On Coming Full Circle . . . .

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are of the times when Dad and I stayed up talking all through the night about “life”, family and him fighting as a Marine machine gunner in Korea. He was 23 years old when he was drafted in 1950–having to leave my mom with a just-turned 2 year old little girl named Kathie and another baby (my brother Norm) due to be born in December.

I loved our through-the-night-chats because I learned so much about my dad:

  • Dad and I – November 14, 1970

    He talked about growing up on a farm during the Depression in California; seeing impoverished-looking people move into the state looking for work.

  • Dad talked about how special it was the night I was born–the only girl in the nursery with five baby boys. Dad insisted that the other fathers were “jealous” that he got the only girl!
  • He also talked about fighting in Korea: about how poor the people were who were running for their lives and about many of the young men he served with who, “Didn’t make it home.” 

It was during one of those all night chats that Dad spoke about the future decisions I would face as an adult. One conversation that remained vivid in my mind took place when I was about 11: “Kathie, there will come a time when you will tell me you are in love and want to get married. At that time I will tell you whether I approve or not. If I don’t approve I will tell you only once. If you decide to go ahead and marry anyway, the choice will ultimately be on you. Just remember that you will have to live with the consequences of making that decision for the rest of your life.”

That conversation stayed with me for years. It influenced who I dated, especially who I brought home. When Marshall and I met the attraction was almost instantaneous. When we wanted to get married, we announced our decision rather than asking for permission. Both our families seemed to approve and we started making plans for our wedding.

It was on the night before our wedding that things came full circle. Dad and I had finished work at our family business and were headed over to Marshall’s parents home where the Rehearsal Dinner was going to occur. (The idea was that we would meet at their place, go to the church together for the wedding rehearsal and, when finished, the entire wedding party would go back to enjoy the dinner Marshall’s mother had prepared.)  It was after Dad turned onto Marshall’s parents driveway that he suddenly slammed on the brakes and looked over at me. Because it was in mid-November it was dark, so I couldn’t see him very well. Yet the gentleness of his words washed over me powerfully as he said, “Kathie, your mother and I are very proud of you and of Marshall. You definitely have made the right choice.”

In that moment, the 11 year old girl in me, who so wanted to please her daddy, suddenly felt whole. It was if a soothing balm suddenly made how I saw my future even brighter. I remember little of the rehearsal or the dinner, but I absolutely do remember standing in the beautiful old stone building while holding onto Dad’s strong arm–knowing I had his approval.  I also remember entering the candlelit sanctuary with Dad, and the wonder of seeing the smiling faces of so many family and friends who came to witness Marshall and I say our vows. Most of all I remember the joy of seeing Marshall waiting for me to begin our own new circle.

Fifty years later, having raised three amazing children and continuing to enjoy our 7 grandchildren, I feel as if we have in many ways come full circle. As we celebrate, we do so with gratitude to God for His faithfulness in keeping us together, soothing the rough places with His Presence and making us whole. After sharing five decades of life, the wisdom of Solomon has become increasingly precious to us:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Do you have a “full circle” story you can share? I would love to hear it in the comments below . . .❤️

All to His Glory!

Lean Into Joy ~

Imagine being stuck in a stinking prison cell, suffering filthy conditions, being cut off from family and friends, having little hope of ever seeing home again.  Such was the predicament of the Apostle Paul over two thousand years ago.  Humanly speaking, Paul had every reason to complain and give over to despair.  Yet he chose to lean into joy as he encouraged his friends with a formula to join him in that leaning:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 
 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:4-7)

Life!  It can be heartbreaking, nonsensical, and full of frustration.   Right now I have family and friends facing enormous challenges with their health, the loss of loved ones, financial challenges they never expected to face.  I woke up this morning with news of an earthquake in Canada, a tsunami threatening Hawaii and as I write this, the news is full of a “hybrid storm” named Sandy that appears to be headed to where I live.  I have caught myself repeatedly going over lists in my head, but have no answer to the question, “Have I done enough to prepare?”   I was grateful to be reminded of Paul’s example and call to Christians across two thousand years to lean into joy despite uncertain circumstances:

Rejoice in the One who is near . . . lean into joy as God’s peace transcends today and every tomorrow to come.  Rejoice!

Two posts ago I wrote to you about the difference between loneliness and solitude.  The root of loneliness has to do with a longing for companionship.  The danger in following the path of loneliness is that, as we become increasingly self-focused, hope and light are drained from the mind and heart.   Conversely, solitude is a necessity.  We need time alone to think, to pray, to create, to allow God to speak to our hearts.  Solitude is to be cherished as a precious commodity.

In my last post  I wrote about the value of solitude in prayer, referring to it as solitary leaning.    It is through our solitary leaning that the door is opened to intimacy with God with the help of His Spirit and His Word.  Solitary leaning urges us to, “Know that the Lord is God . . . His faithfulness continues through all generations,” (Psalm 100:3, 5) to “Be still and know” God,  (Psalm 46:10) and to “wait for Him!” (Isaiah 30:18)  Such solitary intimacy is what strengthens and matures faith.

Paul’s ability to lean into joy during one of the toughest seasons in his life, was the fruit of consistent solitary leaning on God.   There is much for Christians to learn from Paul.  We too must lay a foundation of prayerful solitary leaning as the foundation of our faith.  We are also called to live and breathe obedient to our leaning.

 The true test of living a life that reflects Christ, is learning to lean into joy when things don’t go our way.  When our circumstances no longer rule us we are freed to live for, love and serve God with glad hearts.

Paul’s determination to “rejoice in the Lord always” was rooted in the intimate relationship he enjoyed with his Savior.  But such joy was never to be hoarded, instead Paul shared it with community to pass on the blessing he had received through Christ Jesus.  So how can we consistently lean into joy?  Paul gives the answer with clarity and wisdom:

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  (Philippians 4:8, 9)

So what are you waiting for?  Lean!

All to His Glory!