Did anyone ever say anything to you that you will remember forever?

Being over 50, my ears have heard many words. Some words I wish I could recall. Some words I would like to forget. But there are three things people once said to me that I believe I will remember forever.

1. “You will always have beauty in your life.”

I took biology my sophomore year at Edina High School. Mr. Ehlert was my teacher: a quirky older man who sported bow ties, tweed jackets, and a grizzled beard. He would lecture every day, and our task was to take attentive notes in our all-important notebooks. Our grade depended heavily on these notebooks, which we offered for grading every few weeks.

It was — and is still — my habit to doodle in notebooks, so mine was filled alternately with words, pictures and word-pictures. I might have written out the process of metamorphosis in words, with arrows, or doodled a whimsical caterpillar~butterfly combo as my pencil flew across the pages.

We handed in our notebooks one Friday and got them back the next week. In my notebook, he made comments and asked occasional questions. He did not scowl at my doodling — instead, he approvingly referred to my artsy note- taking when he wrote:

“You will always have beauty in your life.”

I have never forgotten that little comment — the memory of it has grown over the years and made me feel richer.

2. “You smell like Jesus, Lisa.”

I remember the day I walked to my p.o. box at college, opened it and found a simple note, that began with a Bible passage:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us reveals the fragrance of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

You smell like Jesus, Lisa!

I looked around the mailroom. Who had sent me this encouraging, anonymous message? Who thinks I *smell* like Jesus?!

Looking back, this period of my life was sometimes more selfish and stinky than spiritually fragrant! Although the message could have been the result of someone’s Bible class assignment, or sent in bulk to several people, my spirit soared and I have pondered over and cherished this verse ever since. It’s also good to remember that if we ever eke out a Jesus fragrance, it is only because we have His power to do it. The rest of the verse says: “And who is adequate for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:16.

 3. “You never complain!”

Betsy was a beautiful southern lady, twenty years my senior. She hosted a small group at her home, simply to build God-focused encouragement into the lives of women.

I remember the time she looked me in the eye and told me: 

“Ly-suh…I never hear you complain! You never complain, do you?”

Betsy didn’t live with me, and my husband certainly could have told her the real truth, but as I reflect on her words, I realize that the moment she said that, she pronounced upon me something to live up to; something like a prophecy:  

I am someone who doesn’t complain. I will be someone who doesn’t complain.

Her words have diffused power over the years, and have caused me to hold my tongue or think of my blessings instead of my lack. I only hope that I will be a “Betsy” to others who need one throughout their journey.

This is Betsy.

Conclusion

The value of looking back at these three comments is to cause me to be inspired to do the same for others.  Our words are powerful. These three people probably had no idea of the impact of their short messages. They didn’t preach a sermon at me, or lecture, or use fancy words; but the effort they took to speak something kind ended up being as valuable to me as gold.


Gracious words are like a honeycomb,

sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Proverbs 16:24

Featured top photo by:  Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Photo by Mariana Ibanez on Unsplash

{ Dear Me as a New Bride }

IMG_20180622_224238_918
We are celebrating our 31st Anniversary today, 6/23/2021! We don’t look like this anymore.

 

Dear Me as a New Bride,

You look really happy and content.

Stay that way.

Right now, your new husband seems as kindred as one of your female friends.

But, he’s a man.  Don’t forget that.

On the surface, you two speak the same language.

But your heart language is different.

When you love him in FemaleHeartSpeak,

he won’t understand.

Speak LOVE in his own language:

Respect

Loyalty

And Intimacy

(The physical kind.)

If you ever get discouraged,

Always, always consult your User’s Manual first.

You will have bad days…

…but don’t wallow in self-pity.

A Christian marriage is not about YOU,

any more than The Christian Life is all about YOU.

Marriage is one big school to make you more like Jesus.

Someday, you will look back and see

the big picture

and the footprints of God

who effortlessly carried you through every joy and trial.

Keep that fresh, dewy, idealistic smile on your face.

With God,

You got this.

Love, Me

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – from 1 Corinthians 13

 

 

Me and my man in 2021.

