when love is built in parking lots

Wedding photo

Dear Carl,

July marked our 30th year of marriage. We knew it was a big deal yet something about the weight of this number has felt more solid than the past milestone years.

After all this time, you know me and it won’t surprise you that this letter will weave stories to illustrate my point.

I do have a point, I promise.

It’s been a few weeks since we said goodbye to our wonderful Chocolate Aussie Hazel. Recently I recalled that we brought her home on our 14th anniversary. We had waited an unbearably long week because we were traveling. At the time, it was just the four of us, thinking that Hazel would be our last baby. We were enjoying our vacation but now and then one of us would look at the other and express how anxious we were to get back to Portland and scoop up Hazel.

A few years later, Caleb came into the world and he became the object of Hazel’s herding tendencies. Now that there were five of the people variety and a forever-shedding pup, we felt complete.

None of us will ever forget her last morning with us. When you spend a life together, there are sacred moments, horrible ones and everything in between. It was a Sunday, it was sudden and it was a collection of sacred and horrible. All of us navigated our way into the vet hospital parking lot at different times and crazily in 4 different cars. Our time was full of unabashed emotion and words. It’s what happens in the best kind of families, the feelings run deep and there is no way to shield each other from them, nor would you desire.

Carl, I will never forget your strength mingled with emotion.  When none of us could speak, you lavished us with prayer, such a needed balm, bestowing on us peace and comfort.

When there was nothing else to do, you suggested finding a place for breakfast which is always the best solution for five breakfast lovers plus no one wanted to spend much time at the house.

As we were walking to the parking lot, either you or I turned to say something to the other and when we faced forward again, we gazed upon the tenderness of our kids in a tight circle above the raw asphalt. We were close enough to see their lips moving but far enough to not hear their words. We never asked their words, those sentences weren’t ours to know but it was testimony of their overlapping grief.

We shared breakfast and a toast to a good and faithful dog.

The girls took Caleb for the rest of the day and to see Finding Dory.

You and I silently and slowly ascended the stairs at home to complete painting in Caleb’s new bedroom. We might have preferred to curl up on the sofa but we were partaking in a rite of passage, fulfilling a promise, preparing the largest bedroom of our house, where each of his sisters had inhabited, together or solo.

Hazel’s death has shaken us. It has upended routine and rhythm and relationship. We have known plenty of loss over these many year but this one feels central to the core of the family we have built. That pivotal day before the 4th of July when we grieved her caused me to see how our marriage has been built in parking lots.

To be honest, no one really thinks about parking lots until they need a parking place or to find their car. The world would frown at this marriage statement because it’s not sexy or reality show friendly. The world would count our time as worthy only if it contained exotic locations complete with designer bodies and children.

Exotic is defined as very different, strange, unusual, not living or growing naturally in a particular area. It means strikingly, excitingly or mysteriously different or unusual. 

I would say sharing 30 years together is very different, unusual and is not considered a natural occurrence in this world. It truly is mysteriously different.

The course of our marriage has been spent traversing across the varying temperatures of parking lots and not being taxi-ed away on planes. Trips are a short-term landing, sometimes the exotic part of a marriage is lived out day-by-day in the same place, in the same house with the same people creating the most amazing view of the world’s landscape.

The soul of our marriage is you and me.

The heart of our marriage is the extensions we have created in family and friendship.

Marriage is full of parking lots.

I am grateful for the snow-covered airport parking lot when you surprised me to propose.

I will never forget the parking lot you pulled me across when we made our getaway the day we were married.

Do you remember our measured tiptoeing and breath holding from the hospital to the car with each new bundled up baby?

Or how we circled the blocks to find just the right parking place on all those first and last days of school? Or you clasping my hand when I wanted to “take just one more peek” and helped me begin the slow sniffle-filled walk to the car?

All the seemingly endless searches for parking spots for practices, games, concerts, medical appointments, braces on, braces off, entrances exams, graduations and college-drop offs.
Never to be outdone by the most dreaded question asked at bedtime,

“You need what by tomorrow morning?”

Start the engine and proceed to the nearest store.

The frantic dash to any of a number of churches in time to be seated before the first song. After 30 years, it is still a struggle.

We’ve had our favorite work parking spots, some have lasted for years and others came to unexpected endings.

