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

 





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





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.





A Bride Adorned

21 11 2011

“How do you feel?” I ask.

Her smile and the sparkle in her eye are answer enough, but her words strike me.

“I feel great,” she says. “As light as air.”

And an image fills my mind, the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Coming down out of heaven. As light as air.

She’s beautiful and brilliant, gifted and clever, cheerful, outgoing, tender and generous. She knows what she wants and she goes for it.

And what does she want?

She wants to love, serve, honor, and glorify her God.

Her purity is a rebuke to the spirit of this age, and I grieve for what we, the church, have lost. We’ve believed a lie, and many of us have been robbed. The whisper hisses that the Bible is outdated and holiness is bondage, and why would you deny yourself? The fruit is good, and you crave it. Why wait? The whisper hisses, and some of us listen. We demand our inheritance early, and we stumble hard before we finally come to ourselves in the far country, bruised, bleeding, and ashamed.

Or maybe we never come to ourselves at all. We make excuses for conformity and broad brush our sin with a warped version of grace that masks without healing, a festering wound we pretend we can’t feel. And the burden weighs us down, whether we know it or not.

The bride Jesus is coming for will be pure and spotless, a “holy city,” and yet I look at this fractured, limping church, and it’s hard not to wonder. Will we really be freed from all our baggage? Chains broken, cages opened, hearts undivided, our idols and our crowns cast at His feet?

Even in the asking, I know the answer is yes. Yes! Our God is a redeemer. He takes the bruised and broken and makes them whole. This is our hope and the hope we offer a wounded world. And this is good news indeed.

But this bride adorned, she teaches me that there’s even better news. Her life shouts it from the house tops, a beacon to those who haven’t yet tasted forbidden fruit. “You can bypass the pig sty,” she says. “You can choose wisdom and holiness in spite of the world’s empty promises and the mocking scorn of this present age. The Bible is not outdated. It is timeless and the only way to true freedom. God is good in all that He gives and in all that He forbids. If He withholds the fruit you crave, it is only that He might give you an abundant feast beyond your wildest imagination.”

Her life declares this truth. Her joy underscores it. A bride adorned for her husband. Pure. Set apart.

She comes to him without fear.
She comes to him without shame.
She comes to him without baggage.

As light as air.

Giving thanks in community (#310 – 326):

a much-loved nephew and his radiant bride
unalloyed joy
this expanding family
God’s timing
His always-good plans
the promise of wisdom
the mystery of prayer
the wonder of communion
the glory of love
beauty, taking my breath away
golden leaves dancing with a playful wind
sparrows seen
my father’s tenderness
my mother’s smile
Advent lessons and carols
(The Humble Bold CD is now available in addition to MP3s)
art with purpose

{I feel the need to slip this in here. If you read this post and thought, “It’s too late for me. I’ve blown it and there’s no point in pursuing purity now,” then I ask you to please watch this video, and be assured that you are precious and loved, and it’s never too late to bring your brokenness to Him and exchange it for His beauty. Grace, peace, and redeeming love to you.}





Like a Tree Planted

23 09 2011

He was my best friend, my soul-mate, the agent of God’s healing. Our foundation was solid, and I entered marriage without fear. We would live in unity on our knees, I was certain, receiving this gift only to pour it back out at His feet and for His kingdom.

. . . but words pierced and misunderstandings divided, and I found myself bruised in spirit, trying to scale impossible walls, broken-hearted, and full of self-pity.

Marriage isn’t a fairy tale. It’s roots and branches, tangled, broken, mended, restored, beautified by redemption and raised in praise to the God who orders the seasons . . .

It’s like a tree planted.

My lovely friend, Emily Wierenga, asked me to write a guest post about what it means to be at this point in George’s and my marriage, having gone through the seasons we have. I was honored and humbled by her request. A lot has happened in the past thirty-two years, but God’s grace and faithfulness covers it all. Whether you’re married or not — whatever stage of life you’re in — I hope you’ll join me at Em’s place, and I pray this glimpse into our journey will encourage you in yours.

Love, Jeanne





Scaffolding

10 08 2011

A house is a major investment. Before you buy, you pray and ask God if this is a commitment you’re ready to make. You count the cost to be sure you can really afford to do this. Then you apply for a loan, scrape together a down payment, sign and initial a stack of papers, and finally, it’s all yours.

