Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Be Fearless…

Child of My Heart,

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” (Unknown)

Lots of things are going to creep into your life that will thwart you from staying on the path that’s only yours to take. Others (including me at times) may discourage you or steer you off.   Lack of immediate success and even straight up failures along the way may cause confusion and “is this really what I’m supposed to be doing” questions.   Fear may come in with its claws and try to convince you that you are “not good enough” to stay the course.

As those disheartening voices shout loudly to you, another Voice whispers cheer, comfort and confidence to you. This Voice reassures you to continue to discover what sets your soul on fire, what makes your heart come alive, what you are good at, what gift ONLY you can bring to the world. He will be with you all the way, marking your next steps and encouraging you to be exactly WHO He made you to be and what He made you to do. He is the one who set your soul on fire to begin with and He can keep that fire burning no matter what or who comes in to try to quench it!!

You don’t need to doubt. You can explore what sets your soul on fire.

You don’t need to retreat. You can pursue with your whole heart.

You don’t need to be afraid. You can be fearless.

From My Heart to Yours

 

PS.  I am deathly afraid of heights.  This picture is of me standing at the edge of a 50 foot drop.  It was a huge moment!

Posted in Anxiety, Family, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

Mom Guilt (battling the beast)

Help! MOM GUILT! Before our babies are even born, we wonder if we are doing everything right by our child. Am I eating healthy enough? I forgot to take my vitamins. After they are born, it doesn’t subside. EVER. Am I playing enough with my toddler? Am I allowing too much screen time? Am I strict enough? Too strict? I yelled at them for not making their bed. I let my middle schooler quit soccer in the middle of the season. Why don’t I want to spend time with my pre-teen? I shouldn’t go back to work. We need the money for college. Should I have taken away my teen’s cell phone? Am I enabling my adult son?

AM I DOING IT ALL RIGHT ALL THE TIME? Mom guilt. 

Join me today as I talk with two moms of toddlers, one who works outside the home (my daughter Sarah) and one who stays home (my daughter Sarah’s close friend, Elizabeth Enns Petters – known as Lizz). We tackle this universal mom language and we uncover some valuable insights into combatting this monster. Sarah and Lizz are wise, young, smart, capable, kick-butt moms who teach this old-timer some new tricks on keeping this beast corralled and even quieted down.  You don’t want to miss out!

Posted in Faith, Thanks

I HAVE THE FREEDOM TO…

I do not take this day lightly.

My heart swells with thanksgiving that I live in a place where my innate need and hunger for freedom is met.

This framework of outer freedom bestows a space where my many-times trembling, but just-enough-times brave heart fights for my inner freedom, a sacredness no one, no thing can touch.

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I have the freedom to be kind.

I have the freedom to enjoy beauty.

I have the freedom to learn, grow and change.

I have the freedom to be generous.

I have the freedom to be trustworthy.

I have the freedom to love my neighbor, period.

I have the freedom to take risks.

I have the freedom to be gentle.

I have the freedom to walk with integrity.

I have the freedom to be filled with respect for all.

I have the freedom to show compassion.

I have the freedom to journey with humility.

I have the freedom to forgive.

I have the freedom to shine my light.

I have the freedom to be patient.

I have the freedom to be authentic and vulnerable.

I have the freedom to don the mantle of courage.

I have the freedom to open my heart to an abiding faith.

I have the freedom to work with all my might.

I have the freedom to always hope.

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These freedoms, similar to the outer ones, must be fought for on the battlefields of my heart, my soul, my body and my mind with great strength and courage, every moment of every day.

HERE’S TO BRAVING THE FIGHT OF ALL FIGHTS TOGETHER!

 

 

Posted in Family, Grief

Tuesday the Cat

I can’t believe I cried last night.

We put our fourteen-year-old cat down.

I have always made jokes that I didn’t like her (or more importantly, she didn’t like us). That I couldn’t wait to have my house back again without pets (it’s been 25 years of pets)!!!

