Tag Archives: love

staying power

Alternately entitled: ” tales from the very. worst wife”

November 16, 1989 editStay.

To be honest, this little 4-letter word means more to me today than it those many years ago. 

Back then, I barely understood the true meaning of most words even though I thought I knew all I needed to know about this one and another word spelled

“L-O-V-E’.

  Heck, I thought I knew a lot about everything.

Taking a step back to adjust my focus I can clearly recall the scene…

She’s standing there in the upper portion of an Italian restaurant (now a Hooters) between the rented candelabras and before a Justice of the Peace who just happened to play Bridge there every Thursday afternoon. She was their waitress.

Just a slip of a girl….no family present and terrified. This is the first wedding she’s ever attended and it’s her own. There she is, standing in her future mother-in-law’s altered wedding gown, in a god-awful DIY headpiece she made herself, next to a guy she’s only known for 5 months and they’re about to say “we will stay” for the rest of their lives. No, she wasn’t pregnant….just stupid and in love.

She says it. A quick slug to the arm from his brother and Best Man, causes him to snap out of his daze just long enough to stutter his “I will” to the amusement of his family members.  And that’s it: they are married.

It was November 16, 1989.

Stay. What did they know about staying?

She……abandoned and left to her own devices against the system of a world that was none too kind. Abandoned by parents who divorced and remarried multiple times and showed no power to stay true to anything or anyone anywhere

He… no better off, abandoned by his father who likewise left behind a family so wounded that it would take years to repair and recover even a little of what was lost.

What did these two have to offer one another from that day forward?
How would they ever  know how to stay?

How could they understand the cost of staying?
They had no idea.

  God did.

And God would see them though the birth of 3 children and a business, multiple moves, a variety of churches and the death of their mothers.  He’d be there in their good and bad decisions, and especially in the sometimes daily hand-to-hand combat with that unseen enemy trying to tear their marriage apart every step of the way.

Yes, God would be there because somehow, even in their ignorance, they knew early on to call out to Him.

They’d stay.
Even when staying was simply the last place to stand.

When the enemy would
prowl outside their door
like a wolf in shepherds clothing… and fighting…
sometimes against one another,
sometimes against the God who loves them
and sometimes against
the shadows
and the skeletons
and the whispers
and the darkness hiding inside their own souls….
fighting….
they’d  fight so hard to stay.

Because leaving is not an option.
Because staying is beautiful.
They’d learn the whole way… how to stay.

****************************************

Last night I stood at the drugstore counter ready to checkout with an anniversary card in hand. The young clerk and I chatted about the chocolate I was buying for Him [because that’s the way he rolls and I know he’ll share!] She asked me how long we’d been married. When I told her, she sucked in her breath and in amazement asked me:

“What is it like to be with the same man for so many years?

I had to stop for a moment. Truth is, no one had ever asked me that question before and I really didn’t know how to answer. On this particular day, no lie…it felt like hell.

It had been a horrible day in our history and I wasn’t really up to the task of locating an “I-love-you-Baby-with-all-my-heart” anniversary card.  It wasn’t the first such day and it surely wouldn’t be the last.

But today?

Today has been wonderful and to be honest, there have been many more days like today than those like yesterday and I know by now to hang on for tomorrow; if God even gives us a tomorrow.

november-16-2012It’s because days like yesterday mix and mingle their flavors with the flavors of days like today and the result is the richness of relationship necessary to keep these two sinners hanging on to one another and clinging to God with all their might.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s staying power: God gives us the power we need to stay.

So tonight, I can celebrate that I do know what it means. I understand the cost and I’m willing to pay the price…

knowing It’s not a perfect relationship….
but it is a beautiful marriage.

And the only reason we know is because these two people were given the courage, by the grace of God to stay through it all just one more day.

       Staying.Lorretta signature

 

 

freak.

