It’s almost been a year.

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

Almost a year ago now…we married Dane Spencer. I know it sounds strange to say ‘we’ because it is actually me that wears his ring and me who repeated vows and me who changed my name…but it was ‘we’ because you two are so part of me that any decision of that kind had to be a ‘we’ or I wouldn’t have done it.

At your age you know far more about things than I did in many areas. You have grown up in a larger town than I did and times have surely changed. The internet gives you access to just about anything and everything which is great and also terrible. I never wanted you to grow up as clueless as I did about the birds and the bees, back in my day we didn’t talk about any of that kind of stuff and I was extremely clueless. That wasn’t exactly healthy either…but in today’s world it’s the complete opposite extreme. It seems like every movie, every tv show, every ad, everywhere all the time is trying to make things sexy and show you what ‘love’ looks like. It would be very easy for your view of sex, intimacy, love, etc. to be off base.

I love Dane. And I know you two do too. Even if you at times have wanted to not like him…he’s so likable you couldn’t stop yourself even if you tried. I am so thankful that he came into your lives while you are still at home. You need to have a clear picture of what an amazing, Holy Spirit filled man looks like in a loving relationship with a wife. You need to see what marriage can be. So much better than any pretend love story on tv or in a movie.

Last night as I lay in bed going to sleep I thought about the past year and the qualities that I see in Dane and in our marriage.

These are my random thoughts…

  1. Yes there is a physical attraction. There has to be or it would be like being with your brother or just a friend. The friendship is important…vital, but there also has to be some chemistry and you two know good and well that we have chemistry. We enjoy holding one another and kissing. Even the way we look at each other is charged with something special.
  2. But physical attraction is just the tip of the ice berg. You know…I was most attracted to Dane back in the beginning because he is kind. I know that sounds wimpy and not very flashy…but kindness is beautiful. I can’t think of one time in the past year when he has ever been rude to me. I can’t think of one time when he has gotten angry with me or said anything unkind to me. I can’t think of even an action on his part where I felt treated unkindly. He deliberately and daily goes out of his way to show kindness to me and it comes naturally to him, it’s not as if he has to work hard at it. Watch other couples, pay attention and sadly you’ll often see people who treat each other unkindly. Girls…physical attraction is needed and wonderful…but kindness…wow it’s like having Jesus in the relationship with you and it’s amazing.
  3. Dane is loving. I’ve told you guys often about the five love languages (Acts of service, gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time). I used to think that you were good at one or two and you should just focus on those. I now realize that’s a bunch of hullaballoo. The most beautiful love stories are multilingual and daily speak all of those languages ┬áto one another. Literally…we do acts of service, enjoy physical touch, give words of affirmation, spend quality time and even often give gifts on a daily basis. We are both ‘all in’. None of this…”I’m just a physical touch person so you won’t get any acts of service from me…” stuff. Real love is 100% on both sides. Dane gives me 100% of his love daily and I give him 100% of my love. Which adds up to 200% and that’s the kind of love story we have, it overflows.
  4. Just as important as the issue of physical attraction and even more so really is the fact that you need to have at the core of your relationship a friendship…a best friend. You two can surely tell by now that Dane is my best friend. We spend every day together. And it doesn’t grow old. We miss each other when we’re apart and that’s never more than an hour or two. When we go anywhere…we sit by each other, we hold hands. We have literally walked hand in hand this past year for easily over 500 miles in our community. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we walk in silence, often we just take in nature and whatever we might see together. We have watched countless sunsets and even a few sunrises together. We share our story with one another daily. We enjoy working together, playing together, resting together, and overall just doing life together. Conversation is easy and natural. Dane’s first nickname from the first week he knew me was ‘huck’ from huckleberry fin and tom sawyer. We adventure together all the time. This is the soul to soul part of love. It’s hard to know who you will feel it with but when you do it’s undeniable. Friendship is so important that on our wedding rings we have the words engraved “My huckleberry friend”. It’s amazing to us to think about what we have at this stage in life, how beautiful, rare and unexpected it is.
  5. Jesus is at the center of our relationship. I’m pretty sure that neither of us would think our marriage was nearly so awesome if He wasn’t. I tell Dane often that I see Jesus in him. What I’m saying is that I see the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. We both love Jesus and want to hear from him. We both desire to be filled daily by the Holy Spirit. We both are very aware of the grace and forgiveness that Jesus has given each of us personally. We are thankful for the bible and still students of it. Still growing in our understanding of who God is. We are both in awe of creation and worship God as we experience it’s beauty. We have both experienced loss and have learned to live in the mystery of not having all things figured out.

I realize you’re at a different point in life. You’re 16 and 18. I married a 67 year old man who has lived a lot of life, experienced loss and been shaped by Jesus for many years. Kind of like a well aged wine I guess (from what I’m told :). When you’re young you have to work out a lot of things in a way that isn’t as smooth and polished, both growing towards maturity and towards Jesus. There are things that come along early that can cause real struggle and challenge. I don’t want to downplay that reality…life is hard, there will be days when unkind things are spoken and when love feels pretty thin. For sure you will have to rely on commitment to get you through on the days when you don’t feel it.

