Category Archives: Matrimony and sweet stuff

Twenty-Two Things

We averted disaster today.

Serious disaster.

As we sat at the kitchen table, still in our pajamas and me not even halfway through my first cup of coffee, the kids noticed fog rolling off the barn roof.

Or was it steam?

Wait, No. No, my son said. I think that’s smoke Mom.

And he stepped out on the porch to smell the air and then went running one way while I went running the other to throw on a pair of pants quicker than I ever have in all my life while at the same time dialing the number I’ve answered hundreds of times.

911, where is your emergency?

As I calmly told her my address, phone number, and directions to my house, I pushed my feet into boots and ran out the door, barking clipped directions to the kids still in my eyesight.

My big boy has his Daddy’s cool smarts and he’d hit the breaker to the barn before I had even hit the driveway, and he walked straight into the smoke to find the source and had the melting and burning tote that’d served as a home for a wee chick drug out to the middle of the driveway where it went up in flames and continued to melt blue plastic ooze onto the gravel while my hands started to tremble and my voice cracked on the line.

It seems that the chick we’d had bedded down in the cozy warm tote had jumped out during the night to visit with the rest of the party animals (hens and turkeys and pullets oh my) who were all enjoying the soft farmy smells of the hay barn for the past two nights while we finish getting their winter pen ready.

When wee chick (after today he carries the name of Fireball) jumped out of bed, he must’ve knocked the heat lamp loose and down into his tote, which melted plastic and scorched hay in the process.

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My barn is full of a winter’s worth of hay, and as I hung up with Dispatch and listened to the approaching sirens, it took me less than two seconds to imagine how quickly that structure could go from the rolling smoke we’d found to being fully engulfed. How quickly that would put my surrounding woods at risk. Our precious neighborhood. Our cherished livestock.

So today I’m thankful for many things.

For my boy’s quick mind and quick actions. For our firefighters who were here within five minutes and even though the danger had passed, they came anyway and they made sure my barn and our neighborhood was safe. For being late starters. Had we been engrossed in school instead of milling into the morning, we would have missed the smoke altogether, which means we would’ve missed the flames.

Most of all though, I’m thankful for the lesson we learned today. We will never …ever…EVVVVER…put a heat lamp in the hay barn again. E.v.e.r.

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It was clamped up high enough but it got knocked down by a weird accident and it could’ve quickly caused tragedy. So we learned.

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I learned.

And tonight, on the eve of my twenty-second wedding anniversary, I realize that I’ve learned some lessons about marriage too. Some little lessons, some MAJOR lessons. I’ve learned what works, what doesn’t, and how to make things flow, just like I’ve learned how to do things here on the farm.

Some have been scary lessons, and there have been near-losses, and some have been not quite so dramatic. All of them though, have been important.