What Did You Learn From Your Parents?**

I learned to reach out.

My mom always told me things like, “Put yourself in their shoes.” She helped me see value in people that others would ignore, and to reach out to them.

We hosted a family with eight children for a few weeks, because they didn’t have a place to stay. At the time, I just thought it was fun to have friends staying with us, but I didn’t think about the challenge it must have been for my parents.

Many of my mom’s friends had hard backgrounds or difficult life problems. People like Norma, Gwen and Sandy needed rides, or encouragement, or babysitters, or a perm, or they needed my mom to help them do a garage sale. We saw her reaching out and didn’t know that we were absorbing it.

Because of my mom’s influence, I went on to attract individuals all my life who had a unique story and special need for a friend.

My dad had a quote that he kept in his desk drawer, in the county budget office, on the 21st floor of the government center in Minneapolis:

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Henry David Thoreau

My dad was kind and respectful in the way he talked to everyone — never talking down to people.

He gave people a chance. He sold our station wagon to a rough new kid who visited our youth group, allowing him to pay him in installments. After one or two payments, Wally Johnson had the car and my dad never saw him again. Once or twice my dad asked me, with a twinkle in his eye, but with no malice, “Do you ever see that Wally Johnson?”

I learned to create art.

My mom and dad were both creative — each in their own way. They liked to garden. Mom liked to make ethnic meals and crafts, like stained glass and decoupage. Dad worked with wood, making my dollhouse, inlaid parquet projects, furniture, climbing bears and many other toys.

My mom and dad encouraged me to use my talents. Whenever my mom needed a card, she would ask me to write calligraphy on it, and when my dad made something out of wood, he asked me to paint something on it. They treated my art like it was real art, and because of this, it became real art. They valued homemade things, from Dad’s handmade antique-turned-lamps all over the house, to my mom’s oil paintings, to our elementary school art projects that hung on the walls. To them, the best art was meaningful art, made by people they loved.

I learned to seek God.

They took us to church every week. They took us to camp and youth group and confirmation class and Bible studies and reminded us to read our devotions. My mom, Sara and I memorized James 1 together. Mom gave me many Christian books (which I sometimes read and sometimes didn’t.) She passed on her love for Corrie Ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada, and we gobbled up The Hiding Place and Joni’s autobiography. Mom loved the Psalms, Christian books and showed her love for God by serving her family, other people and also becoming involved in the growing pro-life efforts of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Dad read his Bible, too, but never marked it up. (I get that from him.) He was in Bible studies, but I never heard him talk about them much. He was a quiet believer who acted like a Christian more than he talked about being one.

These are my parents, Tom and Caroline, with me, on my wedding day 06/23/1990. My mom made my wedding dress by combining three different patterns, according to the way I wanted my dress to look. (She made her own dress, too!) And, of course….my dad paid for the whole thing.

** This was the question I got today from Storyworth. Storyworth was a unique gift I received from my children on Mother’s Day. I receive a weekly email question to answer, and it usually brings forth a flood of memories. It’s a good exercise for any blogger and the plan is for all of these excerpts to turn into a lovely book, full of a lifetime of memories. This gift of a Storyworth book is the kind of thing that is perfect to give to an aging parent who might be in danger of losing her full brain functionality soon…hehe…probably why I received it 🙂

Top image by Suzi Kim on Unsplash

{ Noisy Nature }

I hauled two busy boys along on a walk last Monday.

I warned them in my best tough-mom voice:

“We will walk ten miles today, boys. If you want your water bottle, carry it yourself. If you grumble and whine, you will not get a treat at the end. You can do this. We can do this. Let’s go build some muscle, guys!”

So we started off on a well known path.

They were trailing behind me.

Perfect time for me to whip out my earbuds and listen to my own audiobook.

Peace and quiet and lovely time to myself.

Nah, I will wait a little.

Then it got noisy.

That throaty, burping frog pond.

That airy, whistling, bird choir.

The rustles in the dry leaves of tiny who-knows-whats.

I couldn’t miss this.

Spring was waking up here.

The sun was melting my winter slouch.

My ears were being treated to a magnificent, miraculous, musical racket.

