He Gathered the Pieces

Twenty-one years ago, I was getting ready to marry Tom (on the 30th!) . Our lives have taken many twists and turns with six children, many joys and some big losses. The simplest way to express what my husband has meant to me is found in these words below. For some reason I will never understand, Tom valued my “scattered pieces”, and he picked them up, more than once, and glued them back together. I owe the man my life.  I carry a photo of Tom in my wallet and every time I buy groceries or need ID, I see his face, and I am thankful for him. Every day that goes by, I see God’s kindness to me in providing this man, who loved me when other people in my life that I loved  just walked away. Thank you, Tom, for loving the broken pieces like Jesus.

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Stop or Hit the Gas

The beauty of memes on social media is their  brevity. A world of truth can be shared in a few words. These  three below sum up the enduring lessons I and my family have learned in the last few years.  The brutality of our times is mirrored in what passes for Christianity. The real thing is mostly found away from nice real estate with the label “church” on the sign and various and sundry parachurch ministries.

The bigger something gets, the less humanity and kindness shows up and the less of Jesus you will find. Corruption sets in to the machine.  People get ground to bits in the gears and nobody cares.  The cowards hunker down and look away. Naked opportunism replaces sacrificial service and love is never the motivation, unless we’re talking about love of self.

It’s a choice to join the ambitious and the shiny people, or to show up in someone’s life who can’t do anything for you. It’s a choice to value people and remember those who are in pain or to hit the gas and pass them by  on the superhighway of Christian “ministry.”  But just remember that if you do hit the gas, you can’t know the Jesus who stopped when a suffering person called out. You are serving someone and something else.

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So Much…

So much bleakness, so much bad news, so much fear in our times. but there is so much good also, right in front of us, miracles that remind us of God’s goodness. Our children and grandchildren bring joy and love to our lives. Little Gianna, our youngest grandchild, is growing and filling out. We are looking forward to having a family  get together tonight, just because. Just because we enjoy talking and being with them, just because they are what really matters in life, just because we love them all. That’s what family is supposed to be. A little refuge of love in a dark world.

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Only One Face

I first posted this in April of 2011, and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, it says what I would like to say about love.

I was leaving a concert last Friday night when I was stuck in a big crush of people trying to leave the building. Hundreds of people surrounded me coming down the stairs and pouring out of the doors onto the avenue in downtown Milwaukee.

All of them were strangers I was unlikely to see again. It was a sea of faces, and I did not recognize any. It’s a melancholy feeling being surrounded by people, all of whom have someone with them and you don’t.

As I descended the stairs I kept looking around me for one familiar face, but there wasn’t one. I was pressed forward into the crowd towards the street, carried away by the strangers around me.

Just as I reached the doors, a man grabbed me on the shoulder, and I turned around, startled. He was wearing a tux, and his eyes were smiling. In his left hand was a trumpet case. My Tom.

I grabbed his arm, and we made our way down the busy downtown street to the parking garage. On the way home, I thought about all the millions who have ever lived and all the billions alive today, and how among all those people, there is only one man’s face I look for. That’s the thing about love. Nobody else will do. No other face can light up your heart but one.

In that brief moment, I was reminded again of what a miracle real love is in this world that has so much hatred and so much pain in it. It isn’t something to take for granted, and if you have it in your life, do all you can to nurture and protect it. Thank God for that one and only person who loves you–the one and only face you look for in a crowd.

And All The Souls Within These Walls…

blessingYears ago, I attended a house warming party for some friends who were moving into their first home. They had always rented up until that point, and they were delighted to move their children into a bungalow they had refurbished over the course of many months.

They were a Christian family, and they had asked a pastor friend of theirs to the gathering. It made a deep impression on me as the pastor stood up after the socializing and said a prayer of blessing on the new home. He prayed for the protection of the occupants, for the marriage of the parents and for the growth of the children within those walls. It was almost 30 years ago, but I remember that beautiful prayer very clearly.

We have not had a house warming party, yet, anyway, for our new home. We are still in the lengthy process of settling in. But the very first day the home was ours, we received a card from my dear sister-in-law and her husband, Mike. The words were a simple but profound blessing on our home.

I want to share Kris’s words to us with you. Words can wound and kill a spirit. They can destroy. But words can also give life, strength, hope and joy. With our words, we can literally bless those around us. Thank you, Kris and Mike, for this blessing on our home. True family is a beautiful thing.

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An Obituary Full of Life

“So, I was born; I blinked; and it was over. No buildings named after me; no monuments erected in my honor.But, I DID have the chance to know and love each and every friend as well as all my family members. How much more blessed can a person be?”

