Upside Down Love

UPSIDE DOWN LOVE

John 3:16

You guys know this one. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

But, I wonder, do you know about John?

As I’ve studied more about the Bible, I’ve learned more about John. (I usually relate more to the disciple Peter—the one who spoke boldly, but then would waver and screw up—I totally relate to that.) But this John refers to himself as “the disciple who Jesus loved.”

Why don’t I relate to that more? Why don’t all of us relate to that more?

Love.

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Love and Marriage Engagement photo by Greenlight Photography

 

It’s the statue in Old Town Scottsdale that my fiancé and I took our engagement photos around.

It’s what we promised to do “until death do us part.”

It’s on the coffee mug that I bought for him on our three year anniversary.

And he loved that coffee mug.

So much so, that he uses it every day.

Little did I know that it couldn’t go in the dishwasher…and my husband is really busy in the morning: up at 4 am, out the door by 6 am, back home at 6 pm to grade papers. He’s a teacher, so he often doesn’t have time to wash the dishes in the sink.

And that irritates me. Every day.

I mean, how much effort does it take to wash that mug? Obviously, too much for him.

So, every day, that LOVE cup sits there and talks to me from the sink, “Remember that fight where you were wrong? And he forgave you even before you admitted you were wrong?” It urges, “WASH ME.”

Then there’s this other voice that speaks up, “JEEZ— it’s your day off—didn’t he even think you might want to do nothing today?”

Back and forth. Two opposing voices. One on each shoulder battling it out over LOVE inside me

But something is happening.

—-

“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10

I was walking and talking with a friend about an exquisite (and very expensive!) piece of art that she and her husband had both admired and then decided to “splurge” and to purchase. Having this piece for their very own would allow them to be enchanted by it on a daily basis. But it was like she had to justify it to me.

“It’s really spectacular. But beyond that, the artist is a genuinely nice guy. He has helped me when I was hurting, encouraged me when I was struggling, and he’s been there for me in so many ways,” she explained. “I love this piece we bought. It represents so much. I already loved it and because I know the creator of it, it makes me love it even more!”

—-

I have been struggling with some defensive, gossip-y, and often down-right mean individuals with whom I share an office building. There are times when I walk in the room and suddenly they hush up.  Hmm…

Other times, I’ve overheard the complaining and back-talking about others in the workplace and, yes, there are times when I get sucked into the talk.

It’s a slippery slope.

And once I get sucked in to the “conversation,” it is quite difficult to get out. Then I feel awful. I feel worse than I did when I believed it was me that was being talked about.  This back and forth struggle of opposing forces in the world…Where’s the LOVE?

But something is happening.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95: 4-5

I’ve been reading my Bible; studying the stories about the Creator of the universe.

“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” NIV Psalm 33:6. “The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed, and all the stars were born.”

It’s something to wrap your brain around—a Creator who can just exhale and out comes the Milky Way! And what’s cool is that the very same “star breathing” Creator also made you and me; breathing His breath into us as we are born.

And, as told to us beautifully by John, that same Creator loves us so much that he sent his one and only son, Jesus, to earth to show us what Love is.

The more I study, the more I read about this unconditional, faithful, immeasurable LOVE, the more I want of it!

John, the one who Jesus loved, tells us :

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”-John 15:13

And it gets even more crazy. This LOVE that Jesus teaches throughout the Bible in Luke 6:29 says, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

Hmmm…

And, ultimately, even more remarkable is the type of love discussed in Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

A true representation at the Cross: A love that died for the sinner that repented AND died for the one who didn’t.

The more I read, study, discover, ponder… something is happening to me

I think my friend hit on this when she so wisely observed, because I know the creator, it makes me love even more.

LOVE

On those days when I am exhausted and just want to do NOTHING, it urges me to not only wash the LOVE mug, but to do ALL the laundry, get to the grocery store, make lunches for the week and send him a text that I’m thinking of him and praying for his day…

But that’s my husband.

I can grasp the brotherly love; the parental type of love that would sacrifice one self for those you love. But to die for the ones who are asking for your shirt? Slapping your face? Betraying you? Disappointing you?

I’ve heard it said, “Those least deserving of our love, are the ones most needing of it.”

That’s upside down.

And yet, I am suddenly reminded of those times I listened to the “other voice.” The times I slid down the slippery slope and got involved in the gossip, and played a part in things that were UN-loving— No wonder I don’t associate myself as one who Jesus loved—do I deserve it?

“I am the thorn in your crown, but you love me anyway”-Sidewalk Prophets

And then I read about Jesus explaining why he took on flesh and came to the earth in Mathew, Mark and Luke–He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” 

Those, like me, who struggle with those two opposing forces. Those, like me and Peter, those who keep screwing up.

A Savior was sent because we need saving!

I read about Jesus’s last moments on earth- nestled between those two thieves, listening to their voices. Two souls in opposition fighting it out.

