what he was capable of accomplishing. Coach O’Connell knew that the secret of success is encouragement. And my son won lots of medals because of him.

When I was in high school, my band director treated everyone of his band students as if they were state qualifiers. He spent as much time with the clarinet player with no rythmn as he did with the State bound flute player. There were students in his program that had never heard words of encouragement from any one. Mr. Streit was an encourager. And he produced an all state band from that little Texas town.

I have tried to incorporate those ideals of encouragement as I raised my own children and as I work with children and adults in my ministry areas. It’s so important to find the parts of our lives that God wants to use. When we think we are not good enough, God reminds us that He loved us enough to send His own son for ME. I need only to look up to see the encouragement of God’s love.

Gifts

I’m at an interesting place in my life. My kids are (mostly) grown so Christmas at our house is different, now. It doesn’t seem that many years ago that I scoured the store aisles for the elusive White Power Ranger or the perfect Cabbage patch doll. We would make a late night trip to Wal-greens to get those last few things to put in the stockings and stay up late to assemble and wrap gifts long after the children are asleep. Those times are in my past. I still look for that perfect Christmas gift for each of my kids, but some of the excitement is gone.

Now, my kids are asking ME what I want for Christmas. And, I have a hard time coming up with any ideas. I’d rather give gifts and see the smiles and enjoyment that get “stuff” for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like gifts. I prefer gifts from the heart that truly mean something to both parties. When Terry and I were first married, there wasn’t much money to spend on each other for Christmas. So, we agreed to spend only $25 each on stocking stuffers. We had so much fun that year trying to be creative and maybe a bit practical, that we continued the tradition in the following years. My grown children still get stuff in their stockings. My daughter has told me on more than one occasion that her Christmas stocking is the best part of Christmas.

I’ve accepted over the years that it’s not the biggest or most expensive gift that matters. The gifts that mean the most are those that speak the recipients love language. The one thing Terry gave me that I will always remember was ear plugs. Now most people wouldn’t be excited about foam ear plugs. But, Terry snored. Snored LOUDLY. That package of ear plugs meant he was really paying attention to me. He listened and understood when I spoke. He was speaking my primary love language of Quality Time with his gift. He also touched on my close 2nd love language: Words of Affirmation. When I opened the ear plugs he told me that I was important to him.

I am a gift giver. And I don’t always get the right gifts for others. But my prayer for 2014 is this: I will be more attuned to the love languages of those that I care about and I will meet their needs this year. That I will demonstrate it’s not all about the gifts. It’s about caring and sharing and loving the people with which God surrounds me.

Do you know your Love Language?

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Holidays

Holidays. Just say the word and for many of us it brings to mind parties and fun, trees and sparkly lights, decorating and packages, time with friends and family. But for some, it means bittersweet memories and tears, forced smiles and avoidance, noisy crowds and irritation. I talked to two different people today that mentioned difficult holiday emotions. For one, this is the first try at Thanksgiving and Christmas after losing a spouse. The other is facing the 3rd round of navigating the holiday season. Both are facing some difficult emotions.

The first holiday season after Terry died is a little blurry in my memories. Our loss was still just weeks old when we were faced with Thanksgiving. Christmas followed close behind while grief still had a stronghold on our lives. Thankfully, we were staying with a friend and spent the actual holidays with family, so decorating decisions were a non-issue. The following year we spent Thanksgiving in Oklahoma for a wrestling tournament. My only concession for Christmas decorations that year was a pre-lit, six inch tree.

In 2008, Gracie wanted to do Christmas right. I wasn’t sure how to face the memories, but I was determined to fulfill her request. I decided to stray from the traditional decor and go outside of the box. Every color my mother said wasn’t “Christmasy” was now on our tree. We bought pink, purple & lime green feather boas to use as garland. If it was hot pink, purple, orange or green, it was a decoration for our tree. We used flamingoes, glittered Santa’s and a few teddy bears from previous trees. The tree skirt was a hot pink sequined scarf. I even had two 4 foot tall stuffed flamingoes that stood guard. The only things banned from our tree was the traditional green and red. It was a new look at Christmas for us.

As the years have passed, more of the old ornaments from past years have been added. We make the cookies and peanut brittle and snacks that Terry loved. And we’ve added some new recipes. I’ve decided it’s okay to eat out for the holiday meals. Not having to worry about cooking the perfect meal relieved a lot of stress for all of us. We’ve kept a few things in our holiday traditions and added some new things. It works for us.

If you know someone that is facing the holiday season with more dread than joy, don’t avoid sharing your holiday excitement. Invite them to be a part of your holidays, whether it’s a party or a program at church or a cup of a special holiday coffee. And don’t be offended if your offers are refused. Keep offering. Because someday, they’ll be ready to share your excitement and joy. It will just look a little different on them.

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Five Minute Friday – Tree

Featured Five Minute Friday:
Here’s the deal. Five Minute Friday. You go find the little prompt at the wonderful Lisa-Jo’s blog, set the time and write for five minutes, and then just stop. Where you are, no edits, just publish raw words.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on the word:::

Tree

GO

Trees.  Strong and tall, steady and dependable. I grew up in North Central Texas.  There weren’t many trees in that area.  We had pecan, mulberry and a few others, but mostly we had mesquite and juniper bushes.  My heart still warms at the sight of a pasture full of red dirt breaks and mesquite bushes.  That’s home to me.  My dad’s favorite tree was a Crepe Myrtle.  His mother had planted it when he was a boy,  It grew to be over 10 feet tall and in the summer would be covered with beautiful hot pink flowers.  After Daddy had his stroke, he would sit in the back yard and look at that tree.  Whenever we would come into the back yard with him, he would point at it and say “Good, good, good!”

My family tree is made up of lots of different branches much like the mesquite.  Strong and protecting with broad limbs and those long thorns, the mesquite was vital to the survival of early settlers.  My family provides the roots and the strength that I need to survive.  My tree has also been grafted with beautiful crepe myrtle branches, the family of my heart. My heart family is precious and special and important.  They have been there when I didn’t know I needed them.  They love me often in spite of myself.  And I love them as one can only love family.  There aren’t many in my heart family and I treasure those that have taken hold in my life.  So when  I look at my family tree with its’ thorns and flowers,   I say “Good, good, good!”