In the middle of blasé, I’m slapped awake by love. It happens while looking at my husband, Sandy. With 25 years of marriage in our pocket, it’s against the odds. Why does he still tweak my heart strings? We do have that “magic” going on, but that’s not what I’m talking about. This is different. It’s as if all my senses have the gift of sight. I see with my heart, soul, mind. Like seeing him through a pair of divine glasses. About now, he asks….
“What? Why are you staring at me?”
Vision blurred, I dismiss his question moving on with the mundane day, grateful.
I love those sloppy, in your face moments of love. Like:
Catching him knelt by a child, giggling.
When he smiles through a backache because his hard work and talents blessed others.
Watching him in prayer, worship or meditation.
Or recently, when he lifted my suitcase, into the car, placed his arms around my shoulders, and kissed me softly. After confessing he’ll miss me even if I’ll be away only one night, he hands me a bag with apples and almonds for the road, and says— marriage
“I want to pray for you.”
Golden moments to savor. The times you think it just doesn’t get any better. Yet, it does There is something even more incredible…marriage
It’s a place. A destination. I can’t say how long it takes to get there, but I guarantee, it’s 5+star and worth whatever the cost. We chose the long route. The wide highway with multiple lanes, all mysteriously located on the edge of a cliff. I don’t recommend this well-traveled road, as it is in perpetual rush hour. It zigs. It zags. And, it takes a spiritual enema to blast you out. At least that’s how we got through the bowels. marriage
When the portal leading to the “place” opens, it’s glorious. To enter you must be alone, and together, at the same time. And, mysterious as it sounds, you never arrive. Enough riddles. I’m talking about standing before God together. It’s the best place a couple can be. There we are independent of each other, yet interdependent with our Father. marriage
We are one in quiet… one in prayer… one in awe and praise… one in gratitude. If I named this place it might be Clarity… or Peace or simply, Good. Here is where I know who I am, who Sandy is, and most important who God is. It’s a place packed with power, wonder… magnificence. marriage
We often visit this place alone, which somehow brings us closer together, enriching our relationship beyond any other cure. But when we stand before Him as a couple, bothersome worries and gargantuan challenges flee. Just like shining the light on a nest of roaches. Nothing is too big, complicated or irreparable. You might enter empty and discontent, but you’ll leave full and satisfied. A guaranteed occurrence.
I wish we’d taken the short cut. It’s not like we didn’t see the signs, have a map or hear the Guide offering help. I recommend the fast train to this destination. Why not skip the detours we suffered? I don’t plan on getting lost again. I keep the coordinates for His presence close to my heart.
Coming soon: Check out a sample chapter of our book – “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.”
The marriage dance… synchronized grace… harmony… coordination. A couple gliding across the floor, form and shadow… perfection. Sigh…
Then there’s real life marriage, like ours. It’s a dance too. I’m the one, beat abandoned, arms flailing, one foot clogging, the other waltzing. My dance partner/husband Sandy, is the easy does it guy with a lackadaisical sway, dancing, mainly with facial expressions–just picture a stoned mime. That dance accurately describes our daily challenge to not step on each other’s toes.
Recently on a short road trip we were brainstorming topics for potential blog posts. Doesn’t everyone do that for auto-tainment? I had a banner idea… the top ten annoying things he does that make me crazy. I scribble them with ease in my notebook while he quietly drives down the road. “Finished ta-da!… piece of cake… I’m ready to write the sequel.”
“Okay, but first, I have ten of my own, counter to yours.” he says.
A strong marriage team is like complementary colors which, when placed next to each other, create the strongest contrast and reinforce each other. So here they are below, in living color.
He’s like a GPS chatterbox. Have you ever heard that saying “ask the time and he’ll build you a clock?” That’s my husband. If you ask for driving directions, you have to know when to walk away, usually after his first three steps. After that… he wanders… listing alternative routes… sharing memories of the last time he was there… asking questions like, “remember the auto parts store on the corner?”
