Really Lord?

I’m glad this exchange is recorded in Genesis for us.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

           Genesis 18:9-14

The “they” who asked Abraham the whereabouts of his wife are the Lord and two angels. Abraham stood near his heavenly guests as they ate while Sarah listened to the conversation from the tent.

One of them reminded Abraham of the promise God made. The promise of a child….born to Abraham and Sarah. When Sarah overheard this, without knowing anyone could hear, she responded with a laugh and a bite of sarcasm.

I mean, Sarah had a point. She was 89 or so years old, way beyond the age to have babies. It was impossible.

Abraham laughed, too, when he first heard the promise (Genesis 17:17). But God didn’t respond to Abraham’s laughter the way He did to Sarah’s. I wonder why?

I think Sarah was scared to hope in the promise. Her barrenness made her bitter and she was resentful about the mess she made with Hagar (Genesis 16). I imagine when she overheard the promise of a child her heart fluttered. She remembered her longing and the uncountable prayers. Then she remembered the disappointment and pain. So she laughed it off.

Thankfully, God sees past all our pretense. He knows when we’re acting stronger than we are. He sees beneath the fake smiles and forced laughter, and He hears what’s beneath the sarcastic remarks.

God knew exactly what Sarah needed. The Lord asked Abraham why Sarah laughed then asked another question He knew Sarah would hear.

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

There have been lots of things I thought impossible. My marriage. This house. Our work. My heart.

I face impossible situations now. So impossible that I can’t see the possibilities any more.

But then I remember….

Marie, is anything too hard for the Lord?

 

Photo by Lionello DelPiccolo on Unsplash

A Wedding

This week’s Monday School comes from the Gospel of John chapter 2 verses 1-12. Read more about Monday School here.

John tells the story about a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The Bible says Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there and that Jesus and his disciples were invited too. But there was a problem at the wedding.

They ran out of wine.

Mary is remarkably concerned about the wine situation because I believe she was more than a guest at this wedding. Perhaps she was close to the bride and groom and their families. Maybe she helped prepare for the wedding…..may have planned and cooked the feast for it. Maybe she and others gathered the flowers, set the places at the tables and made sure everything was just so. Then, in the middle of the festivities, the wine was gone.

Mary did the only thing she knew to do. She told Jesus. Then told the servants to do whatever Jesus said.

I think I know what Mary felt during the wedding at Cana. My oldest daughter was married this weekend. We prepared and worked to make everything just so and we wanted everything to be as wonderful as we planned it to be. Those of us who helped were remarkably aware of everything – the weather, the flowers and music, the food, drinks, and the cake. We wanted the bride and groom to have no worries. We wanted the guests to have no need or distractions and to fully enjoy the celebration of two lives becoming one. To take in the music played and the promises made. To understand why the bride and groom chose You’re Beautiful by Phil Wickham as one of their wedding songs. To grasp the meaning of the entire festivity.

Because a wedding is no small thing.

As Frederick Buechner puts it, “…every wedding is a dream, and every word that is spoken there means more than it says, and every gesture – the clasping of hands, the giving of rings – is rich with mystery. Part of the mystery is that Christ is there as he was in Cana once, and the joy of a wedding, and maybe even sometimes the tears, are a miracle that he works.”

We enjoyed the words and the gestures and we felt the love and blessings. We laughed and cried and danced. We celebrated the miracle of two becoming one and Jesus was with us at our wedding celebration at Glenn Hill.

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing….
You’re beautiful

by Phil Wickham

Keeping the Promises

Laughter floated in the air as food was prepared and decorations set. Flowers filled the entry ways, overflowed from vases on the mantel, tables and all around our home. Friends and family gathered yesterday to shower my daughter with blessings as she prepares to enter this new season of life and celebrate the upcoming marriage to her fiance. What a joyous time it was. We saw faces we hadn’t seen in years. Some came from far away, others from down the road. My sweet aunt who was married to her love for 74 years was there. Some newly marrieds and some who will be someday came too.