But as she climbed up on my lap for the last time around 6 pm (I can’t remember the last time that happened – seriously!) and she actually let me pet her without biting me, my heart twinged. It was like she knew what was about to happen only an hour later. She seemed to be saying goodbye as well.

I still can’t believe I cried.

It amazes me how I can appear light-hearted, strong or even callous on the outside most of the time, but that deep-feeling, vulnerable, tender spot within me rises without much provoking and my eyes tell the real story!

This very pretty, calico cat named Tuesday was more like me than I care to admit. Appearing light-hearted, yet deep-feeling. Appearing strong, yet vulnerable. Appearing callous with an “I don’t care” attitude, yet tender.

When she looked up at me for the last time as I said goodbye and told her that I actually did love her, I was in many ways, looking into the mirror of my own soul.

Thank you, Tuesday, for helping me to see that I am not fully one or fully the other, that I am both, all mixed up inside! Thank you, Tuesday, for the weird gift you were to our family and to me!

I still can’t believe I cried, but I’m glad I did.

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood, Sabbath

God, Weird Mom Agendas, Fixing Stuff and a Resting Heart

One of my favorite parts of being a mom is when all my children are in the same room, sleeping under the same roof and sitting around the same table. I can see their huge bodies curled up in a ball on the couch, hear their voices singing in the shower, and give them hugs like I never want to let them go. I am with them and my heart is happy. Right now, in this season of momhood, sadness comes knowing it’s temporary and that I stay here and they go there.

It’s true. I am still with them. I cheer for them in their triumphs, am sad for their struggles and pain, and plop my mom heart down next to theirs during the every day stuff of life. I want them to know in the depths of their souls that they are not alone.

But this is also true. I am not with them the way I used to or even want to be. This is the hard part, the letting go part, the budding adult part, the “trusting God” part.

God is with them even more than I could ever be. He’s not limited physically like me. That calms my heart when I can’t be there in bodily mom form. He reaches them in places that I will never be able to touch. He is the only One who can do that. I rest there.

He also doesn’t have weird mom agendas for them like I do. He doesn’t lecture them to “get their act together” like I might. He doesn’t have fear when they don’t like I might. He is just with them. I rest there.

He doesn’t try to fix everything for them like I’ve been known to do (cough cough). He lets them be right where they are, in all their good and bad choices, and sits beside them in all of them, holding them close to His heart. He loves them no matter what.  I rest there.

He believes in them even when they might not believe in themselves. When they can’t see their own goodness and value, He reminds them gently. He is fiercely committed to them for their whole life, actually forever. He isn’t going anywhere. I rest there.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I’m soaking this into my soul today:  God goes before me.  He goes before them.  He’s with me.  He’s with them.  God will never leave me.  He will never leave them.  Take courage, sweet heart of mine.  REST. RIGHT. THERE.

 

Please don’t forget to “LIKE” the post on social media!  I know it means you have to “go back out and click on something,” but it would mean the world to me!!!

Posted in Celebration, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

Three Ways My Dad Made Me A Better Mom (and Human)

If you have the great privilege to meet Brian Herbert Maret, you immediately like him, but more importantly, you immediately feel liked.   Did you catch that?  You immediately feel liked.  Listen again.  You immediately feel liked.  This is the man I call Dad.

Yes.  My dad is a gardener and can grow a mean crop of tomatoes.  Yes.  He’s a missionary and has lived his life serving the God he loves.  Yes.  He’s a sports fanatic and will watch almost anything with a ball in it.  Yes.  He packs the best boxes in the safest ways for shipping items all the way to Africa or even New Jersey.  Yes.  He loves fishing and touching worms and pulling out all the hooks that get lodged in places fish (and squeamish daughters) are not happy about.  Yes. He’s a husband who has loved my mom for more than 63 years.  Yes.  He is all those things and so much more.