Twenty-Two Things I’ve Learned in Twenty-Two Years of Marriage

  1. Be stubborn. There have been times in our marriage when the only thing that has kept us together is our scrappy stubbornness to not let go. Marriage is worth fighting for and sometimes you have to muster up every once of stubborn you have to save your marriage and make it grow. After becoming a Christian, I learned that the big word for this is perseverance, but round here we just call it being stubborn. In a good way. Be stubborn. Don’t give up.
  2. Forgive. Lavishly. My husband is so much better at this than I am, but I’ve learned from him. Love means you will get your feelz hurt sometimes. Talk it out, be direct, work it through, forgive. You were forgiven much. Forgive much.
  3. Give grace. When I set aside my ego and my demands and extend the grace to my spouse that was poured out on me, he is better able to see our love unclouded and pure and be the man God made him to be. And the same goes for me. It really does go back to treating others how we’d want to be treated. Don’t ever tolerate abuse, but extend grace whenever you can.
  4. Make a home. Wherever you are, make a home for the two of you. Make him want to be home with your soft and curvy self and just like the Don Williams song,  make him feel like a king and not a regular Joe. Clutter bugs or neat freaks, make that place YOURS. Together yours. It’s your haven and without a haven the world will be cold. Make your home and even if it’s a little crazy, keep that craziness warm and cozy and his and yours and help keep him comfortable and happy to come home.
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  5. But don’t strive for a perfect home. . Perfect is a falsehood and striving for it will exhaust you and strain your marriage. Make your imperfectness perfect for you and save the real perfect for when we get to Heaven.
  6. Keep the Balance. You might have to say no to some things. Heck you might have to say no to a LOT of things to keep the balance. You are the yang to his ying and he’s the leather to your lace and as my kids tell me, my husband is the calm to my crazy or the whoah to my go. Keeping the balance is a constant pursuit and sometimes a true act in assertiveness and patience. I’ve lost time with friends, we’ve said no to great opportunities, we are constantly learning how to better calendar and communicate, and sometimes it’s an out and out battle to maintain it all in a non-crazy way. Schedules, school, time with kids, time as a family, housework, finances, friends, church service, health issues, work issues, chores, rest…it can seriously be a job trying to keep it balanced. Be diligent. The train runs best when the tracks are balanced. This changes with each season so stay aware. Find your balance and keep it.
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  7. Year ten: Finally feels like you might be getting the hang of marriage.
  8. Year fifteen: Feels like you’re off to a good start at doing a good job at marriage.
  9. Year twenty: Feels like you just finished a 100-mile warm-up marathon and you’re sweaty and smiling and standing at the starting line excited to run the next leg of the race.Mr. and Mrs. Rankin

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  10. Love is a choice not a feeling. Being married means there will be days when you might look at your spouse and wonder what you were thinking all those years ago. Listen, if you have a faithful spouse who has loved you for years and hasn’t given up on you, you have a gift and you have a treasure and a you have a choice to make. Don’t you dare fall into the way of thinking that our world teaches, this fickleness in marriage, this feeling of wanting to flee when the butterflies migrate. Love is a choice. Make the decision and the feelings will follow. Choose faithfulness. Choose dedication. Choose to love your spouse.
  11. Get a room. Yep. Something happens you leave your home with your spouse, especially when said home is full of kids. A couple’s weekend away clears the head and refreshes the heart. Try to take one at least once a year. We honor our anniversary this way. I know it’s hard. Do what you can to make it happen. But don’t make your expectations too lofty. A tent in the back of his pick up truck. Trade babysitting with another mama. Enlist Grandma. Your bff. A camper out in the driveway. A local motel. However you can do this, make it a habit, set any arguments aside, and protect this time with flexibility but the ferocity of a mama bear.back roads
  12. Get a room for two nights, not one. I know it sounds outrageous. But the first 24 hours is a working-it-out, calming-the-mind, exhale time. One day isn’t even enough relax to let you unpack your makeup bag. Especially if you have an 11 a.m. check-out. Save your coupon money, get a good babysitter from church, work on this all year…take TWO nights off. Trust me.
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  13. Squeeze in dates when you can. I know this isn’t always an option. But when my third baby turned ten-months old, I realized that I hadn’t had any quiet conversation with my husband since our two-day hospital stay when she was born! We hired a sweet teen from church and we budgeted a date every single week. After a year we realized we could probably drop back to every other week. Then it went to once a month. Then every couple of months. Now that we have teens, we’re back up to every week because it’s a little bit like toddlers in the house but opposite. We need time away from all the big, busy ears.Do what works. What is good for one couple may be burdensome for another. But do make sure to set some time apart regularly to focus on being alone and don’t you dare let ANYONE make you feel guilty for it. My husband said it best when I once hinted at the cost of one of our dates, It’s an investment in our marriage.
  14. Listen. Really listen to your spouse. You may truly be the only one who does. If you find that your mind is too busy to listen to your spouse, it’s time to clear some space. Your marriage is your ministry. Run your ministry well.
  15. Do what your spouse loves. This one is so, so easy, and so, so hard. Just do what they love. In the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the car, in their love language…find out what they love and do that.
  16. Your spouse should be your best friend on earth. I’ve lived marriage otherwise, and trust me, not being best friends with my husband was living a different marriage than what God had for us. It took us a long time and a long road for us to be best friends, but once we walked to it, gasping and panting, we found our stride. Don’t give up if it isn’t the case for you. If there are two of you willing to do marriage like God planned, you’ll find your stride. Make your spouse your best earthly friend.
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  17. But your husband isn’t your girlfriend.  I only have a small circle of girlfriends so for most things I lean on my husband. One thing is clear though. He ain’t a girlfren, girlfren and it’d be unfair of me to put that expectation on him. If I want him to act like a man, I treat him like a man not like one of my women friends.Let him dry your tears and strongly hug you tight and pray with you when you’re vulnerable or tired and manly pat your behind and expertly fix your car when things are falling apart, but don’t be upset when he isn’t excited to stay up late crying with you over Beaches and Haagen Daas on a PMS night. Cut him loose from that wish list sister. It isn’t fair to expect him to be like you, he’s NOT like you. And he’s not like your girlfriends either. I know for me, in my marriage, one of the 22 things I’ve learned…is let.him.be.a.man. I expected for TOO LONG that he fulfill ALL my friendship needs.

