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OGIO-motorcycle-rides[1]First motorcycle outing of the year on Saturday and it was glorious. We managed to sandwich the ride in between rainstorms. The sun was out in full force, warming the air to a brisk 50 degrees when we took off. Of course, I had my miracle jacket on high so I was toasty. Bald eagles, deer and mountain sheep were all out in force taking advantage of the weather just like us.

After the long winter break, I kind of have to get back in biker mode and it takes a while. Remembering all the parts and pieces of being comfortable – the silk scarf, the hair pulled back and secured so it doesn’t tangle in the wind, the right gloves for the cool weather, the leathers and of course, the connector cord for my heated jacket.

But the biggest “Oh yeah” for me is the sense of power that radiates from that huge hunk of chrome and metal. The bike roars to life and I find myself grabbing tightly to my guy, taking a big breath and anticipating the soaring sensation that will come as we hit the highway.

And then there’s that lung-filling fresh air after being huddled inside all winter. The great feel of sunshine on my cheeks. Sky so blue it hurts your eyes. And the hope and promise singing from the trees that are covered with spring buds ready to burst into leafy glory. The peach fuzz covering of green on the hills that have been soaking up the rain. The rush of the river pushing at its banks, swollen from the spring thaw.

And so precious, sipping coffee and eating fresh baked pastries with my husband at the old bakery that is a favorite stop of ours. It’s rare, this relaxing, quiet time together – actually having a real conversation, uninterrupted by phones, grandkids, jobs, errands, and the over-zealous dog.

Sometimes I chaff at having to devote every good-weather Saturday to time on the motorcycle. There are many other things I love to do and can only fit into a Saturday. But I have to admit that once we’re on the road, I forget to wish I was elsewhere because I’m so loving being where I am.

Isn’t that just the way in this crazy busy life of ours? Our list is long, our time short. We have to double and triple book to get it all in and half the time we are too exhausted to actually enjoy ourselves. We don’t prioritize according to what we need, we scramble our schedules because of what we want.

Much as I hate to admit it, I need those kicked back Saturdays on the back of the bike, breathing deep, taking in the sights, and being close to my life partner. It brings balance and sanity to my otherwise topsy turvy world.

Life balance is key if we are to negotiate the journey from birth to death with any kind of success and satisfaction. And balance is not what the enemy wants for us. He will always introduce too many choices to keep us from being focused. He will paint unrealistic pictures of the things we desire and then try to convince us we deserve them, we need them, and we should go for them to the detriment of more important, less glittering activities.

Just as that first few minutes on the bike remind me of the power and pure enjoyment I will soon experience, the first few minutes in God’s word reminds of the same thing. His word is rich, bursting with wise instruction, filled with peace and hope. It is solid and sure, and satisfying to my mind, my heart and my soul.

I need those times of breathing deep and drawing close to the One who gives me breath.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Or as the message translation puts it, “I have told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

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I saw a news post this morning called Five Things Couples Can Learn from Pairs Skaters. It featured several of our Olympic couples and listed the following as the glue that keeps them together:

  1. Share a Purpose
  2. Talk, Talk, Talk
  3. Forgiveness is Divine
  4. Learn to Trust
  5. Define Your Roles

Just having returned from a long day in the car with my spouse of 46 and one half years, I can accept that list. But I’m not sure it fully explores the key to success – at least for marriage.  So I came up with my own list.

5 Things Couples Can Learn From 46 years of Skating (sometimes on very thin ice):

 Share a purpose or have an ulterior motive.  Example: My purpose for a recent 4 hour drive was a half day workshop. That’s a lot of driving in one day and I didn’t want to spend the night. I thought about how fun it would be if my husband went along and did all the driving.  I realized he might not think it that much fun. So, I planted an ulterior motive seed. The town we were visiting has a huge Cabela’s a few miles from where my workshop was being held. Instead of asking him if he’d drive, I simply suggested he might like browsing one of his favorite stores while I was in my training. Bingo!  Applied to several hundred situations over the 46 years this method has resulted in lots of smooth skating and successful routines.

 Talk, Talk, Talk or Not, Not, Not.  Flashing back on a one day road trip a few weeks ago I took with my girlfriends I distinctly remember every single second being filled with conversation.  I can honestly say there was no down time. There never is, whether it be a Starbucks break, a trip, or a quick run-into them at the mall.

