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Attractive Woman Holds Her Cap Isolated on a White Background.Took our first bike ride of the year on Monday and let me tell you, it was cold. Your first clue that the picture to the left is not me is the smile on her face. Let me admit right up front I am a fair weather rider. I hate being cold. My brother in law has suggested electric gloves and vest but I am resistant. Riding is a hobby. Hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable. What is enjoyable about riding in weather so cold you have to plug yourself in to survive? Nothing!

The only reason, and I mean ONLY reason, I ride when it’s cold is because it’s important to my husband and he is important to me.

To make this ride especially memorable (not in a good way) our power went out in the house just as we were leaving. We noticed the neighbors didn’t have power either so just figured it was a little glitch and would be back on before we got back.

Four hours later we returned, chilled to the bone, and discovered we still had no power. No power means no heat, no hot coffee, no hot shower. I was not happy. Anyone who rides knows that if you are cold on the bike, you will be twice as cold when you get off. The chill really sets in and you find yourself shivering from the inside out.

So without removing any of my seven layers (undershirt, thermal shirt, long sleeved t-shirt, sweater, vest , wool zip up sweater and leather jacket), I pulled a blanket around me and still couldn’t stop shivering.

I finally suggested we get in the car and take a drive with the heater at full blast, which we did. After about an hour I felt sufficiently thawed. When we returned home we still had no power – for probably another two hours. We managed to survive and once it came back on we cranked the stove, huddled around it and drank hot coffee.

I was telling my story to friends at church on Tuesday evening and received an email a few hours later. I thought she voiced a great point so I’m sharing it with you.

Her email asked this question:  Have we gotten so bad about not wanting unexpected visitors that our friends will drive around for 45 minutes to warm up? Have we made people feel so intrusive that they can’t stop at a friends house and say our lights are out, our heat is off and we’re freezing, could we bum a cup of coffee off you?

Do you know that it never entered our mind to call a friend? How odd is that? Her email assured me we would have been welcome and I have no doubt about that. But for some reason “dropping by” isn’t something people tend to do anymore. We feel like we have to give advance notice, either out of respect for the friend who might want to pick the dirty underwear up off the floor or out of fear that we might be putting the friend on the spot to come up with a good excuse for why they aren’t available.

It’s like when someone is walking down the sidewalk, stubs their toe and falls. Their first reaction is to jump up and look around to see if anyone saw them make a fool of themselves. But if you’re the person walking down the sidewalk behind them, your first thought isn’t “what a fool”. Your first thought is “I hope they aren’t hurt” and you run to help.

When I hear of someone stuck without power or with a backed up septic or similar crisis, my first thought is to offer my home as a respite. But when I’m the one in the crisis, my first thought is “don’t intrude on someone else”. Why is that?

Look around you.  We have become so isolated in our social activities that we actually believe we can maintain relationships without ever having to find ourselves in physical face to face interaction. Instead, we do facebook, email, text messaging. What started as a fast, efficient method of communication has morphed into evasion interaction.

Here’s what my friend said at the end of her email:  So why do we wait or not ask or just stop by? You still can at our house and if we have to leave and you’re still cold, you’re welcome to stay, sip your coffee and warm up before you leave.

My guess is she’s not the only one with that attitude. I challenge you today to push through the wall of hesitation and step over the threshold of invitation.

Drop in on a friend just because you feel like it.  Call a friend if you need something (I said call not text). Make it clear that you are available for them anytime they need you.

How can we practice the gift of hospitality if no one gives us opportunity?

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”  Romans 12:13

Thanks , Carol, for this great thought. And by the way, I have no idea what I’m fixing for dinner. Thought maybe we’d stop by unexpectedly and see what you’re having.

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Rose On Wood BWIt’s the day after Valentine’s Day and wherever you go you will hear mixed emotions and contrasting expressions of how love was or was not expressed.

A few at work received flowers, a very visible expression of a relationship.  Or is it? I have known women who received flowers at work from a spouse when everyone knew their relationship was in shambles. But, sending flowers was the expectation so he did it.

Fancy dinners out are a topic of conversation today. Candlelight, soft music, expensive menus and muted conversation – those certainly express a deep love and commitment, right? Yes, but not always.

Candy? Cards dripping with mushy phrases? Hugs and kisses? Well of course, that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. At least that’s what those on the commercial end will tell you.

Today there will also be much disappointment expressed. Someone’s spouse forgot, another was expecting much more than was given, another has no one to share the day with.

We live in a world that pushes us to twist and turn an idea into to something it is not. St. Valentine was a Catholic priest who it is said was imprisoned for ministering to persecuted Christians. This is a far cry from today’s commercialized version of his designated day.

Originally it was a celebration of sacrifice, mercy and reaching out to others. It has become a celebration of romance and a pressure filled time of striving to outdo, out give, overspend and meet or exceed impossible expectations promoted by the florists, card designers and stores.

