Month: April 2015

Twenty-Five Years

The last few weeks have been about celebrating our children, but today, Matthew and I celebrate each other. Today, we celebrate twenty-five years of marriage. Twenty-five years of almost always wedded bliss. I say almost always because, in twenty-five years, we have both occasionally had our less than stellar moments. We are two imperfect people who love each other imperfectly.


Matthew and I are blessed to be around younger folks just starting out. It is for these youngsters that today’s blog is written. Marriage gets a bad rap sometimes, but I believe its struggles and frequent failures are not the institution’s fault, but the fault of those of us who enter into it unprepared for what it’s all about.

Humans didn’t come up with the idea of marriage. Marriage was the idea of our Creator. With marriage, God was drawing a picture of a most intimate relationship between a man and a woman. It was to be an earthly relationship unlike any other. It was to be binding… it was to place those two people into a position of oneness, spiritually. Yes, marriage is a physical relationship, too, but most importantly, marriage is spiritual intimacy. Marriage is the example of the closeness, spiritually, that God desires to have with us. It is why He calls his church the Bride of Christ. It is for this reason that marriage is so important, and why many feel it is worth preserving without folks making it something it is not.

In Mark, the Bible says, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

In marriage, we are to place our spouse above all others. No other person is to mean more to us than they. There is only that one person with whom we become one. That person stands above parents, family, children, and friends. When Matthew and I got married we felt that. It was an “us against the world” kind of unity. We still loved our extended families, and we couldn’t have made it without their support. When we had children, we realized that love for another had just gone to a whole different level. Long-time friends still held special places in our hearts, but we were bound together in holy matrimony, set apart in front of God, to be united in life and purpose.

To that end, and because I sort of think 25 years gives me a small platform to speak intelligently on the subject, I have compiled a short list of musts and must nots for those just starting out on this journey. The following is a list of things that have worked for us.

After you’ve said, I do”:

  •  In 25 years I have never had a cross word with my in-laws. In 25 years, Matthew has never had a cross word with my parents either. Why? When issues arise, I let him talk those through with his folks, and he lets me talk them through with mine. Blood is still thicker than water.
  • The Bible tells us to never let the sun go down on our anger. Why is that? It has to do with time. Restoring a broken marriage relationship should happen as soon as possible so that you don’t allow the enemy to get a foothold in your mind. I can demonize my husband so quickly in my mind if I am allowed enough time. Before I know it, I am telling myself things like, “If he really loved me he would…” Nip it in the bud. Matthew and I have stayed up all night before to resolve an issue.
  • Never allow the word “divorce” to enter your mind or your vocabulary, and never take your spouse for granted because you don’t. Divorce shouldn’t ever be on the table, but sometimes you can allow yourself to act in a way that is dishonoring of your spouse because you know “they aren’t going anywhere.” Deciding to keep divorce out of the picture shouldn’t give you free reign to behave badly.
  • With regard to finances, there is no yours and mine, only ours. If you cannot trust someone with your money, you cannot trust them enough to marry them.
  • Matthew has access to everything I have. I have access to everything he has. I can read his email and open his snail mail. He can read mine. I can look in his wallet, and he can prowl through my purse if he is brave enough. With the “Find My Friends” app, we can know each other’s location any time of the day or night if we choose to look. There are no secrets. Now I rarely read his mail, and I can’t remember the last time I looked in his wallet except to grab some cash, but I could. Full access. Nothing to hide, no secrets.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Of course, there are many things that go into making a marriage last and go well, and each marriage comes with its own set of challenges. None of us enters marriage planning for it to fail, but you don’t plan properly for it to succeed, it likely will fail.

Twenty-five years has gone by so quickly. I have lived more of my life with Matthew than I have without him. My life with him has been a never-ending adventure with unexpected plot twists, challenges, unspeakable joys, and unfailing love. Good marriage is possible, it just doesn’t happen by accident.

“We’re Not All Like That”

One of my work friends is black. Most of the time, we get along great and have a fun time working together. We are quite the pair. She has skin the shade of my favorite brownies, and my skin looks like all my ancestors are Scandinavian.FullSizeRender

We’ve worked together for some time now, and I have come to realize some things. We are very different people.

I said we get along great... most of the time. Sometimes she doesn’t get me, and sometimes I don’t get her. There are some cultural differences that won’t be ignored. Occasionally, I wonder why I talk to her about some things, knowing she probably won’t understand my point of view. She likely feels the same way about me… this strange white woman. Still, we are eager to understand each other. There are times when she will ask me some questions about life, and I get the feeling that I am being interviewed. She is on a white people fact finding mission. I do the best I can to represent, but I know that sometimes I just come across as, well, white.

