“Whatever Life Looks Like” – An 8th Wedding Anniversary Letter

October 27, 2007 The day I became Mrs. Greene
October 27, 2007
The day I became Mrs. Greene

By: Jana Greene

I don’t remember what life was like before you.

I know the first 37 years of my life existed, obviously. But I was always alone, even when in relationship with others. And I know that I was a complete person then, before I knew you. I wasn’t always a complete person, you know. God had to do a work in me when I was all on my own in order for that to happen.

I’m glad for that because it enabled me to bring a whole person into your world at just the right time.
You changed everything, and for the better.

I can recall the first time our eyes locked in church. I was trying really hard not to look your way. Focus on Jesus, I kept thinking. But I could feel your eyes on me.

I was SO DONE with dating at that point. I’d made up my mind to be single forever, for simplicity’s sake. My mangled-up heart was too raw to consider anything else. But still, it skipped so many beats when you smiled at me.

After church, you asked me to lunch and I said yes, and it changed the trajectory of both of our lives forever. It was (at the risk of sounding completely inane) as if I’d known you my whole life. There was a distinct lack of awkward in our gait together.

After that one event, I was hooked. You were in my bloodstream. You were implanted into my heart. A year later we placed rings on one another’s fingers and pledged our lives to each other, mindful of keeping God at the top of our “relationship triangle” – where he still reigns.

We have needed Him to be at the top of our lives. Loving you has always been effortless, but day-to-day life hasn’t always been easy.

Do you remember a conversation we had when we were dating, in which I offhandedly said, “Things are perfect right now. I hope they never change!” We were in a season of glowy illusion then, everything misty watercolors and cupid’s arrows. (Science says that when we are in love, the same areas of the brain ‘light up’ as do with delusional mental illness. My brain was alight, alright!)

And you said, “Well, of course they’re going to change. Things change all the time, that’s the way life is. But we are in it together no matter what that looks like.”

Life has looked like a lot of things since then!

We were both single parents when we wed. Single parents to teen girls. There were times I wanted to run away from home (but even then, I wanted to take you with me.)

“In sickness and in health” kicked in at starting gate. Richer or poorer, for better or for worse. CHECK.

But we’re still standing.

Eight years ago, life happened, and kept happening. In times of upheaval, we lean into each other harder, and look to God at the top of the triangle to keep us on an even keel so that we don’t fall overboard, and somehow, he keeps showing up and showing off with His love for us.

He really is showing off in our marriage, you know. In a big way.

And the rewards of staying on board are so incredible. You ‘get’ me, and I ‘get’ you, and it’s positively supernatural the way we love one another. Not because it’s easy, but because it is and was always a “God Thing.”

It tickles me that the man I met in church who distracted me from Jesus that day would help me focus on Jesus for the rest of my life in a way I had never done before.

Our wedding vows were not pie-in-the-sky, movie-romance, sugary words spoken as a crime of passion, but as a passionate preamble to a lifetime of “whatever life looks like.”

I’ve got you and you’ve got me, no matter what.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. So much of it looks like laughter, comfort, ease, and passion. It looks like just being ourselves, together.

Our daughters grew up beautifully, with an actual idea of what a good marriage can look like. We are grandparents now. All of the ‘things’ work out and we grow stronger.

I still can’t take my eyes off of you.

My brain has never gone back to ‘normal’ (as if it ever was!) It is still lit up like crazy for you.

Of course things change. Things change all the time, that’s the way life is. We are in it together, whatever that looks like.
Misty water-colors, cupid’s arrows, challenges and trials – all. All of it, I get to do with you.

I cannot remember life before you and I’m glad I don’t have to. God blessed the broken roads that led me straight to you.

Eight years ago, life happened to me at just the right time. You happened to me, My Beloved.
I’m so grateful.

Happy anniversary!

Rock-Hard Hope for the Soft Desires of our Hearts

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By: Jana Greene

This morning, I wake up, grab coffee, and read my email. My Beloved had taken the time to send a wonderful Rick Warren devotional gem to me this morning. My husband shares scripture with me, and that in and of itself just stuns me every time it happens.

Click here to read the message and share in the hope for yourself!

Sometimes, when I get really overwhelmed by STUFF, it’s easy to forget how far God has brought me and how generous He is with me. Prior to nine years ago, I would never in a million years thought I’d ever have a Godly man as my husband. A husband who is your best friend and who loves God? That stuff happened to other people, not to me!

But I’m here to tell you that your Heavenly Father is a GOOD God who loves to give you the desires of your heart. It may not FEEL like it, it may not LOOK like it. It certainly wasn’t in MY timing when he blessed me with a happy marriage In MY timing I would have appreciated a good husband LONG before he came my way.

But in MY timing, it would not have been My Beloved. All kinds of crazy (and painful) things had to happen in order for our roads to converge as they did. Of this I am absolutely convinced:

The absolute crappiest things you are going through right now, the situations you cannot imagine resolving at all, much less resolving to glorify God one day? Oooooo, our God just LOVES to use those to show the world hope!

The circumstance that you are in that the devil orchestrated for your destruction? It’s pretty elaborate, the trouble he went to in order to set you up like this.

That VERY thing that has been set up for your destruction? It’s going to CRUMBLE, I tell you. It’s built on sand – it doesn’t stand a chance.

And out of the rubble, the same God who created the universe will make concrete ROCK from that sand, solid and fortified. You will build your life on that rock and all the little pieces of garbage that satan tried to bring you down with? God will use them in the fortification of your solid foundation. They will shimmer like stars in the rock itself, attracting others who are in similar pain to the beautiful TEMPLE God has made from your prior disaster.  My life is living proof of this.
My addiction to alcohol nearly killed me nearly 15 years ago, but dang if God hasn’t used that crappiest of crappy situations to His glory!

What the devil meant for destruction, God used for GOOD. That ‘good’ is not just meant for other people, it’s meant for YOU.

You are broken, yes, maybe. But there is HOPE.

God loves to give you the desires of your heart. That doesn’t mean that we don’t experience loss, or that we receive each thing we ask for. I’m not even going to try to pretend to understand why bad things happen. I only know that as they do, our Father does not abandon us, but uses every experience to bring us closer to Him.

Ask Him for the desires of your heart. And then tell Him you trust Him no matter what.

He will draw us nearer to Him at times at the expense of something we think we badly ‘need.’ He wants to hold us close.

He is not a Pez-dispenser god, doling out blessings on demand.
 
He is not a genie in a bottle, granting our wishes.
No…He is SO MUCH GREATER THAN THAT, and His timing is PERFECT. All kinds of crazy (and painful) things might have to happen in order for the roads to converge at the right place. It may not FEEL like it. It may not LOOK like it. But your life is built on the Rock, you are solid.
Our God is SUPERNATURAL, and He has GOT THIS.
PRAYER: “Holy Spirit, breathe new hope into us as we trust in Abba to make ALL things right in His timing. We surrender to You and Your perfect and pleasing will, and ask you to take every molecule of hurt, loss, worry, and doubt captive, so that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against us! In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” – Jesus (Matthew 7:24-28, MSG)

Reasonable Happiness

Happiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Jana Greene

God grant me the serenity…

Last week was an almost magical week for me, having had the opportunity to connect with some family members and friends, with whom I needed connecting. For a few days I was back in my state of origin, geographically. But my spirit was in it’s element…happy. There were times that I felt my heart would burst from the pure enjoyment of living one moment at a time, just as my belt would burst from so much Texas barbecue. My face was sore from smiling. There was healing and forgiveness bestowed and accepted, and the kind of camaraderie that only dear childhood friends can resurrect.

