All posts in Family Life

Marital Bliss?

The waitress arrived at our checkerboard-sized table to take our order.

“We are celebrating a very special occasion. My husband and I have had 27 years of marital

bliss….”

“Don’t say it Pauline, it’s getting old,” Tom mumbles into his water glass.

I couldn’t help myself, “27 out of  35 ain’t bad!” Then I through my head back and laughed heartily. A few seconds passed while I regained my composure.

“You know, Pauline, you are the only one who laughs at it,” Tom added.

My daughter and her husband smiled politely. Who knew thirty-five years ago we’d be sitting in a French bistro, in Bethesda, Maryland, celebrating our anniversary with our almost thirty-year-old daughter and her husband.

“Hey Tom, Sarah and David both got the same tattoo on their wrist in honor or their first anniversary. How about we get a tattoo together tonight?”

My spouse shook his head. “Not me. I don’t want someone using a needle on my body. Although after 35 years, it’s probably safe to have PAULINE tattooed on my arm.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. In fact, as I write this, it makes me chuckle.

The thing about marriage is—it isn’t safe. You open your heart, home, and bank account to someone, with no idea what the future holds.

For us, the future held ups and downs financially, owning a business, raising teenagers, caring for aging parents, watching them die, and becoming grandparents. Recently, it included changing careers, moving to the country, starting a farm, and finding jobs that paid actual money.

It seems as if nothing we have done is safe. I’m kind of glad about that. Taking risks can make life tense, but it also makes it interesting. And challenging.

The fact is, almost anything worth doing is risky. Like having kids. Who knows how they will turn out? My daughter and her husband are buying a house—that’s risky. They could just rent an apartment their whole lives and depend on the landlord to fix anything.

How about driving on US 19 in Pinellas County, Florida? You definitely take your life in your hands when you pull out there. My children think it’s risky riding with me. Maybe they’re right.

Life is a risk and needs to be lived.

One thing I know isn’t risky. It is a sure bet—the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15: 1-5 states:

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the
Scriptures…”

People spend billions of dollars on insurance for stuff that will get old or obsolete or rust or die. But the gospel is free and eternal and good.

The best, even.

So the gospel isn’t risky, marriage is. Tattoo’s are—but I still want one.

Maybe on our 50th.

The Joy of it All

“Your place looks amazing!” I gawked as I entered my daughter’s Atlanta, Mid-Town apartment. The transformation was almost supernatural. Sarah had explained to me about a book titled, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I was skeptical.

To put it in farming terms, let’s just say Sarah wasn’t ever the cleanest hen in the coop. Neither am I.

So when I entered the immaculate apartment, sparsely furnished, with a place for everything, (which wasn’t much) I couldn’t believe it.

Sarah explained. “I read it to David, and together we went through everything in our apartment. I’ve cut my wardrobe in half since I was only wearing half, and our important papers all fit in one bin. I don’t hold on to anything that doesn’t bring me joy.”

“Well, I’m impressed,” I said making my way out to the car. “Let me get my stuff and put it away.” I was to babysit my grandson for a few days while Sarah and David celebrated their anniversary.

“Hey Mom,” she hesitated. “Could you make sure everything is neat and clean when you leave?” She grinned.

“I’ve heard those words before.” I unpacked my toiletries. I always left a few of them at her apartment for my convenience.

“Where’s my toothbrush.”

“Um, I think I threw it out.”

“Okay, do you have an extra?”

She scampered away and came back with a clean one. “And where are my slippers?” I asked while looking under the cabinet where I always kept them.

“They didn’t bring me joy,” she said sheepishly.

I stopped. “You threw them away?” I paused for effect. “It’s a good thing I didn’t read this book while you were a teenager.”

We both smiled, because we are mother and daughter, yes. But now, we’re also friends.

Even though she did throw my slippers away.

A Letter to President Trump

Dear President Trump,

Today is a special day for you and for our nation. I cannot sit down and talk with you so I decided to write you a letter like we are best friends.

I don’t know you, but I am sure you are feeling the weight of the responsibility and great privilege you have been granted.

So like a letter to Santa, I’ll tell you my heart.

About immigration, that’s a hard one. On one hand we need to protect our country and we cannot financially support all the people who would love to live in the US. On the other hand, why were we born here instead of say, Somalia? Not because we were smarter or better, it is just the way it is.

So please be gracious and yet firm. I am asking (Because I wouldn’t dare to tell the President of the United States what to do) that you get a variety of wise counsel. Proverbs 15:22 states;

“Plans fail without advice, but with many counselors they are confirmed.”

For the sake of our country and your integrity invite people into your inner circle who are wise and willing to contradict you. That is wise.

Concerning finance and foreign policy. I’m not really good at balancing my checkbook, so I’m going to have to trust you on that. Foreign policy is tricky I suppose.  Often, things I think are affected by what I eat or if I’m happy, so it’s a good thing for me to be careful since just because I think it, doesn’t make it true.  I will pray that you will be wise in that area.

About welfare. My parents were Salvation Army officers so I was surrounded by all sorts of people. I remember clearly my mother praying before each time we gave away toys at Christmas, “But for the grace of God, go I.”

I believe that. Still, when I see someone on the side of the road with a sign stating “Out of work, need food.” I’m not sure what to do. I don’t always believe them. Sometimes, I’ve gone to a local place and given them money for those people. Other times I can’t make up my mind about that.

Good luck with that.

About morality. Wow. That’s hard. Everyone has a different opinion. I have mine and I think it is truth, but I believe love should be the plumb line on that. Love for all people.

1 Corinthians 13:13 states, “And now these three remain; faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I couldn’t have said it better, that’s for sure.

