Tuesday, February 26, 2008

LESSONS ON MARRIAGE: IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE, KINDNESS, LIGHT BULBS and PUSSY WILLOWS!


This April 7th Bert and I will have been married for 24 years. We will have been together for more than 25... a quarter of a century, the longest significant committed relationship I have ever been in.

Simply put... being with Bert, loving Bert, fighting with Bert, talking with Bert, listening to Bert, and sharing everything I am with Bert has changed me at a soul-level in my life.

I was married before. After fourteen and a half years of marriage... that marriage relationship ended. I was very young when I got married, either 19 or twenty, depending on whose memory you consult. I was in love with love. I was in love with Tim. I was in love with Tim's family. I had "known" Tim for years, but I could never truly know him because I didn't know myself.

I thought then, as so many people do, that being married would "complete" me. It would fill the hole in my heart. My relationship with my father, who hadn't been loved well enough by his own family, had left me wanting more. Surely a man would come along, love me, and make it all better.

I didn't understand that no human being could fill that deep, cavernous hole. Only my Heavenly Father could.

But since I didn't "get" that life principle, I unknowingly assigned the task of "filling the hole" to whomever happened to be there. Poor Tim. It wasn't a job description he knowingly signed on for. He had his own growing to do, and we both had to go elsewhere to find ourselves and then learn to be there in another relationship.

If I had known then what I know now...but that is life's lesson isn't it. It's all about learning the lessons, growing, and changing. Not trying to grow others, or change others, but learning to grow ourselves.

I met Bert in graduate school at Whitworth. I was somewhat jaded, as women often become. Cynical even... about men. Yet here was this unusual person. After many conversations with myself and with God...I was willing to give love another chance.

But first there was a greater task at hand...sorting out who I really was.
You see one of the slippery slopes of marriage is the "honeymoon phase" that ends in the "disillusionment phase".

The odd disparity about a marriage relationship seems to be this pattern:
*at first I thought you were perfect
*and now you are "just you"...not perfect at all.
*in fact, you are a huge disappointment on so many levels.

And it's far easier to look at how disappointing you are than to look at how disappointing I am...to myself, to you, to everyone around me.

In truth...you are just another imperfect human being, a child of God not fully formed, and you don't so perfectly fit the bill of who I made you out to be...who I made you up to be.

Before, when I was so in love I couldn't breathe, I gave you an un-doable job description..."My Perfect Husband"....and you have failed.

So...now it's "pick on you time" and "pick apart" time. The relationship often becomes unrecognizable.

Ring any bells? Sound at all familiar?

Truth told...I've been there, I've done that. It's vivious... and sad and ugly and awful. It often takes place in the hurting places of our heart...the places where we've failed to let God's love in and let His love shine and heal our own personal misery.

What I know now that I didn't know then... was that until you love your own imperfections, until you embrace your own frailties, until you learn to love, laugh at and accept the "icky part of you", and until you turn that all over to God...you will just project your own angst on to someone else. And sometimes that lesson gets learned too late.

I have several single friends who watch couples unknowingly pick each other apart, and they watch in horror. One recently said to me, "Don't you married people get what you have? You have the privilege of sharing your life with someone, and you don't seem to appreciate what a sacred honor that is." She went on to chastise all of us who are married when she said,
"You know you can go too far. You can do damage that can't be repaired. After your husband is gone, after he leaves or dies...or you leave.. you will then know what you had and what you missed."

Yup, she's right. I know that at a deep, heart level. Been there done that...and as scarey as it may seem..I am capable of not learning that lesson again.

Unless I take special care, I can focus on what is wrong about Bert instead of what is wonderful about Bert.

And that leads us to the light bulbs and pussy willows.

It has been a tough few weeks. It's Lent...no wonder. I have felt pulled and not at ease. Little things have irritated me. All of the light bulbs over the kitchen counter were out, and I was irritated that Bert had not replaced them. I was grouchy and grumpy...and not quietly so.

I am so glad that God didn't videotape me...I would no doubt be embarrased.

Bert has quietly tried to soothe my soul, bring some relief. Finally, I just started to cry. Guess I needed a good one. I asked God, "What the heck is wrong with me?"

And then yesterday when I came home from work at lunch time, Bert was still there working on the poetry for his poetry class. He looked like a little kid with a surprise. I was so exhausted that I couldn't "get" what was going on. Finally, he took me gently by the arm to the kitchen counter and with a big, child-like grin on his face...had me look up.

