No replacements or reasons…just redemption

This past week I read a friend’s post on Facebook about a loss they had a few years back. They summed up something so beautifully that I want to write about it here. The statement was made that while there are no replacements or reasons for their loss…there is redemption.

Friends…that is what I’ve tried to write about on this blog. It’s why the title of this blog is Love’s Redeeming Story.

 

Dane and I are each coming up on another spring season when we remember our losses. For Dane…March 10. For me…May 5. These dates never just go by without us noticing or caring. They will be forever etched in our memories. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

There is no need to replace the places that Barb and Mark held in our hearts. And as far as reasons…no reason would really be good enough. But…there is beautiful, sweet redemption.

I know that the love Dane and I share is one of a kind. I know it to the depths of my soul. And in large part it’s because of loss.

Yesterday Dane was looking at a kindergarten picture of me that I have framed right beside a kindergarten picture of him and he said, “You know Ruth…I never knew that little girl, but even then, even when I was that little boy, God knew all about you and how we would end up together and how much I would love you.” Sometimes it’s strange to think about how our past, present and future all work, but he’s right.

Nothing takes God by surprise. I take great comfort in this truth.

Ultimately God is always, actively working for my good. My love and intentions are never that perfect, even for those who are dearest to me.

I remember after Mark died often thinking about God as my Redeemer. I was familiar with God as my Father or Jesus as my Friend, but had never given much thought to Him being my Redeemer. I guess I didn’t need to until my life was at a point where it was messed up enough to need redeeming. Or at least for me to realize it needed redeeming. Ultimately, I know this refers to salvation…but I believe that it also crosses over to all areas of our lives.

God doesn’t just save me…He doesn’t just initiate a relationship with me…He redeems every blessed moment, every loss, every change, everything.

I am living proof. That’s why I write. Not because life is perfect and rosy, but because I know God and I’ve seen how He redeems the stuff that is terrible. I am not special in this regard. He does this for everyone who trusts in Him.

Barb will never be replaced. She doesn’t need to be. Mark will never be replaced. He doesn’t need to be. We will always honor the past and hold dear the years we each enjoyed together.

But today…I rejoice in the reality that God has redeemed my life. Every day is worshipful to me. I can’t help but praise God and thank Him for what He has done. He has given me great joy. He has given me peace that passes understanding. He has given me hope for the future but also for today. He has given me love…He has brought Dane and I together.

All I can do is say thank you.

 

 

2015

It’s the end of another year. Amazing how fast time goes by. It’s been a good year that’s for sure.

Started off with a honeymoon week to Florida last January for Dane and I. It was pretty much the first time we had time away from everything for just the two of us for that length of time. Pure bliss.

For this entire year we’ve worked on getting healthy. Dane was already a gym goer but me not so much.

I’ve often tried to get healthy in previous years. I’ve tried different diets and exercise plans with some success but always slipped back into unhealthy ways and regrets. This year marks the first year for me that I have spent an entire year cultivating healthy habits.

We joined a gym and Dane and I go at least five days a week, sometimes a couple of times a day. Plus we have lived outside as much as possible, walking our neighborhood, playing tennis, biking, disc golf, etc. In fact this past summer we often got comments about how tan we were and honestly it wasn’t because of time at the beach, it was more from time spent being outside in our little community.

We even took naps outside when we could in our hammock!

We also started using the app ‘my fitness pal’. Literally logging in our food every day and staying within a certain calorie goal. We’ve now used it for 9 months and I think we will use it for the rest of our lives to some degree or another. It hasn’t felt like a diet…more just being aware of what we eat and making good choices.

We also changed churches this year. Not lightly. We loved the people where we were but felt for our family it was time for a change. In the process we joined an ‘alpha’ group this fall where we went through all of the basic questions of the faith together with a dinner, speaker and discussion once a week, culminating in a weekend retreat this October. We were able to make some new friends in the process and we discovered another app that has really enlivened our reading of the bible in the past couple of months.

The app is called BiOY and is put together by Nicky Gumbel. It gives you 3 sections of the bible each day to read and some interesting commentary on each all within in one app. So we’ve been reading Psalms/proverbs, a New Testament and an Old Testament passage each day for the past couple of months.