I’ve heard it more than once in the past few weeks  in subtle and not so subtle ways.  And I’ve just  lost the ability to pretend I am anything more and can only embrace the reality that, according to the standards of this world I might be just as they say I am…

a “freak”. 

who-1

Some labels are hard to bear and some are even harder to earn. Not long ago, I might have resisted or argued against this label with the reasoning that I am probably more level-headed and balanced in my behaviors and beliefs than most people I know.

I could simply point out how radically unforgiving and unappreciative toward differences most people tend to be–no matter what vein or system they proclaim as their own–because yes, you don’t have to be a Believer in Christ to be considered a radical.

I don’t believe I’m unintelligent or ignorant and I feel I’m fairly well in touch with my inner child and artist. I’m culturally sensitive and aware of my surroundings. I read and research and am not blissfully uninformed or the least bit disinterested in the lives and welfare of others. The fact is; I really *do* care.

Maybe that’s the problem.
Maybe that’s the catch:

I care enough to avoid pretending there’s another answer or another way to the answers and peace that most people are seeking–

if they are seeking at all.

I care enough to live and speak and behave what I have come to know through practiced and painful experience as the Truth. I can’t back down from that. That’s the key to who and Whose I am. And it’s what I want people to see most…Christ in me and most importantly; consistently. I care enough to say– if you keep doing the same poor thing and getting the same poor results….. isn’t it time to do something different? Something radically better?

I heard this quote not too long ago from somebody way smarter than me and it really hit home:

“In order to impact our culture for Christ in today’s world it is going to take an apologetic that is not only heard but is also seen…the visual living out of the Christian life is imperative for the time in which we live. If a person can not see your conversion story (feel/experience), they will question it (the Gospel) all the days of their lives.” Ravi Zacharius

 

Doesn’t that make a whole lot of sense?

And I’ve come to realize that even the *slightest * hint of inconsistency between what I say I believe and how I live is flat out wrong. It’s unloving and unfair; to myself, to others and ultimately to the God who saved me through the glorious Gospel of Christ’s sacrifice.

I know this is true because…

* I’ve done it all wrong.
* I’ve taken Jesus places we never should have gone.
* I’ve denied Him with my words and behaviors more than 3 times.
* I’ve misrepresented and ignored the prompting of the Spirit too often.
* I’ve spent my time being the “skandelon” or stumbling block in the lives
of others.

I’ve gotten all uppity and self-righteous with my head-knowledge-holiness of God and have forgotten to embrace others with the steady heartbeat of God’s love found throughout the entirety of His creation.

       I’ve been horribly human and He’s been gloriously God anyway. 

His kindness has led me to repentance again and again.  I can not deny the resurrecting power of the Gospel which has wrought daily, humbling change in my own life…and in so many others I know.

It’s the same powerful Gospel which……
took a man I know, from drowning in a lifestyle if drugs, alcohol and pornography and at the point of a personal dead-end, to being a faithful husband and father to a beautiful wife and three children…all serving God today.

It’s the same faithful Gospel which……
has kept and preserved a woman I know who,  shamefully divorced and depressed, spent years battling back from a prescription drug and hypocrisy addiction and now opens her home to countless women from all walks of life to partake in weekly bible studies and mentoring moments.

It’s the same glorious Gospel which…….
breathed new life into the shattered shards of a broken marriage between two broken people I know; putting them back together again in a way so perfectly measured and mended by God that no one may ever know the brokenness was ever there.

It’s the only true Gospel which…….
has guarded, guided and protected another beautiful college aged woman I know as she has struggled her way into adulthood, navigating the rough waters of culture and opinion, and has surrounded her with carefully placed, loving and godly people who step in to lighten her load and illuminate her path from time to time.

This is the Way, the Truth, the Life…the Light of the world shining in the darkness that can not ever, ever, ever overcome.

This is Jesus.

Disciples before me have said it and I can only now echo; where else can I go? What else can I do? What else is there to say? He alone has the words of eternal life…I’ve lived it and it’s true.

So,  If standing here beneath this Gospel and living it as the Truth it is makes me a freak, then let it be so.  I can do no better than this.

