Thirty-eight

5 05 2017

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Happy Anniversary to us.

Thirty-eight years ago today, I walked down a long, red-carpeted aisle, holding the strong arm of a loving father who had held me so very well for the twenty-one years leading up to this day.

I walked that aisle in the surrender of a bride — choosing to join my life to this man — to prefer him above myself, to love him with every part of my being, for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part.

The strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy filled the sanctuary as the congregation rose to their feet and all eyes turned to watch, but my eyes were fixed on him. The man who waited for me at the end of that aisle.

I felt only peace and deep joy in that moment. I had no idea what lay ahead for us. No idea how hard it would get or how much refining it takes for two stubborn lumps of immovable rock to be melted into one pool of golden grace.

But that’s the thing about God. He doesn’t need my knowing. He is always working out plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness. His ways are always higher, and His purposes holier.

Thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years of God’s faithfulness. Of laughter and tears. Of sorrow and delight. Of offense and forgiveness and always the choosing — the same holy choosing of surrender.

And today? My eyes are fixed on the man. And I feel only peace and deep joy.

Happy Anniversary, my love. Here’s to thirty-eight more.

When I reached the end of that aisle, George sang the above song to me right before Dad slipped my arm into his. We’ve since sung it in many weddings together and made this recording years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

Photo credit: Stephanie Damoff, 1989

 





Listen to the Wind

22 04 2017

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He was born April 22, 1955, the third son of a full-blooded Macedonian father and a blonde, blue-eyed Ohio farm girl with Welsh ancestry. His parents married right out of high school and had six kids before they were thirty.

Their first son was an adventurer, the second a star athlete, but this third boy? He was born with a poet’s soul, and as he grew, the ordinary brokenness of the world lay heavy on his beauty-craving heart. So he ran after comfort as many do, rebelling against conformity, and attempting to assuage the ache with drugs and other empty pursuits. He longed to belong — to be truly seen and truly loved — but the darkness only grew darker and uglier, and it was slowly crushing him.

He was bruised and tormented, but he wasn’t alone. One whose name is Love patiently prepared that wounded soil until one summer day, at the age of eighteen, he sat alone in a barn loft with the ancient splendor of the Appalachian mountains filling his view.

It was time. All his efforts to anesthetize his pain were powerless against the Creator’s magnificent canvas. The mountains burst forth into singing, the trees of the field clapped their hands, and a question rose from the deeps and escaped his lips.

“Who are You?”

The wind whispered soft. The setting sun kissed the tips of the trees and slid into purpling shadows. He heard no answer, but it was coming.

The boy returned home to Florida with the question still burning. Then one evening, he opened a Bible and read the book of John. When he came to chapter 14, verse 6, he had his answer.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

There’s a wonder to God’s ways with His own. He knows the heart’s language and how to make Himself heard. To an eighteen-year-old poet, he awakened the ache with beauty and wrapped truth around it with the Word. How did this young man know John 14:6 was the answer to the question he’d asked in the loft?

He simply knew.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The wind blew, and the boy understood. And he wrote a song — an eighteen-year-old poet’s song of salvation. Here it is.

Testimony Song

I listened to the wind and I began to see
Through people and my heart and my mind, I saw me
And I saw something beautiful
Oh, I know ‘cause the wind brushed my eyes

We each have something good to give
But it’s often hid by the way that we live
Let Truth and understanding be our guide
Let Truth and understanding be our guide

I want to shine just like the Morning Star
I want to say something beautiful to you

I listen to the wind and I begin to see
Through people and my heart and my mind, I see me
And I see something beautiful
Oh, I know ‘cause the wind brushes my eyes
And I know the Lord Jesus fills my life

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Today that boy turns 62. He’s a devoted husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather; a poet, musician, and steward of Creation; a servant, provider, and friend; and a man of the Word who still follows hard after Truth and understanding. No, he’s not perfect. Through the years he has stumbled more than once and even fallen hard, but the One who is able to make him stand has never for a moment forsaken him. His testimony of Jesus’ faithfulness remains, and as one who has journeyed by his side for 38 years, I can tell you that — in more ways than I can begin to count — he shines. Just like the Morning Star.

In honor of his birthday, you’re invited to listen to his Testimony Song — recorded decades ago on a little cassette tape player — and to catch some glimpses of the “something beautiful” those of us who love him have been privileged to see.

You’re also invited to follow his example. Listen to the wind. Let it brush your eyes. Perhaps you will begin to see something beautiful, too.

