New Years Eve With a Cute Redhead

JJThis New Year’s Eve most of our adult kids were out for the evening — and no wonder we weren’t asked to join them. After all, it was a great night for a sleepover with four of our Little People. After dinner out with our oldest daughter, Jaime, and her family we took the littles home and tucked them in. JJ, age seven, learned over dinner that his cousin, Wyatt (also seven), would be staying up till midnight with his parents and sisters.

“Granma,” he said, looking up at me with tender greenish eyes that match perfectly with his red hair, “can I stay up late, too?”

What’s a Granma to do? Say yes, of course! The only problem was his two younger sisters were determined they would all sleep in the same room and go to bed at the same time.

“How ’bout if you lay down until your sisters fall asleep, then sneak out quietly to join Granma and Papa in the family room?” I offered.

The tired little girls fell asleep in record time and before long a little boy wearing only underwear under his new Auburn Tigers blanket climbed onto the recliner with Granma. Forget the movie Benny and I were watching. There was an adorable little redhead cuddling with me that wanted to talk. As I sat stroking his hair I couldn’t help but remember similar moments with his daddy. Replace the red hair with blonde, the green-blue eyes with sky blue and erase the freckles and you’ll know why Joshua Junior (JJ) is the perfect name for this little man.

Yet before long I will be looking up to him. Yes, it will happen faster than I think. I learned that from his father. He’s already getting lanky and calling guys “Dude.” It’s just a matter of time before I hear he’s got a crush on a girl or he’s wanting to show me his just-acquired driver’s license.

Getting old is hard in many ways. Sometimes I feel frumpy and unattractive. I can’t keep as many plates spinning as I used to. I can too frequently describe people to a tee but can’t remember their names. I ask Benny to hand me that…um…”metal thing with rounded spokes that I use to stir things fast when I don’t want to get out the mixer” before the word whisk meanders into my brain . Aches and pains linger and sleep evades.

But aging has some amazing perks. I get to play duck, duck goose and Candy Land again. Make bubble baths and convince little ones it’s time to get out when little fingertips get wrinkled. Listen to slowly spoken words of new readers who couldn’t wait to show Granma how smart they are. Get to use the small wooden table and chairs that still bear paint marks and scratches put there by their mommies and daddies. Pray for young hearts to be softened to their need for a Savior.

And snuggle with an underwear clad, freckle faced boy who thinks hanging out with Granma on New Years Eve is cool.

How many years will it be till spending time with friends means less time with me? When will he stop offering to talk about whatever comes to mind and make me work hard to ask just the right question to unlock his thoughts? Will he someday find time at Granma’s something he’s expected to do rather than gets to do?

Until these questions are answered I will just enjoy the gift of having Little People in my life.

I sure am happy I can still remember their names.

Grandkids Christmas 2012

My Little People

Kayla, Wyatt, Annie, Danae, JJ, Elsie, Ellie, Sam, Issac, Josiah and Amelia: I’m looking forward to another year of snuggles. And I’m hoping that Granma’s is a place you’ll always want to come. Even when you’re big, no longer want to take bubble baths with your cousins, and would rather be just about anywhere else but my house on New Years Eve, I want you to know that time with you is pretty much my favorite thing to do.

Well, except for getaways with Papa.


Love this picture that shows how different Alex and Ariel are!

Tonight we are having our next pre-marriage counseling time with Alex and Ariel, who are making the final plans for their October wedding. It’s got me thinking about my own marriage….

Life has seasons. There are supposed to be four, but in Florida we have only two. In fact, we’re about to enter into the season why so many people live to Florida. Sunny days in the mid 70’s with the windows open is my kind of winter!

Contrary to myth, Florida does get cold sometimes. There have been winters that remind me a little of living in Virginia. One time I even had to scrape frost off my windows and there were snow flurries not far from our home!

I admit it — those cold days use to surprise me. After all, who expects to need coats and scarves in Florida? But now I enjoy chilly days that require sweatshirts and allow a warm fire in the fireplace.

Is your marriage a two or four-season relationship? Do you find yourself regularly having to adjust to a new season just when you got comfortable with the former one? Do cold months surprise and discourage you?

  • Just when it seems you figure your spouse out, does it seem like a switch flipped and suddenly you don’t know him/her anymore?
  • Is job, family or financial stress exposing weaknesses in your relationship that you thought had been “fixed” in an earlier season?
  • Are you realizing that you and your spouse are struggling to communicate…and you don’t understand what happened?
  • Is the warmth and romance between you waning after a nice season of playfulness and oneness between you?
  • Does it feel like your relationship jumps around from tender to tense? Gentle to harsh? Patient to irritable?

I would answer yes to most of the above questions. My marriage is like yours and everyone else’s: it changes. The warmth of spring and summer leads to fall and winter coolness. Rain and snow fall. Days spent on the beach give way to crisp, drizzly reminders that the sun won’t always shine.

That’s us 39 1/2 years ago. I still love looking at him.

In six months Benny and I will celebrate 4 decades since the day two 18-year-olds got married. Our relationship, like our locale for 2/3 of those years, use to have four seasons. Honestly, most of that was due to me. Benny is a one-season kind of guy. He is steady; even-tempered (well…unless he’s watching sports); patient; flexible. I’m definitely a multi-season girl with changing moods, preferences and emotions; and I love a plan that doesn’t get changed (well…unless I want it to). But our marriage as pretty much leveled into 2 seasons, just like the Sunshine State where we now live. Benny’s steadiness and my feistiness have meshed into a comfortable spot where high winds have become more gentle breezes. We can also see ahead to storms brewing on the horizon — giving us the opportunity to batten down the communication hatches and do the hard work of preparing our marriage for what’s to come. This is the kind of stuff experience and many years together can produce with God’s help and two people who know they’re flawed and need His empowering grace.