Let me be found living out and sharing this Truth, taking mission trips, having fun, enjoying life, loving those around me, enjoying good company, exercising, playing games, planting flowers, drinking good coffee, making *fabulous* meals, reading great books and petting the occasional cat.   Let me be found faithfully unashamed to walk it out.

Oh Lord, I pray; let it be.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written,
“The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16)

So….maybe you’re a “freak” too? 

sparrows

Her name was Elsie and to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much more about her except that we lived in the same trailer park carved into the side of the Appalachian mountains running through Franklin, New Jersey.

Her name was Elsie and, to my best recollection, she had to have been in her late 60’s and  sparrow in a treenot much bigger than I was at the age of 9 or… 10.  I know we could see eye to eye.

As far as I could tell, she lived alone in a little single-wide on the side of the mountain that we shared.

I really can’t tell you how I came to spend so much time with Elsie back then, except that I was never in a hurry to get home after school.  “Home” was a place of frightening abuse and lonely uncertainty. So I’d just wander the neighborhood for as long as I could and typically make my way from the bus stop half a mile up that mountain and the 4 rickety steps leading to Elsie’s door.

And while I know it just can’t be true, it seems to the recollection of my little girl mind that Elsie was always at home and I was always welcome inside.

Honestly, I don’t remember a lot about her home. It couldn’t have been much really; just a little trailer and a few rooms furnished with only the necessary items.

But here’s what I remember best of all:

sitting in the center of her kitchen table was the cutest little wooden box shaped like a little loaf of bread and full of little cards. I loved looking at that thing which said “Our Daily Bread” on the side.

I remember thumbing through those cards..not really knowing their value, soft light filtering through thin curtains and Elsie’s calm voice in the background reading some aloud as I looked–occasionally scolding me in an easy tone for talking too much and asking too many questions.

Most clear to me was the overwhelming sense of peace I felt in Elsie’s presence. I had no name for this peace I felt,  but it was something I recognized that was painfully absent from anyplace else in my life. I loved way I could breathe and relax into myself at Elsie’s…a little sanctuary from the storm of my young, hardcore life. 

I  rested in her presence as we shared our day over a plate of sugar cookies and icy lemonade in thin aluminum cups….Elsie’s steady voice and gentle laughter. It was delicious to feel so safe.

******************************

And OH! The most wonderful thing of all; there in her tiny living room…an parlor organ! Not every time, but on good days, Elsie would take her seat and shuffle her way through a dogeared book of songs she called “hymns”.  As I stood at her shoulder, she’d play and we’d sing song after song, belting them out with all the joy we could muster!

I never wanted to leave.

But eventually, I’d just have to go. She’d send me out the door, no doubt exhausted from my endless chatter and little girl energy.  I’d wave goodbye till next time watching the door close and with a little bit of happy held in my heart, head home to bravely face whatever lay ahead…till next time.

****************************

Gradually, my life deteriorated to the point where I could no longer move about so freely and my visits to Elsie’s house were stopped altogether. I’m sure she must have wondered why I didn’t come anymore and I’m sure she never knew how much I missed her and loved her.

I never knew what became of Elsie only that, after some time, it seemed that someone else lived there instead. But I’ve never forgotten her and now, some 30 + years later, I can still feel and sense those moments so clearly.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness, Goodness. Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control; the fruit of the Spirit-– this is what I experienced in Elsie’s life. And now that same Spirit within me timelessly testifies to what I saw alive in her then. As far as I can remember, Elsie never preached me a sermon; she simply opened her door, invited me in and showing me Jesus;

she lived me one.

In those visits that couldn’t have lasted more than an hour, sugar cookies and lemonade took on the flavor of communion and as we sang and worshiped in that little trailer on the mountain, we were having CHURCH!

Someday, I will see Elsie again. Someday, I will get to heaven and I know she will be there. I’ve heard we’ll be singing and I’d like to think maybe together we’ll sing one of our favorites; His Eye Is On the Sparrow.  It was then, it is now… “His eye is on the sparrow…and I know He watches me.”

Performance by Selah