Sometimes as a Christian for 40 years I get a little humdrum with the bible. Laziness on my part I suppose. This app and way of reading has brought new life into the Word of God for me. I’ve been reminded of why it is so important for us to read the bible…even if we already go to church and have for our entire lives. God’s word is fresh and alive.

We’ve also read books out loud throughout this year. Some for fun, some for inspiration. Right now we’re reading one about the Cardinals Baseball team and I love it because I know so little about them and their history. This is another habit I know we will continue this next year. There is nothing like reading books together and talking about the ideas in them to cause your mind to feel healthy and alive.

It’s been an interesting year and probably most challenging for us on the emotional/relational side of things. We are a blended family, this is not easy, but we are already seeing the good things that can grow and develop with a steady amount of love and grace. I pray and hope this will only continue.

So as another new year rolls around I can’t help but wonder what this year will bring and what small tweaks in our schedule and priorities might make it even better.

We’re already looking at upcoming vacations and special events with anticipation and joy. But even more so we have come to understand that every day is pure gift and meant to be fully lived.

I used to be a count downer…a dread Monday morning girl. I’m not anymore, haven’t been for 3 years. I always knew it shouldn’t be that way but wasn’t quite sure how to not feel that way inside. These days I teach private piano and voice lessons out of my home. I also make soap and other skin care products and sell them (but n0t nearly as much or aggressively as I did at one time).

I spend every day with Dane. Oh we do all of the normal household things, cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc. but for the most part we do things together.

I can honestly tell you I love him more today than I did a year ago. Simply because with each passing day we know one another better.

My youngest daughter recently told me that it feels like we are closer now than last year because now we have a past, a present and a future. For awhile there it felt like all we had was a present and without the shared life experiences and memories it was hard to feel grounded. We’ve now had two holiday seasons together. We’ve had repeated trips to places like Michigan and Florida, Chicago and other places. There is something beautiful about being able to say “Remember when…” and laugh about times gone by. And by developing memories we’ve anchored our family in the reality that we also have a future…things to look forward to.

For this I am very grateful.

This past week I took a picture of myself with Dane, something I do kind of regularly just for fun and I was surprised at the actual physical change that has taken place this year, evidenced even by a simple selfie.

10215_10153794602003516_1349511655890398853_n

The picture below was taken a year ago.

IMG_0246

My hair is grayer, no more coloring for me. No more eye glasses for me since June! I’m 30 lbs lighter. I am happy with who I see when I look in the mirror these days. I love my life. For the past year and a half my heart has overflowed with gratitude. God has given me more than I could’ve ever asked or dreamed.

We have not arrived. This is not heaven. But I have definitely been living in the kingdom of heaven that we can experience here and now this past year.

I am trusting, hoping, praying and anticipating an awesome 2016.

 

The gift of love

While laying in bed the other night I asked my husband how his life has changed in the past year…if it has first off, and how he would describe it. And then I told him how my life has changed, or at least the parts that I can see clearly enough to put into words.

This is what I know…love…pure love is the most powerful thing we have to give the world, to give one another. It is utterly life changing.

There have been things about me that for the previous 44 years I’ve struggled with that somehow through Dane’s love and the love of God that I’ve experienced through Dane’s love for me have changed.

Some of the changes I’m talking about wouldn’t be seen by the naked eye or the casual observer…but I know they are radical nonetheless. Some of the changes you can literally see when you look at me.

In a world where we are so fearful, angry and worn down most of the time…our standard default is to strike back, to withdraw or give up. The most flimsy thing to do seems to be to genuinely love and give grace, to encourage and lift others up…but it’s not.

Love has changed me. Not guilt. Not shame. Not self help. Not bible studies, although they are good. Not church attendance, although I love my church. Not social media. Not setting goals or making plans, although I’m really good at both. Not resolutions. Love. Period.

Every person on the face of the earth has the potential to give and receive love. It’s not dependent on money, education, race, gender or experience.

This Christmas season…in my home we’ve tried to highlight this reality by encouraging one another towards random acts of kindness. It’s amazing to me how different the tone is in my home when we out do each other in being kind in the little things.

We see and experience Jesus in one another when we love one another deeply.

In reading through the bible I am amazed at how often we are told to love one another deeply and yet how little we actually put this into practice.

