Letters from Grandma #1

“On Loving Happily Ever After”

Kelsey is engaged! I invite you to read over my shoulders as I post letters to our granddaughter and her fiancé in the upcoming weeks. Each will have a tidbit of wisdom to chew on gleaned from living 55 happily incompatible years with Grandpa.

Dear Kelsey and Austin,

We are so thrilled with your engagement. That bling on your finger, Kelsey, sure puts a new sparkle in your big brown eyes.

To you, Austin, Grandpa Don & I send a warm welcome to our family. Your creativity and vibrant love for life should help you fit right in.  

Marriage is inviting someone to move into your closest space. That’s what makes it both so difficult and so marvelous. As a self-centered humans, learning how to love each other well is work ’til death do us part, but it is SO WORTH IT. What a gift to get to spend a lifetime with your best friend.

Grandpa and I were madly in love as 18 & 19 year old newlyweds, but had no idea how we would cherish each other like we do now after walking through a heap of hills and valleys. Along the way we’ve reached out for lots of help, and that has made all the difference.

Austin, we enjoyed how you sent a request to friends and family for bits of “happily ever after” tips to surprise Kelsey on your first fiancé date night. You gave a great illustration of how to implement my tip for this week: 

To learn to love well, get help from others.

  • Choose carefully the tribe(s) you hang out with because they will have great impact as they invisibly guide you into what is “normal”, subtly yet powerfully affecting how you live every day life. You tend to live like those you keep close by.
  • Stay connected with people whose lives and values you admire, for even if they aren’t in your closest circle right at the moment, there will days are coming when you will be glad you kept them on your team.
    Seek help from friends you’ve never met, those authors of good books as you share videos, articles, and special events together.
  • Keep learning. Make a habit to ask people, “So what do you feel makes a good relationship?”
  • And don’t be reluctant to reach out for special counsel through the rough places. We all need help at different times.
  • Most importantly, talk to God who dreamed up this idea of male and female. Although He doesn’t promise He’ll keep bad things from happening as we roam this earth, He does promise He will be ever-present which comes wrapped in love, peace, and joy even in the messy middle of life.

We look forward to your beginning this next generation of marriages in our family. May your legacy be a strong one and your commitments become a most marvelous messy merging of two lives devoted to keeping your love on for a lifetime together. Hugs, Grandma V

Readers:  If you’ve enjoyed “listening in”, check future posts on my upcoming book NEVERENDING GODSTORIES: Adventures of a Lifetime with Him”.

55 Years Together

I remember that hot day in June & the sweat dripping off Don’s nose (no AC) as we first knelt before God, as partners for life.

At 18 & 19, we couldn’t have imagined all the trials that lay ahead. Nor could we have dreamed of all the joy and victories we would have as an ordinary couple on a wild adventure with an extraordinary God.

I am still working on my hubby’s anniversary present, the 1st copy of my book recounting our journey. “Never-Ending GodStories” hopefully to be on Amazon by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, God keeps teaching us both how to love well. Thank you, Lord, for the amazing gift of our life together with You. What a ride!

20,000 Days Together

20,000 Days Together —Don and I have reached another milestone. doncathyMost people celebrate the years, but aren’t the days really what count? Some days Don and I seem to finally be getting the hang of it. We enjoy each other more than ever, keenly aware that another day together is a gift and not a given. Others, not so much. There have countless good days and a fair share of bad ones too, some extraordinary,  but hundreds of ordinary days. Yet it has been good experiencing life’s stories together. It hasn’t always been easy. It still isn’t. It is work, and it is worth it. Doing life together with a spouse or kids, friend or family, with anyone in our life space makes us aware of our self-focused tendency to look out for ourselves and our need to love one another more.

As we approach our 55th in June, Don and I adamantly agree on one thing: the most important thing in life is relationships. Accumulating stuff just doesn’t matter that much anymore. Jesus said it first, that the main thing in life is to love God and to love those around us (our neighbors).

“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                 Matthew 22:37,38 NLT

My closest neighbor for the past 20,000 days has been Don. It is still a daily challenge to love him as I do myself. But he and I both keep at it.

