Marriage made in Heaven

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Steve and I had quite a beginning to our love story that you’ll want to read more about if you haven’t already, but here we’ll pick up where that part of our story left off.

Most folks would say we started off behind the eight-ball in our marriage. It’s hard to be deeply in love and not make unwise choices during a long engagement. We were grounded in our faith, and yet we still made some of those choices. We found out in June of 1980 that we were three, and on July 13 we walked the aisle in our tiny church in East Tampa and promised to love each other forever.

On our wedding day I was green with all-day sickness and Steve had the flu. We spent our three-day honeymoon unable to sleep too near each other, him burning up with fever and me with my face in a bucket. Thankfully we missed the memo that all these things were supposed to spell our doom as a couple. We loved each other, and we figured the “in sickness” part was just arriving a little early.

I was “Sixteen and Pregnant” before it was cool enough for a reality show. Truth is there was nothing cool about being a pregnant teenager. I watched my friends fall off like flies one by one, all but a tiny few who didn’t mind being seen with me. I resigned as band captain and left my beloved music program behind to finish the few classes I needed to finish school early. It was one of the loneliest times of my life with regard to friendship, but I will never forget how our parents and church family gathered around us and loved us through those early weeks and months.

Steve has always been my best friend. Because of that friendship rooted in our love for God, everything that has happened to us in life has happened to us, not between us. I really don’t know any other way to explain our relationship, or why we don’t argue, or why we don’t struggle in ways most people do. It isn’t that we never disagree; it’s that we approach everything as a matter of how we will work through it, not whether or not we will. We made a covenant on our wedding day that the D-word wasn’t even in our vocabulary, so we’ve simply lived our life together based in that safe place.

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Right Now

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I happened upon a blog post during a 30-day blogging challenge, and a short rabbit trail led me to Lisa Sonora’s blog/journal prompt “Right Now”. It’s simple, yet has somehow remained illusive over the years I’ve been writing and navigating writer’s block. It’s one of those moments when I feel like somebody opened the curtains and let sunlight stream into my usually dimly-lit room. Normally, I think light is overrated. Today, I like it.

Right now…I am listening to my daughter sing. Her voice rises and falls as she moves about the house, and I close my eyes for long moments just to feel it. Her voice has made me smile heart-deep for over twenty years now, and I could never imagine my life without it. Not long after she left for the dentist’s office this morning, I was startled awake by a dream where she was calling my name. I lay there chiding myself for worrying about her. She’s twenty! I sighed peacefully when she texted a few minutes later that she had safely arrived.

Right now, I am perusing photos of Mama. Aunt Vernell called yesterday and asked if I had a particular photo, and I said I would print it and send it to her. Talking to Aunt Vern is the closest thing to talking to Mama that can happen with her gone now almost ten years. Aunt Vern was the closest to Mama of all the sisters, and so much like her it’s hard to describe. I plan to call my beautiful aunt more often.

Right now, I am grateful for warmed-up leftover biscuits with butter and strawberry preserves. They remind me of my childhood, when Mama made them by hand in her big biscuit bowl. I have a wooden one of my own now, just the perfect size for a batch of dough that makes a dozen. I made homemade flour tortillas for the first time yesterday. I have some improving to do, but I’m optimistic. They made some pretty tasty grilled chicken fajitas for our little supper for three.

Right now I am watching the breeze sway the palm fronds just outside my office window. Muggs and her husband gave us a bird feeder for our anniversary and I’m hoping to put it up this evening in a location where it can be seen through both my office and the kitchen windows. The jays and cardinals have been swooping into the alcove often lately so I put a bowl of seed in the kitchen window sill, but the feeder will be easier for them to see.

Right now I feel grateful for these last few weeks of summer calm before school starts again, and I will be grateful when it does start and I get back into my study routine. The busyness fuels me, keeps me organized, makes me feel alive.

Right now I miss my husband and count the hours until he’s home again.

The Discipline of Gratitude {Slow Down Challenge Day 5}

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Today’s challenge is living gratefully.

