the gift of a piece

Oh, friends. It’s been a while, huh? I’ve missed you so much and I sure do love you.

For as long as I’ve been away, I swear I’ve also been hearing my dad’s tractor on the daily. I’ve never seen a retired couple work as hard as my parents. But that’s another story for another day.

This one is about why my dad’s been back and forth (and back and forth) on his tractor for a couple months(ish). We’ve known for some time that a tree out back was failing. Now, when there are over 50 acres of property, there are obviously many (many) trees. But this was not just any tree. No, this was ‘Pete’s Tree.’

I wish I could tell you every detail (I should have asked my dad to tell the story. that’d be way fun!) but what I do know is that my Grandpa (James John, JJ) Lowman affectionately named this tree because of the way it was built around a rock. The reference comes from a passage in Matthew after Jesus asked his disciples who they believed He was and Simon Peter basically nailed it.

I give you the name Peter, a stone.  And this rock will be the bedrock foundation on which I will build my church—my legislative assembly, and the power of death will not be able to overpower it!  Matthew 16:18 TPT

Over time, when family members would gather here, my dad became the tour guide leading others out to check out and, with no exaggeration, marvel at this tree. It truly made very little sense that this tree was completely wrapped around a rock and standing as proudly as it did. It was also just this perfect visual cue pointing back to how Grandpa made a decision one day to follow Jesus that changed the entire trajectory of our family. We were the tree. He was the rock.

This past Father’s Day, my mom shared a photo difficult to stomach. It’s been difficult enough not having JJ with us for the past (nearly) 14 years. But to see Pete’s tree falling apart was hard. It felt like we were losing this piece of Grandpa that meant so much to him. Something that was still here for us to touch and appreciate. And when I say it’s meant a lot to us, my cousin has it forever imprinted as a tattoo. We love this tree.

So back to my busy dad. A couple weeks ago, we were celebrating my sisters niftieth birthday (she doesn’t like when I type the real age). My dad had asked me the day prior when I could stop over to his pole barn. Now, listen. I was thrilled to finally clear out a storage unit of mine several months ago but there are just a few things taking up the front .125 of his barn that I still need to deal with. So I was like, ‘no way. not this weekend.’

While we were waiting for Nikki to arrive for the surprise, I noticed my immediate crew had gone over to my parents’ so naturally, I got nervous and followed. When I got up there, they steered me towards the barn and I probably sighed out loud. I was in a dress! But my dad told CJ to have me come through the big door instead as he walked through the other. So, I knew something was up.

I walk in and my dad just grins as he’s sharing words I can’t even hear because I had already started sobbing. Literally. I couldn’t believe what he was presenting.

Crap. I forgot an important part. I’ve been eyeing several styles of side tables for a while now. I told my parents I really like these live-edge style tables and they’d seen a similar one up for grabs at the recent hospice auction. I told them to jump on it if it was reasonable. I didn’t hear anything and I figured it was not, in fact, reasonable.

So, here we are in August and I’m seeing these very similarly built tables that tractor man had been constructing. From Pete’s Tree.

I’m not lying when I say that I said I deserve no such thing and that this is likely the best gift I’ve ever been given. And don’t you come at me about my child because that is a VERY different type of gift. Moms, can we agree? I also really like the Ninja 5-in-1 my parents got me for my birthday. That’s a keeper, too. I’m just saying that normally I don’t feel like I’m a good gift-getter because I feel terrible someone would spend their money on me. That’s all. I guess that also explains that CJ is, in fact, not a gift because I did have to pay for him. So there.

Anyway … I got the (almost) last piece of my gift tonight when my dad affixed a plaque that reads, ‘Pete’s Tree 2022, Matthew 16:18, Rev JJ Lowman’. I asked him if I could get a photo of him with the piece of Pete’s Tree and of Rev JJ that I get to have forever. Next to me. In my living room. Didn’t he do so great?!

