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Surprised by Joy

Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 6 comments

Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5b

He wanted to be married to a Christ-follower. That was me.


Yesterday, September 13, was a day to remember and celebrate. It was five years ago on September 13, 2013 that Jim asked me to marry him. I was surprised, yet not so surprised that he popped the question. There was a feeling about him when we met for coffee that first face-to-face meeting. We met online first. I liked his profile. He liked mine. There were questions asked on eHarmony–the matching site where we met. His answers were similar to mine. His goals for life were also similar. He lived to please God. He loved his family and wanted to be a part of them. Friends were important to him. He wanted to be married to a Christ-follower. That was me.


He dropped him in my lap!


Often we were asked, “How did you know you were the right ones for each other in such a short time?” There are many answers to that question. Here’s mine. I asked God to bring the right person into my life after losing two husbands in death. I was even engaged to someone after Blair’s death and my meeting Jim. But he wasn’t the right person for me. After trying to make that relationship work, meeting other guys who just didn’t fit the bill for many reasons, I finally asked God to give me contentment in my single life, or drop the right one into my lap. God answered that prayer about six months later.

The rainbow is a sign of hope from God.




He seemed too good to be true, but he was the real deal.


I joined a matching site and said to myself–and God–this would be the last one I’d try–I’d been on a couple of them. After two weeks, I was ready to give up. I’d paid for six months and there weren’t any prospects that seemed right for me. One morning, a match came through. That’s what happens: you describe the type of person you want to meet, within a certain radius of miles. They send you photos and their description of themselves.



Would you like to meet?


Up pops this photo of a guy posing in front of a background of trees. He looked sporty and friendly. There were other photos of him with his grandchildren–that’s good, I thought. It’s what he said that really attracted me to him. He loved the Lord and wasn’t afraid to talk about his relationship with God. He loved his family and treasured his time with them. He had friends and even spoke of a spiritual mentor he relied on when he needed answers. He really seems too good to be true, I thought. At this point, I decided to make a move. That’s what you do on a matching site. You see someone who might be a possibility and then indicate your interest with a wink, or a click on the site–honestly, I’ve forgotten what I did, but I did something to show him I was interested in getting to know him. A day later, I saw that this mystery guy responded to my poke. The matching service then sends you a set of questions and you respond, and then the other party responds, if they’re interested. He answered and our answers were similar! Another day passed with an exchange of questions/answers–these were deeper questions with more involved answers. Then, I received an email. It said, “Would you be willing to meet in person?” I didn’t think it would hurt to meet in a public place, so I said, “Sure, but let’s keep emailing until we meet.” So we did. Another day passed and then I received a phone call from this mystery guy who told me his name was Jim. He had an enthusiastic voice and sounded just a bit nervous. He sounds nice, I thought. “Would you like to meet at Starbuck’s?” he asked. I responded affirmatively and that afternoon on September 4, 2013, we met for a coffee date that lasted more than two hours. It seemed we had much in common.

We’re re-enacting our first date (Wisconsin, 2017). We’ve done this now for five years. 



Will you?


That led to more dates that week, with an invitation to take in some Shakespeare plays, staying in a hotel (with separate rooms of course), and getting to know each other better. On our way to Ashland, home of the Shakespeare Festival, we stopped by the Grotto. It was at this romantic, mysterious, and beautifully landscaped place, Jim knelt on one knee and said to me, “Shirley Quiring Rudberg Graybill, will you marry me?” Can you believe he remembered all of my last names? He’d only known me for nine days, but he was able to recite them all–without notes!

The sign says it all!


We clicked….


You know what my answer was. It was YES! Just a few days earlier, after spending a lot of time together, Jim confessed to me that he loved me. I told him I loved him too. Then I told him the story of praying to God that He’d have to drop someone in my lap. Right then, Jim got off of the sofa, walked over to me and sat on my lap!! Can you believe it? I hardly could. But it really happened that way. We clicked, there was chemistry–I wanted him to kiss me soon after we had a couple of meetings–he was the real deal!



