Praise for a Truly Excellent Woman

All of us know about the truly excellent woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31. We hope we can achieve this ideal, but few of us believe deep down it’s possible. For a long time, I thought my sister-in-love, Judy, may come close. While we wait for our new house to be done, we’re living with Judy and her husband, David. I get to see Judy up close and personal, day in and day out. I know in my heart, she exemplifies the truly excellent woman.

Truly Excellent Woman

An Excellent Woman Cares for Her Household

She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
    and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
    and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
    for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
    then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
    rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
    is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
    diligent in homemaking. (Proverbs 31:13-19 MSG)

Judy is one of the rare women I know who sews. Years ago, she made my maternity clothes. Now, she’s sewing a quilt, dust ruffle, pillow shams, and curtain for my king-size bed.

Every morning, after her time with God, Judy prepares a beautiful breakfast for us. Rarely does she pour cereal; instead, we have variety each day. Scrambled eggs and bacon, oatmeal and grapefruit, blueberry pancakes. Every day, something different, and always delicious. The same is true for lunch and dinner.

But it’s not just for us. If someone in Judy’s life group or a neighbor down the street needs a meal because someone is in the hospital or a spouse is away, Judy prepares beautiful meals and delivers them.

She keeps her home spic and span, but without fussing. Somehow, in the day-to-day business, she manages to quietly make the sink and counter sparkle, carry items carelessly strewn throughout the house to their proper place and fold a load or two of laundry. At the same time, she chats and makes me feel loved and welcome, gets her dog to sing happy birthday to me, and prepares dinner.

An Excellent Woman Encourages Others

When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
    and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
    and keeps them all busy and productive. (Proverbs 31:25-26 MSG)

Judy studies God’s Word faithfully. And then, she lives it. She shows compassion and kindness to others without hesitation. A friend needed a car, so Judy and David loaned them theirs for several weeks. Van and I need a place to stay for a month while our house is still under construction. Judy and David gave us the guest room and bathroom. We’ve rearranged, moved things out of cupboards to make room for our stuff, taken over half of the garage, and their response, “Do you need anything else?” Every day for three months, Judy and David went to our house, took pictures of the progress, and emailed the pictures to us. If they thought something was exciting, they called to say, “Look! You’re going to love what they did today!”

She gently gives her thoughts about problems or concerns. If I worry about something or am unsure about anything, Judy offers wise counsel. Her friends call for advice because they know Judy’s words will be kind, thoughtful, and full of grace.

Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
    The woman to be admired and praised
    is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
    Festoon her life with praises! (Proverbs 31:30-31 MSG)

Judy exemplifies a woman to be admired and praised. She lives in the Fear-of-God. God blessed me when He chose her to be my sister-in-love. I hope I follow her truly excellent example.

Tea and Word Tuesday God-sized Dreams Moments of Hope Glimpses of Beauty, Monday Musings, Inspire Me Monday, Ra Ra Linkup, Trekking Thru, Tell His Story, Writer Wednesday, Woman to Woman, Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light

 

 

 

 

Looking Back: God’s Faithful Love

Looking Back with Joy

I’ve spent a lot of time looking forward lately. Retirement adventures. Moving to a new state. But yesterday was my oldest daughter’s fortieth birthday. Usually, I spend her heaven day, September 13, at my favorite place, San Clemente beach and pier. Since we move only 3 weeks before then, I took the day off from packing, packing, packing, and spent the day looking back.

Van went with me. We told our favorite Kimberly stories. The one about the time Van insisted she clean out her car before he helped her put in a new window, only to discover underneath the trash piled in the back seat, grass grew from the floor boards. A bag of rat food, mostly seeds, sprouted.

The time her sister, Erin, doing the dishes, said she needed Kim to finish clearing the table. “Go help your sister,” we cajoled, “We don’t want to see your face until the dishes are done.” And, since she still needed to clear the table, she came back with a paper bag over her face.

Happy stories. We laughed with tears streaming down our cheeks.

Looking Back on God’s Faithfulness

“Despite our sin, God gave us a beautiful gift,” we agreed. We hadn’t planned on getting married when we did. I needed to finish my senior year at UCLA and then do a fifth year to earn my teaching credential. Van wanted to get rid of some debt.