Visiting rivers and singing along to songs in the car to Pandora’s “’80’s Radio Hits.”

Seeing how much my hands are like those of my father, who I’ve only ever seen a handful of times in my 46 years.

Coming to know my half-sister and her family.

Remembering that I do have people.

Happiness is to serenity, as serenity is to joy – the ultimate goal, the place where we are in God’s presence with no distractions. We long for supreme happiness, but have only delicious, fleeting tastes of it.

What made me happy last week – Texas – might be different than what makes me feel happy next week. We are fickle creatures.

I suppose I have kind of an emotional hangover. Today,  I’m weepy and sentimental, and have this crazy urgent want to make all things right. But that’s a problem in this world, because setting all things right is not my job. Trying to make it my job leads straight to unhappiness. I know enough to know that.

It makes me think that maybe perfect happiness is too much…just too much to ask for. I can’t wait around for everything to get it’s collective act together before I allow myself a slice of ‘happy.’

Oh, how I love the Serenity Prayer – such a simple thing! Most people know the first refrains of it, but it is the last half of the famous prayer that really speak to my heart.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

– Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

It’s hard to take this world as it is, not as I would have it. Expecting supreme happiness in this life being unreasonable and all.

The state of my origin can also be melancholy, and sometimes I get my wheels stuck in the muck of melancholy. It helps if I just go ahead and feel what I’m feeling already, instead of attempting to stuff, manipulate, or eat my feelings.

Feel the bittersweet. Feel the melancholy. Really let it squish around between my toes like Texas mud. And then step out of it to walk into the courage to change the things that I can. Because I can’t experience the pure joy of living one day at a time any other way than to surrender to His will.

Accept that hardships – those stumbling blocks to happiness (a feeling) – are nothing but paving stones for the pathway of peace.

God,

Grant me reasonable happiness and help me to trust YOU to make all things right.

In the name of Jesus.

Amen

 

 

Valor, quietly: What “Father-ness” really looks like

“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”

– John Mayer, “Daughters”

I used to be a big fan of greeting cards – Instagram-esque images on the front, the oh-so-eloquent sappiness that makes up the text inside. But these days, I’m finding that Hallmark doesn’t always capture the essence of occasions. Here in my sepia years (not near ‘golden’, mind you) mass-generated greetings don’t cut it.

Looking for a Father’s Day card to recognize my husband, I hovered over a card on the rack that pictured the quintessential daddy-daughter image: A black-and-white picture of dancing feet – a little girl’s bare feet perched upon her father’s leather Oxfords. I love that image.

Isn’t that what father-ness looks like?

What does it look like, as a reel – instead of a snapshot? It is a no guts, no glory endeavor. Father-ness also looks like a million other little acts of devotion.

It looks like canceling long-awaited plans to attend a chorus concert/band performance/theatrical production that a child forgot to mention until the day of.

It looks like children whom he has advised can “tell him anything” will, in fact, tell him anything.

It looks like forgoing something he wants – or even needs – so that the girls can have what they want and need.

It looks like giving 100% in the little things, like positive reinforcement for clean dishes and put-away laundry.

It looks like giving 100% with little or no notice for big things – like weddings. Moves. Driver’s licenses.

It looks like unselfishness.

It looks like knowing a child’s favorite birthday cake flavor, and going to all the grocery stores in town until you find it.

It looks like making taking the time to hear their points-of-view of his kids  (even when they make no sense, even when they are “wrong”.)

It looks like insisting that they treat their mother/step-mother with respect, even in the sassiest teen years (such a mouthy time!)

It looks like openly loving God, while respecting the truth that each daughter is on her own the journey to discover that God is real.

It looks like praying on behalf of each one of them, every day.

It looks like midnight runs to the skating rink, and dropping four other loud, yapping, excitable teens off at their own houses, so their parents don’t have to make a midnight run. Sometimes, it looks like four or five loud, yapping, excitable teens having a sleepover at his house.

It means rolling with the punches, constantly – without harboring resentment, or bestowing guilt on the children.

It looks like valor, quietly.

It looks like giving away his life’s treasure to her new husband on her wedding day, and making that day as memorable as possible for her.

It looks like buying class rings that he knows will be worn once, and then sit in a drawer. And it means never mention a word of the expense again.

It looks like treading the fine line to deal with a daughter’s choice to date the over-cologned, greasy haired, lip ring-wearing, juvenile delinquent, junior Bad Ass (completely unworthy of her,) without being overbearing (thus increasing the boy’s appeal ten-fold.)

It looks like buying feminine hygiene products when necessary – without embarrassment. Without missing a beat.

It looks like stick-to-it-ness when going through the drudgery of parenting, honestly – the day-in, day-out homework inquiries.

It looks like having stunt-man like ability to roll off the drama.

It looks like learning – and accepting – that all three daughters respond differently to different situations, that “one size” rules, privileges, and relating does not fit “all.”

It looks like honoring our daughters, even when their behavior is not honor-worthy.

It looks like standing in a darkened window with a notepad in-hand to write down the license plate number of a boy who has picked up a daughter for a date. (Date my daughter? Be ready to be properly vetted. ) Note to daughters: Yes, he did this – and with enough forethought to make sure the dining room lights were off before you left. Better visibility.

It looks like shuttling kids to doctor appointments, play practices, sleep-overs, and SAT tests. And back again.

It looks like listening to Christina Aguilera, when he’s in a Robert Cray kind of mood.

It looks like being the practical parent; not always getting to be the fun parent. It looks like school supplies instead of frivolities, in leaner times.

It looks like treating your wife exactly the way you want your daughters to be treated by their husbands.

My Beloved’s flesh-and-blood daughter was born with the privilege of calling him “Dad.” He has raised her most of her life. She is a married now, still Daddy’s Girl at 22 years old.

“Most people experience just having a mom raise you – or even both parents if you’re lucky – but I always just had my dad,” she recently told me. “He is the one person who told me what he thought and then let me make my own decisions without judgment…always dropping everything to help me, and giving me the biggest hugs, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. He has given me a life to be proud of, always giving me the best advice and showing me how to better my future. “

For my own two daughters, My Beloved came on the scene when they were 10 and 13; the first and only man I dated as a single mom that my daughters immediately gave the stamp of approval (I only dated a couple, I swear!)

“Mom didn’t really have any boyfriends before my step-father, but she did go on dates occasionally,” my youngest, now 18,  says. “Being the grumpy child that I was, I did not like any of them, but something about him was different. He didn’t just care about mom; he cared about my sister and I – and he went out of his way to show it. A few weeks into his relationship with my mother, he surprised me with a necklace of my favorite animal – a penguin. It had a gold chain and crystal eyes, and came in a penguin-shaped case. It wasn’t my birthday or anything … he just wanted to show me that he cared. I hoped that he would be my stepfather, and I am so grateful that it happened!”

