Barre Work

The first time I walked through that very ordinary doorway, I entered a portal into another world.  It was an unexpected discovery, that world of beauty and grace.  Girls lined up against the wall like dominos in a row, one behind the other.  Alone, each was not so different than me.  Wispy girls with freckled noses and hair pulled back as tight as onion skins.

As the music first trickled, then flooded into the room, the girls began to move.  They  ceased being individuals and became intricate parts of a larger organism.  The great animal had a long set of identical pink legs, all of which traced shapes on the floor, sliced through the air, and melted toward the ground in perfect unison.  Out of the creature’s left side protruded a row of delicate arms, all grasping the walnut-colored bar that ran the length of the room.  When I walked through that doorway, my life changed forever.  I took my place in line, and began the first of what through the years would become thousands of hours of barre work.

To the dancer who aspires to reach her full potential, barre work is a fundamental, necessary discipline.  Every session of ballet class begins with a familiar cadence of exercises, each with a specific purpose.  Through a repetitive series of tendus, pliés, and grande battements,  tension forced upon specific muscles causes them to contract and strengthen.  The observer would see nothing outstanding, impressive, or creative.  Yet over time, with endless repetition and correct technique,  shaky muscles become dependable.  Tentative positioning becomes resolute.  Easily-fatigued core muscles become an unshakable axis for the rest of the body.

Repetition and increased difficulty force tension, tension produces fatigue, and fatigue endured results in strength.  

Unknowingly, I was being prepared for the endurance needed in marriage…  through disappointments, struggles, and challenges.  The decision to love, or more specifically to acknowledge and starve my own selfish desires, often required more energy than I thought I could muster. At times, I’ve failed abysmally.  Yet over the last 18 years, we’ve continued to lean toward each other more frequently than back away.  Working through tension and fatigue rather than quitting (even silently), has slowly produced a foundational strength. From that growing foundation, we’ve been able to give more freely –  in our community, at work, and in service to others.

Work at the barre also produces increased flexibility.   Certain exercises are designed to reduce internal tissue resistance.  Over time, those muscles can stretch more easily, allowing  a much greater range of motion.  However, the dancer must use caution. Flexibility can only be increased through time.  It cannot be forced.  When tissue is overused, it may become fatigued and tear, resulting in significant loss of flexibility.  Arms, legs, back, neck – all must be taught to relax through a gradual series of slow, deliberate stretches. Even the foot must work diligently.  The subtle movement of rolling the beautifully arched, pointed foot through to a dramatic angled flex involves the engagement of thirty-eight muscles working in perfect concert.

A flexible body  has greater range of mobility, can thrive more readily during difficulty, is more adaptable, and is less apt to be injured.

With every stretch and extension, I was being prepared for the flexibility required in motherhood…  with five very different children who have five very different sets of needs and personalities, and who also happen to be in significantly different phases of life.  Rigidity leads to injury, both in the world of dance and in the world of parenting.

Strength and flexibility must increase in proportion.  Too much focus on strength training alone can result in rigid muscles that limit range of movement.  Too much focus on flexibility alone can result in a body that is easily fatigued.  Over time, and often through experience, the dancer learns the difference between productive discomfort and destructive pain. She learns to endure that which will bring her closer to her full potential while wisely heeding signs of danger and injury.

Understanding the difference between productive and destructive pain is critical to healthy development.

Through strained muscles and bleeding toes, I learned that not all pain is to be avoided.  Some pain is a signal that hard, necessary work is occurring.  It serves a purpose.  When relationships are unhealthy, there is often some degree of pain necessary to bring healing and wholeness.  

Day after day, class after class, tendu after battement after plié, the dancer finds that she no longer has to think intently to find perfect perfect positioning.  Correct body placement and exercise execution become routine.  Routine becomes habit.  And habit becomes instinctual – as natural as breath itself.

The result of submission to intense training at the barre is the development of strength, flexibility and muscle memory.  As a result,  the dancer is liberated to experience the emotion and creativity of her art to the fullest.