Along with lots of wonderful gifts for her home, our friends and family brought their love and blessings with them. My friend told us a beautiful story and shared some things she wish she’d known as a young bride. Then I prayed for my daughter.

It didn’t take long for me to settle on what to pray for her in her marriage. Her father and I celebrated 23 years of marriage the day before her shower so I was thinking of our story as I was thinking about how to pray.

Twenty three years ago in a small wedding chapel in Tennessee we vowed to love each other.

We promised to love each other when times were good and when they weren’t. To love each other in times of sickness and wellness, during feast or famine, and highs and lows.

We laugh now at the kids we were then because we thought we had it figured out. Now we know we still don’t have it figured out.

But we’re learning. We’re growing together, loving each other, and getting better and better at it. We’re keeping the promises.

We’ve experienced abundant joy and faced tragedy; enjoyed many blessings and walked through painful seasons. And we’ve done it for 23 years.

We’re better because of each other and for each other.

I began the prayer for my daughter with Ephesians 4:32. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s not the typical marriage verse but I know from 23 years that when my husband and I are practicing this, we’re doing well. When we’re not following it, things aren’t as good as they can be.

I prayed for her the same things I ask for myself:

“Father, thank You that we can come to You with confidence and know You hear us. Thank You for our friends and family gathered here to celebrate our daughter’s life. And thank You for the divine gift of marriage.

Father, You promise to give us all we need to do what You’ve called us to do. Draw her near to You. May she look to You for guidance and wisdom as she grows into the woman You’ve called her to be.

You call us to kind actions and words but Your desire is not that we just do kind acts but that our hearts are tender which leads to kindness. God, keep her heart tender. Let her eyes be fixed on You and may she remember Your kindness and extravagant love toward her.

Give her a wholehearted love for You, Father. Because as her love for You grows, so will the love for her husband.”

And we all said, “Amen.”

“Love is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.”   C.S. Lewis

photo by Markie Pearson Photography

Extravagant

21

Last year I wrote about my 20th wedding anniversary. We almost didn’t make it to 20, but here I am a year later and here we are still making it.

Twenty-one years ago in the mountains of Tennessee I said “I do.”

August 12, 1994
August 12, 1994

I could never have known what I was saying I would do. Almost three years in and two kids out we separated. We agreed we needed a few weeks to think. But young love wasn’t enough to cover the hurt we had caused each other so after being separated almost two years we divorced.

Our two little ones kept us connected though. After three years of being apart, he invited me to dinner one night and we were married again three months later. On the same date as our original wedding – August 12th.

We both thought the worst was behind us. We moved to Texas to build a new life and before we celebrated our second 1 year wedding anniversary we had our third child. Things were really good. We enjoyed living in Texas for a couple of years but after a company layoff we moved back to our hometown.

The hard times came really hard. The most devastating of all came over two years ago. It almost destroyed us. Other trials came too. The kind not uncommon to others. The kind that comes with managing a household with 2 full-time jobs, raising 3 kids, and caring for aging parents. All of this while trying to stay connected.

The hard times hit but they didn’t beat us. We chose to stay.

We are choosing to stay.

We choose to stay because we love each other and we love each other because we choose to stay. It’s hard work. It’s painful and awkward and tiring. God has made what we thought was impossible – done. We have experienced the freedom of giving and receiving forgiveness.

God changed our hearts. He is still changing our hearts.

Both times I said “I do” I didn’t give much thought to our 21st anniversary. It seemed so far away. I don’t think I would have expected it to be this way.

But here we are fighting for our marriage, for our family. After twenty-one years we are learning to trust. We are learning how to love each other and we are getting better at it. I’m thankful that we are giving each other the chance to grow.

We wished each other a happy anniversary this morning. We kissed each other when I left for work. He has to work tonight so we will put off our anniversary dinner. Maybe we’ll go to dinner this weekend. Hopefully.

