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keithsbabybraceletc

If you’re going through a challenge, this post is for you. Maybe it’s a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it’s a health challenge – your own or one you love.

Maybe it’s a financial challenge, a dream challenge,  a broken-down car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.

There’s only one rule for further reading: Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure,  don’t shut off conversation because it’s not the exact challenge. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. In each challenge, God is the same.

As a child of God, though, the course of action is the same, regardless of the challenge: keeping our eyes on the one who can walk us through the challenge, protecting us, helping us, and, at times, carrying us. Whatever your challenge is, this story is for you, too.

In just a few days, we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of our Savior who died to save us – to save us from a life of separation from the Father. He became the forever sacrifice, his spilled blood covering our sin so that our creator, our Father, could look upon us, his children, pull us into his embrace, and walk with us homeward.

December 20th, my husband and I started a journey, where Christmas, Passover and Easter collided and burst alive, bringing into sharpened focus what it is to believe. it. all. And in the believing watch the writer of our story unveil a plot designed to shorten his life before my husband took his first breath.

December 20th, Christmas  time- a mistake just realized. . .

Noticing a discrepancy between his heart rate when kayaking and walking, when my husband went for his annual physical, he was referred to a cardiologist he’d seen the year before. When he returned from the heart visit, he told me there was a problem.

There’d been a mistake.

The tests from the year before hadn’t been forwarded to the primary care doctor – and no one had notified him. Last year’s test results showed severe aortic stenosis. He needed a heart valve replacement. He was only 59 years old.

He came home without a description of what a heart event would look like – or what we were supposed to do in a heart event. I wanted a manual with step-by-step directions. I wanted to be prepared. I felt like we’d been handed a time bomb that could go off at any minute.

I wasn’t willing to wait around. I’m pro-active.  He was in to his primary care doctor in 30 minutes. Surely there was a mistake, we thought. Wrong file? Wrong name? Wrong person? My friend’s 94 year old father’s aortic valve was replaced the year before – this is something that should have been 40 years down the road.

At 4:28 that afternoon, after not hearing anything further, I called to make an appointment with my friend’s father’s cardiologist at St. Thomas Heart in Nashville, two minutes to closing. The receptionist listened to the story – I hung up  with an appointment for two days later with the promise of a referral following.

We weren’t ready to tell our sons – not until further information was accurately gathered and a plan formulated. Besides, it was Christmas.

“Who’ve you told?” he asked, seeing my sheepish expression. Well, my friend who gave me the name of the new cardiologist.

Another friend drove over with a smaller Christmas Tree cookie cutter that evening. When I walked out to her car and she handed it to me, I burst into tears – so two people knew.

Two people God sent across my path who believed in the power of prayer, who believed that God still heals, still does miracles, still answers the prayers of his children.

God knew I would need to keep my hands and heart busy on the day  in-between.  We were surprised but He wasn’t. . . He was already steps ahead of what we knew. . . which is why weeks earlier he’d dropped this idea into my heart to build friendship, to fill my home and heart, to mix, bake and find space for laughter.

I baked a hundred cookies that night, with dough for 50 more. You see, I’d invited a family with as many kiddos as mine over to decorate cookies. . . the day before the cardiologist visit  – cookies to take to a local assisted living at lunch time to share and sing Christmas songs. We cut out more cookies, talked birth order personalities, baked some more, talked spiritual gifts, laughed, made icing, had fun with decorating points, made a huge mess, and delivered the results with Christmas songs and time spent with the residents.

christmascookiescThe new cardiologist diffused the time bomb and scheduled further testing January 2nd to solidify the plan for an aortic heart valve replacement.

Another in-between, another wait. He had complete peace; I baked: my grandmother’s coffee cakes, Christmas cake, majeskas and bourbon balls, Christmas casseroles, and hot chocolate. I measured, stirred, whipped, baked, washed the measuring spoons and cups, the mixer, the pans over and over. . . and kept my focus on the one leading us through this journey. . . . and thankfulness for the reason for Christmas steeped the in-between, the wait, thankfulness the son of the king agreed to come down from his throne, be born a baby in a manger. . .