He reconciled it for the repentant sinner who listened to the voice of LOVE.

AND He reconciled it for the one who rejected Him.

Jesus did it for the Johns and for the Peters.

For those who are well and for the sick.

For the you’s and the me’s.

Willing to die for every last one of us.

As he exhaled his last breath on earth, He loved.

Oh how I wish I could love like that.

But something is happening to me—The more I experience my Creator’s mercy toward me, the more I am moved to extend it to those I’m struggling with. But not on my own. Without my Helper, that kind of forgiveness or tolerance is much too difficult. But with Him, I don’t have to do it alone—He who is in me is  much greater than me. He can do the things that I cannot.

I recall over my life, how my Creator has been there when I was hurting, I sense His LOVE and encouragement when I’m struggling, and I see His artwork all around me uplifting me and speaking to me in so many ways. I see it in my husband as he bears with me when I don’t wash his LOVE mug every day. And, as I allow my life to be turned upside down, He allows me to see the pain in those that have hurt me instead of myself.

As I learn more and more about the power of His LOVE, the more I Listen to the voice that says  “WASH ME.”

The more of Him (and less of me!), the more His Upside down kind of LOVE is available in me—To be poured out to a hurting world from my own Love cup.

I want to know Him more.

And then I found out about Peter. That disciple that I relate to the most.

“According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.”-Wikipedia

A love so impactful it cannot help but completely turn everything upside down.

I see how this Upside down Love, proven at the Cross, is poured out on the World from The Creator’s Love cup.

And this love, His work of art accomplished at the Cross, although very expensive, (priceless really,) is available for us all to have for FREE, to be enchanted by it every day.

That’s upside down.

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Christmas Cookies

“My sugar cookie tastes like peanut butter!” my hubs proclaimed as he chomped on the first tastes of the new year.

We had compiled a tin of all of our favorites Christmas cookies to enjoy on our return trip from spending the holiday in Colorado. Mom made all our favorites: sugar cookies, peanut butter marble whorls, peanut bars, lemon bars…

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Yet, once thrown all into the same container and left to sit for a day or two, all of them tasted like peanut butter!

I tested for myself 8)

I’m always amazed at how God speaks to us; through His creation, His church, the magnificence of a sunset, the brilliance of poetry, and…Christmas cookies.

I’m amazed at how my resolution to quit cussing is quickly washed away when I spend an hour or two in a traffic jam.

I’m appalled at my nightmares and thoughts after I watch a few horror movies and listen to some “angry music.”

When I watch enough late night tv, I simply want to eat burgers and go shopping for the latest …whatever!—This world has its temptations and can permeate into us so easily…

Yet,when we throw ourselves in with the love of family, time with friends, more enjoyment, laughter, memory making, joy, kindness, hope and– peanut butter; we tend to be more hopeful, enjoyable, and filled with the fragrance of love and laughter—it permeates and emanates.

“O be careful little eyes what you see…

O be careful little ears what you hear…

O be careful little hands what you do…

O be careful little feet where you go…

O be careful little mouth what you say…”

Recently, a good friend of mine stated, “I’m done wasting my time on people who aren’t okay with who they are. I want to spend more time with people who are at ease and know who they are!”

I get it. Those people can permeate into us and make us feel … well, we can feel less, feel guilt, and not feel okay.

Yet, sometimes these people are our co-workers, our friends, our family. So…what then?

I think God asks us to be the fragrance of change. Be the fragrance of forgiveness. Be the hope of things being okay.

He asks us to be the peanut butter.

May your 2016 be filled with the fragrances of gentleness, gratitude, hope, kindness and Christmas cookies.

Are you ready?

 

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Here we are: December 16th. Nine days away from Christmas!

“Are you ready?”

I’ve been hearing this question asked at the bank, at my work potluck, in line at the stores…It CRACKS me up!

Christmas comes the same time and date each year. Not like Easter, that one can mess you up. Christmas has been December 25th for about 2000 years. So, it’s not like we weren’t told about it in advance. How come people aren’t ready?

ANTICIPATION

One of the most tantalizing feelings this time of year is the anticipation leading up to this special day. I remember it well as a child.–The inability to get to sleep on December 24th. My heart beating so rapidly as the agonizing wait for 6 am (this was the absolute earliest my parents would allow for us to awake them!) and we had to bring them with us when we went downstairs to find out if all that “being good” in the weeks prior had put us on Santa’s NICE list —

SURPRISE-What did Santa bring you?

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Unfortunately, one of the biggest surprises this time of year is the VOID.

Some face the VOID of celebrating their first (or second, or third…) Christmas without their loved one.

For others there’s the VOID felt in the bank account, leaving nothing for gifts.

Amidst all the beautiful lights, wreath adorned doors, the hustle and bustle and gatherings, there are those for whom this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. 