I can testify firsthand it’s life changing.

I am a different person than I was a year ago physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally, even financially…and I would credit the changes I see in me to a powerful love, pure and self sacrificing. The love of God lived out through the people in my home, chiefly in my marriage.

Love is the best gift we have to give.

Moment in time

This past week Dane and I celebrated our one year anniversary with a week long trip to Florida. His daughter, Chris, owns a house down there so it makes it really convenient for us to enjoy at various times during the year. We love it there…

We love walking on the beach. We love watching the sun set each night and sometimes even catching a sunrise. We love riding our bikes all over the island (Anna Maria). We love playing tennis and swimming in the pool. We love eating at all of the different restaurants that are offered there. We enjoy the live music at some of them. We enjoy fishing and just being outside in general.

So it was a great week for us.

We were outside whenever it was possible and enjoyed watching movies from the local ‘red box’ at night. We even finished the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed while we were there.

The last night we were there we went to a new restaurant called “The Freckled Finn”. We had heard good things about it and decided to check it out. We were able to eat outside and a live band was playing. We enjoyed a lovely crab meat pizza that was delicious and key lime pie like you can only get in Florida. And then we got up and danced to a couple of the songs.

No one else was dancing…but there was space and we decided to go for it. We danced just like we would’ve in our kitchen here at home. Ironically enough the song we danced to was BB King’s “The Thrill is gone”, Dane assured me the words of the song weren’t true :). Because we were dancing the band said they were going to play a love song for us to dance too. I hadn’t heard it before but it was beautiful. Dane and I just locked eyes for the entire song.

It’s amazing when you sway together and lock eyes and communicate without words, just body language what can happen. I don’t think we glanced from one another the entire song.

It’s clear that we love each other and are just a little smitten. So clear, that when the song was done and we started to leave for the night a woman who had been watching commented and said…”I love your eye contact with each other.” Dane said thank you…unsure what else to say and I smiled.

I was reminded that what we have…the kind of love we have for one another is honestly so pure that it stands in stark contrast with most of the world’s definition of love. Dane said to me later that he could’ve said to her, “I love her so much I can hardly stand it.”

This past week he gave me a necklace for our anniversary and a really nice card. It was perfect for who we are. Two bikes on the cover and it said “I love this journey we’re on.” In the inside “I love this life we share.” Dane wrote a lot of his own thoughts inside of it too just because he knows what a crazy word lover I am. On my necklace there is a heart and the words “I love you more” inscribed on it.

Sometimes I think we just delight in trying to out love one another. In the process…our love just overflows, even onto complete strangers.

When we left the restaurant on Friday night where we had just danced together, me dressed up in my blue sleeveless dress and Dane in his plaid shorts and v neck T-shirt that he calls his ‘cute outfit’, I told him…I will always remember that moment, that experience, and cherish it for the rest of my life.

I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve tried the best I can to make peace with the past. What I do know is that today…this present time in my life is very beautiful.

I never dreamed it could be like this. No wonder our eyes lock on each other when we dance πŸ™‚

 

 

Happy Anniversary

This is my last chance to blog before we head out tomorrow on our one year anniversary trip to Anna Maria Island in Florida.

I can’t believe we’ve almost been married a whole year.

I can’t believe how beautiful this year has been. Truly one of the most beautiful years of my life.

I can’t believe the changes I see in myself in all areas…physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. I like who I am and what I see when I look in the mirror.

Love is the most powerful thing we have on this earth. It’s like a current of water that runs over rocks and hard places smoothing the edges off. I’ve had edges smoothed this year in my heart and soul.

I don’t think what I have at this point in my life is something I could’ve had at age 21 when I first got married. I feel like such a different person.

We all need a vast array of experiences in life to shape us and cause us to grow and become who we were made to be. As much as I try to pass on the things I’ve learned to my two teenage daughters I realize they will have to live through life themselves to learn most of what I’m trying to convey.

Dane isn’t the same person he was either. We all change and grow, make mistakes and learn a few lessons along the way.

There is something really unique about starting fresh as we have at this age and stage of our lives.

This year that’s exactly what we did, we started absolutely fresh, with a clean slate in a brand new home for both of us. (Brand new…but very old home πŸ™‚

It’s been beautiful, almost magical really.