My eldest, also now 22,  came to appreciate that he put in the time with parental grunt work: “A lot of things stick out to me when I think about my step-father,” she says. “He took time to come to all my school events and basically ‘owned’ us all from the get-go. One of my favorite memories is recent – just last month – when he came and sat with you during my tonsillectomy even though he didn’t have to….even though I was pretty out-of-it, and wouldn’t have known if he had skipped it. Waking up and seeing that he was there, that meant a lot to me. That’s just who he is. He is really that person.”

What does Father-ness look like, really look like?
So much better than a Hallmark card; so much deeper than Instagram-esque imagry and sappy sentiment. Off the rack; a reel of a million little acts of devotion. And some really big ones.

It looks like love.

Footnote from My Beloved’s daughter, Lynzee, who is leaving to be with her husband stationed in Japan in just a few days:

“Dad…
I’m not a very adventurous person. But you always told me, ‘You’re never going to see what the world has to offer you unless you put yourself out there and try new things.’
So now that I’m an ‘old married lady’; I have a chance to go to Japan for three years. Even though I haven’t left yet, I already miss you.
Thank you for working so hard. You’re always my secure place to call home. You are an awesome dad, and I love you.”

 

Friendship – Sisters by Design

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C. S. Lewis

By: Jana Greene

This letter is a gift to someone who is a gift to my life.  I asked her permission to publish it, to which she responded:

“You have full permission to publish it if you want—I hope it inspires others to have real friendships like ours!”

Amen, Sister-Girlfriend. The world would be a much better place.

My sweet Melissa,

Do you remember the first Christmas that we became friends? Our daughters – now freshmen in college – were fourth-graders who had just declared themselves Best Friends Forever. I was a struggling, single mom, just having divorced my children’s father after fourteen years of marriage. My little girl was having a terrible time.  I got her a good therapist, and tried to calm her fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded.

What she really needed was a very good friend. Your daughter was that very good friend to her.

It was a horrible, awful  time in my life. I was working four jobs to feed my girls after being a stay-at-home mom all of their lives. They became latch-key kids. I became a hot mess from the guilt.

When we first met, I was holding on to my four-year-old sobriety by a single thread, it seemed, and living on high anxiety. You invited me over anyway when the girls were having a play-date, serving coffee (and, I’m certain)  sweets.  You asked questions that nobody else had bothered to ask, and didn’t judge me when I answered honestly.

Sometimes when you stop trying so hard, God makes mystical things happen. Like our friendship.

At the time, you were wary of organized religion, and I was wary of everything. But in your guest bathroom, you had a display of decorative crosses. Every time I went to the loo at your house, I thanked God for you and your kindness. I prayed that you would trust Him again, even as I struggled to trust Him myself. Yes, on the loo!  I can tell you that now, all these years later.

That Christmas, I sat with all of our girls while you went on a date with your hubby. Before you departed for the evening, you gave me a pretty little wrapped gift box, and instructed me to open it when you left.  I did, and it was a lovely new wallet.

When you came back home, I thanked you, and you said that I should make sure to look inside of it. Folded in the zipped compartment was a hundred-dollar bill.

“Get your girls a little something for Christmas,” you said, like it was not a big deal.

It was SUCH a big deal, Melissa, to fill the girls’ stockings that year. Such a big deal.

Little did I know that praying for you on the loo would be the least of what we would come to discuss as our friendship deepened!  No subject was off-limits, no pretending to be who we were not. No pretense, all acceptance – what a wonderful foundation for a friendship.

I have to tell you, my friend, throughout the storms, you were my safe place. And always – even if there were tears –  laughter was ultimately the order of the day.

We are pretty cool that way.

Over the years, we have really been through it together, have we not?  With six daughters between us, holy cow – have we ever!

Teenagers and all the stupid stuff they do. Teenagers and all the awesome stuff they do.

Through a divorce and a new marriage (both mine) you were such a support. Through your steady marriage, you taught me so much.

When our husbands drive us bonkers, we have a kvetch session, and are a-okay again.

When our kids drive us bonkers, well … together, we find the strength to soldier on.

We’ve done the Mom Circuit, and weathered the “Mom, leave me alone!” syndrome.

Between us, we’ve done new careers, and unemployment.

We’ve drowned our sorrows in Queso dip at every Mexican food restaurant in town. (Cheese plays a major role in our relationship, as well it should!)

We’ve had pajama parties, and felt the betrayal of gravity (especially me….you look MAHVELOUS!) and – as we schlepped into our forties – the reward of chasing dreams and catching them, on occasion. (Or should I say, we sashay gracefully into our forties – and beyond.)

We’ve struggled with the discovery of what is out of our control (everything, essentially) and celebrated what we which we can control (keeping the faith.)

We’ve threatened to write a book togetherwhich, incidentally is still TOTALLY happening!

Most meaningfully, when my own family members high-tailed it out of my life, you ran towards me.

You and I …. we’ve  had spiritual crisises and awakenings, stumblings and triumphs. And shared with honesty every experience.

We discovered together that we are NOT orphans after all, but beloved daughters of the Most High King….princesses, really!

And that makes us sisters. Family.

Even our husbands became MFFs (Man Friends Forever…please don’t tell them I said that,) and our daughters as close as any siblings.

Family, like I said.

Your love, prayers and steadfastness have helped keep me sober. Honestly, I doubt I would have maintained it without your support.

That love….those prayers and acceptance – they have kept me from running away from home on numerous occasions (“This parenting teens thing? I QUIT!”)

In the midst of building this friendship, you had a revolution in your spirit.  When God lit a fire under you, he used spiritual kerosene!

Girl, you were on FIRE, and you are still on fire!  It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been witness to.

A spark from the heart of Jesus himself caught the hem of your garment, and you just had to serve Him. You served Him by helping other women, like you helped me. By genuinely loving them – fiercely. From it came additions to the sisterhood – the WAYwards – and lots of tears and laughter.

And laughter came in handy during the difficult times.

Several years ago, when I got sick, I stayed sick for nearly three years. It was another awful, dark time in my life.  Chronically fatigued. Endlessly in pain. And with no answers in sight, living on high anxiety once again.

For three solid years, I fought numbness, pain, fatigue….every single day, and bitched about it plenty. My complaining and frustration had to have tested your dedication! But you listened every time, and never gave up.

You prayed for my health fervently. Sometimes, when I was in the middle of exhaustion and complaint, you would just extend your right hand toward me and pray so hard that we would both cry – even when I was right in the middle of a bitching session!

It’s hard to be hopeless when someone is that dedicated to asking God to help you.

But sometimes – when you stop trying so hard – God makes mystical things happen.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I remember telling you. And I meant it. “I can’t!”

“God can,” you said, with no judgement. More listening, more praying, more encouraging. You listened. Like a true friend, you loved fiercely, calming my fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded. “Father,” you prayed. “Please heal my friend. But even if she doesn’t get better, we praise you. We LOVE you!”

