Biking selfies for Valentines Day :)

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it up carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken, it will become unbroken, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."

From CSLewis in his book, "The Four Loves"

Hello dear ones,

This has gotten incredibly and even ridiculously bravo to anyone who reads it all! But I just kept having more to if you make it to the end, I hope you find yourself encouraged to love whoever God has given you to love. :)  Ultimately, I am looking at love as something we are privileged to give to others - rather than something we get from others. And we are able to focus on giving rather than getting, because we already have received God's love in full measure to fill us up to overflowing and this enables us to risk, love, and hurt even, and be filled up again with God's goodness. But yet God does love us through people too, that is part of His gift to us.  And I am blessed to have one special man in my life who is just that to me. Positive, forgiving, ever bearing with me and loving me as I seek to do the same with him.

My love and I - I thought for Valentine's Day it might be fun to show you all some pictures from something fun Bernie and I did this fall. I must admit looking at various people's public instagrams has me thinking more and more in terms of taking when Bernie and I mapped out a plan to get to from Harper's Ferry, WV to Washington, DC and mile 0 on the C and O canal biking path, I had the idea to take pictures of us at the end of each section of the trek. (After we were halfway there.) I think we did it in about 10 sections?  So these pictures are only from the last few trips.  We had such fun doing it!  Some of our treks were only about 5 miles, but mostly we tried to do around 10 miles a day, and this old girl did just fine. Its about 100 miles there and back, and that's how we did it - each section twice - we would park, bike a distance, then bike back to the car and drive home. We tried to do a 'trek' once or twice a week. Honestly I think exercise helps my attitude and mood and helps me sleep better and gives me more even energy during the day with less slumps! So it was a wonderful and fun thing to do together! Unfortunately we stopped when I broke my elbow when I slipped while we were caroling Christmas Eve, but I think it is mostly mended and we are excited to plan a trek over the W&OD trail next, starting up soon hopefully! :)

Now please forgive me, my selfie skill is rather nil...these selfies kind of distort our features I think! I am still on the learning curve but with some advice from my daughters-in-law I will hopefully improve.

Biking together in 2016 - Ah, Valentines Day, and my dear husband, I do love him more as the years go by! I think our personalities are really almost opposite, but biking our way along a trail meets both our 'needs' - Bernie loves maps and miles and numbers and historical markers and driving to a different spot each time and picking where to park and plotting it all out and talking about everything we bike past more than he likes the actual activity of biking. I love the activity of biking, (I would be content to do the same path over over and over) and quietly thinking while I bike and I enjoy being outside in the fall air, and being with my love and conquering this goal together. :) So together that kind of covers all the bases and keeps us both happy!

Projects together - Bernie and I are have always partnered in parenting as well as ministry so there are many things we have worked towards together. But babies happened right away, and in many years of marriage and raising a family, we didn't really do many things as just the two of us - there was not time for it! Nor money for babysitters to be able to do it! Our lives were already overfull with family and ministry and church activities and many relationships and responsibilities. I homeschooled and would have the children most of the time as Bernie traveled during the week to various campuses, and he would be with them when I needed to do something by myself sometimes. He also would usually take one of our children with him if he could, to retreats or conferences, so happily the children grew up being exposed to different ministry settings. When I did hire a babysitter it was usually so I could go to our weekly ministry meetings with Bernie, or to have a few hours to myself each week to work on our budget or do planning.  The rest of our life was rather a whirlwind in those days! Valentine's Day was not often a dinner out, but rather my chance to do something extra special for the rest of my family. A special meal, and a special gift for all or something like that. So it kind of feels like this stage of life is the first time it is more 'just us' now, and has us growing deeper in ways that were difficult when we were younger.  It is special and very fun. Maybe some people have this as newlyweds before starting a family, or manage to do it while they are raising a family, (I think both my daughters-in-law are managing to be able to 'date' their hubbies amidst very full lives - proud of them for figuring that out!), but Bernie and I are really just having it now, in some ways, for the first time in our married life together. I loved the seasons before, I have absolutely no regrets or resentments about it, but this is really different and very fun too. And a shorter term project like this biking 'project' was really nice and bonding. :)