"I changed the light bulbs!" he said. "I thought it would make you feel better!"

And then he showed me the pussy willows. I love pussy willows since they signal that spring is right around the corner. So Bert, some years ago, planted a pussy willow tree for me so I could have pussy willows in our home.

There, in a funny little vase, were some hand-picked pussy willows. He had trudged up our snowy hill to pick pussy willows for me.

There, in that moment of kindness, lightbulbs, and pussywillows... I got what I needed to learn.
It IS a sacred honor to share your life with someone. I don't want to focus on what Bert isn't, but on what Bert is!

One little act of kindness can change everything. Changing those lightbulbs was Bert's way of showing me that he loved me. Go figure! And the pussy willows?
No bouquet picked by a child has ever meant as much!

Marriage really is about loving someone...just as they are...and seeing beyond who they are to who they could be. Marriage really is about loving someone more than you love yourself. Marriage really is about looking past your partner's "icky self" to who God meant them to be.
Marriage really is about working on my "icky self" so I can be a better wife for Bert. And marriage really is about letting God's love and light shine in my heart so I can see how blessed I am to have a life partner!

Today I am taking pussy willows to school...so I'll remember the lessons!

God Bless! Love and hugs to all who read this!
Love Linda

Monday, February 18, 2008

THE AGE OF MIRACLES...Profound New Learnings!


Sometimes life's learnings come at me in such a fast and furious fashion that it takes time to digest them!

Sometimes God has a way of getting my attention and while I can feel a bit overwhelmed, I am eternally grateful for a chance to grow, change, and learn about myself... in a deeper more meaningful way.

In short...I am in a time of profound inner change. It's as if the "inner work" I have done the past few years is starting to manifest itself clearly in my life. That inner work and wisdom has to do with embracing all of my life and all that I am! It is about seeing life more clearly. It's about taking my "Life Lessons at 61" and naming and claiming them.

It's also about acknowledging that when you "do the outer work"..the work on my body and losing 35 pounds...the inner work starts to make more sense. This may seem overly complex to some of you who read this. Yet it is part of a "New Midlife Journey" that I am taking!

It's part of having more of my life behind me than is in front of me. Sometimes there simply comes a time in our lives- not fundamentally different from the way puberty separates childhood from adulthood- when it's time for one part of ourselves to die and for something new to be born.

It's time for me to let go of some old habits that no longer serve me well!

I will try to make sense of a few of my latest learnings in this post:

LEARNING #1: Don't Take Things Personally and Offer Compassion

This past week seemed filled with people who were outwardly angry and bitter and yet were inwardly hurt and venting. One was a student, the other a college colleague. My first response is to get angry back. My second response is to get them out of my life and say "no more, you suck, I want nothing to do with you! " While my initial response was fairly familiar, it didn't take long for a new and deeper compassion to bubble forth. It is possible that after a year of working on the "Four Agreements"...an amazing book that is a life-time guide...that I am actually making progress in NOT TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY!

This is a HUGE step for me!

I could see both of these people as being so much more than their response. I didn't have to do anything but hold out care and love to them. I didn't feel so afraid that I had to make them wrong! More importantly I could look at them and ask the question..."How does what they did, in some form or another, remind me of me?"

LEARNING #2: Who Do I Need To Forgive and Reconcile With?

On Valentines Day Bert and I were a part of a charity event at the Bing Crosby Theatre. We were part of raising funds for a children's orphanage in Ruwanda. Our choir from church came to sing there! Just another item to do on the 'ol "to do list"? Truthfully it was....until the program began.

A little historical background..Ruwanda went through a massive genocide in 1994 while the world sat and watched. Over 1 million people were slaughtered. The war was between two Ruwandan tribes...Hutu and Tutsi.( See the movie Hotel Ruwanda) Even families that had intermarried between the two tribes found husbands slaughtering their wives. When the smoke cleared, how do you put a country back together where people saw a neighbor slaughter their whole family?

The Ruwandans conducted outdoor "Chochnas" , which means "on the grass". These were trials where the victims confronted those who had destroyed their lives. If the perpetrator was honest, and genuinely remorseful during this trial on the grass, he or she was forgiven (truly forgiven) and brought back into community.

