Marriage Blanket of Grace

“Their marriage was a blanket of grace that had been so many years in the making.” Home for Christmas by Melanie Wilber.

I love that imagery. There’s something so cozy about curling up under a heavy blanket that provides warmth for the body and the soul.

I read the quote to Jerry and asked if it provoked any thoughts. He responded that grace develops over time. The longer we are married, the more grace abounds.

So true. It’s not the time alone that increases grace in our lives. It’s the way we handle the little moments that seem insignificant, the everyday occurrences, and the monumental memories or stories that grow bigger each time they are recounted.

I envision our marriage blanket of grace as a quilt top secured to a fuzzy soft velour backing. I wrap myself in the snuggly side and ponder the memories and meaning of each quilt piece.

I see a piece of the blouse I was wearing on our first face-to-face date.

There’s a fragment of his sweatshirt I wore camping one weekend. Oh, how silly I was waking him up in the middle of the night to ask if I could take it.

Satin and lace from the ring pillow made by a friend and carried by another friend at our wedding.

Fabric from the shirts I made for Jerry in our first year of marriage. And to think our friend who was years ahead of us in marriage told Jerry to enjoy them now because I’d never make another. Four years ago I made him two more, just to prove our friend wrong!

Tears fill my eyes as I see the pictures printed on muslin scattered throughout the quilt. Our first home together. Posing at the accordion statue downtown before we moved away. Minor to major league baseball games. Visits with family, cruises and beach vacations. Not only is each picture worth a thousand words, but every photo also coveys a bushel of grace.

Other pieces of the quilt came from event t-shirts we served in together.

Oh yes, that scrap is from a favorite dress that fell off the bed and got caught in wheelchair tires. I remember laying on the floor cutting it apart to free his wheels to turn.

Snippets of hospital gowns one of us donned remind me to be thankful for good health now.

A section of a guest bed sheet helps me recall the hundreds of people we have hosted in our homes.

A strip from one of Jerry’s wheelchair bags brings to mind that life is made up of day by day activities.

That corner of a kitchen towel is reminiscent of all the messes and memories we’ve made sharing meals.

There are many more pieces to remember, but not today. Instead, my focus turns to the stitching holding it all together.

Copious amounts of love, prayer and grace are in those threads to be sure. But the thin strand is strengthened by forgiveness, patience, acceptance, honesty, integrity, mercy, tears of joy and pain, growth, battling through loss, laughter, and celebrations. I wonder what we will add in this new year?

What are some pieces that comprise your marriage blanket of grace? I’d love to know.

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Grandmom Borton made a quilt for each grandchild. This was the one given to Jerry when we got married.

Tune My Heart

For some people recent weeks have held visions of sugar plums dancing in their head. Not at our home. We were, and still are, full of Christmas cheer, and deep gratitude for the gift of Jesus.   But, when not thinking about Christmas words like Hulu, Netflix, Streamers, Sling and antenna have been bantered about in the search for an appropriate tv service. The goal is to find the one that will get the right sports channels for Jerry and the preferred chick flick or lifestyle channels for me.

At the suggestion and experience of a neighbor we went with an antenna. It appeals to me because once we pay for the sevice, there is no monthly fee. Less cost comes with more experimenting to find just the right angle to place the device. If we point the device just 3 or 4 degrees to one side or the other we gain or lose channels.

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Photo by Andre Moura from Pexels

But you are not reading this to get a television service recommendation. And frankly, I don’t have one to share. As often happens for me, God used this experience to teach me a lesson.

This morning I was moving the antenna around the house to get the clearest and greatest reception.That’s when it hit me – the antenna is like my heart!  I want to have the strongest possible connection to my Lord Jesus. Too often I allow my heart to be led astray by something shiny or intriguing, taking it just a few degrees off center. It is subtle, but that small change in focus compromises my relationship with Jesus. Sounds like something he warned us about in the Bible – no one can serve two masters.

Maybe I’ll like this antenna deal more than I thought. Not for what I can view, but for the reminder to constantly re-calibrate my heart to stay in tune with my Lord.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.                                     