    God didn’t call our men to be our women friends. I wish we all had perfect women friends. You might, I might, we all might. But if we don’t, don’t try to make your man fill that role. He has a role as your MAN. Let him be that.

  18. Don’t keep close friends with the opposite sex. I might take flak for this one but I strongly believe keeping close friends of the opposite sex can cast a shadow of doubt on the trust between you and your spouse and impede the integrity of marriage. I’m not talking about casual friendships with co-workers, fellow parents, and church folks. I’m referring to close, confidant-type friendships. I’m talking bff style friendships.  I’ve seen the detriment in my marriage, friends’ marriages, and marriage in our society in general. If  you do have a close friend of the opposite sex, please make sure your spouse is fully involved and included and knows the dynamics well. Your main squeeze should always be your spouse.  Keep your boundaries when it comes to friends of the opposite sex and always make sure that you are sending a strong message of marriage. To your friends and to your spouse.
  19. Make God your best, best friend. My dear friend Ms. Kreta will tell you that Jesus is the cake, her husband was the frosting. It wasn’t until I started walking with the Lord and doing marriage HIS way that the fight became focused. You may not be there yet, that’s okay. It took me a long time too, and my husband even longer. But once we began to realize how sweet God’s way of marriage is, we became a cord of three that was no longer easily broken. If you’re there already, praise Him. It is the greatest treasure and friend that your marriage -and your soul- will ever possess.
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  20. Don’t flirt. It’s raises doubts and it’s just not fair. One of the most precious things I’ve ever seen and a treasure I hold close is my husband’s refusal to succumb to flirtatious advances from other women over the years. Because he doesn’t flirt, I don’t doubt him. Extrovert or not, flirting plants seeds of doubt. Unless it’s with your spouse, just don’t do it.
  21. Keep private things private. You may come from a close family. You may be an open book. There are things that are whispered in the dark that belong to the heart of your spouse and should never be repeated to another soul. You are building a life together, a history, a heritage, a TRUST. Don’t repeat what is confided. Even if it’s small. The two of you are literally an island, and unless you have permission, keep the private, intimate, personal stuff between you.
  22. Make eye contact. This one is hard. You may or may not have this skill down. I hope for you that you do. I don’t. I either stare with a furrowed brow and look angry or I avert in an uncomfortable need to make distance. I have to work at the in-between. Make eye contact when you speak to your spouse and notice how it bumps up the level of intimacy in your conversation. When you say something that you really want to get through, look into your spouse’s eyes. Practice if it’s uncomfortable. Trust me. Your eyes get your point across more than your words ever will. Let your guard down with your spouse and allow yourself to make uninhibited eye contact.
    JULY 2014 011Because I’ve never written a list like this and probably never will again, I’ll throw in two more very important ones.
  23. Hold hands. It seems small but it’s not. I remember during a particularly difficult time in our marriage, a co-worker saw us at the store. He said later that what he noticed about my husband and I was that we were holding hands. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d held hands with his wife. They were three decades into marriage. I hope he holds his wife’s hand more often now.In twenty-two years, it’s one small thing that I’ve realized makes all the difference. When it’s bumpy, holding hands secures the ride. When it’s time to come before the throne in prayer, holding hands unites. When it’s sad, holding hands comforts. When it’s happy, holding hands celebrates. When it’s quiet, holding hands is connection. When it’s intimate, holding hands confirms. When it’s angry, holding hands is a sign of peace.