She never pays attention to where she’s going. Even if she’s been someplace a dozen times she’ll ask me for directions… walking away, fingers in ears before I’m finished. Later, she calls, irritated with me because she’s lost.
I’m in the middle of a project, reach for my hammer, but it’s nowhere in sight. Why? Because Mr. Neat Nik put it away. He’s OCD about his sacred tools. One day I’m searching for a simple screwdriver. He runs into the garage, clearly shaken, accusing me of tool abuse. The specific crime was opening and closing the drawers too fast causing the pretty little rows of tools to fall out of alignment. Really?
I know Deb’s up and ready to start the day when I walk into the kitchen and bang my head on one of all the cupboard doors left open. Her logic is that she might need back in there someday. And, she’s a junkie for junk drawers. We have 27, with more on the way. What goes in a junk drawer? Whatever fits. She even carries a mobile junk drawer disguised as a purse.
I’m forced to live my life at least 15 minutes early. All those minutes spent waiting for the normal guests to arrive. We are always first, period… no challengers. I suspect our friends will soon start tampering with the time on our invitations because they’re tired of entertaining us before the party begins.
She calculates our departure time like a ticking time bomb, not wanting to arrive one millisecond early. What’s with that? What horrendous plight awaits early guests? Do the hosts eat the first to arrive? Punctuality is not a crime. And ish? It’s not a time. Period.
He won’t try new things. Food likes and dislikes are written in stone. If it’s green, he’s leery. If he tried something once as a toddler, he’s not giving it another chance. Memories of childhood food traumas rule his adult taste buds.
I – DON’T – LIKE – LIVER. Is that so complicated? I don’t care how many people she has converted to “liverites” with her special recipe, the flavor and disgusting texture have not changed since I was a kid. That goes for most green foods, like avocados. How about oysters? She tosses raw oysters down her throat and wonders why I don’t trust her food judgment.
As picky as he can be, (see above), he has no problem devouring 30 day old leftover pizza. He responds to my concerns for his health with “what?” And expiration dates on food? They’re just some conspiracy theory bunk.
40 years ago, she may have gotten food poisoning after eating a burger from one of our local restaurants. It’s obvious she was the only target because they’re still in business today. If they still want Deb dead, she’ll never know because she’s not going back. If I get a craving for one of their famous juicy burgers, I have to sneak for fear she’ll barge through the door with a makeshift stomach pump. Even worse, if she hears someone reported slight nausea after eating at a national chain restaurant across the world, our local version is exnayed off the list… forevermore.
Remember the story of the Princess and the Pea? She was so delicate and sensitive she could feel a pea placed under a stack of 10 mattresses. That’s Sandy. He complains of imaginary minute particles jabbing his back side. This carries over to his clothing. He’s been known to remove tags from shirts leaving a gaping hole and according to him, he’s under constant attack from his killer underwear.
You know the saying that “____ rolls downhill?” Well, I‘m bigger than Deb, so my side is where all the crackers, peanuts and popcorn end up. There’s nothing worse than starting the day with a peanut embedded in your back like a 3-d tattoo.
Rules are suggestions and never apply to him. He’ll suffer dire consequences to reserve his right to break the rules. If the button says don’t push, he’s going to push it. If the sign says wrong way, he ignores it. He even jumps up and down on motel beds. My guess is he was told not to when he was three.
She’s a slave to rules. It’s genetic. You better read the guide book before meeting the family. There are rules for all occasions, even simple ones, like dinner. I was warned not to pass food in the opposite direction. If her dad orchestrates the peas, potatoes and meat clockwise, you must abide. I tried, but wouldn’t you be curious what would happen if the biscuits rebelled and suddenly turned counter clockwise? As you can imagine… nothing horrific happened… until later when I got an earful from Deb.
If it were up to Sandy, all life would be freestyle. No plans. There’d be no such thing as wedding planners, special event coordinators or even simple dinner menus. We’d all just show up somewhere random and fend for ourselves. Yet, when life gets messy, he’s right there asking me questions like “what shall we do?” Stick to the plan… oh, yeah… we don’t have one.