I am deeply grateful for every day. I can honestly say I’ve never been so filled with gratitude as I have this past year.

I never dreamed that love could be this good, or come along at this point in my life. I was prepared to go it alone for the long haul, not because I wanted to, but because I just thought that would probably be the way it would be. To be wrong on this is the best thing ever.

This next week I will be spending the week with my best friend, enjoying every moment. We’ll walk the beach miles at a time. We’ll find shells and name birds. We’ll eat at restaurants we know and love. We’ll dress up for dinner and dance in the kitchen. We’ll cuddle and watch movies on the couch by night. We’ll swim together, bike and play tennis together. Stopping for ice cream now and then :). We’ll watch the sun set each night over the ocean. We’ll read the bible together and finish the book we’ve been reading called “wild” about a girl hiking the PCT. We will do really ordinary things but find that nothing feels boring when we do them together. We’ll talk about anything and everything, listen to music, fall asleep, and sometimes just be silent. I know it will be beautiful no matter what the weather is.

Honestly, we are going to paradise this week, but even if we weren’t…a week with Dane is like that for me.

I’m not sure why or how this all happened this year for me but I am so incredibly grateful.

This year has been like having a foretaste of the kingdom of God right here and now. I have felt the love of God in my life this year in ways I never have before.

I’ve been healed. I didn’t even know I needed to be healed…but love has healed me all the same.

This doesn’t take anything away from the previous 44 years of my life that led to this one. I think every day has brought me to where I am right now so I’m grateful for them all. But it is still reason to rejoice for my here and now.

I am genuinely happy and at peace. Dane is too.

When we got married we knew we would never get 50 years together. He was 67, I was 44. 50 years was a bit out of the question, so we decided to count months instead. It’s been 12 already. 38 more and we’ll celebrate ‘our’ 50th the only way we can. I could be fearful or upset about the time thing…surely it won’t be enough, and yet…I would rather just live fully present every day trusting that what we have right here and right now will somehow be enough. What’s happened in the process is that time is compressed for us. It feels like we’ve been together far longer than a year.

When you aren’t living in the past or the future but just living in the present fully you magically find that you’re living the abundant life, the kingdom of heaven life, and it’s beautiful.

God’s love has never been more real to me.

Every day is a gift.

Dane Ray…I love you…I can’t really begin to put into words how deeply, but I know you know…I know you feel the same.

Here’s to another year of life, love, family, fun, and Jesus. The best is yet to come!

Love you then, love you today, love you tomorrow.

This week a seemingly ordinary experience happened that I don’t want to just forget.

I was in Office Depot having some pictures printed off…while waiting there was a kiosk of cards nearby that unknown to me my husband was glancing through. He walked up to me with a card and a smile on his face. He knows I love words. The card said something about wishing that he would’ve met me much sooner than he did and then when you open the card it talked how then he would have longer to love me.

It was worded better than I just wrote but the point was clear and huge.

It seems like we have more than one life we live. Especially when you’ve been married more than once. We have the life we actually lived…in real time and space with the people who were around us at that time…and we have the life in our minds where we can imagine what it would’ve been like to know one another as kids, young adults, and through all of the various milestones of life.

In our parlor (yes we have one :), we have an 8×10 picture of Dane as a little boy and an 8×10 of me as a little girl sitting by one another. It’s a strange, but good thing to glance at those pictures and imagine who we were at that age (about second grade) and think what it would’ve been like to know one another then.

Clearly, I’ve missed out on much in Dane’s life. I never saw him as a child or a teenager. I missed his hippie days and those early adult years. We didn’t raise children together, although we have a couple of teenagers at home at present. I wasn’t even around Dane before he retired. We haven’t shared moves and houses from the past. In fact our history of holidays, traditions, vacations, projects, and just daily life together is pretty short. About 15 months to be exact.

Our past is sacred. Don’t get me wrong. Neither of us would change anything about it.

But…in a parallel universe it sure would’ve been nice to know one another, to have the opportunity to experience those stages of life together.

Instead we tell stories and try to paint pictures with our words. We drive to old homes and along newspaper routes. We look at old pictures and listen to each other remember every detail we can for each other. It’s what we have.