I’ll never forget the surprise of my very first out of state Christmas working at Phoenix Police Department. I swallowed the lump in my throat after wishing “Merry Christmas” to family and friends far away as I clocked in for my overnight shift working the holiday. I fully expected the night to be filled with bookings from partying: DUI’s and noise violations from all the celebrating…

Surprise!

The most common arrests I saw that night were the domestic violence and family assaults.

Not everyone has a family they enjoy celebrating the holiday with. That Christmas felt like a “Reverse Grinch” moment happened to me as my heart cinched up and threatened to break.

My heart has these moments when I hear a parent threaten their overly rambunctious child, “Christmas is canceled this year!”

My heart breaks every Black Friday when I watch humanity crawl and punch their way to the front line for the door-busting deals.

My heart breaks when I see the VOID left in this world.

The only cure for this heart break and void is the VERY reason why I love this season and this time of the year.

No matter how dysfunctional your family may be, no matter how misbehaved your children are, no matter how empty your bank account is, you have available a reason to celebrate–the same reason the shepherds, three wise men and a young couple with nothing celebrated in a manger  2000 years ago.

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Every year, I picture Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special telling Charlie the TRUE meaning of Christmas:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

He came to heal the brokenhearted.  He fills the void. He is the very reason for the season. So, the real question is:

Are you ready for Him?

 

 

De-Light-Full

Heidi Rosner's "Pick me!"

Heidi Rosner’s “Pick me!”

“Life is full of light and shadow.

Oh the joy and oh the sorrow…

Oh the sorrow…”-David Crowder Band

I have a friend who is a very talented artist. A relative of mine had just met her and was exposed to her artwork at the Celebration of Fine Art.

She said to me, “Your neighbor is just delightful!”

I love that.

Delightful.

Don’t we need more of that in life?

And my artist friend is delightful. She says of her own art, “I paint happy.”

I love knowing the “heart behind the art.”

One of my favorite works of her art is a fabulous watercolor with these joyous sunflowers. I believe she titled it– “Pick me, Pick me!” It was her description of the process that has stuck with me.

It’s been years since she described it, but this is my recollection:

“It is one of my goals to capture the process. I paint to capture the movement of a flower lifting its head toward the light of the sun.”–Heidi Rosner

Nature reflecting life. Truly.

If you’ve ever received a bouquet of sunflowers or been in a field where they grow, you’ve felt the mass that makes up the flower—it is quite heavy! Then, when that bouquet is a few days old, and the neck of the flower grows weary, you’ve seen the head drop, as though it bears the weight of a thousand pounds.

Isn’t this how we feel at time? Burdened, carrying the weight of the world, downright exhausted, anything but happy.

Oh the sorrow…

Yet life is full of both, light and shadow.

Some are great at painting “happy” while others reflect more of the “shadows.”

What would you “paint?”

There are times in life where it’s difficult to look to the light; to find joy when your heart is sorrowful, to find the ease when everything in life feels toilsome. It’s just NOT a “Joel Osteen”-day.

We are all going to have stormy days. Dark times will come our way; some self-inflicted and some not.

“We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, felling our way like men without eyes.” Isaiah 59:9

We live in a broken, fallen world. Keep in mind, we’ve been warned, “In this world you will have trouble”—John 16:33

But there is hope.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

“He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light,” said Job. And he knew some pretty dark times. Job 12:22

I have this friend whose husband arrives to work before the dawn rises. Yet, every day, as she awakens from her empty bed at home and rises to get her coffee, she is greeted by his text message– he sends her a picture of the sunrise.  Every morning.

Sunrise from Bruce

Sunrise from Bruce

Not all of those texts are full of light. But he is faithful each day in doing this.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:23

There is something so mysteriously fabulous, so hope-filled in the dawn of a new day.

“Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence, Lord.”-Francesca Batistelli

“Your love, O Lord, is like the mighty mountains. Your faithfulness stretches to the sky.”-Third Day

Another sunrise from Bruce

Another sunrise from Bruce

Like each new dawn, God is faithful to us. When we stumble around in the dark, He is merciful. When life pitches us into some dark depths, He holds our heads in His hands.

As I have brought to the light the many areas that I stumble in, God is faithful to forgive, to love and to assist in healing those areas.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

My hope and prayer is that, regardless of what this broken and shadowy filled world can throw at you, in spite of circumstances filled with darkness that each moment you choose to look to the light, exposing your sorrows and places of darkness to the healing light of the Lord, that your weary heart finds new strength to persevere for another day.

And, as life imitates nature, that your heart and head are uplifted with the light of every new day.

Tomorrow, or the next day, or the next… May you take the time to witness God’s faithfulness stretch across the sky and may you have a moment to bask in the dawning palate of hope that lights a new day of de-light.

ANOTHER sunrise from Bruce

ANOTHER sunrise from Bruce

Smiley Miley, Rick Springfield and Letters from the Past

March 7, 2015-My lucky day!

March 7, 2015-My lucky day!

Smiley Miley, Rick Springfield and Letters from the Past—

“Dear younger me,

Where do I start?