America should be like a really big family. And as someone once said, “You can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with your relatives.” So you are stuck with me, President Trump. Treat me like family. And the rest of the country, too.

It seems to me that you don’t care much what people think of you. I care too much. So over the next four years, each day I will pray this for you;

“He has shown you, O mortal what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

You really cannot go wrong with that and I cannot go wrong praying that for you.

So even though we’ve never met, or probably never will meet, you have someone who is praying for you just like I prayed for President Obama, and all the others.

Your friend,

Pauline (You already know my last name because we are friends.)

PS, I’ve never been to Washington so one day I am going to visit.

And I’d like to see the White House.

Is There Baseball in Heaven?

“Next year,” I remember hearing as a young girl. And I wondered about that.

Always this phrase came on family vacations while lounging around a campfire, perched on rickety lawn chairs, or makeshift  stools fashioned out of logs. I’d be sitting alongside my childhood friend, Jimmy Shiels, who was like the little brother I never wanted.

Our parents remained best friends throughout our childhood, so we vacationed together. We would either camp at a state park, or stay at a camp for our furlough from our parents’ ministry as Salvation Army Officers. Camp Lake, or Army Lake became our desired destination, both located near the Chicago area.

And I loved it.

Jim and Nel Shiels were my godparents and my favorite people over thirty.  They were very different from my parents. My father, Ray Wert, would rather fish or hunt or be outside while Jim Shiels would rather pick up a good book and tease his best friend, Ray. Mom came across as tribal leader but in real life, she followed my boisterous father along, listening and  occasionally adding her opinion. Aunt Nel could have taught camping. She cooked the best roast I think I’ve ever had, and she did it in a heavy pan, buried beneath the ground, covered with hot coals. I can still remember the taste.

So when I overheard snippets of conversation between the adults about the Cubbies, I took notice.

“The Cubbies aren’t doing so well this year, are they Raymie?” Uncle Jim would interject.

“Nope. Maybe they need to replace their manager,” my father would add.

“Or maybe the whole team,” Nel would add. And they’d all laugh. I’d laugh, too, although I didn’t understand it. I just knew the Cubs were as much a part of our family as my unwanted little brother.

Usually, while vacationing at an Army camp, we’d participate in a softball game. Or at least most of the Clan would. Jim held the prestigious position of commentator. He would position himself in a shady spot and advise Raymie on his batting stance, or how he should have swung at a high pitch.

Those were the best times of my young life.

Fast forward a few decades. Instead of Mom and Dad lounging in lawn chairs, they rested in the matching lift chairs that adorned my living room. The Cubs game blared on their outdated TV set while I cooked or cleaned up after dinner. Eventually, I joined them not only in the living room, but as a bonafide baseball fan. Then Tom began to join us. First, we cheered for the Cubs, and when Joe Maddon joined the Rays, we cheered for both. The Shiels lived hundreds of miles away and the Clan could no longer vacation together, so the Werts had to “settle” for watching the game with the Hyltons.

Aunt Nel joined the heavenly choir first, followed by my father. Uncle Jim was promoted to glory after having to listen to the Cubbies game rather than watch it since in his last years, he lost his eyesight.

Only mom remained. When she turned 95 last September, we had hope that “next year” for the Cubbies would be “this year.” 

But it wasn’t in the baseball cards.

Mom died in my arms on March 22nd of this year, during spring training.

I mourned the loss not only of my parents and godparents, but of a simpler time. A time when baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet were all we needed. A time before “selfies” and social media. Before cell phones and reality TV.

Remembering those happy times, I wonder if there is baseball in heaven. Are Jim and Nel and Ray and Pauline sitting around a heavenly campfire commentating on the game? I hope so.

In fact, I’ll cast my vote for baseball in heaven.

Watching the World Series is impossible for Tom and me since we no longer have a TV. So each evening, we listen to the Series on Tom’s iPad while lounging on our couch. And Joe Maddon as the Cubs manager ? Now there’s Divine Intervention for you. It’s a match made in heaven.

And who knows? Next year may be this year.

Amen. So be it.

 

Deja Vue

Bent over the bathtub, holding on to my grandson, my heart exploded.

Funny how grand kids do that to hearts.

One day, I’m just a mid-life woman with two adult children, the next day I become “Nana” to our beautiful grandson Silas. And my little girl is giving him a bath–quite confidently, I might add.

“Okay Silas, Mommy will pour the water over your head.” Followed by lots of laughing and clapping. “Good job!” Sarah says with a smile.

In fact, smiles abound.

All of a sudden, my mind is transported to a little blond-headed girl standing by my side in our outdated blue bathroom.

“Look at him smile, Mommy!” Sarah says, staring at her little brother. She turns to me with her gold-flecked eyes and smiles. My heart melts.

“Hey Micah, your Sissy is here with you and loves you,” Sarah says tickling my son.

The most joyful laughter I’ve ever heard to this day erupts from my baby boy as he laughs, looking into his big sister’s face.

“Go get Micah’s towel for Mommy, will you Sissy?” Blond wisps cover her warm eyes.

Sarah momentarily disappears and comes back with a soft white towel with a built-in lamb’s cap. I cradle my little boy and rub his sweet head with the towel complete with lamb ears.

The memory fades and I’m back to the present.

“Mom, can you get Silas’s towel?”

I grab the soft white lamb-eared towel from the hook that hangs over the bathroom door and hand it to my gold-flecked-eyed daughter. She cuddles her boy and kisses his head. Then she hands him to me.

“Silas, go to your Nana.”

And smiling, he reaches out his little arms for me.

And I kiss his sweet head.

And the love overflows from my heart in thanksgiving to God.