Let me tell you about my perfect Valentine’s Day. It started with a phone call at work from my husband apologizing for forgetting to put my gift out before I left that morning. He was worried that I would think he had forgotten all together. To tell you the truth, I’d not had the slightest twinge of being forgotten. But his call gave me a great big burst of being remembered. All day I kept thinking about how precious it is that he worries about my feelings.

He did take me out last night. But it wasn’t for a candlelight dinner. No soft music or expensive menu and certainly no dressing up in our finest. You will laugh at this but here’s the story.

First he took me to Goodwill to see if there were any cheap movies we might want to grab. Since we don’t have television, we watch a lot of movies and some of our favorites are ones we’ve already seen and remember enjoying together. Those are the ones we peruse the Goodwill rack for. Not that we always have the same taste, because we don’t. I hold up one and he rolls his eyes. He holds up one and I give it the thumbs down sign. Last night we did find a couple and paid our ninety nine cents apiece, walking out to the car holding hands and carrying our Goodwill bag of entertainment.

 From there we moved on to the local drive-in that makes awesome BLT sandwiches. We slid into a booth like teenagers, listened to the jangle of the video machines under the not so subtle florescent lights, drank from straws and talked.

Looking at him across the table I just kept thinking, this is what 45 years of marriage ends up being – comfortable, no pretense, no pressure to prove our love. There’s not much we haven’t been through and we’re still together –proof enough.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the mushy card and the chocolates he gave me later. It’s not to say I don’t love a romantic, candlelight dinner. It’s certainly not to say I don’t get excited about flowers and jewelry and other girly stuff. I do. But it’s frosting to me, it’s not the cake.

Last night was the cake. Him, me, a BLT and words of love expressed in laughter, hands touching, simple conversation and a Harley shirt staring at me across the table.

Proverbs 15:17
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

 

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MH900400203[1]These are the things I love about Christmas –

  • The music, subtle in the background but so familiar you don’t need to hear it well to hum along
  • The colors, poinsettia red and halo gold,  evergreen and shiny silver
  • The characters of Christmas, angels and elves, boisterous Santa  and gentle Jesus
  • The attitudes of Christmas, of giving and sharing, smiling and caring

These are the things I don’t like about Christmas –

  • The commercialism that says spend more, buy more in the spirit of giving
  • The frenzy that brings mothers to the end of their rope, children to wailing frustration, and shoppers to disregard people in pursuit of the perfect present
  • The element of crime, ever in pursuit of an unguarded purse, an unlocked door, a car full of packages with no one around to hear the shattering of glass
  • The pressure to break budgets, max out credit cards, outdo the other gift givers
  • The fact that love and good tidings will last for a few short weeks and be forgotten for eleven long months as the world gets back to its lonely, cold, cruel and selfish self

How will children ever truly feel the wonder and magic that comes with the sacrifice of burdened parents to put one very special gift under the tree when they have become accustomed to piles of packages and shelves overflowing with everything they ever had a whim for?

How will husbands ever burst with pride over a beautiful handmade shirt, created in secret moments behind closed doors, when their closet bulges with more of the store bought kind than they could ever wear in a lifetime?

How will wives ever appreciate simple searched out treasures that took time and effort and actual thought when they have at their fingertips all of the magical gadgets ever invented to lighten their load, clutter their counters and make a home cooked meal happen in a few minutes?

And most important, how will a weary world ever find the gentle arms of a loving, compassionate God when they shove His son into a cardboard box and store Him away until the stores stock their shelves once more with their pseudo signs of Christmas, reminding people it’s time to take Him out again?

Did Bethlehem walk away from the glow of the manger and get so caught up in the  dust and the demands of their daily struggle they forgot the miracle until the anniversary rolled around again? Did the shepherds go back to their grumbling existence, forgetting the brilliant light and heavenly song? Did the Kings let the fulfillment of prophecy fade from memory with each mile they traveled back to their homelands?

Why doesn’t the heart born of the beauty in the Christmas season stay full and fresh with the bounty of the Christmas message? Is our good news of a Savior not more powerful than all of the bad news of a world in trouble?

Yes! He is more powerful. His goodness outshines all acts of cruelty. His sacrifice overshadows all displays of selfishness. His love overcomes all hatred.

We can keep Christmas, the good and gentle and golden bits of it, in evidence every day all year long if we will challenge ourselves to carry the Christ child with us wherever we go. Don’t put Him away with ornaments. Instead, read His words every day, hang His star in every room of your home, take His love into loveless places, extend His kindness to the hurting, pray His presence into dark places, share His life saving message with the dying.

Never forget, it’s not the commercial driven world that determines at what point in the year to ring in the Christmas season. It’s the Spirit driven life that vows to keep the Christmas message ringing every day.

I pray you will store up the awe struck faces of the children, the soft glow of the lights as snow falls, the sweet scent of pine boughs, the tug of a familiar carol floating on the air, the touch of a loved one, the crackle of wrapping paper, the surprise and the joy and the wonder of the next few weeks and let them continue to inspire you for the next 345 days.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him.  1 John 4:16

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Thanksgiving rolls around again bringing with it the scent of pumpkin pie, the sound of family interacting, the feel of damp late fall days, the sight of autumn on the grass and snow on the hilltops, and the taste of turkey smothered in rich gravy.  Of all our holidays, this one stirs the five senses like no other.

