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Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Photo Credit:  Anita Patterson from
Ahhhh, the leftovers -  the scraps and random odds and ends of food left on a plate after the kids are done.  A half-eaten chicken nugget.  Ten macaroni and cheese noodles.  Five green beans.  Two sips of milk.  One strawberry with a bite taken out of it.  My husband refuses to waste and is forever (poor thing) the one to make their plates…happy plates.

He always takes his lunch to work and I’m certain his co-workers wonder if I ever cook normal meals.  His lunch medley is usually a fare of whatever leftovers are in the fridge and they never go together.  Let’s just say that no one has ever asked him to trade lunches.  Why refried beans, fish sticks and an egg roll would NOT appeal to someone, I don’t know!  But, that’s just how it is around here.

The one thing that he adamantly refuses to eat is my daughter’s hamburger.  She loves ketchup, which makes for a very soggy bun for daddy.  That’s when he puts his foot down and into the trash it goes without a second thought.

Leftovers can be found in many areas of our lives.  On many days, it seems as if we save our leftovers for the ones we love the most.  We spend our day giving what we have to give and sometimes our family gets the leftovers – our leftover time, our leftover patience, our leftover attention.

Can you just imagine if Mary had given the Angel Gabriel her “leftovers?”  It might have gone something like this – “Hey, look Gabe, I REALLY don’t have time right now.  I know what you have to say is important, but I’m so busy.  My to-do list is a mile long.  I’m beat.  I’ve had a long day.  I have nothing left to give. I just can’t help you.”  Whew!  I’m so thankful that she said, “His Will be done” instead.

Just the other day, an elderly woman I met told me her story about leftovers.  She said that she and her husband never had any money to give to church.  She said that once the bills were paid, repairs were made and groceries were bought, they had nothing left to give.  She explained that she and her husband wanted to try something different.  They gave to their church first.  She said from that day forward, they always had enough.  Always.

I think God sometimes gets our prayer leftovers, too.  I know at the end of the day, my prayers are much, MUCH shorter.  So, I did something that I had never done before.  I went to Mass…mid-week…at 7:30am.  I’m NOT a morning person, so this was a sacrifice for me.  I mean, I’m glad I wake up in the morning – it beats the alternative of NOT waking up, but let’s just say that I’m not fully functional until later in the day.

My main reason for going was not for me (so I thought).  I went for a friend who was struggling.  I set my alarm and left the house before my family of snoozers even stirred (my husband was off – no worries – I did NOT leave the children at home unattended J).  It was an amazing experience.  I saw the morning sun peaking through the clouds (a rare occasion for me) and there was such a calmness in the air.  Palpable peace. 

There were only a handful of people there, so it was very intimate.  It was especially touching because the people there really wanted to be there.  They came to offer themselves, their time, their fears, their intentions...their the foot of the cross. 

The message that echoed throughout Mass that morning was this..."The Lord will not abandon his people."  It took everything out of me not to just sob myself silly in that pew, since I knew that was a message directly intended for my friend.  He listens.

Ironically, my friend had actually given me a gift - the gift of knee time - a gift that she didn't even know she had given me.  That morning, I felt like I didn’t just give God my leftovers.  I had given to Him first.  I have never started my day off more wonderfully.  When I let my friend know that I had gone that morning for her, she responded, “Today was the best day I’ve had since he died and now I know why.  Thank you more than words can say!”  God’s mercy.  (sniff, sniff)

A few days ago I had an e-mail chat with two of my friends, Milissa and Anne.  The topic was “knee time vs. me time.”  Milissa said, “I thought of what Jesus says in Matthew 16:24 – you must deny yourselves, take up your cross and follow me.  We must deny ourselves…myself…me…and get on our knees to be with Jesus.  The world today doesn’t accept ‘knee time’ as a necessary and vital part of life.”

Anne explained her take – “Knee time IS me time – it’s time to separate from all the worldly obligations and responsibilities and turn to God and empty the space between us and Him.  No matter who or what the prayer intention, the end result is the same…being closer to God…that’s definitely a me thing.”