If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far…”—Mercy Me

It is 1:00 a.m. on Saturday night. My new husband and I’ve not been up this late since our wedding night. 😉

I’ll bet you wouldn’t guess what it is we’re doing?! (Keep your mind out of the gutter.)

We are cleaning out the office.

Our work began at 7:30 a.m. that Saturday morning. We pulled every file folder, office supply, box of junk, memorabilia, photo and book out of the closet, off shelves and desks.

It was devastation.

DEVASTATION

DEVASTATION

I once read that your home environment can reflect and impact your internal environment.  So, in effect, cluttered house = cluttered brain. And with all the busy-ness in this last year (and in life in general!) my new husband and I, over the last four weekends, pick a room and dig in. (And later dig out!) We want to start our married life together uncluttered.

We–

Organize

Re-sort

PURGE

Clean…

The recycle container was filled by noon. (More evidence of my box-a holic recovery!)

AND the garbage is 80% full at this point in time.

Yet, while the rest of the nation is plummeted in this Siberian Cold Front, it’s a beautiful 75 degrees here in the valley of the sun. And we’re stuck inside, buried in clutter, old bank statements and boxes containing so many irreplaceable memories.

I sneeze from the dust– evidence of the time passed and lack of attention to these areas.

As I open and sort, I travel back in time. I find a picture of Kelly D. and me from one of those old photo booths at the Westminster mall arcade. We’re wearing our Ralph Lauren polo shirts with the collars turned up and have perfect banana curls and Farrah Fawcett-like feathered bangs. Then, I come upon the mountain of letters that Leenie and I wrote throughout our college experiences between KU to CU—easily a letter a week and 5-8 HANDWRITTEN pages each chronicling our journeys, boyfriends, struggles and victories. I guiltily look at my husband across the room working through his paperwork.  I set these aside. (And remind myself to get a locking safe!) 😉

“Dear younger me,

If I knew then what I know now

Condemnation would’ve had no power

My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth…”—Mercy Me

 I become paralyzed looking at the years the surrounding clutter represents: metal champagne flutes from my first marriage, a rock my father kept from a camping trip, letters from old boyfriends…

Holding on to the past can prohibit us from moving ahead.

“Dear younger me:

It’s not your fault

You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross…”–Mercy Me

I move those college letters to the pile to be ceremonially burned with Leenie next time we meet up.

In the very back of the closet, I come across a 4 x 5 x 3 ft box of items my mother cleaned out from my old childhood room long after I’d graduated college and moved out. I’ve never gone through it. I’m tempted to just purge it but something impels me to dig in.

Contained inside I find a treasure trove!

SMILEY MILEY!

SMILEY MILEY!

I rediscover my “ultimate roommate”—Smiley Miley, my old stuffed, grey mouse given to me at Christmas when I was six by my precious Grammy -may she rest in peace. Smiley attended college with me, was my co-camp counselor at my first lengthy stay away from Colorado, and he adorned every bed I slept in until marriage. (Notice his smile is gone!) I come across my old RECORDS-actual vinyl-Night Ranger, Prince, The Hot Ones… I delight at finding the complete ATARI set with all the cords and every one of the coolest games-Frogger, Pac Man, Qbert…AND THEN, a Relic of a more innocent time, taking me back to my first BFF, Jenny, and our first love– Rick Springfield!

Some things must be held on to.

I dig out other items of extreme value: a silver coin collection of my fathers, family photos from before he passed away. I look over at my newlywed husband.  I watched as he sorted his memorabilia. He kept the baby blanket his mother made, two boxes of photos and about half of his medals, trophies and letters. He reduced his boxes to one box.

ONE Box?!

Some things need to be purged, some items held on to will increase in their value, while other things we hold onto, their value may yet be determined. I flip through the now priceless photos of Marne’s mom before Alzheimer’s overtook her-I know these are newly valued to her and set them aside to keep for her.

Holding on to lessons and things of importance, yet not allowing the past to hold you back, to cloud and clutter your present—that is the goal.

This “sorting” requires discernment and making peace with some things.

At this point in our project, we take a break, decide to go for a run. I am engrossed in the memory lane that I have been on, I barely notice our journey, and I just follow my husband’s lead.

Along our route, he stops to pet each dog that the owners allow.  My heart is lifted by his joy and I take a moment to thank God for this person by my side.

On our last mile, my husband laughs and points out—“Funny…That sign says ‘Desert’ and points that way down the street,” He stretches both his arms out and looks around, “but it’s all around us!”

I sheepishly smile and begin soaking in what is all around me: the blooming agave, the chirping birds, and the family of quail running along the path, the puffy white clouds in the blue sky.

Returning to work, I am refreshed.

As I dig back into the “junk” of my past, I reflect on how these have impacted me and how they make me aware of areas I need to let go. I also remember the importance of salvaging and protecting the items of value –Smiley Miley, my Rick Springfield poster, a few select letters– Some things are worth holding on to, even without a dollar value associated to them.