Recently, she and I spent our lunch hour running errands. We both had things we needed from Walmart, and neither of us was too interested in going into that scene after work. So we skipped the food and went shopping.

My friend will do anything to save a dollar. I don’t think that’s a black thing, I like to save a dollar, too. But she is relentless. The item she wanted to buy was listed at another retailer for a good bit less. She wanted Walmart to match the price. Okay.

So we stood in line at the service desk, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We waited for a long time, all the while watching the young black woman behind the counter being, shall I just say, unproductive? I couldn’t help it. I got tickled at the ridiculousness of her manner. The line was long, and I guess she figured if she wasn’t going anywhere that day, neither were we.

Finally, my friend said to me, “We’re not all like that.”

Obviously working the customer service counter at Walmart is not that woman’s calling. Meeting the needs of grumpy, complaining customers is not what cranks her tractor.

But I knew what my friend meant. She meant that all black people aren’t unmotivated, unproductive, and full of attitude. Her defense of her race was not really necessary. I told her that those traits are found plenty in white people, too. Actually, that people who are not serving their God given purpose all kind of look like that young woman, regardless of color, creed, socioeconomic standing, or gender.

That woman’s demeanor was not a race issue, it was a heart issue. And while I am on the subject, I’m fairly well convinced that most race issues aren’t about race. Most race issues are matters of the heart. Whether we realize it or not, many of us make idols of our race… as if we had anything to do with what color we are. We can no more choose the color of our skin than we can any other situation into which we are born.

I appreciate this friendship I have. There will always be differences, but there are far more things upon which we find common ground. We both love Jesus. We are both committed wives and mothers. Family and friends matter to us both. We strive hard to work together in spite of our differences, and we find a lot to laugh at- she at me, me at her, and both of us together at other people. 🙂

It’s a dance, and it takes effort. But most things that are worth it usually do.

Life In The Fast Lane

When my kids were tiny, my mom would always tell me to enjoy those years, those tiring, sleepless years, because they would soon be gone and with them the sweetness of my little babies. I heard her, but I didn’t really listen to her. Those years gave way to more years, and as my kids came on up in school and we found ourselves keeping up with the schedules and demands of a growing family, again she would say, “Enjoy these years. Before you know it your kids will be grown and they won’t need you so much.” I heard her. But, again, I didn’t really listen. I was too busy trying to keep up with all I was trying to accomplish to focus much on the message in her words.

Last week my husband asked me if it freaked me out that our oldest son is scheduled to graduate from college this month. I stared at him kind of blankly and said, “No”. I said no because I haven’t really taken the time to think about it much. I know that my son is stressed. He’s working a full time job, going to school full time and in a relationship. These have been endless days for him, and I am glad that school is leaving his plate. I am so happy for him that I have not taken the time to think about how I feel about the whole thing.

The mirror tells me that time is fleeting. Every day, every year, that passes is gone for good. There is no going back, and no recapturing days that are long gone. I bet you’re feeling pretty good about now, aren’t you? Hang in there, this is not an attempt to ruin your day, I promise.

I look in the face of my oldest son, and I can still remember his fat little baby face. I can see the determination in his eyes at seven years old. I remember the days of driving him to music lessons, teaching him to drive, talking to him about life and relationships, and leading him to be a committed follower of Jesus. Each day and each moment is written in the history books.

My mom was right. All four of my kids are nearly grown, and they don’t really need me so much anymore. But all those days and nights, all that time investing in who they are doesn’t impact the past… it changes the future.

I’m 48 years old. I look in the mirror and it doesn’t lie. I’m not 25 anymore, but that’s okay. It is what it is. Maybe my kids don’t need me like they did when they were little, but thank God for that. I don’t think I could do it now, not like I did then. It is far less a physical demand to mother now as it is an emotional, mental, and spiritual one. Did you hear about the German woman who at 65 years old is pregnant with quadruplets? On purpose!?

I think if I know anything about this mothering thing at all, this is the way it’s supposed to go. We begin with our children simply being desired. They are an idea, a longing, already loved in our hearts and minds before we ever lay an eye on them. When we finally hold them in our arms, that love grows beyond any bounds we had ever imagined. We invest in, care for, and nurture them through years of life experiences until they stand on the edge of adulthood, looking back at us, before taking that leap into their own adventure… the one we only get to watch.

Then we begin to say things like, “They never call.” Or when they do call we say things like, “When will I get to see you? You never come to visit.” At least, those are the things I hear from my own mother.