Only through discipline comes the truest form of freedom.

I learned much through the exhaustive hours spent at the barre.  I was stretched beyond comfort, pushed beyond my assumed capacity, and challenged to wrestle chaos into obedience.  Yet rather than being broken or subdued, I was being prepared for life.

As the years passed, I began to understand that the laws of dance were only reflections of the laws of the Universe.  Minor truths pointing the way to Ultimate Truth.

If we pay attention, we’ll see that we’ve been given signposts all along the way…

Through our stories.
Through our passions.
Through our hopes and dreams.

Through our dance classes,
And our ball games.
Through our band practices,
And our games of make believe.
Through our reading,
And our playing, singing, laughing, arguing, sandcastle building, snowball launching, fort making, wave jumping and story reading.

All very ordinary doorways, each granting temporary access to the extraordinary, ancient, and eternal world.

“This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” – Aslan

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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A Thousand Words

For David… Thank you for the last 18 years and all that they’ve held.  Happy Anniversary!


Moments before showing my husband’s “milestone birthday video” to a group of our dear friends, I read the following.  If you listen beyond the words, you’ll hear a faint whisper echoing ancient truths of struggle, redemption, and ultimate rest…

“A picture is worth a thousand words” the saying goes… As we crack open the dusty albums of our memories, we take a few minutes to stroll through the snapshots that comprise our lives. Each picture has a story.  A prologue, a theme, and an afterword. We see frozen moments in time:  the smiling faces, sleeping babies, sandcastles on the beach, and milestones and holidays celebrated.  We are grateful to our God for these joyful moments, and pause to smile and “remember when”.

Yet veiled behind the surface, there is always a deeper story:  The argument that happened hours (or minutes) before the picture was taken, the deeper ache just below the surface of the smile, the unexpected turn of events that was to come just around the corner.  It is in the moments, days, and months between the snapshots that we live our lives.  And it is in this broader narrative that the master storyteller unfolds his greatest epic.  It is a story of redemption and restoration.  A story of hope in the midst of despair.  A theme that never changes and a hero who always shows up to save us.

And so it is in life.  We bring to the Lord and to others what we think is our best.  We work diligently to refine and present our talents, giftedness, and God-given dispositions.  We want these things to be a reflection of God and a blessing to others.  We would like the smiling snapshots to represent the total picture of who we are.  Yet there is more…

“Our brokenness also reveals something about who we are.  Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives;  rather they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality.  The way I am broken tells you something unique about me.  The way you are broken tells me something unique about you. That is the reason for my feeling very privileged when you freely share some of your deep pain with me, and that is why it is an expression of my trust in you when I disclose to you something of my vulnerable side.” Henri Nouwen

So as we pause to reflect on God’s goodness and provision, we do thank him for the smiling faces, the sleeping babies, the sandcastles and cheerful celebrations.  Yet we also give him great thanks for the brokenness, the loss, the despair.  For it is in his constant redemption of these difficult experiences, the smaller stories told by our lives, that the theme of his greater story consistently plays out.  He continues to be the one who does and will continue to “restore the years that the locusts have stolen.”

…and a happy birthday it was

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Valentine’s Day Remixed

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I feel as though I should be sharing our treasured family traditions – perhaps something crafty, clever, nostalgic or at least a good recipe.  I’m so sorry to disappoint.  I don’t have strong feelings about the holiday on either end of the spectrum, and each year, February 14th manifests itself differently around our home.

I do, however, possess some treasured books about the holiday (shocker).  From their pages, we found that St. Valentine’s day is a combination of history, tradition, and myth, all mixed together and baked in the oven of capitalistic opportunity. Historically, it’s believed that there were multiple Saint Valentines, and three were actually martyred for their faith on February 14th.  There are also beautiful myths telling of St. Valentine, while in prison, falling in love with and healing the jail keeper’s daughter.  Notes of love were passed through the jail door, and the legend grew as it was passed through generations.