Our project has been therapeutic—As we’ve worked together to relieve our closets, folders and space of the clutter of old, we make room for what the present  holds, to go forward into the future unhindered by old baggage, yet holding to the values and lessons and improving our vision to see what’s in front of and ahead of us.

“Dear younger me,

You are one of the redeemed

Set apart

A brand new heart

You are free indeed

Every mountain, every valley

Thru each heartache you will see

Every moment brings you closer

To who you were meant to be”—Mercy Me

When we let go of the past and allow others to help us sift through the clutter of our lives, or to bear some of the burdens our world stacks on us, it frees us, allowing us to grasp the new things God has for each of us.

Opportunities to love the person right beside you;

-To hug a neighbor in need;

-To share a smile with someone who desperately needs it;

-To encourage another who is on their last nerve;

To just be PRESENT: a witness to the magical palette of God’s beauty in a sunrise or a harvest moon on the horizon; the desert in bloom all around you.

Or, maybe even to spend a weekend with an old BFF reliving some of the past and creating some new, priceless memories…

RICKY signing that poster March 7, 2015!

RICKY signing that poster March 7, 2015!

(LIKE HAVING RICK SPRINGFIELD SIGN THAT POSTER!)

And since this room concludes our purge, the next project will be an all-nighter with my new husband–playing ATARI!

😉

Seriously, keep your mind out of the gutter.

Thou Shall Not…DRAFT?? (Lead me part 2)

Love and Marriage Engagement photo by Greenlight Photography

Love 
Engagement photo by Greenlight Photography

Being a child of divorce and seeing the havoc it wrecked on our family, I swore I wouldn’t do the whole “marriage thing” until I knew for sure…

So I waited to get married until I was 35. I was way past all those years of college, career choices, immaturity, and had a more seasoned view of life and what I wanted. I even married an “older man” to assure that I had made a choice for someone solid and grounded. I heard marriage was difficult and I had no illusions of that fact.

Yet, sometimes the best of intentions…

Hearing about something and EXPERIENCING that very thing are two totally different ways to learn.

Apparently I needed the EXPERIENCE.

That whole marriage thing is beyond hard. A beast. I had heard, but had no idea until I experienced it.

The best of intentions for my marriage ended in my very own divorce.

Sometimes life is like a box of chocolates?  No, I think life (and marriage) is more like a triathlon.

A challenging competition made for all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities. Whether it is the swim, bike or the run, we all have different parts we are better at. And, with all those transitions and outside factors, there is bound to be something that goes wrong.

You may have trained (or waited) for months, weeks, years, but no matter how hard or long you train, stuff of life happens—flat tires, falls, goggle malfunctions, a kick in the face during the swim, gears get tangled on your bike, wardrobe mishaps that end up rubbing you the wrong way, or maybe everything goes smoothly, but you just **BONK**

Let me set the stage. It’s just over a year ago. Summer blossoms and green trees surround us. I am now forty-something and seven lucky years of learning and life brings a second chance—a new opportunity for a great relationship with the very best of intentions.  We are newly engaged and enjoying the outdoor, Oregon weather at an amphitheater with some great friends, great wine, great music. I am holding hands with my fiancé and I look lovingly over at him.

“Aren’t they the cutest?”

We hear a voice behind us.

I glance back at where the voice was coming from and find two young ladies who look to be in their late 20’s. Their eyes are filled with envy and looking longingly at… (Not us!)– We follow their envious gaze toward what captured their attention. They happen to be admiring the love between our dear friends, with whom we are attending this concert.

It warms our hearts to watch these love-birds who truly are “the cutest!” Their love seems to overflow, not only to each other, as he pushes a strand of her blonde hair away from her eyes and while she stares into his eyes, but it overflows to everyone around them!
“Don’t they act like newlyweds?” I ask of the on-lookers from behind.

“Totally! They’re so cute. I never want to settle! I want that!” One of them oogles and nods again in our friend’s direction.

“They just celebrated their thirteenth anniversary. Three kids. And still so in love.” I tell them.

“Wow, so it can happen?” One of them asks.

We nod and look back our two friends, like we can somehow absorb some of the overflow.

I love to brag on these two who’ve been blessed with so much. I love to watch their love. I learn from them because I know what they’ve been through.

Life. And it hasn’t been a box of chocolates.

Thirteen (plus!) years of marriage—something is bound to happen! Ups and downs; victories, joys, concerts, family  time, transitions, malfunctions, mishaps, health scares, deaths in the family, betrayals, loss, words that can’t be taken back…

A great piece of advice my new fiancé and I received the night before we married came from some seasoned “love birds:”

My aunt and uncle (pulling from much experience) gave us this GEM that we pull out ALL THE TIME:

“At random times during the day or month, but at least once a month, say ‘I’m so glad I married you.’”