Nature and/or nurture passed down only some of those things to me.  No.  I am not a gardener.  Yes.  I love God.  Yes.  I’m a sports fanatic.  No.  I can’t pack a box to ship across the street, much less to Africa.  No.  I don’t like catching fish or touching worms or pulling out hooks.  Yes.  I love my husband and hope to make it to 63 years (28 and counting – check it out HERE).

BUT BUT BUT…

There’s a few more powerful life lessons he shared with me that made me be a better mom (and a better human)…

1. GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR

For as long as I can remember and especially during my young mom years, the image I have of my dad is ON THE FLOOR surrounded by children (and toys and crafts and books).  The key is ON THE FLOOR.  At their level.  Doing what they love.

One day, I watched my daughter crouch down to speak with a child who was asking her questions.  I asked her why she did that and she responded, “I learned that from you, Mom.  It shows basic respect for them, even though they are little.”  “Oh my goodness,” I said, “I learned that from my dad.  It just comes automatically.”

Thanks, Dad, for helping me to “get down on the floor” with my own children and those I don’t even know very well, to be a respecter of persons, no matter whether they are two or 92, brown-skinned or blue-eyed, the King of Ethiopia or the poor Somali boy with no shoes.   Based on the podcasts I have done with my now child-adults, this idea of respect at all costs for all people seems to have struck their deepest chord.  Thanks, Dad.

2.  TALK TO STRANGERS IN GROCERY STORE LINES

I know how to embarrass my kids.  That’s for sure.  Especially when my two youngest were teens.  I talked to strangers in strange places, but especially in grocery store lines.  If they were wearing a Steelers hat, I would strike up a conversation about the latest game they lost or won.  If their cart was filled with healthy fare, I would make some comment of admiration, knowing my checkout receipt was laden with Cheetos, Gogurts and frozen pizza.  To add to the problem, their older brother joined in the fun!  They, however, hoping to avoid this horrible atrocity of connection, would rebuke me quietly in my ear or poke me in the ribs, reminding me that we were just here to shop and get home.

I was a little kinder to my dad when he did this very thing (probably because I secretly loved it).  It wasn’t just grocery store lines.  It was the man sitting next to him at a sporting event.  It was the new neighbor getting their mail.  It was the teenager crabbing on the same pier.  I am still kind to him when he does it and in fact, I spark up the conversation right along with him.

Thanks, Dad, for teaching me that people, and even my own kids, want to be known and seen and heard.  That you can always find that “something” that provides the sacred space of human connection and by doing so, reminding each one that they are of great value.  Thanks, Dad, that finally, my now 19-year-old admitted to me (the last time it happened) that she “gets it” and that she actually likes that part of me.  Thanks, Dad, for passing along that trait and your friendly self to my second-born who is relentless in his pursuit of a common connection with those he meets (as one of his friends reminded me just yesterday).

3.  MOW LAWNS THAT AREN’T YOUR OWN AND KEEP IT A SECRET

I found out recently that my eighty-something parents drive their widowed, ninety-something neighbor to get groceries.   Lots of secrets were kept about these very kinds of things.  I would find out from others all the little (sometimes big), kind, generous, unseen gestures that my dad would do for them.   Mowing lawns (“I’m outside anyway.”), washing endless dishes every night when we were teens, sharing zucchini from his beloved garden, giving money to the poorer at a time he was poor himself, praying every single morning for us kids and now his grandchildren (along with my mom), and of course, so many things that are still a secret.

Thanks, Dad, for encouraging me during those unseen times of being a mom (countless loads of laundry, lunches made, sleepless nights and booboos kissed…something I now have in common with my own child-mom).  Thanks for reminding me that it all counts (not just the stuff that’s noticed), that nothing is too little, that each ordinary act of kindness makes me a better mom and the world a better place, a place where God and all His kindness, generosity, and many times unnoticed Self is revealed to those who need it most.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD!  And all you other amazing dads out there!  It’s your day and I celebrate you! 