But…my point is…when you even consider a man someday…you now have a clear picture of what a good man looks like first hand. (You did with your dad too by the way…but I know you were so young that sometimes that picture feels hazy. My words about Dane take nothing away from Mark.)

I have prayed and will continue to pray that someday you find/are found by a man who is loving and kind. The best relationships submit to one another daily. That’s how love works. I pray that you find someone who is your absolute best friend, the person you want to do life with daily, the person you want to talk to and share the deepest parts of yourself with. I pray that the man you have come into your life someday loves Jesus and is filled with The Holy Spirit. And I pray that in all of that you feel great physical attraction that will continue sparking for the rest of your lives.

If you marry your best friend, and you are both 100% in when it comes to loving one another and treating each other kindly, if you both love Jesus and are surrendered to His leading…and if you throw in just the right amount of physical attraction…look out…you’ll have a far better love story than any tv show, movie or ad could possibly portray.

If I could bottle up what Dane and I have and sell it we would be rich…it’s so much more than anything this world tries to sell us, so much more valuable.

I said at the beginning of this letter that just about a year ago now “we” married Dane Spencer. You two are not my luggage. You are part of my heart and soul. Always will be. When I married Dane and got a best friend and lover in the process…you got a dad.

I know you have feelings inside both of you that are not always totally sure what to do with that reality. You want it but are scared of it at the same time. You’re still trying to decide if you can trust it and feel safe. You’re still adjusting to major change. It’s alright.

I know who Dane is as your dad and I know that his constant and patient love mixed with the power of the Holy Spirit will cause you to be amazed as you look back 5, 10 years from now. Someday I have a feeling that you will be making this list of what makes a good dad…and you’ll be describing Dane from a dad view. I look forward to that time. Love will win. It always does.

I am praying daily for healing. Praying that the Holy Spirit fill our family, our home and life. I am praying that our children (all five) sense the healing and wholeness that only God can bring after losing a mom/dad. I am praying that we would learn to all love one another in a way that can only be described as holy. I am praying for each individual in our family all nine grand children, five children, three spouses, and for Dane and I that we would be in unity and full of grace and peace towards one another. I am praying that God will do far more than I can ask or imagine in making us knit together in love.

I believe that God can do amazing things.

I see it in my marriage every day and am in awe.

I trust that in the fullness of time when we can look back on things we will all be amazed at how powerful the love of God is, as we witness it in our relationships with one another.

Girls…don’t be fooled one moment by what the world calls love. Don’t be fooled by the flash and glimmer of what you see. Love is about mutuality, two people who are in a partnership both loving one another 100%. It should feel as if both are ‘all in’. Love is about friendship…the kind that you don’t experience with anybody else. Love is about experiencing the Holy Spirit with skin on as you give and receive the fruits of the Spirit from one another.

Love is the most beautiful thing we ever experience.

If you look around, sadly you will see many couples and people who are really struggling when it comes to love. People who treat each other poorly. People who are indifferent towards one another. People who actually are enemies. You’ll see jealousy, insecurity, anger, lust, unkindness, rudeness, etc. You’ll see people who take each other for granted every day. That in itself is a crime to me. We don’t know how many days we have…no day should be taken for granted.

You were made for more. God’s love is rich and full. Immeasurable. You were made for soul to soul, heart to heart, mind to mind, body to body connection.

So what do you do until that comes along in your life…I think you focus on your love relationship with Jesus. Pure and simple that’s the best preparation you can make to be ready for love in marriage.

Seek for health emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally…be the person that you would like to spend the rest of your life with.

If you had told me even a year and half ago that I would be married to Dane Spencer right now I would’ve thought you were crazy. I did not expect it in anyway. In fact…I was moving forward with my life as a widow and accepting the reality that I would probably be single for the rest of my life.

But here I am.

Here we are.

I want nothing less for you two. I don’t think I could accept anything less. It would break my heart.

Love your momma who has been a wife for almost a year now and it feels good.

What are you afraid of?

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

The other night at dinner right before the Halloween holiday I tried to get us to share what we’re thankful for. You guys vetoed that because it wasn’t Thanksgiving yet and instead switched it up and said we should say something we’re afraid of since that fit the holiday season. I figured…well, ok, why not, we can go there too.

While I am afraid of snakes and spiders, mice and other various forms of creepy crawly things…my larger fears are about things like selfishness, unkindness, poor attitude, insecurity, curiosity that takes us too far, sin and the way it prowls at the door of our lives wanting entrance. I’m afraid of us settling for easy or good when we could have the best.

When you were little I found it to be my job as your mom to ‘tend the weeds’, to see things that needed to be corrected and to go in there and correct them. I have a feeling that I will have some of those feelings till the day I die, but I also know at this point that job really belongs to God.

We each have to do the hard work of having the garden of our soul tended by God.

I can not stress it enough that you are not the same person now as you will be 20 years from now. Thanks be to God.

While I am likely to get stressed out about the weeds, or fearful of things I see that could crop up and take over…I am at peace that God doesn’t stress out, nothing takes Him by surprise, and He is the only one who truly knows how to get down to the root of the problem and deal with it in a long lasting way. I don’t have that power or ability, no matter how hard I might try.

