What’s Love Got to Do With It?

My heart is heavy. 

I haven’t shared these thoughts, thinking that it’s just not kind to be such a bummer during the holidays.  And admittedly, there is much to celebrate — to be thankful for — to enjoy this time of year!

Ringing in the new year has been solemn, as my thoughts return again and again to the people in my life that I love who are in pain.  A friend who is a young mother of three, is very sick and experiencing extreme physical pain.  Actually I have a several friends who are suffering physical pain.  Another lost their mother unexpectedly.  A family member’s wife is leaving him – they have two young children. 

I find myself wondering how much of life are purely random even chance.  How much of a difference do our choices make?  Do you think some things are pre-determined?  Was my friend always going to get sick? Was this family member always going to walk out on their marriage?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary RANDOM is:

Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard.

Is it just pure randomness that some get cancer and some don’t.  Some die from a disease, some don’t.  Some are generally optimistic people, others are pessimists.  Some choose truth.  Some choose lies.  Some stay married for better or worse, in sickness & health, till someone dies.  And some people give up.  Good things happen to some.  Sh*t happens.  Some lead charmed lives.  Some just don’t.  Alternatively, some with easy lives aren’t happy and others with challenges and trials have true joy.  Go figure.

I do not believe that all of life is random, but are we the sum of our choices?  I don’t think so.  I hold strongly to the belief that through forgiveness life changes.  Through God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others our circumstances change.  Our fates are changed.   We change our future by being people who are always growing and developing, people who have personal strength and integrity.  And that takes faith.   But I am getting ahead of myself.

There is an aspect of chance and randomness that feels fated.

Are we in command of our lives?  How much of a difference do our choices really make?  Will we not die when we’re supposed to die.  Or get sick when we’re supposed to get sick.  How much do our choices really affect our destiny?

Can I change my future by what I do or don’t do.  If I choose over and over again in my life a certain, unselfish path will more good things happen to me?  That’s been debated for hundreds even thousands of years.  I would say, of course not.  My good actions don’t bring me good karma.  Or vice versa.  That is why so much of life just isn’t “fair.”

I have always thought it was a cosmic curse to have a propensity for addiction.  It’s all over my family tree and all over me.  Not based on my choices per say.  So, will I always be an addict or can I change?  I  chose to stop drinking. And I choose to believe that I have control over (at least that bit of) my destiny and I still believe that.

And then the little devil of addiction jumps to something else.  For a while even Farmville. For two months last winter I was addicted to the point that I lied about how much time I spent on it, even to myself.   It’s ugly!

And for many years I have worked against a shopping addiction.  Yes, worked againstNow that is a slippery, elusive purely evil addiction. So much of life in the American Dream of a culture is centered around shopping, so much so we even shop for our entertainment.  It’s how we “provide”, how we “take care of” our family.  And one can easily lie to themselves about the “need” for many, many purchases.

But I know I have a problem and I’ve had to do various things to control it and I am grateful for God’s grace — and Tom’s grace!  Because there are times when I genuinely can’t seem to control myself.  And sometimes I can.  And do.  And that’s what makes it so tricky.

When it comes to lying there is so much gray.

Here’s what I’ve honestly been thinking about — marriage, love and commitment which is really what I have been thinking about. I ask myself what holds some marriages together — like my in-laws who have been together for fifty years?  It’s more like fifty-five, as they met each other in middle school.  They really “shouldn’t” have lasted because the circumstances were such that they had everything going against them.  Married very young (17 & 19).  An early pregnancy.  Another baby a year later.  But I’m not here to tell their story, I’m just wondering how that happened?  Random chance?  Or by choice.  So I asked them what they thought was the key to staying together?  Bonnie said: “We always looked at it as a lifetime commitment. And I learned not to try to change him.  Accept him for who he is and vice versa.”

Well, that’s what I have always believed.

  • That we have a lifetime to get it right.
  • We shouldn’t expect our partner to change.
  • That I should work to be the person I want to be married to.
  • That love means serving one another.
  • That I am not a perfect** person so how can I expect him to be perfect? **Yeah, that’s an understatement. 

Be the person you want to be with.

 What makes it work for Tom and me?  Yes, we have disagreements and disappointments with one another.  Isn’t that normal?  Thought not that many, which I suppose isn’t normal.  But contrary to the perception I got from reading Harlequin Romances no-one is perfect.    And even gorgeous people gain weight and lose their hair.  They lose jobs.  They lose vitality.  They sometimes even “lose it.”

But I was actually thinking about internal qualities which are the stuff of genuine love: how we treat one another.  Do we respect, trust, and love?  Do we affirm?  Are we kind most of the time? … Those are the things that hold marriages together, I think.  And even if things aren’t perfect, it makes for a great life, exploring it together!