Our culture’s current knowledge and celebration of Valentine’s Day bears little resemblance to the holiday’s original roots.  Romance, Hallmark cards, and expensive dinners at crowded restaurants have become the icons.  Ironically, most sit-coms on television this year depict couples who are rebelling against the “Valentine’s Day rat race”, and are contentedly choosing to stay at home.  Regardless of which viewpoint you hold, both stray far from the martyred Saints who suffered under oppressive Roman rule. Our perspective has changed, and we’ve forgotten the original intent for the day.  Culture changed the story – but it can’t change the history.

Whether we like it or not, we’re as immersed in our culture as a fish is in water.  We’re often unaware of the powerful impact that our generation, as well pervious generations, has had on the lens through which we view marriage.  Marriage was originally created for great purpose. Far greater, I believe, than most of us would dare to hope.  Culture changed the story – but it can’t change the history.

What would happen if I suspended my own ideas, hopes, dreams, and fears about marriage, and had the opportunity to view it through the eyes of its Creator? How would the shift in my perspective affect the lens through which I view my husband?  I believe that God holds my marriage in much higher esteem than I can begin to imagine – yes, even with the challenges, failures and disappointments that can arise, He sees it as holy.  

In the C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Screwtape (a demon), writes letters to Wormwood (his nephew) educating him on how to secure the eternal damnation of “the patient.”  

“Now comes the joke.  The enemy (God) described the married couple as ‘one flesh.’  He did not say ‘a happily married couple’ or ‘a couple who married because they were in love’, but you can make the humans ignore that… humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of fear, affection, and desire which they call ‘being in love’ is the only thing that makes marriage happy or holy… In other words, humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as a result.”  

How many of us have a distorted picture of marriage?  Remember the fish in water.  It can’t possibly know it’s wet.  So what is this water in which we’re immersed?  Where have we been deceived?

A step to climbing out of the fish bowl and drying off…

God is far more concerned with my holiness than he is with my happiness.  

This is hard, but true, particularly if our hopes were hung on an idealistic picture of what marriage “should be.”  The good news is that if (and when) marriage is hard, we should not despair. The Father is up to something, and if you believe in his promises, He is up to something good.  

The measure of a successful marriage is not happiness and lack of conflict – it’s mutual selflessness and commitment.  

That’s the bad news and the good news.  

More is required of me, but more is promised of Him.

So as we enjoy the Valentine’s Day festivities, don’t despair if yours is less than what you had hoped.  The Author of all hope has written the story, and the story isn’t finished yet.  We don’t know what plot twists may unfold as we forge ahead, but we do know that He is good. He cares deeply for His children, and He’ll use anything, including disappointments and challenges in marriage, to draw us to Him.

As an aside… I don’t think I’ll ever look at a picture of the chubby-cheeked scantily-clad cupid again without wondering if I just caught a glimpse of Wormwood himself.


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Houston, We Have a Problem

Taken from Apollo 13 during the crisis

We recently watched Apollo 13 with our younger boys for the first time.  I’ve seen it before, but what a treat to see it through their eyes.  Together, we felt the eager anticipation of three astronauts who had labored throughout their careers with the ultimate goal in mind – to walk on the surface of the moon.   Since the inaugural landing had taken place months earlier, Americans were no longer captivated by the endeavor.  What had once seemed unimaginable had quickly become last year’s news.  For the astronauts of Apollo 13, however, their eyes were fixed on the goal.  It was to be their turn.

The entire team of engineers, astronauts, and those on ground control had planned for every conceivable contingency.  They knew that problems could arise, and they had planned accordingly.  Early in their flight, a mishap did indeed occur.  They took it in stride, then were grateful that “our glitch for the mission was over.”  Within minutes, however, everything changed.  “Houston, we have a problem.”