Do you see the Kennedy Center in the background of the picture with Bernie's hand on the 0 mile marker?  We felt it quite an accomplishment to have biked all the way from Harper's Ferry, to mile 0 where the Kennedy Center is just across the river!  Not something we would ever do to attend a concert there!  But it is a place we enjoy and frequent for concerts so it was fun to see it in the background at our end point! :)

A fun new season in growing old together - Since Bernie and I were married 35 years ago, Bernie has often said, "Let's grow old together!" Well, I guess we are! And he still says it. I guess he thinks we aren't old yet? I am seeing there is always and 'older' matter your age. When I feel 'old' I only have to spend a few minutes with a lovely couple in our church - the wife is 80 and the husband is 92 and they are still spry, full of life and thriving in family and ministry! Wow...

I hope you enjoy these snapshots from our fall journeys. And if you have a love, I highly recommend figuring out something you can conquer together, no matter your age! If you are young and raising a family and that is your main 'project' together, I think that's ok! Or if you can manage to have meaningful dates off somewhere just the two of you, that's great too! Bravo to you!

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. ~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Grateful for my man - Bernie, thank-you for helping give a good return for our labor. Thank-you for lifting me up. Thank-you for keeping me warm. Thank-you for helping me resist the things that need to be resisted. Thank-you for loving and serving the Lord so that He, our third strand, strengthens us to not be torn apart. And thank-you for being a place I can be vulnerable, a place I can risk being hurt by you as the one I love, but yet have the joy of growing and learning and loving each other even deeper as a result. I am so grateful that God brought us together and for the privilege of my love journey with you! Thank you for 35 beautiful years to share with you! Love you dear!!!

Another video...To close, yet another Billy Joel video. :)

 - As an interesting (to me) 'rabbit trail', Billy Joel actually has a classical background and returned to that early influence to score and publish with Hal Leonard some classical solo piano music in 2001. (From the info at that link: "Before the world-renowned "Piano Man" ever discovered pop, he grew up studying classical piano, already feeling the influences of Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann and many others. Although he ran away with the seductress named Rock'n'Roll as a teenager, 30 years later he returns to where he began to pay tribute to the music that made him fall in love with music in the first place.")

- Since God created all and is over all, I believe all of His created people can ponder, learn about and express universal truths, no matter their background. And it seems to me that what Billy Joel expresses in this song reflects the big idea of the CSLewis quote that begins this devotional - that to love is to be vulnerable and to risk being hurt, yet we must love anyhow. It is sad in this video Billy also expresses a sense that love doesn't ever seem to last, though. :( That is not my conclusion, I believe eternal and enduring love is what true love is, if we push past the hurts. And true love is what we get to experience and to be a part of as believers - as we rely on God's grace to choose endurance and faithfulness. So that would be my disclaimer with this! We love because He first loved us. So as we learn of true love, we are learning in small part about the heart of love the Father has for us, through His Son!  And this love that risks and endures is much preferable to an "unbroken, impenetrable, irredeemable" (from the CSLewis quote) but protected heart that never gets the chance. So this Valentine's Day I hope you take some time to thank the Lord for who He has brought into your life to love and to learn about love with. :) I think we can also learn about true love as we love our parents or children or other people in our lives, not just the romantic love we celebrate on Valentines Day! Love is for us all, and a gift from the Father who IS love. :) And even though love opens us up to hurt, and does hurt sometimes!, I am so grateful to God for the blessing and gift He has given us, of the opportunity and ability to learn about and experience loving and caring about something outside of ourselves. :) Losing loved ones hurts. Broken relationships of any kind, hurt. But it is only because we have loved. I am grateful to God for His gift of LOVE and all it includes that draws us ultimately closer to His Perfect Love!

Thank you Bernie that you and I have shared each other's heart's "room - a sanctuary safe and strong" for a lifetime together! :)

God bless you all! Lots of Love from Linda, (LLL) for the Bealls :)

PS - That LLL was just to honor my BBB who loves alliterations and acronyms if he can make it work. So Bernie that's for you! Praying the Lord gives us many more years to grow ever deeper in our understanding of love and also gives us many more projects to share! I do think we have achieved more as a married couple than either of us could have alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!!!