Yet, just as quickly as I thanked God for the birth of his son, I was thanking Him for Easter, for the crucifixion and resurrection, for the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb whose shed blood would cover my sin so God would be able to look upon his children – to love, fight, protect, heal each of us, to hear our prayers, know our fears and abate them, save us from Satan’s attacks.

“The sun has finally come, heralding the hope of the Christmas Season! This seeming constant rain and darkness has been a reminder of life without the birth of our Savior – and this sunshine drives home the symbolism of the saving hope He brings and what this celebration is really about! Wishing you and all you walk among the saving hope born of Christmas!” ~ December 24th, Instagram

A couple of challenges ago, I learned not to hold my breath in the wait of a prayer sent out. Breath-holding until the challenge has passed isn’t trusting God. There’s no peace in it, no fully living with a breath-holding mentality. God leaves such precious blessing in the wait of a prayer sent out, but when we live holding our breath, pausing until the prayer  is answered, we miss the blessings. The most important part of living happens in the hard wait, so I breathed in, “Lord, Jesus Christ” and breathed out, “Have mercy on us.” Breathing Jesus in. Breathing mercy out.

Intentional living, intentional loving, intentional focusing on the one who had the map to this journey. . . The Christmas gifts we gave weren’t all spot on. The stockings looked like a slackard elf put them together. Everything seemed a step off except for when my focus  was on the one who held both of us by the hand and guided us.

It was an I Believe Christmas. . . 
run smack into an Easter resurrection. . .

Maybe that’s what everyday living should be – a collision of Christmas and Easter in a come alive way.

lakeleafcWe decided before Christmas to tell the boys on Bucher Family Hat Day, January 1. I think it took a while to process this significant health challenge, to solidify how we were going to walk this forward, and finding the words to use to express and encase this challenge.

At no point did Keith ever doubt what the outcome would be: God had this! He didn’t doubt it for a moment.

My heart’s desire, maybe it’s my mission statement, is to show the boys what marriage looks like as we grow old with God as the center of that relationship. January 1 we were ready to tell our boys, to lead them forward through this challenge as God led us. They were about to realize marriage with God as the center isn’t challenge free but faith full.

Living over 1 1/2 hours from every major city, including downtown Nashville, we experienced a lot of drive time at 4:3 a.m. for the next 8 weeks. January 2 began a series of tests: a TEE, and heart catheterization were the big ones.

His arteries were great. My cooking did not cause the problem. It wasn’t that he’d eaten the wrong diet, not exercised enough, not lived the right kind of life style – whatever that may be.

He was born with a two-leaf heart valve (bi-cuspid), instead of a three-leaf heart valve (tri-cuspid). He was born destined for a life cut short. Our sons will need to be tested eventually.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy – he does it slyly, a sneak-thief thinking he can outsmart God: switching three-leaf heart valves with two is just one way. If we put our heads together, I imagine we could fill a book with a list full of ways Satan tries to interfere with God’s kids. Yet, no matter how Satan tries to interfere, God isn’t just a few moves ahead. He’s already implemented the steps for the win.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
   Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them” ~ Psalm 130: 13-16

The heart-valve study chooses the procedure for valve replacement: open heart surgery or the TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). One is very uncomfortable with an eight week recovery, while the other requires only an overnight hospital stay.  The study chose open heart surgery, and within six months was no longer an option. The procedure needed to be done quickly because since last year’s sonogram, the aortic valve was now critical.

A mistake had been made a year before. . . or had it. . .

The birth and resurrection had never seemed so closely connected.

Rummaging through Keith’s top drawer, I found his hospital baby identification bracelets. His mom and dad had no idea they were expecting twins. The story is a sweet one.

Dr. Mahaffey came out to tell Lloyd, my father-in-law, he had a healthy baby girl. Some minutes later he came out again and congratulated him on a son.

“But Dr. Mahaffey, you just told me I had a girl. Don’t you know which? Is it a boy or a girl?” my father-in-law, 25, asked.

“Son, you have one of each,” the kindly old doctor said, at which point, Lloyd slid down the hospital wall in shock.

