My Valentine

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God is so gracious to me to bless me with the perfect man for me.  I have not always walked on the appreciative side of the relationship (not that it has always been a cake walk), but here are some of the reasons why I love my man.

why I love my husband

I love a guy who can take some great childhood examples and some bad ones, mix it all together and put it behind him, blazing his own trail.  My man may not have been taught by fatherly example all that is genteel, but he is willing to start new habits that serve me and the family even now, and that is just awesome!  He was taught many excellent “guy” things by his dad that raised him; and faithfulness, loyalty and much more by his mom.   God knows his back story, and his heart, and they both know mine.  His determination is sweet to me.  I am touched.

Love conquers

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I have a man who turned his life over to God early in our marriage and from that point on began putting God’s ways into all his decisions as best he could.  From taking up a whole new unchartered   lifestyle of serving Christ within a local body of believers, to shouldering our finances so I could be home and so much more,  he has been a principled man to the best of his ability.  I am grateful.

cord of three strands

I have a man who is not showy or a people pleaser, but has a heart of compassion.   He continues to strive to do what God would have him do in our family, in our church and with his job.  He has great business sense and skill and managed a small business for many years.   He has my respect.  And though we have had setbacks, times of evaluation and even putting things on hold, or laying them down entirely,  it is because my man will not go forward unsure that he should be somewhere out in front.  When he is confident where God wants him, he will be there, first quietly in his heart and eventually more.   I am impressed.

who my soul loves

I love responses and can get nearly panicky without some feedback of some sort within a reasonable amount of time when trying to communicate with someone.  (Type A personality?  Likely.  I come by it honestly.)   For the life of me, I can’t understand otherwise (not withstanding phone issues, meetings, busy schedules and the like).  Well, guess what?  That is just how my guy is, and he never lets me down (unless we’re in all out marital war – see below).  In fact, as my children can attest, if he can’t reach me, he starts going down the phone list of all of our children who may know where I am.  But that’s ok, cause we are a perfect fit.  :)   I never have to wonder where he’s at.  I have peace.

 glorify God

be the right person

Oh and about that marital war thing, it is rare, but it happens to most of us.  We have weathered some very stressful seasons and not always  proudly.  But by God’s grace, He get’s the glory because we did weather them and learn each time.  Here’s a quote from (In)courage writer,  Angela Nazworth on that subject, “Our marriage experienced illnesses that rattled our faith, emotional pain that rammed us to our knees and losses that ransacked our haven. Not only did life hit us with some unjust blows, we also dealt each other some unscrupulous punches. That’s what human beings sometimes do when life gets gritty. We mess up. We make mistakes. We get angry with each other. We cause unwarranted pain.  My marriage is not and has never been fair, but it is worth fighting for and it does hold beauty that cannot be denied.”   I would never even think of denying the beauty of it.  I am loved by my husband and by a love bigger than us.

two good forgivers

I love the fact that my man is self sacrificing.  With material things he has always put me ahead of him, and despite the fact that I may have less than many others, I rarely think about that, because I am a queen to my guy, and isn’t that what being a wife is all about?    (Well, not really, but it helps.)   We sometimes disagree about joint expenditures of money, (or whether he should throw caution to the wind and be impulsive on occasion like I might).  But at least I know IF he has an extra dime, he is generous with it.  Through the years  each time another child was on the way he chose to trust God for our needs, and I believe God honored him for that and blessed our income each time.  My guy has a generous heart.  I am indulged.

 

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                                 wise woman

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I enjoy a relationship that often reflects the joy I bring into it.  I sometimes don’t feel like being cheery or on top of it, but when I smile into my husband’s eyes and let him know how much I love him, he gives me twice as much back.   And though I may have to exaggerate my attempts for attention (yes, I would do that), my guy never looks elsewhere in the wrong way.  I am blessed.

eyes for you

attention!

I love that my husband has a sense of humor and can enjoy mine, even when it’s weird or laced with sarcasm.

giggle

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I love the fact that my husband loves each one of our children with a humble heart.  We have never claimed perfection in parenting, but we think our kids know we love them and consider each of them truly a blessing.  We had so much fun raising them.  We had occasions of tension and failure, maybe more than we should have, but what family doesn’t if they’re honest?   I have a man who will always be there for his kids no matter how old they are or how many mistakes they make (knowing we are all prodigals to a certain extent), and I like that.  Grace and laughter are how I generally sum up our family times.  I am happy.

 valentine

December JoyDare

December 18 – THREE GIFTS MIRACULOUS

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We are still trying to wrap our minds around the  miracle of a move and planning an addition.  Some days are easier than others.  Here is a fitting quote from today’s (in)courage blog post.   “At this point, you can’t see ‘normal’ in the rear view mirror even if you squinted hard to catch a glimpse.   And if you try to look back, to find the way back to ‘normal,’ to feel safe and familiar, you’ll wreck yourself, your surroundings, those you love and the miracle you’ve been given.”    With God’s grace and miraculous help, we keep looking forward in everything.

