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Plastic-wrapped words

August 21, 2012 — 10 Comments



It’s been quite a while since I have written a post for my blog!

I have great excuses, but I’m not going to make them. Instead I’m going to tell you what I discovered.

I realized I missed the enjoyment and satisfaction I find in writing! Ever since I was a little girl I have found comfort through writing out my thoughts and feelings.

When I was in fifth grade my grandma died. She was my favorite! She had lived with us for several years and I was very close to her. My parents didn’t take me to her funeral because they didn’t think I would be able to emotionally handle it. And they were probably right.

After her death I remember feeling restless and empty until an idea came to mind! I sat down and wrote a long note to my grandma. I remember crying as I wrote what she meant to me, our special times together, how much I already missed her and how this note was the only way I knew to say goodbye. When I finished writing, I found a card in my mom’s desk, placed the note inside and wrapped it in plastic wrap.

Why plastic wrap?

Grandma died early on a snowy Christmas morning. A few days following her funeral I tucked the card into my coat, went outside as if I was going to go play in the snow, and walked three blocks away to Grandma’s grave. Knowing she was buried beside my Grandpa, I found it quite easily.

I took off my mittens, opened my plastic-covered card and through my tears, read her my note. Standing there reading my words brought immense comfort to my heart. Something deep inside was satisfied as I read aloud the thoughts and feelings I had been unable to express until that moment beside her grave. When I finished, I tucked the card back inside the plastic wrap and placed it in the snow atop her grave.

A few days later, my mom knocked on my bedroom door and asked if she could talk to me. I nodded and replied yes. She entered, sat on the side of my bed and sadly smiled at me. Then she pulled her hand from behind her back and in it she held the card still wrapped in plastic. Embarrassment struck me as I realized she had read it. In my childlike mind I didn’t think anyone would find it out there in the snow. I was wrong.

She held it out to me and tearfully said, “Cheri’, I thought you might want to keep this. Your words are beautiful and true and I’m sure Grandma loved your card to her. But, I also think she would want you to keep it so you can read it again and again and remember all the special things you wrote to her.” Then she hugged me a long time, walked out and closed the door behind her.

Staring down at the card I slowly unwrapped it from its plastic cocoon and softly read it aloud. Again a deep satisfaction filled my heart. As I finished the note, Mom’s words echoed in my mind, “your words are beautiful and true”. I did not know if they were beautiful and true, I only knew they had helped me feel better.

And today I realize this is why I still write.

It helps me feel better!

 

Recently in my water aerobics class, a new woman joined us and I started a conversation with her. We were enjoying each others company and learning about one another when “the” question came up. I knew it was coming. There seems to be no way to avoid it – whether it’s the first conversation or a few conversations later – it always comes up and has to be answered….truthfully.

“What does your husband do?” she inquired.

“Oh he’s the pastor of “name of our church”,  I answered with a cheerful smile on my face.

Her response was similar to many others I’ve had over the years. A slight hesitation and then “Ohhhh….he’s a pastor?”

My interpretation of that particular “Ohhh” is  “Un oh, I’m talking to a pastor’s wife, I better be careful what I say.” And usually the conversation changes from talking about our lives, to lighter topics like the weather and the latest news. I used to think I was imagining this shift, but after experiencing it innumerable times, I can safely say it’s not my imagination. I also must add, there have been many occasions when the response has been very warm and open as I shared my husband’s occupation. I am always thrilled when that happens!

This time, I simply replied yes and continued on (as if I hadn’t heard her hesitation) by asking her other random questions, hoping to take her mind off this new discovery. As our class began to tread water, she swiftly maneuvered to the other side of the pool and began chatting with someone else. I moved nearby and tried entering the conversation with a few comments and questions, but there was no response.

At this point I had to make an inner decision not to take her reaction personally. Fortunately, these days I smile to myself and think, “I bet we could have been really good friends!” or “I think you might even like me if you got to know me a little more.” But please believe me when I say, these thoughts are far different than they were when I was younger! Back then it was an emotional struggle and most generally I took it very personally.

The solution to this problem came some years ago when Jesus whispered something very precious to me! Those words embedded deeply into my heart, and they continue to resonate within me to this very day….even when rejection tries to wash over me. I find it interesting He didn’t come and preach a sermon about how not to feel rejected or that I just needed to “get over it” and face the fact that I was a pastor’s wife. No, He very gently said,

Cheri’, I like being your friend. You’re a good friend to me.”

And honestly……that did it! It settled something in me once and for all!

Jesus likes being my friend! Jesus thinks I’m a good friend to Him! It still warms my heart when I think of it!

So, here’s my little piece of advice. If someone moves to the other side of the pool  — no matter the reason — just listen for His voice telling you He likes being your friend!

Because ….. It’s true….and it’s enough!

 

“Raw Courage”

June 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

 

Think about this:

20 seconds of raw courage is all it takes to change your life!

I didn’t come up with this thought on my own. I heard it in the movie “We Bought A Zoo!” And when I heard it, I almost missed the rest of the movie considering the ramifications of it.

When I first thought about it, I remembered childhood moments. The moment, at age 6, when I courageously trusted the water to hold me up and I learned to swim. Learning to swim eventually led to my first real job at a swimming pool for 3 summers, where I taught others to swim. Or the time I courageously (and nervously) tried out for a select singing group in high school and made the cut! My involvement in musical ensembles caused me to get a college degree in music.

Then I thought about my children, and how they have each stepped into unknown areas and come out on the other side having learned great lessons and overcome fears. Our son, Drew (in the picture above) climbed the Preikestolen in Norway, and fought off his fear of heights to sit on the edge and see the beauty surrounding it. After the Preikestolen, it seemed as if every other picture was of him “on top of” some high rock or ledge. Courage moved him out of his comfort zone so he could experience new things in new ways!

I think there’s a key to be found in all of this — to be courageous requires knowing our life will never be the same, but it will be better! We will have expanded beyond our previous limitations! It won’t be painless or without struggle, but it will take us to new places, where like Drew, we can experience and see what was previously hidden!

I truly believe courage can change our lives. In fact, I’ve tested it a few times lately and have seen surprising doors open. I haven’t seen wild and unimaginable things happen….yet. But, I intend to keep testing the principle. Quite frequently!

It can’t hurt!

In fact, I have a feeling it could be significant. Very significant!

How about you?

What things would you do if you believed 20 seconds of raw courage could change your life for the better?

I’d love to hear from you!

 

With tears streaming down both their cheeks, my husband and his friend embraced! I could hear Don’s muffled voice saying, “I’m sorry I hurt you, will you forgive me?” And with warmth in his voice, his friend responded, “It’s all forgiven and in the past.” Then, I too, was embraced by our friend’s wife, and we both cried as forgiveness flowed among us all. Other men and women came too, with similar statements of forgiveness and many with tears.

This amazing moment took place at the business meeting of a very honorable denomination of which we had once been a part. We had left the denomination some years ago, but we had done it wrong. We had not communicated well with them prior to our departure, and as a result we had hurt our friends. In the wake of our decision we had left our friends with hurt feelings, misunderstandings and confusion – all of which needed to be healed.

While in Europe a few years ago, God allowed us to hear an amazing message on honoring our spiritual heritage.  The speaker opened our understanding to the scriptures which state clearly to “give honor to whom honor is due.” He spoke of honoring those he knew, who had walked with God before him. Those who helped him come to the Lord, discipled him, and helped him through difficult times. He challenged us to do the same! To honor those who had helped to spiritually shape our lives.

As the message concluded, my husband leaned over and told me he knew he was to write letters to the officials of the denomination in which he had grown up. He felt he was to give them honor for their influence in his life and to ask their forgiveness for the hurt caused when we left. His heart was tender as he spoke and I too, sensed God directing our hearts in this matter.

True to his word, Don wrote the letters.  Our friends responded graciously and wrote or called him to thank him. Recently, some of those men invited us to the denomination’s business meeting to share publicly the letter Don had written earlier and to bring public reconciliation to the situation.

As he addressed the assembly Don said, “It is an undeserved honor to be here today.” Those words were never more true. We did not deserve the door of reconciliation God had so graciously opened! But, it was time! Time to repent to them face-to-face, time to embrace, time to cry and time to say the things we had held in our hearts for all those years. And so…..we did! Last week.

I cried as friends from years-gone-by embraced me and lovingly forgave me. I cried because a deep awareness of restored friendship was settling deeply inside me. It was as if I could literally feel the fragmented pieces of my heart smooth out and nestle back into the places they belonged. My heart felt whole again!

Don and I truly believe relationships matter to God. We teach it, we preach it and we try to live it. But that day……….. amidst the hugs and tears……….as forgiveness flowed………….as relationships were restored…………….

I know…………

I felt HIS pleasure………

and I was undone!

 

I heard the sound alerting me to a text message, but couldn’t stop teaching to check it…..thankfully!

After the last student headed out the door I grabbed my phone and slid my finger across the screen…. to discover these words, “Thirty years in the arms of Jesus!” The above picture was attached. The sight of my baby’s decorated grave knocked the wind out of me, as tears streamed down my cheeks! I was definitely glad my students had left for the day!

I live eight hours away from where we laid our little Luke David to rest, and I know very well he’s not there, and his true home is in heaven. Yet there is something I find comforting in this small plot of land near the foot of the Scottsbluff Monument. I haven’t been able to go to his grave for many years, but I have a dear and faithful friend, named Carla, who has continued to decorate his grave for me ever since I moved away.

The day Luke was born into the earth, he was already living in heaven. His twin brother Paul, (whose story you can find here and here), was born 10 1/2 weeks early and emerged from the womb a fighter – and eventually a winner. Not only was this day marked by Paul’s life and Luke’s death, but the twins were also born on their dad’s (Don) birthday, making it a very memorable day indeed!

March, 5, 2012, the day my sweet friend sent this picture, my mind was consumed with a few last minute details for the birthday party we were having for Paul and Don that evening. Always on this day, I think of Luke and how different it would be if he were here, but I never expect others to remember Luke.

As I opened my phone that afternoon, not only was I moved by her labor of love to decorate his grave, but I was deeply touched by Carla’s remembrance of Luke, and of this special day 30 years ago, when my hello to Luke, meant goodbye, and when he went to live life “in the arms of Jesus”!

 

To Understand Each Other

February 17, 2012 — 6 Comments

 

The day Don and I were married no one could have convinced us we could be any more in love than we were that day! However, after 41+ years of marriage we both know love can deepen or it can fade. We have experienced both, and we have chosen the path of deepening our love.

It didn’t happen overnight, and at times it took hard work!

One of those times, was six months into our marriage. It was a lonely and scary season, and it felt as if we were adrift at sea with no compass to guide us. Thankfully, at that time we were scheduled to take a group of college kids to a campus ministry retreat, where (unknown to us) the speaker’s topic for the weekend was “Relationships”. Not only did his presentation include humorous anecdotes regarding the difficulty of communication in marriage, but it also brought much-needed answers!

One resource mentioned by the speaker was a book titled “To Understand Each Other” by Paul Tournier. This concise book opened our eyes and our hearts to the amazing dynamics of communication. Tournier’s  challenge was to be courageous enough to share our true selves with one another, and as a result come to a deeper understanding of the person God brought to us in marriage.

As we worked to apply the concepts in the book we began to move past our fears and share our deepest thoughts. The author was right —it definitely took courage to remove our self-protective shields and care more about understanding each other than being understood. It was a process that took time and caring. But it also brought incredible transformation! Our communication deepened, our acceptance of one another flowed more easily and our enjoyment of each other became a delight! We fell more deeply in love!

Today, as I look back at that season, I clearly see God’s love and faithfulness in a myriad of ways:

His timing for us to attend the retreat at the height of our difficulty.

His words spoken through a gifted retreat speaker.

His concepts conveyed through Paul Tournier’s writings, and most of all

His amazing grace that empowered us to make a lasting commitment to live every day with the desire

“to understand each other!”

 

 

 

 

“All these things……..

November 27, 2011 — 3 Comments
Pinned Image

“And Mary treasured all these things in her heart.”

I love how this verse clearly says she treasured “all” these things!

I believe from the moment the angel told her she would carry the Son of God in her womb, Mary began to treasure every moment she shared with this child. Although Mary’s situation was one-of-a-kind, I truly believe most mothers experience this kind of “treasuring”.

When our children and their families gather at our home for the holidays, it’s a crazy, wonderful time! The house is filled with grandchildren flitting from room to room, pets stalking each other, and our adult children laughing and joking together. I may be in the kitchen preparing a meal, but my heart is attuned to the good-natured banter going on around me! It’s in these moments, unknown by anyone around me, that I silently open my hidden “treasure chest” and tuck away these beautiful and real moments!

In this niche in my heart I have stored things as simple as the sound of a granddaughter’s laughter as she watched a squirrel race up a tree, a special conversation with a daughter-in-law, or a kiss on the forehead of my grown son before I went to bed! Though the moments weren’t big, they were stashed into this private treasure trove!

Here are just a few “moments” from this Thanksgiving weekend:

*For our Thanksgiving meal this year I set three tables, but the kids and grandkids decided on their own to crowd around one table, because they didn’t want to be in separate rooms. Every time I looked at them smooshed together as they ate and shared what they were thankful for, the treasuring ensued.

*Our traditional trip to Santa’s Woods to pick out our Christmas tree, was made special by it being our new daughter-in-law’s first time to go with us! The boys always take a football and play catch in the open spaces or hide-n-seek with the little ones among the trees. As soon as I hear their laughter ring out through the field, the treasure chest opens and in goes the moment!

Our oldest son, Dan and his family usually travel back home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year our son, Drew and his wife Kate came over early to make breakfast (as a surprise) for the family and to have a little more time with Dan and his family. Around the table our noisy, jammie-clad clan, enjoyed yummy peanut butter french toast and cinnamon pancakes…..and

…..yes….I treasured ALL these things in my heart!