Monthly Archives: February 2020

Dare We Write it in Cement? Don’t Miss This Extraordinary Love Story: A Severe Mercy—and Join Us for Book Club next Monday, 2/24! (Information at the end of this post.)

Friends! Have you ever seen anyone staring at a mailbox?  I get that.  I’ve done that.

Four weeks before our wedding, with invitations in hand, all addressed and stamped, I remember I hesitated at the mailbox.  “This is it!  No turning back now!”…

Seconds, seeming like hours, passed.  Deep breath.

Whoosh…into the mailbox they went.

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Thirty-three and a half years later, I’m pleased to report, John and I are still happily married and yes, we’ve dared to write many things in cement.  Two of our homes, a former one and our current one, have had charming water-in-the-basement issues. Upon their repair, new cement poured, we trek down the stairs to write something prolific or silly in the cement.

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So why is it, please tell me, so many of us are afraid to make a commitment?  Fear of failure, or pride, perhaps.  “Blame it on today’s culture…” many will say.

Allow me to offer a brief respite.  One  into the blissful world of love.  Young love.  Naive love.   Pagan-turned-Christian love.  So completely-certain-of-love, this couple you’ll meet would one hundred percent  have written their names in cement.

All of the above and more is found in an extraordinary love story, A Severe Mercy , by Sheldon Vanauken.  It won the National Book Award as well as the Gold Medallion Award.  (A dear friend gave me this for Christmas a few years ago and I can’t quit talking about it!!! I’m about to re-read it since it’s Valentine’s month.)

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Along with such bliss, throw in a friendship with none other than author  C.S. Lewis.  You, the reader, will get to read eighteen of Lewis’ letters to Sheldon within the book.  Favorite discovery?  Lewis was quite the crackerjack!  He certainly didn’t fear sharing his brutally honest opinion about anything!  (And for you happy texters out there, Lewis abbreviates a lot, so you’ll have to crack his code.)

How God orchestrates Sheldon’s friendship with Lewis is fascinating.  How God orchestrates Sheldon and Davy’s (her real name was Jean) romance and ultimate marriage is nothing short of breathtaking.

Sheldon’s picturesque writing causes you to ooh and ahh, turning the pages as fast as you can to discover what lies ahead.  I found myself floating along the countryside right with them, almost feeling a breach of privacy in their romance.

Voracious readers, poets, lovers of the sea, and music aficionados, Sheldon and Davy delight the reader with their daily antics.  Their gatherings with friends are festive and intriguing.  Their spiritual path, while comical at times, reinforces how God is so passionate in His pursuit of us.  His painstaking attention to detail never ceases to amaze me.

Our Heavenly Father provides just the right person at just the right time to lead us into His loving arms.  When doubt arises, as it often does,  He brings to mind that special person in whom we may confide.  Watching these scenarios transpire in Sheldon’s life is amazing grace at its’ finest.  Many times Sheldon shares his questions with C.S. Lewis.  Can you imagine having C.S. Lewis as your spiritual mentor?

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Sheldon and C.S. Lewis’ friendship was a gift to both of them, especially in later years.  Believe it or not, both of their wives suffered from terminal illnesses.  They walked these paths together.  Don’t miss their journeys.

C.S. Lewis preceded Sheldon in death.  Sheldon recalls Lewis shouting across the street during their Oxford days, “Christians NEVER say goodbye!  In eternity, there’ll be ‘time enough’!”

Sheldon called C.S. Lewis  “Jack” per Lewis’ pleading.  He added, “And as Jack said, ‘We must talk of a thousand things when you come.’”

Early in their relationship, when Sheldon accepts Christ into his life, he writes to tell Lewis.  Lewis replies, “My prayers are answered!”  Then he issues a warning we’d all be wise to heed:  “There will be a counter attack on you, you know, so don’t be too alarmed when it comes.  The enemy will not see you vanish into God’s company without an effort to reclaim you.  Be busy learning to pray. “

Lewis continues, “Blessings on you and a hundred thousand welcomes.  Make use of me in any way you please; and let us pray for each other always.”  (I’d drop the note like a hot potato if C.S. Lewis offered me his council at any time, wouldn’t you?)

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Prior to Sheldon’s conversion, Lewis closes another letter with, “The Holy Spirit is after you.  I doubt if you’ll get away!” Sheldon confesses to us readers that this time in his life “was getting serious” and he and Davy were a bit frightened.  He says, “Alarm bells sounded, but I couldn’t decide where to run.  The personality of Jesus kept emerging from the Gospels with astonishing consistency.”

You’ll be moved to tears witnessing their faith come alive.  Because of Sheldon’s very open and tender depictions, it feels like yet another breach of privacy.

Sheldon and Davy embraced Philippians 1:21 and Galatians 2:20:

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(Footnote: for an excellent read on To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain checkout this book by Matt  Chandler…)

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Without giving away anything else, I’ll end with Sheldon’s closing words about writing this book.  He said he prayed almost hourly, “that Christ would be in me, and speak through me.”  His prayers were answered…(Also don’t miss how the title came to be.)

He was dumbfounded by the overwhelming responses from readers once the book was published.   Scores told him how much the book meant to them, literally stabbing them in their hearts, making them kindred spirits.  Sheldon said, “Our broader kinship is, I think, we’re all so alone in what lies deepest in our souls, so unable to find the words and perhaps the courage to speak with unlocked hearts, that we do not know that it is the same with others.”  Amen.

“Robert Louis Stevenson said that every book was intimately a letter to friends.”

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I pray each and every one of you dashes out to find and read this beautiful love story.  It’s February, after all.  Love is in the air!  And chocolate is filling the aisles at the stores and most assuredly our chocolate bowl at home!!!

