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“Love Ain’t Easy Peasy…”

Dearest Kelsey and Austin,IMG_7696

  • From the frozen tundra of Illinois to the balmy breezes of Texas here come a few more lovin’ tips from your grandparents. Today we have been married 20,355 days. You’d think we’d have it figured out, right? We don’t. We are still learning how to love each other extravagantly.

Love is so easy to SAY and so hard to DO. At first, it’s really easy with our “one and only” so we decide to get hitched. That is a good thing, but you’ve been a couple long enough to notice that too frequently loving each other more than yourself ain’t that easy peasy.

Sometimes it is hardest for me to “keep my love on” with the one I love the most. Could it be because he is who I am closest to, the one most often in my space while seeing life differently, the one who helps me recognize my selfish tendencies as a human?

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book “NeverEnding GodStories: Adventures of  Lifetime with Him available on Amazon next month. It will give you a glimpse of our early newlywed years when we were learning to let God transform us into lifetime lovers.

    Don and I argued a lot when we were first married. Trash was definitely the biggie. Since the day we said I DO, we both had been loudly saying I DON’T when it came to taking out the trash. In Don’s family his mom did garbage duty, so he thought that was the wife’s job. In my family my dad did that dirty task; so obviously it was hubby’s job. 

     We both learned a lot about doing married life by mirroring how our parents had done it, especially when it worked for our personal advantage. Quietly after several years of constant trash talk I began doing the job without a word. He was amazed. God was at work in me. It is often the small things that erode a relationship. I was learning that it can also be the small things which build it stronger.

     My mouth was no small thing, and it was undergoing a big transformation. Don and I had fallen into predicable roles when we argued. Sometimes I barked at him meaner than a junkyard dog while Don balked with me, stubborn as a mule. Our animal behaviors didn’t help us relate. As God’s Spirit worked within me, Don noticed that his fiery young bride who had always been quick to clarify the correct way to think about absolutely everything was now quieter and taking time to actually think before blurting out whatever popped into her head.

     I no longer felt it was necessary to be right in every argument. That one change alone was dramatic evidence of God’s amazing transformation. I have observed that this attitude of assumed rightness is one of the top causes of fighting with couples. Not having to be right or have the last word began to diffuse anger. Sometimes we couldn’t agree so we agreed to disagree and move on.

     Whether to allow the Spirit to be in control of my words or to insist on my viewpoint would continue to be a daily choice for our entire marriage. I hate to say that there would be more days when things such as the trash would pop up again as an issue. I would still have to choose whether to be self-centered or choose to love. But God is faithful to transform us from the inside when we ask Him for His help…

God designed us with a need to connect with Him to really nail this love thing to last an entire lifetime of ups and downs. So dear Kelsey and Austin, we pray for you to learn to love early and love well. It is hard work and so worth every little loving choice you make as you become lifetime lovers.                             

                                                                     With hugs from Grandma V

   

 

 

 

Love Letters from Grandma #1

“On Loving Happily Ever After”

Kelsey is engaged! I invite you to read over my shoulders as I post letters to our granddaughter and her fiancé in the upcoming weeks. Each will have a tidbit of wisdom to chew on gleaned from living 55 happily incompatible years with Grandpa.

Dear Kelsey and Austin,

We are so thrilled with your engagement. That bling on your finger, Kelsey, sure puts a new sparkle in your big brown eyes.

To you, Austin, Grandpa Don & I send a warm welcome to our family. Your creativity and vibrant love for life should help you fit right in.  

Marriage is inviting someone to move into your closest space. That’s what makes it both so difficult and so marvelous. As a self-centered humans, learning how to love each other well is work ’til death do us part, but it is SO WORTH IT. What a gift to get to spend a lifetime with your best friend.

Grandpa and I were madly in love as 18 & 19 year old newlyweds, but had no idea how we would cherish each other like we do now after walking through a heap of hills and valleys. Along the way we’ve reached out for lots of help, and that has made all the difference.

Austin, we enjoyed how you sent a request to friends and family for bits of “happily ever after” tips to surprise Kelsey on your first fiancé date night. You gave a great illustration of how to implement my tip for this week: 

To learn to love well, get help from others.