I got this when I came home after 2 weeks of my new marriage:

so glad I married you

Fast forward one year–

I’ve just returned to Arizona after a magical honeymoon and am ready for some girlfriend time!

Just two old friends meeting for lunch and I can hardly wait to see her. Her blond hair is now straight and longer, but every head turned and watched as she entered and joined me in a corner booth. We sit across from each other. Her smile hides something. Her shoulders are rigid, like they’ve been bearing something too long.  And, like old (and great) friends do, what troubles her doesn’t take long before it pours out of her heart, her eyes and her mouth.

“I’m sorry I’m unloading all of this on you.” She looks down at her hands fidgeting on the table. “I mean, here you are, just back from your honeymoon, and I’m dumping all this on you.”

“Well, the honeymoon IS over.” I laugh and wink at her, trying to lighten the tension that now radiates from her.

Her face is pinched with pain and discouragement weighs down the corners of her mouth, “Just wait until you’re married 14 years.”

She drops her hands and sighs, “It’s a cycle and we’re back in it.”

She has **BONKED**

“I get by with a little help from my friends…”—The Beatles

My new husband and I are no strangers to “the cycle.” We’ve each experienced divorce for ourselves and we don’t want to repeat it. EVER.  After reading this ground-breaking and insightful book-“LOVE & RESPECT” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, we could finally put a name to and understand what ailed our prior relationships: “The Cycle.”

In essence the cycle is:

from "Love and Respect" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

from “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

We desire to not repeat the mistakes of our past. So we read, we seek counseling, we tell each other, “I’m so glad I married you!” every week, we invite a power beyond ourselves into our marriage (God’s grace) and we try whatever we can to not get caught back up in “the cycle.” Yet, we know we can’t do this on our own. And when we are in the cycle (and it WILL happen—honestly it already did! ;)) we might just need some help to get out/off of it—

See the thing about this life is, like the triathlon, it’s a competition. You may at the start and swimming for your life, in the middle and pedaling your butt off, nearing the finish line and dragging your legs through the run, or you may be yelling your happy lungs out adding to the competition through your words of encouragement; we are all doing this together.

But this competition isn’t against who you think it is.

There is an opponent who is completely working against us. Our “competition” seeks to knock us down, keep us out of the race, hold us back from doing our best and trip us up. Our competition tells us we’re not good enough, fast enough, strong enough. Our opponent will laugh at us when we crash on the bike, will rub dirt in the road rash when we fall and will throw our missteps and down times back in our faces during the worst possible times.

The competition is NOT OUR SPOUSE, but it is the enemy to our spirit.

This enemy wants to steal good relationships and destroy them. (John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;”)

It is this enemy that seeks to keep couples IN the cycle.—Reminding us of harsh words, hurt feelings, or our own brokenness and destroy our relationships.

And if you’ve ever been in “the cycle,” you know how difficult it is to hop off.

merry-go-round from government auctions

Like the old school playgrounds where you are spinning on the old metal (and mental!)  merry-go-rounds (now considered too dangerous.) But when you’re spinning, you hold on for dear life because– if you let go, the centrifugal forces will whip you off, like a bullet from a gun, and who knows where you’ll land!

This cycle is not fun, and the journey of getting off of it is scary. The enemy tries really hard to keep you holding on (to the baggage, hurt, past, etc.), but the sooner you get off, the better!

And then there is HOPE.

When you’re in the competition of a triathlon, (and I have experienced this for myself!) nearly everyone cheers each other on! The abilities and age ranges are all staggered, so you don’t begin with who you are “competing against.” All throughout the event, from sidelines and from everyone in the event, people speak words of encouragement to one another and pull each other along.  There are husbands, wives, kids, parents and friends on the sidelines with all manner of signs and cowbells. It is awesome and inspiring to witness this.

It’s like everyone knows, “Hey, there is a lot that can go wrong out there, we need to stick together.”

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

And just as there are covenants and vows in marriage, there are rules and restrictions in triathlons. Some are common courtesy. Like during a pool swim, if someone taps your foot, you should allow them to pass. But breaking some rules (and vows!) will eliminate you from the competition.

For example, during the bike, a warning about DRAFTING—If you are caught “drafting” in the competition of a triathlon—you will be DISQUALIFIED. All that training, all that planning, the money spent, all for nothing if you DRAFT.

I’d heard this rule (and obeyed it), but I never totally understood it, until I experienced it.

“I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…”

—Sanctus Real lyrics to “Lead Me”

I am not a leader.

I’ve mentioned before, my new husband and I are in the midst of training for our first triathlon together.

He is a leader.

He commands a classroom of “kids these days” every day. He’s coached cross country and track. He is a runner–He qualified four times for the Boston Marathon (ran it twice) and completed three FULL Iron Man triathlons. He has oodles of knowledge and experience in these areas. And, even though I love a good “underdog story” and watching a great come-back, when you are the one (me) always coming from behind, it can be discouraging.