Yes, we’re been married for nearly forty years. And by God’s grace we’ve made progress in becoming more a of two-season couple. But we’re not much different than Alex and Ariel, who are just starting out. People are different. Relationships change. But in the midst of it all God is unchanging.  Whether you experience confusing upheavals in your relationship or you’ve settled into less fluctuating marriage environment — every marriage is hard work and seasons, by definition, change.

Like Alex and Ariel’s, most marriages start with springlike love that is budding with beauty. But like every couple, they will soon discover that springtime doesn’t last all year. Gentle showers will be replaced by pelting rains. Blossoms will fall to the ground, leaving them wondering if new life will come from what appears to be dead.

Hopefully we will be there to remind them that every season has it’s beauty; even the cold ones that surprise us. While I’m much happier with Florida winters than with the ice storms and the stay-in-the-house-for-months lifestyle of Virginia winters, I do miss falling snow and sledding on Shiplett Boulevard with the kids.

God has always been faithful to us.

It true — even the harsh seasons in our marriage have value because God sees to it that the seeds of beauty survive. Whether you’re just starting out like Alex and Ariel or have weathered the seasons for decades like Benny and me, God is faithful. And you and I need Him.

After all, seasons were His idea. He could have made both the world and marriages thrive in steady sameness. But He chose change to be the conduit of growth and beauty.

Looking back on nearly 40 years of marriage I can say that even the worst seasons were worth weathering. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.

Looking For a New Home

Benny and I are starting to look at houses in the area where Redeemer Church was planted early this year. While we live only about thirty minutes away, we want to be in the community to reach out, serve, build relationships and have people into our home.

The home I've come to love (it's not as big as it looks; the right side is a

The home I’ve come to love (it’s not as big as it looks; the right side is a garage…smile.)

The problem is this: we just purchased the house we’re in less than 2 years ago.

It was quite the process. I wanted a yard that happened to have an older house on it. I’m one of those people that loves multi-year remodeling. I like having and managing projects, and making a home “mine” by doing things like knocking out walls to make the space more open and maintaining a wish list of household projects to save for. I love taking something old with character and turning into a cozy, warm place where family and friends feel welcomed. I also have eleven grandchildren and a lab for backyard romping.

Joey reading a book written by my grandchildren and illustrated by my daughter, Julia. A prized recent birthday gift.

My Benny wanted a pretty house that had a decent yard that wouldn’t take too long to mow. While he has graciously endured my “projects” over the years (including adding a cute little apartment onto our Virginia home for Mom) he hoped for a home where the walls would remain in their place and maintenance would be minimal.

When we first saw the home we are in I was unimpressed. It was too “nice.” And it was painted a perky peach color. I walked around inside trying to picture which walls could be removed but I couldn’t find any. In fact, the only thing I could see that needed to be changed involved paint. (Which, by the picture above, you can see was taken care of first thing!) After numerous visits to yards that happened to have houses on them we made a low offer on the pretty house and it was accepted.

Our family room was the first place Redeemer Church met.

Nearly two years later that house has become home. We’ve celebrated holidays and birthdays here. Because we didn’t have walls to remove our big family can actually all sit down to eat because there’s room to add several folding tables. We’ve laughed and prayed and worshiped and made memories in this house that I didn’t like or want. Now I love it. As I sit here in the family room typing there are tears brimming in my eyes.

Getting ready for granddaughter Amelia’s first birthday party.

Have you ever felt a little “tricked” by God? Have you made a decision or entered into a relationship or accepted a job that wouldn’t have been your preference simply because it seemed like the right thing to do? You see, Benny got the pretty house and I got the yard big enough for all eleven grandchildren and the dog — all for what we could afford! And I got to enjoy a few projects that included painting kitchen cabinets and lime sherbet colored walls and the peachy exterior.

Now I actually like the house and don’t want to move.

Family worship times in our family room are among my fondest memories.

In my mind I know God didn’t trick me into moving into a home I didn’t really like only to make me love it just in time to move again. When we purchased this home He knew that a year later providence would lead us to plant a new church, requiring us to leave.

His sovereign plan is always accompanied by His tender care. Remembering how He moved my heart to love this home is comforting. But what is helping me most today is reminding myself that no place will truly be home until He welcomes me to the place He is preparing for me. What my heart is longing for has not been nor will it ever be found in my lifetime.

I’m longing for a place I won’t find in Florida.

I was made for another place. A place from which I will never move. Never pack boxes. Never cry over leaving. Until then, my life is not my own. I must continue to prize His plans over my preferences and fight for joy in the midst of unwanted change. I’m struggling to fully embrace His will and am asking for strength to once again say, “Yes, Lord.” With a good attitude.

Backyard races with Papa.

His past faithfulness assures me of present and future grace. After nearly 20 years in the same Virginia house where our children were mostly raised (not counting those I spent there with my parents when I was younger) I have moved 3 times in the past 12 years. Each time we’ve made memories and I moved reluctantly.

Maybe there’s a yard in Lake Nona, Florida with a house on it just waiting for someone to knock down its walls. Or a pretty one that Benny will like as soon as we walk in. Maybe I’ll live there long enough to come to love it.

Mostly, I want to love God’s will — whatever that is. What joy to know that “soon and very soon” I’ll see the home He is preparing for me. I won’t care about where the walls are or the size of the yard. Anything He is planning for me will be perfect.

Benny and I will be out again soon looking for a new home…but the search is reminding me that it will once again only be a temporary one.

I’m smiling. Just knowing that makes me a little bit more okay above moving.