Three years ago I would not have been quite so familiar with this concept. Or, maybe I should say I wasn’t as chummy with it. I’ve always been grateful for what I have, always lived life humbled by the blessings I’ve received, the gifts I have lived. Gratitude comes as naturally to me as breathing.

But it wasn’t until I encountered Ann Voskamp that I really came face to face with gratitude as a way of living every single moment, the way living gratefully truly seems to slow time down. And slowing time down is something we all long to do–some of us more than others, particularly as we age.

“How we act when the worst stuff happens is correlated to our deepest beliefs about ourself and the world.”
— Jeff Goins

The challenge for today is to say “Thank you” for everything, including the inconveniences and annoyances. And presumably Mr. Goins does not mean it the way I sometimes say it, like today when the guy wouldn’t let me merge onto the interstate and I said something to the effect of, “Oh, thank you ever so much for not letting me in. I mean, that would have been FAR TOO NICE!” Ahem. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that isn’t what he means.

Saying thank you to the growth that happens when we are made to wait isn’t natural. In fact, it’s pretty hard to do. I’m not usually inclined to be grateful for delays.

I don’t wait well.

But I can easily see how what I do in the waiting times can define me in some fashion. Kind of like how willingly I give to someone who can’t give back. It’s a test of character, a test I have failed far too often.

But Lord willing, with some studying I’ll get better at it.

Am I interruptible? {Slow Down Challenge Day 4}

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Yes, it’s a roll of tissue, and no matter how many times I move it, somehow it winds up in photos. So I’m letting it have its day, in hopes that it will leave me alone.
It could happen.

Sometimes I think I live life somewhere between parentheses. But anyway.

First, to address the one leftover challenge from yesterday: Pick a Task

  • Pick one task you need to accomplish; write it down. Empty the dishwasher
  • List all distractions that stand in your way. Cell phone, needing a drink, mind wandering, apathy
  • Share the list with one person who can hold you accountable. Retta
  • As you work, glance at your list and remind yourself what really matters.
  • Turn off your phone and/or silence other pieces of technology, while you do this task. See how much better your can concentrate when you focus.

What struck me during this challenge is how few distractions I have overall at this point in my life. Today I am completely alone, so there isn’t much to pull my attention from what I “should” be doing. Honestly, one of my biggest hurdles now is lack of motivation. Might have to get Lucy to poke me with a stick now and then.

Today’s Challenge: Let Go.

This includes welcoming, and planning for, interruptions.

If I’m completely honest (and I always try to be), I am guilty of getting annoyed by interruptions. For someone who is so creatively wired and happy-go-lucky, I can on occasion get my fip-flops in a frazzle when things pop up out of the blue (which is my favorite color, but I digress). This doesn’t happen often (the annoyance thing), but once in a while it still does. Today’s challenge spurs me to be more expectant and less wary of interruptions, to just roll with them as they pop up. I’m very much a roll-with-it kind of gal, so hopefully this won’t be terribly difficult.

Earlier this week a cousin posted about how annoying it was to have visitors show up unannounced. I admit this can be a pet peeve for me, too. It got me to thinking, though, why that annoys me. I know it isn’t because I don’t like company, or people, or socializing, or being hospitable. I think it’s more the lack of time to prepare, to make sure the house is tidy, to brush my hair and be dressed in something other than my Jamaican house dress, to make some coffee and have fresh muffins emerging from the oven. I just like to be ready. I’ve become rather fond of solitude, but I really do like hanging out with people.

I’ll be pondering all this today, home alone for most of the day until my family gets home.

And I’ll be on the lookout for interruptions to welcome.

“We don’t become who we’re supposed to be by checking off one more thing on the to-do list. The path to legacy comes to those who help others, who make time for interruptions. Those are the people we remember. And that’s the kind of person I want to be.” –Jeff Goins

Slowing Down {Days 1-3}

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My friend Retta encouraged me to join her in the Jeff Goins “Slow Down Challenge”. I gladly accepted.

I’m a couple of days behind, so I’ll combine Days 1-3 here.

Day 1 was Noticing.