The story rapidly unfolded as the three astronauts realized that their ultimate goal of walking on the moon was no longer a possibility.  In fact, it became clear that their return to earth would be somewhat of a miracle.    We were drawn into their tight quarters, felt the loss of power, and more acutely, the loss of control.  No one had conceived that such a multi-system failure could occur.  There was no contingency plan for a disaster of this magnitude.  In the midst of the crisis, they were all forced to disband the plan for what should have been, and to go back to the proverbial drawing board.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”  I’ve said it.  Perhaps you have as well.  We anticipate disruptions in life.  We know they can happen and plan accordingly.  We buy the right insurance, secure the right job, marry the right person, and discipline our kids according the philosophy of the day. We’re not naive – we know that we’ll have our glitches along the way, but acknowledge piously that those problems will make us stronger.  Until one very ordinary day, we’re not facing another malfunction to be repaired, but have suddenly found ourselves drifting in space as the result of a potentially lethal explosion.  We certainly didn’t see it coming, and couldn’t possibly have planned our own remedy in advance.

~Death of a loved one


~A defiant, rebellious child

~Serious Illness

~Financial disaster

We travel through life anticipating our own version of walking on the moon – the day when all of our hard work will finally pay off.  But in the blink of an eye, everything can change…

Houston, we have a problem.

As the crew became aware of the situation’s severity, a chain reaction of emotion was instigated.  Within minutes, there was an awareness that the pinnacle for which they had trained through the years, would never be reached.  They would not walk on the moon.  This realization brought with it gut-wrenching grief as life-long dreams literally disappeared into vapor.

Then came the dramatic shift.

They had to leave behind the dream of “what should have been” in order to accept “what actually was.”

It was only after that pivotal decision that they were able to move forward.  The goal of walking on the moon, which had once felt paramount, instantly became insignificant.  Perspective had changed radically.  The chance of survival was slim.

Alone, they were helpless.  Completely at the mercy of the ground crew which was working frantically to come up with a solution, the astronauts had to wait.  In silence.  In darkness.  In the cold.  Have you been there?  I have, and it’s a terrifying to be thrust into the reality of our own limitations.

They had to reorient themselves:

~by scrapping the original plan

~by redefining their goal

~by letting go of control and following the direction of another

After days of peril and excruciating uncertainty, the astronauts were successfully brought back home.  That which had once seemed routine became priceless.  Not one of the three ever walked on the moon, but as they let go of “what should be,” they were free to discover the miracle of what actually was.

“This could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever faced,” lamented the NASA Program Director.  True.  But not the end of the story.  The Flight Director responded, “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”

And it was.

From the ashes of great crisis, beauty can indeed rise.

And one day, we’ve been promised, that it will.


Intensive investigation revealed that the near-fatal malfunction was a result of a production error 4 years prior to the Apollo 13 flight.  Any blame-shifting or finger pointing during the crisis had been misplaced.  It became clear that the error was not caused by either the astronauts on board or the crew on the ground. They were all the unfortunate heirs of a pre-existing faulty condition.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 4: 8 says: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.”

*The word for perplexed in the original means “no way through” and the word for despair is the same word intensified meaning ” utterly without any way through”.

We can trust the Lord to find a way through for us in all circumstances so that whereas we may be stumped, not seeing any way forward though our problems, He will never let us be persuaded that there is absolutely no way through. He will keep us from despair. He will provide the promised way out. (1 Cor 10:13)

*Borrowed from Ieuan LLoyd-Jones 


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Of Brick and Straw

You know the story… the three pigs, the three houses, and 2 very different outcomes.  What made the difference?  The materials with which the houses were built.  On the 2 ends of the spectrum are the straw and the brick.  I want a life built out of brick… but never would have thought that the straw would be part of the process.

As a child, like so many others, I grew up in a semi-functioning family.  The stress fractures that had been present throughout my parents’ marriage became too great when a poor economy resulted in a job loss.  This proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back resulted in the ultimate demise of my parents’ marriage and of family life as I knew it.