Instead, I got pregnant. Our plans changed in an instant. Not quite sure how to proceed, we talked to our youth pastor. “You’re already married in God’s eyes,” he said. First you need to talk to your parents and let them know. You also need to talk to Dr. Thomas, the senior pastor. Then we’ll talk again. We made an appointment and went to do what Jerry told us.

My walk with Christ was fairly new. I had never spoken with Dr. Thomas, who seemed larger than life to me. But his response to our situation taught me much about the love, forgiveness, and compassion of Christ.

“Go and sin no more.” No intimacy until the marriage vows. “Even though in God’s eyes you’re already married, you demonstrate your commitment to a new beginning.”

“No white dress.” A white dress symbolizes your purity, and an off-white dress will show your forgiven before God.

Use the chapel instead of the main sanctuary. Again, a symbol. Our wedding would be small, still a celebration, but only our family and closest friends. People who supported us and showed how God comes along side at all times.

All of that sounded easy. We only had 3 weeks before the wedding; due to my college schedule, I wanted the ceremony to be at the end of the second week of classes so I’d have all the syllabi but not miss any midterms given during week 3.

But then, Dr. Thomas told Van he had to go in front of the people involved in his two ministries-choir and college group-to publicly confess his sin. I wasn’t a member of the church, so I didn’t have to do this. Just Van.

On Sunday morning, I sat with our college friends, while Van stood in front of them. He told our story and asked for forgiveness. As he finished, Dr. Thomas-the only time I ever saw him in the college Sunday school class-stepped forward. “To all of you, I remind you of Jesus’ Words, ‘Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.’ I never want to hear another word about this. You know the story now. Van and Debbie are forgiven. There will be no gossip. Treat them as the loved and forgiven brother and sister in Christ they are.”

And just like that, we felt the weight of sin and fear disappear. We never heard another word, except congratulations and celebration.

As Van and I spent time looking back on our beginning, we both realized the wisdom of Dr. Thomas’ choices for us. We learned the importance of confessing sin and being truly cleansed from all unrighteousness. Instead of starting our life together under a cloud of whispers, we could face our new life with security in unconditional love.

Looking Back on God’s Love

God is always good. We gained not just one beautiful daughter, but two. Erin arrived 20 months after Kimberly. In five months, we celebrate 41 years of marriage.

I never have to be afraid to go before God. He always welcomes me with open arms. There may be consequences, but forgiveness is complete. I can walk forward with confidence and celebration.

And so can you.

Linking this week with Tea and Word Tuesday God-sized Dreams Moments of Hope Glimpses of Beauty, Monday Musings, Inspire Me Monday, Ra Ra Linkup, Trekking Thru, Tell His Story, Writer Wednesday, Woman to Woman, Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light

 

I Remember Sunday: God’s Special Gift of Memories

Van and I started packing with a vengeance today. Of course, many things hold memories-a special gift from God. They bring joy, mostly. One of the things I tucked into a box was a notebook titled, A Garden of Memories for Momfull of poems and stories I wrote in honor of her seventieth birthday. This week marks six months since Mom went home to Jesus. I miss her every day. And since it’s Sunday, I remember our traditional Sunday afternoon dinners, family time. Precious memories and traditions that often get passed on to future generations.

I Remember Mom Cooking the Sauce

I remember every Sunday, Mom poured the tomatoes into the dull, gray pot, and squished them between her fingers. She crushed basil leaves in the palm of her hand, sprinkling them into the tomatoes. Then she shook a few flakes of crushed red pepper, stirred everything together, and covered the sauce with a lid. By the time we left for church, the rich, red sauce bubbled on the stove. As we walked out the door, Mom turned down the blue gas flame so it simmered gently all morning.

I Remember Joe’s Italian Store

I remember every Sunday, we stopped at Joe’s Italian Store on our way home from church. As soon as we opened the door, the aroma of cheese, lasagna, salami, and pepperoni greeted us. We stood and examined the ten cent candy bars, knowing we could each have one. While we chose our treat, Mom talked to Joe. She chose the pasta we took home for dinner and a loaf of unsliced Italian Twist, covered with sesame seeds. Sometimes we needed a pound of Romano cheese, which Joe grated with his big, shiny machine.

“See you next week,” we told Joe on our way out the door.