And, from the wonderful book, “Relentless Hope” –

“No matter the desert, no matter the wilderness, there is nowhere we can wander off to, no land where the heat is too strong, nowhere God can’t make a roadway or a river of living water to refresh us.  God is doing something new.  The story may look grim, but he’s turning the page.  What are my choices?  Despair.  Discouragement.  Anger.  Self-pity.  Self-righteousness.  Self-destruction.  Or.  Faith.  Grace.  Joy.  In others, with others, in and with myself, in God.  Hope.  For a lifeline, for a bigger picture, for a heavenly purpose, for what we need exactly on time.  I will lean in.  I will stand up.  I will reach out.  I will hope.  Relentlessly.”

The great news is that God loves us even if we give Him our soggy, ketchupy hamburger buns – the leftovers.  He will always take us when no one else will.  I have relentless hope that He’ll gladly accept our leftovers, but I want to try harder.  I want to give Him more than just what’s left on the plate at the end of the day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Distractions Welcomed

Photo Credit:  Di-Fi at
I assure you that the title says distractions and NOT donations!  Honest!  But, why would I even say that distractions are welcomed?  That doesn’t seem right now, does it?  Distractions usually have such a negative connotation.  Distractions are interruptions, disturbances or disruptions that can produce much agitation and possibly slight confusion on the part of the individual being disturbed. (I’m just sayin’…)

A few of the many distractions that moms encounter on a day-to-day basis typically involve their pint-sized loved ones.  Am I right?  Here is a representative two-hour sample of one of our recent summer days…

Mom:  “Hey guys, I need to call someone real quick and I need to hear what they’re saying this time.  Please be quiet for just a few minutes.”

(Quiet for…one entire minute.)

Child:  “Moooooohhhhhmmmmmm, she messed up my puzzle!”  (Crying escalates quickly and I find the nearest closet to hide in to finish the conversation.)

Then, I head to the laundry room to start washing the first of three loads for the day.

Child:  “Mom, Mom, come quick - my hand is glowing.  I accidentally split open this neon glow wand.”

I stop doing laundry to clean up the nuclear hand and then resume the laundry.

Child:  “Mom, we’re starving!!!  What are we having for lunch?”

I list the two choices and neither choice is appealing to the bunch.

Child:  “We don’t like thaaaaaat.  You NEVER give us anything good.  Yucky.  We like to eat at Nanny’s or Mimi’s house better.”

We finally agree on a palatable, yet semi-nutritious lunch and then I throw the clothes into the dryer.

Child:  “Mom, I need to go tee-tee REAL bad.”

I make a mad dash to the potty with the little one.

Child:  “Mom, what can we do?  There’s nuthin’ to do.  We’re (gasp) bored.”

Mom:  “Oh, you did NOT just say that!”  Then, I list all of the fun things that we could do inside because it has rained twelve inches over the last two weeks and we have a mosquito reunion going on right outside our front door.

I entice the older two with Play-doh, start doing the dishes and then I hear, “Moooohhhhhmmmm…can you come wipe me?!  I went poo-poo…” yelled from across the house.

So, there ya have it.  A little bit of heaven on earth.  Of course, there are many, many wonderful moments that happen in between all of the disruptions, but I’m just tellin’ it like it is for this Mommy.

Just the other morning, my son got up early and came into my room several times asking me random questions (not unlike any other day, really) while I was trying to get just a few more moments of shut-eye before the girls woke up.  I can’t remember the answers that I mumbled back, but it was indeed distracting and it kinda irked me to tell you the truth.

Then, for the first time in his 8 ½ years of life, he proudly walked into my bedroom again and hand-delivered breakfast in bed!  Once I realized what was going on, I then vaguely recalled the questions he was asking me: “What are we doing today?  Do you like sausage by itself or mixed with egg?  Can I show Jackson the squid that I put in the freezer?  How many days until school starts?”

Luckily, my husband had prepared a bowl of scrambled eggs with sausage before he left for work (thank you, honey!), so my son just put a few scoops of that into a Cars bowl and put a paper plate underneath it.  Then, in another plastic bowl with a paper plate underneath, he had Greek yogurt with blueberries and four cherries on top.  I could not have been more proud of my little man.  I love that kid and yes, distractions like that are so welcomed, I assure you!  I smiled as I ate my cold eggs and fruited yogurt in bed.  It was a delightful distraction.