#allenjgoetz #charlesgoetz #davidmaret #stephenmaret #timmaret #jasongoetz #charleygoetz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Marriage

Our Blessing To You Young Marrieds (#oldmarriedstoo)

Dearest Couples that We Mentor,

It is our great and sacred privilege to come along side you, engaged and newly-wed couples, to share on the journey of your marriages.  These past fifteen years, sitting at our dining room table, on our deck, at Paneras, diners, church lobbies, and even in online video conference rooms, has blessed our lives and our own marriage in ways we never thought possible.  Friday night, our culmination final barbecue of the very first young-marrieds support group called our hearts to life and joy and beauty and blessing once again.  This morning, we meet with another couple on the verge of marriage to go over plans to perform our very first wedding.  It just doesn’t get any better than this for us.

When we were engaged, God gave us a short verse from the Psalms that has guided us and held us in ways we did not understand at the time and that would be a great blessing to us (plus we use it as some of our passwords for things – SSSHHH – don’t tell).

Today, we want to bestow a blessing on each one of you (and your precious partnership).  Some of you have been married over 10 years at this point and others of you are just beginning your adventure.  We love each and every one of you and even those we haven’t met yet.  Our hearts are WITH you and FOR you!

Our Blessing For You Young Marrieds (#oldmarriedstoo)

May you be strong and courageous. May you not afraid or discouraged, knowing that the Lord your God will go with you wherever you go.

May your love abound more and more, with all knowledge and discernment so that you approve what is excellent.

May the Lord surround you with favor as with a shield. May He be your stronghold in times of trouble.

May your talk with each other be wholesome, only what is helpful for building each other up.

May love and faithfulness never leave you. May they be written on the tablet of your hearts.

 May the favor of God rest on you and may He establish the work of your hands.

May you be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, as you remember how God, in Christ, forgave you.

May you walk with humility and gentleness with each other, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

 May God give you the desires of your hearts and make all your plans succeed.

 May you walk in integrity.

 May the Lord instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; may God counsel you and watch over you.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other.

May the Lord keep you from all harm and watch over your life.

 May there be peace within your walls.

May God be gracious to you and bless you and make His face shine upon you.

 May you have the power together to know how high and wide and long and deep God’s love is for you.

 May the Lord preserve your going out and your coming in now and forever.

Lastly, we share our own marriage verse with you, praying that this would be the cry of your hearts and the gentle guide for your life together.

Oh magnify the Lord with me, Let us exalt His name together!  (Psalm 34:3)

Sending Much Love from Our Hearts to Yours,

Allen and Esther Goetz

 

Posted in Childhood, Family, Grief, Guest, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

The Terrible Gift of Parenting While Grieving

What happens when you lose your dad eight hours after your first baby is born and then lose your husband one month before your second baby is born?  
How do you survive, much less thrive as a parent in the middle of a hugely difficult season, and even a lifetime of loss?  
On my Dolly Mama podcast, my friend and young mom, Becky McCoy, tackles the topic of parenting and grieving at the same time.  Becky is a mom to two young children ages six and four and a very brave hope-bringer right in the middle of her heartbreak.   
She answers tough questions about her own beautiful and messy grief process.  She reminds us that there are ALL kinds of loss in our lives and we ALL have to navigate some kind of grief in the middle of our parenting season, even though many times we might not even recognize it as such.  
As you listen, you will want her to “keep on talking” as I did, gleaning so much goodness not only from what she says, but who she is.  We cry (well I do) and laugh lots which, in and of itself, hints to some of the profound wisdom you will hear from her.  My biggest surprises are the VERY universal parenting truths that grief forced her to learn so very early on.  
If you need encouragement today (she has one particular thought I can’t wait for you to hear) and you want to have HOPE for your parenting journey, you have come to the right place!  Don’t miss out!  