    I know my husband’s hands better than I know my own. They are comfort and they are joy and they are callused and they are soft and they are strong and they are peace and they are love. Hold your spouse’s hand every chance you get and don’t ever stop.
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    Lastly but most importantly I believe:

  24. Pray together. Often. Even if it’s awkward. Do it. There is nothing, no thing, that has brought my husband and I closer than praying together. We prayed together before we even knew who we were praying to, and then once we did, we awkwardly bumbled our way into regular and natural conversation with the one who made us and designed marriage. Find a great couples devotional, get with a prayer group, or just clasp hands and pray. You will soon realize that the answer to most every problem that comes your way is to pray and seek God’s will and guidance in all things and that when you face them together with a bowed heart, you’ll face them stronger than you could ever have imagined.10923198_10204094321099220_7355868044455328324_n

We’ve seen dark times and we’ve seen bright times and we’ve done half a marriage without the Lord, and half a marriage with Him, and I only hope that we’ll have another twenty-two years and then another twenty-two after that.

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DSC_0636 (2)So there’s my list for this day and this year and maybe it will bless you as you travel and grow and learn with your beloved.

I’ll have to add to my list next year.

Because I’ll never quit learning.

And I’ll never ever, ever leave the heat lamp in the barn again either.
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 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine…Song of Solomon 6:3

All These Years

 All these years that I’ve been holding you…

The morning whisper before the routine of the day and it’s me and it’s him and it’s quiet before kids louden the house and it’s all these years and all that holding…

All these years.

A day can seem like a year and one year looks like the one before it and pretty soon all the years mix into one big day…and the messes and the money and the love and the fights and the hugs and the tears and the critters and the kids and the good and the not-always-good…they all blend up together in a sweet day-swirl of years that soften as they go, and pretty soon it’s been over twenty now that you’ve been holding each other in the dark and in the quiet.

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How did we get to all these years when I thought we were still just starting?

How did the babies go on and grow and get to be a mini-version of the adults they’re turning into?

And how did we somehow get all grown up when we still have so much work to do on growing up?

All these years…

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The trail we boondock bumps and jars and I hop off the four-wheeler while he works out the high-center and I walk with the fireweed and my hands touch the tall grass and there…right there…is where I’d have him put the house we’ll stay in for all the years that are yet to come.

It rolls like a meadow from back home, but it’s rugged like a spruce from this home, and my eyes water because I’d really love to buy this land and standing here in the fireweed, I’m standing at my to-be kitchen sink and looking out my to-be big window and right there my little horses are grazing in their to-be pasture while my children do what farm children do, they hunt and run and yell and create and care for critters here on their to-be homestead where they’ll bring their to-be children back to spend sunny days and wrap their dirty play-stained fingers around mine someday.

I look at the old cottonwood that reaches its emerald clumps of leaves high in years-long praise. How old does a tree have to be to reach that size?

All those years it stood there.

Right there.

I want our house to be right here. I want to look out over that meadow every day and I want this cottonwood to be here with us. Right here is where I want our house to be.