It’s different with my husband. For one thing, he is a man of few words and I mean few. He is not a chatterer. If words were money, the ones he saves – leaves unsaid – would put him ahead of Bill Gates in wealth. There are times when I spend several minutes asking a question, filling it with lots of flowery description, analytical thought and analogies lest he not get where I’m headed and, heaven forbid, answer in the wrong way.  All that effort most usually gets a yes or a no, period, end of conversation.  We have come to the point where I don’t expect more and he doesn’t expect less.

 Forgiveness is – well, you need a goodly supply.  A long marriage doesn’t usually have big problems like infidelity. But it isn’t without its small, incredibly irritating, grating on your nerves, drive you to insanity issues.  Like the fact that he never attempts to fasten his seatbelt until you are already flying down the road. Or the fact that he doesn’t think to turn on the windshield wipers until you are past the point of  being able to see  the centerline. Or the fact that he keeps messing with your radio station settings. And I haven’t even started on the toilet seat, the whiskers in the sink, his dog on the bed, ad infinitum!

Then again – he does carry out the garbage, fix my flat tires, lift heavy things, repair broken stuff, ad infinitum! So – a lot of forgiveness and a lot of praise and thankfulness have kept us in the gold medal running for a long time.

 Learn to Trust: Trust that he will someday start on the honey do list. Trust that he will learn to do laundry or cook or load the dishwasher. Trust that he will someday remember you don’t like cheese on your hamburgers and you can’t drink water without a straw.  The earlier you trust the fact that rocky spots won’t last forever, the days you can’t stand him will be overshadowed by the days you love him beyond measure, and he may not be perfect but compared to what’s out there you are pretty darn blessed – the longer you’ll be partners, and the more synchronized your marriage dance will be.

Define Your Roles: That’s easy in my house. My role is to make him think he is the boss.  My role is to make him think it was his idea. My role is to make sure he knows how great he is. And my role is to remember that I picked him out of a very big pond and since I’m pretty much always right I must have made the right choice.  Yes – sometimes I shake my head in wonder and yes, sometimes I ask “what was I thinking” but for the most part he and are the perfect triple Salchow (a skating term that I have no idea what it means but it sound cool). Our ice dance just gets better and better.

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:6-9

 

 

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Business jetI’ve missed a few weeks of blogging due to travel, both business and pleasure. It has been a whirlwind and I’m like most everyone else, wondering if taking a vacation is really worth it.

Piles on my desk, emails to answer, phone calls to return, laundry to catch up on – you know the routine I’m sure. It’s nice to know you were missed and nice to know your services are appreciated but not so nice to be reminded that just because you stopped coming into the office for three weeks doesn’t mean the work did.

But – what a three weeks it was, the first two spent on our Harley Davidson Ultra Classic traveling with our good friends. I think we saw it all.

I’ve been on the top of mountains, in the depth of valleys, flying along freeways, secondary roads, scenic routes and some not so scenic routes. I saw ancient fossil deposits and Pueblo Indian ruins, high class ski areas and small poverty stricken towns, wildlife and no life.  You name it and I’m pretty sure we saw it.

Our weather was great interrupted now and then by a little rain, a lot of heat and a bit of wind. We traveled in eight different states, stayed in ten different hotels, covered approximately 4,200 miles and laughed a lot.

My return from vacation was quickly followed by a three day business trip to Billings Montana which turned out to be as eventful as my vacation.  My return flights were cancelled shortly after I arrived and my only option was to miss half the conference in order to rebook a flight that would get me home in time for important meetings at the office. But, talk about customer service! My conference host did not want me to miss out so they offered to fly me home on their private jet.

If you’ve never had that experience, which I hadn’t, wow! It’s the only way to fly. No airport crowds, standing in line, taking off your shoes and whatever else might set off the alarm, having your bag searched, waiting to board, squeezing in next to a complete stranger, having to settle for a teenie tiny bag of peanuts and then arriving to stand around and wait for luggage.

I was transported to the airport, dropped off at the private hanger, walked right onto the plane, given a one minute safety briefing by the co-pilot which included pointing out the fully stocked beverage bar and abundant snack supply. I settled into a most comfortable seat, relaxed and experienced the smoothest flight ever.  On arrival at another private hanger I was met and transported to the auto rental counter which was low on cars so I ended up with a brand new, super shiny black Camero to drive myself home.

At the conference I was immersed in the latest information and technology for administering benefits and on the social excursion I experienced a step back in time exploring part of the Lewis and Clark journey. It was a vivid contrast in cultures but a sure reminder that life changes quickly.

The best part of it all – In those miles of travel, through the exposure to the old and the new, in and out of hotels and restaurants, with friends or strangers, seeing glorious panoramas from the top of a mountain or out the window of a jet and miles of changing scenery from the back seat of a motorcycle – in all of those places I was never out of God’s loving care.