Arlene Brown, the speaker at this event who gave up everything she had to go to Ruwanda to build an orphanage there, told this powerful story of reconciliation. A Tutsi woman (a wife and mother of three small children) watched a young man she knew in her village (he was 18 and a Hutu) slaughter her entire beloved family. She watched this neighbor boy take a machete' and chop up her husband and children in front of her. She was destroyed by the horror of this experience.

At their village "chochna" or trial several years later, the young man confessed his deep grief for what he had done and asked for the woman's forgiveness. Eventually, after much soul searching, she told him she could forgive him if he did one thing. "What was that?" he asked.

She wanted him to move in with her and be her son.

Whaaaaaaat you might ask? Be her son? Are you kidding me?

She told him that in letting go of all her anger, there was only love and compassion left for the hurt in him. He had taken her son, but now she offered for him to be her son.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house. After telling this story, and showing the pictures of the woman and her "new son", Arelene Brown asked these three question to the audience:

"Who have YOU not forgiven?
" Who do YOU need to reconcile with?"
"Do you know that the anger and old resentments you carry in your heart are eating you alive?
They are eating your heart, your spirit, and your soul"

The fallout from this story and those three questions has been amazing! Tears flowed as one of the choir members at church yesterday, after sharing this story with the congregation, told of the hurt and anger she has carried for white people. She wants to let go of it!

I have been crying off and on myself as I ask myself
"Who do I need to forgive?" What am I still angry about? "How can I "reconcile" with this person?" "Do I get the "cost" of anger in my own life?"

So this week, Valentine's week, has been about "heart work"...about not taking things personally and feeling compassion, even for those who are angry.

It has also been about looking at what "real forgiveness" is all about!

I am so grateful to God for all that I am learning!
I wouldn't miss this journey, and this week with all it's learnings, for anything!

God Bless! Love and hugs! Linda

Thursday, February 14, 2008

OPEN HEART DAY..."Won't You Be My Valentine?"


I absolutely love holidays! I have ever since I was a little girl :)

When I was little I was filled with glee as at Christmas time I awaited the birth of a holy baby and the arrival of a jolly old man who shared presents...

I looked forward with great anticipation to the magical nature of Easter where Jesus was risen and eggs appeared in my slippers....

And then there was Valentines Day!

I knew when I got up in the morning that both my Mom and I would receive a beautiful and sentimental card from my Dad, and we would each get a dozen red roses from him with a gigantic red bow. Not only that....I would go to school on Valentines Day, put a huge homemade heart with a small envelope sized opening on my desk and await messages of friendship and caring. Many small cards, often made by hand and carefully put into the desk sized mail box, started with the words...."Won't you be my valentine?"

Getting my Valentines ready , and picking out or making just the right cards to give to those I loved, became a time-honored ritual! I could picture their smile when they opened my card and remembered that I loved them. The night before Valentines Day I could hardly sleep.

Not much has changed in all of these years!

My Dad, who came from a very difficult family background, and had his first birthday cake at age thirty that was baked by my Mom, was very sentimental about Valentines Day. His sentiments and wisdom have always stayed with me. He told me something that I will hold in my heart forever...

"Nothing compares to having someone to love who loves you back!"

And he was right! For the first time in his life he had two people who loved him to the moon and back...my Mom and me! He never, ever took that for granted. He knew what it meant to feel like he wasn't anyone's Valentine!

So for me...today isn't just a Hallmark moment. It is far greater than that! It is a reminder to live life with an open heart! It is a reminder to be kind to everyone because you do not know the battles they are fighting! It is a reminder that when you give love generously...love comes back to you tenfold!

I feel so blessed this morning! I awoke to a beautiful and sentimental card from my dear hubby Bert...and as if almost by magic...a dozen red roses with a huge bow sat waiting for me on the kitchen counter. I couldn't stop crying as it brought back memories of Valentines Days gone by. I am so grateful that the one I love... loves me back! I am so grateful that I am someone's Valentine!

God Bless! May you know today that you are dearly loved! God loves you and so do I!

Happy Valentines Day! Love Linda

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

SUPER TUESDAY...and my birthday too! :) TEN THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR!!!


Here are a few things I am grateful for today, February 5th, 2008:

1) I am so grateful that God loves me and that I feel that love every day!

2) I am so grateful to have had parents who adored me and challenged me to be the best "me" I could be!