And speaking of strange — we all know couples where there is abuse involved — and yet strangely they stay together.  My mother stayed with my father for 42 years and he was a b*st*rd to her.  No not all the time.  Not publicly.  Not in ways that she or I can “prove” because words don’t leave bruises people can see.  She says she stayed because she believed marriage was for life.   I really believe she should have left him.   But she stayed until she buried him.  Who am I to judge one way or another  and this isn’t about her story either.

Back to the questions.

Should two people who aren’t “happy” [with each other] separate?  Divorce?  What if there are kids?  What if there is no abuse?  What if one is an addict?  Or one of them is a chronic liar?  What if one of them is destroying their future and won’t get help?  I don’t know.

Tom has “stuck” with me through all my nonsense and pain, history, baggage, “stuff” I’ve had to work out in counseling.   Because he made a commitment to me?  Because he loves me?   Yes to both.  And because he is good and generous and kind man. Because he believes in that illusive thing: lifetime commitment? Some days perhaps that was why, the commitment.  But no matter why I am so glad he did.

Then I think about the random fact that if Tom’s first wife hadn’t walked out on him after eleven years of marriage, he and I wouldn’t be together.  Randomness.  Chance.

Random chance?  But if you give in to that kind of loosy-goosy thinking then nothing is solid.  Nothing can be counted on.  No one can be counted on and no one can count on you.  We do have choices and they do make a difference.   It makes us who we are, a person of character. Or not.  And it impacts what happens to us.

Galatians 5:24-25 (NLT) says

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Galatians to me is about obedience; asking ourselves, as we search our heart for the passions and desires of our sinful nature, what does love have to do with it?  Can we lay them down our selfishness and sinful desires?

What does it mean to obey in the midst of broken hearts and broken lives, randomness, sinful choices, abuse, selfishness, commitment, love and the simple pursuit of happiness — because in the end isn’t that what we all want — to be happy.

What does it mean to follow the Spirit’s leading with our passion and desires?

I am longing for spring! but thankful for today

It is a good discipline to ask yourself what you are thankful for, because the gloom of winter, the sameness of it all, can get to a person here in the cold of the Midwest winters.

Today I am thankful for:

truthful people

Honest people who are willing to tell you the good and bad are priceless.  I have been blessed over the last week to have people tell me good things about me and it is incredible!  Stunning how good it feels to have a person you love or respect tell you something good about yourself.  My father was always good about saying things like that.  Really very articulate and affirming, but his anger & rage made it hard for me to receive it.  But to have someone who has never yelled at you tell you something good, it’s like a balm on a burned hand.

old movies

We’ve been watching old black and white 1940s movies.  there is something so beautiful about the smoke and music, and acting.  The purity of the characters. I’m not totally sure yet what it so compelling about them — I’ll get back to you on this.

science fiction and fantasy genre

Tom has introduced me to many incredible authors this year from our own book shelves: C.J. Cherryh, George R.R. Martin, Louis McMaster Bujold, Connie Willis, among others.  Incredible books that I have given me endless quality hours of enjoyment.


Enough said.  I just love making things and it also gives my children endless hours of fun.

the power to control my health (thus far in my life)

I am taking charge of it by doing this 21 day fast. What doesn’t kill you, makes you better?

flannel pajamas

I just love snuggling for hours in my pajamas, with my coffee and laptop. That is what I wear most when I am blogging.


The sun is shining and that doesn’t happen enough here in the Wisconsin winters!

My friends & lurkers, I know you are there and it makes me happy!  I hope you are well today, able to focus on the good things in your life.


“If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.” — Nadine Stair

What am I grateful for? Updated daily (almost). How about from time to time?

Science has proven that people who express their gratitude daily are 25% happier and significantly healthier than those who don’t—and doing it takes as little as a minute a day!

Here’s what I wrote about Gratitude a year ago.

11-23-09 — Monday — I’m thankful that most of the accidents of life are not serious. My son had a straw in his mouth, was running … (I know, I know.  How in the world did I let that happen? Well, guess what?  Kids do stuff when you aren’t looking!)  It was jammed into the back of his throat, apparently not by his sister whacking him with her book, to the right of his uvula across the soft palate.  I am grateful nothing terribly damaging happened though he can’t eat.  It hurts to swallow or yawn and he cried non-stop last night as we tried noodles, Keefer, and other soft foods, finally discovering the only thing that didn’t hurt was milk.  But he hasn’t done any lasting damage.

11-24-09 — Tuesday — Today I spent a 1/2 hour getting PT on my cheek for “clenching” my jaw which has given me TMJ.  And although I am obviously really grateful for this care, I am incredibly grateful to have health insurance. Because this is one of those things that I would not have sought treatment for if I had no insurance.  Or get my eyes checked soon.  Because I’ve been waking up with headaches about three times a week for unknown reasons.