This week, we received what could have been devastating news.  After 17 years of faithful and productive service, my husband’s lucrative job was to come to an end.  We had had some inclination that as the result of another bank merger, this could be an outcome.  Yet we had little idea what and when the ultimate decision would be made.  Here we are.  With 5 children and little savings left due to the economy, we are more than ok.  We’re grateful.  For life, for family, for health, for a challenging marriage that has withstood the storms (both internally and externally) of 15 years, for friends who have walked through those storms with us, but most of all, for our loving God who wants what is best for us and is relentless in providing it.  In His upside-down economy, what is best is rarely what we would choose, yet it is ultimately what will bring us joy, peace, restoration, and healing.  We are grateful.  This is his best for us.

“The biblical detail about using straw in brick-making is puzzling to some.  How, they ask, could the addition of straw as an ingredient make bricks stronger?  In Egypt the mud-straw combination was commonly used to strengthen building blocks.   It also prevented the bricks from cracking or losing shape.  Modern investigators have run tests to show that when straw is mixed with mud the resulting bricks are three times as strong as those made without straw.  Fluids in the straw release humic acid and harden the bricks.  To this day, after thousands of years, mud-brick monuments still stand in Egypt.” (The Good News)

I’m struck that when we allow the Lord to take the straw of our lives… the hurts, heartaches, disappointments, and yes, our blatant sinfulness, he can mix it in with the mud of the world…  job loss, illness, the end of a significant relationship… and use it all to build something stronger.  Yet it is only after that mixture spends significant time in the refiner’s fire that it becomes strong.  Strong enough to withstand the storms of life.  Strong enough to play a part in giving others temporary shelter when their storms come.

What am I doing with the straw in my life?  Too many years have been spent coddling the hurts, regretting the past, and harboring an unforgiving spirit.  The straw remains not only weak, but highly flammable given the right environment.  My desire is to loosen my grip on the straw and hand it over to the Lord.  Only then is He able to resume His work as the great potter.  Only then will the strengthening and building begin.  I have a choice.

And so it is.  Life is built, brick by brick.   A series of daily choices.  I pray for the faith, strength, and courage to believe that our Lord wants what is best.  That he will take the broken pieces of my life and create something beautiful for His glory and enjoyment.  That the fires of life will not last longer than needed, but long enough to produce strength.  And that eventually, we will not speak in terms of straw, bricks, and fire, but of roads paved in gold.


~Written on our 15th wedding anniversary

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I’m Both

Mid-summer in Charlotte. Lungs tire easily while laboring to extract oxygen from the thick, syrupy air.  I’m a fair-weather runner.  I don’t run when it’s too cold, and I don’t run when it’s too hot.  A few days ago, I arose to find that we’d been given an unexpected remission from weeks of incessant heat.  The air was a crisp 56 degrees.  It was an opportunity not to be missed.  I laced up my shoes and stepped out into what felt like the first hints of autumn.  My run was particularly enjoyable.  The air was cool and clean, the paths were peaceful, and the music on my ipod calmed my soul. I had temporarily defied the gravity of my own lethargy, had risen early to challenge my muscles and lungs, and had pushed through the last leg of the run. Upon arriving home, I was tired, but the kind of tired that was deeply rewarding.  I had done something good for my body.  I felt refreshed and healthy.  And then…  I promptly ate a handful of Oreo cookies.

I would like to think of myself as being increasingly health-conscious.   We eat organic foods whenever possible, limit our red meat intake, consume whole-wheat rather than white breads and pastas, and encourage exercise as a life-long habit.  But then there are the Oreos.  My kryptonite.  And sea-salted dark chocolate almonds from Trader Joes.  Against those, I have little power.  I would like to define myself in terms of health, not indulgence, yet both are true.  I am both healthy and indulgent at the same time.  A paradox of sorts… or rather a more complete picture.  I am both forgiving and critical.  I am gracious and demanding.  I am deeply flawed yet wonderfully made.  If I deny either side of the equation, I hold an unrealistic picture of myself.