From our past lives, we know how quickly things can change…..


The rest is history. We were surprised by joy. And romance. And love. Together we enjoy our oneness and try not to take each other for granted, for we know from our past lives how quickly things can change–each of us has experienced loss in death more than once. We are grateful for five years of knowing each other and soon, five years of marriage. This may not be your story. God may tell you, “not now,” or “wait,” or even, “no.” In our case, God blessed us with a “yes.”


Sweet nothings in my ear….he still does this!

Front of our wedding program. Engagement photo.













It seems like yesterday.


I hope you enjoyed reminiscing the past with me. Thank you Lord, for your gift of Jim to me. I am grateful. Yes, we met on a matching site. Yes, each of our profiles caught the other’s attention. Yet we believe God was the initiator of our coming together for this time in our lives. He didn’t need cyberspace, but He used it and we’re together because of that.


Tell me your story.


What’s your story? I’d love to hear from you how God answered a heart-felt prayer you’ve uttered. It doesn’t have to be romantic, though I love hearing those stories, too. Tell me how God worked in your life. Just write a message in the comment space. I’ll respond back and your comment will be under the blog. Who knows what your story might encourage someone else?


We sang this song at our wedding. The words are so true…..


I have some close friends who are going through great difficulty and grief. Please know I am praying for you and I hope this post doesn’t hurt, but  gives you just a spot of joy. You are loved–by me and by our Savior.

God is there for you!


September Mug Tales

Posted by on September 7, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 4 comments


I’m a mug snob.


We moved to a new month on Saturday. September. For fun, I decided I’d photograph a different mug where I’d been in the past.  I’m a mug snob. I wouldn’t choose a metal or plastic cup unless that’s all there was. I love my mug collection. Each morning Jim surprises me with a different mug filled with French roasted coffee. Here’s my selection from this week:



Yukon Territory, Canada.

Like our country, Canada is “sea to sea”.

Saturday, September 1, it was this bright one. This past August, we cruised to Alaska and visited the Inside Passage with some of our family. The scenery, jaw-dropping. The food, delicious–rich, and varied. We took a few excursions when we docked, and we found this mug in Yukon Territory. We were in Skagway, Alaska,  but trundled on up north through gorgeous country to Yukon Territory where we visited sled dogs and llamas. Just before the bus took off, I spied this mug and the price was right! I love this cheery red mug.


Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana.



Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana.

We visited this monument on a September day in 2015. I was struck by the crosses dotting the rolling hills of dried grasses, signifying where someone died. There were many cross markers. I’m so glad we stopped here, well worth the drive.


Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas.



    The Cliburn, Fort Worth, Texas.

Our journey to Fort Worth, Texas was hot and filled with music. Piano music. We wanted to cheer on our friend, Colleen Adent, as she competed in the Cliburn Amateur Competition in 2016. The music was far from amateur in that small concert hall in Fort Worth, Texas. We enjoyed the botanical gardens while there, strolled through downtown Fort Worth in the cooler evening, and enjoyed Tex-Mex food. I liked Fort Worth.  And Colleen made it to the quarter finals!


Arches National Park, Utah.


We visited this National Park twice and if we’re nearby, we’ll visit it again. I have to add these photos taken there. Maybe it will inspire you to take the trip to Utah.




Beautiful Arches

Arches National Park–2016


Paris, France.

Of course there’s a Starbucks in Paris. We were visiting the Louvre and rested our feet in the coffee shop nearby. Did you know the Mona Lisa is not very large?

Memory from The Louvre, Paris.



Portland, Oregon.

My mug for today has memories from a very sad time in my life. But I was not alone. My loving Savior was there, comforting me.