I am reminded that raising children is just part of my adventure, an important part, but it is not the entire story. Everything I’ve done, all the experiences I have had have brought me to this place in life. I am where I am by no accident. If you ask me to tell you about myself, the first thing I will say is that I am a wife and mother. I love those things, but that is not all that I am. Most importantly, I am a daughter of the King, and that means there are more things to come, things He has planned for me to do. This is just part of life in the fast lane.

I left my own mother’s nest a long time ago, and my adventure isn’t over yet… and if you are still breathing, neither is yours.

I Don’t Like Water

I don’t like to drink water. There. I said it. It tastes bad to me. I have tasted water that was delicious before, but that was back when I drank it unfiltered from a water hose at my grandparent’s farm and it was well water. It was an awfully hot summer, too, so that must be factored in as well. I was thirsty.

But now? Now I know I am supposed to drink it for my health, and I just hate it. If I do drink it, I generally flavor it with something to kill the taste. Something like aspartame that will give me cancer should I decide to dump a truckload into my glass.

Still, I am trying recently to drink more water. As a nurse, I know the great benefits of drinking it. I used to tell my patients that they should be drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day knowing full well I could not remember the last time I had a single cup myself. Hypocrisy ain’t pretty. Still, I know water’s great benefit and so I am trying to do better. I turn up the glass of water in my hand and chug it like the nasty cough medicine my mother used to funnel down me when I was a kid. Blech.

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There are other things I know are good for me, and yet I have trouble doing them. You are probably no different. More exercise, less trans fat. Less stress, more fruits and veggies. Most of us know the things we should do and the things we should not. It is in actually doing and not doing that we find the struggle. The idea is always much easier than the practice.

Most of what we want or enjoy tends to be the things that are not the best for us in the long run. I used to be an avid reader of murder mysteries. I loved them. The suspense, plot, and story lines had me hook, line, and sinker. I was obsessed. Until the day it dawned on me that my outlook on life was not what it had been. It was then that it occurred on me that my darker attitude could have a lot to do with what I was feeding my thought life. Reluctantly, I let the mysteries go. It was hard for a while, but I don’t miss them at all now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately. I’ve been thinking about it more than I have actually been doing it. Prayer is talking to God. I know that to get to know someone better requires talking to them; sharing my thoughts and feelings and listening to theirs. It’s give and take in relationships. I want to see God moving in my life and in the lives of my family and friends, and yet sometimes I just can’t seem to do that which I know will benefit me and those I love.

It’s just stupid.

Sometimes it’s the idea of doing something that is harder than actually doing it. I know that once I get started in a conversation with God, that I am rarely ready to stop when the time comes that I have to. So what’s my deal? What am I waiting on, really? Its not that I don’t pray, I do, but often there is a roadblock in my mind about serious conversation with the Lord. When I think about moving past the pleasantries and on to more meaningful, perhaps difficult, conversation, I find myself just passing on it altogether. It’s just so much effort.

Investing in relationships is a good thing, though. We were made to be in relationships. Phillip Yancey once said,

“Like all good things, prayer requires some discipline. Yet I believe that life with God should seem more like friendship than duty. Prayer includes moments of ecstasy and also dullness, mindless distraction and acute concentration, flashes of joy and bouts of irritation. In other words, prayer has features in common with all relationships that matter.”

I don’t go to the gym even though I have a membership. I tell myself I don’t have time to go. There are lots of things I tell myself that I don’t have time to do. Prayer is sometimes one of those things. Then I am reminded of a quote from Martin Luther.

“Work, work, from morning until late at night.  In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.”

Martin knew what I also know to be true. I have so much to do that I don’t have time not to pray. What if all that is missing from God moving in my life is time spent with him talking about it? What if?

Surprise! Surprise!

Some people don’t like surprises. I love surprises. I mean I love good surprises.

But sometimes things surprise me that should not. After following Jesus and living my life as a devoted believer, I am still so often surprised when I see that God has chosen to move in response to my petitions of Him. By this stage of the game, I should not be so caught off guard. I should not be so surprised when He is moved to work in my life and the lives of those I love in response to prayers from his favorite daughter. (It’s okay; you are his favorite, too!)

There has been a statement floating around in my brain for a little while now. A dear friend and mentor shared it with me a while back, and I keep coming back to it. It is something that John Wesley said a long time ago. My version of it is this… “What if God does nothing in the affairs of people, except in response to our prayers?” My friend asks the follow up question… What are we leaving on the table?

I pray often for the people I love and for the people I am blessed to mentor and shepherd. But if I really consider the question John Wesley raised, I do not pray nearly enough.