I Remember Helping Mom

I remember every Sunday, we walked through the back door. Mom dropped the brown bag from Joe’s on the kitchen counter and changed from her Sunday dress before she came back to the kitchen. She lifted the lid of the simmering sauce pot, and the steam filled the whole kitchen with the smell of the red, bubbling sauce. She tasted the sauce, then added meat balls, sausage, spareribs and braciole. Even though she covered the pot again, the smell of the sauce permeated the house for the rest of the afternoon.

I remember every Sunday, Mom asked me to fill the cheese container. If I found the small rectangle of unrated cheese Joe left on top of the white mountain of finely grated Romano, I popped it into my mouth and savored the sharp tang that spread over my tongue. Mom never made me share that deliciousness with anyone else.

I remember every Sunday, Mom called me into the kitchen to help set the table for dinner. She put the pasta of the week–spaghetti, shells, ziti, bow-ties, stove pipes–on a plate and topped it with the thick, red sauce. I carried each plate to the table. Then she filled a huge platter with the meat, and I added a basket of the sliced Italian twist, the salad, and the cheese container. Daddy, Mom, Keith, Robyn, and I sat in our places around the table and bowed our heads. “God is great; God is good; let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”

I Remember Learning from Mom

I remember every Sunday, Mom let us drink Coca-Cola instead of milk. The fizzy bubbles tickled my tongue, throat and nose as I swallowed the sweet, icy cold, brown liquid. I savored every swallow; there wouldn’t be more until the next Sunday.

I ate my Sunday dinner like Mom–pasta first, then we dipped our bread into the sauce still on our plates. Finally we ate salad and meat. Sometimes I’d enjoy a second piece of bread, dipping the crust into the salad bowl to relish the tart vinegar that soaked into the bread.

I remember every Sunday, Mom moved back into the kitchen. She poured any left over sauce into a glass jar and added any left over meat. “It’s good starter for next week,” she said. Then she’d put the pasta she cooked for our German Shepherd, Schatzi, in her bowl. Finally, Mom took some time to rest in the family room with Daddy while Robyn and I finished the dishes.

I remember every day of the week, Mom made us feel loved and special with her delicious meals and loving care.

Family memories hold joy. They shape us and our favorite traditions get passed on to future generations.

What are traditions you cherish? Memories you hold dear?

Linking this week with God-sized Dreams Moments of Hope Glimpses of Beauty, Monday Musings, Inspire Me Monday, Ra Ra Linkup, Trekking Thru, Tell His Story, Writer Wednesday, Woman to Woman, Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light

Retirement Adventure #4: Enjoy Spontaneity

Easy Spontaneity

The summer continues to speed by, each day full. I looked forward to a Saturday of quiet relaxation. Van wouldn’t be home, the house looked neat and tidy, and a new book beckoned. Little did I know an adventure born in spontaneity awaited.

My daughter, Erin, my son-in-love, Phil, and two oldest grandchildren, Zach and Katie, arrived late Friday night, using our house as a momtel on their way to a reunion of Erin’s high school youth group. Saturday morning everyone expected to leave the house by 9:00, leaving me and my book.

When I woke up at 5:00, Erin sat in the living room, wide awake. She works the graveyard shift and has trouble adjusting her sleeping pattern on her days off. I grabbed a cup of coffee and joined her for a rare chance at some face-time.

“Want to come with us, Mom?” Erin asked.

My heart soared with joy. Join my beautiful daughter and grandkids instead of reading on the couch? Absolutely. They planned on water skiing and rafting; I’d read while I enjoyed some sunshine at Big Bear Lake. I threw towels and my book in a bag, helped make sandwiches, and loaded up my car.

As soon as we arrived, hugs, high-fives, and a little catching up among old friends. Before too long, our family hopped on the speed boat. Erin and two friends got on the huge three-seater raft to get pulled behind the boat. Fun to watch, but not for me I thought. I enjoyed watching Erin laughing while she bounced up and down and the gorgeous scenery provided by God.

When the first group finished and everyone encouraged Zach and Katie to go next, they politely declined. I heard myself volunteer, “I’ll go with you.” But I sighed with relief when they still said no.

Adventurous Spontaneity

Once we headed back to shore, I watched Zach teach one of Erin’s friends how to solve a rubix cube and Katie share her art supplies with a four year old. At sixteen and fourteen, their patience and kindness brought a smile to my heart.

