Through Another’s Eyes

NOTE: Thank you to all the kind readers who shared your thoughts and welcome back with me. I love hearing from my readers. I am particularly grateful to those of you who noticed, and pointed out the typo I had on last week’s post. Thank you. It has been corrected. Please don’t hesitate to share your observations, ideas and comments with me!

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Watching the groom as the doors swing open and his bride walks down the aisle is my favorite part of a wedding. The strongest of men turn to mush and tenderness when they see the woman of their dreams.

As the years go by, and day to day busyness piles up, it is hard to recall that gleam in the eye of your one and only. When I do hear words of pride, love, and complement I sometimes become jaded, wondering if there’s a reason I am being buttered up.

That is why the perspective a woman shared with me at the conclusion of a writers conference this week meant so much to me.

“I watched him when you went forward. His eyes got big. He had a huge smile. I could see him saying WOW! I even saw tears forming in his eyes. He was so proud.”

A couple months prior to the conference I had decided against entering any of the contests. I felt as though I did not have time to submit anything worthy. . . except for one piece . . . an article I wrote about Jerry.

Jerry agreed with that submission but encouraged me to make the time to enter multiple categories. I did.

Saturday afternoon we walked around the conference grounds. I told him that I only wanted to win in one category – the article about him, entitled, “A Most Unrealistic Life.” Placing would affirm that others could see the man I know.

With the awards ceremony underway, I rejoiced with each winner. When the category of articles was announced, I did not hear my name for honorable mention, third place, or second place. When first place was announced it sounded like my name, it was! Thank you Jesus, was the silent prayer I uttered as I made my way forward to accept the awardmedal-303422_1280. I didn’t get to see Jerry’s face of pride until I returned to my seat. My evening had been made. I looked at him and said, “it’s because it’s about you!”

The evening became a whirlwind for me as I was surprised, and humbled to place in some additional categories. Jerry asked someone take photos of me. I wished someone would take a photo of Jerry for me. I know the old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case the verbal picture this woman shared was a priceless gift.

We all need reminders from time to time that the relationship between us and our spouse is one like no other. As great as it is to hear the words from our partner, sometimes we need that outside observer to refresh our view.

arrow-1773931_1920How has someone outside of your marriage reminded you of the valuable gift your husband or wife is to you? How can you share words of encouragement about your spouse with others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I Can’t Imagine

One of my friends met Jesus face to face yesterday.

This friend lived a hard life. At first, I found it ironic that she spent her last several days in a hospice home that likely was the nicest place she ever lived. But then I thought that this peaceful place was “training wheels” for the eternal home she would soon enter.

Several years ago my friend gave her life to Jesus. The day she was told it was time for hospice she called me. We talked about the excitement of knowing our final destination but the fear of the route we need to take to get there. I encouraged her to run without delay into the arms of Jesus whenever He called her name. I believe she did.

sun-rays-182170_1920I know what the Bible says about Heaven. The pearly gates, the streets of gold, the homes prepared for us by Jesus himself, the banquet feast we will share, a place of no tears, a place of no sin, and best of all . . .  Jesus. A forever home with Jesus.

Yet my finite mind can’t really grasp Heaven. I am glad my friend can now. The suffering and pain she endured, I am certain she would say, pales in comparison to what she is experiencing.

I have no idea when God will say it is time for me to join Him. Until that day comes I want to be present and engaged with the life He has entrusted to me. But when my time comes, know I too will be running into the arms of my Savior.

You Want to Know What? When?

“What kind of car do you drive?”

I hate that question. It’s a red something. The emblem looks like three shields overlapping each other. The year is probably in the 90’s.

When it comes to vehicles, they are utilitarian to me. Make and model are not important. If it is comfortable to drive, can handle what I need to transport, and the price is right, it’s my favorite car.

I have mostly driven mini vans or small SUVs, in large part because of what I haul for ministry activities. After my favorite carshybrid was totaled in an accident, which was not my fault, God provided a small sedan. I felt like I was driving a Big Wheel down the road. Jerry heard my heartache and wanted to help.

Fast forward to that summer when Jerry and I worked two back to back weeks of camp. I had one day off between sessions.  I chose to spend the day alone, letting my mind wander and refresh for the week ahead. Jerry found himself in conversation with a person at camp who sold used cars. Excited that he could get me a vehicle better suited for me he initiated a trade negotiation.