If not, we’ll have a really good conversation anyway. That’s something else we’re learning to do. We listen better now. We love each other more.

We’re getting better and better at this.

Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.

Ephesians 4:32 NCV

To Do

My weekly “to do” list is as long as it was on Monday.  I’ve checked some items off but added others. I have ongoing projects at work and my plan to complete them hasn’t happened. The business letter I need to write is only half written.

At home the garage is still unpainted and the new garage door opener hasn’t been installed.  My closet is still a mess and some of the pretty plants I bought to put in my front flower garden are still in the pots I brought them home in.

I did other things.  Things that aren’t on the list.

I cooked homemade chicken noodle soup for my family and helped my oldest daughter with her Geography homework Monday night. I planned to be in bed early but had a nice conversation with my kids instead.

The next evening, my daughters and I did a 2 and 1/2 mile walk on the country roads around our home.  We talked with the neighbors when we returned.

I ran into a friend this week and visited with her.  Played in the yard with my youngest daughter and the dog and stayed up late one night talking with my husband.

And something I rarely do….I watched a favorite TV show.  It was splendid.

Sometimes our plans don’t happen when or how we want them to.  It’s frustrating.  This week I chose to be flexible instead of staying irritated about thwarted plans.  With three kids, full-time jobs, and all the other things we have going on…..I have to.

I will check those things off my “to do” list eventually.  I have more important things to do first.

What if the choices you thought were small, were actually the ones that mattered?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Satisfaction of a List.”

A Love Letter

I found a letter in between the pages of one of my Bibles.  I keep it as a reminder of where we were.

It’s a love letter.  Not the mushy kind inspired by infatuation.  No, the only similarity to a middle school love note is the notebook paper on which it’s written.  This love letter is not the kind filled with dreamy visions of the future.  It’s not loaded with good intentions or empty promises.  No fancy words were used, no love songs quoted.  This love letter was a simple expression of his feelings for me.  And a surprise one, too, because it had been at least ten years since the last one.

Hard times caused him to write it.  We were struggling.  Not connecting, not agreeing, whatever the reason, hard times came.  We weren’t doing so well with them.  We lost it with each other.  We said things we meant at the moment but wish we hadn’t.  Things like, “I can’t do this anymore” or “do what you have to do.”  Words that made us wonder if we even knew each other at all.  The kind of words that hurt deep down.  Then the silence would come and sometimes more anger.  Most of the time the silence brought revelation, understanding, conviction.  It definitely brought regret.  I came face to face with my foolishness, my pride, and that brought its own kind of pain.

He chose to break the silence with a love letter.  I remember the moment clearly.  He didn’t say a word when he handed me the folded piece of paper.  He left me alone to read.  I won’t share his words, those are mine. But I know they were written in a moment of pure love, the kind you feel so intensely that you think your heart will burst. The kind we express when we love our best.

We are still learning to love well.

I have a long way to go.  But I’m on the edge of becoming someone better, someone more free to love the way I’m supposed to.  God is transforming me with His perfect love and I’m still learning.

This learning process seems painfully slow at times.  But I’m not defeated when I mess up.

John Piper writes in his book When I Don’t Desire God, “To be sure, our all-too-slow growth in Christ-likeness matters.  It is the necessary evidence that our faith is real.  But, oh what a difference it makes to be assured, in the discouraging darkness of our own imperfections, that we have a perfect righteousness – namely Christ’s”

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own”.  

Philippians 3:12  NLT

So I cherish this letter and all the other perfect moments we share.

51

January 26, 1963 Wayne Griffin and Jan Sharrott were married in a small Methodist church in Huntsville, Alabama with only two of their closest friends watching. The next few years were difficult. They had two daughters and money was tight. Wayne worked for Willo Products in Decatur and opened the Neighborhood Shell Gas & Grocery in Hartselle.