But when Dane gave me that card this week…I knew exactly what he was saying and it was beautiful.

Thankfully at this point in life the present day that we’re on has become the most important thing to me. But I admit that if I could, I would have gotten to know Dane far sooner than I did too so that I could love him far longer.

God reassures me that this day…this sacred, beautiful, holy day will be enough for now. I plan to enjoy every moment, taking nothing for granted.

Blending families

I’m not going to pretend that it’s been entirely easy blending two families. (Which is actually 4 families in our case)

How could it be?

Think about it and you’ll understand.

Our current home is a mix of four families…I have things hanging on my walls in my current home that I had never even seen before this past year. I have five children and 9 grand children who grace almost every room in some way or another. Pictures on the fridge, in the laundry room, up the stair way and other various places.

It’s almost kind of comical in our living room. Dane’s kids are pictured back from the 70’s when they were kids and beside that picture I have an ‘old time’ picture of my two girls that looks like they are in the early 1900’s.

We have a wide age span to live in. Dane and I are 23 years apart. That’s huge in itself. When he was 40 I was 17!! Somehow him being 68 and me 45 doesn’t seem as strange as the other ages I mentioned!

His children are my age. They are all grown and have their own families and active lives. We love going to their activities as we can and are able. His youngest son lives in Uganda so that’s a bit more challenging, but we still try to stay in touch and love from afar.

My girls are teenagers. Dane willingly stepped back into the teenage years for a second time. Now that’s an incredible man right there. I don’t care who you are the teenage years are a little less than easy.

Admittedly this past year has had it’s share of challenges. It’s had it’s share of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. I wouldn’t even say that everything is smoothed down and blissful now…but still what we have is beautiful and we love all of our kids and grand kids enough to pray and hope that as time goes by things will feel more and more natural.

This just takes time and heaping loads of God’s grace and love.

It’s worth it.

This past week we had family pictures taken as I mentioned in my previous post and it was really redemptive for me to see a man, not just any man, but Dane in our family photos of the girls and I. Ideally yes…our other children who are all adults with their own families and lives would’ve been there too, but if you’ve lived any of the life we are currently living you realize that isn’t always possible.

I guess we could’ve flown in the kids from Uganda…well not so much.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t take pictures of the four of us who are under one roof in this season and enjoy them.

I find that in blending families you must be open to being flexible with one another and try to not be quick to feel hurt or get bent out of shape. There is a ton of adjusting to do for everybody…

It’s still so much better than going it alone. Dane and I talk about this regularly. He was incredibly alone when Barb died. For 2 and a half years he was a bachelor and hated it. The reality came that at some point he had to accept that she wasn’t going to ever be back and he was still here with a lot of life ahead of him. For awhile after a loved one dies it’s easy to feel like they are just gone on a trip and will walk back in the door any day. I felt it with Mark too. But after awhile you start to realize and accept your new normal and understand you can’t do anything else about it. Death is final.

For me…I was a widow for 7 and half years before I met Dane. I wasn’t necessarily as lonely as him because I still had two kids at home. But I was overwhelmed and definitely numb to huge parts of my heart and soul. I was shouldering the world…and moving forward, but honestly it was a journey where you plod along one step at a time without looking up. It has changed everything for me to have a hand to hold, a person, a best friend to enjoy the ‘view’ with.

This blog is a tricky one for me. I can’t help but write…because that’s who I am. I can’t help but sing God’s praise and try to bring glory to Him…that’s what I was created for. At the same time…sometimes it’s complicated.

Please know…every child, all five children are represented well in our homes and in our lives. Every grand child is special to us and we try to connect with each one as we can. Every memory from the past is honored the best we know how. Every effort is made to enjoy the present day fully, to take nothing for granted.

I write very openly but please be gracious as you read my words here. Try to focus on what God has done in taking two people who experienced loss that was incredibly difficult and how He is making beauty out of the ashes of that experience. Please understand that we don’t have it all figured out and that blending our homes, lives, families and future is a tricky balance for us.

This we know…our relationship with one another (between Dane and I) and with God is at the core of our existence. We do the best we can with all other relationships…but that is the one that matters most in this season.

I’m reminded over and over lately how little room we have to judge anybody else and how fast things get ugly when we do.