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Here is a miraculous gift.  Where, you say?  Under the ground, out of our sight.  Peony eyes are sprouting, and come spring, they will robustly make their way up through the soil and leaves, quickly put on their greenery and begin the formation of a beautiful display.  But the toughest work for the peony, like most plants, is off season, out of sight, underground and preparing for the following season’s display.  That is where the root growth occurs, the anchoring, the thing that matters the most to carry it through the heat and droughts of the summer.  I love thinking about this miraculous gift this time of year because it makes me think of God, who sees our hearts.  All that we do in our marriages, homes and relationships both inside and outside our homes, neighborhoods, communities, work places, churches, etc.,  does not escape Him, whether it is hidden from view or most obvious.   When we so easily focus our physical eyes on the glitzy and outward beauty around us and the more obvious works and public figures, God not only sees beneath that, but wants us to, as well.  While it is natural to see and appreciate the outward things,  we miss so much if that’s all we see.   But if we pray, we have a Helper, who opens our eyes.  I love the old hymn, Open My Eyes that I May See:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.

Refrain

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear.

Refrain

Open my mouth, and let me bear,
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.

Refrain

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The third miraculous gift is that of my Savior, Jesus.  As this card from my pastor and his wife says, He is the gift that fits my heart precisely.  He fits all of our hearts with precision, if we let Him.  He is the only One who can see inside them and do a work on them.  What a miracle to have heart work done anytime we want or are willing; work of the most important kind.  He can soften it, shape it, redirect it, heal it when it’s broken, fortify it, comfort it, fill it with joy, but only when we’ve made that choice to make Him Lord of it.   He knows me better than I know myself, so I am thankful for this gift and invite Him in.  The first time, at age 9, was acknowledging Him as my Savior, who stooped to come down in the lowliest way to carry out a horrendous mission on this earth,  but the joy is in a daily acknowledging Him as risen and living Lord.  As the hymn says, “Take my heart, it is Thine own.  It shall be thy royal throne.”

December 14 JoyDare

December 14 – THREE GIFTS STAMPED

I could spend all day going through my “special” box.  I’m fairly certain I should be more creative with these three gifts, but nostalgia is taking precedence and these gifts all came from that box that has the power to cheer me up and take me back in time.

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These top pics are of cards  from special friends who took time to send encouraging and/or funny cards; some with letters.  I took a close up of one particularly fitting one.  My friend’s  husband had dropped her off in Hallmark for her first of several surprise progressive birthday stops, each where she found someone waiting to take her to the next stop.  At Hallmark, she had a designated time to select a stash of cards and said when she saw that one (upper right), she immediately thought of me and laughed out loud.  I have to admit, it reminds me of myself, also.  Scatter brained and needing an expresso pretty much sums me up.  The pear shape is fitting, too; but she kindly did not say that.  The beautiful one in the middle bottom is from a friend who I write and have lunch with at least once a year, and we love catching up with news of our big families.  We have made an art of highlighting the annual top news in an hour or two of lunch and coffee.  The upper right card is from a special friend from church.  Because she is also my pastor’s wife and that role wears many hats, we don’t get to visit as much as I’d like, but we have several special memories behind us of cool things like Beth Moore livecasts, a VOM conference, VBS and Awana events, etc.  All of my friends have been there for me so meaningfully and persistently, even during a few dark valleys  that I will never forget it and them, and I hope that I can always be there for them, even if it’s just with a special card.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

 Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

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Some say writing cards and letters is a dying art.  Here is a blog about reviving that and encouraging others.  Recently I have been encouraged by a couple writers through blogging, and their words have been exactly what I needed to hear.   I don’t always understand why humble encouraging words don’t come easier to us.  It means so much.  And it can be so depressing to be deprived of needed and gentle explanations for misunderstandings.  Though it can be complicated, I think we would work harder to reduce misunderstandings or resolve them if we applied the extra mile thought to the relationship as we often do in our families.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

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This one represents a whole slew of cards from my very hard working man.  He is ultimately my best friend, here on this earth, and never fails to comfort me when I’m down, and I do the same for him.   Well, except a few off times.  They happen less and less often.  When I am lonely, he is a phone call away, at least if there’s a signal.   He doesn’t judge my sometimes rather emotional state, but instead seeks to understand it.   We pull each other back into balance.  He is my lover and I am his, and our anchor is a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.    Always.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

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This batch of cards represents creative and loving notes and letters from children (now mostly adults and including their spouses), grandchildren, and siblings.  I have seven children (ten, counting three spouses) and twelve grandchildren so far, but those numbers change fairly often.  I love reading their special cheery blessings.  Some of them are extremely artistic and put alot of work into their cards.  They are all so meaningful.