My sister-in-law, Stephanie, sent me a wonderful blog post to read the other day about distractions.  I wasn’t quite sure what the post was going to be about since the title was, “Your Screaming Kids are Distracting Me.”  I was curious to see where the blogger was going to go with that title.

After reading it, I was so encouraged by the post that I wanted to pass the highlights on to you.  In this post, Meg Hunter-Kilmer shared her thoughts after the sound of a wailing toddler distracted her during the middle of a holy hour, a quiet prayer time at church.

She explained that she was really focused (on everything BUT prayer) at the time the bawling began.  She wrote, “I heard the dulcet tones of a toddler tantrum and couldn’t help but thank God for the luxury of silent prayer.  I heard footsteps and a door opening and offered a prayer for the patience of that poor parent.  I prayed for those who were really angry about the disturbance.  I prayed in thanksgiving for the gift of life.”

Hunter-Kilmer said that when parents take their children to church, they are really helping to make saints of the people around them.  “You’re pulling them out of their self-obsession and reminding them that being at Church is about emptying ourselves for God and each other.”

She wrote that many times we just talk on and on and on to God about ourselves and just tag an “Amen” onto the end.  She encouraged parents by saying that screaming kids can be a great distraction – a distraction from ourselves.  She wrote, “We start praying for you.  Or for them.  We pray for single parents.  We pray in thanksgiving for our grown children or we beg for screaming children of our own.”

Meg said that if normal noises of your children are distracting her, she was going to be distracted anyway.  “Ooh look at her shoes!  I wonder how many states have more vowels than consonants.  How far is it from here to Maine?  I should make a pie this afternoon.  314159.  What would I even do with a giant mouse suit?”

She ended her piece by assuring parents that their children are indeed distracting her from the endless series of irrelevant thoughts that occupy her “praying” mind and she is truly thankful for that.  I really enjoyed her take on distractions and thought you might too.

Just like a season in the desert can make us appreciate the sight of life-giving water again, I think a strategically placed diversion can put us back on the right path.  If a distraction can draw me into a deeper and more meaningful prayer life, then distractions are certainly welcomed here.  And, if the distraction involves breakfast in bed, bring it on!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bad Bananas

Photo Credit:  ppdigital at
On the phone the other day, I jokingly asked a couple of my good friends, “So we’d still be friends if I, let’s say, lost my left front tooth and didn’t replace it?”  There was an excruciatingly long pause after my question.  What the?!  Surely they were just taking a big drink of water or finishing up chewing a bite of supper or something?

I mean, really.  Certainly our years of friendship mean more than a missing front tooth?  Right?!  Of course, I knew I completely caught them off guard with my question and sort of expected a delayed response or a comical one at the very least.  I got both.  One of my friends said she would still be my friend, but wasn’t sure she could ever look at me again.  The other one said she wouldn’t be able to be seen with me in public any longer, but we could remain friends – (phone friends, I’m guessin’?)

Both conversations ended in much laughter and I was lovingly assured that we’d still have our wonderful friendships (if I got an implant, that is – hee hee).  Unfortunately, my question was rooted in truth (pun intended).  In middle school, I caught a line drive with my teeth instead of my glove on the pitcher’s mound.  Nice catch, Heather!  Some oral surgery and two root canals later, my teeth are still managing to hang on.

However, at my most recent dentist visit, I was informed that my body has shunned my left front tooth and doesn’t think it should be a part of my smile.  Apparently, it could just be a matter of time before I’m the one awaiting a tooth fairy visit.  Ugh!  Don’t think for one second that I’m not praying harder than ever that my tooth will prevail and keep on keepin’ on!  I am deathly afraid of dental work and I think that would be putting it mildly.

Well, how ‘bout that!  All of a sudden, after 25 plus years, my body decides it doesn’t like the not-so-perfect tooth.  How lucky are we that our bodies don’t reject a tooth for every bad decision we make along the way?  Break a commandment?  There goes an incisor.  Treat someone meanly?  Oops – lost a canine.  Spread nasty rumors?  See ya later molar.  Aren’t we lucky to have a merciful God?  We’d all be running around without teeth, huh?  We’re so blessed that God doesn’t decide to get rid of us even though we fail Him again and again and again.