And if I am both at the same time, then I need to acknowledge that the same is true for others.   Those who I hold closest and in highest regard have the capacity to fail miserably.  And those who I find hard to love, well… there is another side to that equation as well.

During a sermon on forgiveness, Tim Keller used a caricature artist as to illustrate the way we often view difficult people.  The caricature artist takes his subject’s most demonstrative characteristic and exaggerates it.  He then captures it on paper to be frozen in time.  For instance… if the subject has slightly large ears, the artists creates those ears to be far larger than life, then in drawing them, dooms the subject to a likeness that is unchangeable.

We do much the same thing, particularly with someone who is difficult to love.   We tend to look at that person and see the attributes which are most irritating… or most unlikeable… or which cause us great pain.   And then we exaggerate them and freeze in time the picture that we have created.  It works out nicely, you know.  As long as I can convince myself that the person who is causing me pain is primarily evil, or selfish, or suffers from some deep neurosis, then I feel a certain relief from obligation.   But if there were another side to the equation, well that just complicates things.

Many of us go through life rather unaware that we make assumptions about others, draw our own caricatures, and file them neatly away in our mental sketchbooks.  This is particularly true when we’re looking at those closest to us.  We think we have them figured out.  We forget that there is always another side to the equation.  There is no doubt more than we see.   Or unfortunately care to see.

So what is the antidote to assumption?  How can we look beyond the mental caricatures that we have created in order to see the multi-dimensional people who God actually created?  How can we begin to see them as “fearfully and wonderfully” made?   The antidote to assumption is curiosity. 

So if my husband (theoretically, of course) is distant or aloof, I could take his behavior personally (theoretically again), OR could I become curious as to what is going on in his job… or with his friends… or in his heart…

If my relationship with a dear friend becomes strained, do I assume that she’s just being selfish or (fill in the blank with whatever you may assume), OR am I willing to be humble and vulnerable enough to ask if I’m the offending party…  or if there is something else going on in her life that may have nothing to do with me…

Am I willing to be curious about those closest to me?  Those I’ve known for most of my life?  Those who I think I have figured out?

A healthy dose of humility and curiosity does have its con’s.  I may find out that I was wrong.  That there has been more to love in another than I had imagined.  That I’ve lived too much of my life drawing caricatures rather than enjoying whole people.  Yet it is with that revelation that freedom begins.  Freedom from assuming, incorrectly sketching, and missing people for who they actually are.  Freedom to see the whole picture, and freedom to love well.  Oh yes, and freedom to enjoy both my brisk run and my Oreos.

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The BIG POWER of the small question

I’m new to Facebook.  Barely 2 weeks into joining this virtual community, I find myself with over 100 friends.  This new community is buzzing with activity – posts, questions, messages, and shared photos.  There is a constant stream of communication.  Updates, comments, and peeks into family vacations.  Some of the Facebook crowd apparently doesn’t sleep.  Cyberspace pulsates incessantly as folks reach out in desperate attempt to make connection with one another.  Yet beneath the bustling community, I’ve felt an undertone of sadness.  I’ve found myself wondering if those who spend so much time online have counted the cost associated.  The precious currency of time is spent pecking away at the keyboard rather than investing in the family and friends with whom they (we) live?

Lest I become too critical of the online community, I’d suggest that we all have our forms of “misspending” our currency of time and energy.  I often go about my days talking, not listening.  Doing, not being.  Telling, not asking.  When we I take the time to engage another, I often resort to a chronic dialogue.  “How was your day?”… “How are you?”…  “How was the weekend?”…  The questions, though good-intended, do little to stimulate any depth of response from another.  They are too familiar.  Too broad in scope and too easily satisfied with vague answers.

In The Eyes of the Heart, Frederick Buechner tells of his driving desire to learn more about his father, who had died when Buechner was young. He spent years mining the memories of friends and relatives in order to excavate some new nugget of information regarding his father.  He was after something deeper than “he he had been a charming, handsome young man, and everybody liked him.”  Later in life, his daughter told him that he’s was asking in the wrong way.  “If you want to get a big answer, she said, you should ask a little question.  I should ask people if they remembered ever eating a meal with him.  Or playing tennis with him.  Or arguing with him about politics.  Or being with him at a bar, or the movies, or on a subway.  Who could say what one, small concrete memory might jog loose?”

