25 years...25 reasons I love him! It's 2:40am and I can't sleep. He's at work,hopefully sleeping but ready to save a life, a house or maybe just help someone back to bed. We are preparing for a trip we dreamed of long ago. Its not the destination we have looked so forward to, as much as the milestone. Our 25th wedding anniversary. The silver anniversary, the one that matches his hair. I am not concerned with packing our bags, but as I lay awake and alone in the dark, I am overwhelmed with all that he has packed into our lives and my heart over this quarter century. I married him because I thought he was cute and he melted my defenses with his guitar and tender voice. He made me laugh and was the first guy I had to ask to kiss me on our first date. Who knew that kiss in the yellow light of my grandmother's porch would lead to this. I had no idea anyone could love as truly and deeply as he has, and he chose me to prove it was possible. So as limiting as it is...25 thank yous for 25 years. Thank you... for trying so diligently to understand women, knowing all the while you never will.......for waking me every morning with a kiss on the cheek and knowing you will have to come back in "5 more minutes "....... for the cup of coffee waiting on the bathroom counter when I step out of the shower barely able to open my eyes...... for the crackers and soda during our 3 seasons of morning sickness, instead of the coffee....... for the way you peak around the corner to spy me in the family room and your face beams when you come home from work in morning, even though I'm not scrubbed clean and still wear the sleepiness of the night...... for the look on your face when you held our babies, not just the first time, but everytime......for the look you wear even now, when you are hugging them, though they sometimes tower over you...... for the way you look at your grandson when you are holding him, but more for the way you look at our daughter when she holds her tiny son........for never rushing out the door, but always leaving with a kiss and reminding me who I am to you......for learning early on never to ask about PMS, just to know or pretend not to notice.......for letting us all laugh with you while we are laughing at you and sacrificing with some humility for the sake of a sacred family joke.....for letting us bring it up again and again and again just so we can laugh some more.......for making me feel missed by picking me up at the airport dressed in a tuxedo like I was a VIP, having already convinced me, I am to you.......for the twinkle in your eye when I beg you not to go to work today, but to just stay home with us.......for working one of the most ego building jobs in the world yet never letting us think there is anywhere more rewarding or exciting to you than home........for helping me put my pajamas on and tuck me into bed as if I am a child unable to do it for myself, just because I feel like one that day..........for coaching our boys through little league with encouragment and not intimidation.......for showing our daughter what to expect in a Godly man and what it means to really be a princess.......for showing our sons that a real man pursues excellance in the home more than any office ......... for always having a black turtleneck in the closet and wearing it just one time too many but pretending like it is brand new, and the first time we've seen it........ for being tough enough to talk things out, committed enough to work it out and humble enough to seek wise counsel for us when we were stuck......for giving up boyhood dreams for the bigger dreams you had for your family....... for the spiritual path you led me down and now we walk hand in hand........for all the times I say "remember..." and you are the only one in the world who can say yes........ for the way you pull me close and tilt your head towards me when someone wants to take a picture of us......for the fears and tears we've shared through open heart surgery and two biopsies, and all the sweetness of the things we let each other say, "just in case".........for listening to me talk in my sleep instead of waking me up, because you know how I hate to be interrupted when I am talking ........for knowing what secret phrases mean like "bebime sack, I be wite bak, steamroller baby, hockogs, my night, o's and waywees" and many more...but mostly for giving me a life I can call a fairy tale and a heart so grateful it couldn't even sleep tonight..........Thank you
Mark 1:11 "And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." ..........Oh, had I not been so sleepy I would have said it. Instead, I smiled to myself and felt my heart melt and then fill up to overflowing at the same time. "Thank you Lord. What a gift you are to me. How close you have kept your hand on my life and disciplined me when I needed it. I have tried so hard to parent as you would. Oh, that they would see your heart in us and embrace your will for them!"
All of this happened a couple of nights ago when one of our children came in to our room, long after we had buried our faces deep into the pillow to sleep off the day's heat. Standing at the side of the bed we heard a statement any parent would long to hear. "Thank you". That got our attention. Even if our eyes were only half open, our ears were now surely and completely awake. "I don't know if you will remember this in the morning, but I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for putting up with some of the things I do and not putting up with other things I do. Thank you for saying yes to me about some things I ask and saying no to other things I think I want to do. I have seen other families and some of their problems and I just wanted to say thanks."
