Friendships in Midlife: The Inevitable Fork in the Road

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” – Proverbs 27:9

I blame our girls.

Twenty eight years ago, when they were in third grade, Jenny and Emily plotted to spark a friendship between their parents so they could spend more time together.

The Winglers were transplants like we were. We’d moved to California from New Jersey a few years earlier for graduate school, while Kenny was a Navy physician newly stationed in San Diego. Jenny’s mom, Marta, had a rich Tennessee drawl, so I assumed they were Southerners. However, when Jeff and I later met Kenny, we were amazed to discover that not only had he grown up in New Jersey, too, but that he and I had lived in the same apartment complex as babies.

The Christmas Tradition Begins

That first Christmas I learned that Marta, like many other Navy wives, would be alone with her two kids, so I invited them to spend the day with us. That was the beginning of our tradition of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas (and other special occasions) together for almost every one of the past 28 years. Jenny and Emily each had a little brother, so we had the perfect combination for a family friendship. The kids were all creative and bright, played together well, and kept us entertained for hours with their hilarious skits and songs.

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The Weight of Words in the Heart of a Child

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken at the right time.” – Proverbs 25:11

Words seem more ephemeral, insubstantial these days. Although we all know on some level that any words sent out into cyberspace will remain there forever, there is something about a text, an email, or a social media post that makes us believe our words are no more lasting than letters in the sand.

I, for one, am glad to have come of age during a time when handwritten letters were still popular.

Unrecalled Treasures

Lately I’ve been deep into the mid-life purge that marks the transition from accumulation of goods to freeing ourselves from the pull of possessions. Yesterday I unearthed a box of childhood memorabilia that tore my attention from the task of sorting and tossing. I settled on the edge of my bed, eager to see what unrecalled treasures had been hidden away for decades.

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Victory in a Vineyard: 36 years of Marriage and Still Learning a Thing or Two

Remembering the heat and humidity of Nashville in the summer, we had packed for the tropics. But our first Sunday here, the last Sunday in June, was a complete surprise, a total gift. Blue skies, puffy clouds, moderate temperatures, glistening green hills all shouted of God’s glory. As San Diegans, we automatically think of heading to the ocean on such a day, but here in Nashville, Arrington Vineyards seems to have come to mind for hundreds of people wanting to be outside to enjoy the beauty of a summer day.

Overlooking verdant vineyards in the rolling hills of central Tennessee, the wide grassy slope was dotted with picnickers at rustic wooden tables under tall shade trees. Music and fragrance filled the air. A path through the woods led to a barn and another lush lawn seating area where a bluegrass band livened up the atmosphere. Back up the hill on the other side of the property was a wide tented pavilion for those who preferred jazz. Both styles seemed entirely appropriate for the setting and Jeff and I enjoyed spending time in each location. Since Nashville is a magnet for the most talented musicians in the world, it is impossible to have a bad listening experience here.

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Disappointed, Yes. Discouraged, No.

Disappointment is inevitable. But to become discouraged, there’s a choice I make. God would never discourage me. He would always point me to himself to trust him. Therefore, my discouragement is from Satan.” – Charles Stanley

But now don’t be discouraged, any of you. Do the work, for I am with you. – Haggai 2:4 GNB

The news about the project I’ve been pouring myself into for years now was challenging. Well—to be entirely candid—it was more than challenging. I was disappointed. I’d been feeling rather like a caterpillar inching its way from here to the ocean, and thought I was finally starting to hear the sound of the pounding surf dead ahead.

What I heard instead was: You aren’t there yet.

Or maybe it felt more like this (mixed metaphor advisory in effect throughout the rest of this post): I spent one whole summer when I was home with my little ones working on a patchwork quilt. I’d found a way to painstakingly combine scraps into an attractive pattern, pieced the top, added the batting and backing, and was now eager to take the last step of stitching the layers together.

As I spread the queen-sized quilt out on the bed and stood back to admire my handiwork, my eyes were drawn to a big, fat, unmistakeable mistake—an unintentional break

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Helping Others Transition: A Lesson in Leadership from the High Command

And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.’ – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

This sweet-faced boy is my father at 17—the age at which he enlisted in the Navy and went off to boot camp to prepare to serve his country in World War II. Happily, the war ended the month before he was slated to ship out and so, by the age of 19, he was a veteran, back home with his relieved parents, and planning to start college with the aid of the GI bill.

He is now 90, and although his time in the Navy lasted just a few short years, his military experience has had a lasting positive effect on his character and identity. As one of America’s “greatest generation,” he has always viewed his service in the Navy with great pride. His love for both his country and the sea has never died, and he still wears a Navy ballcap as he heads off to the VFW meetings in his retirement community.

My brother recently found this treasure—one of the few letters my father has ever kept. Personally addressed to “My Dear Mr. Nelson”, it was signed by James Forrestal, the wartime Secretary of the Navy, and dated July 1946, the month after received his my honorable discharge.

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