Dad, you’ll just never know. I’m crying as I type. For this, and all the other things, thank you. I love you so stinkin’ much. ❤

more golden things

Oh, 2020. Although it feels like 17 months ago now that the calendar changed, I remember how much hope you held. And now? Well, now I think you’re kind of a jerk. And it’s only June.

In hindsight, how many times have we heard ‘don’t get your hopes up.’ And how many times do we do exactly the opposite because, things! They hold such promise! And I turned 40 at the Grand Canyon! And Connor had a golden birthday! And my dad turned 70! And Connor finished middle school! And Alyssa graduated from college! And we were going on trips!

And that’s where that word that rhymes with zovonatirus broke everything. Because we had a grand family trip planned (after the other trip CJ and I had to cancel) to one of my very favorite places in all of the entire universe (which my familiarity of travel-wise is fairly small, but still) … Colorado. We were planning on leaving this coming Monday.

And while it is really, really difficult to put my hopes back down about a hot air balloon ride in the middle of Rocky Mountain country (wut?!), there is still cause for celebration. And this is where I’ll peel my temper tantrum-throwing body off the floor to share something really sweet.

These two? They’ve been married for 50 years. 5.0. Fifty. Weren’t they adorable? That was February 14, 1970. The day my dad proposed. And for the record, my mom was still in high school.

Now, I can’t sit here and pretend I know the secret to a staying power like theirs because … I’ll just say that I will likely NEVER be married for 50 years (yo! potential husbands! we are running out of timmmmme!). But, just like Forrest Gump, I know what love is.

And it’s what they’ve got.

My devotional actually led me to the love chapter this morning. You know … the one they read at all the weddings. I’ve been especially taken with The Passion Translation as of late and the seventh verse hit me in a special kind of way.

Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. 1 Cor. 13:7 (TPT)

I should have asked them what the trick is to tolerating the same human being for that.freaking.long but after watching them for the past forty years, I have a few ideas. I’ll be as brief as I can (grab a pencil and some paper, too. it’s a golden list. duh.)

  • You become best friends
  • You know every good and bad and even terrible thing about the other and love them anyway
  • You compromise (often). This is also known as sacrifice. Which is also known as do the hard thing sometimes because you choose them first
  • You find things you both enjoy so you can keep that date thing a real thing
  • You opt for shared interests in TV when going out isn’t an option for whatever reason zovonatirus. This might include such gems like Law & Order: SVU, NCIS, Chicago Fire and America’s Got Talent. And, when the time is right (is it ever?), Hallmark Christmas movies
  • You wear matching jackets occasionally. These can include both spring jackets as well as mauve-colored leather. I’m still so proud of my dad for being that bold
  • You share in major decision-making … home, kids, work, finances, etc.
  • You celebrate each other’s successes. And you still celebrate even if you are struggling
  • You make each other coffee. That’s a total given, right? But you also know how the other takes their coffee; which is more important
  • You take care of the other when they’re sick or if they’ve had not one, but two, major surgeries and they might be a little ‘difficult’.
  • You show each other affection. Even if your kids think it’s so, so gross. Which they will. You talk openly about how hot and bothered the other makes you. Again, so gross. But looking back, it’s something I am so grateful for (except for a few interesting moments. ha!)
  • You find out the other’s love language and love them that way; even if it feels weird and foreign to you
  • You take care of each other’s feet. And if you have the money, you go get pedicures. Together. This is an actual thing
  • You pick a side of the bed and it’s yours forever and ever, amen. And, if you’re super nice and it’s cold, you warm up the other’s side before they get into bed. 50 extra credit points for that
  • You find a comfortable couch just in case you lost your spot in the bed (that can be due to coughing fits as well, to be clear)
  • You side with each other when your kids are trying to play one of you against the other. Or you at least apologize when your daughter(s) are far too convincing
  • You know that there is literally no one else on the planet that you would want by your side for the rest of this life. And you act that way

Quite frankly (dad! lol), I could go on and on with what I’ve witnessed in a marriage that spans 50 years, but here’s the very simple truth …

You just don’t give up. That’s it.

