Valentine’s Day for this High Maintenance Woman

Written while living in Arizona:

A friend of mine asked me what we would be doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day. She hasn’t known us for all that long, nor does she know us too well. I got to thinking about how I could explain it and decided I should try to write it down.

I want the world for Valentine’s Day. The commercials about Valentine’s gifts that you can order over the phone or online, such as a dozen roses with a vase and chocolates, warm, cozy pajamas, large oversized stuffed animals – all of these things leave me cold. Not interested. Don’t want them. I don’t want little things that are easy for someone to send at a reasonable price.

I am a high maintenance woman. I don’t care to have an hour of my lover’s time. I want the whole day. I don’t want to have to put up with mediocre service at a meal out. I want the best. I am very demanding. I want to have the table for as long as we care to linger over our meal – perhaps hours and hours. I refuse to be rushed.

I want a spectacular view – the best view according to our choice of seating, not the choice of the particular waitperson on duty. I expect a beautiful tablecloth. I want privacy. I want flowers. I want quiet background music. I have reason to think that I will get all that I desire.

I am a high maintenance woman, and thankfully, I have a husband who is not only my best friend but the most thoughtful of men regarding the way he treats and cares for me. He knows just how to cater to my exacting desires. He is willing to indulge even my fanciful whims.

Before we leave home, we will need to make some preparations, pack a bag with the requisite belongings. We will need to make one stop on our way to our special Valentine’s meal, to pick up something we want to take along, but that detour complete he will drive us to our destination.

We will park the car, and walk up the path to our favorite picnic table. We will put our beautiful tablecloth on the table, secured by colorful bird weights to help it counter the breeze. On that, we will spread out our delectable Valentine’s day feast, whose main course will likely come from Subway.  Although we love our privacy, we will welcome visitors who are not too intrusive — little ground squirrels, quail, perhaps some roadrunners or other little friends.  I have no doubt that we will have the soft music of the gentle breezes and perhaps a bird solo or choir.  The decor and view will be nothing short of magnificent.  The Rincon Mountains, Saguaro cactus, and early spring flowers.

This has been one of our favorite ways to spend our wedding anniversary.  This year, however, it was a wee bit too cold, and we were not able to indulge this luxury.  So this is how we will celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Even the heavens are cooperating.  The temperatures are supposed to be comfortable sweater weather in the mid-sixties.

This man promised to give me the world. He puts up with my extreme demands every day. Once again, he is willing to do whatever it takes to make his wife a very happy woman indeed.  Despite the fact that I am high maintenance.

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When Only Prayer Will Answer

There is a remarkable young lady who is a friend of a friend of mine, in another state, whom I have gotten to know a bit on Facebook. She often asks her Facebook friends this simple question: “How can I pray for you this week?”

I thanked her and asked her to pray for the health of my husband. Then I asked her how I could pray for her. She responded with a request and a thank you.

Isn’t this what we all should do? Former next-door neighbors of my parents, decades ago, are still friends of mine (and my husband). These days they live far away in Georgia, but we have gotten together over the years in Georgia and Arizona, and we count them as extraordinary friends. When my husband was recently in the Emergency Room, and I was afraid for him, I emailed and asked her to please pray for my husband and me. Yes, I asked for prayers for myself as well. I don’t want to be a widow.

She wrote me the kindest email back letting me know that my husband and I are on her daily prayer list, and have been for years, by name. What an awesome thing the church is! A bunch of redeemed sinners who carry their burdens and those of others to their Lord in prayer.

I thought hard about a title for this post. I have so many friends who don’t seem even remotely religious, and they sometimes surprise me and ask for my prayers. I should know better. When your back is to the wall, and you don’t know where to turn – you turn to God in prayer. You have a conversation with your Lord.

You may not be eloquent or craft your words in a beautiful lyrical cadence. That is irrelevant. What matters is that you pray. When someone asks you to pray for them, what matters is that you do that. Don’t hesitate. Pray for your friend. Your job is to turn to God. Trust God to answer your prayer.

I am very thankful to have such people in my life. I pray that you have such people in your life who will keep you and those you love, in their prayers.