Because you see, what I really needed was a very good friend. You were – and are – that very good friend to me.

All these many years later, how many cycles have we gone through !– Distrusting organized religion, and calling on God. Trusting God, and being there for each other.

I’m so grateful for you.

Thank you for being so steady a prayer-warrior. Thank you for never, ever saying, “This friendship thing? I QUIT!”

Thank you for all the times you still give me encouragement (and chocolate) and for being my “nothing is off limits” sister.

When I think about who you are and who you’ve become, and all God has in store for you, it brings me to my knees.

When I pray for you, I ask God to take that beautiful, bright, effervescent and glorious spirit of yours and just unleash it on the world in a way that brings him glory. I pray that the same joy your spirit brings me gets unfurled on the world, and comes back on you like a tidal wave.

I never forgot the Christmas that you folded a Benjamin in the gift of a new wallet  … so that I could give my daughters a Christmas. But more importantly, I never forgot that you reached out to this hot mess girl, that you went out of your way to be kind.

I never forgot that you treated my frightened, maddeningly insecure and hurting fourth-grade daughter like your own. Now a confident – gregarious, even!- young woman, she never forgot your love, either.

I love that you never stopped praying for my healing. I love your heart, that it breaks for hurting people.

I love that the most important prayer I ever learned to pray, I learned from you – “I trust you, God. I may not understand a single thing you are doing, but I trust you.”

It was a  beautiful thing to do for an old friend, to teach me that prayer.

I love you with all my heart. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for being family.

And Merry Christmas, BFF.

Six Years – an anniversary poem

I do, I do, I DO!
I do, I do, I DO!

Dear Bob,

Today is out sixth wedding anniversary. Of course, you remember – because you are just so cool that way, husband-wise.

What a wild ride our lives have been since Oct. 27, 2007, right?

This morning, when you wake up next to me, you will likely sneak out quietly to make the coffee. You will feed the cats and shush them as they mew for food, so that I can sleep in a little late.

And when I wake up, my first thought will be to make the coffee and feed the cats so that you can sleep in….on this – our Anniversary day.

And maybe that’s one of the reasons we just work so well. Come to think of it, yeah. I think that has a lot to do with it. Here is a poem for you….it’s pretty corn-ball, but it comes from the heart. I do love you so.

Your Wife

Six years of marriage…. How can that be?

(Seven since you’ve shared your life with me.)

You are the rational, organized one,

I bring the chaos (we’ll call it the  ‘fun’ ?)

You calm me down when my anxiety peaks,

You are the  one through whom God often speaks

to quell my nerves and bring the sense.

Do I thank you enough for this?

We’ve done richer and poorer,

For Better or worse,

In sickness and health?

By letter and verse!

We’ve blended a family –

All girls, no less…

We’ve lived through the drama, the triumphs, the stess.

At the end of the day, there ‘s just you and me,

And our wonky, blended-up family,

God at the most honored place,

At the top of the triangle,

Showing us grace….

And laughter,

And love,

and a place to belong,

To keep our momentum going strong.

May our PDAs always gross-out our kids,

And remain the stuff of lore,

May we always find the humor in things,

And learn to laugh even more.

May we always be the best of friends

Growing closer as we grow in age,

Hand-in-hand walking as one –

Not two –

Through every life chapter and stage.

Six years ago, how can that be….?

It seems like yesterday to me,

Beloved, I love you forever and more –

I can’t wait to see what else is in store!

Thank you, Baby, for marrying me –

Oh,

Happy Anniversary!

Sweet Bluegrass, My Beloved, and How I Ran off with Moms Gone Wild

A little humor from Redemption Feast about what constitutes a really hot date for the 45+ crowd.

More recovery blogging coming soon – I swear! For just this season, writing humor IS part of my recovery. Come to think of it, I hope all-things-comedic will be a part of my recovery for a long time to come. Happy Friday, all!

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/sweet-bluegrass-my-beloved-and-how-i-ran-off-with-moms-gone-wild

Debt Relief – The motives of a Most Charitable God

God moves all obstacles between Himself and His children
God moves all obstacles between Himself and His children

By: Jana Greene
When I first met my husband several years ago, I had a lot of debt in the form of medical bills. Years without health insurance had not kept the health issues at bay, and the bills were stacked high with neglect. Like a Mega-Debt Mountain, it was not just a stack of papers, but a looming monument to financial failure. As a single mother working three jobs, I still couldn’t make ends meet. As a matter of fact, I didn’t think the ends would ever even see one another from afar!
As my soon-to-be husband and I got closer and closer, I was ashamed of all this debt. Thousands of dollars for office visits, treatments for migraines, endometriosis and chronic sinus infections had been wracked up. I felt embarrassed that I owed so much, that I would owe it the rest of my life and still never get it paid off, most likely.
One day, he asked to see Mega-Debt Mountain for himself. We were getting pretty serious at the time, and I couldn’t put off showing him my debts much longer. Still, I presented a lame stalling technique.
“Why?” I asked.
“So I can pay them off,” he said without so much as a sigh.  In that season of his life, he had the means to free me of this debt.
At first, I was embarrassed because, after all, it was a substantial amount. I brought the stack of bills, most of which were marked “Last Notice” or “Past Due” (or both) and felt the shame burn my face. He took them gently from my hand and laid them on the desk without even glancing at them, and then he kissed me. Tears sprang to my eyes with gratitude, because I never expected such a thing; such grace.
These were not his debts. He took them on for two reasons:
So they would no longer hang over my head.
And because he “just wanted to be with me for the rest of my life.”
He had erased a debt that I had assumed I would carry all my life, simply because he loved me. The truth was, as huge as Mega-Debt Mountain was, it did not hinder his love for me. He didn’t see the “balance due” when he looked at me, but a future together.
Kind of like God when He looks at us through the filter of His Son. So often we all allow our own mountains to block the view of the grace He offers, because we are ashamed of our sin. Our Father has the means to free us. The blood of Jesus has the most amazing stain-removing properties!
“What are you waiting for?” God is saying. “The debt of everything you’ve ever done wrong is already paid for when you accepted my Son as your Beloved!” Our Father doesn’t see the “balance due” when He looks at His Christ-redeemed children.
God offers us freedom from sin debt for two reasons, you see:
So they will no longer hang over the head of one He loves VERY much. (Debt cannot hang over our heads and on the cross both!)
And because He wants to be with you for all eternity.
Such a thing is grace.

Amazing.

The Geometry of Marriage

I really do!
I really do!

By: Jana Greene

“Did you lose the bet?”

It was a man’s voice. I was sifting through birthday cards at the drugstore, and it took a moment for me to realize he was speaking to me.

“Excuse me?” I said politely.

“Did you lose the bet with your husband?” He nodded at me, looking at the words on my t-shirt.

Emblazoned in simple, black lettering on the front of the pink shirt: I love my husband.

“Nope,” I said, laughing a little. “I just really do.”

He shrugged and walked away.

Another time, I had a nurse who was taking my blood pressure say, “That’s an interesting shirt. What does it say on the back?” He was thinking maybe that there was a snarky retort on the reverse…a zinger.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I just love my husband.”

“Huh.”