To celebrate this day, we offer this gift to you.  It is an idea we heard on a vlog from Susan Pierce Thompson. We try to end our day with positive words that help us notice and be thankful to God for the good things. Some nights the exercise takes 30 minutes; others it takes 30 seconds (when all he wants is to go to sleep). We have also had fun using the exercise on evenings with friends. I hope you will try it to enhance your relationships.

Take turns finishing these 3 phrases:

  1. What went well today…
  2. What I appreciate about you…
  3. What I want…

Here is what I say to my best friend Don as I finish this 20,000th day with you: What went well today was getting this blog posted. What I appreciate is that you told me you like the roasted cauliflower. I love your compliments. What I want are many more days loving God and loving people with you.

So how about your day? Will you share your thoughts with someone close by?

 

Happy 65th

pexels-photo-221361.jpegToday is my 65th birthday. But wait—don’t post Happy Birthday yet. I’ve been tootling around the earth almost 75 years. So whattzup?

Today I am celebrating my spiritual birthday, the day when my spirit was born again as I invited Jesus to come live inside me. I was 9 years old.  Did I understand what it all meant? Heavens no, but I knew enough to begin eternal life.

Things are not as they seem. There is a spiritual realm around us, invisible, yet more real and lasting than the world we experience with our physical senses. It is a marvelous Kingdom filled with treasures to discover and mysteries to solve.  I’ve spent 65 years exploring this Kingdom, getting to know my King who has given me a rich, satisfying life, even in a boatload of troubles. I’ve journaled our encounters. The stack is getting tall.

IMG_0010 – Version 2.jpgI’ve known His healing power since He delivered me from epilepsy after 15 years of seizures. I’ve felt His peace sweep away my grief in a cemetery while burying our son Cory years ago. I’ve recognized His miracles in our youngest grandkids, Mateo and Raquel, impossibilities to have be conceived. I see His kindness daily through Don, my love and biggest fan.

God’s Kingdom breaks through in extraordinary ways. He is also King of the ordinary, bringing pleasure in the simple things like the powdery flakes of snow falling from the skies.

These cold winter mornings I feel God’s closeness sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee, reading, talking with Him, journaling. It is the best part of my day. Then I go to work on the book I am finishing that details this lifetime of GodStories, and He keeps adding more stories in our lives.

Today I celebrate these amazing 65 years and how He is keeping me fresh and fully alive, thankful that He has promised to always be there. He is faithful.

I’m having a very Happy Birthday.

    * Can you explain the wind? God’s Spirit is invisible and real as the wind, as Jesus comments in John 3:3-8:

‘Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

 

How About You ?

Warm and sunny — sounds good to me❣️ How about you? 

We like to visit sunny Texas in the winter to enjoy our daughter Jenny and her family, not to mention escaping the cold for a few weeks. This morning as I sat looking out at our 11° day in IL, I saw a picture of how “going down south” was looking for us this winter.

IMG_4920-1I swiveled my chair to the south  and snapped a shot of our sunroom. Hmmm, perhaps “down south” is only a few steps down and a few feet south. Looking further, I could see the cold outdoors.

So I swiveled my chair to the southwest to picture the warmth of Texas in our fireplace.

 

IMG_4921-1Don had just left his recliner (two feet in front of the fire) meditating and rejoicing as the room soared to a Texas toasty 77°.  Then he put on his longjohns (and in his words “all the clothes I could find”) and headed to Springfield with 3 friends to pass out packs of new socks to the homeless.  While being out in 11° will be cold, unlike the homeless, Don will return to our warm home. Tonight he will be joyful, humble, and thankful to God.

How about you?

I sensed God showing me that these two photos also depict what it looks like to be closely connected to Jesus. Inside, we experience calming peace as we relax in the warming love of His Presence, confident He is right there to help us through anything.

Yet, outside, we are surrounded by a world that is often bitterly cold, and we get pounded by biting winds as we face stormy troubles, some fierce, even life-threatening.

As usual, Don and I are facing trials in our little world with our tribe of friends and family.