They still laugh about the audacity of how Dr. Mahaffey charged double for the two: $75 a piece.

Those baby bracelets with the misspelled name, the II signaling he was born second. . . no one ever realized satan had already made a move to destroy that precious life. Satan didn’t yet realize God already had the saving plan.

As we stepped deeper into this “All is well” journey, one by one, God sent people across our path who stopped for real conversation, whose “How are you doing” wasn’t just a hand-off greeting, people who still believed miracles happen, that the power of God overcomes. I also invited a hand full of women I’d written with in the blogging community for years, women with a heart for intercession to pray with us. 

Slowly, a small brigade formed, praying with us for complete healing, for unflagging strength and courage for the journey, to encourage us to keep our eyes focused on the one who works those miracles, who heals the broken places, who has the best battle plans and wins.

This small brigade were the Aaron and Hurs in the hard of the challenge.

So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (Exodus 17: 8-13).

These intercessors who believed with us: “All is well!”

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During the pre-tests for open heart surgery, a nodule was found in his lung. The plan changed. Though the PET scan was borderline inconclusive, the pulmonologist thought it was Adeno cancer. An eight week recovery was out of the question. Open heart surgery was switched for the TAVR to be followed by a biopsy followed by lung surgery.

I asked God how I needed to pray. He sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-37, the story of the Shunammite wife and mother whose son had fallen ill and died. She didn’t wail and tell the world of her challenge, her grief, her fear or heart-break. She just said, “All is well.”

“All is well”  I said as we followed him.

Severe aortic stenosis? “All is well”

Nodule in the lung? Cancer? “All is well”

How are you doing? “All is well”

All is well!

The Passover just collided with Christmas and Easter.

That mistake? It wasn’t a mistake after all. . .

(The rest of the story in Part II: When Easter, Passover and Christmas Collide)

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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barnhouse

My husband and I were driving to town when we passed a white clapboard house nestled under big shade trees. Standing tall and sturdy next to the house, just the right amount of space to the left was a big, old barn. It reminded me of a knight standing ready to protect his lady.

A For Sale sign was in the yard.

“Your house is for sale,” my husband said. He knows how much I love old houses. This one was a red tin-roofed, two-story with a balcony above the front porch. A house with a porch – a real porch, wide enough for a swing and chairs. It had lots of windows, too. A house with lots of windows looks like a house where its inhabitants chose happiness. It seems like it would be filled with stories of people who loved life fully, both inside and out.

A house with a barn, or a barn with a house, would know of barn owls, chipmunks, barn cats and sparrows, goats, chickens, dogs, and cows. Maybe lambs, too. Wheel barrows, water troughs, muck rakes, forks, hammers and crowbars wouldn’t gather dust or get lost from lack of use. A weather vane, too – on top of the barn, along with a barometer. I wonder if that would be more reliable than television weather forecasters and radar.

Words and phrases like seed-time, reaping a harvest and storehouse would be common place. Plowing, gathering, threshing and winnowing, knowing how to collect wood for and how to build a fire – well, those would be every day living things, every day working out the physical examples of God’s spiritual principles. I think that would help his spiritual message plant somewhere deep in our souls.

About four weeks ago, they  tore down that white clapboard farmhouse that had stood beside its barn for longer than a lifetime – to make way for a new neighborhood. Bulldozers and gravel trucks bellowed freely now between where the house had been and the barn stood, its life companion gone. I pulled in and took a photo of the barn before they tore it down, too. What good is an empty barn in a field replaced with yards and houses? A few days later, it was bulldozed down. They didn’t take it apart to rebuild somewhere else. A heap of brokenness, someone burned it up a few days ago. It saddens me.

It saddens me, just like it saddens me that my great-grandmother and grandfather’s farmhouse burned down after my Uncle Jim died. The milk barn is overgrown with weeds and viney things that wouldn’t have been allowed to grow near either the house or the barn. The barn roof is falling in. Sometimes, I want to go back, to feel the stories, to sit on the porch steps worn with the footprints of those whose story set up mine, whose faith stories have become a storehouse of blessing, a rich spiritual inheritance that point to relationship with God. But the porch, along with the house, are no longer there for sitting and remembering.