Compared to Deb, the Boys Scouts of America are slackers. She over prepares for everything. Her to-do lists have master lists, outlines for future lists and appendices for existing lists. Once she’s tortured me with the original micro-plan, the second “just in case” phase begins, . If she invites you to dinner and you find fifty hungry strays on the way, no worries, she’s ready.
In his mirror, dressed up means wearing a T-shirt with a clever (subjective) statement. If it’s a worthy quip, holes or stains are no concern. What’s wrong with a starched white shirt and blue jeans? Someday I’m having a shirt made for him that reads: Disclaimer: My wife does not pick out my clothing.
She gets a sadistic thrill when I wear uncomfortable clothing. Starch is her friend, not mine. My neck will be red, raw and my legs chaffed and bleeding from new stiff jeans… she’ll shoot me a sick grin saying, “you look so nice.” I suspect it’s payback for high heels and bras.
He doesn’t even try to keep up with the conversation. This is the man who can build a house from a tree, fix just about anything and tests high on IQ tests. Yet, he can’t keep up with a lighthearted update chat of the week?
Once again, I try. Yet, I’m the insensitive jerk because I’m lost between conversation change one and two while she’s darting between 11, 12 and 13. How did we go from squash to her mom’s hair color? I’m not sure what kind of tree that is? Yes, I agree the treehouse needs painted this year. I didn’t realize buttermilk was a color. Yes, biscuits sound good for breakfast. I try, I really try.
Yes, he drives me crazy and, I guess, I have the same effect on him. The truth is, we celebrate these differences as they make us better individuals and strengthen our coupledom. There is mutual benefit in the rubbing of two iron blades together; the edges become sharper, making the knives more efficient in their task to cut and slice.
If you want your own messy relationship to flourish, we have one word of advice:
Leadeach otherto the cross.Start there… live there…die there.
Every day he’d march through the historic windy town of Ellensburg, turning right onto Main, passing by my store with the flapping Antiques flag. His warning blasted a block away, allowing time to move inside or duck behind something. Potential customers, eyeing the sidewalk display of old iron beds and steamer trunks, would follow me as I’d slip through the door. From a safe distance, we’d cringe at the sound of his angry words. As the clamor of the one man parade blew by, they’d look to me, eyes wide, faces begging for solace and comfort.
“Blankety blankety blank blank blanking blank blank!” he’d scream, shaking a fist at the invisible tyrant walking next to him.
“It’s okay. He’s harmless, “ I’d say, peeking out from behind a gargantuan 19th century wardrobe. “It’s a form of Tourette’s Syndrome.” Noting their distrust, I’d add, “ Really. Nothing to worry about.”
One day, while on a ladder washing my store front windows, I hear the cursing turn the corner. There’s no time to scurry down the ladder, so I stay put, pretending oblivion to his noisy presence. I feel guilt and shame for being afraid. How can I shun a human being as if he’s invisible? It’s wrong.
Town talk claims he’s not violent, yet everyone seems to avoid him, and store owners complain that he runs off customers. My feelings of wrong doing linger, leading to eventual prayer and resulting in a sense of conviction. Befriending the cursing crusader became my mission. For starters, a simple greeting… Hmmm… Hello? … Good morning? … Howdy? … How ya doin’?
Every day, as the obscenities drew near, I’d pose in the door, ready to shout a cheer filled greeting. But as the angry banter closed in, I’d panic, stepping back through the door, breathing as if I’d just ditched a serial killer. This went on for days,… okay weeks… and some of that time I failed to even attempt communication.
Then, one day courage arrives (TA-DA!), like a late dinner guest I’d almost given up on. I was ready. When the string of expletives shadowed my door, I stood tall shouting above the swearing.
What? I was shaken and confused. This is not what I expected. I did what I felt God would want me to do, and… and… he yelled at me!
I’ll get back to this story, there’s more, but let’s pause a moment.