Portland, Oregon

I was mourning the death of my second husband, Blair. We’d been married only seventeen months when one evening he had a brain aneurysm and the next day, died. Six months later, on August 16, 2010, I wanted to remember this special day: the anniversary of our wedding that took place two years earlier. In my grief work, I realized I needed to be proactive and do something special, even if I were alone on that day. I reserved a room at a B & B we’d driven by a year earlier.  We thought would be fun to stay one day. The Lion and the Rose. My room was a beautiful one in the grand timber baron’s Queen Anne mansion, with flower sprigged wallpaper, comfy wicker furniture, and a soft bed. I slept little that night, alone as I remembered our wedding day two years earlier. I strolled to a restaurant, observed families eating together, even enjoyed a delicious pasta meal with chocolate for dessert. It was a remembrance for a special time, and deserved tasty food. That night, I wrote, and cried, and read, and felt peace. The peace that only comes from God, I’m convinced.

I think back to that time when I was so sad and never thought I’d enjoy life fully again. But I have been granted joy again–after time, and tears, and grief work.


For sure there will be memories.


I’m not sure what my next mug will be–and the remembering of where it came from. For sure, I will remember. Precious ones of  happy times. The sad times. The in-between times.


I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but for sure, I plan to drink from another mug from another place and time. Stay tuned.


Consider the Lily

Posted by on August 31, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 1 comment

The days are marching toward a new season…


School is starting soon. The mornings are cooler and have a crispness that tells me a change is coming. I love the long days, longer twilight, and warm evenings of summer. But without anything I can do, the days shorten. I hear the crickets sing at night as I take one last stroll around our yard.  The days are marching toward a new season–and I can’t stop the march.


Why do you worry about other matters?


There has been sadness in my life lately, not so much directly to me, but closer than I want. Good friends have died, a friend will be experiencing loss very soon, someone’s health has changed and there are challenges in those changes. Each time I hear of a loss, I have a clutch in my heart. Will I be next? Will I have to say goodbye again? This morning I read a short devotional that captured my attention based on some of Jesus’ words.

And which of you by worrying can add a singlehour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? (Luke 12:25,26)

Those words should make a difference in how I look at things–and what I worry about and have anxious thoughts that distract me. He also reminds us:

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin..(Luke 12:27)


It won’t matter.


OK. If the Master, Jesus, tells us this. It should make a difference. I’m not going to fret and worry, because it won’t matter.


Consider the lilies….


I’m going to leave–try anyway–those things that are completely out of my hands to the Maker of life–and death–and illness–and growing–and change.


Enjoy the lilies!

In the NW, they don’t bloom at Easter time, but summer. Perhaps they do in Israel.

Tiger Lily from the wild.



Calla Lily







For Jane

Posted by on August 24, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 0 comments



I’m up for the challenge, but that’s not what’s on my mind today….


My heart is heavy this morning. I’ve just completed a whirlwind four days at a writer’s conference where I was challenged in many ways. I met new friends and renewed old ones too. I was stimulated to try something different. What I thought was a good idea needs to be expanded and needs lots more work. I’m thinking about back covers, book proposals, and new titles. I’m up for the challenge, but that’s not what’s on my mind this early morn, but my dear friend.


I like this mug that reminds me of the hope I have.


There is sorrow on the horizon….


Jane and I have been friends it seems forever. We’ve known each other since junior high school. We even double dated. Later in life, we were widows together, trying to make sense of our losses. We’ve also shared joy together. Within one week of each other, we’d found our true loves and married again. It was so fun to share our joy together. And now, once again, there is sorrow on the horizon on this pearly gray morning. Jane’s beloved is very ill and she must watch and wait.


May you be lavished with comfort….


It’s hard to understand Jane, and I have no words. My prayer is that you and anyone else reading this who is in the crucible of pain–emotional or physical–that you will be enveloped in the lavishing love of our Savior and Comforter this day and the hard days to come. I can say He was with me in my dark days and He’ll be with you, too. Instead of my words, I’ll give you His. They’re so much better.


Hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls……


And this… 


Joy and peace…..