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with anyone and everyone you know who has someone in their lives called children 🙂

Posted in Family, Motherhood

You Are the One (Ode to My Superhero)

“There’s a boy who stole my heart.  He calls me mom.”  (I have no idea where this came from)

YOU ARE THE ONE, Joshua Brian Goetz, who burst on the scene on April 4, 1996, weighing in at 9 pounds and 13 ounces (yikes!).

Josh Birth_0007

YOU ARE THE ONE who started out with baby acne and a fairly largish head and I felt mild pity for (just being honest) and a lot of extra love.

YOU ARE THE ONE who became the most adorable baby with your year-long toothless smile (so much for my pity party).

YOU ARE THE ONE who took three naps until you were one, giving this tired mommy a much-needed respite from handling three little ones under five!

 

 

YOU ARE THE ONE who sat with books in your crib for hours, happily “reading.” (Little did we know then that you are a high introvert and this was your plot to have some peace and quiet away from your hovering and excitable siblings.)

YOU ARE THE ONE who would only color with the orange crayon.

YOU ARE THE ONE who had all 150 Pokemon characters memorized and their “moves” when you were only three!

YOU ARE THE ONE we called Spot because you have had EVERY. SINGLE. POSSIBLE. RASH known to the medical community (you just had another one two months ago)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who hid behind the couch every time I left the room and jumped out and yelled “SURPRISE!” when I returned (one of my all-time best memories)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who wore some kind of cape everywhere we went, which morphed from a bandana to a full-fledged home-made BAT cape!  You were my little superhero for sure!

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YOU ARE THE ONE who drew on the hood of our friend’s brand new SAAB with a rock you found (cha-ching, cha-ching).

YOU ARE THE ONE that ONLY wanted a State Quarter Map for Christmas when you were four (we still have it in your room and it is full of quarters)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who organized all your outfits in your drawers and were mildly (okay, not so mildly) obsessed with shoes for years and years and years (who gets Famous Footwear gift certificates when they are just a young boy)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who fell sledding and ended up in a country hospital emergency room with stitches (which I had to take out because we moved three days later)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who asked this question when you were just 5 1/2:  “Mom, if Jesus was Jewish, did He believe in Himself?”

YOU ARE THE ONE who did a cannonball into our indoor tub (it was kind of a big tub; I will grant you that).

YOU ARE THE ONE who filled our house with singing.  I knew you were sick when it stopped and you were better when it started up again (you still sing today)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who always had a bucket and a net in your hand, catching all the creatures in lakes, gardens, ponds, rivers, and our backyard!

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YOU ARE THE ONE who was rushed to the emergency room with a tonsil abscess and needles were poked into your throat and you threw up all over the doctor!  You obviously lived to tell the tale!

YOU ARE THE ONE who had every kind of lizard and reptile as a pet (from anoles to geckos to bearded dragons).

YOU ARE THE ONE who was Hot Rod Hanson in the summer musical, girls swooning around you as you belted out your notes.

YOU ARE THE ONE who almost caught our house on fire with your water gun filled with lighter fluid in one hand and the BIC grill lighter in the other.

YOU ARE THE ONE who was fascinated by your lacrosse stick, walking constantly around the house with it, and eventually figuring out how to string it yourself!

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YOU ARE THE ONE who made weird faces when playing on your game system, your mouth moving in all the directions of the controller.

YOU ARE THE ONE who broke your clavicle because you were chosen to play in a lacrosse tournament with the big kids.  Emergency room #3!

YOU ARE THE ONE who was Gaston in the middle school play, Beauty and the Beast, again girls swooning around you as you belted out your notes (this time right before your voice changed – Gaston never sounded so feminine – and I don’t think “every last inch of you was covered with hair”)!

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YOU ARE THE ONE who played on four basketball teams in Eighth Grade (no wonder your grades slipped into an uncomfortable place for this mama)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who watched the Office non-stop for about four years (I think you are still watching it).