Am I the only one who does this? Plays let’s make a deal with God? Spouts sentences, whether verbal or in thought like, “If I do this then you’ll do that. Right God? “If I’m good you’ll reward me and it will look like _______________ “ (fill in the blank).
His word says: Matthew 7:9 NIV: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?Of course he doesn’t specify whether that bread will be white, dark, buckwheat or cinnamon toast. How many times have I thought God was not listening to my petitions, only to find out later that the answer was in front of me all along, just not as I’d pictured it. Worse yet, not the answer I wanted. God was not following the script I had prepared for him.
A simple personal example: My husband and I asked God to give us a sign if it was time to close our 16 year old antiques business. We’d asked this before when stress was high and sales were low. Each time, something obvious would happen that turned the business back around. So this time we were expecting something similar. Maybe that designer from Montana will show up with his big truck again, or the gals who bought out my entire line of estate jewelry will come back for more.
The morning after our prayer, news came that our last subcontractor was moving out. That meant we were losing money, not gaining. We should have thought immediately, “Oh, okay God, thanks for the prompt and clear response.” Instead, we scrambled, searching for ways to keep the doors open. Thank God, in the middle of a discussion to take on a hefty loan, we heard what He was saying.
Please know… I AM NOT saying we should shrink our expectations of God’s almighty power and desire to bless us. That’s not the point at all. He wants to bless our socks off. But, we, or at least I, don’t always recognize the blessing because it is not what I thought it should look like.
The timing was perfect for closing the business. Once we crawled out from under this burden, we could see the stress… the desperation. We’d been frantically bailing with a holey bucket, trying to keep afloat, safe from the sharks of failure. Little did we know God had a plan for us. Much better than our script… more creative… written by the Author of Happy Endings. Today we enjoy our home business, still dealing in antiques, but leisurely, with no overhead and stress free.
Back to the story…
I continued to greet the entrepreneurial cussing master. Days, weeks, months my exuberant greetings reaped only creative profanities. Then on a day no different than any other, it happened… after a simple “Hello.”
He stopped… motioned for the invisible antagonist on his left to wait, looked me in the eye and said, “Good Morning.”
Then he went back to yelling at his invisible debate partner.
Warning … I’ve decided to walk the tightrope without the net. I’ve made some changes to the blog and I want you to know what to expect.
The main change is the name, “IN SPITE OF US,” after the book I am writing – one keyboard click at a time. Other than that, I will continue to post the same random stories but occasionally will share excerpts from the book or reflect on the agony of the writing experience. “In Spite of Us,” is a book in progress about a completely unremarkable couple, doomed to DEATH by stupid choices. Two people coerced into a blind date, attraction acknowledged along with RED FLAGS waving. Yet, they continue… a stiletto heel and a biker boot… limping along with clashing lifestyles, heading toward a mass grave, overflowing with hopeless relationships.
A double memoir told through the opposing voices of myself and my husband, TESTIFYING TO GOD’S GREAT LOVE. A God who never gave up on us.
My heart for the blog is to show that although my walk today may outwardly appear to be simple and ordinary, it is in Spirit, truly remarkable with His miracles around every corner. Yes, I still question and unfortunately whine with the best of the Israelites, but hopefully, before the Amen is spoken, Praise His Holy name.
My prayer is that the book and blog give glory to His deeds, lighting a path of hope for others, who may feel undeserving, as I once did and still do, without a huge daily dose of His Grace and Mercy.
I hope you enjoy the changes and keep following as I wrap my toes around that tightrope and reveal my heart.
No one ever asks me twice – “What’s the worst that could happen?”
BE PREPARED became my childhood mantra, on a family trip to Yosemite Park in 1960. Showers were number one on the to-do list, after traveling three days in our new Aristrocat trailer. We had a quart size pickle jar filled with change – quarters, nickels, pennies and … DIMES.
“No use wasting money… C’mon little Debbie,” said Grandma, prying my fingers off the doorjamb. She snags two towels and my new yellow flip flops with one hand, while the other locks onto mine, towing me down a dirt path to a dank building with a plank board sign reading, “SHOWERS 10 CENTS.” Inside, four cement stalls line the walls, each with a coin slot just like the mechanical pony outside of Woolworth’s Drug store back home.