We’re not perfect…but that can be a good thing.  I was reading a friend’s facebook post the other day and this particular one really inspired me.  Nicole wrote this, “I almost threw out some badly bruised bananas this morning, but instead I made banana nut muffins.  Each time I bake these, I think of how we are sometimes like the bruised, bad bananas.  But no matter what shape we're in, God never throws us out.  Instead, if we let Him, He chooses to use us in ways that are better than we could have imagined.”

Bad bananas.  Hmmm…I like it.  There is also another produce item that has always intrigued me.  Watermelon.  Summer time equals watermelon around here and we are always in search of the perfect one.  I don’t know about you, but watermelon shopping can be tricky.  You never know what will be waiting for you on the inside of one.

Here’s what I found out while researching watermelons:  First, we have to look for a light yellowish or white area somewhere on the melon (the “sugar spot”) to indicate the belly of the melon rested on the ground to ripen.  Second, the outside color should be glossy green and not pale.  Then, we need to hold the melon up and thump it quickly like a drum.  The sound should vibrate evenly through the entire melon.  (At the very least, we will be getting some grocery store attention during all of this…)

Finally (this is a new recommendation that I haven’t tested out yet), I hear that if you find small black bits on a scar of a watermelon, you’ve found a goldmine of sweetness.  The black bits are supposedly drops of juice that have made their way out of the watermelon. The black sugar bits can be found on the ends of the watermelon, too.  The more bits, the better.

Now, I’ll go ahead and confess.  I don’t think I’ve ever purposely chosen a watermelon with black bits, or even a scar for that matter.  I don’t know why.  I just figure that if it’s flawed on the outside, it might be flawed on the inside.  Boy, was I wrong with that assumption!

This makes me think about a book I am reading right now called, “Relentless Hope” by Beth Guckenberger.  She writes, “It’s so the enemy’s tool – to divide us, to make us feel like we are the chief of all sinners, to want us to be disqualified.  I can only imagine God is heartbroken when we focus on our failures and not on his redemption.”

I truly don’t think that God wants us to focus on our failures…our scars…our bruises.  My friend, Dorian, has St. Augustine’s quote at the top of her blog – “A Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot.”  She also says, “I’m about 12% Alleluia on any given day, but I’m working on it.”  I just love that.  It makes me smile every time.  All of us are striving to do better – to be better.

We can always better ourselves.  We can persevere.  The little turtle reached that Ark only through perseverance and determination, I’m certain.  Surely he was overwhelmed and discouraged along the way as all the other animals seemed to effortlessly pass him by?

My daughter’s teacher, Donna, read an amazing story to all of us mommies at a Mother’s Day celebration in May.  The tears were flowing that day and I couldn’t make them stop.  The story she read hit close to every mom’s heart in that room.  So as not to forget the story, I bought the book - “I’ll Do Better Tomorrow, I Promise” by Maurine Reynolds Adamek.

Let’s just say that the little boy in the book gives his mommy a day full of challenges – picking all the yellow blooms off the tomato plants, pulling up the baby carrots he mistook for weeds, cutting his sister’s hair, releasing his pet mouse from the cage, letting the water overflow in the bathtub – just to name a few.

The mom in the story kneels by her son’s bed that night with tears streaming down her face.  The son (who wasn’t actually sleeping…) thought the tears were for all of the trouble he had caused her.  But, then, she whispers in prayer:  “God, forgive me for today…for not being more understanding when those problems came my way…for not handling situations in the way You wanted me to…for getting angry and losing my temper, things I know You don’t want me to do.  And, God, please give me more patience, help me make it through another day, I’ll do better tomorrow, I promise…in Jesus’ name I pray.”

I think of the bruised, bad bananas and the scarred watermelons.  Aren’t we so like them?  If only we’d give ourselves a chance to do better.  If only others would give us a chance?  A chance to see what’s on the inside?  From now on, if someone says there is always “one bad banana in the bunch,” (and they just so happen to be referring to us), I think we should take it as a compliment.  God isn’t through with us yet.  He has plans to make us into something absolutely wonderful.  Let Him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vintage Beauty

I’ve enjoyed Pinterest this summer.  As I look back at my boards, it is evident that I enjoy inspiration the most, however.  I have pinned a measly 10 recipes, but a whopping 60 quotes of inspiration (thus far).