It’s probably too much to expect being filled with joy right now, but my prayer is for anyone who is reading this that they will be filled with joy and peace.

Waning Summer

Posted by on August 17, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 2 comments

It will come no matter what


We’ve been experiencing a heat wave in the Pacific NW. There have been fires throughout California, British Columbia, and Washington State. With the fires, bring smoky skies that shadow the bright summer sun.  The haze has been from the fires, but I sense an autumn haze in the air. I feel sad that fall is coming. I’ve been that way all my life. Feeling sad when a season is coming to a close. But once I recognize it will happen no matter what, I accept it and move forward. I do that with seasons and I do that with life.


My lunch pail days were over…


I always looked forward to school starting with fresh new clothing to start the year that my mother carefully sewed for me–and the other siblings in my family. There were new school supplies: a new notebook filled with lined notebook paper, pencils and pens in a pencil box. In grammar school, there was the prized box of crayons–I usually had the box of 24, though I really wanted the big box of 48 like some kids had. And of course, a new lunchpail. I remember the year–I think it was 5th or 6th grade–I came to school with my new plaid rectangular pail and matching thermos (that always leaked) and noticed very few others were carrying one. The next day, I brought my lunch in a paper bag, just like everyone else. My lunch pail days were over. As a teacher, I enjoyed the beginning of school, yet dreaded the start as I enjoyed the freedom of  summer.



Autumn means things are starting to die. I’m very aware of death and loss, for Jim and I lead a weekly grief group. We help them grope through their loss. We listen to them as they try to pick  themselves up from the stunning hole that is in their life. This past month, there have been several acquaintances of mine who have died. There was Arley who played flute in the community orchestra I play in, and Marcia, who played the french horn. A closer acquaintance was a friend from my youth, Gary. And just last week I heard a son of my friend from grammar school died. His name was Jim. With each notification of these deaths I gasped in disbelief. “No!” I’d say. You’d think that with the losses I hear weekly at our grief group I’d get used to hearing about death but I don’t.


No more death or mourning…


I look forward to the season where there will be no more death and one day, that will come. …There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. But for now, I’m alive here where there is all of the above. I’m starting to  look forward to the next season: Autumn.


Beautiful Victoria

We returned from a week’s voyage to Alaska with a stop in Victoria, Canada. There are lovely flowers and buildings everywhere. We took a tour on a bicycle rickshaw. Here’s a small glimpse of the beauty in this harbor town.

Victoria Harbor

Totem Poles

Two grand-girls.

Mama Duck and her duckling.

Eagles nest.

One of the city parks. Free to all.


Black Eyed Susan

Scarlet Begonias

Monkey Puzzle Tree–a sign of wealth to own one. This is over 100 years old.


Lily Pads

More lovely flowers




It Was Great!

Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 2 comments

Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau.

It was a wonderful cruise….


We had a wonderful cruise. We are right now moving slowly through traffic driving home to Vancouver from Seattle. I will post some photos next time.


Entertainment, food, and family…


Our time together as a family was so good. Nightly, we ate our meal together, with reports about what we’d done during the day. We were entertained by lovely music, a superb ice skating show, gorgeous scenery, and delicious food. I honestly look forward to some plain, less caloric things to eat. Below is a sample of the music you could enjoy any place on the ship.


The weather was not too bad, though there was some fog on day five. Here’s a sample….


Thanks for tuning in! Family is the best!

North to Alaska!

Posted by on August 3, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 0 comments


Travel is fun but has an emotional price…


I love travel, but packing and leaving the house is always treacherous for me. Did I remember my ticket? Did I bring the right clothing? When traveling outside the United States (like today) Do I have my passport? I know, I know. I get to travel. It will be fun. Yes it will. When we’re firmly in our seats, or checked in. 

Blending families can be challenging…


Where are we going this time, you might ask. This time it’s a family cruise with fifteen of our blended family of 25.  We know once everyone is checked in and on board, it will be fine. We’re heading north to Alaska! 

