God’s ways are mysterious and our faith develops strong muscles as we negotiate the twists and turns of our lives.

-Elisabeth Elliot

World Magazine

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Your Marriage

I heard the news that a young couple in our community is getting a divorce after only one year of marriage. What went wrong? All I know is this is a tragedy. I remember the wedding announcement we received with their bright smiling faces, their eyes so filled with love for each other.

Being silly at Lucy's birthday party!

Being silly at Lucy’s birthday party!

I want to tell them, “Don’t give up! Your story isn’t over yet.” In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say: “Don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle.” Sometimes 5 minutes can seem like an eternity, but when the miracle comes, you don’t want to miss it.

My husband Randy and I are celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. When I look back, I remember the tough times we faced in our marriage. It seemed hopeless. Struggling with Randy’s alcoholism loomed like a never-ending problem with few solutions. In retrospect, it was 5 minutes. The miracle of Randy’s sobriety and the years we’ve enjoyed since then, have truly been a miracle worth waiting for.

I’m looking forward to being the Keynote speaker at this event!

Date: March 14, 2015
Time: 09:00 a.m.-02:00 p.m.
Event: Olympic Cluster Spring Celebration
Topic: "Bear One Another's Burdens"
Venue: Christ Lutheran Church
Location: Belfair, WA
Public: Private

God’s Extravagant Love

Before Christmas, my boss and his wife treated my co-workers and me  to an afternoonExtravagant_0 of extravagance. Each of us was pampered with a massage, facial and manicure. As I lay on the massage table having the yummiest-smelling creams applied to my face, I suddenly felt overcome with emotion. This is pure extravagance, I thought. Something we as women don’t often treat ourselves to–especially all in one afternoon! Tears welled up and one escaped down my cheek. I hoped the aesthetician hadn’t noticed. It wasn’t just the spa treatments that got me teary, but  reflecting on God’s extravagant love.

New Hope for Marriage Women’s Retreat

I’m excited about the NEW HOPE FOR MARRIAGE women’s retreat I’m co-facilitating with Christie Miller. We have a few spaces available for the Feb. 20-21 date. Know someone who is discouraged in her marriage and needs some new hope – new energy – and a new plan? This is a great weekend opportunity. Small, private, encouraging!

For more information: www.nwspeakers.com

After the Firestorm: Finding Out What Matters Most

The view from our house on July 17, 2014

I’ve never been so happy to turn a calendar page as I was at the end of August. I flipped the page from August to September, breathing a guarded sigh of relief. Our world has been rocked by the firestorm that blew up on July 17. During the summer and early fall, wildfires are part of life here in hot, dry north central Washington. We’ve seen the mushroom-cloud smoke plumes that tower skyward. We’ve witnessed hillsides burning in the distance. The Thirtymile Fire in 2001 seemed relatively insignificant until it raged out-of-control, killing four young firefighters. I remember the somber gathering held at our local high school gym where we paid our respects. This heartbreaking tragedy  caused the forest service to re-evaluate firefighting protocols.

But this year, the Carlton Complex Fire became the largest fire in Washington state history, burning more than 250,000 acres. Long-time residents say they’ve never seen anything like it. Unlike other fires, this one destroyed homes–more than 300 at last count. These are friends and neighbors who have lost everything. I can’t imagine where you begin to start over. The fire, ignited by a lightning strike near Carlton, traveled more than 25 miles in less than 8 hours to burn hundreds of homes near Pateros. People barely had time to evacuate. It’s nothing short of a miracle that no lives were lost that night and in the following days and weeks.

We were without power and water for 10 days in the area where I live. Others “camped” without electricity for almost 3 weeks. Everyone has been affected by the stress of living on high alert–not knowing if and when you’ll have to evacuate or if a new fire will be ignited by lightning or something as random as a tire rim from a flat tire creating sparks. And if the fires weren’t bad enough, mudslides caused by heavy rain and flash flooding several weeks later, washed out roads and destroyed more homes. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the devastation.

Yet in the midst of  disaster, you can’t help but notice the bright spots. I think of the hardworking heroes who have given so much to our communities…the firefighters who relentlessly dug fire lines in 100 degree weather, the local PUD joined by other utility companies who worked 16-hour days to get the power on, Red Cross volunteers who came to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on. Community centers and schools were transformed into shelters staffed by volunteers. Almost immediately, donations of supplies poured in. A statement said they couldn’t accept any more donations. There simply wasn’t room.

A benefit, “Blues for the Burn,” was sponsored by the organizers of the popular summer Rhythm & Blues Festival. More than 400 people enjoyed an evening of music and dancing. Many came from out-of-town, wanting to support the beautiful Methow Valley and those who have lost so much. All proceeds went to our local food bank/charitable organization, “The Cove,” who will distribute the funds. I’m amazed and moved by the generosity of our community.