YOU ARE THE ONE who grew about eight inches in one year, going from one of the shorter guards on your basketball team to one of the “big men.”

YOU ARE THE ONE who was obsessed with purple and penguins and hats (with the flat brim) and game systems and legos.

YOU ARE THE ONE who had a kids’ Batman backpack all of high school (yes, even into your senior year)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who had a 1 in 100,000 people knee injury your junior year playing basketball.  After surgery, nine months of recovery and two more surgeries, we are crossing our fingers it’s finally healed!

YOU ARE THE ONE who got your ears pierced at sixteen much to my chagrin (you did take care of them much to my happy surprise – and you don’t wear them any more much to my “I-don’t-care-anymore-what-you-do” attitude).

YOU ARE THE ONE who bought kitten and lamb folders for your senior school year (you never ever ever ever ever cared about what anyone thought about you).

YOU ARE THE ONE who wrapped your arms around me one day when I was afraid and said, “It’s all going to be okay, Mom”  (I recall you doing that again just last week).

YOU ARE THE ONE who beat everyone at Poker all the time.  Enough said.

YOU ARE THE ONE who told your basketball coach not to put you in the starting line up your Senior Year, that you wanted to be the Sixth Man coming off the bench (WHO DOES THAT?!?).

YOU ARE THE ONE who proudly donned your “Raritan Valley Community College” t-shirt on “Decision Day,” while all your friends sported their VIP universities.

YOU ARE THE ONE who broke your hand playing in a Charity game and pretended your cast was a fashion accessory.  (Most of our mom/son memories have come in that “room” at the doctor waiting endlessly for the knock on the door.  We have had more than enough time to solve all the world’s problems).

YOU ARE THE ONE who wore a Batman shirt under your prom tux and painted (well Sarah painted) the Batman symbol on your graduation cap, a constant reminder of the superhero that you are!

YOU ARE THE ONE who took a Gap Year before you went to college, again being your own person and not falling in line with everyone else.  (It was one of the best decisions you’ve ever made and we loved having the bonus time with you.)

YOU ARE THE ONE who broke up and got back together with your girlfriend at least four or five times (we scolded you a lot about this) and she has stuck it out with you for seven whole years!

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YOU ARE THE ONE who jumped off a fifty-foot cliff into the waters of the Pacific Ocean on a whim (so so so glad I found out about this after you lived through it).

YOU ARE THE ONE who built your own computer with Lego Batman holding up the graphics card.

YOU ARE THE ONE who decided to major in psychology even though you don’t like people all that much.  Of course.  Of course.

YOU ARE THE ONE who wants to know a million random facts about anything and everything from why non-poisonous snakes flatten their heads when they are threatened to whether or not “pronunciate” is a real word (those are just the two from this past week).

YOU ARE THE ONE who became fixated on headphones and you actually write reviews on the internet for the subculture of headphone lovers.  (Your college graduation gift is to get custom headphones made for your unique ears.)

YOU ARE THE ONE who did not walk at your college graduation because ceremonies just don’t cut it for you.

YOU ARE THE ONE who I can talk to about everything spiritual, cerebral and you always have an opinion about the subject matter at hand (kind of like your mama).  Our banter is my favorite.

YOU ARE THE ONE who is still pulling Batman shirts over your head some mornings (I personally think you are way cooler than Batman)!

YOU ARE THE ONE who I am so thankful to have shared the last 23 years with.   There is no one else quite like you.  Really.  Seriously.  No one.

IMG_1252YOU ARE THE ONE who will always march to the beat of your own drum (or play a completely different instrument).

YOU ARE THE ONE who has stolen my heart.

YOU ARE THE ONE who calls me mom.

YOU ARE THE ONE who is my personal superhero!