And, as he “goes before me” during all our training, he believes it pulls me along. It’s a difficult place to be—behind. No matter how hard I try to feel I can never catch up; not good enough to be side-by-side, just about enough for me to psychologically **BONK**

So, when we went for our first bike ride together, I was not surprised when he pulled ahead of me.

Miles go by, I keep pedaling. The gap is still there. I pedal harder and get closer. The gap remains. It would be easy for me to make him my competition and my enemy as I struggle and struggle.

But then I experienced something awesome. As I was fighting to stay close to him and keep up, I realized something…It was actually way easier to ride behind him.

Again, hearing about something and EXPERIENCING that very thing are two totally different ways to learn.drafting

From Wikipedia:  Drafting…is a technique where two vehicles or other moving objects are caused to align in a close group reducing the overall effect of drag…, as in motor racing and cycling, drafting can significantly reduce the paceline‘s average energy expenditure required to maintain a certain speed and can also slightly reduce the energy expenditure of the lead vehicle or object.

So, I experienced “drafting.” And now I love DRAFTING. BUT, get caught doing this during competition and you will be OUT.

As I glided along behind him, I breathed easier, I began to enjoy myself and then I witnessed just another reason I am so glad I married him.

As we continued on our ride, God bless his little “leading heart;” I watched from behind as he would point down every so often. And I realized he was pointing out the jumping cholla in our path, a large stone, and a pile of broken glass or a pot hole to avoid.

“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.” Isaiah 45:2

Drafting aside, I suddenly see more benefits of having a leader! Having someone to go before me—to watch out for us as we ride along and to point out road hazards that could very easily trip us up! It’s actually quite nice having someone to pull you along—(and, most likely, having someone to finish first so they can cheer you across the finish line!)

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”—The Beatles

And it was fourteen years ago, in a magnificent cathedral in Genesee, Colorado that I stood witness, cheering on my blonde friend as she swore her covenants to her partner.

Now, across the table from her, I see her competing against the enemy and I cheer her on from the sideline:

ME: “Remember that invisible force drew the two of you together when you first met and worked together?”

HER: “But that was a LOOOONG time ago.”

ME: “Remember the concert? That wasn’t that long ago. Remember how you felt that night, that whole trip?”

HER: “Yeah. But this last year has been tough.”

ME: “Remember when you discovered you had matching birthmarks? Figured you were soul mates?”

She laughs.
ME: “Remember how amazing he is with all the other residents at the Alzheimer’s care clinic every time you visit your mom?”

Her eyes fill up.

ME: “Remember how you felt on your wedding day in Genesee? The horse drawn carriage ride symbolically traveling across the bridge?”

Remember the vows?

“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

They wouldn’t have made us vow all those juxtapositions if they knew life wasn’t coming at us and going to hit us head on.

But we don’t have to do this on our own.

VOWS

A cord of three strands…

Ecclesiastes 4:12 “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Seek wisdom from those who’ve gone before you.

You may be the one asked to pull someone else along. It may be your significant other. It may be another couple. It may be someone you were asked to “stand up for” or even someone who you don’t feel qualified to speak wisdom to.  But sooner or later, it will happen. We all can “get by” with a little help from our friends…

And remember that centrifugal force on the merry-go-round that threatened to rip you off? There is a much more formidable force within each of us that empowers us to let go of our grasp in that cycle. There is a stronghold of love that resides within each of us that we can cling to when we’ve exhausted our own abilities. That invisible force that drew you to your spouse in the first place– That is the love that God placed in your hearts. That is love that knows difficulty. That is love that endures, sacrifices, and can pull you along when you think you cannot go another step.

We ALWAYS have ONE with whom we can draft.

He is FOR us. He seeks to restore our relationships and to heal the brokenhearted.

And for every couple out there who is stuck in the cycle–

Let go of the merry-go-round and hold fast to the hope we have in the One who shows us how to forgive (seven times seventy); to the One who shows us how to love (unconditionally); and the One who has gone before us and leads the way for us.

And remember this, unlike the triathlon, in marriage and life—there are absolutely NO RULES against DRAFTING!

Kids these days…

Frank A Clark from quoteswave.com

Frank A Clark from quoteswave.com

 

What if you had someone in your life who said to you, “You are the only thing that matters to me. I love you fiercely. I will never, never, never, NEVER give up on you. Ever.”

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”–1 Peter 4:8

Parenthood–

“That heart-swelling, earth-shattering, all-consuming love for your kids is what creates the challenges of parenting, yet make them all worthwhile. It’s the cause of your woes, yet also the cure. It’s the force that drives you to near-madness, yet the balm that soothes your battered heart. Love makes parenting tougher, but it also makes it easier.”—Annie Reneau from her blog “9 Reasons Why Parenting is the World’s Hardest Job” (For some encouragement and perspective, check out Annie at: www.facebook.com/motherhoodandmore and www.motherhoodandmore.com)

 

“I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes

They’re just children from the outside

I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine

They’re in independent But on the inside, I can hear them saying…”

–Sanctus Real lyrics to “Lead Me”

 

In a world where the names of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight bring to life every parent’s nightmare, where “Sandy Hook and Columbine” conjure up images of terror instead of learning and when “Century 21” is no longer a night at the movies; I cannot imagine how much more difficult, terrifying and crucial the job of a parent is these days.