I spent time in the chilly lake chatting with Katie, and laughed when I went bottom over teakettle trying to sit on the floatie. What’s a little sand in my hair when I can hear what Katie looks forward to when she starts high school next month?

Finally ready to settle down with my book, I let myself be talked into riding on the raft instead. “It’ll be fun,” Linda promised. “We won’t go too fast.”

I didn’t let myself think too much. “Yes,” I agreed. And in that moment, another opportunity for God’s goodness arrived. Katie joined me. Linda kept her promise. We didn’t go to fast, and the laughter I shared with Katie is stored in my heart forever. A cherished memory I never expected.

Choosing Spontaneity over My Comfort Zone

God planned beautiful gifts for me over the weekend. But I needed to get out of my comfort zone and accept the gifts He offered. How often do we miss the abundant life God gives because we sit on the sidelines instead of grabbing life with both eyes wide open in gratitude?

What spontaneous adventure waits for you this week? I recommend you say yes when God reaches out with gifts in unexpected ways. I’d love to hear how choosing spontaneity brings unexpected blessings in your life.

Linking this week with: Glimpses of BeautyMonday Musings, Tell His Story, Ra Ra Linkup, Trekking Thru, Woman to Woman, Writer Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Chasing Community, Salt and Light, Faith on Fire

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement Adventure #1: Try New Things

First of all, I despise exercise. I don’t even want to try exercising, even though I know it’s important. And if I truly want to lose the forty pounds that make me look, well, round, I need to do it. When I exercise, I prefer swimming. And a couple of years ago, I faithfully went to the pool at a gym and swam several times a week. Sure enough, I almost made it to my goal weight. Then, my mom got sick, and my routine evaporated. So now I need to lose weight again. I even rejoined my gym. How many times have I gone swimming? Three. Not going to cut the mustard. Now I’m retired, I keep telling myself I can get back into the routine of swimming. But it hasn’t happened yet.

This week, I’m in Prescott Valley, Arizona, staying with my sister and brother-in-love, David and Judy. Judy goes to water aerobics every day. Every. Day. I avoid water aerobics like the plague. I’m not coordinated enough, nor do I have enough rhythm, to keep up with the movements. I’m always behind and/or going the wrong direction. It makes me feel incompetent.

Judy invited me to go with her to water aerobics this morning. “It’s fun; you’ll like it,” she encouraged. Begrudgingly, I agreed to go. Pasted a smile on my face, grabbed a towel and my sunglasses, and followed Judy to the pool. I’m not too happy about how I look in a bathing suit right now, but if I don’t exercise it’s going to get worse, not better.

We got to the pool only a minute before the class start-time. And it was nothing like I expected. Thirty women, most of them my age, wearing colorful bathing suits and sun hats spread out across the length of the pool. Noodles and weights lined the pool edges. Everyone smiled.

Suddenly, someone yelled, “Jumping Jacks!” The class started. The bobbing in the pool became more purposeful. Everyone stayed where they were. No lines of people trying to go the same direction, moving in synchronized patterns. Just clusters of women, chatting and moving in the water. Judy demonstrated any movement I didn’t know. And we continued to chat while we exercised.

I loved it. I’ll join Judy tomorrow. And for the few weeks I’m still in California, I’ll check out the water aerobics class at my gym.

Try It, You May Like It

Today, I only went to this water aerobics class because Judy asked me to. She and David continue to be more than helpful and gracious, and I thought I’d be rude to look down my nose at something she likes to do. So I forced myself to go along.

I’m glad I did. I learned some valuable lessons because I went to water aerobics:
– Try new things: you may enjoy them more than you expected. Even enough to keep doing them.
– Don’t worry about anything but having fun and building relationships. How I looked in my bathing suit didn’t matter at all. Being with people, laughing, exercising were the important things. If I stayed home, I would have missed out on much needed exercise, time with my sister-in-love, and a new experience it turned out I liked.
– Just keep going. There were times when I didn’t know how to do the exercise. Judy always showed me. Since most of me was underwater anyway, no one noticed any mistakes. And I was still moving. Even if I never grasped how to do an exercise, it didn’t take long for before we switched to something different that I could do.

I have choices to make every day. Will I stay only in my comfort zone? Or will I be willing to try new things? I want to move forward. Have fun. I don’t plan on spending all my time sitting on my front porch. If I’m going to enjoy this new season of my life, I must be willing to try new things.

Let the adventure begin!

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