“Make a joyful noise,” said the psalmist.

Maybe this is what he meant.

~~~~

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 

Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

~~~

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

–from the 1901 hymn “This is My Father’s World” / lyrics by Maltbie D. Babcock

{ Spring Break with Mom – Part One }

You might think it is strange for a mother to accompany her son to Miami for Spring Break, but here is how it happened…

My 20-year-old son Gino, who is taking online college classes, announced that he wanted to take a trip to Florida for spring break. After considering this, I mused aloud…

“It would be fun to go with you.

I wonder if I could swing it.

Would you hate that?” 

Then, I let it rest.

A few days later, he said, “That would actually be nice — you going with me.”

“REALLY??!!!!?” I asked.

My husband agreed, home duties were delegated, and so it was planned. Gino reserved our flights and our spot at a spacious 2 bedroom Airbnb. 

Day One

Arriving in Miami

We landed at 11:00 a.m. and basked in the 35 degree temperature change. We rode to our neighborhood, but the place wouldn’t be ready until 3:00 p.m. Gino stopped at Target and met me later, where I was lounging outside under the palm trees at a Starbucks. We hung out there before walking a few short blocks to our lovely little duplex in the Miami Design District. 

First Meal, Best Meal

Since Gino and I had been up at 4:00 a.m. for our 6:30 flight, and we hadn’t eaten a solid meal all day, we decided to go to Versailles Restaurant, whose tagline is: “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” My Cuban-born husband and I discovered it when we went to Miami years ago, and its mouthwatering fare has haunted us ever since. Gino and I both ordered the Classic Cuban Sampler Platter. He polished it off, and I brought home half to enjoy tomorrow.

Day Two

Frank from Instacart left two grocery bags on our doorstep at 7:55 a.m. Gino went walking. I wrote out my own paraphrase of Psalm 9 and pasted it up on our refrigerator. The morning was leisurely, but our goal today was to hit the beach!

Uberimmediately

Gino takes care of (and pays for) our Uber rides and I am grateful, since I am quite unfamiliar with all that. Today, Gino asked, “Should I call for an UBER?”

“Sure.”

I started thinking about what to pack for a day at the beach, such as my:

  • walking shoes
  • snacks
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • sunglasses
  • reading glasses
  • water bottles
  • earbuds

…and suddenly Gino announced:

“Okay, he will be here in one minute.”

Whaaaaa?!

I rushed to cram everything into my backpack, and bumbled awkwardly into the car as I simultaneously strapped on a mask. I looked at Gino, who was calmly sitting there with absolutely nothing in his hands. 

“Do you have everything?” I asked.

“Yep.” he said.

Miami Beach

Once we arrived at Miami Beach it was breezy and around 70 degrees, but the sun peeked out from time to time, which gave stunning photos!

We split up when we reached the sand: I walked north and Gino walked south. I trudged happily six miles along the windy, lapping shore, searching in vain for large shells, but finding bouquets of sea vegetation and washed-up iridescent jellyfish.

After a few hours of walking, I headed west to the paved pathway that runs parallel to the beach. I found a bike rental kiosk and on a whim, rented a Citibike for two hours.

After 20 minutes, I met up with Gino on the path (where I shared some of my snacks with him, since he had come without any…hehe) and after an hour and a half, we met up again at the kiosk and planned to get a ride home.

Once again, I had barely untangled myself from the bike and gathered up my bulky wares, when Gino said, “Okay, our ride is almost here.”

Tweaking Expectations 

After getting home, he showered off all of the sand, came out of the bathroom and said:

You know you can go places without me, right?

This struck me as a strange juxtaposition of the parent-child relationship, but maybe this is the emerging story of aging and could I possibly be on the brink already?

To reassure him that I was capable, I took off for a walk to Target when he wasn’t looking, and I forced myself to take extra time browsing so I wouldn’t get home too soon. 

As I was heading home, whom do I see on the sidewalk, but my own son, giving me a minimalist smile in exchange for my motherly wave hello?

I got home and boldly drank strawberry kombucha out of a wine glass.