Perhaps we would be well served to take the same advice.  Could we take the time to be intentional and ask small questions?  If we really want to know more of someone, do we have a vision of what “more” could look like?

  • When my husband comes home from tennis with friends, do I ask him, “How was the afternoon?” OR do I dare ask him “How did it feel to be with that group of guys?” (true example from yesterday… and I didn’t)
  • When my children seem unusually fragile, do I take the time to ask what had transpired earlier when their friend had been over?
  •  Do I simply ask my friend, “How was your vacation?” OR do I dare ask what it was like to try and reconnect with her husband?

I can only imagine how my relationships could be transformed and deepened if I frequently gave others time to paint descriptive pictures of the scenes of their life.  What details have I been missing in the rush of the day?  What details have I hurriedly assumed and added in?  Could I slow down and intentionally  ask deliberate “small” questions?

Probably not with my 100 Facebook friends.  But perhaps with a few.

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Full Circle

This weekend we head to Johnson City (my hometown) for our oldest daughter’s wedding.  I know what some of you are thinking – I’m not old enough to have a daughter getting married.  Technically, I am.  But this daughter is one born of my heart, not my body.  At the tender age of 24, I married David, who had 2 small children.  Ashley was 7.  Most marriages signify hope, the creation of a family, the fulfillment of life-long dreams.  For the children, ours was by its very nature the opposite.  The ceremony itself marked the finality that their original family would never be again.  Although the four of us embarked on a new chapter in life, it was one that would be cobbled together with broken, damaged lives.

Our early years were turbulent at best.  I always feel a twinge of sadness when I hear the term “newlywed bliss”.  Those words never applied in our home.  We tried our best to stumble through life and look like everyone else.  For the most part, we pulled it off.  We looked like  other families who seemed to have it all together – with soccer games, church picnics, trips to the beach, and smiling Christmas cards.  But we all knew that we were different and longed for the “normal” family that everyone else had.  It was not until years later that we grew to understand that we were not so different after all.

We’ve experienced much together in the last 17 years…  a move to Charlotte right after we were married, the loss of 1 and birth of 3 more children, my early “retirement” from corporate  America, the death of both of David’s parents, David’s losing his job and getting one a year later – (which was actually a good thing, not a bad one), all the while making the ongoing choice to hang in there and be “for” each other.  Sounds easier than it was (and is), but you know that.

Somewhere along the line, we slowly began to learn that not only was love a choice, but that it had an unexpected cost.  The more we understood and chose to lay down our shields of protection, unspoken demands that the other “come through”, and expectations of what life was supposed to look like, a strange thing began to happen.  As we began to shift our allegiances from self to other, we became freer.  Less energy was required to demand of the other, so more was available to give.  Freedom, grace, and genuine laughter were more bountiful in our home.  Our “newlywed bliss” came 15 years later.  Well worth the cost.  And the wait.  True, abundant life really is available when we are willing to lay down our life on behalf of another.

Now Ashley is 24 and the bride, not the flower girl.  This time, we’re embarking on a wedding ceremony of a different kind.  Yes, we’ve learned that all families are actually cobbled together with broken, damaged lives.  But the story doesn’t end there.  It’s just beginning. As we’ve watched the Lord’s hand in our marriage and family, we have a glimpse of what is to come for Andy and Ashley.  As they are married in the same church where we were married, their wedding is a living testimony that God does indeed resurrect, heal, grow, redeem, and bless His children.  We have been given a small taste of “how wide and long and deep and high is the love of Christ”.

And by the way, not many people can say that they are the mother of the bride, flower girl, ring bearer, groomsman, and pianist.  I am richly blessed.

March 26, 1994
Ashley and Me


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