How many times do you think my parents failed each other? I’m guessing at least a few. But both of them; both of those young and adorable ‘children’ decided on June 12, 1970 that they were choosing each other. They were choosing to be each other’s safe place of shelter. And they were choosing that regardless of anything this completely questionable and seemingly unraveling world could throw at them, they were going to make that choice to fight for the other day in and day out forever and ever amen.

Love never gives up.

I love you and your love, D & C. I pray that some day I can have something like you do, if only so that I can show you that I DO know what love is. It’s what you’ve got, even if I have to break up your arguments over how to operate the FF button.

Cheers to your golden day. And to many, many more. ❤

a fierce-hearted woman

I read a book a couple years ago that quickly came to mind this morning as I considered how I could humbly and even remotely honor the mamas.

See, I consider myself so incredibly fortunate to have a number of women in my life that fulfill the role of a mama. To be clear, I have one mama. More on that later. But I also fully believe that you do not have to have given birth to another human to be a mama. I’ve witnessed the incredible pain of women who have battled infertility only to never have the opportunity to conceive a child. Those women (and men who stand alongside them) have the heart of a parent.

I’ve seen women who have had to carry on through miscarriages and loss near, at or after giving birth; some experiencing loss after their child reaches their teens or even their twenties. Nothing takes away their role of being a mama.

And then there are mamas who choose not to birth biological children (for one reason or another) and yet opt to pour their heart and soul into children who were birthed by another and, out of some circumstance, made available to love. (These women are true heroes, by the way.) Mamas still.

The women in my life have been shaped by many of the paths to becoming a mama noted above but they chose to love me like a mama without giving birth to me. (And I bet to all high heaven they are surely glad they didn’t get the privilege of being my actual parent. Only God could have prepared the two I got for that monumental task.) I started going through all the names in my mind and it was actually a bit overwhelming.

I’m so grateful and blessed beyond measure. I have women who have held me during intense shake crying; women who have silently prayed for me (some even with paper reminders in their own prayer room); women who have spoken such life to me that I can’t put words to it and then of course, just women who have befriended me with such sweet tenderness that they still call me friend despite my constant sucking at being a friend back.

To all of these mamas, I just humbly whisper ‘thank you.’ (Like with tears and red cheeks but you already knew about all that because you chose to know me.) And because I’m getting up there in years, I’m going to forego the actual list. I don’t want to forget anyone. But I feel like you know who you are. And that I love the crap out of you.

Finally, there is my own mom. The one who gave me life. I will NEVER be able to be the daughter I feel like you deserve. Thank God for Nikki, right? I mean, I know I have given you more to worry about, to stress over, to be fearful of, to shake your head about, to find a padded room to step into over and to likely just want to run outside and shake your fist at heaven and say, ‘whyyyyyy me, God?! whyyyyy?’ And yet, you have loved me in the way that only a fierce-hearted mama can. You have chosen to love me despite my myriad of flaws, to show me kindness when I didn’t deserve it, to fight for me when I couldn’t fight for myself, to demonstrate what a successful professional woman looks like, to stand next to your man in the dirt pile (figuratively and literally), to speak up for injustice and give generously to those who need it (even when it doesn’t make any sense at all) and to rise up from a pile of freaking ashes, dust myself off and realize that I can take another step. And of course, how to give all of that to a child of my own. I will never feel adequate or equipped. But, I’m doing my best.

Mostly, though? You’ve shown me what a Godly woman looks like; how that Proverbs 31 woman comes to life. You are her. And I will always be the lucky one for having such an inspiring example in my immediate (non-socially distant) circle. I love you, mama.

Finally, for all the fierce-hearted women out there, I want to share with you the intro to that book I mentioned … the words I take line by line and write about in my own journal. To remind myself of who this woman is and who I aspire to be. Happy Mother’s Day, mamas.