The stories are being forgotten – and the buildings aren’t there to retell them. These stories, they’re the love and faith stories, these farmhouses and barns. If the walls could talk, they would tell over-coming stories, forgiveness stories, being born and born again stories, funny stories, loss and crying stories, cat and mouse stories, laughing stories, every day ordinary stories, growing up stories, feast and famine stories.

barnhouse848484dcThe farmhouse remembers the children’s bedtimes and where the jam, apples, butter and potatoes were stored. It knows what Christmas smelled like and what the cooling breeze in summer hotness felt like.  It knows the sound of big and little feet on the floorboards and which steps creak in the stairwell. It knows the goodnight stories and songs, and the sound of little ones breathing in sleep and the bigger ones sawing in sleep. It knows the challenges that spilled over, disrupting its peace, shaking its hope and faith.  It knows how the hard was softened, and that love which never gives up lasts a lifetime. The farmhouse, while a hive of activity, is where the place of refreshing lives, where the broken can be made whole.  It is where God’s word is read and then walked out to the barn, to the neighbors, and into town.

The farmhouse and the barn,
a boy and his girl,
a mom and a dad,
a grandmother and grandfather,
a barn and his farmhouse,
a farmhouse and her barn,

It’s a love story of give and take, provision and comfort,

of small town entrepreneurs in charge of their own destiny

where a full barn allows a house to become a home full of heart.

the barn is like the spirit of a man, the farmhouse the spirit of the woman

a symbiotic kind-of-love

He braves the harsh elements to fill the barn with the stuff comfort and security are made from. From the storehouses of barn he brings – and from the heart of the house, she gives. . . .

He gives her the grain – and she gives back bread.

He gives her the wool – and she gives back scarves, hats, sweaters and socks.

He gives her the cotton – and she stitches together crazy quilts for the bitter cold times.

He tears and she mends.

He gives honor and love; and she gives it right back.

He gives her trust to be who she is, and she gives him respect to be who he is.

He invites God into every dusty corner of the barn of himself,
and she invites God into every corner of the farmhouse of herself.

He gives her children, and she gives him a legacy,
but together they give their children an inheritance of blessing.

Each gives the other purpose; one without the other are incomplete.

Side by side,
storm after storm,
quiet after quiet,
year after year
the farmhouse and her barn
the barn and his farmhouse

They just might fade from memory, may even be exchanged for a different kind of living. The inheritance, though, it runs deep into the very fiber of a God-designed DNA. While the barn might be torn down, along with the farmhouse, and the faith and love stories forgotten, God redeems the faith, hope and love in story – he has the floor plan to rebuild what was forgotten, to redeem those who belong to the story.

The farmhouse and the barn,
a boy and his girl,
a mom and a dad,
a grandmother and grandfather
who built something more
than a barn and a farmhouse

“Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb;
I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers,
counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
the marvelous things he has done” ~ Psalm 78: 1-6

**None of the farmhouses pictured belong to the barns in the photographs. The first barn above is the one I discuss. The first house is one that was torn down a few years ago.

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A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” ~ Proverbs 13:22a

 

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There are moments when my husband dazzles me, moments when the sun just dog-gone shines brighter because he walked in the room. When I feel slimed by the world, it all washes away with one word, one smile from him.  It’s as though someone sprinkled me with. . . pixie dust.

“All the world [marriage] needs is faith and trust. . . and a little pixie dust” (Peter Pan)

An enchanted marriage? Where there is more to our marriage then two people? More than the strength in our 2 pairs of hands, 2 pairs of feet. Where my guy doesn’t ride a horse – and I don’t have hair as long or as sturdy as a rope ladder – but we survive the challenges that threaten us, yet still retain that dazzle, that enchantment, that love. Retain it despite life’s roughness, imperfection, graceless moments, conflict and self.

I’ve always heard about marriage turning two into one – at every single wedding: “Did he not make them one” (Malachi 2:15).