Upon waking from my nap, Jerry’s first question to me was, “How much money is in our checking account?”

“I don’t know,” I grunted through my hazy awareness.

Believing once I woke up more I could respond with an answer he wanted, Jerry asked the same question a couple more s. As his intensity grew, so did his disbelief that I would not know that information.

I explained we had money in the account and were not overdrawn. Currently my focus was on camp, not our finances. Why was it so urgent to get this information?

Then I learned Jerry had been working with Phil on a car deal, with which he was hoping to surprise me. Shaking the remaining sleep from my head I assured him I was surprised, and quickly asked for details.

“Phil wants to sell the van his wife is driving, and it seems to be just what you need,” he told me.

“Are you kidding me?” I saw the van Phil’s wife drove to camp. It was a full-size van tricked out with a kitchenette, bed, and the comforts of a home away from home. We already owned one full-sized van, why would we want or need a second? Yes, I needed room to haul equipment to camp, and collect wheelchair donations, but a minivan would suffice.

Flummoxed, Jerry didn’t know what to do. Thinking the gentleman’s agreement hecalculator-3242872_1280 made would delight me, he simply wanted to know if the amount of a check he wanted to write to Phil would be good. We looked at each other wondering, what do we do now?

Left with no other choice, Jerry went to tell Phil the deal was off. Embarrassed, my husband told him there had been a misunderstanding, I was not interested in a full-size van.

I was surprised when Jerry came back to me, smiling, with Phil by his side.  Phil asked, “Joan, why are you not interested in the van?”

“We already have a full-size van, and the one Tara is driving is so plush that it would not work for the way I need to use it.”

Phil shared, “That is not the van I am selling. As Jerry described it, you need an extended length minivan. That is what Tara drives at home, and the car we are selling.”

The tension broke and laughter ensued. Jerry realized he had used the term “full-size” when he really meant, “extended length.” We all took a deep breath. The deal was a good one, once we got our communication straightened out. A week after camp ended the trade was made. That van lived a long and full life with us and was the ministry tool we needed, but almost missed.

Years later, Jerry and I reflect on this story and snicker. In hindsight we see how each misstep occurred. At the time we thought each other was operating in an alternate universe.

This story is a microcosm of communication errors that happen in any relationship, but particularly in marriage. One of us hears part of a story and acts upon that. We make assumptions about what the other person said or meant. We take offense if we don’t have the answer to a question someone asks. We may be incredulous that the other person doesn’t know or get what we are asking. We want to resolve the situation now. We don’t understand why someone isn’t appreciative of the effort we made on their behalf.

Communication mishaps are not unique to car buying. Couples need to learn to work on how, when and what we communicate. We do not always get it right, but here are some to the tips we try to remember.

Assume the best. I am thankful for my husband who wants to hear the cry of my heart and make my life easier. Jerry knew that if he could work out the car deal a huge load would come off my shoulders.

Together we find it helpful to offer a signpost before starting a conversation out of the blue. It might be something as simple as, “Is this a good time to talk about my thoughts on that purchase?” or “I would like to turn the page and talk about our vacation plans.” Sometimes we clarify, “Are we done on this topic? If so, can we chat about which lawn service we want to hire?” Remember to respect the answer, and not just ask the question.

Lastly, we try to clarify, particularly about big ticket items, whether we have arrived at the final decision or if this is simply a book mark allowing more time to process. This helps us avoid looking back and saying, “but you said OK, I thought you meant it was a go,” only to learn the other said ok, meaning I heard what you said and will consider that.

arrow-1538686_1920  What is one of the best tips you were taught, practice, or learned the hard way in communicating with your spouse? I’d love to hear!   

Settled!

Hello again dear friends. I am excited to welcome you back to my blog. If you have followed me for any length of time, you may recall that much of 2018 was focused on selling our Pennsylvania home and moving to central Florida.

I have moved more times in my life than I care to count. Based on those experiences, I fully expected to have about four months of my life consumed with packing, selling, moving and settling in. Go ahead and laugh, I am –  now! I had not factored in  leaving a place that was home for nearly twenty years, or the reality of diminished energy as I age. My neat little four month plan turned in to well over a year.

But now . . . there are no more cardboard boxes around, or quick tidy ups needed for a house showing. We are settled.

Settled. 

Wow.

There was a time I wondered if I would ever feel settled again.

Thank you for those of you who prayed for us, encouraged us and shared that you were missing reading my blog. Keep those prayers coming as we embrace this new season of Raising My Ebenezer and Marriage Monday!