  • Choose carefully the tribe(s) you hang out with because they will have great impact as they invisibly guide you into what is “normal”, subtly yet powerfully affecting how you live every day life. You tend to live like those you keep close by.
  • Stay connected with people whose lives and values you admire, for even if they aren’t in your closest circle right at the moment, there will days are coming when you will be glad you kept them on your team.
    Seek help from friends you’ve never met, those authors of good books as you share videos, articles, and special events together.
  • Keep learning. Make a habit to ask people, “So what do you feel makes a good relationship?”
  • And don’t be reluctant to reach out for special counsel through the rough places. We all need help at different times.
  • Most importantly, talk to God who dreamed up this idea of male and female. Although He doesn’t promise He’ll keep bad things from happening as we roam this earth, He does promise He will be ever-present which comes wrapped in love, peace, and joy even in the messy middle of life.

We look forward to your beginning this next generation of marriages in our family. May your legacy be a strong one and your commitments become a most marvelous messy merging of two lives devoted to keeping your love on for a lifetime together. Hugs, Grandma V

Readers:  If you’ve enjoyed “listening in”, check future posts on my upcoming book NEVERENDING GODSTORIES: Adventures of a Lifetime with Him”.

55 Years Together

I remember that hot day in June & the sweat dripping off Don’s nose (no AC) as we first knelt before God, as partners for life.

At 18 & 19, we couldn’t have imagined all the trials that lay ahead. Nor could we have dreamed of all the joy and victories we would have as an ordinary couple on a wild adventure with an extraordinary God.

I am still working on my hubby’s anniversary present, the 1st copy of my book recounting our journey. “Never-Ending GodStories” hopefully to be on Amazon by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, God keeps teaching us both how to love well. Thank you, Lord, for the amazing gift of our life together with You. What a ride!

20,000 Days Together

20,000 Days Together —Don and I have reached another milestone. doncathyMost people celebrate the years, but aren’t the days really what count? Some days Don and I seem to finally be getting the hang of it. We enjoy each other more than ever, keenly aware that another day together is a gift and not a given. Others, not so much. There have countless good days and a fair share of bad ones too, some extraordinary,  but hundreds of ordinary days. Yet it has been good experiencing life’s stories together. It hasn’t always been easy. It still isn’t. It is work, and it is worth it. Doing life together with a spouse or kids, friend or family, with anyone in our life space makes us aware of our self-focused tendency to look out for ourselves and our need to love one another more.

As we approach our 55th in June, Don and I adamantly agree on one thing: the most important thing in life is relationships. Accumulating stuff just doesn’t matter that much anymore. Jesus said it first, that the main thing in life is to love God and to love those around us (our neighbors).

“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                 Matthew 22:37,38 NLT

My closest neighbor for the past 20,000 days has been Don. It is still a daily challenge to love him as I do myself. But he and I both keep at it.

To celebrate this day, we offer this gift to you.  It is an idea we heard on a vlog from Susan Pierce Thompson. We try to end our day with positive words that help us notice and be thankful to God for the good things. Some nights the exercise takes 30 minutes; others it takes 30 seconds (when all he wants is to go to sleep). We have also had fun using the exercise on evenings with friends. I hope you will try it to enhance your relationships.

Take turns finishing these 3 phrases:

  1. What went well today…
  2. What I appreciate about you…
  3. What I want…

Here is what I say to my best friend Don as I finish this 20,000th day with you: What went well today was getting this blog posted. What I appreciate is that you told me you like the roasted cauliflower. I love your compliments. What I want are many more days loving God and loving people with you.

So how about your day? Will you share your thoughts with someone close by?

 

Happy 65th

pexels-photo-221361.jpegToday is my 65th birthday. But wait—don’t post Happy Birthday yet. I’ve been tootling around the earth almost 75 years. So whattzup?

Today I am celebrating my spiritual birthday, the day when my spirit was born again as I invited Jesus to come live inside me. I was 9 years old.  Did I understand what it all meant? Heavens no, but I knew enough to begin eternal life.

Things are not as they seem. There is a spiritual realm around us, invisible, yet more real and lasting than the world we experience with our physical senses. It is a marvelous Kingdom filled with treasures to discover and mysteries to solve.  I’ve spent 65 years exploring this Kingdom, getting to know my King who has given me a rich, satisfying life, even in a boatload of troubles. I’ve journaled our encounters. The stack is getting tall.

IMG_0010 – Version 2.jpgI’ve known His healing power since He delivered me from epilepsy after 15 years of seizures. I’ve felt His peace sweep away my grief in a cemetery while burying our son Cory years ago. I’ve recognized His miracles in our youngest grandkids, Mateo and Raquel, impossibilities to have be conceived. I see His kindness daily through Don, my love and biggest fan.

