Home and Family

It Wasn’t Funny Then

Tim and Ellen 20th Anniversary 1993Every Valentine’s Day I cry. Because I miss him. I miss the flowers, the candy, and the killer jewelry.

I also laugh. Because I remember the year of my knee surgery. How I was all alone in our big house on four acres. How I stepped out on our balcony to grill a steak for lunch. How the door locked behind me, leaving me stranded in 40-degree weather.

Had I not been on crutches, I’d have shimmied down to the ground. Had I been smart, I’d have worn more than my pj’s and slippers. Had my frustration not gotten the best of me, I would not have hurled that steak across the yard.

Left with just a fork, I did my best to jimmy the lock. I prayed the UPS truck would pull up our gravel driveway. I swore I’d scream forcing him to walk to the back of our house. I figured any shame would be worth getting back inside.

But nothing worked. So for the next five hours I huddled in the corner and tried to stay warm.

The image is frozen in my mind. Through the French door, I see Tim enter the living room carrying a box of roses. His brows furrow. He cocks his head struggling to grasp why I’m on the balcony in a flood of tears. Why I’m jumping up and down. He opens the door and wood chips from where my fork did its damage, flow down.

It’s all funny now. But it wasn’t then. Just like so many events of our 38 year marriage. What seemed like a tragedy was really not that big of a deal. So much stuff that just wasn’t worth the trouble.DSC02134.JPG

So today, I challenge you to give your Valentine a big ole hug. And make a new vow to see the humor in your story. To not dwell on the little things. And to save your energy for what really matters.

I can promise you, what you’re sweating over today, may just be what you laugh at tomorrow. So why not start the party early.

How Young are You?

I used to want more stuff. I kept a mental list of things to make my home cozier, make me look more stylish, or up my game as I drove down the road.

And I spent hours striving to achieve my goals.

But today, I want more moments. The ones you savor when you wake in the middle of the night. The ones that usually come at no cost. Moments like:

Josie and Papa 1

  • Sneaking in as my babies slept to hear their gentle breathing.
  • Grandkids dressed for bed in their Papa’s T-shirt. Because spending the night was a last minute decision.
  • The sound of the kids trying to be quiet on Christmas morning.
  • Finding my child, in a sea of faces, as their choir sang, “Jesus loves me this I know…”
  • Waking before dawn, stepping over sleeping children, in a tent, at the beach, so Tim and I could watch the sunrise.

So many moments filtered through my fingers. And now I wonder, did I pause enough and soak them in?

Maybe the true blessing of eternity is time. Time to savor the insignificant without thinking it mundane. To sit still until the sun rises fully in the sky. To never rush the moment. To fully appreciate the presence of a God who longs for my attention. Who decorates this world in His glory.

GK Chesterdon describes it beautifully:

Sunset“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again;” and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Maybe, our goal is to learn how to exult in monotony. To never tire of the simple things. To savor a moment until it floods us in His glory, keeping us forever in His infancy.

Hey, Can We Get Some Peace Over Here?

1My brain hurts after weeks of the incessant badgering by both sides of the cultural debate going on in our country. Most of the dialogue I ignored. Especially from my more outspoken friends and followers on social media.

I don’t have answers. And I’m tired of trying to win arguments. Now, what bothers me, is probably not what you think.

I have a large family. And within that family we all share a broad range of views on every subject. And that’s always been the case. And none of the incessant streams of pro’s and con’s on facebook has ever changed any of our minds. But we’re still family, and I love the whole bunch.

But, to me, what has changed most in our country is the intolerant divide that seems to be growing between good people who simply believe different things.

I’ve spent years working under many different types of leadership. And the leaders who stand out the most are the ones who were able to unite a diverse group of people for a common goal.

I was privileged to work under African Americans who, to my amazement, garnered the respect of the most ardent racists on their teams. I also worked under women, who blew me away with their ability to get male chauvinist pigs on board with their ideas.

One of the greatest accomplishments of our great nation has been its ability to unite its people. And great leadership pulls that off in a way that makes everyone feel as though they gain something in the process.