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He usually has to think things over for a good long time. He’s like that and it’s good.

But I ask him if we can’t pray on this one because sometimes God decides to move faster than we do and

God? Can this be one of those times because all these years are going by faster than I thought they would.

I want Him to move faster than smart husbands who mull long so we clasp hands and I try not to cry because sometimes God moves even slower than husbands who take time, and I’ve learned while that’s hard, it’s a good thing too.

But in the slowness when will we finally grow into who we are?

When do we finally have it together?

When do we finally look out over the meadow and feel like there’s peace?

When do we quit feeling like a wreck, like a mess, like there is so.much.more growing up to do?

When do we finally feel like we’re Home?

It’s hard to wait and God, can’t You just make it happen fast?

But then today I remember.

This time of year marks the time of year I said yes to Jesus.

Twelve now since I said yes, I’ll follow and I’ll grow up into the girl you had in mind when you made me. Yes. I will follow.

In all my waiting to finally be there…I forget that it’s not just twelve days.

I’m growing up.

It might be slow, but I’m closer to Home now than I was then and even when I’m high-centered, I’m still on the trail.

All these years…

I’ve been holding you…

When I reach my hands up in years-old praise and stand firm in this good soil He gives…

…or when I lay broken like the spruce that snapped in the massive wind storm years back and just hasn’t quite gathered the strength yet to stand…

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…or when my heart is hardened like the burl, that huge one that forms around a mar in the design and grows bigger until it’s finally chopped off and used for good…

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…or when I sit quiet and vibrant like the wildflowers that show up briefly and grace her surroundings with beauty…

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…all these years He’s been holding me.

I’m growing.

You…me…we’re getting there.

In the quiet…in the dark…in the good…in the bad…

All these kids and all these critters and all these fears and all these tears and all these flaws and all this growing and all these years…

We put an offer on the land today.

We might get it or we might not.

We might have to wait for another meadow or we might have to make one right where we are.

But today, this day of meadows and dreams and hopes and prayers I know this: all these years…

…He’s been holding.

He’s been holding.

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Twenty-Three Aprils Ago

And just like that….

I looked at the calendar this morning and the date melted me a little.

It was 23 years ago today that I went on my very first date with a new friend who was happy-go-lucky, generous, the life of the party, a sweet boy who loved his mama, and the kindest man I ever met.

Pals was all we were.

Hangin out.

Dancing.

Drinking Bell Ringers.

He made sure I got home safely every time.

And when he asked me out on a DATE date, I laughed in his face. And I then went on to tell him how he was so not my type and I would never marry someone like him.

But I went on the date anyway because deep down I knew I WOULD marry someone like him.

He’s still sweet and so generous and he adores his mama.

He’s given me four children that fill this house he chose so carefully for us.

He endures this crazy little farm and all its crazy little critters.

He’s a hard worker and a family man to the fiber.

He prays for me daily.

He’s still my best pal and the kindest person I know.

And everyday, he still makes me laugh.

Twenty-three years…

I thought we were still just kids.

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I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine…Song of Songs 6:3

Still Do

It was 7,300 hours ago when they stood before God and they stood before their families and they stood before their friends… And they said I Do.

They were young and they mostly didn’t know what they were doing but he thought she was beautiful and he knew how to make her laugh… And when they were together they had fun.

Twenty years later, he still does… …and they still do.

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Who are you loving long today? How many hours have you had with them? What will you do with the next hour you have with them?

Beard {Part Two}

The radiation took his cancer.

His beard too. Most of it anyways. One side smiles smooth.

It didn’t take his heart though.

Or his faith. That grew stronger.

Oh I might miss the beard some, that wooly soft rustle that loved to caress us with each of his big encompassing hugs, but the trade-off makes it a happy thing gone by … smiled at like a distant memory.

He came home last night grinning.

He ran my finger over the area.

“Feel that? It’s coming back!”