Yeah – there’s a heap of him and an armful of me (Granny’s measurements) – but it is a secret ingredient that mixes us into one, breaks down the individual ingredients for marriage one-ness – one-ness God’s way. We are a mixture with many things dissolved between us: sweetness, saltiness, spice.  According to Chem4Kids some mixtures are better combined “than any of the metals would be alone.”

But nobody every told me about the other ingredient, the secret ingredient, the more-than-pixie dust ingredient, the not-talked-about part of this transformation into one. I never heard the second part of Malachi 2:15:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” (Malachi 2:15)

The Father gives an amazing wedding gift: A portion of the Holy Spirit. The same powerful gift He gave on the day of Pentecost, the gift that enabled Peter the courage to never deny Christ again, the power to overcome adversity, for love to grow big enough that to lay down one’s life for another, faithfulness that never turned away, wisdom to say the right word at the right time, insight to love completely and unconditionally, grace for forgiveness.

I love how The Message translation says Malachi 2:15:  His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage.”

“The smallest details of marriage” – How small can you think? As small as a tear drop? As small as the penny in the bottom of your purse when that’s all you have?  As small as the alone-time with your husband when everybody’s need is so big?  As small as the letting out of the cat at 4 a.m.? As small as the lining of your kitchen drawers? Or the sliver of soap in the shower? As small as the energy left at the end of the day? As small as your confidence in the face of a mighty challenge? As small as your affection in a moment of big anger?

Sadly, this is often the wedding gift most often left unopened. When it is opened, it is a gift no one ever quite knows how to use, so it is shoved to the back of a closet.

It is a gift most successfull when used by both  husband and the wife –  in equal measure. Like cooking, familiarity, skill increases with use. Like spices, the more you use them, the more you understand just how powerful each is. The Holy Spirit is to marriage what yeast is to flour. It enables your relationship to be more than it was. It is the ingredient that dissolves two into one with the strength to maintain that mixture of oneness.

It is a gift that requires interaction. It won’t act until activated – until you mix it into your relationship through prayer, through asking. The Holy Spirit is like a spice in your cupboard. You might have it, but it cannot do anything until you pull it out and mix it in.

It is a gift that requires belief. When both believe  “the Holy Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage.”  The power of 2 married believers (Matt. 18:20) + the Holy Spirit = a blessed marriage.

I tell my sons to pray, ask God to show you the girl He made for you, to pray about it – and to both have God in your marriage. If the Trinity is in it, you can face and overcome anything, your oneness intact.

That special something in your marriage? Not a sprinkle of Pixie Dust. Not that old black magic. Just a powerful portion of the Holy Spirit.  Pull it out of the pantry of your soul and use today! Embrace the Power of One.

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I’m Challenging each of you to a Love Dare – Last week I wrote about the blessing found in choosing to love my in-laws. I’ve noticed that every time I write about in-law relationships – it gets awfully quiet. I’m getting ready to do a couple of articles on how when we honor and reach out to our husband’s family how that allows him to grow into the man he was designed to be. My love dare? Dare to love like you were born to them – like they are your favorites, love like you’d love your children on a bad attitude day. Just in case you missed the hard part of loving an in-law and turning the hard into blessing. I’m writing this to create awareness about the importance of our husband’s position in his family.

 

The Umbrella City my husband's family creates at the beach - 34 - and not everyone could come!

The Umbrella City my husband’s family creates at the beach – 34 – and not everyone could come!

“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep”(Psalm 127: 3-5)

Over 3o years ago, God gave me a priceless wedding present – my husband’s family. This gift – if I chose accept it, embrace it – had the ability to enrich my marriage, my motherhood, my life in ways that at 21 I possessed neither the maturity, life experience, heart-size, or selfless-ness to fully value.

Beside a dirt tennis court and picnic tables – that’s where I first met a good portion of my husband’s family when we were dating. Coming from a matriarchal family (due to deaths and divorce), it was a daunting first meeting – not his mother and father, not his sister and brother-in-law – no – it was the future nephews – all 4 from 1 to 81/2.

I knew nothing about boys: boy jokes, boy antics – boys growing, uninhibited, undaunted in a consistent out-pouring of unconditional love.