Three gifts stamped – My “special” box is full of them, and I am so grateful for written encouragement, that I can go back and look at again and again.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

December 12 JoyDare

December 12 – THREE GIFTS BERRY RED

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The red berries on this Deciduous holly or possum haw tree just beyond our front porch are a winter treat both for birds and for our vases and wreaths.  This faithful little tree has provided us much entertainment this year due to the consistent appetite for berries a particular pileated woodpecker has.  He announces his descent to the tree several times a day.  Try as I might, I have not been able to get the kind of distinguished picture such a creature deserves.  Partly, because I wasn’t even aware my phone camera could zoom until a couple days ago; and partly because he usually flies off when he hears me open the door to try to sneak out.  I have crawled out the door a number of times  attempting to be stealthy, but he has great hearing and patience, because he just flies off to a nearby tree until I go in.

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Clearly, I will have to update this blog when I finally get a zoomed in pic of him.  He stays on the far side of the tree and has already emptied most of the berries from that branch.  Maybe he will be forced to eat on “my” side of the tree before winter is over.  Regardless, I am thankful for these delightful red berries and all the happiness they invoke.

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“Berry red” may be a push here, because this dear, red book is rather faded.  Years ago, we bought everyone in our large family a hymn book (plus some extras) when we used to go to a home church and everyone brought their own hymn books for our hour long a capella singing time.  Our kids all wrote their name in their own book so they could mark their favorites.  If I remember correctly, a couple favorites of my kids were “The Trees of the Field” and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”.  A couple of my older kids wrote their favorites in the front and have now (as adults) asked for their hymn books.   I have so many favorites depending on my mood, I would hate to even name one.  A special friend recently told me, when I was disappointed with nearly everyone around me(I know that is telling about ME)…sing.  Just sing all day long.  Great advice.  Whether it’s by getting the old hymn book out and singing, or by turning on the radio, or Pandora, or singing at church, it works.  What we say (or sing) helps refocus our heart correctly.  But I think the dearest way of all is the old red hymn book, especially when a child is on my lap, or one or more of my kids will join in, or at least take their ear buds out.

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I love this Scentsy warmer.  My daughter, Candace, started selling Scentsy before it was hardly heard of and caught on like wildfire.  Check out her link to see more.  This is one of my favorite boudoir pieces.  It is only fitting that a berry red, heart shaped warmer should be a part of the master bedroom decor, no matter if it’s the only red thing there.  It does a great job of scenting my room with my favorite romantic aromas.   It can waft Scentsy scents or essential oils for relaxing aromatherapy or massage oil.  This charming little warmer also happens to make heart shaped lights on the walls at night.   Did I say I like it?    It really is the little things.

December 10 JoyDare

December 10 – THREE GIFTS ICED COLD

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An iced cold coffee is an excellent post work out gift that I look forward to gratefully!

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The beautiful design of frost on my Subaru windshield is a gift that reminds me of my Designer.  I found a couple cool, (or icy cold!) “frost” poems.  The first one is exactly how I think of frost.  It is used with permission  ©Joan Adams Burchell.  Click to see her website for other beautifully done poems.

Hoar Frost

Branches were dipped in frosting this morn
and the sun cast a fairyland spell;
Each fragile twig looked feathered and white
and beckoned a heart to swell.
A winter treasure – a sight to behold –
while silence augmented the scene;
I wanted to walk through an open gate
to find the artist, supreme.
No gate could I see, the artist unseen,
awe captured my soul;
The canvas would change, as nature intended,
but I’d witnessed her morning’s goal.

The Frosted Pane

One night came Winter noiselessly, and leaned
Against my window-pane.
In the deep stillness of his heart convened
The ghosts of all his slain.
Leaves, and ephemera, and stars of earth,
And fugitives of grass, —
White spirits loosed from bonds of mortal birth,
He drew them on the glass.

Sir Charles George Douglas Robert
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A third ice cold gift is seeing my holly, yucca and other plants resiliently bearing up under the ice .  To see them  remaining evergreen under such conditions reminds me of the work of remaining joyful and thankful even when my conditions are “taxing”.  There’s a grand plan even for the annuals, for in death they drop seeds for the following year.  I have a designer who gave me a way to hold up, also, but it’s a choice I have to make.  It’s a choice I often refuse to make well.   Jeanne Pierre de Caussade, author of “Abandonment to Divine Providence” said ‘You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are.  You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies – though that never occurs to you.  Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet God’s beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.’   That’s me.  A blasphemer.