Lauren…your curiosity for life is wonderful. You’ve always been the one who loved having her hands in the messiest projects. When you were little I didn’t buy dolls for you, I bought art supplies because that seemed to be what you enjoyed and we wanted to help you lean in to your God given bent. Just know that even curiosity needs boundaries. A natural interest in life and in thinking outside the box is great. A natural desire to grow and learn, becoming all you can be is wonderful. At the point where you have to try everything, curiosity is a problem and will derail you from God’s best.

Lydia…your compassion and kindness are wonderful and gifts from God. You have always had your heart broken for those who were hurting or left out. You talked about adoption from the time you were in elementary school! You might be quick to say words that are heated…but I know before you even leave the room, while the words are even still coming out you already feel terrible about it. Sensitivity to others can really be painful. You’ve accumulated your share of hurts and if left unchecked it’s easy for hurts to cause us to close off. To be less kind and compassionate. To give less thought to others and more to ourselves. Don’t let your hurts lead you to selfishness. You are at your best when you are thinking of others first. You were made to love, to give and bless others…in the process you too will be loved and blessed. You may not see it now, but you will over time. What goes around, comes around. It’s just a better way to live.

Girls, I am so thankful for you. It’s now November so I can say that :). I am thankful for our relationship over the years and hopeful for the years to come. I am not the same woman I was 20 years ago, mainly because of you two entering my life and the growth that has required. Thank you.

I am proud of both of you. I want the best for you. I am confident that God has good plans for you and that He can be trusted…always. I believe that He is tending the weeds of your soul tenderly and patiently, redeeming and making all things right and beautiful in ways that only He can.

I will try to pull less weeds…and just enjoy the beauty of what I see more. I see the beginnings of great things.


The love of God

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

As you know, Dane and I have been attending an “alpha” course at our church this fall. We started attending a new church back in June and felt this would be one way to get to know some people in a better way than you can on Sunday morning. So we get together once a week at church, eat dinner together and then listen to a speaker and have discussion on whatever the question of the night is that week.

This past weekend we even went on an overnight retreat. I think it was one of the first Dane has ever been on! We both really enjoyed the time with each other and with the people we met. We’re starting to feel connected again in our church family which feels good and healthy.

That being said, I want to tell you the main message woven throughout the entire course is simply this…”God loves you.”

It sounds so basic. Yes we know that He loves us. But so often, I think we don’t really believe it or feel it. Maybe because of stuff that’s happened in life that wasn’t good. Maybe because we can’t see and hear him the way we can see and hear other people. Who knows….

This week I’ve talked with both of you about the love of God and asked you if you know how much God loves you. You both had a similar response. The I know…but don’t really feel it response. I get it.

I’ve struggled really feeling loved by God for many years. Knowing it but not really feeling it. Knowing that He knows the number of hairs on my head and yet feeling like only a number often in the scope of the world problems.

I’ve struggled with prayer. What it means, why it matters etc.

But…I have found that when I really receive the love of God and embrace it from my head down to my toes, when I believe that He not only died for me but also lives in me and is for me today it changes everything.

I’m less jealous. Less envious. Less insecure. I’m more at peace and experience joy. I can love other people better. I experience the grace of God and am then able to give grace to others too.

We all probably feel God’s love differently. For me, being outside in nature is a primary way of feeling His love. A beautiful sunrise or sunset is like God giving me a love letter. A nice breeze on a warm day or a gentle rain when the ground is so dry…fall leaves, spring flowers all speak of God’s love to me.

God knows you. He made you. He has great plans for you. He delights in you. You are the apple of His eye. He laughs and cries with you. He cares about you. He has given you experiences, gifts, talents and opportunities to uniquely shape your life experience into a good story.

I think every day we should just wake up and remind ourselves that God loves us. Even if we don’t feel it or hear it, even if the words said out loud ring a little hollow. With the repetition of time and belief in God’s love we will start to be changed without us even realizing it.

We will be filled with His Holy Spirit and take on the fruits of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control. We will put off slander and gossip, envy, jealousy, hate, rudeness, chaos, impulsive ways.

I have told both of you recently, I don’t care what you do with your life as far as a career or jobs go, I just want you to choose something that makes you feel fulfilled and happy. Living full of the Holy Spirit is the most satisfying way to live, far more satisfying than anything money can buy. You don’t have to be rich to be kind, to love well, to feel joy and treat others with grace and patience. You don’t have to have a big house or fancy toys to be gentle, faithful or self controlled.

Embrace the fact, and treat it as solid fact, that God loves YOU. I mean He really loves you. Like no other. Ask Him to fill you with the living presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is already in you…just ask Him to fill you, to give Him right of way in your life so to speak. Over time, you will be amazed at how He is shaping you and causing you to live a beautiful story.

Wake up, look in the mirror each day and say out loud…”God loves me”. Smile and say it again. That habit alone will change your life.

Love your momma who has to do the same thing. I’m prone to wander. Prone to know God loves me and yet not always believe it, live in it or embrace it. Love is the most powerful, beautiful thing we experience in this life. Lean into it. Trust it. Rest in the love of God.