What’d You Get Me?

Jerry and I have most of our gift giving occasions between October – December.  That is the timeframe of both of our birthdays, our anniversary and of course Christmas.  The following post was written late in December several years ago, but the truth of it remains in my heart and mind–especially this Christmas day.
My husband and I have this game that we play around birthdays, Christmas or any other gift giving occasions.  It goes like this, “So what did you get me?”  Sometimes it’s said once in passing, sometimes it’s repeated over and over in rapid succession to try to wear the giver down to sharing some clue.  Yes, I know this sounds rather childish for two wellintomiddleagedadults to engage in, but I think it’s one of the casualties of not having children – we sometimes have to play that role in the family.
The morning of December 23 I was having a delightful quiet time with my Lord.  I finished my reading and my pondering, and was just about to put my pen down after recording the last word in my journal when I heard it . . .

“So what did you get me?”
 

I paused and listened to the voice
– but it wasn’t that of my husband.  It was my other beloved’s voice – Jesus!  As I tuned in to His voice I heard, “It’s my birthday soon you know, I’ve seen the gifts you’ve gotten for everyone else, what did you get for me?” 
When I shared this with my husband his response was “Isn’t that just like God to speak to us in our own game and language?”
For the remainder of that day, and the next several days I spent time pondering what I would give Jesus for his birthday. The better question was – had I even planned to give Him anything for his birthday?  If I hadn’t, why not?  And if I was, it was getting late, so I better decide quickly. 

What do you get the Lord of the Universe, who
owns everything and can create anything out of nothing?
The only response I could think of was “to obey is better than sacrifice.”  I think what Jesus was asking for was more of me. All of me in fact.  No need to spend time trying to figure out the hottest gift to give Him but to “just do it!”  To surrender myself and obey what He has already shown me. 
Funny several years later, I think this is still the gift He wants and the one I need to give.
So what about you? What are you giving to Jesus for His Birthday?

Thanks for the Compliment

A few hours ago, I returned from a weekend away with some ladies. Jerry encourages me to take advantage of opportunities like this, and works hard to schedule enough attendants to cover my time away. He tells me the first 24 hours I am away he enjoys full control of the remote. Which means, at least at this season, baseball is on all the time. If it is not on the television, he is watching a game in person.

By the second day the novelty has worn off and he is ready for me to come home. He remembers all the things he did not enjoy about living alone.

Like most of you, when I come home I unpack my car. We update each other on our time apart. And then it happens, no matter what time of day it is Jerry apologizes that he needs a little nap. I know that a little nap in this situation means a long solid period of deep sleep.
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I sometimes forget how much energy Jerry expends to live day to day. When I am away he does his best to keep things as tidy and together as he is able, increasing the amount of energy he expends. Giving me the grace to get a break, he accepts greater responsibility on his personal resources.

I could be frustrated that after being apart for a few days, I come home and he sleeps. Instead, I embrace it as a compliment. To me, it means he feels safe and content. We both know we’ll have the time to talk and tackle all the life decisions we have ahead of us tomorrow. Lord willing that is. And if we aren’t gifted that time tomorrow, we won’t need to worry about the decisions.

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Is there something in your life that could bother or irritate you, but it you look at it from another perspective it brings you joy. I would love to hear your story. Please share.

 

Building Sandcastles

Katelyn. our 10 ½ year old grand-niece visited recently. She is a loving girl who thinks deeply. Our family planned a day at the beach while she was here. In anticipation of the trip Katelyn told me she likes to build sandcastles, but not in the typical way with buckets and shovels. She described her method, but it all became much clearer to me when we were at the water’s edge.

katelyn sandShe digs a hole close to where the water laps the shore, allowing the hole to fill with water. Then she digs in and picks up a clump of wet sand. Moving to her sandcastle, just a short stretch away so it is out of the water, Katelyn slowly allows the goopy sand to drizzle out of her hand, creating odd shaped squiggles piled on top of one another. She continues to build it up until the water advances and washes it away, or it collapses on it’s own.

Right away she surveys the situation, digs a new hole and starts a new sandcastle. Then, she looks at me and says,

“Sometimes it gets wrecked, but that’s ok because it leaves a foundation to start the next one.”

Girl, are you really just 10 ½?  You just preached a message your grand-aunt needed to hear and I don’t think you even knew it.