Day Three

Gino moves in and out of this place like a Ninja. One minute, I hear him exiting the bathroom, and the next minute I walk out to the living room and notice that his shoes and keys are gone. 

So, to prevent myself from calling out his name just to see if he is still here (I think this annoys him) I have resorted to checking his Google location (a temporary, trip-only concession).  

This morning, I told him that I’m going to stick around home and relax.

“I will probably walk over to Starbucks later this afternoon,” I said, hoping this would impress him.

But tomorrow — our last full day — I definitely want to go back to THE BEACH!

{ Paraphrased from Peter }

Surprised by suffering? 

Unless you caused it,

Fear not and be glad.

Fiery Trials? 

Embrace.

Rejoice.  Share

In Christ’s suffering.

Named as one of His followers, longing for heaven —

Glorifying God in it all.

—-

Easy to scrawl the words, harder to live out. All by God’s grace.” ~ Me

“Nobody likes 1 Peter 4:12-19!” — Pastor Troy Dobbs

“The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“When suffering, rise to the occasion. Do what the trial demands of you.” ~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

“Why do you always have to cry?” ~ what my 12-year old son said to me after I listened to an uplifting sermon about suffering

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,

    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. — 1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV

Photo by Photo by Illiya Vjestica on Unsplash

{ Thank You, God }

[ this was written by my son and reposted from his blog ]

Dear Father,

It seems an odd thing to miss someone who you’ve never met in person. However, recently I have felt an intense urge to be with you. I long for the day that I can stand in your presence and look you in the face. I cannot wait for the day that this mirage of a life no longer separates us. In the meantime, I know I have my instructions. I am to run around this darkening world giving light to those who will receive it. Please allow me to be used by you in the way that brings you the most glory. Give me the ability to love others the way you do father. To think, you came to this desolate place so many years ago to save me from my sin! Father, it’s almost too much to comprehend.

You reached out your hand to me. The thing that breaks my heart is that while you sought me, I ran as fast as I could away from you. I wanted nothing to do with you. Nobody on this earth seeks you. God, but you are the only one who offers life and true happiness. I am here on my knees tonight, Lord. I am a broken soul that comes to you for mending. You are the author of the entire book, and even though the book has countless pages and numerous characters I was among those you picked to spread your message of hope. Every day I wonder how you could even use me for such an important mission.

Give me your strength Lord! Help me do all I can to spread your message of love to the world. You have given your sons and daughters the responsibility of getting people ready. One day you will be back. And it won’t be like the last time you were here. When you make your return Lord, everyone will know it. The sky will open with the sound of trumpets, you will descend ready to greet your children. Help me to have done all I can till that day father. Cause me to remember that everyone I encounter is an eternal soul. Everyone is in the same boat before you. Nobody deserves anything good, yet you offer the best thing to the worst of sinners. Thank you, God.

(c) G. Luciano 2021

{ Mama Makeover }

This post is not about pickles. Please keep reading.

Mama Makeover: Part 1

It started a few months ago, as documented in a previous blog post.

Summary: my oldest adult daughter gently wondered why I have been wearing such unlikely wardrobe combinations / mismatched outfits. I could blame it on a mid-life crisis, that I have nothing to wear, or on cabin fever. I could have blamed it on Covid-19 as many things were in 2020.

This first daughter pointing out my wardrobe issues was the initial step in what I believe may be a groundbreaking 2021 Mama Makeover. Yes, it is past due. Indicators that a mid-life makeover may be mandatory include the color-damaged lifeless hair, the lack of age-appropriate makeup, and the extra 10 pounds gained in record time.

Mama Makeover: Part 2

I showed up at my sister’s house on Christmas Day, feeling rather blah. Sara is only 4 years younger, but is slim and accomplished and doesn’t even have to color her hair. She is a great listener and encouraged me when I realized that I had forgotten our plate of cookies at home, but I brought a helping of my age-related grumblings instead. We commisserated together for a few minutes before diving into the lefse.

Mama Makeover: Part 3

Hours later, my next oldest daughter lounged on my bed (I love when she does that.)  I laughed and summarized my Christmas Day aging discussion with my sister. She affirmed me as she always does…and then gently and tentatively added some makeover ideas. 

