Recently I traveled to Colorado to see my niece Coryann graduate from Colorado Mesa University. It was a very proud day for our family. My sister invited me to ride with her and her dear husband and hey, why don’t we make a road trip out of it? Immediately I started hearing “Holiday Rooooooad” in my head with visions of Aunt Edna strapped to the top of the car along with a weird visit with cousin Eddy. Instead of cousin Eddy we decided to visit our more metropolitan cousins Tod and Sid. Tod lives in Las Vegas and Sid in St. George, Utah.  Growing up we were all very close but as time passed we would see each other less and less. Miles separate us but our hearts are still knit.

So off we went on the road playing the “license plate game” and eating way too much of that fruit and nut mix from Costco. Tod welcomed us with open arms and cooked us a scrumptious meal as he is a master in the kitchen. We laughed and reminisced till quite late. Heading off the next day we arrived at Sid’s home in St. George. After dinner at a gourmet pizza restaurant and lots of great conversation walking down memory lane with Sid and his beautiful sweet wife Kris, Sid told us he had a surprise for us. He was putting us up for the night in a 4 star resort, his treat.  When I looked it up it actually had 4.2 stars, so there!  Our bungalow was next to Karl Malone’s of the Utah Jazz professional basketball team.  If you know me my Lucy Ricardo brain was scheming ways to get to meet Mr. Malone. Would I lay in wait to see if there was movement? As not to disgrace my generous cousin I tucked those plans in my pocket for another day. Besides, I found out Karl was a friend of my cousins so if I was desperate for a meet and greet I am sure he could set one up.

The resort was very serene and quite beautiful.  As we walked in to our spacious digs the three of us were speechless. It was above and beyond. We profusely thanked my cousin and said our goodbyes promising not to let so much time pass between visits. The photo above is what we saw from the front door. Just past that gate was a rose garden to rival the White House! Several colors and types of roses were everywhere. There were birds in the tree over the gate and they greeted us with lovely chirping as we came and went.

There were 2 bedrooms with luxurious 4 poster beds. As I walked in to my room I saw it; the bathroom which was as big as my bedroom at home. People, I tell you I was mesmerized. Standing in that marble wonder I looked up to see a gigantic sky light . What got my attention most was the thing of beauty beckoning me forth. The huge marble bathtub spa thingy with the side jets exactly like a jacuzzi was calling my name.  The tub came with amenities too. There was a place to put a book should you be so inclined to read in the tub and a place to rest your weary head. Included in this lovely spa masquerading as a bathroom were several free trial size spa products to try after your soak. I couldn’t get in there soon enough!

So I told my sister I was turning in for the night, texted my husband the same since he was still at home in San Diego and looked forward to a nice long relaxing soak with water jets and bath salts and a good book. I forgot to mention the plush terrycloth robe and slippers provided to ease our weary traveling bodies. And the towels! Mercy! I started running the water and sprinkled in the sweet smelling bath salts. Sitting in that wonderfulness of relaxation I drifted off to wherever Calgon would have taken me.  The bath salts were invigorating (I would regret later). I felt relaxed and pampered. My skin started turning wrinkly, looking quite like a prune. It was time to get out and head to that very comfortable bed waiting for me. Get up. Come on, get up. Ahhhh…get up. Hmmmm. I could not get up. I could not get up! What the heck? Recently having my knee replaced had not even entered my mind. I was so enticed by the tub that my brain decided not to remind me my right leg could not possibly get me up from a flat sitting position. I think I actually heard the bed say “hey, what’s keeping you?” which didn’t help at all. 

Trying every which way to get out of that deep tub proved futile. My phone was on the dresser in the other room because I just knew I would drop it in the water if I had it anywhere near me so that was out.  Well, this was a fine kettle of fish! All I could think of was that episode of The Dick Van Dyke show where Laura gets her big toe stuck in the spout of the faucet. Rob has to call in plumbers to extricate a mortified Laura. It’s a very funny episode but I was not laughing at my dilema even though the room was spinning and I was seeing everything in black and white. Calling for my sister also proved futile because the volume on her TV was up and my door was closed. I did call out several times but nothing. Talking to myself I said, “don’t panic, you can sleep in this tub and they have to turn off that television sometime.” The water was getting cold, I was starting to panic, the walls were closing in, my relaxing bath turned in to a lesson in “think first” and I was out of options……or was I? 