Ezekiel 36:26 New International Version

Making Room

Sunday mornings. When Mom lived with us she was always ready for church earlier than she needed to be. To pass the time she would sit at the piano and play, and sometimes sing favorite hymns. I treasure those memories.

close-up-photo-of-person-playing-piano-1246437If it was good enough for Mom, it’s good enough for me. I have picked up Mom’s tradition. While playing Christmas songs recently I was reminded of the old hymn, Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne. If you need a refresher, click here to listen.

I love the way this songwriter takes us through the entire Gospel message in one song. Jesus left his home in Heaven, never being truly at home on earth. He gave his life at Calvary and now prepares room for me where he will one day call me to live.

The choral response to each verse of this amazing story is:

Come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee.

For several days I have been pondering how much room I have made in my heart for Jesus. That has to be the first step – my personal relationship. But next has to come the question – how much room is there in the heart of our marriage for Jesus today? Is it more today than there was yesterday? Or last Christmas?

As we celebrate the One who left His Throne for us, Jerry and I will be looking for ways to make more room for Jesus in our marriage and home. Won’t you join us?

Christmas Blessings my friends!

The Living Word

Building memories, that’s what we did last week with three of our grand nieces and nephew. We explored, created, laughed, played, and wore one another out. Periodically I would think how I wished God had allowed my parents more time with their grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Preparing for a three hour car ride home, twelve year-old Katelyn, asked Jerry if she could borrow a Bible. Jerry showed her a shelf of Bibles and invited her to take one.

After I delivered Katelyn and her siblings safely to their mom, I checked the car for any left behind belongings. It was then I noticed which Bible she borrowed. It was Dad’s; the last Bible he used prior to his passing in 2001. I remember buying it with Mom fourteen years earlier.

Katelyn, her siblings and cousin never met their great grandfather. It’s bittersweet to  think about how Dad would have impacted all six of his great grandchildren’s lives.

Wind whipped around me as I stood in that parking lot and told Katelyn whose Bible she used. Tears of joy warmed my face, and my heart as I realized Dad’s legacy does live on. Through the notes and markings he left in his Bible, he continues to invest in the lives of his family.

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Merry 19th Christmas in heaven Dad. Thank you for example. I imagine it will be many more years before you get to meet these amazing kids when they are called home to heaven. What a joy it will be to worship as a family the One who reconciled God and man (a nod to your favorite Christmas song – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing).

 

Enjoy Your Coleslaw!

In our newlywed years we lived across the street from a grocery store. One night while preparing dinner I realized I did not have lettuce for salad. I asked Jerry if he would mind going to the store to get some. He was amenable to the task.

Wanting to make life as easy as possible for him I told him it did not matter what type of lettuce he got, I could work with anything he selected. As I said this, I was thinking Romaine, Green or Red Leaf, Butter, Iceberg, etc.

Jerry came home pleased that he could take care of this need and smiled as he pulled a large head of green cabbage out of the bag. I am not sure what I said, but I thanked him and thought, I guess we’ll have coleslaw instead.

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Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

What I do remember is his surprise to learn his purchase was not lettuce. Apparently, he had tossed salads growing up that were made with cabbage. That was a new idea to me, but, ok.

 

Our families of origin had some significant differences. But in the things that matter (faith, love, care) they were more similar. It was always intriguing to make a visit to one of our parents homes. We often uncovered more things in our family backgrounds that we just assumed were “normal,” only to find others did not do things the same way.

I think of that little story now as we prepare for Christmas. I hear from couples how difficult it can be to spend holidays with in-laws. I am thankful this was not our experience. I would love to visit again with any of our parents, but they have all passed. If you are blessed to still have your families of origin may I make two suggestions to perhaps ease some seasonal stress?

First, remember your in-laws are the ones who raised the man or woman you love. Even if they do everything polar opposite of you, they did something right in raising the person you chose to commit your life to.

Secondly, time is too short to sweat the small stuff. When you trip over a difference in your families, celebrate it. Talk about it, maybe even laugh about it. Try not to let it ruin your trip, or negatively impact your visit. From my experience – enjoy your cabbage salad, you may even find you like it!

God Doesn’t Waste Anything

God does not waste anything. While those exact words may not be found in the Bible, the concept is there. Over the last few months God has proven this in my life.

I had the usual childhood answers to “what do you want to do when you grow up?” Nurse, teacher, etc. As I grew though the answer changed – I wanted to be a missionary.  In my young adult years I knew the location – Germany or Austria.