My husband loved them – and so I determined I would, too. True Love – or rather, unconditional love does that.

I think one of the great misconceptions of in-law-relationships is that a good in-law relationship won’t be hard or uncomfortable: hurt shouldn’t ever exist.

Why would we expect no relationship bruising from our spouse’s family if it occurs in the family that raised us (remember the growing-into-independence years)? Shouldn’t the same grace and forgiveness, the working through tough moments that leave us scratched, bruised and worn – working through them to forgiveness – shouldn’t that same grace and forgiveness be extended to the new members of this new family.

It’s not just working through challenges in building relationship with this new family, it’s learning to appreciate and value the differences. Just as parents and teens stretch to appreciate and value the differences in each other, so will spouses and in-laws stretch to appreciate each other.

If you accept the marriage gift – God creates something amazing and beautiful. Yes- you and your husband are 2 who become one. Yes, you both leave your family and cleave to each other – but, remember how God works in an Opposite Day Paradigm? You and your spouse  are a single family unit that flourishes best when that single unite fits with others to create a whole family – whole, as in complete – yet ever-expanding.

A heart grows by loving those God gives us. He gave us our birth, or in some instances, an adopted family, our spouse and children – and our spouse’s family, our brother and sister-in-laws. Love is a choice. When we chose to love those God gave us, our hearts grow, eventually uninhibited, undaunted and unconditional.

When this small-town city girl married country boy – we each brought different ways of thinking and doing things into both our families. I don’t doubt my husband’s family shook their head in exasperation but they scooted, stretched and made room for me – just as I stretched an scooted to make room for them.

Some people say, “You don’t know my in-laws. . . . my mother-in-law wants nothing to do with me . . . .they make choices I don’t agree with. . . . “

Nobody ever said love was easy. It’s a choice. It’s rolled together with Faith and Hope. It’s not giving up.

umbrellaIn the story of the Talents, the master gave his servants, 5, 2 and 1 talents according to their abilities. The servants with the 5 and 2 talents worked with what the master had given them, who said, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

Shaddai gave you and me our first family – the family that raised us. Then, through marriage He gave expanded our family – to include not only our children but our husband’s family.

How can we go out and save the world if we cannot love what He has given us? How can we maintain the endurance to love and save both the easy and hard in our neighborhoods, towns, country and world if we don’t possess the endurance to not give up on those He gave us through birth/adoption and marriage?

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?;And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt 18:14)

My family – all of them – will probably be the first to tell you I don’t always love well or gracefully. I don’t always have the right words – or even the right dishes for a family event – those 4 boys all grown up now won’t let me forget the stuffed-eggplant I brought to a cook-out. However, I like to think I don’t give up reaching.

This week, I’m at the beach with my husband’s family. Those 4 boys that scared me to death? Some of them have children my boy’s age. There’s 34 of us – from Nanny down to the newest, Maddie. Nanny’s here. My husband’s sister, 7 grandsons from 39 to 13, 7 great-grandchildren, in-laws with daughter-in-laws.

I fell in love with my husband – and then I chose to fall in love with his family. Somewhere between 31 years ago and today – that choice became something real and deep. God’s wedding gift has enriched me beyond measure – all because I never gave up!

It’s not just a southern thing; It’s a Christian, too. A Christian doesn’t try to hide their crazy family members – we take them to the beach, let them crazy run-around and show them off  because something special happens when we’re around them. In this choosing-to-love, Christian-kind-of-thing, when we do it God’s way, we not only do we start seeing others how God sees them but maybe we just start loving Gods-kind-of-way.

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I remember school bus riding, 7:15 am., dark winter, my forehead pressed against the cool pane, watching windows spill butter gold light outside. I imagined ordinary families behind those windows – mothers and fathers living in wholeness along with their children.

I dreamed an ordinary everyman dream – because my family was broken.

Tonight, I’m wrapped in a bandana quilt I made, listening to my sons, a big and little one talk, laugh – about big and little things. Yellow butter light spills outside my windows. My husband snores on the couch. It’s been a week of the littlest guy wrapped in a blanket, commandering the thermometer, sticking it in his arm pit, and announcing, “100.08” – and me later coaxing him to live with a sore throat nothing will ease.