Looking up to that skylight I got an idea that I should have thought of in the first place. Raising my hands I said out loud “Okay God, on the count of 3 I really need You to get me up so here we go. Are You ready? Okay one, two, three” and I stood straight up with no effort. It was like an angel just lifted me right up. I was already covered with a towel because I got super cold. Right then I started hysterically laughing. My sister walked in and said “did you call me? I thought I heard my name.” I said “oh nevermind”. She said okay and shut the door. I continued to laugh and laugh thanking God for helping me in any situation including getting me out of the tub. I was super energized so I didn’t fall asleep until 1:30 AM and, of course, I had to text my girlfriends a much abbreviated version so they could laugh with me. When you get to be a woman of a certain age you will take whatever excitement you can get even if it means spending the night in the bathtub of your dreams!  Boy, did I make a memory. I discovered that my God listens to me, loves me and wants to lift me up (as it were)! 

#whenyouwalkwiththewise

For several years now our church ladies ministry team has put on a ladies tea. Each one of 14 ladies takes a table and decorates it to their liking. One year I decided to use hydrangeas for my table. I bought a beautiful bluish purple hydrangea at my local Trader Joe’s. I was actually going on my annual “by everything pumpkin” spree because Trader Joe’s is the best. I think their pumpkin ravioli is amazing! Served with alfredo sauce it’s perfection.  Oh goodness so tasty. Anyway, as I was walking in the store I see the hydrangea and plunk it in my basket where pumpkin pancake mix, pumpkin scones, pumpkin tortilla chips, pumpkin yogurt and pumpkin creamer plus other pumpkin delights will soon join it. 

I paid for my treasures and went home to gather the rest of my table decorations. As I put the hydrangea on the table I noticed some white moldy looking marks on the leaves. I pulled the obvious ones off and went about making my table pretty and inviting. I wish I still had the picture because those lovely blue hydrangeas were stunning!  The ladies came, we had tea and stimulating conversation. 

This photo wasn’t my table but it was similar in style. I got home and put water in the hydrangea thinking I might like to plant it in that huge planter I bought from Costco several weeks previous. Off  I went to Home Depot to get some Miracle Grow and see what would happen. I planted it and, over weeks, it proceeded to die little by little. My grandma Stephens had a beautiful garden and I remember her pruning her flowers down to the nub. She would tell me they would come back even more beautiful the next time. So, I pruned away. I cut that plant down until just a little piece of it was showing. Continuing to water it I noticed green buds forming. Weeks past and the leaves grew but they were covered with that pesky white moldy stuff. Not giving up I pruned that bunch down. This took place over several months. 

Still no flowers but I did not give up on those hydrangeas. I continued to water and fertilize. This third year something very strange and wonderful happened. The hydrangea leaves grew in green and beautiful with no moldy spots at all! Then something even stranger happened. The flowers grew in PINK! Not bluish purple but pink. They not only grew bigger, stonger and brighter but A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT COLOR! What the heck? 

What stunned me more was being reminded of John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.” Our Heavenly Father wants us to be effective for Him. When we are in His hands He will prune us so we can grow stronger and be of better, more effective service for the kingdom of God. If that plant had not come in stronger with the pruning I would have thrown it away at some point. The verse says  that every branch in Him that does not bear fruit He takes away. The footnotes in my New American Standard Bible say “The word may mean literally “remove” and would therefore be a reference to the physical death of a fruitless Christian, or it may mean lift up as “picked up” which would indicate that the vinedresser encourages and makes it easier for the fruitless believer, hoping he will respond and begin to bear fruit.” 