They lived with Wayne’s mom. Their small bedroom was cramped with their bed and two baby beds. Without air conditioning, the room seemed smaller in the summertime. Winters were easier because the pot-bellied stove heated the house well. By 1972 they had four daughters and that same year they bought the place where Wayne and his brother grew up.

img_4964Fifty one years is an accomplishment in any marriage, but my sisters and I know just how remarkable this one is because we witnessed and lived through it. They endured the normal hardships that come with raising a family. Financial crises, job changes and losses, failed businesses, health problems, and four girls. With one bathroom!

The most difficult challenge had to be dad’s alcoholism. That made all the other struggles even harder. Thousands and thousands of tears fell. Mama cried because she felt alone and angry and worried. Daddy cried because he didn’t know how to beat the addiction that was hurting his family and ruining his life. We cried because we were scared when Mama and Daddy fought.

But there was plenty of laughter, too. Fish fries and family gatherings. Saturday morning yard work and Saturday evening grill-outs. Trips to the beach and Christmas. The best memories fill my heart.

I’ve wondered how they did it – how they were able to stay together when so much seemed against them. They can’t give me an easy answer.

After 20 plus years in my own marriage I’m still learning how to do marriage. It’s hard. I’ve wanted to leave. I’ve wanted him to leave. Recently. Last week.

My parents’ marriage has eternal significance, a lasting legacy. I have the courage to stay and fight for my own marriage because of their 51 years.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.                               1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (MSG)

They wanted to give up sometimes. They didn’t do their marriage perfectly.

They just did it. They endured…..they persevered. They forgave and they stayed. They hoped for better days. They kept going and they will go to the end.

In my marriage…..I will take it one day at a time. Committed. Dedicated. Keeping my vows. Choosing to love and stay. Trusting God, not looking back and looking for the best.

I’m forever grateful they kept the vows spoken in that small church in Huntsville in 1963.

Thank you Mama and Daddy. I love you.

I Never Knew

Once upon a time a man fell in love with a lady but after they had been together a while he grew tired of her.  He searched for another.  He didn’t realize that he already had everything he needed to make him happy.  Recognize this story?  It’s told in a song titled, “Escape” or better known as the “Pina Colada Song.”

I was tired of my lady, we’d been together too long.

Like a worn out recording, of a favorite song.

So while she lay there sleeping, I read the paper in bed.

And in the personals column, there was this letter I read:

If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.

If you’re not into yoga, if you have half-a-brain.

If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.

I’m the lady you’ve looked for, write to me, and escape.

The story may be more familiar to some of you because you’ve experienced exactly what Rupert Holmes is singing about.   I have in my own marriage.  We all tend to be creatures of habit and routine.  The problem is the same old dull routine can become quite boring.

The song continues:

I didn’t think about my lady.  I know that sounds kind of mean.

But me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine.

So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad.

And though I’m nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half bad.

Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.

I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne.

I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape.

At a bar called O’Malley’s, where we’ll plan our escape.

Although most of us never resort to reading or taking out personal ads, we do resign ourselves to an uninteresting, lifeless marriage.   But what if we sought to learn something new about our spouse or discovered, again, those things that made you fall in love with him or her in the first place?

This happened for Johnny and me when we changed a few things and forced ourselves out of the monotony of our lives.  We were in the habit of doing things separately and rarely had together time.  About a year ago we became involved in a small group from our church that meets weekly and have made a lot of new friends.  We have taken two classes together.  This helped us see each other in new ways. We realize we don’t have to settle for a dreary marriage if we take the time to discover new things about each other.  Because of that, we love each other deeper and we’ve learned a lot about each other…..things we never knew.

So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place.

I knew her smile in an instant; I knew the curve of her face.

It was my own lovely lady, and she said, “oh, it’s you.”

And we laughed for a moment, and I said, “I never knew”…

That you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.

And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne.

If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.

You’re the love that I’ve looked for, come with me, and escape.

It can be this way for all of us when we realize there is more to learn about the people we love and if we take the time to discover those things.