11-25-09 — Wednesday — It’s 5:30 am and I wake early in order to get a minute with my coffee and thoughts before I rouse the children.  I am grateful for these few minutes.  I want to be a more intentional person, directed by purpose rather than the winds of the kids.  Their moods right now are gale winds (especially the tweener) that knock me sideways more often than not.  I am grateful today for new days, second and third and on and on, the chances to make this day a good one. Whatever may have happened yesterday can be set to rest and this day can begin fresh.

11-26-09 — Thursday — Ironically I wrote nothing on Thanksgiving about what I was thankful for, but I enjoyed and was grateful for a full tummy and family to share it with.

11-27-09 — Friday — Something’s going on and I can’t put my finger on it.  But I am feeling funky — Not thankful at all.

11-28-09 — Saturday — I am thankful for my dear friend Jeanette, who in the midst of a health struggle with the pain of living with MS and health insurance stupidity, and everything else, continues to express her creativity and verve for life through her art. She is an inspiration.

11-29-09 — Sunday — I am thankful for the anguish of the soul because it brings me closer to understanding.

11-30-09 — Monday — So grateful that I my questions and crying out to God are okay.  Grateful for my spiritual journey which is often more full of doubt and questions than understanding.  But when it comes, the clarity and Truth are so good.

12-1-09 — Tuesday —  Good people in my life that love me enough to be honest with me — so often I need that kind of love.

UPDATE on TMJ: Turns out the mouthpiece I got isn’t really helping though I’m going to give it more time. The doctor asked: Are you under stress? Me: well, I guess it’s relative. I quit smoking this year. And drinking I say almost as an afterthought. “My God” the doctor says. I can’t do either. Am I under stress? What a question. Anyway, prognosis. He said: I need Yoga, or Mindfulness work, or Meditation, or hypnosis, or some kind of therapy: …

12-2-09 — Wednesday —  Somehow I lost this day.  Does that ever happen to you?

12-3-09 — Thursday —  So thankful!  Parenting is one of my greatest challenges, as I have  no compass.  I doubt (almost) every move I make!  I am reading a great little book on this, (though the title is a little too enthusiastic.) The TurnAround Mom: How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family–and How You Can, Too!

12-4-09 — Friday —  Thankful for Health Insurance. A great pediatrician that I love as a person and trust as a doctor. And weekends, though I have to say that it isn’t much different than the week for at at-home parent, except they have eight more hours to make the house dirty!!!!! Yes, I am bitter and all of a sudden don’t seem thankful.

I am thankful that my annual Mole/Skin violation (check-up) produced no more skin cancer! I guess last year’s discovery was an anomaly.

12-5-09 — Saturday — Two things I am most grateful for today:

1) That I am sober. And although I do not know what this life will hold — sober — I’m taking it one day at a time.

2)  That my anger is strong but I don’t take it out on my family.  I don’t quite know how to work through it but I don’t hurt my family.

12-15-09 — Wednesday — Our incredible abundance.  May we have generous hearts.

12-19-09 — Saturday — A warm home.  More food than I can eat.  Love.

Feeling Thankful for Love


Love at first sight is easy

to understand;

it’s when two people have looked

at each other

for a lifetime

that it becomes a miracle.

-Amy Bloom


Feeling Thankful

I’m thankful for Tom. My miracle. My best friend.  His heart is good and because of this he is a gentle and loving person. It makes me think of the gospel according to Luke 6:45 : “The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, ….. ; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

I am often blown by winds of life, but he is sure-footed.  I am often scattered, there is a centeredness to my husband that is beautiful and reassuring to me.  I am often frightened by my past and what it means for our future, especially for our children.  He is solidly behind me encircling me with his belief in me, his hope for transformation through the grace of the New Testament Jesus and the shalom offered there.  My mind is full and my heart as well, of the knowledge and experience of sharing a life with him.

June 5, 1993, we married in the chapel of Christ Presbyterian Church here in Madison, WI.

  • Four children,
  • two houses,
  • three churches and
  • many, many coffee maker’s later.

And more importantly:

  • leaving a career that was important to me,
  • losing my father to cancer,
  • dealing with family addiction,
  • my battle with major depression,
  • my alcohol addiction, and other personal struggles;

As I have worked my way through a web of family history and learned so much about myself, he is still the person I fell in love with all those years ago.  I certainly understand him better, know him more intimately, comprehend a little better the complex person he is and is becoming.

This feeling of gratitude that I woke with comes out of a trip to Urgent Care with him.

None of us know how many days we have left.  So often we live as if we’ll never die and we face the days as if our loved ones will be with us forever.  By the way, Tom is fine.

This is just a reminder to hug the someone/s that you love.  Hug them and hold on tight.  Consider all that they bring into your life and what it might be like without them.  For all their possible aggravations (thinking of kids right now) they are the one for you —  be it a friend, a child, a lover, or a life long companion.

I know that I bring my many imperfections to this partnership.  And so does he.  That’s what is so amazing about it.


“For death begins with life’s first breath. And life begins at touch of death” – John Oxenham