I’d bought the pink t-shirt it at a  bookstore several years ago when My Beloved and I were newlyweds. I had never been in love in the all-encompassing way that I loved him, and had never really expected to be. That head-over-heels-ness was for other people, I’d thought.

But God had other, better plans.

It’s the second marriage for each of us; not quite a May-December union, but possibly a June-September one, in that we were older and – if not wiser – more in tuned with God.

We actually did meet in church, and there was chemistry right away. But there was sanity, too – and that was a new wrinkle in relationships on my part.

As we fell in love more deeply, it became apparent that we were meant to be married. But because we had both failed at our previous marriages,  we decided to do something differently. We made a conscious and verbal decision not to make our marriage about ourselves – or even about each other. Making marriage about the other person is like making salvation about religion. It’s the relationship that really matters.

From the very start, we agreed to consider our marriage as a triangle of sorts, with God sitting at the top and he and I on the bottom corners, looking up. The “circle of trust” may be important, but the Triangle of Marriage keeps us in check.

In the years since My Beloved married me, reality has moved in and made itself at home, as is inevitable.  With the blending of three teen daughters came epic drama in the household. With reality came  economic ups and downs, health issues and challenges of getting older.  We are two very imperfect people, in love with each other and with God. And sometimes we disagree, and have to check our positions in the triangle of relationship and remember who is in the Highest Place of honor.

So, come to think of it….maybe I do wear the t-shirt because I lost a bet.

I happily and gratefully lost a bet with God. Before marrying my husband.  I had staked my understanding of the future on my own past failure in marriage. I couldn’t make it work, so I was doomed to be alone (or worse, repeat the cycle).

But God had other, better plans that are not dependent on my failures or successes.

There – at the top of the Triangle – He gives our marriage chemistry, sanity and loads of grace when reality makes itself at home.  In the all-encompassing way that only God can love us, he emblazoned it in simple, black lettering in the pages of His Word:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16.

We are His Beloveds, and He is head-over-heels for us.

In the Twelfth Year of Recovery, My Father Gave to me….

sun

By: Jana Greene

There is something cool about the number twelve. It makes me think of the famous recovery“steps”,  fresh, hot doughnuts – and the beloved disciples of Jesus – not necessarily in that order.  It also brings to mind the song about the twelve Days of Christmas that just passed; the lyrics of the song I never really understood, having little appreciation for Lords a’ Leaping or partridges in pear trees.

But I have all the appreciation in the world for addiction recovery, so in honor of God and His making the past 12 years possible (joy-filled, even!) I wrote a little redux. I pray it blesses you, and I look forward to living sober for my lifetime with the Father’s graceone single day at a time.

In the first year of recovery, My Father gave to me – a helping of humility.

Step 1: I admitted that I was powerless over alcohol and compulsive behaviors, that my life had become unmanageable. It was hard to admit I had zero power over a silly substance, really humiliating, actually…but in the best way possible. I had to learn how to bite off one without drinking day as it came, and then another and another – in complete surrender to God. I still approach sobriety that way.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

In the second year of recovery, My Father gave to me – reckless, steady love, and a helping of humility.

If you don’t think you deserve to be loved, it is a hard thing to accept. But true love doesn’t come because we deserve it at all; it comes when we can’t possibly deserve it. God’s love is reckless in nature, and He wants us to learn how to love one another similarly.

“In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” – John 12:26

In the third year of recovery, My Father gave to me –hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Oh, the mess I’d made of things. Surely I’d used up all of the favor I could reasonably be shown. Blessedly, God is not reasonable in promising hope and favor for the faithful!

“I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” – Jeremiah 29:11

In the fourth year of recovery, My father gave to me – grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Now I had some major decisions to make about my life. Some of my choices were good and healthy at this stage, and some were not good at all. Through trial and error, and floundering effort – I just didn’t drink. And I tried really trusting in the Highest Power instead of my own barometer.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.” – Lamentations 3:22

In the fifth year of recovery, My father gave to me – fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes, hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Life keeps happening, and without a numbing agent. Not everything that light is cast upon shows up in a rosy light. Acknowledging character defects became a priority, and remains one. By necessity. The learning curve is constant, but God loves me right where I am today. He is so awesome that way.

“But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.” – Romans 2:1-2

In the sixth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

When I humbly request that God remove my shortcomings, the space gets filled up with much better stuff. Love, grace, joy and mercy. (Step 7, for those who are wondering). This was a time that God stormed the shores of my life with people to love me (think the beaches of Normandy!) It still amazes me that He sends just the right people into your life with such care and mercy.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” – John 13:34

 

In the seventh year of recovery, My Father gave to me – coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Not easy living, mind you….but complete life. That is how I cope: bring it to the Highest Power. He is always available when help is needed. When I struggle to stay sober, he goes to the mat to fight for and with me.

God is a safe place to hide,
ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
courageous in sea storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
the tremors that shift mountains.

Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” – Psalm 46:1

In the eighth year of recovery, My Father gave to mepermission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

I love the Serenity Prayer, especially the little-known end of the Reinhold Niebuhr poem because it helps me differentiate between having joy and being happy. We all are on a quest for happiness, but sometimes reasonably happy is enough.

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen. And AMEN!

In the ninth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – comfort in His Presence, permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

And what of the “joy” thing? It comes only from His presence, which is the most tangible when I am still and quiet; when I stop trying so hard to anticipate what He is communicating to me before my heart has a chance to have a good listen. This is sincerely a work in progress! Recovery itself is work, in progress. But there is nothing sweeter than His presence.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

In the tenth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – acceptance through surrender; comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

The only formula I know that works is:  constant, daily surrender to God + hard work you often don’t feel like doing + helping others = forward moving recovery. Sometimes it inches and sometimes it races, but giving it all to the Father is key. I am still one drink away from repeating my old, self-destructive patterns. Accountability in a group is important. Step 10: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”– 1 Corinthians 10:12

In the eleventh day of recovery, My Father gave to me – a better perspective. comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

The human condition: assuming victory over one area of struggle only to have temptation rear its ugly head or have another struggle knock me down. It seems to happen when I least expect it and nothing I do seems right; I have a long way to go, and so much yet to learn. But when I let God pick me up, I can see a little better than when I’m wallowing around in the pit. The view just isn’t that good from there. His righteousness makes up for my weaknesses.

“God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.” – Romans 3:26

In the twelfth year of recovery, My Father is giving me – a way to pay it forward. a better perspective. Comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

When I was active in my disease, everything revolved around drinking. Hiding my secret was my first priority. Now – a dozen years after starting this journey – I cannot keep quiet about addiction recovery because I was lost, you see. And now I’m found.

What drinking left room for are peace, comfort, healthy relationships. A second chance to be the mother my daughters deserve and the wife my husband should have. I have to write about it, talk about it and  tell other broken people with secrets that I am broken too, but that God actually prefers to use broken people over the ones who think they have it all together. Or….as Step 12 states: Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

“That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

I am so grateful to God, because He is the Author and Finisher of my faith and my recovery. Without Him, I never would have made it a day without alcohol (and for many years didn’t.) With Him, I have hope for the future renewed every day, because it is fresh every morning and comes like my sobriety – one day at a time in full measure as I need it.