There’s been hurt hearts, angry moments, laughter, snuggles, ice cream while we watched the season premier of Duck Dynasty, morning prayers, hugs, homework, wholeness.

My husband brought me GoPow from my favorite Thai restaurant because I felt poorly – and he hugged me when I got home.

I am living this ordinary, everyman dream I grabbed hold of on school bus rides long ago.

Thank you, God!

Arwen in Lord of the Rings said, “I choose a Mortal Life” – and her life changed forever.

Dreams walked out come with much responsibility, tough choices, requiring a never-give-up-ness, a heart capable of growing 10X its size, faithfulness in love, water-drop tears along with way, fierceness, – and, in the ordinary everyman dream – God.

Do not be deceived that ordinary means boring, one-dimensional, empty.

Ordinary is as simple and beautiful as light slipping across a windowsill – from outside to inside or inside to outside.

I chose an ordinary life.

I am living my dream.

A few weeks ago, I talked more about ordinary, everyman dreams.   If I were to put 3 posts in a box to be passed down to my children’s children – this would be one of the 3: Ordinary Dreams of an Everyman, click here to read.

 

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E-Mom at Marriage Monday has invited me into this MIL fray. It’s a Monday, if you’re feely scrappy for a good fight – you won’t find one here. But maybe you’ll find some encouragement to make your week a little sweeter. Stop by her place for an elephant-in-the-room discussion of the MIL.

Nanny's Peonies

Miss Manners suggests that one veer away from such highly charged subjects as sex, religion and politics.  The blogahood definitely has  no fear of addressing either in seriousness or humor those said subjects.  However, there is one subject rarely mentioned, that carries an elephant-in-the-room-esque quality – everybody recognizes it but nobody mentions it – The Mother-in-Law.

I have a gripe about The Mother-in-Law – from the view of the mother of 5 sons, and, now officially The Mother in Law to a delightful daughter-in-law whom loves my son to distraction, I have some street credibility, some skin in the game – Oops! I’ve been around my boys just way too much.

A few months ago, a mother of sons was rolling her eyes about her mother-in-law who was coming to visit. And, maybe I should not have, but I just could not help myself.  I pointed out that she had sons – about 3 of them. And, well, hhhhmmmm, did she want her sons to grow up and marry daughter-in-laws who talk about her like that?

Her eyes got big like saucers and she paused, answering, “I had not thought of that.”

Wearing Grey at the Wedding

The MILOS (Mother-in-law-of-Sons) starts at a disadvantage – she is the one everyone tells to shut up and wear grey at the wedding.  In what other job or social event does someone say, “You are not valuable or important enough to be noticed.”  The mother some mothers love cursing with the following line: “A daughter is a daughter all her life but a son is a son until he takes a wife.” Yes – I will hang up on you if you call and tell me that. If you write it in a comment, I will delete it. That is speaking a curse over any mother’s life. It’s akin to kicking puppies who only want to love you.

Historically, the son did not disengage himself from his family. This attitude is really a post- WWII attitude. From biblical time to WWII, the daughter left her husband’s family and was grafted into his family, leaving hers behind. Even when widowed, the first legal step was to remarry into the husband’s family. Returning home was the last choice.

Why anyone would gleefully tell another mother, “Hey, mom, you’ve poured your life blood into this person but you are on the outside of the family circle now – you are not even part of the family – only under duress” – well, that just boggles my love-your-neighbor-as-yourself little Christian woman mind.

Rock star mom fades. Snuggle time disappears. The quality of hugs even changes. They hug someone else.  Snuggle with someone else.  See stars in their eyes over someone else – The Girl. (Hint, make sure your daughter-in-law knows you are joking when you say you want to be the mother just like in Love You Forever – who will take her ladder, climb it, crawl through the window, just so you can rock your son when he’s all grown up, saying, “I will love you for always.  I will love you forever.” – it’s a great book for children who cannot imagine life without mom, but it a book that has the potential to freak out your daughter-in-law – LOL).

