September 30, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Closet Edition

When it comes to home improvement projects I'm frustratingly charmingly impulsive.

When Dan and I were first married we moved into a small split level that boasted a tacky vintage 70s flair. That house was the giving tree of projects. Literally every surface cried out for updating. I’d get a wild hair and the next thing you know I’d start tearing apart a room, pulling out paint cans, ripping up flooring or rearranging furniture. Without much pre-planning or fore thought I’d dive in and go.

My “cut-once-measure-twice… things-are-fine-the-way-they-are” husband would freak out gently question my motives and do what he could to slow me down or redirect my efforts. Since I had momentum and motivation on my side, I’d usually win

I look back and chuckle, but these DIY (do-it-yourself) projects—that inevitably required Dan to get involved—created heaps of conflict in the early years of our marriage. My impulsivity trod over his need to plan and prepare. The end results usually turned out OK, but our clashing work styles needed a makeover!

We're in a new house now that doesn't cry out for updating, but once a DIYer, always as DIYer, and we've done plenty of projects here too, thankfully with less conflict and more pre-planning. But there are still times I’ll wake up with a wild hair, needing to tackle a project RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT.

Monday morning was such a day.

Eleven years ago when we moved into our house, one of the most exciting features were not just one, but two walk-in closets. His and hers. After years of tiny closets, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. This feeling of bliss lasted for about five years. Somewhere in the last six years, though, it began to dawn on me that the closet organizers didn’t provide much in the way of organizing—as evidenced by the chaos of clothes and "stuff."

I thought a closet redo would cost a small fortune so I lived with the clutter.

I guess eleven years was my limit for living with it because I woke up on Monday and HAD to install a new closet system. Right then.

I headed to Home Depot with a handy plan I’d done on the internet and searched for the supplies on my list. Guess what? They didn’t cost a fortune. The total was about $170.

Once home and ready to get to work I hit a snag. In all the excitement I hadn’t considered I had to remove everything in my closet first. Let me tell you, after a decade that was A LOT of stuff! Besides way too many clothes, I found an old bridesmaid dress, my first business suit, my high school varsity jacket, boxes of mementos, old purses and a Christmas present I bought years ago and “lost” in my closet.

If you look closely, you’ll see a dog amid the piles

To help me tread through the pandemonium, I called in the one person I know who could help—my daughter. After hours of watching TLC and HGTV she’s a style/makeover expert.

(Note to self: Be careful what you wish for.) As she picked through piece after piece I had to endure a constant stream of fashion condemnation as the “no” pile grew from a hill to a mountain.

“Mom! Are you kidding me? I never want to see you wear that again!”

“Those are hideous! Did you really wear pants at your waist?”

“You seriously paid money this?”

“Mom, this is why they have stores, so you can buy NEW clothes!”

I pleaded for some sentimental favorites, but reluctantly relinquished most of the items voted out of the closet. *sniff*

Then I hit the second snag. At 5:00 p.m., with only one shelf installed, I realized if I didn't finish the project enough to start hanging things Dan and I would have no where to sleep since our bed was covered in mountains of clothes.

Well, if I do one thing well, it's persevering through a project. I worked diligently all evening and by about 12:30 a.m. declared it a success. Not only was shelving installed, I'd cleared off our bed and made s a path to walk though the room.

Today I finished up with my favorite part—giving everything a home in its new abode. Of course, this included a trip to Lowe’s for some storage baskets. (Is it just me, or do you get excited walking through the home organizing department?)

So, there you have it. It was an intense project, but I’m thrilled with the results…and except for two things that needed cutting, I did it all by myself!

If you’re handy with a power screwdriver and laser level there’s no telling what you can accomplish. Sometimes you just have to dive in and do it.

Before ... I’d already removed the hanging clothes ...just look at the top shelf. Ugh!

After... aaah!... there's even empty space on the shelves

September 28, 2009

"You Lie!"

Happy Monday! I'm posting at Exemplify Online today. You can read the rest of my devotion there.

It was the shout heard ‘round the world—or at least around the country. Three weeks ago, during President Obama’s speech to Congress on health care. Rep. Joe Wilson so vehemently disagreed that he interrupted the speech and shouted, “You lie!”

His outburst stunned members of both parties. But given the acrimony displayed at recent town hall meetings, Rep. Wilson’s uncontained emotion wasn’t surprising. That he actually expressed it out loud was.
I wonder how many of those in attendance thought the same thing. Out of respect for the office of the President they kept their mouths shut, but inside their thoughts boiled, I don’t believe you!

As Christians we look to Scripture to hear God speak. And perhaps no verse provides more hope and comfort than Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It’s so beloved that when someone in a Bible study starts to quote it, others join in to finish. Inevitably heads nod in agreement.

However, when I look at my slice of the world I seem to see plenty of “harm.” I see lives wrecked by abuse and addiction. Poverty and pain. Infidelity and unemployment. And I see sickness and disease and cancer—so much cancer.

When I examine Jeremiah 29:11 and compare it to the reality in front of me, the words ring false. I want to question God, “You said you have a plan. That you’d prosper and not harm? Where is the protection? The prosperity? The future?”

And while I may not utter the words out loud, deep inside the thought simmers, Did God lie?

I’d guess Jeremiah thought the same thing.

Jeremiah was called to announce the destruction of the kingdom of Judah and proclaim the end of an era. During his tenure as prophet, God’s judgment was so extreme the Lord came close to inflicting the ultimate covenant curse; undoing everything He had promised the Jewish people. Living in the midst of this, Jeremiah had nagging doubts about his calling and God’s faithfulness. He accused the Lord of being undependable, “Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.” (15:18)
Lord, are you who you say you are…or did you lie?

Isn’t that the question that pricks our souls?

Saints throughout history have wrestled with this very question when confronted with circumstances that didn’t line up with God’s apparent promises. Moses died never entering the Promised Land. Sarah waited dozens of years for the promised baby. And Abraham saw little evidence of the covenant promise God made with him. In fact, all the ancients commended in Hebrews 11 died without receiving what God had promised.

Yet, they chose to believe God despite their circumstances, through their doubts and against logic. This is the epitome of faith, for faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith is never easy. Much of the time, it makes little sense to our human minds. While we may not experience God in the way we want, when we want, when we look closely we find evidence of God’s goodness. And our souls spark with recognition of the Almighty.

In the past few months I've experienced God’s glory as I stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, dug foundation holes for a new church in the Dominican Republic, worshipped with prisoners, laid with my son on the grass and watched for shooting stars, hugged my teenage daughter after a huge fight, received a note from a friend encouraging me in my writing … and whenever I read the Bible.
How about you?

When it comes to the issues our earthly minds can’t reconcile, we have a choice to make, don’t we?  We can grasp hold of what we do know and choose to press on through our uncertainty and disappointments. Or, we can choose to walk away from God in disbelief and seek our prosperity and future on our own, using society’s promises to deliver them.

Does God lie? Certainly not. But perhaps we can see His truth more clearly when we shift our focus—as the ancients did—from an immediate to an eternal one.

The world fills our ears with rhetoric, misinformation and doublespeak that masquerade as truth. If we can’t trust God at His word, who can we believe?

September 26, 2009

And the Winner is…

Thank you for your well wishes and for sharing my joy in being published in Chicken Soup. As my friend Denise told me, "Don't forget to bask in your 'puddle of sunshine.'" Well said, Denise.
I am so thankful for all of you—friends, family and especially fellow writers (both published and aspiring)—who encourage me on this journey.

Now, on to the big news. Drawn randomly by my husband, the winner of "my" book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Lessons I Learned from the Cat is…


Congratulations, Carmen! Send me your address and I'll send it off to you.

Have a restful, renewing and joy-filled Saturday!

September 23, 2009

The Original Invasive Species

Years ago a hidden corner in the back of our house had become a gathering spot for outdoor toys, unused hoses and other junk we were too lazy to put in the garage. It was one of those areas we just kept overlooking. Then, a landscaping project around our newly-built deck exposed this corner for what it was—and what it could be.

A handful of perennials, a few grasses, a scattering of annuals and a small pond turned this eyesore into a small oasis. Today it’s one of my favorite areas of the yard. And the sound of trickling water from the fountain lulls us throughout the warm weather.

I've learned about perennials "on-the-job." Some plants have been good choices, others not so much—especially the one that mentioned “invasive” in the fine print of the planting tag. I wasn’t even sure what the term meant. Our little garden had lots of bare patches, so I figured maybe a nice invasive plant would be perfect to fill up the space. Plus I rationalized that if the garden center offered the plant, it must be OK.

Well, five years later I am fully aware of what “invasive” means! Unfortunately, by the time I decided I didn’t like the plant, it was too late. I’d yank it out here and it would crop up over there. For years I’ve tried to eradicate it and each year it reemerges in more places than before. From one little plant, “plantlets” appear throughout the entire garden entrenching their roots in the hardest-to-reach locations—between rocks, under stepping stones, along the house foundation and even hiding among “good” plants. They're even making headway in the grass! As I've since learned, if left unchecked, root-spreading plants like this one can kill out less vigorous species and take over most of the bed.

This week I reached my invasive-plant limit! Forget about plucking the errant flora. With shovel in hand I dug it up. For hours I sorted through piles of soil, extracting the tenacious and intricate network of roots that extended far beneath the surface. I set aside any obstacles and dug, dug, dug. Still I’m certain I didn’t get every deeply embedded root and fear next spring those dreaded leaflets will reappear, taunting me all the more!

You know, sin is like this.

We may get into something that seems controllable, innocent or fun. “It’s no big deal.” “I can handle it.” “They wouldn’t offer it if it could hurt me.” The world may even give it a stamp of approval. Consider:
  • The innocent flirtation

  • The little lie

  • The fudged numbers

  • The “I deserve it” purchase

  • The careless gossip

  • The puff, the drink, the snort

  • The rationalization

Once we enter into sin, its invasive roots extend into our souls and entangle themselves in areas we never imagined. The enemy knows our weakness and where to trip us up—and he never lets us see the end result of our actions. Yet even when we decide to pluck this sin from our lives, it eludes our efforts and crops up elsewhere, sprouting new life. The hard truth is we CANNOT fully control sin or our sinful nature.

The apostle Paul grieves about such a struggle, “I know that my selfish desires won’t let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong…With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die?” (Romans 7:18-99, 22-24 CEV)

Thankfully there is someone.

“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2The Message)

Jesus is the ultimate sin-killer. By entering into the tangled mess of struggling humanity, He overcame sin once and for all. Tending to our planting of faith may require hard work on our part, but when we abide in Christ we can be confident the victory (garden) is ours.

This spring, before the invasive plant sprouted.

As for my current gardening dilemma, I guess I’ll just keep digging up those unwanted invaders. I’ll also read labels a little more closely next time around. It's not like I wasn't warned. . .

September 21, 2009

Good News and Lessons Learned

Working at home I've become keenly aware of the sounds of my neighborhood. Especially the sounds of the commercial vehicles. The hours of my day are marked by the squeal of school bus brakes at nearby bus stops, distant commuter train whistles and the putt putt of the mail truck as it works its way toward my mailbox. Occasionally a trash truck, helicopter or lawnmower swallows up the silence. But do you know the best sound of all? The UPS truck.

Whenever I hear the familiar rumble barrel up my street my heartbeat quickens. Because UPS doesn't deliver junk mail or bills, they deliver packages. And packages are like presents (even if they contain something you ordered). And one thing is certain: presents are always a good thing!

Oh happy day, when Big Brown stops in front of my house. By the time the driver hops from the truck in his monochromatic uniform, sprints up the yard and drops the package (sometimes with a loud thud as it hits the front door) my stomach is aflutter with the possibilities! What could it be? The book I just ordered? A new pair of shoes? A surprise birthday/anniversary/Christmas/”just because” present? The grand prize in a contest?

Such was the scene on Friday. I rushed to inspect this unexpected delivery—a box, bigger than usual. One look at the return label and I knew exactly what was inside.

I shouted to my family, “Everyone! Come quick. I have exciting news!”

With far less enthusiasm than the situation warranted, my children drew near. My husband didn’t even budge from his office (the nerve!). Regardless of their lukewarm reception, I tore open the box, ripped off the packing material and revealed the masterpieces enclosed.

Ten copies of my first book.

Well, not exactly MY book—but the first book I’ve been published in. And the first writing gig that I’ve been paid for— a Chicken Soup for the Soul story.

Even though it’s not a lofty goal, getting into a Chicken Soup book was near the top of my goal list. Seeing my name on the book's pages is as exciting as I hoped. As much rejection writing brings I’m savoring this moment. Plus, I share this victory with my writing group friend Denise, who is also in this volume.

In celebration, I’m giving away a copy of this book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Cat. To be entered, leave a comment. Tell me a lesson you learned from your cat . . . or your dog, and I’ll enter you twice. I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday 9/25.

To be honest, as a dog lover at heart, I’m a bit discomfited that my first book publishing credit is about a cat—my cat to be exact. But, I really have learned a lot from my cat (first of all, that cats can be wonderful pets) and I’m proud of the story I wrote. :-)

September 19, 2009

Thankfulness Knows No Time Limit

I'm a "rules-are-made-to-be-broken" (or at least creatively-interpreted) kind of person. Generally, I hate to be boxed in. Plus, I have a long history of being time-impaired and am often late. *sigh*

However, since this is my blog and I make up the rules, I don't care that it's Saturday—today I'm doing Thankful Thursday.

So, here are five things I'm thankful for this week:
  1. My church. After years of planning, fundraising and building, my dedicated its new expansion on Sunday. The entire church family gathered for a day of praise, celebration and lots of great food. I was so proud to be a part of this amazing testimony to our King. In a time when many denominational churches are losing members, our church is growing, making this occasion all the more praiseworthy. I pray the Almighty starts a revival in our community.

  2. Getting recognized. My lovely blog friend Carmen awarded me the Superior Scribbler Award a couple of weeks ago. It warms my heart to be singled out for anything, especially when it comes to my writing. Thank you, Carmen!
    My guilty predicament, however, is that being a time-challenged, non-conformist (see above), I seldom follow through on the various stipulations and requirements of these awards.
    *sigh* (again)

  3. The prison ministry. This week I went to the prison after quite a long absence and I'm so thankful I did. God definitely had his hand on our gathering. The men sang with such joy—and so loudly that my ears hurt. It was like a big pep rally for Jesus. Usually one person on our ministry team takes the lead, but this week the four of us that were present shared the service and really worked as a team. I saw how far God has brought us as a group! Also, thanks Dave for sharing (for the first time).

  4. My writers' group. I haven't been to my writers' group since July and I was happy to be back among the support and camaraderie of fellow writers. Plus, this group is batting 100 as every article they've critiqued (that I've submitted) has been accepted. I pray the trend continues with my latest story they critiqued. Thank you HPCWG! You ladies are the best!

  5. Answers to a long-standing dilemma. The end is (almost) in sight for a home improvement problem that has been lingering like a henchman, taunting us all summer. There nothing particularly spiritual about this, except it has at times pushed me to the brink of losing my religion! I will write more about this in the future. After I stop crying.

  6. I also have one more bit of good news, but I'll save it for a post of its own. (No, I'm not pregnant!)

So you see, it doesn't matter what the day. Any day is good to count one's blessings!

What are you thankful for today?

To read more displays of thankfulness—from people who actually follow directions and do things on time— check out this week's Thankful Thursday on Sonya's blog.

September 14, 2009


Happy Monday! I'm posting at Exemplify Online today. You can read the rest of my devotion there.

She’s 17 years old, blonde and adorable. But beneath her girl-next-door exterior lives a determined fighter who wields her weapon with finesse and power. In a manner reminiscent of David and Goliath this virtual unknown slayed giant after giant during the last two weeks.

Her name? Melanie Oudin. Her weapon? A Wilson K Blade Tour racket. The arena? Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, NY. If you haven’t heard of her…you will.

This fresh-faced young American said her goal during the summer was to play well enough to rank in the top 100 so she wouldn’t have to qualify as a wild card for the US Open. By tournament time she ranked 67. Yet even with that impressive accomplishment, it still left her a loooong way from the rarefied air of the seeded players. A peon in the locker room.

By the second match it seemed Melanie’s US Open dreams were about to end as she faced the fourth seeded player. Just like King Saul said to puny David, logic/statistics/experience/common sense told Melanie, “You are not able to go out against these top players and fight them; you are only a girl, and they have been winning majors from their youth.” (ref.1 Samuel 17:33)

But you know what? She didn’t listen to any of that. And she won. And then she won again and again and again. Four top-seeded players dismantled and sent home.
How did she do it? Training and hard work to be sure, but tennis is too mental a game for that to be enough. Instead she lived the motto on her signature yellow and pink sneakers: Believe. “For me, it’s all about that. It’s believing that I can beat these girls and hang there with them,” she said. “If I didn’t have that, then there's no way I would have been able to win (here).”

So often in our Christian journey, we feel like David in a sea of Goliaths. We look around and feel we don’t measure up. Our giants have more experience, more power, more eloquence and more Bible knowledge. They pray better, sing better, lead better and write better.

We may feel a divine nudge or hear a small voice, but we allow logic, experience or common sense to tell us we can’t—or shouldn’t.

The apostle Paul coaches the Ephesians against such a mindset, “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead…” (1:19-20a NLT, emphasis mine)

You and I may never play in a professional sports tournament, incite a media frenzy or become a household name, but we can rise to the extraordinary. The key to our success lies not in our own hard work, expert training or fine pedigree, but in our belief of the very One who raised Jesus from the grave. Paul says this incomparable power is available for all who believe God at His word. Imagine that?! This concept is so foreign to our nature it’s tough to grasp, but when we do, we can be assured victories beyond our wildest dreams—with consequences that far outlast any silver trophy.

We can also be assured that when God calls us to the playing field, He will equip us with what all we need. In my case, I hope that includes a cute pair of yellow and pink tennis sneakers.

September 11, 2009

Slip Sliding Away

Today's been a windy, chilly, rainy day. The kind of weather that begs you to curl up on the sofa, snuggle under a blanket and watch movies--which thankfully after yesterday's post I did not do. (Yes, showered and out of the house all day! Yay me!)

With all the dreary weather all the kids activities have been cancelled and we're settling in the for evening. Everyone except my son, who decided this was THE PERFECT weather to go outside and play.

I thought I'd share his ingenuity with you. It's sure to bring a smile to your face.

And sometimes embracing joy is just what we need to get through the storm.

"Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy." ~Psalm 33:3

September 10, 2009

In Search Of . . .Something

It’s 11:00 in the morning. I was up at 6:30 and my youngest left for school at 7:30. That means I’ve had hours of alone time. After a summer of not much “me” time you’d think I’d be hootin’ and hollerin’, and doing a happy dance. I should have lots to show for my new-found freedom. But, in reality I’ve accomplished little today, I’m still in my PJs and I haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Embarrassing, I know.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Am I lazy? Depressed? Unmotivated? Lacking inspiration?

Good heavens, someone just rang the doorbell. I’m going to hide until they go away. If it was you, I’m sorry. Whew, it was just the FedEx guy. He left a package and drove away.

I’m back, where was I? Oh yeah, procrastinating.

I’m not sure what’s wrong, but clearly I need to improve a bit in the time-management arena if I have any hope of cobbling together a day before the kids get home from school. What I need is a personal coach/mentor/nudger. Someone to gently direct and encourage. Someone like my children’s first grade teacher who found a way to praise a child’s efforts no matter how small. I can hear her telling me, “Good job, you got out of bed…maybe we can start the article you’ve wanted to write…or go to the grocery store.”

The other day my husband asked me where I wanted to be in ten years. Ten years? I don’t know where I want to be in ten days! I think this might be a problem (mine, not his). It brings to mind something my wise friend, Kathleen, shared on her blog the other day: Always begin with the end in mind. Hmm, maybe she and Dan are onto something.

Truly I want to live a life that honors God. And in some ways I do, but I believe there’s more. And I’m waiting for divine guidance to whatever that “more” may be. It seems God is kind of silent. Or maybe I’m kind of deaf?

I know it’s natural for me as a mom to reevaluate my life as my kids get older and need me less and less. And I know I tend to lose perspective real fast during these “transistional “ times. There’s much I could be doing (like writing/submitting/reorganizing/reconnecting) but I’m not.

The word momentum comes to mind. It’s a law of physics that it’s much easier to keep something going than it is to get it started. (Or something like that…I never actually took a physics class.) Anyway, I certainly lack momentum which is making it hard to get started in any direction. I seriously need some motivation.

For now I’ll get my momentum from the fact that I’m so hungry I can’t type anymore. Then I’ll get dressed. And maybe walk my dog. Who knows, if I start with the basics can self-actualization be far behind?

Do any of you have any idea what I’m talking about? Or is it just me?

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

September 8, 2009

Imagine a Life without Fear

You may have heard of Max Lucado. He’s some written books. In fact, he’s such a prolific writer it’s hard to imagine a person exists who hasn’t read something he’s written.

I certainly have, but in recent years have turned away from him in favor of other authors. I might have stayed away if the opportunity to review his new book, Fearless, hadn't presented itself. And I rediscovered why so many Max Lucado books line bookstore shelves.

I figured Fearless would be geared toward people who actively struggle with fear, are dealing with a huge obstacle or who live with a pit of dread anchored in their souls. I think I'm fairly brave, don't have (many) phobias and feel generally peaceful, so I wasn’t sure I’d get much out of the book.

By the end of the first chapter I saw how wrong I was—and how hooked on Fearless I was! Within a few pages Lucado shows that in one way or another ALL of us live with fear and we let these fears dictate our lives, imprison us and keep us from becoming the creations God intends us to be.

It’s human nature to fear, but as Lucado points out, fear causes us to question God’s goodness and strength. It leads us to doubt, makes us hide and turns us into control-freaks. “Fear mismanaged leads to sin.”

And there is so much we’re afraid of. We fear being insignificant, overlooked and forgotten. We fear we won’t have enough money/friends/food/stuff. We fear harm will come to our children or that we won’t be able to provide for our families. We fear worst-case scenarios, the economy, terrorist attacks, the IRS, swine flu and moral decline. We fear the unknown, cancer and dying. We fear letting God down and we fear God letting us down.

Even though Fearless is a quick read, it’s chock full of truth and spiritual nuggets. If I didn’t plan to pass this book on to friends, I would have underscored, dog-eared and highlighted much of it. I might even cut out and laminate bits as well! Each chapter tackles a new aspect of fear, and the way Max Lucado strings together words and sentences leaves me impressed, inspired and enlightened. With every key stroke he points to the source of our strength, the reason we can be brave and our hope in the storm. Jesus.

Again and again in the gospels Jesus says, “Fear not,” “Don’t be afraid,” and “Take courage.” I recommend this book for anyone who wants to do just that.

September 4, 2009

'Til Death Do Us Part

In the beginning, God spoke creation and it became so—lightness and dark, heaven and earth, land and sea, plants and animals. Each day brought a new wonder that God looked upon and declared “good.”

On the sixth day, God created Man and placed him in the Garden of Eden. Even though Man had paradise at his disposal, it wasn’t enough. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18) Man searched among all the living creatures for an acceptable companion, but none (not even the golden retrievers) could fill the role in the way that God saw necessary. So, God created woman.

Then, He joined them together in marriage. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” It was only then that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

Marriage is part of God’s plan for perfection. And while in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s union was perfect. But even before the honeymoon, the serpent enters the scene at the beginning of Genesis 3. And with one act of disobedience Adam and Eve’s marital bliss came to a screeching, finger-pointing halt.

Once sin entered the world, so did pride, envy, selfishness, impatience, infidelity, addiction, busyness and all the other threats to oneness. Marriage became hard work.

As it remains today.

While it’s actually not true that half of all marriages end in divorce, a large percentage of them do. We live in a time when marriage seems disposable. Expendable. Temporary. Unnecessary.

But, we hold onto hope for the perfect union God designed so very long ago. When we marry and pledge “I do,” we pray that we really will. And when we witness a happily married couple that’s stood the test of time, we celebrate, admire…and take notes!

Last weekend we celebrated my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary. I always knew Dan’s parents had a wonderful marriage, but I gained an even deeper appreciation for them as a couple. They’ve weathered the expected ups and downs that life brings, yet after five decades of togetherness they not only still love each other very much, they like each other, too!

The kids and grandchildren gathered round an anniversary memory book and DVD created for the occasion and saw evidence of a beautiful life knit together. I wondered how they managed to do marriage so well.

Here’s what I see are their “secrets” to success: mutual respect, commitment, submission, unselfishness, loyalty, shared goals, love and lots of laughter. It’s a formula as old as marriage itself. Easily said, not easily achieved.

Oh, how I could use more of these qualities in my own marriage. Sure, I throw these words around, but Lord knows I don’t exhibit them often enough! Some of you commented on what a good wife I was while Dan was away last month. Heck, it’s easy to be a good wife from afar (it’s like being a good parent when you gaze at your angelic children as they sleep). The hard part comes in the face-to-face, day in and day out. I tumble off my pedestal real fast!

I look at my in-laws’ marriage and thank them for the example they’ve shown us and our children. I pray that Dan and I approach our golden years with as much grace and beauty.

I put my hope for success, not in quick fixes, shortcuts or secret ingredients, but in the fact that marriage isn’t a man-made notion. It’s not a fad or outdated concept. It’s a relationship so vital that it was the first one God created. And when He did, He declared it very good.

Together, man and woman complete the image of God.

Is anything more beautiful than that?