Here’s to taking a big breath and sigh and just accepting one another where we are just as we are, the best we know how.

**Due to the sensitive nature of this blog and the reality that I’m no longer using Facebook…this will be my last blog post from this blog to go directly to Facebook. If you want to continue to see this blog you will need to follow it and have it go to your email address. If not I understand. ** As always…best wishes to you and your family as you journey on this life of love with those you care most about.

Redemption

Sometimes I have people who ask me to try and explain what I mean when I talk about redemption, especially in context with this blog.

Most people think of redemption when they think of Jesus dying on the cross for their sins and that definitely is the ultimate redemption. But for me…the kind of redemption I’m talking about and writing about is the kind where you look at the brokenness in the world and see glimmers of how God even now is making things right.

Some days redemption isn’t as clear…it can feel like everything is just broken and messed up.

Other days it’s so clear to me. So clear that it amazes me and causes me to be in awe and worship God.

Redemption is not about me or you. It’s not about my talent, my education, my experience or any other good or bad thing about me. In fact, it has nothing to do with me. It’s simply what God is doing for me on my behalf. It’s the reality that He really is working all things for my good as I love Him.

That’s scripture…but sometimes even when we know it and have it memorized we are amazed when we actually see it playing out in our lives.

I think it’s one of those things you have to experience for yourself. I’ve realized lately that a lot of my blogging over the years has been about what I see and experience in my personal relationship with God. As if I’m describing something as huge as The Grand Canyon or an amazing sunrise or sunset over the ocean…we all know the reality that although we can use amazing words to describe these kinds of things the description will never take the place of actually seeing it for ourself. Even the best pictures don’t capture the beauty that you see in person when you go to those kinds of places. In the same way…my blog entries try to take a picture of God and His redemption, where I see Him at work in my life and making all things good…but these are just Ruth words…and only can go so far.

That being said…today we took family pictures for the first time as a family of four. Mind you…we have more kids and grand kids…they are all old enough to be in their own family pictures these days, but today we took family pictures of the people who live under our roof currently. We did it because honestly in cleaning our house, my youngest daughter said…”Mom it seems strange that we have these family pictures around our house and they don’t have Dane in them.” We do have some engagement and wedding photos so he wasn’t completely absent…but he was absent from our regular family photo prominent locations. So we took those pictures of the 3 of us down and said…let’s take new family pictures of the four of us.

So we did. Our friend Carrol took our pictures this morning at a park. The leaves were beautiful and the weather gorgeous. She asked what kinds of pictures we wanted…all four of us, the two girls…Dane and I, etc. She asked if I wanted any of just the girls and I and this time I said “no”, simply because we’ve had that season and I want to fully embrace our family as it is now. But she did take a few of Dane and the girls. Which was incredibly redemptive to me.

I have two daughters who have had a huge hole in their lives since 2007…over 8 years ago since they’ve had a dad to take pictures with the way they did today. It was precious for me to watch.

When I look at this first picture…this first sampling of what is to come before I see the rest, I see what redemption looks like with my eyes. I’ve felt it with my heart for over a year now. But this picture captures it visually for me in a beautiful way.

11224814_1013702005359479_2882101697816471311_n

Redemption will look differently for all of us I suppose. For some of us it looks like a physical healing. For some of us a new job or a new opportunity. For some of us it might be adoption or marriage. Or a whole host of other things! For me…this is it…my family feels whole and complete once again.

Sometimes I wonder if I should write anymore because I second guess myself. I wonder if I sound like I’m trying to make other people feel jealous or if I’m rubbing salt in any wounds my readers may have. I wonder if I’m adding beauty or if I’m offending. Seems silly in a way…all I’m writing about is the good I see in my life and being grateful for it…but none the less I know how it feels when you’re in a rough patch and you see others who aren’t.

I’ve struggled long and hard with comparisons over the years. Comparisons that weren’t healthy. I probably second guess myself because I know that there have been times when I would’ve read a blog like mine years ago and I would’ve walked away envious and frustrated. I have no desire to do that to anybody out there.

God has had to do a major work and is continuing to do a major work in my life where I’ve had to come face to face with how much I was living in my own little world of comparisons and always feeling like I came up short.