It is 2 a.m. on a snowy, cold Colorado night…um…morning–

ME: Breathing heavy through my sniffles, “Mom, come pick me up.”

MOM: “Where are you? Are you okay?”

ME: “Come get me.” Sniffles turn to sobs, “It’s too–I can’t–I can’t do this anymore.”

Mom: “Calm down, honey. Deep breaths. Are you okay?”

ME: through sobs, “Yes..yes..I’m okay.”

MOM: “I’ll come get you, but why don’t you get a good night’s rest? If you feel the same in the morning, I will come get you.”

ME: Breathing a little calmer, “Promise?”

MOM: “Promise.”

–I was twenty and living away from home for the first time at the university located 30 long minutes away from home.;) The terrible visions I had branded in my mind as I walked in on “the situation” that night did not seem as devastating by the morning light.

Sometimes you must shake the dust off your shoes and move on. I learned this that night.

All the unsolicited advice, the tumbles I took as I learned to walk, the countless band-aids and “mom spit” rubbed on wounds and that heartbroken night I made the phone call, I needed to know I had someone who wouldn’t give up on me.

mother-daughter[1]

Even at age 20, I still needed my mom to “pick me up.”–And she still does.

I told her I hated her and never wanted to talk with her EVER again when she grounded me for my junior year of high school (which, in hindsight, I totally earned!) ;)—And yet, she loves me anyway.

Just last week, I received a care package from her.

 

These days parents are working in a culture counter to effective families, working in homes that are divided in divorce and preparing kids for schools that have a common procedures for “lock downs.”

Kids these days are making decisions in a world cluttered with collisions of faith and strewn with newer and more addictive drugs. Our youth are facing temptations in a society laced with violence, bullying and media outlets where it is all thrust before them 24/7.

I watch as friends and family who joyously embarked on the path of parenthood, begin to struggle, wrestle and battle with things as their children discover this big, awful, terrible, beautiful, tragic, magnificent world we live in.

I don’t believe I have the resilient heart required for that of a successful parent these days. – I stand at the sidelines of this nail-biting adventure and cheer you all on…

Because of these life threatening hazards in raising kids these days, there ought to be a warning label affixed to those darling newborn babies. I think it would read like this–

Surgeon General’s Warning to Parents:

May cause: sleepless nights, headaches, heartaches, nervousness, extreme worry, depression, discouragement, disappointment, anger, sudden bursts of uncontrollable rage; May interfere with: your work life, your social life, your home life, your relationships to all, your ability to get up in the morning, your immunity to all illnesses…

 

“They step on your toes when they are young…”

-Good thing babies are so cute and innocent, because…

“… they step on your heart when they get older.”

-And then one can so easily forget their innocence.

But love them anyway.

 

I can name several parents who’re wishing they had the warning label.

—I wonder, would they make a different choice??

If you are one of those brave souls on the path of a parent, warning label or not, your heart must be strong, your skin must be thick and you MUST lead them through the hazards of this life.

No matter the age, in spite who your child decides to hang out with, regardless of those hormones changing their personality, and no matter how much they say they hate you, your child will ALWAYS need you by their side and to be willing to “pick them up.”

lead me5-Sanctus Real “Lead Me”

 

They need you to be their advocate in a world that is overcrowded with newer, more dangerous, more lethal avenues of life. As they journey, their paths can lead into more harrowing repercussions; they know NOT where they may tread.

They need you to set boundaries. Let them know that there are choices that take them too far.

They need you to forgive them when they say they hate you; they know NOT what they say.

They need you to lead them; to go before them and show them the way.

“I will go before you… and level the mountains and smash down the city gates of brass and iron bars.”—Isaiah 45:2

And they will always need you to pick them up; for when they fall these days, they fall hard.

And parents, I pray you would be encouraged. For all who have chosen the pitfall-laden path of parenthood, may you always remember that there is One who has gone before you. The Sidewalk Prophets sing “Love Me Anyway” which is a song that paints a picture of God’s love for you:

“I am the thorn in Your crown

But You love me anyway

I am the sweat from Your brow

But You love me anyway

I am the nail in Your wrist

But You love me anyway

I am Judas’ kiss

But You love me anyway”

 

—May God strengthen you for this journey—for He goes before you and He is with you.

 

He loves us anyway.

He is the One who shows us how to forgive when it is counter culture.

He is the one who shines light into the dark places.

And He is the one who helps us to love when it seems much easier to give up.

And He will never, never, never, NEVER give up on you. Ever.

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

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