I was really hoping my beautiful flower would take hold and blume. Boy was I surprised when it not only bloomed but changed color! Our precious Lord is patient with us. He uses His Word to prune us and clean us. His Word cleans our life. Things happen in our lives to grow us. We may pass through the valley of the shadow of death and God is with us. As we pass through we may hardly believe we’ve made it but we are stronger, our leaves aren’t moldy any more and we are most probably absolutely completely different! Pruning is necessary. Learning to say no to good to say yes to great is a hard lesson. Remember our Divine Vinedresser loves us so much that He will not throw us on the dried vine heap to be burned. He will nurture us and love us along until we bear more fruit and beautifully bloom. We are on the earth to bear fruit for His glory. Be fruitful today precious one.  Show others the love of Jesus.  Always let a sweet fragrance of His love and grace linger wherever you go. #whenyouwalkwiththewise


 

Opening my eyes I looked at the clock and it announced in green neon 6:52. Usually I get right up out of bed (except for the time I hit my toe on the sewing machine and snapped it in two). This morning I turned and gazed at him. He was sleeping soundly. I could tell it was a sound sleep because his breathing was deep and peaceful. Laying my head on his chest he stirred a bit. Waking a little he arranged his arm so I could lay right in the crook of his arm and shoulder. My spot. That is where my head fits perfectly. I could hear his heart beating strong and in sync. 

Three years ago that heart was beaten and completely broken. What a surprise on Valentines Day 2013, when hearts are knit together with love, his was broken physically and I was broken hearted thinking he might not make it. The doctors did their best but the damage was done. A large stent and 2 weeks later he was trying to make a go of life. Never did I waiver in my faith in God. I knew He had Steve’s heart in His capable hands but at my core I was overwhelmed. This man is my world. He is my sun moon and stars. My world was crashing down around me. It was hard loosing my mother, but my husband? Could I survive? Could I walk through each day without him? That was asking too much!  To be perfectly honest that’s a long road I wasn’t ready to travel.

I know many women who are  walking that road. They are my heros. I see them sitting alone in church or sitting beside other women in their shoes. Safety in numbers, they are in a sisterhood. I sit by myself in church and always have. First, because my husband was not saved and didn’t go to church, and now because he sits upstairs running power point for the service. He knows just when to switch the words on the screen as to not make we worship teamers crazy in the head! Bless him, that unsung hero of making it all look so effortless. I have had people come up to me and ask if he is OK because they hadn’t seen him in a while. Bless their hearts I tell them to just turn around, look up in the balcony and wave at him. 

After the heart was patched back together he was still having a difficult ime. He was, by no means, out of those proverbial woods. On my birthday in 2015 he had a pace maker/defibrulator installed. Oh my gosh I love modern technology! We are so very blessed to live in a time such as this. God has allowed mere man to come so far to save lives! Months later that proved to be the best birthday gift ever. His heart is gaining. It is healing and beating in rhythm. Energy that was elusive is now part of every day life. 

So I lay here listening to the perfect beat of his heart. He turns to me and says “I love you so much.” I smile and tell him I love him too. He reiterates “no, I mean I love you so deeply.” I turn to look at him. “I know you do sweetheart.” I say. Then he leans up on his elbow and with his fingers gently pushes the hair out of my face. Looking deeply in to my eyes he says “I love you so deep, down to my bones. My bones are full of love for you.” That is when the tears came for me. He was telling me that after 38 years of marriage, lots of issues, bodies failing us, family problems and the day to day of life he loved me and that was it. The stories I could tell of this being a second marriage for both of us and how we beat the odds, of being absolute opposites, of this of that of of of…and here we are on an early Saturday morning basking in God’s love for us and our love for each other. Blessed beyond measure because when things got very tough we stayed. 

He gave me a Mother’s Day card. I am not his mother but I am the mother of 2 great kids. He didn’t give it to me until the end of the day. It brought that familiar sting of happy tears to my eyes. He and I decided, independently of each other, to leave our bodies to UCSD Medical school. We have both had interesting appliances installed (his heart helpers, my knees) so we thought, what the heck?  The sentiment he wrote in the card made so much sense. My heart was full – we continue to walk the road and I am so thankful to a loving God for “my Steve”.

Staying is worth it. #whenyouwalkwiththewise