One thing I noticed was a hawk just outside my office window, feet firmly pinning a small critter of unknown description to the ground beneath him. I could see movement but couldn’t see what he’d caught. I dashed for my camera, then had it poised to snap the picture through the window when he clutched his prize and took flight, too quickly for me to see what he was holding OR capture a picture. I guess some things just have to be savored in the moment and recalled in words rather than photos. We can’t always freeze the image, but we can still give it permanence in print.

Another notice was the sound of the air conditioner coming to life, blowing cool air against my neck and setting my baby hairs to dancing. I don’t often think about how grateful I am for air conditioning, but here in Florida life would be very different without it.

Since Day 1 would have been Monday and that happened to be the day I spent some leisurely time with my beautiful friend Retta, I want to mention her as one of my focused notices. There is something unique about my friendship with her that I keep trying to word, keep trying to even understand in my own mind, and every time I try to pin it down with words I come up short. I tried again on Monday and failed again. I am grateful that she doesn’t think I’m weird for my failures. No, Retta is one of the most patient and gentle souls I have ever known. Friends now for ten years, we only hugged for the first time in person a bit over two weeks ago. There is something almost ethereal about now having her living close by. I almost feel like I’m afraid to touch the trail of pixie dust, fearful it might suddenly blow away and leave nothing behind. But she and I have talked about walking together in a better direction–walking in light and hope instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Too many days have been wasted in both of our lives to waste even one more waiting for something awful to rob us of the beauty of this life. And if we get to share it, I want to celebrate that for the gift it is.

Day 2 was Savoring.

“Because sometimes our biggest frustrations turn into our most beautiful moments.”

In response to this challenge I sit back in my chair and listen. I don’t watch much TV in general, and to be honest my usual response to hearing the TV playing is mild annoyance at the intrusion into my hearing space. This time, though, I listen with my heart. It’s a football game tonight, and the truth is football games on TV have historically been one of my favorite things in the world. Daddy and I used to watch it together, and I’ve watched with my family all through these years of our life together, these years of my husband and me raising four boys and a daughter, all of whom totally dig football. These thoughts make me smile soul-deep and I savor the moment to the sound of NFL theme music and all the memories that flood in.

Day 3 is Addressing  the Myth of Multitasking.

First off, I’ve always thought multitasking was a good thing. You know, something the most efficient among us do with pizzazz. I mean, multitasking seems like the only way to survive this life of motherhood and wifing and home management, right? How can it not be a good thing?

In theory I can see how doing too many things at once dilutes the focus on any one of them. I suppose I do understand that each thing I set myself to doing is worth my full focus at the time. Kind of makes me wonder why I didn’t think of that before. Probably because I was doing too many things at once.

I’m pondering the task assignment for today and will work on that tomorrow since it takes a bit of pre-planning. Stay tuned for more on that in the next post.

All these thoughts of slowing down are reminding me once again of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and how gratitude slows time down. I always love reminders of Ann’s beautiful message.

Tonight I will be doing further thinking and soul-searching in regard to things God has been whispering to my heart. Friendship is figuring prominently in my thoughts lately, so it’s likely that will be at the forefront.

“Busyness robs us of the gift right in front of us.” –Jeff Goins

April’s NaPoWriMo – {One I might stand a chance with}

writerApril is National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). The Novel Writing one kicked my butt and left me in the dust, but I might have a fighting chance with this one.

It could happen.

Anyway, here’s one for today.

April

April dawns, both cruel and kind
Brings both love and loss to mind
Twice come times to mark the day
Two sons gave their hearts away
One day holds the memory of
A flower we will always love
That mid-day will see tears and joy
When waves goodbye our baby boy
April goes and blows a kiss
Till it returns a year from this
Grateful, its return we’ll greet 
With mem’ries fond and bittersweet

Lessons being learned {iFocus Holy Week Challenge}

is53I forgot to take my Bible with me when I went out yesterday. Twice. Yep, that’s twice in the same day.

Which makes me ever more grateful for a few things: grace, a chill disposition, and a sense of humor.

What’s funny is the lessons I’m learning from keeping the challenge and from flubbing it up.