No group of people is ever right all the time. And I understand debate is necessary in order to get all views on the table. But the goal must always be to find the best solution that keeps the people united. And when the unity begins to dissolve, great leadership adjusts and pulls everyone back together.

So this 4th of July, my prayer is for God to rise up leadership devoted to unity. Who will put aside their desire to win the argument, in favor of building a team. Who’s passion will be to settle us down, and give us some peace.


I Did Not!

LightI can hear Tim like it was yesterday. I’d no sooner come through the door after a long days work, and he’d start,

“You did it again Ellen. I came home and you’d left every light on. The house was lit up like a Christmas tree.”

Always convinced he was wrong, my defenses went up. I’d shake my head and walk away. I didn’t leave one single light on, much less all of them.

Surely, Tim exaggerated. Never once did I consider he might be right.

Well, I’m ashamed to admit that he was. After he was gone, I couldn’t believe how many lights I left on. Night after night, for the past three years, if I’d turned it on in the morning, more than likely, it was still on when I came home.

Even after making a concerted effort, I’d still come home to a hall or bathroom light glaring me in the face.

I just couldn’t believe how, for years, my own denial kept me from changing my ways.

We all have those blind spots. And I’d venture to guess, just like Tim with me, someone has been telling you all about yours.

But it’s easy to just walk away. To think our accuser is misguided, or has ulterior motives. Or perhaps we cling to the old, get the log out of your own eye… routine.

Wouldn’t we all be better off if we listened to some of those who know us best? What if we began to value the wisdom they hold about our lives? What if we considered it a treasure to learn where we need to grow?

So I’d like to know, what have your loved ones been telling you about you? Are you leaving a few lights on? What can you not see that they can?

We Were Her Monsters

She told me the story years ago. And to the best of my recollection it went something like this:

IMG_2779She was young, and very much in love. It led to an engagement that eventually fell apart. And in despair, she thought her life was over. Until she heard the gentle whisper of God. He asked her to give Him her life, so she did.

Against her parent’s wishes, she left the security of their Texas home, and started seminary miles away in San Francisco. “If I were catholic,” she told me, “I’d have become a nun.”

Having given up on love, she was surprised to find it there when she fell head over heels for my Uncle Eugene. They married in a small ceremony in August of 1950.


Aunt Jeanne Marie & Uncle Eugene on their wedding day

They graduated and the young couple, not yet fluent in Spanish, left to serve the people of a country village in Venezuela.

In those early years, she longed for nothing more than to have a baby. Month after month led to disappointment. One day, she thought her dream had finally come true. And desiring not to disturb nature, she sat still and busied herself sewing a quilt. Something to cover her future infant. When the sun set, her blanket was done.

But by morning her dream was shattered. A doctor told her it would never happen. Her body didn’t seem to have what it took to carry a child.

She could no longer bear to look at that quilt. So she sold it at a bazaar to raise funds for the village church her husband pastored.

A little old lady bought it as her burial cloth. She called it her, colcha de un día, her quilt of a day. And she cherished it until it fulfilled its purpose.

Aunt Jeanne Marie would never have a baby of her own. But that would not stop her from mothering. And to me and my five brother’s and sisters, she’s as much our mother, as the one who gave us birth.

You see, she came one May in the midst of our violent storm. I was ten that day.

Years later, I tried to get her to admit we were monsters. But she couldn’t bring herself to say the words. I chided her, “Come on Aunt Jeanne Marie, we were out of control.”

Final63c64-2802_1142623879990_1291601_nly she sighed, “Alright Ellen, you were monsters, but you were MY monsters.”

Over the years, I’ve often thought of that quilt. I’ve imagined my aunt meticulously sewing its seams. I’ve imagined her hope, and I’ve imagined her brokenness.

To this day she insists loving us filled that void. That she’s never looked back and wondered, what if?

So this Mother’s Day, I will raise my glass to my other mother, the one I proudly call, my Aunt Jeanne Marie. So indulge me as I honor this woman who taught me how to love. Because that love saw past the monster in me, and it embraced my potential. And it powerfully nudged me along, all the way to adulthood.

Now you tell me, where can you find a better Mother than that??