Sure enough, there it was. One side gruff, scratchy…one side soft.

Just like him.

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Read {Part One} Beard, also a 100-Word challenge!

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The Many {{Green}} Faces of Radiation Treatment

Day 30 of 33:

 

I was horrified when he came out of his appointment this morning with a GREEN ear!

 

We’d been warned that this week was going to be rough on the surface of his face. Very targeted beams. Think, burning an ant with a magnifying glass kind of targeted.

 

But GREEN SKIN?

 

“What did they DO to you?” I gasped when he came out.

 

“A new tattoo, whaddya think?”  He smiles.

 

I gasped again, looking closer and seeing the BULLSEYE on his face, aghast that he’d have to live with a target tattooed on the side of his head for the rest of his life.

 

{{Seems as though wifey overreacted a little.}}

 

The green is Sharpie marker, the bullseye is where they drew to get the beam targeted just right, the tattoo is the itty bitty dot inside, which may, or may not fade, but even if it doesn’t, will most likely not even be visible.

 

Phew.

 

No green ears or face tattoos today.Unless he goes ahead with the sweet idea he conjured up for our little monster loving six year-old…a big dragon coming up out of the neckline of his shirt.

 

{{Badass husband…only THREE left}}

 

Gettum honey.

 

We love you and your green face.

 

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Thirty-Five Cents and a Tank Full of Gas

I pulled out of work onto the highway and instead of turning right toward home, I turned left, toward North.

He was North.

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And while it was only a Tuesday, and even though I’d just seen him on Sunday… and even though I had to work the next day…and even though I didn’t have anything with me but the clothes on my back, a quarter tank of gas and thirty-five cents in my pocket…I turned left anyway.

I pointed my little car North and I went to where he was. To where he was working hard, pounding pick axes and hefting dirt and swinging shovels and digging ditches…

…and thinking of me.Scan3

But when I got there an hour and a half later, he wasn’t there.

My knock was quiet on his motel room door and even though I’d never been there, the gas station attendant’s directions brought me right to it and once I was in the parking lot I knew exactly which room I’d find him in. After all, it was the one I’d been sending sweet cards and drawings and pictures to for over six months. His home away from home, his abode where he’d spend hours on the phone with me, chatting into the night, me listening to the stories about his work crew, their roughneck lives and his foreign part of the state I’d never once seen.

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I knocked again and only after a third time knocking did an elderly man answer the door, his smile big from around the corner of the white dingey steel.

I was surprised at this face that was not my young man’s face, my happy-go-lucky, smiling man’s baby face. This wasn’t the face of my guy who worked so hard all week on the gas pipeline in the wilds of northern Michigan, earning the paychecks that brought him back to me and all of our dancing fun on the weekends.

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No, the elderly, sinewy man who answered the door stretched his goofy smile even wider when he got full sight of me on the step to his motel room.

“Well hey Cassy, you’re lookin for Matt ain’tcha?” And he opened the door wide.

I’d been pretty sure I had the wrong room, but once he said my name, I realized this was the roommate I’d heard all about. This was the man my man spent his weeks with, ate his dinners with, slept in the same room with each night and drove to the same worksite with each morning.

“Smitty! Hey, good to meet you! Is Matt here? I thought I’d come have dinner with him.”

Somehow, that goofy smile got even bigger still and the little man of muscle leaned against the door.

“Well no. He ain’t here. Actually, he left about an hour ago. He headed downstate.”

What?!

In all our dating months, he’d never come home mid-week. Ever. He was a leave for work as late as he could Sunday night and come home the second he got off work on Friday kinda guy. The schedule was always the same.

Always.

A Tuesday trip home? What for?

Smitty must’ve read my thoughts.

“The boss had an errand downstate. Needed a tool. Matt jumped in the truck with him. Said he was gonna tag along. See his gal, take her out to dinner maybe. He was headin down to see you darlin.”

My heart leapt.