Posted in Church, Family, Friendship, Life in these times, Love, Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hope for a Divided Country

On Wednesday of this week, President Trump delivered the State of the Union Address. I am reasonably sure that my response to it, and that of my husband, is far different from many of my friends. We thought the speech was very positive, but we particularly enjoyed some of the uplifting moments during the speech when the President told the incredible stories of others. We were glad we watched it in its entirety. I believe that if you missed it, and would like to watch it, you can find it here: The White House, State of the Union

As you may or may not know, one of the pages on my blog, When The River Won’t Flow, lists some books that I believe are worthy of notice and that I’ve mentioned in my blog. Today’s post is about one such book. It tells the true story of two very different people, from entirely different backgrounds and entirely different life experiences who, oddly enough, not only became friends but best friends. I read this book back in September of 2019, and I find myself referring to it time and again.

The book is: Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country and is written by Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy. It was published in 2018 by Tyndale Momentum of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois.

I could not put this book down, and before I had even finished reading it, I bought a second copy to give as a gift. I had long admired Tim Scott, since ages ago when I first got on his email list while living in South Carolina. Trey Gowdy, I only learned about much later, through his cross-examining of witnesses, and his humble but always spot on and direct, sharp intellect and impeccable character. This book talked about how they became best friends despite all the many things that were different about their families, their lives, their academic and work trajectories, and their histories. Yet they became the kind of friends who were there for each other no matter what.

They tell their own & joint stories – but they also show how their friendship and their Christian faith inspired them to help others to do what they have done. They end their book Unified with the first chapter of a newer book, which I have not yet seen, called: The Friendship Challenge which is described as a six-week course on bringing racial reconciliation to your own community.

The Friendship Challenge: A Six-Week Guide to True Reconciliation–One Friendship at a Time,  and is written by Senator Tim Scott & Congressman Trey Gowdy. 2018, Tyndale Momentum of Tyndale House Publishers.

Once in a while, in recent years, I have had friends throw down some litmus test gauntlet, to test whether this or that person is the kind of person of whom they can approve. On a couple of occasions, the litmus test was so insulting and belittling, that I found myself needing to step back and cool down before I could answer. For example, I once had a friend ask me if I had ever really known someone of another race. Really? All my life, I have – from when I was just a toddler, and my parents had house guests, to the present day.  All my life, I have gone to school with and worked with people of different nationalities and races. I think litmus tests are incredibly silly. Instead of trying to see how superior we are to someone else – how about trying to see what we have in common?

Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy have written a remarkable book. I found Unified exceedingly hard to put down. Some of it is told by one, some by the other, some parts speak of things experienced quite differently by each of the men, yet, the connections are amazingly beautiful and worth reading.

When we build bridges, rather than setting traps, there is little we can’t accomplish together. Please, take some time – and check out these books.

Posted in Books, Church, Friendship, Life in these times, Politics, Poverty, Responsibility | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Afraid of Losing You

You have loved me, comforted me, dried my tears, made me laugh, shared your stories, introduced your friends, and dreamed outlandish dreams with me. We have often talked about the gap in our ages, and I have long known that I might live years without you.

But it was two a.m. this last Saturday night when the pain got so bad that we knew we had to get you to the Emergency Room. The thoughts about life came back into my head — life is uncertain — tomorrow isn’t promised.

We waited, what felt like much too long, but then the nurse took us back and hooked you up to all kinds of monitors. The Doc came in before long to talk to us. They were going to do a myriad of tests to find out what was causing all your pain.

While you were away, I waited alone and thought about my late father’s words. He told me how often his clients had worried out loud whether their spouse that had just died knew how much they had loved them. Dad told me how sad he thought it was that such grief could be possible in marriage.  He went on to say that he couldn’t imagine not telling the people you love that you love them. What a sad event to live through — that someone you love dies — and you never told them, or didn’t tell them recently or often enough, that you loved them.

As I waited alone, not knowing what all was going on, I was thankful that my husband knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I love him with all my heart. He hears it from me many times every day, and I know that he feels the same about me.

Regardless of our hopes, life is uncertain. We mustn’t borrow trouble; it won’t help. So, I say, be of good cheer. Love and trust the Lord.  Love your family.  Say I love you often and show it by your actions. Then, take heed of what the doctor says and go on and enjoy the life you are given.

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Hope Above Our Pay Grade

Life is complicated, and every day we have to make judgments about other people. Are they trustworthy, competent, honest, safe, dependable, and who they say they are? We may need to hire a caregiver, a babysitter, an electrician, a tutor, or a plumber. Routine issues that might surface when we least expect it and which force us to search, vet and decide whom to hire. Sometimes we get a recommendation that proves to be disastrous. We can never assume or park our due diligence at the door.