I like witty little sayings because I can immediately reap the benefit of reading them.  A craft or recipe would certainly take more time.  I like the quotes that make me laugh.  I like the quotes that make me think.  I especially like to be inspired.  I like the honest ones, too – the ones that speak directly to my mommy heart.

A few of the ones that get down to the nitty gritty of day-to-day motherhood are:
  1. I used to have functioning brain cells, but I traded them in for children.
  2. Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.
  3. I just closed the bathroom door, so the knocking should begin in 3, 2, 1…
  4. The longer I stay in the shower, the longer I can pretend that the kids aren’t fighting or destroying the house.
  5. I love cleaning up messes that I didn’t make, so I became a mom.
Yeah, so while we’re on that number 5 - I would not know what to do with myself if I actually came upon a toilet in the house that was flushed.  I mean, how much effort does one quick downward swoop of a finger really take?  Anyhoo – I guess I’ll keep finding poo in the toilet – no one has caught on to the simplicity of the task of flushing.  Someday.  In the meantime, I have strongly considered that automatic flushy thingy, but goodness knows that would scare the heck out of us all in the middle of the night (surely we’ve all had that certain public toilet that kept flushing over and over while we were STILL sitting on it?!)  Moving on.

Then there are those special quotes that tug at my tear ducts like, “Without my children, my house would be clean, my wallet would be full, but my heart would be empty.”  When I get agitated with their picking and whining and moaning and groaning, I always seem to hear that graduation song or that daddy-walks-daughter-down-the-aisle song in my head and it stops me in my tracks.  I know they will only be little for a short time.  This too shall pass.

Moms are pretty hard on themselves when it comes to mothering.  It doesn’t take much for us to feel guilty about something we did or didn’t do.  And, we constantly question ourselves if we are or aren’t doing a good job on any given day.  Well, at least I do.  When I see their angelic faces sleeping, I recall the times I have been impatient with them that day and I say a little prayer that I’ll be able to do better tomorrow.

I ran across this wonderful little list of things that we should say to our children.  I think the list speaks volumes and was a great reminder for me:
  1. I love you!  There is nothing that will make me stop loving you.  Nothing you could do or say or think will ever change that.
  2. You are amazing!  I look at you with wonder!  Not just at what you can do, but who you are.  There is no one like you.  No one!
  3. It’s okay to cry.  People cry for all kinds of reasons: when they are hurt, sad, glad, or worried; when they are angry, afraid, or lonely.  Big people cry too.  I do.
  4. You’ve made a mistake.  That was wrong.  People make mistakes.  I do.  Is it something we can fix?  What can we do?  It’s all over.  You can start fresh.  I know you are sorry.  I forgive you.
  5. You did the right thing.  That was scary or hard.  Even though it wasn’t easy, you did it.  I am proud of you; you should be too.
  6. I’m sorry.  Forgive me.  I made a mistake.
  7. You can change your mind.  It’s good to decide, but it is also fine to change.
  8. What a great idea!  You were really thinking!  How did you come up with that?  Tell me more.  Your mind is clever!
  9. That was kind.  You did something helpful and thoughtful for that person.  That must make you feel good inside.  Thank you!
  10. I have a surprise for you.  It’s not your birthday.  It’s for no reason at all.  Just a surprise, a little one, but a surprise.
  11. I can wait.  We have time.  You don’t have to hurry this time.
  12. What would you like to do?  It’s your turn to pick.  You have great ideas.  It’s important to follow your special interests.
  13. Tell me about it.  I’d like to hear more.  And then what happened?  I’ll listen.
  14. I’m right here.  I won’t leave without saying good-bye.  I am watching you.  I am listening to you.
  15. Please and Thank You - these are important words.  If I forget to use them, will you remind me?
  16. I missed you.  I think about you when we are not together.
  17. Just try.  A little bit.  One taste.  One step. You might like it.  Let’s see.  I’ll help you if you need it.  I think you can do it.
  18. I’ll help you.  I heard you call me.  Here I am.  How can I help you?  If we both work together, we can get this done.  I know you can do it by yourself, but I’m glad to help since you asked.
  19. What do you wish for?  Even if it’s not yet time for birthday candles and we don’t have a wishbone, it’s still fun to hear about what you wish for, hope for, and dream about.
I know that our children might not hear what we say sometimes (well, possibly MOST of the time, especially if it’s in regard to FLUSHING TOILETS – hee hee), so it’s important that WHO we ARE speaks louder…the simple beauty found inside…our character…our heart and soul.