These lines are taken from an obituary sent to me by a friend. The words that were penned by the woman before she passed away sum up a life rich in many ways, but most of all in love. She wrote, “I’ve always maintained that my greatest treasures call me Nana. That’s not exactly true. You see, the youngest of my grand-angels, Ella Ashley Kramer and Finley Christian Kramer call me “Grand Nana…”

I don’t care what religion you claim to possess, what creed you profess, if you don’t cherish your own children and grandchildren, your own brothers or sisters, you’re very poor.To be pitied. And your religion, if it doesn’t produce love for your own family, is worthless.

I read through this piece several times, it’s so full of life well lived. The gratitude for blessings received is exemplary. As the woman wrote, “How much more blessed can a person be?”

That’s why counting blessings ought to be a daily exercise.

Count your blessings one by one
When dawn appears and day has just begun
They will light your heart with happiness
Make each hour bright and bring you gladness

Count your blessings one by one
When twilight falls and toil of day is done
And in sweet dreams they’ll come again to you
If you will count your blessings each day through

Count your blessings while you may
For we are here but little time to stay
All around are hearts sincere and true
Lovely things abound just waiting for you

Count your blessings while you may
The big or small, whichever comes your way
For then you’ll find this world a place of love
If you will count your blessings from above

Reginald Morgan & Edith Temple

An Anniversary Photo

We’re in the throes of moving, with one house on the market while another is being readied for move-in. It’s that stage when chaos reigns! Lord willing, we will be past this stage soon. In the midst of the move, Tom and I took an evening off on the 30th to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We tried out a restaurant we hadn’t been to before, and we enjoyed it greatly.

As we pack up our home of nine years, so many memories come to mind. This is where children left home, with the last son off to college again in the fall. This is where we brought our delightful surprise baby, Emmy, home almost six years ago. Birthday parties, anniversary parties and so many celebrations took place here. This is where Will got his start practicing the organ in the basement and he and his dad have filled the walls with music. Much joy, some sadness, but lots of love.

It isn’t the walls that make a home. It’s the people who make it a joyful or tragic place. Tom has given all of us a beautiful life, and together, Tom and I are a team . we give full credit to God’s grace for carrying us through.

Every home is temporary on this planet, including the home we have in our bodies. Our souls are forever. Packing up things for Goodwill or give-away, I was thinking again of how yesterday’s happy purchase is today’s discard as we outgrow and no longer need things. Our heavenly home is forever, where nothing will fade, and nobody will age, and where all sadness will be wiped away forever. Thanks be to God for his gift of Jesus Christ through whom we have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.

Now, back to packing!

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Twenty Years

TomWEDDINGPICThere are lists all over the place online such as, 10 Things to Always Do in Your Marriage, Five Things Never to Say To Your Spouse, 20 Ways to Affair Proof Your Marriage, and so forth. Good articles and lists can be good thought provokers . That isn’t what this post is.

It will be 20 years on June 30 since I married Tom. I’m writing this early, as I am in the middle of a move (our next big adventure), and I won’t be able to six days from now. Looking backward, I don’t have great prose, lofty advice or a smug account of how we’ve made it this far. God’s love and grace is the only explanation.

I knew the first time I laid eyes on Tom that he was a fine man. It’s one of those instinctive things I can’t explain. I’ve heard people describe love at first sight. Yes, there is such a thing. On this 20th anniversary, the only thing that has changed is that I love him more. It’s because of him that I know God’s love is a real thing. I see it in him every day in how he loves me and our children.  Constant, faithful, kind and decent to the core. That’s who Tom is.

Coming back from a walk the other night, we admired the birch tree he planted a few years ago in the front of our home. It’s thriving.  In each home we have lived at through the years, Tom has left something living behind. At one house, it was shrubbery. At three others, he has planted birch trees. He grows things and fixes things.  One of the first things he ever did for me as a single parent before we were married was to repair a broken leg on a chair. What’s broken he restores with careful hands.

We’ve gone through a lot in 20 years, weathered a lot of storms. Sometimes he leans on me, sometimes, (most of the time), I lean on him. Sometimes we lean into each other to keep from falling over.  That’s what  a life’s partner is all about. Just two people, walking through everything together, and looking up to realize a lifetime has gone by.

(The photo on this post is one I kept on my dresser through the months before we were engaged and then married. My favorite snapshot of the man who changed my life.)

Throwback Thursday – Four Years Ago

Four years have flown by since high school freshman Will and his little sister Emily, aged 2, posed for this photo in the spring of 2011. Will has been a great big brother to Em. A favorite memory is Will calling her from school during a break in the day as a senior just to say hi. He still calls her from college once in a while to find out what she’s doing.

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