In the (first) 12 years of recovery, My Father gave to me:

A way to pay it forward

Better perspective

Acceptance through surrender

Comfort in His Presence

Permission to be happy

Coping skills for living

Mercy overflowing…

FINE CLARITY!

Grace through massive changes

Hope for the future

Reckless, steady love

And

A helping of humility.

As the Leaves Turn, Perfectly

 

Blue Ridge Mountains, October 2012

 

“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.” – Elizabeth Lawrence

By: Jana Greene

Last week, I watched the leaves turn with my husband.

Tired of waiting to be given the extra time to spend, we took it ourselves… stealing away to the mountains of North Carolina for a few days together.

We rented a tiny cabin, after choosing it on merit of standing far away from all other dwellings and people. When we arrived, the steps down the hill to the cabin were clear, and our little fortress surrounded by trees in every stage of turning – greens and yellows, but reds and oranges, too. Like a picture postcard.

He and I set up house in a hurry to sit on the back porch, which overlooked a short but steep mountain valley and wide creek at the bottom. All we could see from our balcony was leaves and water. All we could hear from our balcony was the rustling and rushing of leaves and water, and the occasional birdsong from the canopy above.

Decompressing from the stressors of being full-time grown-ups with concerns for jobs, kids and the political climate, we spent days reveling in the promise of cool autumn air instead. Together, my husband and I explored the creek and the hills nearby. For a few days, we fished and we feasted. We did nothing at all for great lengths of time on the back porch of our little cabin.

And we didn’t miss the grown-up world, because it didn’t occur to us to stress out about the jobs, kids or concerns for our country. It seems obvious enough – if you took the time to look at the trees – that God was still in control and didn’t need our help to work things out.

No internet. No television. No constant feedback and validation from the world-at-large. Political seasons are ugly and corrupt, but God’s seasons are perfect. Out there where creation is pure and heavenly, you would never know all “hell” was breaking loose.  I needed to be reminded that the harmony of nature is what the Creator intended for His world. It is the created that distort it.

By the time of our departure, the steps up the hill to our car were littered with color – crispy greens and yellows, and reds and oranges turned up at the corners. They crunched as we loaded up and readied ourselves for re-entry into the “real” world. As we drove away, we rolled down the windows to hear rustling leaves and rushing water, and the occasional birdsong from the canopy above.

God is not in a hurry for the leaves to fall, they break from the trees one at a time, floating to the ground in perfect order to that He can begin creating more abundance at just the right time.  And after stealing away to the reality He intended, I have a better sense of peace that He still has good and perfect plans for His children.

Even in this political climate (maybe especially during it) take the time to sit and watch the leaves turn wherever you are. It seems obvious enough – if you take the time to look at the trees – that God is still in control.

 

Playing the cards you’re dealt

By: Jana Greene

Seven UNO cards were spread out like a fan in my hand. There were four greens, two reds and one blue. The card facing upward on the table was yellow, emblazoned with the number “5”…just about the only number and color not represented in my hand.

Anyone who has ever played the card game could see that this was an unlucky grouping. My daughter, who was nine years old at the time, smiled like the cat that ate the canary. Never one to present a poker face, she picked the last of her own seven cards from the thick, worn pile.

“Hmmmm,” she said. “Another wild card.”

I looked down at my cards again, knowing I would have to pick yet another in a game that required losing all to win.

“Skip me?” I asked.

“You know the rules, Mom,” she chided. “You have to pick another card until you get a match for the yellow or the five.”

She was right, of course. So I picked the first card lying face down in the pile. It was a blue eight. The next was a green “skip” card and the one under it was another green three.

“Dos, tres, cuatro,” I counted, my hand becoming heavier with the losing cards.

“You will have catorce soon!” laughed my opponent. “Catorce” is the Spanish word for fourteen.

“I must not have shuffled them well,” I grumped.

“Maybe not,” she said. “But you have to play the cards you’re dealt.”  How many times had I told her that?

It was not, in fact, until I did have fourteen cards that I was able to get rid of even one of them. By the time I chose a winning card, there were too many to hold in fan formation so they fell about in a messy heap that allowed my opponent to see which colors and numbers I held.

Miraculously, though, I won the game that day. I kept choosing and she kept laying down her cards until she was forced to play a green one. She had been holding on to not one, but FOUR wild cards – pieces that entitled her to change-up the game in her own favor all along. Somehow, using all of her good cards had resulted in her ending up with green cards.

And green cards I had!

It seems to me that many people are dealt unfair cards in this life. Some are given wild cards in abundance, while others have a handful of “fives” without any apparent significance.

I didn’t mean to choose the hand of proverbial cards that I had to play in the darkest times in my life, but I did pick many of them myself.

I hadn’t wanted to grow up to be an alcoholic.

I don’t remember picking the card for divorce that showed up in my deck.

And single motherhood? I’d have just as soon left that one out, too.

Chronic pain, financial struggle, surviving abuse….I’d never have asked for them. So many issues  – more than catorce! – that my hand could not hold them all, spilling out of formation and into a messy heap.  And when you have a big enough pile, you can’t hold them close to your chest and they fall about you for all the world to see. For your opponent to see.

I didn’t ask for that messy pile. Even though I often contributed to the disorder with my own actions, it still seemed unfair. Sometimes I’d done all the right things – shuffled well. Still, bad things happened, things that made me hurt deeply.

“Skip me!” I’ve begged the Lord on numerous occasions. “God, please….”

But He had purpose all the while.  I found out that there is a huge difference between perceived unfairness and purposeless-ness.  All of the losing cards I’ve held have  played pivotal roles in making me understand what God’s grace is all about. I wouldn’t trade that card for anything.

We all have to play the cards we are dealt – in a game that often requires losing all of self to win.

Keep picking up the next card, believing that God will work it to the good. Believe it, and ask him to fill in the gaps where you do not believe it yet.

And lay them down; keep laying your cards on the table – on the altar.

At the cross.

Acting Ugly

By: Jana Greene

I’ll take a step and its right behind me
Always fighting for control
There’s a war that’s raging inside me
I feel the battle for my soul
It’s like my shadow is dragging me around
And You are my only way out – Casting Crowns, My Own Worst Enemy

Yesterday – all morning – I felt like God’s red-headed stepchild. I was being a brat, really – acting ugly.

It wasn’t because of anything He did or said, but because of my mind-set. My brain chemistry felt “off” and my hormonal balance no better and I didn’t want to talk to God about it. I felt like there was a wedge between him and me because I was so messy, even though I know that’s the right thing to do. I wanted to own my little tantrum for a while, truthfully. But after a while, I got so tired of my own tirade that I agreed to go with my husband to the beach for a little while.

“Okay,” I told him. “But I’m in a really bad mood.” (To be fair, I thought he should be warned – as if the crying and crossed arms didn’t clue him in.)

As is his way, He took my hand anyway.  God love him (and He does) – that man ministers to my Spirit like nobody else because he just simply walks the walk by loving. Not by preaching or nagging or alienating me. Living with me and our three nearly-adult daughters, he cannot afford to be easily spooked by a little female freak-out.