My Uncle Erol recently bought himself an old car…actually a classic...a 1956 Nomad, to be exact.  He is so proud of his new ride.  As we were chatting over the weekend, he quickly corrected me when I asked about his OLD car, so we came to a loving agreement that we would refer to it as a “vintage beauty” from here on out.

He showed me several pictures of his old car, uhem, vintage beauty.  Guess which picture he was MOST proud of?  It was the one taken of “the inside” - the engine under that hood…the amazing thing that makes it purr.  It is what mattered most to him (and many other car enthusiasts, I presume?  I couldn’t make a lick of sense out of all the belts and hoses and powerful-looking things that make it go vrooooom…BUT, I took away an even bigger picture…)

I came away with the thought that vintage beauty might be something for us moms to strive for, too.  Our children love what’s underneath the make-up – our classic beauty.  Vintage beauty is found in the pure and timeless love that we have for our children.  It’s the beauty that our children see in us when they just want to hug us and snuggle and sit on our lap (they’re never too old… leg-numbing-heavy maybe, but NEVER too old!).

Vintage beauty is us remembering to say “I’m sorry” to our kids when we need to.  It’s us remembering to say, “You don’t have to hurry this time.”  It’s us remembering to say, “I love you, my child, and there is nothing you can ever do to make me stop loving you.”  It is us assuring our children that they can talk to us about anything at anytime.

I think the beauty of motherhood is found smack-dab in between two extremes of “crazy.”  How can children drive us to the absolute limits of CRAZYville in one moment and wrap their hearts around ours in the next as we fall CRAZY in love with them more and more each day?  I don’t know how they do it, but they do.

I love you, kiddos.  I love the beauty found inside each of you.  I love the uniquely wonderful things that make you “purr.”  I love vintage beauty…because the beautiful love of a mother stands the test of time.  Oh, and I almost forgot, if you see my uncle cruising in his Nomad, please wave to him in an extremely obnoxious fashion – I told him that’s just what people do when they see cool, classic, vintage beauty driving down the highway!  (Okay, okay at least that’s what I do…)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

From Grrr to Grrreat!

Photo Credit:  grietgriet at MorgueFile
I did it!  I did it!  I actually did a craft that I pinned on Pinterest!  Most of the time, I just pin and browse and think that I’ll do that craft or make that recipe or organize everything in my home with a spice rack…someday.  Well, this little pin called for only two ingredients and promised thirty minutes of whine-free kids.  Oh yes ma’am, count me in.  Get in the car and buckle up, kiddos – momma is goin’ to town!

We headed to the grocery store for my TWO ingredients.  My three kids piled in the cart and I really had no room for anything more than that.  However, I did get a great five-minute core body work-out during my store dash by maneuvering around their combined weight of 155 pounds.  Workout for the day – check!

And, what did we make with our two ingredients?  We made slime.  Oh yes…we did.  The recipe calls for equal parts Elmer’s clear glue and STA-FLO liquid starch (found with the laundry supplies), so we bought four (4 oz.) bottles of the clear glue and one 64 oz. bottle of the concentrated liquid starch.  (I’m sure we’ll make the slime again, so the leftover starch will be safe until that time.  The Lord knows I won’t be ironing with it – hee hee). 

The kids mixed the ingredients together in a bowl and the slimy fun began.  We divided the slime into several small bowls so that we could make different colors by adding a few drops of food coloring.  Slime just isn’t slime unless it’s booger green, right?  Ewww!  We started off with separate colors, but you know how it is with Play-doh – it all gets mixed together eventually. 

We have a home full of gray Play-doh and now, black slime.  BUT!  There were thirty wondrous minutes of engaging, creative fun happening during all of this.  Was the ten dollars spent on supplies worth it?  You bet.