Sadly we have bowed over so many loved ones who have left life’s parking lot for Heaven.

The picture above is actually before we were officially married. I have no idea what you said to me but it made me laugh. I can tell because my cheeks are reaching towards my eyes. You have never ceased to make me laugh even when it seemed impossible.

Thank you for traveling every parking lot with me.

Thank you for trudging through the snow to claim me as your own.

Thank you for shepherding our kids like a champ.

Thank you for believing my wedding day image is the same one you see every day.

For a girl who grew up never locking doors, thank you for keeping us safe.

Thank you for patting the cushion next to you so I will sit closer to you.

Thank you for all the sacrifices you have made, those I know and will never know.

Thanks for  believing in me despite my serious doubts.

Thanks for being my safest place.

For the pocket of parenting days and nights only you, me and God know the depths, thank you for limping through that long, hard season with me.

We are facing a parking lot we wish we could not find a place to park. We don’t ask for Him to take the trials away only that His presence would remain. If there is anything we know after 30 years, God will never abandon us without hope.
He is with us and loving in the midst of every obstacle and triumph of our life together. He is our peace and our guide. He is the Maker and the keeper of our marriage. In Him we can trust and rely. He has been the one who has filled every pot hole and resurfaced every rut. We expect nothing less than Him being God.

You see, I did get to the point.

It required a lot of words to simply say:

I love you and am forever grateful you are my husband,

 

Helen

 

every morning and evening

IMG_20131109_110449

 “Starbucks might cause me to start drinking coffee again!”

I had given up coffee nearly two years ago.

Drinking coffee is perfectly fine but for me; it started to take over my life.

It had begun as a morning tradition and seeped into an evening habit.

Slowly I began thinking about coffee again.

Perhaps it was the weather change or living in Portland, Oregon.

It is hard to live in a city where the slightest shift in wind direction bathes

the air  with the intoxicating aroma of freshly roasted coffee.

Whatever the reason, I missed coffee.

Tea was a worthy substitute.

I cozied up with Earl Grey or English Breakfast and

applauded my fortitude.

While my husband pondered my absurd proclamation,

knowing he missed our shared coffee ritual,

I launched into my rationale.

I had innocently pulled my car up to a coffee window to order my

favorite tea latte only to learn

my tea of choice were being phased out.

The new teas would arrive in November.

November!

I had put my hopes in a substitute only to have it wrestled from my grasp.

My husband patiently listened as I presented my case from my passenger seat.

He reminded me there was nothing wrong with drinking coffee again.

Gradually my resolve was weakening as we finished our last errand.

He then demonstrated the most loving selfless act,

he took me to a different Starbucks counter and encouraged

me to try again.

He wondered if I might receive a different answer.

We left armed with a steaming paper cup of tea,

a smile on my face and a mini-crisis adverted.

Coffee has reminded me of old ways.

My old life was filled with weightier matters than my hot beverage preferences.

Coming to Christ has meant turning my back on the nudges of my old life.

New life isn’t free from tormenters who make it their aim to recapture me.

“For forty days,
the Philistine came forward every morning and evening
and took his stand.”

I Samuel 17:16

There are tormenters or Goliaths in my life who wage a relentless pursuit, armed

and ready to take a stand against new life in Christ.

Their tactics create a shadow across the life I inhabit.

They whisper questions as familiar as those uttered by the snake to Eve.

They hope to lull me into a state of forgetfulness and create alluring visions

of momentary pleasures disguised as detrimental needs.

Jesus freely extends an overflowing cup of new life.

Every morning and evening I choose Jesus.

I only need to ask him once but often, I need confirmation that

I truly belong to Him.

His answer never changes.

He tenderly speaks to me from the full measure of His character and

obliterates my fear of  losing His presence

or discovering His resources depleted.

He inhabits the lives of others to continue to steady my path.

He’s revealed in my husband who is well acquainted with my weaknesses

yet clasps my fingers in his and guides me back to where I belong.

 

Every morning and evening,

I  not only choose new life,

I receive new life.

A new life which towers over

every competitor with grace,

goodness and peace.

Forever grateful, He welcomes coffee and tea drinkers alike.

**********

I am linking up with others from The High Calling community
as we share stories about Finding New Life.
Read other stories here.

Interrupted by the headlines {+giveaway}

picmonkey_image

When I began blogging eight years ago, the internet world was not

so noisy.