In September, I had the privilege of helping at a fire relief clothing event sponsored by The Heart of CAbi Foundation and Independent CAbi Consultants. More than 90 women who had lost all their personal clothing in the fires or mudslides came to “shop” for brand new designer clothing–except they didn’t need any shopping dollars. CAbi, a clothing company, donated 1,000 items of clothing. Each woman who attended went home with at least 10 free new outfits. I stood by to offer coffee, muffins, scones, and sandwiches–but most important, I listened to their stories of loss, gave hugs, and even helped dry some tears. 

It seems like disasters, whether natural events, or tragedies like 9/11, tend to draw people together. Suddenly we’re shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to help and encourage others wherever we can. Even though I pray we never have another summer like this one, I’m grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve received–and for this reminder:

The things that matter the most in this world, they can never be held in our hand. –Gloria Gaither
  
I’ve had a first-hand glimpse of this through those in our community who are bravely moving forward after losing so much.
       
      

What I’ve Learned through a Lifetime of Marriage

My husband Randy and I recently celebrated 44 years of marriage.

Our anniversary celebration at Steak ‘N Shake

Wow–how can that be possible when we’re only 30+ years old? Well… we haven’t been that age for a long time, but it’s still hard to imagine we’ve spent most of a lifetime together.

When we first got married, I had this naive notion that all we needed was love. All together now: All you need is love. Da…da…da…da… da…When I hear those words, I automatically want to burst into song. Never mind about the misunderstandings and the immaturity of two 19 year-olds who are going to become parents before their first anniversary. As long as we have love, we will stay together. Wasn’t that also a song? Love will keep us together. If only it were that simple.

We do need love, but not the kind Hollywood portrays or most of us envision. I remember seeing the movie Love Story with Randy when we were dating. Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw (can you believe she’s 75?) looked deeply into each other’s eyes and proclaimed, Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

How sweet (and unrealistic) is that? But that’s the love I was looking for…where romantic feelings never fade and you sail off together as best friends and lovers without a disagreement or ever raising your voice or crying yourself to sleep.

After 44 years and weathering many marital ups and downs, I’ve learned a lot about real-life relationships:

  • There’s no such thing as 50/50 in marriage. Many times you’ll be the one giving more than you bargained for. It would be nice if everything were split neatly in half. The reality is that each of you will be called on at different times to give more than your share. It’s also good not to keep score.
  • Recognize the myth of the greener grass. It’s possible there is “greener grass,” but many of us see the grass and want to vault over the fence without considering the costs. The repercussions of an affair are devastating for everyone. Two families are directly affected, as well as extended family and friends. Life is never the same after trust in a marriage has been broken. God can heal and bring reconciliation, but the price paid is excruciatingly high.
  • Love the one you’re with. What would happen if you intentionally treated your spouse as if you really loved him/her? Not the Love Story type of love, but love that’s patient, kind, steadfast in sickness and in health, in good times and bad times. God’s kind of love that never fails.

Randy and I have been blessed to experience this love in our marriage. It didn’t come naturally, though. It took a lot of pain and struggle and heartache. We both realized the ability to love well was only possible if we were willing to get beyond our selfishness. As we experienced God’s grace, we were then able to begin to love each other unconditionally. Not perfectly, but in a way that says I want the best for you. I’m willing to do whatever I can to encourage you, to build you up, to help you become the person God created you to be.

And guess what? I found out I married the right guy– the one who has been God’s gift to me for almost a lifetime. And yes, we’ve learned that saying you’re sorry is at the top of the list!

If you’re struggling to love your spouse, there is hope! Small acts of kindness can be a good starting place. I would love to pray with you and encourage you to believe that God’s love never fails. 

Interested in reading more about marriage? Check out these similar posts:

Marriage Advice for Wives: 5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Got Married

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Your Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Dad: Navigating the First Year Without Him

My brother posted this picture of our dad on Facebook on what would have been his 87th birthday.  Dad passed away on January 1 and it still doesn’t seem quite real that he’s gone. Friends who have lost loved ones have told me the “firsts” are the hardest. The first birthday without Dad, the first Father’s Day with no dad to buy a card for, and then my recent birthday, the first one in my whole life without talking with Dad have been difficult milestones.

I remember my birthday last year. Dad was living in a dementia care facility. The day seemed empty. I felt sad because I hadn’t talked with him. My husband Randy who’s always coming up with practical solutions said, “Why don’t you call him?” What a great idea!

The person who answered the phone at Dungeness Courte was more than happy to locate my dad and put him on the phone. It took a while, but I finally heard his familiar voice which I mentally tried to  record. “Hi, honey.”

“Dad, I had to call you. It’s my birthday.”

“Oh yes,” he chuckled. “I think I had something to do with that!”

Dad was always joking. I smiled as I realized that not even dementia could rob him of his sense of humor.

On his birthday in June, I decided to walk the mile or so to our small town to enjoy the flags waving from each business. Dad was born on Flag Day. Growing up, he thought the flags flew in his honor. I snapped a few pictures. Then I walked to the bakery and bought blueberry muffins for Randy and me. Dad would have approved. He loved anything baked with blueberries. My heart felt glad that I’d taken this time to remember him.