On the other hand, we also learn over the years, which of our friends or acquaintances will talk behind our backs, be indiscreet about something we shared, or judgemental and superior regarding our faults, failings, imperfections. We may discover that people we trusted have made judgments about us, our actions, or about those we care about, which were not accurate, helpful, or kind.

But what Scripture tells us, over and often, is that we are to love one another. I interpret that to mean that I am to love my husband and extended family, and show kindness while giving help and encouragement to others. I am also to pray for all those I know in need of prayers. 

My husband will tell you that I say over and often, “I am so thankful that I am not God!” It is above my pay grade to play judge and jury of others’ personal lives.  I don’t know the whole story.

I am also thankful that other people are not God. My sins and failures are many, and some go back decades in time. I have confessed sin and gone to the table of the Lord to receive grace. Despite that, I am still occasionally haunted by some of my choices. Thankfully, I have learned that there is nowhere to turn but to the Lord of Life.

God calls us to turn around and cling to him. How we accomplish this may be quite different for each of us. But we can each learn to:
— love our neighbor
— care for the widowed and orphaned
— pray for those who persecute us
and above all else, trust in the Lord.

Life isn’t always smooth or easy. Despite our lowly pay grade — The Lord of Life gives us hope!   We may be of good cheer.  The Lord, our God, loves us and promises that He will not forsake us.

Posted in Charity, Family, Friendship, Life in these times, Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Toast to What Matters

Life has a way of interrupting our plans. Some days our to-do list is orders of magnitude too long. Sometimes the busy-ness of our days distracts us from seeing the goodness of our days. Some days we feel run ragged by the time we finally get home again.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed. But there is much to be thankful for if we take the time to notice.

Later this week, my husband and I have a hot date to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We wouldn’t miss this chance. I’ve written about him often before. This month has two special days for us — his birthday started the month, and our wedding anniversary is peeking around the corner.

I am thankful for this man in some quite complicated ways and also in some very ordinary ways. He rescued me when I needed to be rescued and dried more than a few tears that weighed me down. He has cheered me up and made me laugh, sometimes by purposely embarrassing me in public; his timing is often impeccable. He has loved on me, held me tight, promised that he would aim to live until 100, prayed with me, shared his colorful friends & family with me, and hung on my every word when I’ve recounted some old adventure or shared my dreams built on champaign tastes but a kool-aid budget.

Our wedding anniversary is later this week. Who knows what will happen. But our plan is a date. Just my sweetheart and me, out on the town raising our glasses, proposing our toasts, and thanking God that he gave us another year together.

For what or whom are you thankful?

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Come To The Table

I can’t help myself. Everybody has weaknesses. I’m a pushover for having meals with people I care about, old and new friends; visitors from near and far; family members who can have their arms twisted to stop by for a meal.

Over the years, I’ve come to know a variety of people who hate entertaining. I also know people who would much rather dine out. I enjoy that too, but there is something especially fun, I think, about sitting around the family dinner table, recounting old stories, hearing spontaneous laughter, and just being together.

I have always loved inviting friends and family for meals as well as hosting dinner parties. Some people are pretty well allergic to this, but thankfully, my husband is not one of them.

The house we ended up buying was not our first choice, yet after having lived in it a bit, I believe it is the house that I’ve always dreamed about since I was old enough to love old houses. One of the best things about our 1855 house is that the grandest and most spacious room is the dining room.

There is plenty of room to stretch out my parents’ World War II-era dining room table to its full length making it possible to fit quite a few folks around the table. So far, at this house, we’ve only had eight gathered at the table. Over the years, this table has often served eleven; and done service as a buffet table serving many guests at parties, open houses, and receptions.

Yesterday evening, without the extra leaf, there were just four of us. It was perfect for a simple meal of pizza and salad, and eventually, a little ice cream. On Saturday we are having some new friends over, a young couple with children, whom we met at church. My husband and I look forward to getting better acquainted with them.

Some people write journals, or, heaven forbid, keep diaries. I have kept guest books, narrating what we served to whom, their food allergies, likes, and dislikes. There are also copies of our invitations to all manner of events, including baby showers, baptisms, confirmations, graduations, wedding celebrations, birthdays, or visits from family and friends, some making cross country trips to stay with us.