 





Thirty-six Years and Still Climbing

5 05 2015

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Look at us. That was the summer of 1979, and we were newlyweds. So young. So unaware and unprepared for a journey that would include unimaginable adventures, trials, sorrows, and joys. Today marks 36 years of wedded bliss. And wedded turmoil. And wedded hanging on by our fingernails. But most of all, today marks 36 years of God’s amazing grace and faithfulness. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a little stroll down visual memory lane.

The 70s

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May 5, 1979, leaving the church on our wedding day

The 80s
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The 90s
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The 00s
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The 10s
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After my dad walked me down the aisle on our wedding day, before he officially gave me away, George sang a song to me. The lyrics were an invitation: Let us climb the hill together. That’s a good metaphor for marriage. Much better than a walk in the park or a stroll on the beach. The soundtrack of a marriage is beautiful music, yes. And laughter and weeping. Joyful praises shouted and agonized prayers wrung from a broken heart. Daily choices to give and forgive. And, in the end, it’s all good. All part of a symphony God orchestrates for our growth and His glory.

“I pray God will be with us night and day, guide us on our way. So, let us climb. Let us climb. Let us climb the hill together.”

Invitation accepted. Until death do us part.

* * *

Speaking of soundtracks, here’s a little vintage George and Jeanne singing “Let Us Climb,” because, why not?
Love you, George. Happy Anniversary. xo





Compost

2 04 2014

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He turned fifteen the year his birthday became Earth Day. Not a bad association for a boy whose name meant “farmer” or “earth worker” — a boy who would go on to become a man, who would go on to earn a doctorate in soil ecology.

But that’s only a subplot in this boy’s story. Or maybe a framework. Because who he is goes much deeper than what he does. The why behind the what makes all the difference.

And the “why” in this case was beauty — a beauty that broke his heart in the deepest, best way, and filled him with longing.

These paths we walk are fashioned paths, no more haphazard than the artistry of the sunrise that broke over the Appalachian mountains one summer morning in 1973 and caused the boy to cry out, “Who are You?” It’s a question with an answer, and following the fashioned path he found himself in the book of John, where words adorned themselves with meaning, and beauty owned its Name.

Jesus. This Beauty had a name, and it was Jesus.

The boy would never be the same.

And so, to this day, he makes things grow. It’s his therapy, his joy, and a very real part of his worship. Because life is parable for those who have ears to hear.

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone.

First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

The boy named Farmer believes, and he does what he can.

He makes compost.

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In autumn he rescues bagged leaves from the side of the road and wood chips from the landfill. He feeds kitchen scraps to earthworms. He layers grass clippings and leaves into bins, douses them with water and tosses them like a giant salad, and then come spring — when time has had time to do her thing — He takes the rich black compost from the bottom of the bins, and into this good soil, he plants seeds.

New life from death. It’s the law of the kingdom.

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We live in an age of entitlement and instant gratification. We order our flowers online, and we buy our organically grown, pesticide-free vegetables from tidy displays on the produce aisle. We don’t want to wait, and we don’t want to get our fingernails dirty. We want our food, our entertainment, our comforts, and our spiritual enlightenment served to fit our personal timelines and preferences.

We don’t want to wait. We don’t want to suffer. And we certainly don’t want to die. Why lay down our lives when we can have it our way and have it now?

Well, fact is, we don’t have to. We can skip the process. We can keep our fingernails clean, our self-esteem well polished, and our opinions unchallenged. We can stand up for our rights and pursue our happiness.

Or we can lay it all down and be living sacrifices. Because when Jesus talked about seeds and soils, he was really talking about truth and hearts. And we have a choice. We can be those who trample the path and make it harder, or we can be those who, like the early and late rains, soften the soil with kindness and grace. We can be those who throw stones or those who bow low to remove them, making room for roots to spread and go deep. We can be those who weave a crown of thorns, wounding with harsh and mocking words, or we can be those who weed out the thorns and make room for struggling roots to breathe.

We can let Beauty crush us into purpose, surrendering to the seasons He sends, knowing the pressure and pain promise a harvest. We can be a safe place for tender souls to stretch out tentative shoots toward the Son.

We can be compost.

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It’s counter-intuitive in a culture where most people spend their lives trying to climb higher and achieve more. But in the upside-down kingdom, this is the secret to joy. We decrease that He might increase, and the less we become, the more He shines.

And one day? We’ll look up and gasp with wonder.

Because Beauty will blossom and flourish and fill the whole land with fruit.