By the first hour on the shore, sunshine on our shoulders, I felt my mind-set change dramatically, and with it came an apology to my husband – and my Heavenly Father.

I’m sorry I pouted with you, I told God silently. But He was already over it. I love that He is so forgiving.

This morning, I picked up my Bible and read in the book of Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The scripture reminded me that no matter how I feel on any given day (it changes constantly!), His WORD is fact.  And I know that, intellectually…I’ve read it 100 times. But I am still learning to fully accept that in my spirit (it’s a journey).

It isn’t trouble or hard times, or hatred or hunger….or homelessness, bullying threats or backstabbing that makes me feel that chasm between the Father and I.

No…. It’s me.  Often, I do it to myself.

Still, no matter where I stand crying, arms crossed and ornery, when I turn around He is there.  The enemy tells us that we are separated from God at our worst, and we feel that it must be true. But the enemy is a liar.

Here is what The Authority says:

“None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I am 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 Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 (The Message)

He is our only way out, carrying us in an embrace.

What a beautiful Savior.

 

Inspiration, Freestyle

By: Jana Greene

My husband makes me want to be a better woman…a better version of myself. He usually sees the best in me and overlooks the worst, which is an awesome courtesy for married people to extend to one another.

Because he lives with integrity, humor and generous love, he inspires me every day.

One of the cool things about aging, if we do it right, is that what we find inspiring changes. What I found inspirational ten or fifteen years ago does not “wow” me in quite the same way anymore. Olympic medals are amazing, no doubt – signifying the overcoming of unimaginable odds, hard work and achievement.  But the people who inspire me most these days overcome on a less-flashy scale.

Inspiring is:

A pastor who is real with his congregation week after week.

A new mom who sacrifices to be home with her baby.

A man driving a big pick-up truck with a “I ❤ My Wife” sticker.

A volunteer who gets up early Saturday mornings to make pancakes for the homeless.

An alcoholic picking up her “one year” chip at a meeting.  Or her “one day” chip.

An elderly couple who still hold hands.

A teenager who apologizes to a parent after an ugly fight.

A spouse who makes the effort to keep the spark alive in a marriage.

A person who remembers to be thankful, daily.

An old woman who forgets how old she is, and believes that she is beautiful because God said so.

A friend who prays for you every day.

A veteran.

An owner of a large company who stays true to his values, even when unpopular.

A single mother working hard to raise children by herself.

A father who makes the time for his kids and wife.

A wife who still enjoys spoiling her husband.

A person who knows brokenness and trusts God to put the pieces back together.

No gold medals. No cereal boxes emblazoned with faces. No household names.

Just someone who sees the best in people and overlooks the worst, which is an awesome courtesy for all people to extend one another.

Inspiring.

I’m ALL in! A Reintroduction to the Beggar’s Bakery

Hello, and pleased to meet you – or meet you again!  Today I’m re-posting the first piece from The Beggar’s Bakery as a reintroduction.  God bless you, and thanks for your readership!

By:  Jana Greene

Welcome to my little piece of Real(ity)Estate on the web! It took a long time for me to create one; I could not imagine anyone would read it.  (I hope it turns out that I’m wrong, but if not – I get LOTS of writing practice!)

I also hope that you might take something away from it each day.  I am going to try my level best to keep it real (probably too real at times).

So what you should you know about me?

There are the usual stats and facts:

I am happily married to Bob Greene, whom I don’t write about in the public forum often at the risk of sounding like I’m bragging.  He really is – cliché not withstanding – my best friend, and I’m so glad to be doing this crazy life with him. We have been married over five years and have blended a family that contains three teenaged daughters; two mine, one his. (Yes, they all live with us, and yes….He IS practically  a Saint!)  The blending is harder and sweeter and more challenging  and more rewarding than I could have imagined.

I gave birth to two daughters, now 16 and 19, and I  mother my lovely stepdaughter (nearly 20) when she lets me.  They are my heart walking around outside of my body, if my own heart chose to drive me absolutely crazy (which it has on occasion). I love them fiercely and will try to respect their respective privacies here, although you can expect a good many pieces about my frustrations as I learn to let them go. If they get bored enough, they might read this one day, in which case I have TONS of chores for them to do.

I’ve worked at insurance and real estate agencies, mortgage companies, law offices, and as a day-care teacher. As a single mother I worked several at a time – including a hardware store paint-slinger and as a part-time hotel maid.  All were character building.  But I’ve been a writer – legit or not – since I could hold a crayon.

I am imperfect all the way.  As a writer,  I use the forbidden “three dots”…too often and cannot bear to part with the text-forbidden smiley faces 🙂 and sometimes use run-on sentences because I think they convey stream-of-consciousness better and yes, I know all of these are against the Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” guidelines.  I have written for a small  local paper,and although I couldn’t make a living at it, it was the best job I ever had.  Also, I have a terrible “wordi-ness” problem, but I’m working on it.  Sort-of.  I write for the selfish reason that it helps me productively process the pain and pleasure in life when I pour words onto a page.  And for the selfless reason that I cannot help anyone else find the “Bread of Life” if I don’t show them where I found it.

Because, all of these things I tell you about me, are true, but none define me.  I am a Christian and a beggar.  That is my most accurate self-description.

Over eleven years ago, I came to the end of myself and all of my delusions of put-together-ness, which is to say – I got sober.  If you know me even casually, you know I am an alcoholic. I haven’t had a drink in that long, but I am still – forever – in recovery, something that keeps me humble and coming back for more of what got me clean in the first place.  Every single day. I keep it “out there” because there is somebody, somewhere who is hiding bottles and drinking that “two” beers just to stop the shaking and who is so, so, ashamed. I know shame.  Or maybe he/she is addicted to drugs, or porn, or the approval of others –  it’s all the same to your soul – or cannot seem to find a reason to wake up in the morning.  I can’t tell you how to fix it, but I can tell you who can.  I can tell you that I 100% expected to die during that hard time, and sometimes would have considered it a relief. I still have bad days (that “One Day at a Time” thing…) but I have the clarity to enjoy the GOOD ones, of which there are many.  Faith and humor are key.  Oh, and boundaries, on occasion.

One Day at a time, by the Grace of God. Even if I might have bad days, or whine a little.  You know, just to keep it real!

One beggar showing another beggar where she found food. When I couldn’t love myself enough to lift myself up, I crawled back to Jesus, and He  said “You look hungry… come to the table!”  Redemption is the best feast ever.

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How to Accept a Magnolia Blossom

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were out riding around in the car. I don’t remember where we were headed, if anywhere. Sometimes we just ride a few blocks together to get away and be alone, decompressing from the estrogen-laden drama factory that is our home with three teen daughters.

Our conversation turned to trees, somehow, and what we might like to plant in the front yard someday.  It was a short topic of discussion, as neither he nor I can name more than five different kinds of trees.  We like things in our outdoor space to be more green than brown on the color wheel, but are not otherwise yard-workers.

“Magnolia trees,” I said offhandedly, “I love Magnolias; I think they are my favorite.”