I started this blog for two purposes,

to have a place for my writing

and to encourage others.

As the years rolled by I made it a point that this space would be

quiet and perhaps even restful.

I vowed not  to succumb to the allure of using buzz words or whatever was trending

to attract attention.

However this summer in particular has made it difficult to not pen anything

related to all the headlines, news crawls and social media feeds.

The topics range from the Middle East, Ebola, Robin Williams, depression,

mental illness, Parkinson’s, #Ferguson and even ice buckets for ALS.

These are only a mass of letters forming words which can’t adequately

uncover the depth of wounds inflicted intentionally and often ruthlessly

on the innocent.

No longer can we believe “it is over there, faraway” because now

the “it” is residing closer to home and often sitting in the next seat.

For each elevated headline, I am convinced there are hundreds

of unnoticed headlines further revealing our broken world.

We are broken by so many other words like hate, racism, fear,

violence, disease and apathy.

I am not a news junkie and sometimes I am grateful

because even a casual glimpse

into this world in which we live in can be utterly devastating.

I have felt powerless to make even one difference in any of these headlines.

I walked through doors and along sidewalks last week and for some reason

felt more acutely aware of my skin color.

I don’t normally lead with how I look but last week,

I wondered how I was perceived in light of

recent events.

How do I view others different from myself for that matter?

I feel a bit more shaken as I have a son,

a husband,

a brother,

a father,

uncles and cousins.

Slowly I have whispered checkmate to my fears with

the only remedy I know will cast away its presence.

It’s called love.

Anger kills whereas love embraces life.

Fear picks up weapons whereas love seeks to mend the broken.

Love chooses to value and bestow dignity around the shoulders of those

who are homeless,

addicted,

poor,

ill,

oppressed

and without a voice.

Love isn’t blind to injustice or

deaf to the laments of the people,

it simply demands a better way.

Love sees beyond categories and labels

and declares,

no matter your state or station in life,

you matter.

Behind the ink and paper of headlines are real people

who matter tremendously.

I recently had the opportunity to read Jen Hatmaker’s book Interrupted.

It is newly revised, updated and expanded since its initial release in 2009.

To be honest, I didn’t really want to read it anything that would make me

anymore uncomfortable than I already was with the steamy weather.

But my friend Susan had tagged me in a Facebook post encouraging

me to review the book and I am an obedient friend (at times).

I read Interrupted in the course of 3 short sittings and

yep, it made me uncomfortable

but it couldn’t be a more important book

for the current conditions of our world.

It’s a wake-up call for individuals as well as the Church

to abandon hiding behind the confines of walls

and instead fling open doors to a world bent on

inflicting violence and forsaking peace.

 

We clearly don’t comprehend how personally Jesus
takes it when we love suffering people.
He is so utterly identified with the afflicted that there
is nothing more obedient, more pleasing, more central
than serving Him in the marginalized.
-pg. 100

We have the privilege of serving Jesus Himself every
time we feed a hungry belly, each moment we give dignity
to someone who has none left, when we acknowledge
the value of a convict because he is a human being,
when we share our extreme excess with those who have 

nothing, when we love the forsaken and remember the 
forgotten.
Jesus is there.
-pg. 101

So what is the next right thing to do?

I cling to Mother Teresa’s words, to the fervor in which

Jen wrote and will continue taking footsteps of love

as my marching orders reignited.

I must display love to those who cross my path

and to those who will never intersect with mine.

As differently as I felt in my skin,

I am sure each one

of us feels more acutely aware of our shared outrage,

pleas and tears.

As simplistic as it may sound,

love is the only way I see towards change,

the changing of hearts and mindsets.

I would encourage you to read Interrupted.

It is written in a non-threatening conversational style and chronicles

how the Hatmaker family was interrupted and upended

by a new holy passion to live in

service to the last,

the least,

the forgotten and

the forsaken.

You can order the book here and here.

You can read Jen’s hilarious and insightful blog here.

I am numbered with 250 bloggers who are spreading the word about

Interrupted and Tyndale has graciously given each of us a copy to

give away.

Leave me a comment in the section below about anything little

thing your heart desires and I will pick a winner on Wednesday.

I don’t have great answers today only

to go forth and love greatly.

Love truly is a holy passion.