One constant, never changing, solid, unshakable presence in the ever changing landscape of life –  my precious Savior. How blessed I am.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

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MB900386362[1]I can’t believe I’ve missed two weeks of blogging. But then again, with end of the school year activities for the grand girls, a grandson’s graduation in Spokane, working full time, teaching and leading music for Vacation Bible School and all the other stuff I can cram into the open spots I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Now I’m looking at my calendar and realize I have less than two weeks to prepare for our motorcycle trip back to the Colorado Rockies. In blunt terms, that means the dreaded packing decisions are upon me.

A Harley Davidson touring bike is big on fun but small on trunk space. You have to pack light and sparse. At the same time, you have to be prepared for anything from 100 degree heat to rain to snow to cold and windy. T-shirts and tanks are a given so I’ll throw in six or seven. They weigh nothing and take up little space. Over the years I’ve conditioned myself to one extra pair of jeans. I know – horrors – that means wearing them several days in a row but it is what it is. A couple of sweatshirts are a must to put on over the t-shirt. A turtleneck or two to put on under the t-shirt. A wool sweater just in case. Heavy gloves, light gloves, neck scarf, underwear, socks, sandals and a nightgown and I’m already over capacity. There’s still the curling iron and hair dryer. (I know most hotels have hair dryers. But, my hubby has a knack for ferreting out the ones that don’t. This post is not long enough for me to go there!) My makeup bag, small but still a space consumer and of course my Nook and writing materials are must haves.

I’m looking at the small bag that fits in the bike trunk and the big pile that doesn’t fit in the bag and realizing I’m in trouble. Plus, I haven’t begun to include any of the frivolous things my husband will want to take along like a shirt or two and maybe maps and tools to be used in case of a breakdown.

For the next few days I’ll be taking out, adding back, rolling my eyes, and starting over. I will be frustrated beyond measure and ready to bag the whole trip.

But departure day will dawn and somehow I’ll have managed. We’ll be mounted up and headed down the road to meet the couple who is going along with us. As we join up, I’ll see the huge grin on my friend’s face and I’ll remember that the next two weeks will be completely filled with laughter, most of it over nothing but the sheer fact that we enjoy each other’s company.

Together, she and I are like two giddy young girls that find everything funny and never run out of interesting things to talk about. I can’t tell you how many times our guys will tell us to cut the conversation and get on the bike. We will talk until we take off. Each time we roll up to a stop sign we’ll pick up where the latest conversation ended.

The most serious situations – flat tires, spilled coffee, antenna up the nose (that’s for another post), heavy traffic, grumpy husbands, missed turns, road construction, animals crossing the road, near empty gas tanks, minor bike repairs, sudden weather changes – you name it, we will find it funny.

She won’t care that my jeans are on their fourth day. I won’t care that she didn’t get her make up on. Neither one of us will care that we’re lost and the guys are studying maps and pulling out the GPS.

There’s the stress of getting ready to go and the pressure of catching up when you get back, but being on the road with good friends, ever changing scenery, my great love at my side and our day to day cares left behind is worth every minute of the rest.

Eleven days and counting down!

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. Psalm 126.2

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MP900313893[1]April in the Pacific Northwest – a season where every day is a surprise package to be opened while doing early spring gardening in a short sleeved shirt or huddled in flannels around the fire.

Since there’s no snow on the ground, April is also Harley riding weather for my bike addicted husband. And, because six days of my week are crazy busy coming and going while trying to catch quick conversations and hugs with him along the way, Saturday is togetherness day. And you can’t get much more together than paired up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

We’ve been out a few times this year and come home exhilarated though chilled to the bone. But this past Saturday topped them all.

The weather forecast was not promising, but who trusts the weatherman? Standing in the driveway and doing a 360 degree scan was a bit disheartening. Dark clouds pretty much defined the landscape in every direction.  But dark clouds don’t always produce rain, right? Things can change, right?

Change they did. Within the first fifteen miles of the ride I accepted that the several layers of clothing I had on were not going to be enough to keep me warm.

The wind picked up a few miles after that, building from strong gusts to gale force.

The rain hit shortly after that. Not a deluge thank goodness, just the miserable drizzle that collects on your collar and drips down your neck. Oh the glory.

And the crowning jewel of the day – a stinging hail storm. Is there anything worse than hail hitting you in the face as you fly down the road with no choice but to keep going until you can outrun it?