Nanny's Iris and The Apple Tree that must be climbed by every child

A heart is big enough to love completely as many people as one desires to love.  That is one of the lessons I have learned as a daughter-in-law.  I will admit that when I married my magnificent husband, that I wanted to hang out with my family, celebrate with my family and let my son spend more time with my family.

I was young, growing inside me things like true confidence in myself, unconditional love, generosity of spirit, self-less-ness, wifely things, and, when my first son was born, motherly things. Luckily for me, we lived in my in-law’s home town.  Because of that, I had to spend more time with the “in-laws“. Just because they were the closer family.  Not necessarily because I wanted to, though I liked his parents.

And, I was so blessed because of it. It takes time and effort to build relationships. Time and effort on both sides. Effort is a reach. reaCH. REACH action by BOTH sides. Relationship cannot be built without BOTH sides reaching toward friendship, chosing love. The MIL/DIL relationship is one of those Unconditional Love Relationships where both sides choose love.

My mother-in-law and I are like night and day.  One thing we have in common is we have a heart for people.  How we go about having a heart for people is different.  She has shaken her head in exasperation over me, I’m sure.  Like the time I called and asked, “How many legs are on a tick?” One, I really wanted to know because, lucky me, I found one.  And, second, because I wanted to connect – and it was a conversation opener.

According to the Don and Katie Fortune’s book on developing spiritual gifts, my mother-in-law’s spiritual gift is compassion.  Mine is the gift of exhortation.  And, according to the book, the compassion person avoids the exhortation person like a person allergic to poison ivy.  And, poor thing, she got me for a daughter-in-law.

However, when my 4th son was born via a crash c-section, resulting in a very healthy baby boy and days of excruciating pain for me – there is one memory that remains indelibly seared on my heart that epitomizes the beauty of my mother-in-law.

The last thing I had heard before they knocked me out was, “I don’t have a heartbeat.” They were talking about my son. When I cam to, the pain was overwhelming.  Crash C-Sections hurt. My husband was concerned because I hadn’t asked to hold our son.  I was still laying on my side, barely conscious.  I wanted to hold my little miracle when my mind cleared – but, I was also a mom with a mission.  My other little guys were going to Day Camp the next day for archery, swimming, shooting, canoeing.  I did not have lunch stuff – delivery was unexpectedly early. My mother-in-law rested her hand against my cheek, just rubbing my cheek gently, like my 4th son loves for me to do.

She didn’t have to say anything; she just comforted me without words, unconditionally loving me. And, she listened to her nutty daughter-in-law rattle off a list of things needed for lunch at camp, what they needed to take, but, most of all, she just loved me in her quiet way. But it was like she understood the pain I was battling and it was so hard to talk.

We both have made effort, in our own different ways. We might not go shopping together, but she’s going to help me make my first quilt. I am so excited she is going to teach me to quilt.  She has made my sons amazing quilts, quilts made with love they wrap about themselves. A child can never have too many people love them in any love language with any Spiritual Gift. Diversity equals embracing and seeing the beauty in differences – even embracing those MIL and DIL differences.

We might look at how to celebrate birthday’s differently, but we celebrate together. She is a Christmas decor minimalist; I create traditional Dickens extravaganza decor. She plants her tomatoes one way, me another.

She’s a cornbread dressing-kind of cook, and I’m Italian Herbs and Spices-dressing-kind-of-cook. She’s a go-with-the-flow kind of lady while I am into time-management. However, we both love flowers.  And we both love her son.

Love requires sharing – and we share. It also requires not looking for offenses, not inviting the little foxes in to chew the legs off that family table. It also requires a forgiving heart – because, well, people are just people, communication is not perfect.

However, I think we both invite each other into the family circle. We each have a welcoming seat at the family table. We accept and because we accept we belong and in that belonging love grows.

Being a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law is all about embracing the differences. Loving despite the differences.  But, most importantly, it is about choosing to love, forging a relationship one conversation at a time.  Keep in mind, one day you will be one!

By the way, a tick has 8 legs!

(If you have time, please stop by and read “Prayer for My Son’s Wife.”)

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