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”.

Bumping Into Each Other # 1

God placed us in a tight space and called it “a home” and gave us people to bump into and called them  “family.”    I think it was part of His design to help us learn to love other people as we bump into each other in ways that reveal how much we love ourselves and want our own way. It is in this “family space” that we have the most  opportunities to grow love.  Isn’t it sometimes also  the hardest place?

This year my hubby Don and I are celebrating fifty years of living in our tight little space called “family.” Our kids left to make their own spaces over twenty years ago. Don and I still bump into each other daily, and we still are learning how to love and prefer each other daily.

If you live with someone, may I suggest 3 ways to make the bumping  smoother and even more fun along the way. Here is Bumping Bullet # 1 — I’ll share more later.

Bumping Bullet #1. Be someone your partner can trust.

God often reminds me of this Bible verse: Her husband can safely trust her & she will greatly enrich his life.”  from Proverbs 31.

When you are with other people, can your partner trust you to build him/her up or do you tend to tear him/her down?  Do you choose the relationship over being right, what is best for the relationship, or what is best for yourself?

How do you enrich your partner’s life each day in ways that he/she enjoys?

Honor Your Spouse (#4 of 7)

photoWe often bump into each other in that tight space called family. It’s a great space to learn how to be less self-centered and how to honor others.  I’ve been working on honoring my hubby for almost 50 years and this is still a daily challenge: Her husband can trust her and she will greatly enrich his life.”   Proverbs 31

Here are two things I try to do daily to honor my hubby.

1) COMMUNICATE

Communicating with each other is hard work but essential if you want to enjoy doing life together.  I encourage couples to practice, read good books and articles, get help from a friend, counselor or pastor if you need it (and we all do at times) but whatever it takes, get this skill down and just do it.

Here’s a little exercise I challenge you to test drive for a week to improve your communicating. Each day take turns sharing the daily four together:                The Daily Four

  1. What are you feeling?
  2. What do you appreciate about your partner?
  3. What are you thankful for?
  4. Pray together.

2) SERVE

I love to do special things for Don to enrich his life.  I’m going to toss out a few sample from my week.  Warning: you must be YOU. You need to express honor in your own creative ways.

  • Don loves to eat.  Even when inconvenient for me, a good meal on the table every day says “I love you” to my man.  I love to cook. Could it be due to all those 1000+ meals when he said, “Thanks, that was really good?”  Hmmm. Be right back — better check on those pork chops on the stove.
  • About halfway through lunch I’ve started putting down my fork (a good thing) and picking up a book (right now it is Heidi Baker’s “Compelled by Love.”) I read an excerpt for us to enjoy together.
  • Don also loves football. After years of trying, I still don’t love football, but I do sit by him for Monday Night Football. (He listens to the game on headsets and I read a book on my Kindle.) Just sitting near scores points.
  • At the grocery store I picked up three cartons of Breyers Light Vanilla which I rarely eat. Ice cream is a staple for Don on the list above bread and milk, so I make sure the freezer is well stocked.
  • I also picked up some mirror chalk (thanks for the idea, Tim & Talor.) This week Don and I started leaving each other encouraging notes on our mirrors. You can see in the picture above his note to me this morning. Honoring.

These are just a few things that came to mind. You can think of a lot more.  The main thing is …  Just do it!

          Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.  Romans 12:10

An Extraordinarily Ordinary Birthday

Happy 68th!

When I was 17, loving Don was simple. I was thinking of him all day long, wanting to be with him, talk with him, please him, do things for him, and enjoy him. He was the love of my life.

He still is! So on his 68th birthday, I decided to celebrate this extraordinary man of mine and to think of him all day long and say “I love you” in three ordinary ways using his love language, not necessarily mine.

First, I took the time to be with him and let him know how important he is to me. The day began as usual sipping steaming cups of coffee in our recliners reading our One Year Bibles. Then came a favorite treat, a home cooked breakfast–bacon, eggs, and pecan pancakes with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Mid-morning I took a truck ride into town with him for a Menards run. In the afternoon I brewed sweet tea and took a tall iced glass out to him in his shop and lingered to listen to him explain and show me his current projects.

Our plans for a birthday dinner with friends at the Black Dog Smokehouse fizzled. Dressed and ready to go out at 6, I decided to wait without comment until Don decided to come in for dinner since he was obviously enjoying his passion, working in his shop. At 8:30 he moseyed in, and we went to a late dinner at the Outback and split a great steak as we laughed and reminisced and talked about life. I shared what I loved about him and then gave him a birthday bag with little index cards describing the little things I had done throughout the day to celebrate him.

Secondly, I did what was important to him. Admittedly the things I did were just little things, but to my hubby, they said “I love you” louder than an expensive present. I ordered customized invoice pads for Vincent Fabrication (only had been on “to do list” for six months), got bills out to his customers, and ordered his 3 month niacin supply. Then I did some unordinary birthday shopping: 1) getting a certified check to pay his speeding ticket from our Texas trip, 2) finding him a set of his (not my) ideal kind of water glasses – 22 oz. tall, heavy, and clear glass, and 3) getting a few favorite things when at Meijers like two tubs of his nightly staple – Breyers ice cream, along with mixed nuts, cashews, two dozen bottles of Gatorade, two packs of his favorite Pilot v7 pens, some specialty beer, all his refills of heart meds, etc. I also set a yard sale date at a friend’s house so that Don can once again use his trailer that now holds all the waiting yard sale treasures. Then I called AT&T and extended his cell phone ring from 15 seconds to 30 seconds so he has time to answer. (Yes, they will do that at no charge if you ask.) Little ordinary things indeed, but he liked them.

Thirdly, I made plans to continue to bless him. I researched the web for musical events going on and although none were on his birthday, future events are now posted on the frig to enjoy this summer. On Facebook I also shared that he was having a birthday, and he heard from 56 friends (some even from high school) and had another 66 likes. This blog was another small gift, one really special to Don, as he consider my writing a part of our destiny as we share our lives and Godstories with others.

And yes, I made him a birthday cake (inspired by a Pike County friend’s comment that she remembered this delicious wedding cake I made 31 years ago.) I whipped up the recipe again, but the cake didn’t come out of the oven until 10:30 that night so I decided to continue his birthday celebration the next day. I explained that it takes me longer now to get everything done to carry out all that I plan.

The next morning I stocked up with fresh fruits and vegetables at the Farmers Market and for lunch I fried the Mississippi catfish our kids and grandkids had caught along with his brother Lester’s melt-in-your-mouth sweet corn, fresh tomatoes, slaw, and watermelon, and of course, the carrot cake with cream cheese icing. Then we topped it off with the most important ingredient for a perfect lunch, the company of good friends, this time, Tom and Nancy Moser, who were visiting from Texas.

Another birthday is over. Don enjoyed it immensely and so did I. I’m really tired, but happy. Yet the celebration of life continues, extraordinary life in ordinary days, according to plan. After all, this is what the Jesus whom we follow has promised,

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

Jesus has truly given us a rich and satisfying life and we are learning to appreciate each ordinary day of it.

My challenge to you is to now go and do something  extraordinarily ordinary  for your loved ones. Enjoy the ride.