I’ve had to learn to be content in my own life regardless of anybody else’s situation. I’ve had to learn to be present where I am today instead of thinking about where I want to be tomorrow and the next day or regretting the past.

A whole lot can change on a dime. I realize this. I’ve lived this. But I refuse to worry about it or be afraid even though I’m tempted sometimes. Instead…I believe that in this season of life it’s really incredibly important for me to embrace the joy and peace I feel in wild abandon. These days I’m living are days filled with memories and love that could easily last me a lifetime no matter what comes my way.

It’s not about me. It’s not about Dane. It’s about God and what happens when He redeems. He doesn’t band aid us through life, or fix things in a cheap, hurried way. He redeems patiently and completely, healing and restoring years of loss and hurt. His ways are higher than mine. And far better.

I’m sharing because I want to encourage you no matter where you are. If life is good for you right now, I want to rejoice with you. If life is hard right now I want to encourage you to keep trusting and hanging on, God loves you and is actively redeeming your life and it’s messed up, not right parts even when you don’t see it.

Again, I realize my words fall short. You have to experience what I’m talking about for yourself to really appreciate it…but I can’t help but share a few of my pictures from my journey…literally today πŸ™‚

The simple life

The best part about growing older is the perspective you gain on things.

Stuff that used to seem big isn’t all that big of a deal and stuff that you blew off takes on more importance. You figure out how to trade what is good for what is best.

Dane and I were just talking about this yesterday. We were talking about previous houses from childhood on. We talked about the way things were arranged, the paint on the walls, the furniture that was in each room, even what our childhood bed covers felt like. It’s kind of fun to lay in a hammock together and remember any tiny detail we can from our past.

In the process we talked about the reality that doing any house projects anymore doesn’t hold any allure for us. Absolutely none.

In previous houses I have painted, taken out walls, built in shelves, redone bathrooms, kitchens, put up wall paper, taken down wall paper over and over. I’ve landscaped entire yards, taken out flower beds, put in flower beds, even had a hole dug out for a trampoline to sit in. I couldn’t even tell you how many projects I’ve been a part of and generally even been the person who initiated the project!

I remember doing a lot of projects as a kid too. We had a big old house growing up and everything in the house was redone at some point by my parents and us kids working together.

These days…honestly, I live in a house that was built in 1866, it could definitely be updated I suppose…but I have no plans to touch a thing unless something breaks and we have no other choice. Maybe at some point we’ll fix the fireplace, I could see us enjoying that. It’s not necessarily what I would’ve picked for the carpet, walls, etc. but it’s solidly good and I have better things to do with my time and money.

Instead this morning I woke up, put on my jogging clothes and headed out the door as the sun rose. I jogged/walked almost 9 miles first thing down by the river. It was lovely and I realized that the fact that I’ve always known that I have a runner inside of me is finally being realized. Then I came home and took the free butternut squash my neighbor gave me yesterday and have cut it up along with a few other ingredients to try my hand at making butternut squash soup, and then I went to the gym to swim with my husband for an hour. This afternoon I will probably take a rest after lunch and lay in the hammock and then teach a few lessons tonight and practice the piano for concerts coming up that I have to play for.

Age has shown me that there is great beauty in life, great beauty that can be completely lost if my schedule is too full. Lost if my time is full of projects and to do lists. Age has shown me that the best parts of life are the simple things, like being outside, noticing nature, going for walks, spending time with family, reading a good book, resting, eating healthy good food.

I look back at my 20 year and 30 year old self and I think…hey girl, why in the world did you spend so much time trying to paint every room, take out walls and all of the other crazy projects you got yourself Β into. I guess there was a certain sense of accomplishment that came with all of that…nothing like a fresh coat of paint to pick up the vibe in a room…but, honestly, just not that important.

I feel fully alive these days because my days are spent with those I love, outside, moving, making healthy choices, resting, playing, working when necessary, cooking, cleaning now and then, dancing, listening to music, riding with the top down, being free.

I’m glad I figured this out when I got in my forties…but I sure hope my kids can figure it out long before I did.

If you feel frantic, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. there’s a good chance you have too much going on and have lost perspective on what really matters. I’ve been there. Glad I’m not anymore.