Last fall, my favorite daughter started her senior year as a visual art student in a local school of the arts. I prayed so much that the Lord would infuse her work, and that He would lend His creativity to the things that she created. I wanted people to see His handiwork in her art. I prayed for it to be her desire that people gain a bit of understanding of the One she loves through her art. (She is my favorite daughter for many reasons, the least of which is she is my only daughter.)  🙂

The school year has flown by, and last week, my daughter had her senior art show at her art school. There were four artists showing the culmination of their art instruction. It was a big deal for them. My daughter began her journey at the art school as a talented artist who mostly painted or drew pictures of the beautiful things in creation, pretty pictures that showcased her abilities, but had little meaning beyond that.

lionAs I stood in the gallery at the art school and looked at her display, I realized that a transformation had taken place. Of the four talented artists being showcased, Laura had by far, been given the largest space.



It appeared to be a random hodgepodge of drawings and fabric and words grouped into vignettes, loosely tied together with string that led your eye to the next vignette all across and over the largest wall in the gallery. There were both drawings of the expanse of space and the minute detail of human hands. Planets and stars alongside the delicate creation of the human figure. It was all very compelling and it was the largest, by far, of the displays.


As I stood there watching the people who came to the reception viewing my daughter’s work, I knew that God had answered my prayers in a big way. Her work stood in stark contrast to the other artist’s. The other artist’s work showcased their talents beautifully as well, but only Laura’s spoke of her deep understanding and appreciation of the God who created the universe, and yet still cares about the smallest detail of the human experience. In that moment, I was surprised again, that God had answered my prayer so completely, and in a way I had not expected.

What if God does nothing in the affairs of people, except in response to our prayers? What concerns are we leaving on the table, questions unanswered, needs unmet because we won’t take the time to go the Father in prayer?hand

Artist Statement
“In my work, I have made a conscious decision to make art that causes me to have a desire to continue to create. This recent work is about the way that I believe the world was created from the words of a creator and the delicacy of all of that alongside my belief in a God who hand-molded humans into existence.

I touch on the connections between us and nature, and how that can affect how we react and how we live. I focus on certain aspects of the natural world and how these things can be overwhelming and empowering, yet they were only spoken into existence. And as humans, we discredit the beauty of our own lives and our own mountains and universes. I like to use a balance of distortion and moments in time in my pieces that is calming to look at and think about.

 I have tried to create art that causes a reaction that provokes the viewer to think. I make art that reflects my interpretation of the universe and the creation of it. My work is an extension of my beliefs and views of this world. I display my desires and thoughts very delicately, like scattered puzzle pieces or an image that can only be seen if you connect all of the dots.
                                                                                                                                                                  Laura Benson

Pure Nonsense

Everything that glitters is not gold, and sometimes a thing called moss is really algae. Where is she going with this? I could have an problem, if I were not careful. I recently ordered two marimo moss balls from Amazon. These moss balls come from a lake in Japan, or so the story goes. The story also goes that lots of Japanese people keep these moss balls as pets.

The Japanese are a curious folk. I am also curious, and having a rather unhealthy interest in moss, I ordered a couple. The truth I discovered about Marimo moss balls is that they are not really moss at all, but a fuzzy algae. I am aware of the icky vibes out there surrounding this talk of algae.

Marimos look like a mossy plush green ball. You plop them in a container of distilled water, let them have a bit of light, and watch them grow. Actually, they grow only a few millimeters a year, so watching them grow might be only slightly more entertaining than watching paint dry.

FullSizeRenderMarimos look like balls because the current of the water in their natural habitat rolls them around enough that they become balls. They make great additions to aquariums, or they can just be algae pets on your office desk or in your kitchen window. I was intrigued, thought the story was pretty good, and I am now the proud owner of two Marimos. They arrived from Amazon in a small Ziploc bag.

I have named them Fred and Ethel. I used to be able to tell one from the other when I first put them in their containers, but now I’m not so sure. Pictured here in my kitchen window is Fred. I think. Neither of them answers to their names, so it really isn’t an issue. I’m hoping I will be able to tell them apart eventually by their personalities.

Marimos are foolishness. And odd, and different. They are a piece of a faraway place, and having them is just fun nonsense. They are alive and interesting and difficult to justify having. Trust me, when my husband asked, “Why do we have these?”

I really had no good answer.

He truly does endure so much.

Marimos are not endangered. They are not in need of rescue, and there is no noble reason to have one. Yet I love natural things, and seeing the naturally unusual things our God creates up close. How often do we do that? How often do we really look at His handiwork up close and personal? We are in much too much of a hurry most of the time for such nonsense. But if He took a moment to make it, surely we can take one to appreciate it.

At their current rate of growth, I should be in a nursing home before Fred or Ethel will need to upsize. It is true that everything that glitters is not gold, but sometimes you can find a treasure in something as simple and weird as a ball of moss, er algae.

“We all need a little nonsense in our lives.”  Who said that?