We quickly decided that a Magnolia probably wouldn’t work in the space available in the yard, and that was that.  Besides, I am not contributing to the family income right now. Until money grows on trees, we shouldn’t be buying any.

Several days later, my man came home from work with a huge Magnolia bloom. The flower was still tightly compacted around itself.

He remembered I had mentioned liking Magnolias.

It’s the little things that drive you crazy in a household.  It’s also the little things that keep you afloat.

I placed the flower in a bowl of water, arranging the big, dark, waxy leaves around the bud just so. The flower would open in time, but it wouldn’t be rushed.

“Thank you, Baby,” I said, kissing my husband, not knowing what else to say.

That particular day, I had been in my PJs all day long and never managed to get dressed.  I wrote and wrote and wrote, yet managed to produce nothing publishable.  The house was messy and dinner hadn’t been started.   I felt a little embarrassed receiving the flower because I hadn’t accomplished much at all.

I am in a season of accepting things right now, but earning was easier.

Earning was easier, because I felt like I had contributed to the outcome of things. But the best things in my life have all been undeserved and given to me through grace, not ability. Certainly not through my earning them.

It’s humbling, really. It is a mental holdover of self-condemnation.  From impromptu flowers from my husband to the miracle of God’s grace, I am learning how to be a gracious accepter who doesn’t have to feel she has to earn every good thing.

For the next few days, the Magnolia blossom lived on a table behind my writing desk…it’s big, soft pillowy white petals opening a little more each day.  And every time I passed by it, the bloom opened just a little more. ..rusting  around the edges as a Magnolia blossom does.  Just a little more….just a little more…..until it was open completely. It would not be rushed.

The entire house was filled with Magnolia perfume. It blessed everyone who lives in the estrogen –laden drama factory as it opened.  Isn’t that just like a simple, thoughtful gift unearned to spread like Magnolia petals?

Gracefully.

An “Inside Job”

By:  Jana Greene

“The career of motherhood and homemaking is beyond value and needs no justification. Its importance is incalculable.”
― Katherine Short

My kitchen sink is clean, and I’m proud of that.  I have dinner in the crock-pot, and I’m proud of that, too.  And my kids, who are now sixteen and nineteen, sit down with me and  talk to me about drama that is their lives.  And I’m grateful .  I am not an active member of the Outside World Workforce (can I call it the “OWW”?) right now.  I am a homemaker and a writer, just for this season in my life.

I worked from home when my daughters were small so that I could watch them grow up, and then…just when they hit the adolescent years, I entered the OWW.  Well, I was still Mom, of course.    I fed them, and clothed them, and loved them tremendously.  But I had other things to do, like work to put food on the table.

In 2004, going through a divorce sort of forced me into the OWW.  At first, I worked four part-time jobs with flexible hours to support my girls.  Eventually, it became simpler to work one full-time position to keep a roof over our heads.  My babies weren’t really babies anymore, although they needed me just as much at nine and twelve as they ever did in infancy.  With their parents divorcing and three moves in as many years, they probably needed me more. 

It is at this point that they became “latch-key kids”.   Once again, I became one of the mothers whose heads I had previously heaped the hot coals of judgment upon.  When life was easier, I had the luxury to judge.  Now, I was one of those mothers myself.

I am learning – slowly – that coals are for fueling compassion, not for heaping in judgment.  But I can be a slow learner.

Those mothers, they do what they have to do – and yes, sometimes what they want to do. 

I am glad that women have a choice visa vie working in the home and/or out of the home.  But I don’t believe she must work outside of the home to be successful.  There is success in a clean home, and dinner on the table, and in being present for your family in the moment.  I’m not sure when the value of those things diminished in society, but it’s sad that they have. Many women don’t get the opportunity to choose at all.  I have been both, at times.

My recent stint as a homemaker?  Caused by a series of unfortunate events, or so I’d believed when the first “domino” fell. 

 I am actually most fortunate.  For however long it lasts, I will enjoy caring for my family in ways that – to be honest – I resented having to care when I came home at the end of a long work-day.   Tired, fried, irritable and stressed-out.

 
A workday that was supposed to make me feel successful.

The truth?

Looking forward to my husband returning from a day at work – and doing the little things to remind him that he is appreciated…..is a luxury that I am enjoying to the fullest.  Making sure he has clean clothes and a hot meal at the end of the day?  I find that fulfilling.

Yeah.  I said it.

When my girls approach me after school or work to talk to me about what is going on/ not going on/ bothering them/ elating them/ the latest crush/the latest heartache….we talk about it.  We laugh a lot more these days, because I am not too exhausted to engage.  Again, to God be the glory that I can be present for them now, in this moment.  Time is fleeting, and they are so close to departure from the nest.  

Sooner or later (most likely sooner) I will again seek employment out “in the real world, and I will work hard at whatever job is next, and do my best to be successful.  This season, too, shall pass.

But I don’t feel “un-successful” now.   Not everyone smart and passionate finds fulfillment in the OWW.

Some women are  better at “bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan”.  I’m just not that good at “having it all”, I guess.  But I sure do love all that I have.

It is fulfilling.  And that’s the truth.

Small, Deliberate Wonders

By:  Jana Greene

Yesterday was the kind of day that makes up for so many others.  It made up for the stressful ones, the days filled with worries.  It was the kind of day that seemed lovely in a very non-random way.  A day of a hundred small and deliberate wonders.  Lovely by design.

I just happened to leisurely sleep in, and then took my time having my coffee.  Bob and I decided to take a trip to the beach (okay…”trip” may be overstating it, we live 15 minutes from the shore) and we just happened to find a good parking place.  I held his arm walking onto the warm sand, so it was no problem to navigate the terrain in my orthopedic boot,  and there just happened to be a surfing competition at the beach access we parked nearest.  We spread an old, flowered comforter out on the sand to claim our spot and watched the surfing while sharing a bags of Munchos potato chips and M&Ms candies, which just happens to be the best salty / sweet combo ever. 

The sun was in and out of hazy clouds, but not oppressive with its heat.  My husband and I alternated between lazy conversation and occasional PG-13 make-out sessions.  He walked me down to the water two times, which took forever because I was bootless then and could not  put much weight on the broken leg, and we stood in the chilly waters together while the water washed the wound.  Saltwater just happens to be a wonderful antiseptic.   

When we  got home, we ate cheeseburgers with so many toppings – blue cheese and pickles,  and mustard, lettuce and cheese  (of course) that  it took four napkins just to get the condiments off of my face and from between my fingers.  We watched the movie “Tower Heist”, which was good but not great, but WHO CARES?  We had a lovely time, a time totally devoid of stress or worry.

Then, he and I, sunburned and satiated with full bellies and chilled-out minds, went to bed at the same time that our teenaged daughters were going out for a night on the town, and for once, we were glad to be the old  fogey parents settling in, cozy.  The dog was  lying on the floor of our bedroom, and the cat was asleep at the foot of the bed, and neither launched  an attack  in the usual bedtime turf war.  (See?  Small and deliberate wonders!)  I fall asleep holding my husband’s hand,  so glad that he and I just happen to be perfect for one another.

We are perfect for one-another in a very non-random  sort of way.  Lovely by design.