As Ann Voskamp says in “1000 Gifts” about the hard stuff day in and day out,  ‘how do I tear open tear-swollen eyelids to see through this for what it really is?’  How did Jesus do it, she asks?  In Matthew 14, ‘he looked up to heaven to see where this moment comes from.’  Then he gave thanks.  ‘We don’t have to change what we see.  Only the way we see…You can’t positive-think your way out of negative feelings…The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling…Feel thanks and it’s absolutely impossible to feel angry….We can only experience one emotion at a time.  And we get to choose – which emotion do we want to feel?…Jacob …looked into the face of his brother, that brother who had wanted to kill him, and he said, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God”…Wrestle with God, beg to see the blessings…and all faces become the face of God.’   There it is again.  Refocus.  Eucharisteo.  And wait on God.  And practice, practice, practice.  Am I willing?  Not always; I should probably say not even often!   But I can look at the icy frost on my plants and see the consequences of my choices.  I can shrivel under difficulties or reflect the Designer and shine.  I have some practicing to do.

Glimpses of an Eternal Perspective


Yesterday I got one of those glimpses of an eternal perspective.  I had finished a three mile run and while heading back over the bridge into the park couldn’t resist plopping flat on my back into the leaves under a tree by the creek while my nonno was still playing into my earphones.  The David Crowder band “Come Awake” song was asking if we are left here on our own.  Watching the leaves sail this way and that on their way down and the clouds speedily floating by overhead, very visible now through the near naked branches, I thought of the works of my life sailing this way and that. Just as the dying leaves serve a purpose long after their peak, so do our lives.  Maybe the “Come Awake” lyrics “night is weighing heavy now” refer solely to dying and the promise of eternal life and, if so, there is ample promise and meaning in that alone.  But for me, they also hold meaning for the here and now.  Night may weigh heavy from time to time, but when I wait quietly for His voice, after that last breath of “me” is out of the way, He brings me back to life and shines His light and love on my way.  Watching the clouds overhead remind me that Jesus is preparing a place for me up there.  It won’t be that long in the big scope of things.  I want my life to count for something for Him.

The difficulty is getting the “me” out of the way.  I want to do anything God would have me do.  I read in “Anything:  The Prayer that Unlocked My Soul”, that you can usually tell that something here has become an idol “because you have an extreme reaction when it is threatened.”  I might try to excuse my reactions as not extreme, but the bottom line is:  Is God pleased with them?  Are my reactions balanced with the realization that this life is just a vapor?  There is so much I can deal with for just this little while.  The heroes of faith that God holds up for our inspection in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews had this one great thing in common:  they considered themselves temporary residents and lived according to promises that their eyes could not see – aspiring to a heavenly land and keeping their eyes on the reward.  How many times have I fastened my eyes on some pitiful, temporary excuse of a reward; often one that would mess with my eternal focus!

I want to daily refocus my spiritual eyes to what really matters.  I am physically near sighted and that’s ok, but I don’t want to be spiritually near sighted!  I want to do anything God would have me do.  My “anything” is likely different than yours.  I doubt two “anythings” for God are alike.  Yours may be mission work in a foreign country.  Mine may be tackling my household chores with cheerfulness and a song in my heart and on my lips.  Yours may be a physical handicap or a possibly terminal diagnosis, and somehow bringing glory to God through that ongoing and frightening trial. Mine may be honoring my husband.  Yours may be giving away all your possessions.  Mine may be practicing frugality and transparency with the budget.  Yours may be adopting needy kids, maybe even similar to Katie Davis who gave up all her dreams in her youth to mother 13 girls in Uganda.  Mine may be keeping busy at home according to Titus 2:5 (and homemakers, don’t let anyone make you think this is not an important mission)!  Yours may be taking on the sexual trafficking industry (as Sarah McReynolds and others are doing).  Your call may be to let go of all your earthly comforts, or it may be to help create and sustain them for a stable, happy environment for your loved ones. Yours may be blogging or journaling about happy family life, overcoming addictions, coming back from failures, homeschooling your kids, teaching your kids about God day in and day out through your words and your actions and reactions, teaching in public school, being a witness in the school system or outside of it, being a prayer warrior, encouraging others, and on and on.  It may involve learning to be lonely so you can press into the real Lover of Your Soul.  But it needs to cost.  There should be a continual death of self in the process, because self will resurface even during sacrificial pursuits!  Luke 14:33 says “So therefore, anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

The hardest or most important things we do in life should empty us of ourselves and put Christ in instead, so that God can be glorified.  These sacrifices do not leave us empty and sad, however, because God is pleased with them, and He fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him.  No, we are not left here alone!  We get glimpses of Heaven and eternity often in life through worship, scripture reading, Bible studies, moving sermons, deathbeds, funerals, childbirth, weddings, hanging out with children, star gazing and such things as laying on our backs under the trees watching the clouds.  These experiences aren’t rare at all.  Hanging on to the perspective they give us, however, is the challenge.  2 Cor. 4:17…”Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transcient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”