To add insult to injury, we couldn’t take our normal route home, meandering along the river where you might at least see an eagle, a herd of bighorn sheep or a graceful doe sheltering under an evergreen. That route was closed for an annual marathon. Instead, we were forced to take the freeway.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I hate traveling the freeway on a motorcycle. I don’t like the speed, the traffic, or the fact that you can’t see much because you are going too fast and paying too much attention to that traffic. I will always choose a slower, winding route if I have a choicem which I didn’t.

As rides go, this one had everything – everything I dislike anyway. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, this one was too far below the line to register. Somewhere in the last half hour of that ride I promised myself a new Saturday entertainment activity. I said to myself I would never climb aboard again unless the stars came together in perfect alignment and guaranteed 80 degree weather and a cloudless sky. I decided then and there to sell my backseat to some other woman with the fortitude and tolerance to take my place.

But once home and ensconced in front of the pellet stove, a hot cup of coffee in my hand  and blood finally flowing again, I started to remember things like:

  • Landscapes seen from the back of a bike where the colors are more vivid because of the overdose of fresh air coursing through my veins
  • Surprises like spotting a wide eyed fawn peeking out from behind a tall stand of grass, an osprey dive bombing a trout and flapping its wings in victory, sunbreaks through clouds, swaying grain fields, …
  • The euphoric feel of sunshine on bare arms that are wrapped around my one constant in life – a man who loves more than anything just having me there with him
  • Laughter and experiences shared with traveling buddies that are retold and elaborated upon year after year
  • New roads we’ve never traveled and old roads that hold familiarity like long time friends  

We’ve had so many great experiences from the back of that bike that far outshine the few wet, cold, miserable rides which I’m sure are thrown in to help me appreciate the others.

Here’s to another season of road miles and smiles, sunshine and shadows, good friends, long days and lots and lots of memory making.

“On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 (msg)

 

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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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MB900422771[1]With this being the 40th anniversary of Roe versus wade, the news has been filled with commentary from both sides. You can read the pro life side and you can read the pro choice side and both have parts and pieces of logic.

I firmly believe the reason we can’t come to an agreement on the issue is because we have never had the right to even have a choice in the matter. Only God has the knowledge and foresight and vision to know whether a life is valid. And since He is the one who creates that life in the first place, He is wise enough not to create something of no value.

All of the arguments aside, I got a practical lesson on the whole issue this week. It was a beautiful illustration of life value and I wish I could pass it on to every pro-choicer out there.

The real story began over 60 years ago when a baby boy was born to the parents of one of my best friends. He was severely handicapped from the start, his body twisted and useless. And though normal communication was not possible, it soon became apparent that his mind was sharp and comprehension of the world around him keen. His fierce determination to fight for life earned him the nickname of Tuffy.

For 60 years his family has faithfully loved and cared for him. They were his advocates when the long term care facility was giving less than adequate care. They went out of their way to make sure he spent holidays with the family. They visited regularly – almost every day – for 60 years to make sure he knew he was loved. They managed to understand his method of communication and did everything they could to address his needs.

I have seen them kiss him and hug him, shave him and joke with him. I have watched them turn his chair for the best view out the window, readjust his pillows to assure comfort, get in the faces of medical staff to get them to listen, and nurse him through fevers and infections.

My precious friend has her own serious health problems, has a very challenging marriage, lost a daughter in her twenties to cancer and fights every day to keep her head above water. Never once have I heard anger, bitterness, regret or impatience over the demands of keeping Tuffy safe and secure. While from the outside this did not look like a regular, gather around the dinner table every night kind of family, it was no less a family because of Tuffy. In fact, the extra effort needed to hold them together probably made it more of a well bonded family than most.

Several times, especially in the last few years, Tuffy became critically ill. Never did my friend wish for it to be over. Her prayers were always for comfort and healing. She never asked that her life be easier, only Tuffy’s. 

Tuffy passed away this past week and my friend along with her family have deeply grieved.

To my friend he was never a burden, he was a brother. His life served a purpose regardless of his ability to walk and talk in a “normal” manner. I believe Tuffy’s life made her kinder, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more tolerant and more thankful than life without him would have.

Was their life easy with a child like Tuffy? Not in the furthest sense of the word. Was their life better because of Tuffy? You bet it was. He brought a light and a love, a focus and family closeness, and  lessons beyond measure.

Tuffy was different but no less dear to his family than any other son or sibling. I rejoice that he is free of his twisted body and running around heaven shouting and singing today. And I thank God for my friend and the life lesson she passed on by embracing what others might have called a life of little value.

If we could all let God handle life and death and just tend to the things He gives us control over, events like Roe versus Wade would not exist. Instead, love and compassion would take their place.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16 

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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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