How about you? 

Do you know anyone who isn’t? Such is the human condition. Here’s what Jesus said:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

He also said, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”                    John 14:2

So as the busy bustle of life crowds in on me, I am learning to cry out to One who gives me the priceless gift that lasts—His peace.

I stop in the messy middle of trials to praise Him for who He is, thank Him for 5-10 blessings, and ask for His help in the trial. I invite Him to fill me with His Presence and peace.

Then I expectantly go about my daily life while looking for Jesus to fulfill this promise as I choose to trust Him.

How about you?

Goodbye for Now, Sis

Feb 24, 2016

Last night my precious sister Becky Clark slipped out of her body and left this world. My first thoughts of her this morning made me laugh as I saw her running in a field with Jesus, in a new vibrant pain-free body, enjoying her next life.

Then the tears began as I realized my big sis was gone, leaving us all with a major deposit of love and some great memories. She bravely fought cancer, that ugly enemy, with great faith in Jesus, regardless of the outcome. IMG_5210

She kept her positive outlook to the end. When I’d ask how she was, she’d reply, “I’m better today.” I smiled when my sister Pam asked, “Have you ever talked to Becky on a bad day? I seem to always call her on the better ones.” 

My daughter said, “I can’t imagine family gatherings without Aunt Becky.” She was Serg in charge, the one who kept things rolling. Becky cared about everyone and always spoke the best of them and went out of her way to help anyone in need. She considered the entire community her family as her loving husband Gary will attest.

Even at the last when it was too much of an effort for Becky to talk, when a visitor came, she would open her eyes and somehow manage a big smile. That counts.

It’s not what happens to us in this life, but all about how we respond to what happens. Becky trusted God even when times were hard. And that counts.

“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” Matthew 10:42

Becky gave this and so much more. And that counts. It all counts on the other side. My friend Anna texted “Death really sucks on this side.” But there is another side, and life we can see now on earth is mighty short compared to eternity. The best is yet to come.

So goodbye for now, my wonderful sister Becky. I love you and admire your life. I’m really going to miss you…for now. But I know we have all eternity to hang out later.

Truck Buck$

Remember how Don rolled his truck? That first week we were praising God that Don had survived. Then a series of trials hit us, and we were visibly shaken. Don’s back was throbbing, and I wasn’t well, and my precious sister died along with some other major hits. Don and I even began re-thinking our entire future.

Trouble seemed all around and within. But why should we be surprised at trouble living in this imperfect world? Jesus said,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”                                    (John 16:33 NIV)

One thing we needed soon was to find another pickup. The appraiser totaled Big Red, emailing us the amount of the settlement check, around what we expected. But I knew it wouldn’t be enough. Overwhelmed, we prayed, “Help, Lord,” and then waited.

IMG_5347     Three weeks later, I was relaxing watching TV when a thought popped in my head– “Go look at the title.”

The impression came out of the blue, and I recognized it as a prompting from God. I wish I could say I always obey His still small voice that speaks within us. I can’t.

But I did this time, dragging myself out of my easy chair and searching through the filing cabinet. I pulled out the truck title. “So what now?” I wondered as I scanned the title, not sure what I was looking for.

Then I saw it. The title said “USED.” Nowhere did it say “Prior Branded” like the insurance company had stated when they made that hefty deduction from our settlement amount.

I snapped a picture of the truck title with my iPhone and emailed it to the adjustor, thinking, “Nah, he won’t raise our settlement amount,” but at the same time, hoping and praying that he would.

The appraiser responded right away (another miracle). Within an hour he had sent a revised settlement statement that was $5790 MORE than the first because of the clean title

Unbelievable! I almost held my breath until the next Tuesday when I actually held this incredible check in my hand. It was then that I realized it was $3800 more than we had originally paid for the truck that we’d driven for six years. And true to God’s faithfulness, it was more than enough to buy the new truck we had found by then.

Listening to God and obeying Him pays. Of course, it doesn’t always come with a monetary reward. But it did this time.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.                                                   (Ephesians 3:20, 21 NIV)