Isn’t it the unexpected…the out of the ordinary…the off the pattern times…aren’t those the times we really learn how a person feels about us? Aren’t those the times when we really learn who we are?

A midweek trip.

To see me.

He must really love me as much as he says he does.

But then my heart sank too.

Because there, in the pocket of my little blue and white striped short sleeved dress, I held all my worldly treasure.

A whopping thirty-five cents. And I’d barely breezed into this run down motel on the fumes from the itty bitty gas tank of my itty bitty Chevy Spectrum.

How was I going to get back home? There was no way I could get back downstate with no gas and no money. And how was I going to see my guy that I’d traveled so far to surprise?

Again, Smitty must’ve read my thoughts.

“Let’s see if we can’t get those boys on the mobile. Boss keeps one in his truck.”

Today, my trip could’ve been texted, tweeted, and on Facebook before I’d even left. Then, though, the smart phones consisted of a suitcase crammed full of spiral cords that led to a spy movie-looking device that sometimes worked but most of the time didn’t.

This time it did.

And after Smitty got the boss on the phone and told him he had Matt’s little gal here at the motel, he handed the phone to me and said “Here’s your boy.”

“Hiiiii honeyyyy….” I sounded like a junior high girl to him I’m sure. “Surpriiise?”

I was so sheepish. Here he was, in the truck with his boss, and here I was, in his motel room with his sweet old roommate. How in the world, the one and only time I decide to surprise him with a visit,  -the most unexpected thing in all the world for this nice and steady predictable guy-  how did he pick that day to morph into Don Juan surprise lover and swoop downstate to surprise me?!

I was the unpredictable one. I was the one who did things spontaneously and without thinking and threw surprise parties and blurted things on impulse and evidently drove two hours on a whim to see my sweetheart.

He was the one who was steady.

mackinaw

But now, today, here he went and blew all that to the wind and swooped me off my feet the moment I heard of his rash romanticism, – that somehow coincidentally, collided with mine- his careless abandon to his workweek schedule and that was the kind of stuff in movies so I knew to be quiet and just let him have his handsome hero moment and say just the right words that would top off the frosting in my heart and push me right on over to a knee buckling swoon.

“Cassandra how much money do you have?” The first words out of his mouth came firm and knowing and his voice sounded a bit like I imagined he’d sound if he were addressing his four year-old niece. How did he know?

The record on the romantic movie music in my mind scratched to a halt abruptly and my voice got even meeker than it was when I’d first held the phone, a mumble really, and I muttered into the receiver.

“Thirty-five cents.”

The silence was heavy and the toddler in me fiddled with the telephone cord and imagined I’d just gotten caught pilfering cookies out of the cookie jar and my face turned a little red and tears sprang into eyes that’d just been sparkling with thrill and now I was embarrassed.

“Put Smitty back on the phone.” And that was the end of our conversation.

As I stood there awkwardly, still in the doorway to a motel room that was neat and tidy but smelled like two men and their work boots lived there, I listened to one side of a man-talk between Smitty and my man, and I was sure it had just then been decided that his girl had proven herself too irresponsible and reckless for a hard-working, task minded young fellow such as himself.

“Alright buddy, we’ll see ya in a bit”, I heard Smitty say and then he replaced the heavy beige phone receiver to its cradle and turned toward me, his white smile sparkling still.

“C’mon darlin, your boy wants me to get you set up in a room. Didja eat yet? How about a Coke? Here lemme grab ya a Coke.”

And Smitty pulled a pocketful of change out of his weathered blue jeans right on into his weathered hand, a hand rough and missing fingers and tender as he fished a soda out of the vending machine on the sidewalk and placed it gentle and friendly right into my hand.

Within three minutes Smitty had me all set up and had gone back to his room, giving me my space and I sat on the edge of the bed in my very own motel room, alone in a town I’d never been to before, freshened by a drink of cold Coca Cola, knowing my guy was on his way back to me just as soon as he and the boss finished their errand downstate. It would be a long wait, and a lonely wait, but he would be back for me soon.

