Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happily Ever After: A Lesson and a Tribute

This was her second marriage.
This was his third.
They both had a history.
They both carried a lot of baggage.
He was several years older than her.
The odds were stacked against them.
Statistics implied that this marriage would end in divorce also.
People (including family) didn’t think it would last.

I am sure at one time they both dreamed of the perfect life. They wanted the fairy tale. No doubt they longed for the happily ever after.

As a little girl, as a starry-eyed teenager, as a young college student, as a green wife, as a new mother, as a divorced woman—I had a vision of what happily ever after looked like. I am not sure I ever articulated my definitions or expectations, perhaps not even with myself. I just knew there was a space within me that longed for the fairy tale.

Naively? Of course.

My definitions were naïve. They were unrealistic and based on culturally sentimental (secular and Christian) demands that were temporary and transient.

One of my long time favorite movies is Ever After with Drew Barrymore. This film is a retelling of the age old tale of Cinderella. A few wild twists and great character development add much interest to this formulaic plot. (Leonardo Da Vinci even appears; how he ends up in France, I am not quite sure).

My favorite quote from this movie is made by Cinderella’s great-granddaughter, the Grande Dame. She is relating the ‘real version’ of the story to the Grimm brothers. The movie ends with her words.

“And, while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.”

The point is that they lived.

We get so caught up with the happily ever after and whatever that entails at any given moment, in any given situation. We have allowed Hollywood and the Disney-fied versions to color and tinge this life state for us. We have traded something real for something air-brushed, compiled, and fabricated. We have traded the illusion of love for the Spirit-defined love of 1st Corinthians 13.

The happily ever after of this culture is rooted on appearance and physicality. Often it is based on what you have to offer rather than who you are. Frequently the happily-ever-after demands an arbitrary standard that does not and cannot exist.

I am rehabilitating my definition and expectations of happily ever after because over the years I have missed the point.

Remember the couple at the beginning of this post?

They will be married thirty-two years in October.

Let that sink in.

They have beaten the odds. They have defied the statistics. And they ignored the whispers and the negative talk. They determined their own definition of happily ever after. They wanted to live.

I asked them what advice they would give? What is their secret?

I got a two sentence answer.

Two sentences.

“Take care of each other.”

“Do things with each other; do what the other likes to do.”

I have observed them and their relationship. I have watched closely.

They live their philosophy.

“And, while they have lived happily ever after, the point, friends, is that they lived.”

I know this to be true.

This couple is my dad and my step-mother.

Their thirty-two years have not been necessarily the stuff of fairy-tales.

They have had more than their share of struggles and problems. They have endured the censure of family, they have struggled financially, they have lost all sets of parents, they have lost siblings. They have had to deal with an estranged daughter, they have had to cope with the horrible disease of MS ( they do physical therapy together every night), they have had to deal with horrible horse riding accidents (one was thrown from a horse and was in ICU for days).

Yet, their marriage has endured. They are admired, respected, and loved by many.

I love them both—

The day of my second wedding, my father took my face in his hands. He looked me in the eye (his were misted and so were mine) and he said to me, “Take care of each other. Enjoy each other, do things together.”

What an incredible redefining of happily ever after.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Overflow

Jesus said, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40, NIV).

I read my daughter’s blog this week.

She is a prolific and profound writer.

(Visit her blog @ www.ancientstillness.blogspot.com, and when you do read: The Rock’s Cry).

Her refrain of “holy, holy, holy” has reverberated in my thoughts all week.


I cannot keep quiet. I can not be silent. My heart is too full, and Jesus also said that out of the overflow of the heart does the mouth speak.”(Luke 6:45, NIV)

My heart is speaking.

Not long ago the jar of me was empty—
dry as dust.
Moisture did not cling to my earthen walls;
it was absorbed too quickly.
Drought had shriveled my soul.
I was dying of thirst.
I had forgotten the taste of fresh water.
With David I thought my tongue would stick to the roof of my mouth.
I had continued to return to a well gone dry,
to a shallow, stagnant cistern.

I had been strapped to the back of a heaving, lumbering camel, and I was wandering through the desert.

This was a dire and urgent sojourn.

I was meandering in circles in this vast, unyielding place.

I wasn’t aware that if you didn’t have a focal point in this harsh place—that no matter how straight of a path you tried to walk—your path would ever circle. Your dominant leg would lead you; my right leg led me clockwise rather than straight.

But my Father heard my cries.
He heard my silent voice.
He told me to look up.

And I did.

I didn’t understand that my path was starting to straighten.
I just simply kept looking up instead of in,
Out to him instead of inward toward myself.

I could smell the water before I actually saw it.
I could feel the moisture in the air on my parched skin.
I could hear the faint gurgle of the springs.

I found myself on the edge of an oasis.
I was too amazed to remind myself I could go into the interior—I was too enthralled with the abundance of what was available on the periphery.

So, I pitched my tent and camped there for a while. (I didn’t even bother to tether my camel. He would come back if I needed him.)

Rehydrating

Replenishing

Restoring

Renewing

Refreshing

Refilling

One morning I woke and found I was full.

Full.

And that would have been enough.

But, you see, our God isn’t just about enough. He extends generosity with abundance and bounty. He causes people to fill up and spill over. He creates excessive overflow. He gives with lavishness and extravagance. His goal is to bring his people to a point of more than enough.

My God brought me deep into his oasis—I have been brought into his place of plenty.

It is a place of water, and light, and of palm trees.

I understand the beauty and value of this place of overflow because I have experienced seasons of drought.

Oh! How I want others to know this vast richness of his grace.
How I long for the overflow to rush over those near me.

I am on holy ground.
My shoes need to be removed.
I need to be facedown.

My heart is speaking.
I cannot be silent.

Holy

Holy

Holy