 

 

 

 

 





my beloved speaks

17 03 2013

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My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing
has come.”

Song of Solomon 2:10-12

* * *

{And here’s a little something extra:
a song based primarily on this passage,
written by Ernie and Debby Rettino,
recorded by George and me
years ago.

I love singing with my beloved.
Hope you enjoy it.}

* * *

With Deidra

and Sandra





Thirty-three {and counting}

5 05 2012

Today is our anniversary. Thirty-three years we’ve been climbing this hill together, leaning on and learning each other, sometimes loving well, sometimes (most definitely) not. We’ve forgiven much and been forgiven much. We’ve tasted the deep sweet and the twisting bitter, and in all things we’ve found Truth to be true. God is faithful. A redeemer. A restorer of locust-eaten years. He takes broken, flawed, parched white bones and breathes into them His very own life and beauty.

And so he gets up early to go buy orange juice (because he knows I don’t like the kind with calcium), and he smiles like a kid when I come out to breakfast and find the rose and the card. Later he’ll take me to dinner, and every time he mentions something about it, there’s that boyish grin again, and you know, for me, I think that smile is the best gift. It holds the years with all their pain and loss like dandelion fluff — weightless in the winds of this joy.

And this feels exactly right. Because love is in the rising early, the eagerness to please, and the same delighted smile that banished the fears of a twenty-one-year-old bride thirty-three years ago.

I am my beloved’s, and he is mine. Here’s to the rest of the climb.





the gift we can all afford to give

3 10 2011

I heard him come in the house, work boots clomping against the hardwood floor. The footsteps stopped outside my office door, and I turned to ask if he needed help with something.

He stood there for a moment, then said, “I’m thankful to God for you.”

The unexpected words went straight to my heart, a jolt of delight, and I laughed. Had he really set aside his work and come inside for the sole purpose of saying that to me? I asked as much, and he shrugged.

“I was thinking about you, and I wanted to let you know.” Then, while my heart lay open, he listed specific reasons for his gratitude, and each affirmation was a dazzling brush stroke, painting love on my soul’s canvas.

“I’m thankful to God for you, too,” I said, the words rising from a deep well of joy, and I held the moment close, a holy trembling.

A mere moment. That’s all it was as time counts time. George went back outside, but the warmth of his words remained, a lingering benediction. It “just so happened” (oh, the sweetness of God’s ways), I’d been reading Robin Dance’s (in)courage post, Speak Life, about the power of spoken words to wound or bring life, and I thought about how George’s simple utterance had heaped a magnitude of grace on my soul. Why don’t I look for every opportunity to give this gift to the ones I love? Indeed, why do I often give the exact opposite?

And then I remembered his explanation. I was thinking about you.

Believe me, there are plenty of things George could have dredged up that would not have prompted gratitude to God for me. He could have recalled annoying habits or the multitude of ways I’ve offended, disappointed, and failed him — and no doubt the accuser would have happily thrown fuel on any of those fires. But he wasn’t dwelling on my faults. He was deliberately thinking about things he appreciates and admires, and his heart filled with thanks to God.

And then I realized why I miss so many opportunities to bless with my words. I allow critical, accusing, judgmental thoughts to fester, poisoning my mind. I’m not taking my thoughts captive. Not believing the best about other peoples’ motives. Not looking for whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — not searching to see if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, and then thinking about those things.

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

I’m thankful to God for you. Those six simple words wrapped me in a tender embrace, and I’m awestruck at their power to make me feel loved — not only for what the words mean, but even more for the thoughts that gave them utterance.

And here’s another wonderful truth. This gift of thought-full words brings as much or more joy to the giver as to the one who receives it. It’s a gift that lifts both giver and receiver to a higher place, changing the world, one beautiful thought, one beautiful word at a time.

And all it costs the giver is a choice to think well and then speak well. Even if a million voices from without and within try to poison that spring, with God’s grace we can refuse them all. Why would we ever choose bitter water over sweet?

So, today I’m giving thanks to God in community for:

#265 a husband who loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and
#266 who loves me tenderly and well, in thought, word, and deed
#267 grace to cover all my sin
#268 new mercies every morning
#269 hot tea with lemon on a tickly throat
#270 highs in the 80’s!
#271 strength for the task at hand
#272 a job for Rusty when we leave
#273 recalling God’s faithfulness with friends
#274 prayer with a neighbor
#275 conviction of sin and repentance
#276 the ache beauty creates
#277 family
#278 the power of words to heal
# 279 you
(Yes, you. Thank you for sharing life with me)








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