‘Til next time!

P.S.  Load up your car with friends and head to Branches Book Club.  We will be meeting next Monday night, February 24th, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. to discuss a laugh out loud novel, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. This was a fun discovery of author, Bethany Turner, and the book promises to bring about a lively discussion!  Come join us at Middletown United Methodist Church, in the Connection Center, at 11902 Old Shelbyville Road.  RSVP to Nancy Tinnell at (502) 245-8839.

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are “affiliate links.”

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Add a Side of Community with that Burger: Love for Friends this Valentine’s Week

Friends!  Doesn’t everyone love a good burger every now and then? Our family discovered Five Guys and Fries a few years ago.

Clearly novices, we all ordered cheeseburgers, not realizing that their regular burgers are double burgers. No one complained (!!!) and we were some sweet kind of happy. Peanuts in the shell to munch on, followed by juicy burgers, and a Titanic-sized side of fries….Oh my…

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Fellowship plus great food is the best combo’ you can order. While being with family can be super swell, this week I’d like to talk about the power of COMMUNITY in friendships. In this case, I’m talking about girlfriends, and this Valentine’s week, we can call them “Galentine’s”…

I’m blessed to have a group of friends known as “The Yayas.” Kathy somehow assigned this moniker to us after finding a lovely gold plaque for each of us with this definition: “A group of three or more women whose hearts and souls are joined together by laughter and tears shared through this glorious journey of life.”

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One of the Yayas, fellow dog lover (!!!) named Susan, gave all of us an awesome book a few years ago for Christmas:  Nobody’s Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship by Melanie Shankle. Friends, do not miss this book! You’ll laugh and cry and howl, shaking your head thinking, “I cannot believe she’s sharing this, but I’m so glad she did!!!”

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You can read more about the YaYas in Chapter Two of my new book, Let’s Be Friends.

You don’t want to miss Melanie’s blog, either: www.thebigmamablog.com She serves up “everything from soup to nuts” as my Mother used to say.

Melanie’s book takes us down Memory Lane to show different aspects of her twenty-five year friendship with Gulley. They do life together.

Melanie’s gift of writing draws you in so you feel like you’re in her family room watching it all transpire. (Sidebar: Melanie wrote an equally funny book on marriage.)

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One of a gazillion hilarious antics include Melanie conning Gulley into watching Frozen.  Wait ‘til you read Chapter Four.  Does she love it like most of us???  Not tellin’….

Another fun discovery is Melanie and Gulley realize road trips are one of their ultimate favorite activities. Now they take their children on road trips, all together, and you don’t want to miss these adventures.

The Yayas took a brief road trip a few years ago when Kathy’s daughter got engaged. The Engagement Party was in Columbus and we decided we must, simply must go. It’s not every day one drives two hundred and fifteen point three miles to Columbus, Ohio from Louisville, Kentucky for a party and back.

Lo and behold, we were blessed with one of our Yaya children to accompany us. Translation: Us old chicks snagged a chauffeur. (Poor Megan was pregnant too, God bless her.)

These six sweet-n-special-n-southern Yayas met when our oldest children, now thirtythree-plus years old, were in first grade at Dunn Elementary School. Those were the days.

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(Pictured left to right are Jayne Combs, Denise Seiz, Kathy Daniels, above her is Susan Bugh, then Bev Fleece and finally Yours Truly.)

Who knew we’d attend weddings and funerals together? Even the trials knit us that much closer together.

We’re a picture of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

There’s beauty and comfort in Community.

The plot blissfully thickens as our Yaya children are having children. No one has discovered grand parenting like the Yayas. Currently five of the six Yayas are grandparents, and we are all the best adopted Great Aunts on the planet. Just sayin’…And, as Melanie and Gulley always tell each other, “Nobody’s cuter than you!”(thence the book’s title), the Yayas are always telling each other, “YOU are the BEST!”

Melanie tells us her book “is about all the friendships we as women develop over a lifetime and the influence they have over who we were, who we are, and who we will become.”

Gulley’s the main friend Melanie talks about, and you’ll love becoming acquainted with Jen and a couple other of her friends. Jen endured a prodigal season, but then shared with everyone how she found her way back to Christ. In doing so, she got Melanie to go with her to a Bible study.

Melanie says, “by watching these people live their lives, I learned what it means to seek God’s will….ultimately they pointed me closer to not only Jesus but also to my dear husband.”

After reading Max Lucado’s No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, Melanie says her favorite part is from Max’ recounting of the Prodigal Son:

Whatever you have done,

Whatever you have become,

It doesn’t matter.

Please come home.”

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Melanie adds, “So I came home. And God, in return, lavished me with a scandalous amount of grace as He filled my life not only with wonderful new friends who encouraged me and loved me, but also brought Gulley right along with me as she began to develop a real relationship with God too.”

Melanie says her five years at Texas A & M were what she needed and clearly what God knew she needed. She said, “God knit my heart together with the people He knew would hold my hands as I walked the path of the Prodigal Son.”

Friends, this is a beautiful visual of Community!

This very week, February of 2020, the Yayas took their first real escape to my favorite place of paradise, Naples, Florida.  While we were only in Naples four nights, we covered a lot of ground, savoring a variety of mouth-watering dishes at fabulous restaurants, also managing to get in a wee bit of retail therapy.  They indulged me and let me drag them out onto the Pier where John and I met many moons ago.  Here are a few highlights:

Meanwhile, cherish your friends and thank the Lord for giving them to you. I always maintain, “Friends are cheaper than therapy.”

 ‘Til next time!

 

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are “affiliate links.”

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Friends