I’m not even sure that it’s about whether you work full-time or not. I used to think when I was working full-time that was the problem for all of my woes. While I’m glad I’m not working full-time these days…I think I probably even had more choices then than I realized. I kind of made my own bed and had to lay in it a time or two if you know what I mean.

The simple life is incredibly beautiful. I don’t write this to make you feel bad, jealous, envious, or any other negative emotion. I write it because…I think it’s more available to all of us than we realize. We just tend to buy into a life that is anything but simple. We complicate things. I complicated things!

Take it from a mid lifer…the simple life is where it’s at. For what it’s worth…

Compliments

My husband is pretty free and open with kinds words to me all throughout my week. I’ve been losing weight and getting in shape for the past 10 months and he regularly encourages me and lets me know that he thinks I look great and that he’s proud of me. He also compliments other things about me and our life together as well. From the dress I wore last night, to the way my hair just kind of goes crazy most days, or the food I make, or the way the house looks, or a hundred other things that he notices each day. He’s not stingy in giving me praise and expressing appreciation which is really nice.

We rise when we are encouraged. Sometimes I forget this, especially in parenting. I think it’s about pressuring someone or pointing out where they need to work a little harder…but honestly, encouragement is the best way to cause others to rise.

I woke up this morning thinking about a compliment that Dane gave me just two days ago. We had been playing tennis in the early morning hours and it had started to sprinkle. We played on for as long as we could before we decided the rain was too much. We’re pretty evenly matched at this point in our tennis skills so it’s fun to play together.

It was one of those times when you walk to the side to switch sides or take a drink…he looked at me and said, ‘don’t take this the wrong way’ to which I thought…hmmm where is this going…then he said ‘it’s good’, probably saw the question on my face. He went on to say “you’re a character”. He smiled and told me what he meant after I asked. He said something like…you are so full of life and joy. It’s obvious that you’re living life to the full and soaking it all in. You’re fully alive. (Those might not be exact words…but that’s the gist)

This morning as I wake up in the early morning hours to go out for a jog in the dark, to see the sun rise while I put my feet to the pavement I can’t help but savor those words.

I’m glad that my husband finds me attractive, and appreciates all that I do around the house for him and our family…but the idea that he sees me living fully alive and is drawn to my happiness and curiosity with life, the way I love new things and adventures, the way no two days are the same is really beautiful to me. His compliment wasn’t one you find on a card that anyone could say. It isn’t one of those endearing lines that every woman hears. His compliment of “you’re a character,” said in a tone of voice that speaks awe and love was one of a kind, for me.

I remember Mark telling me something similar years ago. When we were dating I would sometimes ask him what he saw in me and he would say…”Ruth, you’re not like the other girls.” He would go on and explain…but that one statement said a lot to me. I guess I wanted to know that I was special.

When Mark died he told me that someone someday would come along and see what he saw in me and that they would want to be with me. He was right. Dane sees me…not just the outer me, the physical me…but into the very soul of me. And he loves me. In fact he’s crazy about me.

I’m pretty crazy about him too.

In fact we plan to just act and be like newlyweds the rest of our lives :).

I told Dane from the start of us the power that words have over me. More power than any gift could ever have. When it comes to special days I always tell him to write me a love letter. In fact, I say, don’t even buy a card…just take out a sheet of notebook paper and write me a letter. I’m not sure that it’s like this for most women but for me beautiful words spoken in fitting moments of time nurture and fill me in ways that a diamond ring never could.

I will always remember the day we were playing tennis together and stepped to the side, the look in Dane’s eyes, the unexpected nature of his compliment and following explanation when he told me that I’m a character. It was beautiful.

Especially since I know when I was a child and teenager I was not a character. I was a wallflower girl who was far too concerned with what others thought about me to know myself enough to know what would make me happy. And as a young adult I participated in things and lived in ways that were not life giving to me thinking I had no other choice. I felt the need to conform, to fit in, to be like other people.

To know at this point in my life…at age 45 that I’m living fully awake, fully alive, not worried about what others think of me, but tuned in to who I am and the way God has wired me is nothing less than miraculous.

God has done this in me. He has caused me to become more myself, the way He created me to be with every passing day. This is a process that will take eternity…but I’m well on my way.

And yes…I think Dane’s right…I’m a character and proud of it :).