Monday, September 30, 2013

The Wedding...



Josh, Katie and Harper Cleveland- Sept. 28, 2013
Let me tell you about something joyous. Our youngest son got married on Saturday. He has been divorced for four years or so and is the father of an eight-year-old daughter. He has been healing and rebuilding his life for a while now. He’s done the work. He’s done the tough stuff. It has made him a man of strong character. And this weekend, he won the hand of his charming, beautiful bride, Katie.  I’m busting with pride over this kid (he’s 34, but I’m his mom, that makes him my ‘kid’). The wedding was simple, but elegant. The ceremony was supposed to be outdoors, but rain interfered so the wedding was moved to their home church. In less than 12-hours, some lovely folks pitched in and transformed the old building into a twinkle-lit magical spot. The bride was breath taking and the groom beaming. And the eight-year-old daughter? A vision of loveliness and smiles as she brought her daddy down the aisle.
Don’t tell me there isn’t a God. I’ve watched Him at His best as He restored, redeemed and blessed my son. His faithfulness to a hurting lamb brought me to my knees many times. As my son reached out and up, our God reached down and toward. His Presence was evident as Josh lamented, struggled to find the path, and finally found his smile again.  And when he least expected it, a Holy Hand opened a door and in walked Katie.
When Katie and Josh asked the Hubs to marry them there were so many unknowns. As cancer created havoc and dismay, there were times when I wasn’t sure if Gary would live long enough to attend much less perform the wedding ceremony. But on Saturday night as Josh and Harper walked down the aisle together, there sat the Hubs on a stool, forty pounds lighter than a year ago, weaker than he had been just days before, and voice raspy but determined.
Gary has always performed a great wedding ceremony. I always marveled how a man who disliked attending weddings could perform them so well. He always made them personal. He always invited God to attend and bless. He always made me proud that I was his chosen bride.
I’ve lost count how many couples the Hubs has counseled and married through the years. His loving manner and tender heart has nurtured so many. He had gotten choosier over the years when it came to accepting to perform a wedding. They take up so much time. He not only married them, but he always insisted on at least six pre-marital counseling sessions as well. He thought it remiss to just marry someone without Godly counsel. After all, if a couple came to preacher to do their wedding, God was part of the deal. Marriage is risky business. Without God, it’s just foolish.
Well, on Saturday Gary was at his best. He blessed Josh and Katie and presided over their vows and promises. I have no doubt that angels were present and that God stood between the couple placing their nervous and trembling hands in His own. This was Gary’s last wedding. He’s hanging up his ‘marrying suit’. But as they say, he saved the best till last.
Josh and Katie, may our Lord bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and give you peace. May your life together be filled with joy and compassion. Be fearless. Fight fair. Love strong. Allow God to have his Way. And… come home often.
And Hubs, you done good. You done real good.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gittin'er done


The Hubs & Me at Lambeau. Need I say  more...

 Life is such a mixed bag. Highs and lows, joys and sorrows, tears and giggles, and everything in between. What has been amazing to me through the Hubs’ medical mystery tour these past few months is how quickly one can turn into the other in just a matter of seconds. One minute I’m laughing at a an antic of a grandchild, the next minute tears start burning behind my eyes as I’m quickly reminded that if cancer has its way, this same grandchild may never remember his Papa Gary. Or I can be sitting on the swing with the Hubs out by our pond, sun on our backs, fall leaves rustling, and my soul overflowing with joy, then Bam! It suddenly hits me that the likelihood of us sitting on this swing together next autumn is very slim. Joy crumbles into sorrow before I can even exhale. The toll of flipping emotions is like sandpaper scrubbed on the heart. So, I must not linger there long. It is what it is. Such is this season we find ourselves.
Our adventure together is almost complete. So much joy. So much laughter. So many lovely experiences. Oh, what a life it’s been. When Gary’s prognosis turned frightful, several folks suggested we set out checking off those ‘bucket list’ items as quickly as possible. We were encouraged to start ‘cramming life in’ at break-neck speed. What they didn’t realize is the bucket list was completed years ago. We’ve done everything we’ve ever wanted to do. Nothing has been left undone. We have the marriage we’ve always worked toward… yes, worked toward. We have the ministry we always prayed God would direct. We have the children who have rattled that bucket and have it gushing and spilling over. Grandchildren? Quivers full of them. Friendships? Another quiver or two full… overflowing in fact. Have we said everything that needs to be said? We’ve spent almost forty-two years saying it. I can honestly confess we’ve been given more than we’ve ever asked or imagined. We don’t have to wake up every morning in this panic to ‘git’er done’. Our entire life together has been about gittin’er done. 
We have absolutely no regrets. Who gets to say that? If it turns out that Gary only has a few weeks or months left on this earth what will we do? Be assured that we’ll wake up tomorrow morning and just keep doing what we’re doing. That’s the only way we know how to live this out.
The motto verse for our entire love life has been: “Trust in the Lord with all your hearts. Lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him. And He will direct your paths.”
I’m here to tell you, nothing has ever been truer.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Remember who and Whose you are…

The Forty-Year-Old with his daughter.