Making slime is just one of the many things that I hadn’t envisioned myself doing before I had kiddos – I mean, not that I wouldn’t have done it, but it’s just easier to tell the check-out gal that you’re making slime if kids are in the cart, ya know?  We all visualize certain things for our life – what we’ll be doing and when.  But, what we think the plan will be isn’t always what the plan actually is.  Then, sometimes we are unexpectedly given a gift that is better than what we had planned or hoped for ourselves.

A few days shy of our 12th Anniversary, I am referring to the gift of my husband.  I am thankful for the man of faith he is.  I am proud of the father he is to our children.  I am blessed by his unconditional love for me.  And, I am grateful for the beautiful woman, who along with her husband, raised the wonderful son who, today, I am lucky to call my husband.

In this day and age, many wonder, “Is it still possible to find happy marriages?”  My friend sent me this amazing video put together by Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Singapore on World Marriage Day 2012.  In it, married couples offer a message of hope to the world by answering that very question for all to see.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am by no means equating happy with perfect.  I certainly don’t think it’s possible to find perfect marriages.  Happy ones – yes.  Perfect ones – no.  There are many, many factors involved in making a marriage work.  Communication is a BIG one.  How many times do we mumble, “Grrrrr,” under our breath when our spouse just doesn’t seem to understand us?!

One of the great communication tools that I’ve mentioned before is Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages.”  The book is great and the online assessments are fun and easy to do - just click the link and take the test that applies to you. If we can single out our primary love language, it makes it easier to connect and relate to our spouse.  (Yes, honey, I’m still a “Words” girl if you are wondering and helping with the chores is still high up there on the list, too – hee hee)

You might be surprised to find out what your love language actually is.  Maybe it has changed over the years?  Learning how to speak each other’s love language is definitely worth the time.  Chapman categorizes the different “languages” as:  Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch or Gifts.  Once we uncover a love language that we understand, our marriage can be a whole lot sweeter.

And speaking of sweet, I just couldn’t take my eyes off the couple in front of me at church last weekend.  They were standing in the pew in front of me with their daughter in between them, with her arms intertwined in each of theirs.  I could tell that she loved being there as she was tracing the outlines of their arms and hands with her fingers.  I felt the love from where I stood.  I also noticed her cute pink, thick glasses.

After church, they walked by us and I noticed that the girl might have even been partially blind by looking at her eyes.  My youngest daughter saw the young girl and wanted to touch her hand, so the mother gently guided her daughter’s hand into my daughter’s for just a moment to say hello.

Guidance.  The child’s mother was there to lovingly and gently guide her and it was beautiful to watch.  Our God is also there to guide us, if we let Him.  My friend, Anne, sent me a wonderful reflection on guidance that I want to share with you (author unknown):

When I meditated on the word GUIDANCE, I kept seeing "dance" at the end of the word.  I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing.  When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.  The movement doesn't flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.  When one person realizes and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music.  One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another.  It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully.  The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other.  My eyes drew back to the word GUIDANCE.  When I saw "G", I thought of God, followed by "u" and "i."  "God, "u" and "i" "dance."  God, you and I dance.  As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life.  Once again, I became willing to let God lead.  Dance together with God, trusting Him to lead and to guide you through each season of your life. 

I love it.  My husband and I spent many, many hours on the dance floor during our dating years, so this really speaks to me.  So, in addition to communication, I think that another key element to happy marriages is God’s guidance.  It makes me think of the man and woman in front of me in that pew, with God holding them together in the middle, like their daughter, with His arms intertwined with theirs.  He loves being there.  Let's let Him in. 

We shouldn't push God out of our marriages.  We shouldn't push Him out of our decisions, big or small.  We shouldn't push Him out of planning our families.  We shouldn't push Him out.  When we, as a couple, remember to let Him in to lead the dance, it’s much more beautiful, I assure you. 

Thank you, Lord, for gently guiding my husband’s hand to mine on July 8, 2000.  YOU are the one who takes marriages from Grrr to Grrreat!  Help us to always remember. 

Happy Anniversary, Honey!  Here’s to many, many more!  Let’s see now - how old will we be at our 75th Anniversary party?  Oh, who cares!  I’ll be the REAL, REAL old lady in dancin’ shoes waiting in the middle of the dance floor…meet me there.

And, Happy 4th of July to all of my Sunshines!  Let us give thanks today for our many, many freedoms!