First off, I’m all the more grateful for apps like YouVersion and GloBible. The value of such advances in technology can’t (and shouldn’t) be ignored. No need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I’m also more keenly aware of the presence of my Bible in general, which I consider a good thing. It just sharpens the love and awareness I already had and makes me love it more.

Two more days. I wonder what other whispers I will hear from this challenge.

The Word, ever close at hand {iFocus Challenge}

iFocus2I love having my Bible open all the time, set on a little tray table to my right while I sit at my desk. It is a fitting place for something to which I refer often throughout the day. It’s also close to where my phone sits, and they are buddies this week.

Earlier today I set my iPhone wallpaper to the photo of my Bible. It wears it well. My penguin bookmark, a gift from a sweet little friend five years ago, marks the passage I am studying along with the Good Morning Girls. Today we talked about God going above and beyond in His provision for us. Does He ever.

This morning I was desperate for rescue. More so than I even realized. I didn’t mean to break down, but it happened and maybe it wasn’t a bad thing. Tears always provide great release.

Where I felt I needed rescue, God knew I needed more than that. He sent renewal in the most treasured way, through a most beautiful friend. I spent the remainder of the day working on a Vision Board while I worked on laundry and cooked dinner.

Where there is no vision, people perish. I am grateful for those in my life who are unwilling to allow me to perish, who breathe vision and hope into my life in ways I can’t quite describe. I only pray for the ability to weave that into a gift I can in turn give away.

Renewing a natural attachment to the Word {iFocus Challenge}

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I’ve been in love with God’s Word for much of my life. I got to thinking about something today, though, and it was a bit sobering. The times when I have loved His Word most, held it close to my heart wanting to never let go, was when I was in the deepest pain.

It happened when we lost our baby daughter in 1990. The Word became my lifeline. I poured myself into my Bible and poured its words into me like I couldn’t get enough. Because I couldn’t get enough.

Heather died in April and a few weeks later on Mother’s Day Steve bought me a beautiful peach-tinted study Bible. I carried it with me everywhere. I still have it, worn and water-damaged and highlighted and notated and frayed. The only reason I’m not still using it nearly exclusively is because some of the pages are permanently stuck together from an unfortunate flooding accident a couple of years ago. I won’t part with it, though. There’s plenty between those tattered peach covers that I can still read.

iFocus – My personal Holy Week challenge

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Not long ago a Facebook meme caught my eye. It said:

What if we treated our Bibles like we treat our cell phones?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to kids as gifts?

What if we used it as we traveled?

What if we used it in case of an emergency?

What if we upgraded it to get the latest version?

This is something to make you go…hmmm…where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t ever have to worry about our bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill!

I made an “ouch” face and scrolled past. But I couldn’t get that thought out of my head for anything. What if? And how am I even wondering about this? Why can’t I just smile and say, “Oh, believe me, I prize my Bible far above my cell phone!”

Because my actions don’t support that.

Not long ago I got almost all the way to my destination only to realize I had left my iPhone at home. I’m ashamed to confess that it dampened my whole evening. I wish I could say that was the only time that has happened. I’d like to say it’s because I hate being without that connection to my kids, but that is only part of the truth. The rest of it is I am just plain attached to my phone.

Our church’s message theme over the past few weeks has been “Focus”. Well, God has been bringing His Word into my central focus in a big way.

In the days that followed my first encounter that with that meme, God began planting a seed in my heart that bloomed into a challenge I have termed iFocus.

Here’s the challenge I set for myself.

For this week, Holy Week 2013, my iPhone will be attached (so to speak) to my Bible.

Where my phone goes, my Bible goes.
When I consult my phone (for anything), I consult my Bible (for something significant).
I will be blogging my thoughts on the challenge throughout the week.

Interestingly, I am starting a new Good Morning Girls Bible study tomorrow. Coincidence? Doubtful.

So here we go. Already today I’ve been studying from my Hebrew/Greek Keyword Study Bible on living a quiet and tranquil life of dignity. It’s just what I needed, but I imagine God knew that.