God’s Kingdom breaks through in extraordinary ways. He is also King of the ordinary, bringing pleasure in the simple things like the powdery flakes of snow falling from the skies.

These cold winter mornings I feel God’s closeness sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee, reading, talking with Him, journaling. It is the best part of my day. Then I go to work on the book I am finishing that details this lifetime of GodStories, and He keeps adding more stories in our lives.

Today I celebrate these amazing 65 years and how He is keeping me fresh and fully alive, thankful that He has promised to always be there. He is faithful.

I’m having a very Happy Birthday.

    * Can you explain the wind? God’s Spirit is invisible and real as the wind, as Jesus comments in John 3:3-8:

‘Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

 

How About You ?

Warm and sunny — sounds good to me❣️ How about you? 

We like to visit sunny Texas in the winter to enjoy our daughter Jenny and her family, not to mention escaping the cold for a few weeks. This morning as I sat looking out at our 11° day in IL, I saw a picture of how “going down south” was looking for us this winter.

IMG_4920-1I swiveled my chair to the south  and snapped a shot of our sunroom. Hmmm, perhaps “down south” is only a few steps down and a few feet south. Looking further, I could see the cold outdoors.

So I swiveled my chair to the southwest to picture the warmth of Texas in our fireplace.

 

IMG_4921-1Don had just left his recliner (two feet in front of the fire) meditating and rejoicing as the room soared to a Texas toasty 77°.  Then he put on his longjohns (and in his words “all the clothes I could find”) and headed to Springfield with 3 friends to pass out packs of new socks to the homeless.  While being out in 11° will be cold, unlike the homeless, Don will return to our warm home. Tonight he will be joyful, humble, and thankful to God.

How about you?

I sensed God showing me that these two photos also depict what it looks like to be closely connected to Jesus. Inside, we experience calming peace as we relax in the warming love of His Presence, confident He is right there to help us through anything.

Yet, outside, we are surrounded by a world that is often bitterly cold, and we get pounded by biting winds as we face stormy troubles, some fierce, even life-threatening.

As usual, Don and I are facing trials in our little world with our tribe of friends and family.

How about you? 

Do you know anyone who isn’t? Such is the human condition. Here’s what Jesus said:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

He also said, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”                    John 14:2

So as the busy bustle of life crowds in on me, I am learning to cry out to One who gives me the priceless gift that lasts—His peace.

I stop in the messy middle of trials to praise Him for who He is, thank Him for 5-10 blessings, and ask for His help in the trial. I invite Him to fill me with His Presence and peace.

Then I expectantly go about my daily life while looking for Jesus to fulfill this promise as I choose to trust Him.

How about you?

Goodbye for Now, Sis

Feb 24, 2016

Last night my precious sister Becky Clark slipped out of her body and left this world. My first thoughts of her this morning made me laugh as I saw her running in a field with Jesus, in a new vibrant pain-free body, enjoying her next life.

Then the tears began as I realized my big sis was gone, leaving us all with a major deposit of love and some great memories. She bravely fought cancer, that ugly enemy, with great faith in Jesus, regardless of the outcome. IMG_5210

She kept her positive outlook to the end. When I’d ask how she was, she’d reply, “I’m better today.” I smiled when my sister Pam asked, “Have you ever talked to Becky on a bad day? I seem to always call her on the better ones.” 

My daughter said, “I can’t imagine family gatherings without Aunt Becky.” She was Serg in charge, the one who kept things rolling. Becky cared about everyone and always spoke the best of them and went out of her way to help anyone in need. She considered the entire community her family as her loving husband Gary will attest.

Even at the last when it was too much of an effort for Becky to talk, when a visitor came, she would open her eyes and somehow manage a big smile. That counts.

It’s not what happens to us in this life, but all about how we respond to what happens. Becky trusted God even when times were hard. And that counts.

“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” Matthew 10:42

Becky gave this and so much more. And that counts. It all counts on the other side. My friend Anna texted “Death really sucks on this side.” But there is another side, and life we can see now on earth is mighty short compared to eternity. The best is yet to come.

So goodbye for now, my wonderful sister Becky. I love you and admire your life. I’m really going to miss you…for now. But I know we have all eternity to hang out later.