#watchoutbatmanjoshiscomingforyourjob

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Marriage

Three SIMPLE Words That Breathe HOPE into Our Marriage

“Cuddle with me so I can put my freezing cold feet on you and probably use you as a pillow and steal all the covers.  K.  Thanks.”  (Pinterest)

On our wedding day 28 years ago (as I write this), my husband’s father and our best man, implored us in his toast that the THREE MOST IMPORTANT words in our marriage to come would be these:  Pirates.  Penguins.  Steelers.

I can’t say he was entirely wrong.  Having been raised in the Steel City, my husband IS all about these black and gold teams that grace the small city of Pittsburgh.  Little did I realize the sacrifice he was making on our honeymoon when his precious Penguins were in the Stanley Cup final (that’s the Super Bowl of hockey) and I was completely oblivious (and possibly admonishing) to Allen’s frantic search for a newspaper some mornings to find the score of the game the night before (this was during those olden days without internet or cell phones)!  Happy to say they won their VERY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP that year and don their team name on the trophy!

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Heeding Allen’s father’s advice, I have embraced these three words (well, two of them fully and one of them only if I can get to a live game because watching baseball on TV is akin to watching golf…not heart-pumping enough for this wiggly, mile-an-hour girl).  They have been a tremendous plus to our marriage, and as many of you know, I am now almost a bigger Steelers fan than he is!

Fast forward.  Four houses.  Four kids.  Four jobs.

Unhealed, hidden selves (very hidden on the day we said “I do”) bubble to the surface and bump up against one another.  As our marriage clock tick-tocks, the bumps get stronger and louder and more painful.

Words of defeat and shame are uttered (by me).  “Are we going to make it?”  “What is wrong with me/you/us?”  “Is there any hope?”

THREE choice, sacred, life-giving, hope-gathering words are voiced (by my husband).   “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

I am taken aback, the words bouncing around like a super ball, uncatchable.

“But,” I whisper to myself, “we’ve been at this for a long time.”  Defeat and shame creep back over and over, sometimes kept hidden inside, other times shouted in anger and most often, spoken desperately alongside tears of fear.

Again and again, time after time, the three words of life and hope and healing pour from my husband’s mouth.  “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

These simple THREE words:

  • allow grace to cascade over us like a waterfall in the middle of a marriage drought
  • bring mercy to the unhealed selves that keep banging into each other
  • remind shame (in no uncertain terms) to “GET OUT of our house and our lives and our marriage!”
  • spark forgiveness as we stop demonizing and begin humanizing each other
  • usher discovery, newness and life into what seems unchanging, decrepit and even dead
  • grant bravery to our fearful parts, allowing for a life-long journey of change, growth and healing
  • energize our hearts to experience freedom from the past and anticipation for the future
  • breathe desperately-needed and longed for HOPE to the deepest parts of these two souls and bodies, uniting them again and again in ways previously unknown

Today, on our anniversary, we headed on a hike through a windy, periodically smooth, sometimes unmarked, gloriously scenic, often rocky, difficult-to-navigate in spots, kind of scary, breath-taking trail in Allamuchy Mountain State Park.   Our favorite part of all was two swans (did you know they mate for life?) with their babies!

We talked about our favorite memories of this marriage we’ve shared.  Two things we noticed:  most of them were hiking of some kind and lots of them were when something didn’t go quite as we planned (like the time we ended up in some woods filled with mosquitoes and we had to sprint from one end to the other, laughing and swatting as we went).

Marriage is like hiking.  It’s windy.  It’s periodically smooth-sailing.  It’s unmarked in places.  It’s gloriously scenic.   It’s difficult to navigate in spots.  It can be scary.  It definitely takes our breath away at times.  We need hope every single day.  We need all that these three simple, yet profound words speak to.  Today, this best gift of my husband, “WE’RE STILL LEARNING,” wash over my soul afresh, hope and life breathed anew.

Here’s to AT LEAST 28 more years!

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Allen and I have been mentoring couples for about 15 years.  It’s our fierce passion and privilege.  I’ve written many more blog posts about marriage.  You can CLICK HERE to read more!