On Saturday I’ll experience a First. My firstborn will turn forty. The Big 4-0. And as many, many parents before me I am in shock that someone as young and vibrant as myself can be the parent of a forty-year-old child. Seriously?
I remember it well. After three days of labor, yes, count them, THREE DAYS OF LABOR, the child finally decided to make his debut. Had I been a mama hamster, I would have immediately eaten him. How dare he cause me that much trouble. But then they laid the squirmy troublemaker into my arms and I instantly life changed forever.
This kid, with his long dark eyelashes and big blue eyes, expanded my world and awoke a part of my heart that was created just for him; a part I didn’t even know was there. He kept me on my toes and balanced just on the edge from day one. What a delight!
I dedicate several of my gray hairs to him. His creativity. His curiosity. His tender heart. His laughter. His sense of humor. His daring. His cult-like leadership. His protectiveness, and his joy of life have all combined and converged to mold this extraordinary young man. Yes, forty is young these days.
He married someone who gets him. He listened to my advice and chose a bride who leads him closer to God everyday. Smart boy. The fact that she loves me as well is pure icing. And together they have given this middle-age mama the most delicious grandchildren.
But the most endearing trait about this forty-year-old child of mine is his capacity to love. I saw it in him the first time I looked into those dark eyes and that little round face. His love for his beautiful wife, for me, his dad, his brothers, his sister-in-laws, his children, his friends, his students (he’s a teacher), his dog and his Creator take my breath away at times. The way he loves continues to teach me how to do it better.
Most parents are proud of their children, aren’t they? Well, count me in. All three of my sons have grown into these incredible men. But, today, I honor the forty-year-old one. I thank God for the day He placed this child in my arms and the privilege it has been to be his mom. On his first day of school and every school day after I would kiss him and say, “Remember who and Whose you are.”  He was Nathan Daniel. Son of Gary and Debbie. Brother to Matthew and Joshua… and he was God’s.
He remembered. He still remembers.
I love you, kiddo.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Go. Kiss.


The other day the Hubs and I went to Ireland. It has been a dream of ours for quite a long time, but life kept getting in the way. One thing cancer has taught us is that procrastination can be one of life’s biggest regrets. So, it was time.
I sat the Hubs down on the couch and got him real comfy and then I got out all of our Ireland travel books. With permanent markers in hand we began our journey. Counties Cork, Donegal, and Kerry have never looked more beautiful. Our first stop was at a stone circle in Loughcrew, County Meath. With marker in hand I drew an arrow up from the center of the circle and wrote, “Kiss me here.”  The Hubs took the cue and planted a sweet one on my lips.
Our next stop was the monastery at Clonmacnoise. Founded by St. Ciaran in the sixth century, it didn’t look too worse for the wear for a bunch of roofless stone buildings that were several hundred years old. Gorgeous country side though. We found this one spot where the stone walk ended in a circle and again the marker marked the spot and the Hubs kissed me.
It was a lovely afternoon.
Then Gary got very tired and needed to rest in his chair and the trip was over. I’m left with a travel book that is all marked up and the memory of several lovely kisses upon the green, green grasses of Ireland. It was a good day.
Maybe one day, I’ll pack LuLu up and put us on a plane and make the trip for real. I can just see us tooling around the shores of Lake Killarney. Maybe we’ll visit every spot where the Hubs and I kissed. We’ll see…
If there is somewhere special you’ve always wanted to kiss your loved one, then don’t wait. Go. Kiss. Make a memory. I’m telling ya, life is too short. The days stack up and fly by. Illness may strike or money may run out, or… there are a thousand different excuses to keep you from doing it. Seize the day. Don’t wait. Go. Kiss.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

You say, "Thank you."

The Hubs with Nellie Rose.

I walked out into the garage the other day and discovered that Lulu had a flat tire. I teared up. Yeah, I know she’s just a bike, but people, it’s LuLu!
When those we love hurt we can’t help but hurt too, right? It goes without saying that when they are happy, we are happier still. This past Saturday, the Hubs was very happy. Thanks to some sweet folks who gathered over the weekend to celebrate his life and ministry, the Hubs got to experience something too few people get to. Folks came from several states just to sit in a room with him for the afternoon and tell him how much he means to them. Gary was embarrassed and uncomfortable and utterly touched by such expressions of love.
For one brief afternoon, we were on Holy Ground. God was in the house. Voices spoke love and sang songs. Scripture was read. Stories were told. Tears were shed. Laughter bounced off the rafters. The gathering was reminiscent of Tom Sawyer walking in on his own funeral ... minus the funeral part.
What do you say to someone who thanks you for helping them raise their children? What do you say to someone who tells you that you saved their marriage? What do you say to someone who tells you that you rescued them? What do you say to someone who travels across several states just to give you a hug? What do you say to someone who says they followed you to Jesus’ feet? What do you say to someone who insists you made a difference?
Words fail you. You look at them incredulously. No! It was THEY who showed you God’s face and Jesus’ nail prints. It was THEY who taught you how to be a better spouse, parent, and person. No! THEY are the ones who made a difference. THEY are the ones who saved you.
But they insist it was you. So, how do you respond? What do you say?
I guess you just lower your eyes, clasp their hands and say, “Thank you. I had no idea.” Or “You’re welcome. It was my greatest pleasure.”  Such inadequate words. Such overused expressions, yet how else can you communicate how touched, humbled and overwhelmed their words made you feel?
Like LuLu, the Hubs has been sidelined. Cancer is taking its toll. At times I hurt so much for him my legs want to buckle from the pain of it all. But on this day, this unforgettable day, I rejoiced at the love and gratitude coming Gary’s way. I looked around the room at all the dear faces and felt nothing but pure joy. Gary’s pale cheeks rosied up a bit. His smile, the very same smile that stole my heart almost 42 years ago, took my breath away.
What do you say to a people who took the time to tell you what you mean to them? What do you say to a people who generously gave you money for the growing medical bills? What do you say to a people who stretched out their arms toward you with such compassion and friendship? What do you say to a people, who honored the Love Of Your Life with such generosity, intimacy, and authentic love?
I guess you simply say … Thank you.