Now it’s November. Glorious fall colors fade to brown. Trees are bereft of leaves. A raw chill penetrates the air. As I turned the calendar page today, a pang shot through me. It’s almost a year since I was with Dad.

I know that grieving involves feeling the sadness of losing someone who was such an important part of my life. I also know that celebrating the blessing of having a wonderful father is comforting and even healing.  

I believe Dad and I will have a beautiful reunion someday. I will hear his familiar voice again. “Hi, honey. Welcome home.”

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17

How are you coping with the loss of a loved one?

 

 

A Tribute to my Friend: A Life Well-Lived

Doris was the first person I met in the community where I’ve lived for almost 18 years. She passed away in May at the age of 92.  I chided myself for not visiting more during her last months. Doris suffered from dementia and other ailments, so I’m not sure she completely recognized me when I did come to see her. I could have done more, I thought. I felt better after writing a sympathy note to one of her daughters. Knowing Doris, I was convinced she wouldn’t want me to spend time or energy feeling guilty. Doris wasn’t like that…she lived her life to the fullest and didn’t keep a record of offenses.

I met Doris at the Thursday night Al-Anon meeting at the “The Barn,” the local gathering place in our small town. I was a newcomer when I hesitantly entered the cavernous building and walked to the small back room, “The Hen House,” where weekly meetings were held. I instantly felt like I belonged.

That’s the way it is with Al-Anon. No matter where you go, there’s a sense of connection and support. All those years ago when I was dealing with my husband Randy’s alcoholism, it felt good to find a place where I was accepted and understood. Doris was so good at that. She had a quiet way about her as she shared her own story; her experience and hope. Somehow it was hard to believe that she’d ever felt as stressed or had been an emotional basket case like me. She assured me she had been exactly where I was… and that if I kept coming back, I’d also make my way through to a more positive place.

Every time Randy and I left the city and came over the mountains from Seattle, I made it a point to show up at the Al-Anon meeting. I can’t remember a time when Doris wasn’t there. Her faithful presence gave me courage and helped me decide to move to the Methow Valley with Randy several years later, in spite of his tenuous sobriety. I knew I would never be alone–no matter what happened.  

There are people who come into our lives and we are never the same. Doris was one of those special friends who gently and profoundly touched my life simply by living hers. When she became too frail to live on her own, her family moved her into a group home in another town several hours from here. Last fall, they brought her home to the valley she loved to live out her final days. I miss Doris–but I know she completed the work God had given her. The same work I feel privileged to pass on to others who are struggling in much the same way as I did.

If you’re feeling in despair because someone you love has a drinking problem, why not try out an Al-Anon meeting? I can almost guarantee you will find a Doris there who will help change your life. 

What I can give is never as much as I get from the giving. ~ Al-Anon Family Group

Girl Rising: Don’t Miss this Inspiring Film

My husband Randy and I attended a screening of the stunning film Girl Rising the other night.

Produced by Paul Allen and several businesses  that have partnered through 10×10, a global action campaign to promote girls’ education, Girl Rising is a must-see.

We can know in our heads that girls are mistreated and abused in many developing countries. It’s something different to get that message shot like an arrow through your heart. That’s how I felt while watching  this film. Compelling stories of nine extraordinary girls from nine different countries are told. Their message is powerful: Educate girls and you will change the world. 

My friend who organized the screening of this on-demand film in our community, reminded me to bring Kleenex. Of course, she was right. One of the girls whose story was featured, was sold by her parents into an arranged marriage at the age of 11 or 12–an all-too common practice. Her parents felt convinced that this was best  to ensure a secure future for their daughter. The dowry was $5,000–money that was later used to buy a used pick-up truck for the girl’s older brother. In another story, a young woman sobbed during childbirth because she had given birth to a baby girl and not a son. Girls aren’t worth much in many cultures. What a tragedy!

But the message of this film isn’t simply to play on your heart-strings. These nine girls have been empowered to make courageous choices…sometimes dangerous choices…to stand up and have a voice, to become educated and pass that hope along to other girls. Hope is embodied in each of their lives. One girl with courage is a revolution, says a quote on the Girl Rising website.   

I came away from this film determined to do more to help educate impoverished girls. I also felt overwhelmed with gratitude. I was born into a family in the United States where I was cherished as a little girl. It was a given–I went to school. Every day for twelve years and then some, my parents and teachers encouraged me to learn…not only during childhood but for a lifetime.

Considering the world’s population, only a few of us are this fortunate. With the help and generosity of concerned businesses: Intel Corporation, Vulcan Productions, The Documentary Group, CNN Films, and partners: Care, Girl Up, A New Day Cambodia, Partners in Health, Plan, Room to Read, and World Vision, the message of Girl Rising is changing girls’ lives.

I hope you’ll take time to check out their message and watch the movie trailer–and perhaps host a screening of this film in your community. You’ll be glad you did.