Oh, I wish I had been fully awake to jump up and hug and kiss and hug some more. To say you're welcome and I love you and I am so proud of you. To confirm to this precious one that living within God's boundaries is where His infinite blessing is. That the enemy makes stepping outside look so appealing but that true wisdom is looking beyond the momentary temptation and excitement to the very real consequences of pain and regret. To say that to accept His limits now lays a foundation of peace and true freedom................ Instead we mumbled something I hardly remember and that was that....But sleep didn't come either. Suddenly many of the times I chose "no" with my children even with the fear of upsetting them, came ticking through my thoughts. I mean the times I felt so anxious, wondering if this was the one final "no" that would end our loving relationship and we would settle for being barely parent and child. Ruler and resigned follower. Master and subject. That chasm that lands between a parent trying to be a parent rather than a friend, and a child that thinks he wants to live with some "cooler" family because there aren't as many rules. Trying so hard to guide and lead them and let out the rope some, without letting go completely until the proper time. Some days it feels like the rope is pulled taught in a battle of strength.
But then there are days like this, when the child is caught holding the rope of their family by choice and conviction. Perhaps because they believe in the values enough to tie the rope around their waist for a bit with a double knot, just to have that sense of security and family. In the days ahead, if all goes right they will begin to pull their rope free of our hands and we serve them well to let go. They will stand for a time holding both ends of the rope. If they spend too much time like that, they will likely do a lot of tripping over the lack of an anchored end. "Please Lord, that they would anchor that free end of the rope to you and to your word. That they would see the freedom you offer and the anchor that keeps us from drowning when we do stumble and fall in." How many times can I remember feeling swept under and realizing that gripping the rope anchored to my savior was my only rescue. Knowing that the hands that hand-over-hand, close the gap between us, are His, not mine. He is the only one with the strength. How many times will he rescue me? All of them. Of course, when he has reeled me back in, there will be the discipline. I wouldn't want it to be painless or I'd be bound to repeating that same jump again. Deuteronomy 8:5 says "You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child. ".....And how much more our Father in heaven loves us than we are even capable of loving our own children. But how sweet it is that because we are his, we can sense his speaking over us "I am well pleased".......That the I AM is well pleased. So on this particular sleepy night, I am grateful for my own loving heavenly father and the limits and discipline he has wisely loved me with. If even occasionally, my own children feel the same, "Bless them Lord and be pleased."
A friend came to town the other day. She comes every year about this time. Her get away I guess. A time to take a break from her mothering and wifing and have a few days to relax and catch up with friends. I have known her for about 22 years I think. She lived here and then moved out of state. Though she doesn't stay with me, I heard she was in town and I looked forward to seeing her. As I sat doing my Bible Study early one morning, I was reflecting back on our friendship and the Lord reminded me of one gracious moment with her many years ago. I had helped her with a project that was very personal to her and then recklessly and without any sensitivity, I shared it with others. Not gossiping, not sharing a secret, but sharing some photography that was from a very tender and private moment in her family's life. I was proud of my work and wanted to share it with others. Pride. I had no idea it would feel like such a betrayal to her and yet it did feel exactly that. I don't know how long she thought about how to handle it or how much time she spent praying about it. I do know my sweet friend didn't even approach me until she and God had worked through the pain, betrayal and he lead her all the way to forgiving me. She had nearly every right to come to me angry and hurt and tell me a thing or two about friendship and confidentiality and ask me to apologize and then still be hurt. The one right that held her back, was the one God himself reserves when he asks us to wait. She loves Him so! Her obediance and heart for Him has always been such a testimony to me. When she finally did come to me, she gently told me I had hurt her and explained how. She didn't wait for an apology, didn't even give me the chance before she told me she had forgiven me. Often, I say I am sorry in order to be forgiven, but in this case, she forgave without any guarantee she'd get the apology or even a need for it. I do remember apologizing, though feeling defensive inside. Oh that was a period of time when I wanted to be right more than I wanted to be honest. So the issue was layed to rest and sometime later she moved away. I don't believe I have spent one minute thinking about that encounter until this recent early morning prompting. As I thought about her kindness and humility and forgiveness I was overwhelmed with gratitude. How it must have hurt her to wait so long to talk to me and then get a half-hearted apology. So I sat down and wrote her a note, thanking her for being so gracious to me 20-something years ago. Telling her I wasn't feeling too genuine back then, but my heart feels so grateful for her now..... Hmmm. Forgiveness. God's kind. That's what I saw in her. A God that forgives because He can and because He wants to. No need to punish in order to forgive. No need to demand an apology. No need for compensation. The dictionary defines "forgive" as to excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon; to renounce anger or resentment against, to absolve from payment of (a debt, for example). All of that I received from her without a thing from me. Simply grace. Betrayal for her but pardon for me. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to see it and be able to express my gratitude to her. She has studied under the Master longer than I and saw His hand even in this moment calling it "a deep cleaning". I am sure God smiled with pride and approval when she came to me back then and I am sure he chuckled and nodded when the realization finally fell on me. I hope this deep cleaning felt as sweet to her as it does to me. I pray that when faced with the opportunity, I will glance back over my shoulder at my friend's forgiveness just as she glanced back over hers to the cross. Grace. Grace and a wonderful "deep cleaning".