My man had taken care of things, and in his quiet, direct, and steadfast way, without saying much at all, he’d taken in the situation and got to doing what needed being done.

And as soon as he got back, he filled my car up with gas, my pocket up with some money and he took me out to dinner.chevy

And I never did spend my thirty-five cents.

Some twenty-two or so years later, twenty years of marriage, a cross-continent move, four children, a strong and growing Christ-following faith and half a lifetime built high onto the foundation of that long-ago spontaneous trip, I laugh as I find myself, once again, going to where he is.

He doesn’t know I’m coming this time either.

He won’t be surprising me at the same time I’m surprising him though, because I’m not meeting him at a motel, but at an appointment he can’t miss. It’s his radiation appointment, his daily 9:15 morning session with a narrow beam of poison that is slowly killing off the cancer cells that dwell near his ear, right on the side of his face.

Today’s the 22nd of 33 sessions and the side effects are starting to wear him down. He’s tired and he’s sore and eating tears him up so he doesn’t and never did I think my strong robust man who still shovels but for fun now would be in danger of losing weight. But poison in your body takes an appetite away and sores in a throat kill the taste and he just can’t eat.

It hurts badly.

But he knew it would.

Back then, when they told him the options, he knew the risks, but in his quiet, direct, and steadfast way, he didn’t say much at all, just took the situation in and got down to doing what needed to be done.

And when we find ourselves alone in a town we’ve never been to before, -a strange new world with paths we’ve never walked- not much in our pocket except a handful of faith held in our worn and weathered hands, the One who takes care of things lets us know we’re not sitting alone. He’s coming back.

He’ll be here.

And He is.

And isn’t it the unexpected…the out of the ordinary…the off the pattern times…aren’t those the times we really learn how a person feels about us? Aren’t those the times when we really learn who we are?

When the prayers keep coming…when the love keeps showing up…when in quiet moments I feel held and sure…

He must really love us as much as he says He does.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:35-39

The unexpected surprise of sitting here on this new path in this new town has shown me how loved we are by our people.

By one another.

By our Lord.

And halfway to surprising him at his appointment this morning, I realize I’ve left my purse back home with the sleeping children and their watchful grandmother.

His smile is big when he pulls in and sees me there waiting and I tell him, not so embarrassed this time though.

“It seems I’m still that little girl who came to surprise you and only had thirty-five cents in her pocket. I forgot my purse can you believe that?”

“How much money have you got this time?” He smiles as I bring out the change in my pocket.

We count it up. Forty-five cents.

“More than twenty years later and only ten cents more?” He laughs.

And when we’re done with his appointment he fills my heart with some chat and my pocket with some money.

“Boy. I musta sure been cute back then, showing up with an empty gas tank and thirty-five cents.” I pocket the traveling money he slides across the console and hop out of his truck.

“Yeah. You’re pretty cute now though too.” Scan21

I kiss my big strong man, my baby faced man who’s starting to get sores from the three weeks of beams aimed at his handsome and happy face.

But he’s not saying much. He’s just doing what needs to be done.

And He’s trusting the One who loves him even more than I do.

And whether now, or someday far in the future, we’ll both leave work.

And we’ll turn North.

On that day, He won’t surprise us by being gone.

It may be a long wait but it won’t be a lonely wait.

On that day we’ll leave this foreign land and we’ll turn toward where He is.

On that day…

…we’ll head home.

*

Standing on this mountaintop

Looking just how far we’ve come

Knowing that for every step

You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground

Seeing just how much You’ve done

Knowing every victory

Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way

But with joy our hearts can say

Yes, our hearts can say…

Never once did we ever walk alone

Never once did You leave us on our own

You are faithful, God, You are faithful

 

{{Never Once, Matt Redman}}

*

The name of the LORD is a strong tower… ~Proverbs 18:10