You move in, unpack boxes, arrange furniture, and stock cabinets. You hang pictures and select drapes. And you add all the loving little touches inside and out that make a house a home.

You stand back and smile. You love this house. You really do. The rooms are filled with laughter. The kitchen with tempting aromas. The time around the table with rich conversation. Labor is meaningful and rest is sweet. You sing as you sweep the floors, and you happily dust the blinds on all forty-eight windows.

But after a while the dusting gets old. Who needs forty-eight windows anyway? You stop enjoying the various nuances of light and view and start begrudging the work. Charms become flaws. That creaky place in the floorboard that you used to think was quaint is now simply . . . creaky.

Laughter turns to bitterness. Conversation to quarreling.

And outside, the wind and rain beat against this house and the sun bakes it. Paint fades then chips. And you realize your love has grown cold.

You have a choice to make.

Move on. Or fix it.

Marriage is a lot like a house. We may have prayed for guidance, counted the cost, and truly intended to keep all our commitments before we plunged in, but after a while the stars in our eyes grow dim.

We forget what charmed us about this person, and see only his flaws. Instead of thinking of creative ways to bring him delight, we obsess about his annoying habits. The way he chews his food or bites his nails or leaves shaving cream in the sink. We wish he would do this and wouldn’t do that, and the wind and rain beat against this marriage, and it teeters.

Again, we have a choice.

Of course, people who decide to move on usually realize that the next house eventually loses its charm, too. And no matter where you live, dust gathers and maintenance takes work, and there are some hard-to-reach spots that require attention.

If you’re going to do this right, you’ll need scaffolding.

And not any scaffolding will do. It needs to be unshakable and firm. And, yes, merely assembling it and climbing on takes a lot of courage and hard work. But once you’re there, you can lean all your weight into the task at hand.

So, what are the scaffolding components needed to build and maintain a weather-proof marriage?

The Word of God as foundation.
Prayer as framework.
And the planks?

Honesty. Communication. Affection. Kindness. Confession. Trust. Gratitude.

These are solid, sturdy, and sure to hold fast. And then there are two other planks I know I couldn’t live without.

Have you ever been to a wedding, and somewhere on a little table there’s a basket and a bunch of note cards, and married couples are encouraged to leave a word of wisdom or advice for the newlyweds? Yeah, me, too. And I almost always write the same thing:

Laugh often, and forgive immediately.

Because laughter is the music that reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. It’s the soundtrack that reminds us life is an adventure, not a series of unfortunate events.

And forgiveness? If we forgive immediately — if we refuse to entertain self-pity or accusing thoughts and choose rather to remember how very much we’ve been forgiven and how very much we daily, hourly, moment-by-moment need God’s mercy, we’ll receive power to look past the dust and the fading paint.

If we choose to love like God loved us — while we were yet sinners — we’ll begin to see once again the charms that made us fall in love with this man in the first place. We’ll again delight to add all the tender little touches inside and out that make a marriage a home.


You love this house. You really do. The rooms are filled with laughter. The kitchen with tempting aromas. The time around the table with rich conversation. Labor is meaningful and rest is sweet. You sing as you sweep the floors, and you happily dust the blinds on all forty-eight windows. And then you stand back and smile.

Let the storms come. You laugh at storms. You’ve built this house on a rock.

And your scaffolding is strong.


P.S. George is painting this house — our home for almost 20 years — in preparation to sell it soon. This is where we raised our children, where our world collapsed, and where God took our brokenness and created unspeakable beauty. If you know of anyone who might like to buy a charming and treasured East Texas home that has been filled with life and love,  friendship and faith, music, laughter, and dancing, send them our way.





The Heart of a Bride

4 08 2011

Saturday my nephew got married. The tiny bride looked like a fairy princess, her long auburn hair dotted with white blooms. The flower girl wore pink wings. The wedding was charming and whimsical, but it was so much more than that.

It was a worship service.

They wept for joy. They laughed for holy wonder.
And then they sang . . .

{The rest of this story is posted over at The Master’s Artist. Please join me there?}








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