The phone rang, probably for the hundredth time that day and another hundred calls have come in since. But this call was different. After hanging up I was left with a big "what if...". You know those weird rare calls that make you stop short a minute and think and think, attempt to shake it off and then think some more. The kind of information that isn't reliable in any one direction or another. Not facts, but possibilities: not even probabilities but enough to occupy the "What if..." imagination. This kind of caller never gives too many details or absolutes, so you are left protecting your hopes...trying to maintain them right where they were, not letting them rise and not letting them fall. I found myself anxiously telling my insides..."Every emotion just stop a minute. I don't know anything yet. Every thought and feeling in my head right now, "just lock in and don't move" we need to wait to respond." Most of the responders obeyed. The stubborn one is the imagination . Defiant is more like it. As much as I try to control that part, its no use. Trying to control the imagination and keep it rational is like calling a toddler who has just learned to run. You are trying so hard to kindly call to them and get them to stop and come back to you, usually in some huge expanse like the grocery store or the mall. And like that baby with the flinstone feet and a squeal of delight, the imagination wants to stay just out of reach; staying free to run with the next whim. So that is who has been working overtime in my brain. The imagination. Every other part is behaving for now. "What if..." It doesn't take long for a "What if..." to become an "if, then". You know... If this is so, then what will we do differently? What has to change? What can stay the same? What will be better, what may get harder? Who will take charge of that and this while I'm busy? Who is willing and available to take some of the shifting around of responsibility this may cause? Does this "What if" question have a hotline I can call? "Hello, yes I'm needing a little advice. um hm , Well, it was one of those 'what if' calls . Yes, exactly. No we don't know anything more, which is why I am calling. What can I do during the 'what if ' stage? No, the feelings and thoughts are locked in to normal for now, it's just the imagination...Oh, really...normal huh, ok. Anything I can take for it? Over the counter or otherwise? No, huh. Any idea how long it will last? Oh, well of course, until the next call, right. The call with more information or confirmation. Ok then, thanks" No help there. Except to be deemed normal that the imagination is working overtime in a "What if" of this kind.
So for just a minute then..."imagination, go ahead" "If so, then what?" How would I do? What would I do? Who would I tell? How would I tell them? Will they cry when I tell them? Will I cry when I tell them or be strong to give them the confidence I am hoping I would have? Would I continue to work? Would I change everything or try to carry on pretending everything is normal? Will there be a new normal? Will the new normal be permanent or temporary? Will the new normal be better in quality, focusing only the most important things of all? hmm. There it is. The truth about what has crossed my mind. If "what if" became so, and in the extreme possibility it meant days were numbered...what would I do about the number left?
Amazingly I can't stop smiling about the possibility of such freedom. I mean I would do some things very differently. I would fearlessly move to taking every opportunity to tell anyone who would listen the most important things I have learned. I would tell a listening ear about all the time I wasted worrying about what so-and-so thinks about me. I would tell them there is only One whose nod of approval is worth thinking about. I would speak as if testifying as a witness in court to the truth of what I have experienced with my God, my savior. With my hand on the Bible, I would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That it took me too long to realize it, but I have found that He is more than enough to live for and He thinks we are more than enough to die for. I would raise my hands more to praise Him and fall to my knees more to worship him. I would let people think I am crazy because I am talking out loud again or still, to a God they cannot see, but has become visible to me in most everything. I want just one chance on a mountain with everyone paying attention to say that He is so faithful, so loving and so worth whatever it costs to follow Him. That the joy on this earth is to get even a glimpse of His heart and have a chance to be His hands and feet for someone else. Oh, the freedom of it. The freedom of thinking my days might be numbered. It seems like life would be so much easier, more honest, a more authentic way to really live this part before eternity.
And so I keep smiling. Smiling at the possibility of such freedom. "Silly girl. You're days are numbered!" Maybe there will be less than I was planning, maybe more. The next phone call will help determine. Can I make the decision to be free to praise, worship, love and serve Him regardless? I pray so. I wait for no other reward than to hear the "Well done, good and faithful..." when the last day ends and the real living begins.....The imagination. The part I've been trying to get to just sit down and be patient. Not such a terrible distraction after all. "What if..." I think it'll be just fine; and that's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.