3) I am so grateful that I grew up in a politically active family...and that on my birthday I lived long enough to fill out a primary ballot and could choose between a WOMAN and an AFRICAN-AMERICAN...and both are legitimate candidates for President of the United States!

4) I am so, so grateful for my special husband Bert! He is the love of my life!

5) I am so, so grateful that God blessed me with two spectacular daughters...Jessi and Amy! They bless my life every day!

6) I am so, so grateful for all of my family....sons, sons-in-law, daughters-in law, and my amazing and wonderful 12 grandchildren!!!

7) I am so grateful for God's grace and reconcilliation in my blended family and extended family!

8) I am so grateful that God has called me to be a teacher and a consultant and that I can serve others in both of these jobs that I love!

9) I am so grateful for all of my friends who have stood by me all of these years!

10) I am so, so grateful to God for my health, that my ankle has healed, and that I am so much lighter in body and spirit!

So on this SUPER TUESDAY....know that I am grateful for you!
God Bless! Love and hugs to all who read this!
Linda

Sunday, February 03, 2008

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS...What A Great Weekend!






I absolutely love weekends that are filled with FUN and GRANDKIDS galore! We had Jacob overnight on Thursday night and he played with Boppa while I went to teach on Friday! He is so amazing and brings such joy to my life! Thanks Jacob for coming to stay with Boppa and me! We love you to the moon and back!
Friday late afternoon our special friend Dustin came over to talk about the upcoming charity event we are participating in...raising money for a Rumandan orphanage! Thanks Dustin for including us in this amazing project!
Then Friday night we celebrated my birthday at Bangkok Thai with Jessi, Rog and Emma! What fun to get together, share stories and my favorite is the birthday crown Emma made for me! Emma is such an amazing little girl and she blesses my life with her smile! The meal was wonderful and the dessert so creative, and appropriate to my Weight Watcher Goals...Weight Watcher Fudgesicles! So thoughtful !! Thanks you guys for such a great evening! Thanks Emma for making me a "Birthday Crown"! I can't wait to wear it to school on Tuesday!
Saturday was a fun time with Bert including getting my birthday outfit...jeans that are TWO SIZES SMALLER!!! Praise God! And he also got me a neat sweater and chocolate brown suede jacket...both one size smaller! I was so thrilled to see the results of all the hard work the past five months! Thanks honey for loving me and celebrating me every day of the year!
To top Saturday off, we met Amy , Ryan, and Jenna at Wolf Lodge in Spokane for an amazing steak dinner by a beautiful lodge fireplace! Bert and I split a dinner and I had several bites only of the dessert the restaurant brought!! It was so fun to just be together and have such great conversation! Amy asked me such a thought-provoking question...
"Mom, what are your three top goals for your 61st year?" More on that later! :)
Thanks Amy, Ryan, and Jenna for all of your love for me and for such a neat evening! I loved our time, the dinner, and the beautiful handmade card! I'll also look forward to celebrating with Zac, Kayla, and Jacob!
Today is Sunday and we came back from an amazing church service and lunch out! Bert and I split a lunch at Hogans, a favorite hamburger spot of ours, on the south hill. He had a chocolate ice cream soda and I had my famous diet coke with lemon! I came home and had a nap before the start of the Super Bowl!
It's now time to exercise and get ready for school tomorrow! I feel blessed beyond measure to be surrounded by family that I adore! What a super fun weekend! I feel so blessed and so celebrated!!!
I look forward to being 61! God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!
God Bless! Love and hugs to all who read this! Love Linda




Friday, February 01, 2008

NO SNOW...NO SLEET...NO HAIL...Can Keep Me from Weight Watchers!


The day started out with a semi-blizzard at 3:00am when I got up to exercise! My first thought was a chuckle..."well, getting to my Thursday Weight Watchers meeting may be tough, but I AM going!"

School was cancelled, Bert cleared the driveway, and I knew I needed to go.

What I know for sure is that this just isn't a time when I can afford to start a pattern of not being there and not holding myself accountable to a public weigh in.

I lost 2.4 lbs! The hard work I put in this week paid off!

My birthday is next Tuesday and the gift I am giving to me as I turn 61 is a new body, new spirit and new healthy lifestyle!

Losing 35 pounds is in sight by Valentines Day or before and then forty will follow!

I am jazzed and ready to take it on!

God Bless! Love and hugs to all who read this! Love Linda

A Reminder of What Matters...

                   "We are all just walking                       each other home."                                             ...