There were hard or busy times, over the years, when the books saw no activity. But my daughter presented me with an elegant new journal for use in our last house. This house. This 1855 house. There are already quite a few occasions narrated. Welcoming people to the table gives me great joy.

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A Test and A Gift

Amidst the junk emails that come to my personal email account are those few from friends and family with news or an article worth taking time to read, a story worth a listen, or maybe a few cartoons or photos that are intended to bring a laugh or warm my heart. My husband’s sister sent us two such stories that we have talked about, off and on,  ever since. They bring to mind a couple of questions: are we being tested, and if so, by whom?

One was a photomontage with a woman narrating what she said was a true story of a full-grown tiger who went to a man’s house to get help.  She said that this took place in a village in Russia.  The man was asleep, but odd noises in the night woke him, when they subsided he was able to go back to sleep. In the morning, he went to his front door to go outside, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t open the door.  Eventually, he went out of a window to see what was blocking his door. Much to his dismay, he found huge paw prints covering his yard. Then, turning the corner, he discovered a full-grown tiger lying in front of his door. Terrified, he knew there was insufficient time to get to safety. So he stood perfectly still, and in time the tiger padded slowly toward him.

He soon spied a steel ring around the tiger’s neck, which had pierced its skin and caused a wound that needed treating. The man was a paramedic, and so he helped the tiger. The tiger was patient and let the paramedic do his work. Some neighbors came and assisted. For two weeks, the tiger lived in a shed in the man’s yard. Throughout the next several weeks, they tended the tiger and kept him fed. One day the tiger disappeared.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. About two weeks later, the man discovered that once again, he was unable to get out his front door. He climbed out of the window and walked around to see what was blocking his front door. There were familiar tiger tracks in the yard, but it was not the tiger blocking his doorway.  Instead, he discovered that the tiger had brought him a gift of food.  It was the body of a deer that was now blocking his front door.

The second story was the story of a preacher from out-of-state, accepting a call to serve a church in Texas. A couple of weeks after he arrived in town, he had to ride a bus. Once the preacher found his seat, he realized that the money given to him for change was incorrect. He had received an extra quarter.  Should he forget it, it was just a quarter after all, or should he return it? What should he do? At the last moment, as he was exiting the bus, he turned back and handed the quarter to the bus driver and explained that he had given him too much change.

The driver asked him if he wasn’t the new preacher in town. Then the driver said he had been thinking about maybe going somewhere to worship. He mentioned that he wanted to know what the preacher would do if he gave him too much change. The driver said he would see him in church on Sunday.

“When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, ‘Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.’”

In your work, or personal life, have you ever had an experience that seemed to be a test?  Upon reflection, I can say that I have had quite a few.  If that is also the case with you, would you share with us briefly what it was and how you responded? Looking back on it later, do you wish you had done anything differently?

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A Cherished Memory Of A Gift in New Haven

Thirty-nine years ago, after finishing college, I bought a car and drove from Ohio to Pennsylvania to begin seminary. The following year I got married to a remarkably gifted student who was one class year ahead of me. After his graduation from seminary, we had to decide what to do next. Did we stay in Pennslyvania for a year so that I could finish school, or did we head to graduate school in Connecticut and let me finish my Master of Divinity degree long-distance? We sought and received excellent advice from trusted faculty, and we moved to Connecticut, where I was allowed to finish my last academic year, long distance.

We found a first-floor apartment on a quiet street not far from the Graduate Department of Religious Studies. As we got to know others, it often happened that my husband’s classmates would come over on the weekend for dinner and a movie. After that first year, when I finished my M.Div., I needed to find some temporary work in our new town, and I made an appointment to talk to one of my husband’s professors. His help eventually led me to a job, but before leaving that meeting, he said that there was something he wanted to discuss with me.

He told me how often students would talk to him about coming over to our apartment for a homemade dinner, good conversation, and a movie. He happily recounted that quite a few students had told him about their visits to our house, and then he asked me to remember something. He said that what we were doing was such an important thing and that if ever we couldn’t afford to invite my husband’s classmates over for an evening of food & movies — he would like to assist us financially to continue doing that.

We never needed to take him up on that offer. But it was an unusual kindness that has left me with a decades’ long memory, hard-wired on my heart.

That amazingly kind professor, considered hospitality and good conversation, over a homemade dinner, worthy of an investment.

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Ann Miko — an updated look at the Author’s page

My author page just got an update!  Please check it out!

When the River Won’t Flow: Ann Miko

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