Have you ever seen The Pickle Story episode from the Andy Griffith Show? Aunt Bea offers her homemade pickles to her neighbor Clara, who has been the winner of the county fair pickle contest 11 years in a row.  At one bite of Aunt Bea’s unsavory pickles, Clara winces and nods her head, trying to be kind. But then she slowly adds several recommendations, revealing that Aunt Bea’s pickles truly need serious improvement.

In like manner, my daughter rolled out a few tips:

  • Maybe you could get bangs again, so your hair would frame your face…
  • You seem to wear a lot of dark colors. If you wore bright colors once in a while…
  • And, your glasses make you look a little severe…
  • I follow this one homeschooling mom on Instagram and even though she is home every day, she always wears lipstick…

The Makeover Continues

Guess what? I have explored and followed many of these suggestions. Why? Because when a Mama gets makeover support from her young adult daughters, this is wise advice from the people who know her the best and love her the most.  My girls know that I don’t wear lots of makeup or fancy clothes and I usually keep my hair in a ponytail. They know my favorite accessory is an apron, that I shop at GoodWill and that I could never give up cookies. They are the ideal consultants to brainstorm a few changes that I can live with — so, the 2021 Makeover is to be continued….

~~~

Note: Because I believe that God created me in His image, it is my personal desire to make improvements where needed — not to try to recapture youth, over-focus on outward appearance or to imitate the world and its values, but to make my aging, imperfect body the best it can be for myself, my family and for service to my Creator.

~~~

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself…” 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 The Message Bible

{ Dear God, What Does Prayer Look Like to You? }

Dear God,

What does prayer look like to You?

 

Do You see our prayers like a cloud, rising?

Or do petitions position themselves like pinpoints on a map?

 

Do you hear them or feel them or

Did you already answer before the world began?

 

Does prayer turn Your heart like a stream of water?

Does it make You turn Your head and notice us?

 

Do You ever shake your head and decide it’s a no-go because you see the whole picture and it won’t work out best that way?

Do you wish we would understand?

 

Do prayers collect like sand in an hourglass?

Like rain in a bucket?

Like tears on a pillow?

 

What does prayer look like to You?

 

~~~

His promises are true / Romans 4:21

He never changes / Malachi 3:6 & Hebrews 13:8

He is always good / Psalm 145:9

~~~

Photos from Unsplash

{ The Blind Friend and the Sobbing Drunk on the Beach }

Yesterday, I sent a message to a total stranger, requesting help for a spiritually blind friend. 

Think: Asking Santa for a new baby sister, or calling on the President to help the family purchase a new dishwasher.

I am now sitting here at 3 a.m. wondering what the response will be, and I am comforted by sudden thoughts of being in good Bible company.

I recall — with hope — some innovative, yet seemingly inappropriate ventures that pop out of scripture — ones which ended remarkably well:

  • A harlot with faith who hid foreign spies in her roof. (Joshua 2)
  • Buddies who lowered their needy friend through a crowd and a roof to get healing ~ budding in line at best, and at worst: breaking and entering. (Mark 2:4)
  • A controversial woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, in front of a batch of scorners, then went on to wipe His feet with her hair. (John 12)

Have you ever done something outlandish or eccentric, but for a worthy reason?

  • Said to a stranger: “God told me to talk to you…” 
  • Dumped kindness and grace on someone who slighted or offended you?
  • Sent an anonymous gift in the mail?
  • Stretched beyond norms to rescue someone you love?

God’s ways — as seen in scripture — show me that He doesn’t always work within our manners, ways, protocol, or traditional appropriate-ness.

Jesus doesn’t bid us all approach Him as gently weeping sinners, sitting in shiny church pews. Sometimes repentance and God’s forgiveness wash over a sobbing drunk, stretched out on a sandy beach. 

So, all to say, I am praying that God, who creatively used a donkey to speak to a prophet (Numbers 22:22), will use my strangely unexpected message, sent off to a total stranger, to open the eyes of a blind friend.

Photos:

Bible Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Blind Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash