The Sweet And Sour Of Life

My Pennsylvania passion is growing.

I’ve been here for a week with family I don’t get to see enough of. I’ve helped with the kids, climbed on combines, taught young boys how to swing like Tarzan on willow branches, and have heard my share of potty jokes.

I’ve loved every minute of it.

The four grandsons are as different as they can be. The baby is only eight weeks old, so his little personality is still percolating. The other three run the gamut from tender to tough to thoughtful–the three-year-old being the tough guy. You can’t make life so hard that he’ll complain. “I’m tough, Nana.”

Until he’s not.

This little guy has enough personality for two people, with some left over. He’s funny and fun to be with. He came up to me, threw his arms around my legs, and said, “You’re the best, Nana.”

No prompting was needed. He frequently tells his parents and his brothers that they’re the best–and he means it. He is delighted with his family and lives his love for life out loud.

When he’s tired, somebody new shows up. Defiant, ornery, and ready to pick a fight, the sweetness turns a bit sour. The smiles and hugs turn to a punch in the back to a brother or a resounding “NO” to a parental request.

But I know the sweet side of him; it’s hard to stay angry with this little man when he becomes disobedient and disruptive. I know the grins and embraces will return. I’m glad I’m just his Nana; disciplining this child is hard. It’s too easy to overlook the mean and patiently wait for the sweet to return.

It isn’t an excuse, however, to let him get away with whatever he chooses. His winning ways will only get him so far; he will learn to be responsible for his behavior. Consequences are real and too often painful.

I’m just like this child. As a people-person with a penchant for making everyone I meet my friend, I hate the thought of rejection, conflict, and negative consequences. I can be engaging, friendly, and kind.

I’m also the mean Dayle who judges and is critical of others. That’s not the person others trust or would choose to spend time with.

I am both people.

We all are.

At times I need to be shown what I’m doing wrong.

It’s easy to do the right thing when life is going our way.

Life doesn’t work like that.

But God does.

God is our heavenly Father for all those who choose Him. He loves us enough to help us see when we’re wrong; He disciplines those He loves.

“For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is ALWAYS good for us, so that we might share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10

My sweet little guy loves to love others, but there are times when he needs to be shown that his actions are unacceptable. Letting a beloved child act any way they want doesn’t allow them to grow to be kind and responsible,

Getting away with behavior that hurts others or myself doesn’t help me grow either.

I’ll take the tender care of Jesus any day.

Choose To Play The Winning Hand

Dad’s ability to play poker served him well during World War II while on board ship. The men would often pass the time playing cards. Depending how close to payday it was–or how long since–the stakes would vary. Dad knew what it was like to be on the winning and losing end of a hand.

There were four of us kids, and he thought it wise to teach us all to play poker. Games were a big deal in our home, and this required only a deck of cards. We had so much fun playing, mostly because Dad could bluff all of us, and not a one of us had a really good poker face.

I did learn that four of a kind is usually a winning hand.

That’s also been true in my life. There were four of us kids growing up, and we have remained close all these years even though we differ on many things. John and I began our marriage with all four of our parents in tact–we learned a lot from each of them.

I’ve had the joy of spending time with my Pennsylvania family, who just added a fourth son to their number. Living so far from Orlando and the added challenge of COVID, we didn’t get to see them much in the last year and a half. I’ve been having the time of my life helping with their new little one and spending time with these little guys.

The tough part was having to reintroduce myself to them. They’re 7, 5, 3, and almost two months of age, so long periods of time apart can cause unintended forgetfulness and shyness. It feels a bit like a setback, but I’ve been up for the challenge. We’ve talked, laughed, and played what they wanted to play. I know how to ask questions. And I’ve learned to listen better.

The four of them are delightful in their own right–they love and fight equally well, as brothers often do. Being included in their play or conversations makes me feel loved.

I believe God feels that way about us. So often, it seems right to consider the truth of Jesus and pursue Him, but life gets in the way and we wander. Or we don’t get an answer we wanted and just give up on God completely. Time apart from Him makes being with Him harder. It doesn’t feel intimate but artificial. More like duty than delight.

God never sees it that way. Once we’re in relationship with Him, He refuses to stop loving us.

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing–nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable–absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Lord has embraced us.” Romans8:38-39

Unlike people, who can forget you, or cards, where luck is needed, God loves us no matter what–if we turn to Him. Because of who He is, when He chooses to love us, He won’t quit on us.

He can’t.

These four amazing boys may forget me once I’m gone for a long while. And I’ve always had rotten luck with cards.

But I am now and always will be loved by the God who’s made it all.

That’s what I call a winning hand.

Something’s Always Leaking

Owning a home is a dream many have, but one that can easily escape people. Having a place you can call your own gives a sense of stability and permanence. In today’s market, and with our economy going the way it is, that kind of security is not always available,

Even if it is, there’s no guarantee of contentment in ownership.

Things break. In homes, things break a lot.

We’ve had a rash of broken-down things that have been frustrating, time-consuming, and sadly lacking in the enjoyment department. The most recent is a leak in the garage. Somewhere in the wall. Maybe the air conditioner?

Whatever it is, water keeps leaking out.

Not a good sign.

We’ve tried a variety of possible fixes. Our repairman is a wonderful gentleman who will save us some money and himself a trip by suggesting possibilities of correcting the problem.

None of his suggestions worked.

As water puddles in the garage, I have visions of massive flooding, water pouring through the walls, and various pieces of the kids’ stored possessions floating out the garage door when opened.

That probably won’t happen, but the garage is beginning to smell horrifically because of standing water and mold that’s beginning to grow. Florida mold runs the gamut from annoying to destructive. Never welcomed.

It will get fixed, but it reminds me that something will always be broken in this world. Not working right.

Even if that brokenness is just me.

I can never make this world as cozy as I’d like. I can’t perform a makeover on my own soul. My best efforts will always leave me wanting in some area.

No one is skilled enough to fix the problems we each have. No matter the size or complexity,

We can only find restoration and hope in the God who made us, who knows us inside and out and isn’t bothered by the extent of our brokenness.

The first step is recognizing that this place isn’t home. It’s temporal, a blip in the span of eternity. We are eternal beings, made for a long-lasting relationship with God.

We choose where we’ll spend eternity.

Even King David understood this. The shepherd who became king of a mighty nation, who dealt with issues of national struggle and family disaster, heard from a woman of great wisdom how he’d not shown grace to a prodigal son. She reminded him of the brevity of life and the need to make things right with God.

“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, He devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from Him.” 2 Samuel 14:14

Our days are numbered; some have more, some less. But this life isn’t the end all. We have the chance to invest in eternity with God if we choose to get to know Him.

Our home will always be a place where things wear out and break. It’s a great place to live, but it will never be what I’d like it to be.

Whole and perfect.

That’s the home God has for me in heaven.

An eternity of perfection.

No HGTV required.

The Comfort Of Companionship

I have a twin sister whose name rhymes with mine. Gayle and Dayle. We had a teacher once that, as he checked attendance, would say, “Gayle and Dayle, sounds like a dance team.”

I despised that comment.

I did, however, thoroughly enjoy having a twin. We were always thought of as a single entity, so we did everything together, by choice or not. But as one who dislikes being alone, I was fortunate to always have a companion my age, who knew everything about me. When we played, we knew we liked different things and would accommodate each other. I never had to play by myself. When we fought, we knew how to make life miserable for each other; knowing each other’s weaknesses made it easy to undermine the other.

I learned early the delight of companionship, the joy of having someone who would listen to me, who’d push back when I was being too much, and who understood me without explanation.

Two of our daughter’s families were able to connect in Washington DC for a brief visit. Melody and her family have lived there for quite awhile and are gracious tour guides for those who come to the city. Many would think the monuments and museums are the highlight.

The four cousins believed differently. It was all about connecting.

Kids have a natural affinity for making friends. As they learn to speak, many wave at strangers and say “hi” to those who pass. My experience has been that they talk to children on the playground, having conversations on the monkey bars or swinging next to each other. There’s a guilelessness about such interactions–people are people, and playing is fun for everyone. It’s more fun to share an experience and see the expressions of joy on another face than to do it alone.

The cousins shared time together, walking around the mall by the monuments, not fully understanding the significance of statues or location.

They were having fun.

When they found a fountain, sitting together with their feet in the water was more enjoyable than understanding what the fountain represented.

Because they were together.

I question how well we value companionship today. We so easily cancel others out of our lives if there’s a disagreement, if something is said that might offend. Rather than discussing it, people often dismiss the one who may have spoken wrongly without a chance to make things right.

That’s a sure way to become alone.

Jesus came to unite people in His love, to bring a oneness of heart to people so we could see how much better we can be together rather than apart. It’s a lesson that was taught throughout the Bible, helping people recognize their need for one another.

“By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

There’s value in standing together, not to hurt others, but to encourage and strengthen each other. I had Gayle, and we had each other’s backs when life felt lonely.

Jesus offers to have our backs. To provide the companionship we long for.

A Friend who won’t ever reject you.

That’s a Companion worth knowing.

When Life Is Win-Win

Winning is something we all enjoy. Not everyone is competitive–that’s a different story.

Winning is a sense of accomplishment that everyone can feel good about because it means we showed up as our best selves and did what we intended to do. Sweet success.

The U.S. Hockey Team played the USSR in the 1980 Olympics. Against all odds, a group of American hockey players were formed into a dynamic team that beat the historical powerhouse of hockey. Nobody thought they could do it. But team work and a coach who believed in them created an unbelievable squad of winners.

We all long to be winners in our lives.

Some make it happen.

My dear friend Nancy Wilson was one of those people. A small dynamo of courage and fierce love for others, she lived her life with enthusiasm and grace.

Because she loved Jesus.

Nancy made no excuses for her faith. She believed in a Savior who knew, loved, and celebrated her every day. She was totally sold out to Him and wanted nothing more than to introduce others to the wonderful love of her life.

Without hesitation.

I remember being with Nancy overseas, helping with a women’s conference. She often was a little slower to catch up to what the rest of us were doing because she would talk to anyone she came in contact with about her hope in Jesus. She’d found forgiveness and full acceptance in Him and delighted in sharing her hope so others could experience that love.

She traveled the world–77 countries–to care for people and share the One who loved her well. When she entered a room, her joy and enthusiasm captured people. She lived out loud the love she had received. She knew that what we all need most is to be seen, known, and loved. She had that; she shared it faithfully with all who would listen.

When she came back from a trip a couple of years ago, she discovered she had stage 4 ovarian cancer. She had a respite for a year after treatment, but it came back. She refused to be discouraged–she used her opportunities in the hospital to share her joy in knowing how unconditionally loved she was by Jesus.

She’d made a video shortly before she passed that was shown at her memorial service. She spoke of her life being a win-win. She wanted to be healed so she could continue loving others with all that she was. But if she died, she’d be in the presence of God for eternity. Either way, she saw her personal victory.

“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Philippians 1:21

Nancy had a Teacher who led her through life, encouraging and loving her every step of the way. She understood she couldn’t do this life alone; that became a greater reality when she got cancer. But she never wavered in her conviction that whatever happened would be a win-win for her. Being here with those she loved was a gift. Being in heaven with the One who’d given His life for her was an eternal blessing.

Nancy has modeled for me the life I long for. Win-win, no matter the circumstances, because I know Who loves me and where I’m gong.

Do you have that hope?