Oh that it would stir our hearts into a frothy mound as high as the whipped cream we pile on our desserts.

We are such a people of plaintive nature, freely expressing our complaints about everything and anything.  I’m up to here, especially after the exposure of an elections year, with negativity. I want my heart to feast this Thanksgiving day, not my stomach.

I want to look around the room at my precious family and swell with the melted butter glory of God’s goodness. I am not alone and I am ever grateful. Many are and my heart breaks for them.

I will bask in the hugs and laughter and I will treasure the memories dripping with whip cream wars, lumpy gravy, rolls that forgot to rise, pumpkin pies missing a key ingredient (sugar) and Grandma Mae’s boiled turkey that ended her career as hostess for our family dinner.

I will remember with tears the Thanksgiving my mom passed away but will smile at the grace and strength she showed in the process.

Like salt and pepper on a green bean casserole I will be blessed by the changes in the past year evidenced around the table with taller children, more seasoned marriages, talk of a new driver’s license, a High School graduation, a new job and so much more my ears will be busier than my elbow lifting the fork.

I will thank God as I look around for taking a bunch of oddly shaped potatoes and helping them to soften into a fluffy mound of family, still bearing a few lumps but for the most part, all mingled together with mouth watering love.

I will be sad for the ones who can’t be here this year, happy for the ones who can, and nostalgic for the ones who never will be again.

I’m going to try to put a lid on any simmering political discussions. I’ll sprinkle sugar on sour grapes, turn down the stove before a conversation heats up and stuff a piece of pie in the mouth of sibling rivalry.

When it’s all over and I’m slumped in my rocker by the fire, I’ll pat my way too full heart and thank God for the millionth time for what I have, for what He has done and for what is yet to come.

 Psalm 34:1  I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

P.S. You may have noticed I’ve missed a couple of Monday posts. Between trying to write a 5,000 novel in November, writing the Christmas pageant script and surviving this very busy open enrollment period at work, I’m going to have to back off the blog a little.  So I’m going to once a week for the rest of the year. 

 

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On Sunday, August 5th, I will celebrate my 45th wedding anniversary.  I honestly can’t believe it has been 45 years.  I sometimes still feel like the innocent young girl with love blinded eyes that I was in 1967.  Then again, I more often feel like the very experienced, not quite so love blinded wife that I am today.

I remember things I used to think were so darn cute in our early years.  Those same things drive me nuts today.  Things like the fact that he still can’t make a bed to where it doesn’t look like someone is still in it.  Or how he still sneaks drinks right from the carton.  How he leaves a used knife on top of the butter dish in the refrigerator because he doesn’t want to fill up the sink with a bunch of dirty ones.  And there’s his amazing sense of where we are at any given time when traveling (he never gets lost) which is offset by  his 45 year can’t-find-the-dishwasher disability.

We’ve traveled a lot of miles in our 45 years – through fields of new babies, narrow roads of grief, highways of financial stress, up hills strewn with misunderstanding, down valleys of laughter, around corners of angry words and right through intersections of intense love that met moments of ‘who is this man and what am I doing here?”

We have a son we won’t meet until we get to heaven, two daughters and a son who showed us heaven on earth (as well as a little of the other place when they were teens).  We’ve gained a plethora of gifted grandchildren. 

Our house is the same one we moved into on our wedding day, but it is now a home.  We’ve known a veritable kennel of dogs and cats, had a barn full of horses and mules, grown a variety of crops, mowed billions of blades of grass, pulled, poisoned and put up with every weed known to man.

We have more stuff than we could possibly remember or find if we needed it.  (Our children will hate us when we are gone.) 

We have seen so many changes over the years I can’t possibly name them. 

But by God’s grace, there are so many things that haven’t changed.  He still makes me laugh over the dumbest things.  He still makes my heart beat faster when he kisses me.  I still beam with pride over his work ethic, honesty and ability to do anything he puts his mind to.  His heart is still soft.  His mind is still sharp.  His habits are still annoying.

Today I tried to imagine not being married and I found I don’t have the slightest idea what that was like.  “We” is so much more than “I” ever was. 

Am I saying it’s been 45 years of bliss?  Of course not.  Every journey is a lot of work.  The best ones are those where you had milestones when you didn’t think you’d make it but you did.  You don’t feel like you’ve accomplished a worthwhile task if you don’t have some sore muscles afterward. 

After 45 years I’ve figured out that what hasn’t changed so far probably ain’t gonna.  I’ve discovered new things can still happen in an old marriage.  There’s still some of that fresh faced young boy in the man and some of that blushing young girl in the woman. God has blessed us mightily, buoyed us up in some tough times, given some great golden moments, helped us laugh at ourselves and sort the major from the minor.

In retrospect, even the bad has been good in the long run.  Looking ahead I’m just thankful that we are still looking ahead together.

 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Eph 5:31

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