Naked, as ordered, I keep my eyes fixed on Grandma’s crooked toes. The dime clinks into the slot, warm water relaxes my mind, curiosity slips in. Naked is not natural in our family, so nude to me is like the cartoon version of Porky Pig – pink, smooth, no hair. Nothing in my seasoned eight years prepared me for Grandma’s immense, pendulous breasts framing her round, protruding belly above a black furry patch staring back at me like an evil Mr. Potato Head.
Right then, I vowed – ALWAYS CARRY A DIME IN MY POCKET!
Adopting a “dime in my pocket” mind set can save the day. Heck, even the Boy Scouts pitch – BE PREPARED. My question is this – In preparing for the worst, do I also anticipate for the best?
I wonder how different my days would be if I packed my bags for BEST CASE SCENARIOS. Am I prepared for the best thing that could happen? Do I watch for miracles? … Or just potential disasters.
What if the next time there’s a knock at the door, I fling it open in expectation of His wonder, grace and mercy? What if I remove worry, fretting and anxiety from my daily luggage and replace it with hope and expectations of His wonder?
Are you peeking around the corner ready for the biggest miracle yet?
Mathew 6: 25-34 NIV
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
One tear sways a stream, as the perpetual Seattle mist merges into a downpour. I pull off Highway 412, just past Greenwater, feeding a CD to the slot. A doe and her fawn remain close by under an umbrella of pines, even after I open the windows to share Nat King Cole singing my Mom’s favorite song, “Star Dust.” The hyper-alert doe keeps watch. As the rain sprays through the window, mixing with my tears, I say goodbye to my Mom.
Januarys end with her birthday, and this month more than any, she is on my mind. She left memories all over the place, like a child scattering toys around for the rest of us to trip over. The slightest tickle from any sense – an image, a voice, an aroma. A whiff of southern fried chicken and she’s before me wearing a crinoline apron in high heels, laughing at Dad, impatiently waiting on a drumstick.
That surreal, misty fog of a “say goodbye day,” married two polar feelings – pain and joy. Earlier that day, the doctor flipped the switch from on to off, as my sister and I kept vigil, witnesses to the air-brake hiss of the machines last breath.
The doctor said it might be hours, or even days before she passed. I don’t know how either of us would have remained standing had we not had our belief in a loving God. Even so, we were reduced from grown women to helpless, lost, scared children. Months of prayers, hand holding, tear dabbing. Hours of Bible reading to a silent Mom whose eyes never open. We have faith, but right now, it resembles that nagging mustard seed. Sisters wanting to be strong for each other, we keep our desperate prayer a secret – the one begging God to let us know that our Mommy will be okay.
A cup of tea might stop the clock, at least for a moment. Shaken, we start down the hall toward the cafeteria when we realize we’ve both forgotten our purses back in the room. We opened the door to find Mom, smiling… eyes, not only open but seeking. Instinctively we turn, looking for what she sees. Our eyes fail to see more than a white wall, but through her eyes… joyous anticipation – promises fulfilled – kingdom majesty.
Moments later, she stopped breathing and left the room. A lights out feeling… yet, there we stood, my sister and I, smiling, giggling, rejoicing. Oh, what a loving God indeed.
And now the purple dusk of twilight time Steals across the meadows of my heart High up in the sky the little stars climb Always reminding me that were apart
You wander down the lane and far away Leaving me a song that will not die Love is now the stardust of yesterday The music of the years gone by
Sometimes I wonder why I spend The lonely night dreaming of a song The melody haunts my reverie And I am once again with you When our love was new And each kiss an inspiration But that was long ago Now my consolation Is in the stardust of a song
Beside a garden wall When stars are bright You are in my arms The nightingale tells his fairy tale A paradise where roses bloom Though I dream in vain In my heart it will remain My stardust melody The memory of love’s refrain