When an opportunity was presented at our church to join a new venture, called “World Class Cities Teams” I felt the tug in my spirit. World Class Cities were defined as a city of one million or more in population. I applied and was accepted to join a team that would plant churches in Vienna, Austria. As our team formed and began to learn how to work together and raise support we encountered some obstacles. Our team fell apart and most of us never made it to Vienna. This left me with pain and discouragement wondering why I had to go through that experience.

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Photo by Adam Tumidajewicz from Pexels

Many years later the organization I worked with partnered with an urban ministry, World Impact. We taught them about disability. They taught us about urban life, where many  people with disabilities live; either by choice or default. The part of the city we were working in was known to be among the top zip codes in the state for violence, drugs, etc. Still, I would have moved there if I could have, but this community would have made Jerry’s life even harder than it is. I loved what I learned about urban life.

When our partner ministry moved out of that area, we joined forces with Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association. Yes, even the anacronym OCCCDA is a mouthful. This work was in a part of the city that was new to me. Additional lessons came my way. Urban life is as varied as suburban life. Once again, I found myself wishing I could spend more time working with OCCCDA. I joined their Board and loved every minute of working with this community.

Then God moved us to central Florida. We do live within the city limits of a medium sized city, but still very much in suburbia. Here is where I saw the threads of my life coming together in God’s weaving.

Jerry and I joined the missions team at our local church. Each missionary supported has a liaison within the church.  One of the missions in need of a church contact was a seminary in . . .  yes, Vienna, Austria! Guess who quickly volunteered to be that representative? Though this looks much different than what I had envisioned thirty-five years ago, perhaps God is allowing me to have some level of contact and ministry in Vienna after all.

Working with Luke 14 Exchange, Inc took me to a meeting held at the Dream Center in the northern part of our city, which is urban. On our first visit there we learned about scores of amazing programs the Center offers for people in that neighborhood and around the city. One area they did not have any program offerings in was the field of disability. Hmmm, seems Jerry and I may have attended this meeting for more than one reason.

Every time I am in the neighborhood of the Dream Center (just four or five miles from our home) I see people moving around in wheelchairs or scooters and using canes. We are still exploring with the Dream Center what God has for us together. So far it has meant I’ve had an opportunity to reapply some of the urban living training I received in the past. It means that last night was the first of hopefully many opportunities where I and some church friends helped distribute food bags to the community. And it means I am developing a new friendship with C, a woman who lives with her own disability, and has a young son with autism. In a few short weeks she has taught me so much about trusting in God, vulnerability and living by faith.

I don’t know where else God will take these opportunities in the future, but I am

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Photo by Sergio Gonzalez on Unsplash

encouraged to see God unfold blessings from times in my past, even some difficult periods. I wonder what the final tapestry will look like?

And this much I know to be true, if He has done that for me, He will do it for you! What experiences do you wonder why or how God will use?

Give of Your Best

Have you ever had someone describe the behavior of a family member and you thought, Who are they talking about? That’s not the person I see at home? This seeming dichotomy makes sense to me. Most of us were taught to be our best when we are in public. Home needs to be a safe place. Part of being safe is letting ourselves be real.

I like letting my hair down, changing into comfy clothes, and letting go of pretenses. But there is a danger in this thinking. Putting my best foot forward in public, but not at home, means my husband gets the dregs of my day and myself. Let’s be honest, some days there is little way around that. Those are times we cling tighter to grace and mercy.

three-red-heart-balloons-704748Most days though, I have a choice. The relationship I have with my husband, next to the one I have with my God, is the dearest to me. It makes no sense to treat him in a way that communicates anything other than this.

When I am meeting with someone who has asked to talk with me, I put my phone out of sight, I focus my eyes and my heart on listening to them. If I tell them I will get back to them on something I try to make that happen in a timely manner.

When I do not interact with my husband with at least the same respect, something needs to change. Usually it is me. I may need to be more mindful of how I tune in to him. I may need to cut something out of my day to have more margin for him. I may need to put my own desires aside to focus on him. I may need to ask for a do over so I can give him the priority he deserves.

As life ramps up this month celebrating the One who was born to bring us peace, I think I’ll take a step back in my head and heart and make sure I am giving my best to the ones I love the most.