I pray we will connect like never before.


We look forward to this trip and know it will be full of good conversation, food, beautiful scenery, and even entertainment. Most of all, I pray we will connect like never before. 

Here we go!

Making new memories.

No Fear

Posted by on July 27, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 9 comments

We’re coming up on an anniversary of our first date in about a month. It will be five years ago on September 4 we had our first date. We are working on a book about remarriage. Here’s an excerpt….


“I don’t understand why you aren’t afraid to marry again. Aren’t you afraid he’ll die?” a new widow asked me after reading my book.


I struggled to give an understandable answer. Sometimes it’s true, I am fearful. Mostly, though I am grateful. I’m grateful for the nearly five years God has gifted Jim and I with. I’m grateful every morning that I wake up with Jim by my side. I’m happy when he’s sitting beside me at church, singing with me during worship, glancing at me in understanding at a sermon point. He’s there on lazy Sunday afternoons when we change out of our church clothes into something cozy and comfortable and we veg out on a movie. As we watch our favorite pre-recorded Sunday shows. When we say good-night and drop off to sleep.


Do I want to give any of that up? Of course not. But would I want to protect myself from hurt by not allowing another one into my heart and home because he might leave me in death? No! I’m grateful for the time we’ve had and pray we have many more years.


Years ago, God gave me a verse that rings true now. At that time, I was in a marriage that was not working. I was fearful to say or do something to rock the boat and I came across this verse:


For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)


At the time, it gave me courage to speak up and not be silent. Gradually things were better for numerous reasons: counseling, learning to communicate differently, and most of all, prayer. Change in me took place when I realized fear is not always the motivator for keeping silent. There’s a time to speak and a time to be silent. Those words gave courage for both times. 


I am comforted by verses throughout the Bible that tell me all good gifts are from above. The promise I will never leave you or forsake you flows throughout my favorite book, the Bible. I cling to those promises in the good and scary times of life.



We’ve been given five years to enjoy each other’s company. Last night we celebrated Jim’s birthday early and saw the stage production of Phantom of the Opera. We enjoyed dinner beforehand, watched the crowd before the show, and marveled at the voices and music. At intermission, we strolled outside in the balmy twilight. The last half of play was even better than the first.


As we drove home and discussed various parts of the play, I glanced out of the car window and saw the full moon–well tonight it will be. There it was. A perfect ending to a beautiful evening.

“The moon!” I exclaimed.

I conclude in the book – perhaps– with this:

We face life with this niggling of fear, but also know we are not alone—even when one of us leaves this earth. It’s a promise to us in both the New and Old testaments: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.(Hebrews 13:6)

Enjoy the full moon tonight! It will be there in all its splendor. Forecast is clear skies


A Prudent Choice

Posted by on July 20, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 4 comments

We strolled along the Sandy River


We went on a hike yesterday to Ramona Falls in the Mt Hood National Forest. It was a cool day and a great day for a hike. The sun was hidden behind gray clouds and as we began our hike at 2500 feet, it was  foggy. We strolled along the Sandy River–very close to where it was born in the Sandy Glacier. Slate gray, the river was narrow and filled with rocks and logs. There were warning signs everywhere. “Attention. There is no bridge crossing the Sandy River. Do so at your own risk!”


I was ready to go


Hmmm. I thought. I don’t remember not having a bridge the last time we were up here. Of course, I was forty-two years old, so guess how long ago that was! Jim said he didn’t remember a bridge not being there five years ago when he last hiked the trail. Oh well, it will be fine. I told myself. I was wearing hiking shoes and had my walking stick. I was ready to go. As we walked along the trail, we could hear the Sandy roaring somewhere below us. We stopped for a better view.


Sandy River in Mt Hood National Forest


My inner voice screamed–Don’t do this!


After a mile, we reached the crossing. There was a large log across the river with a smaller one above it, sort of like a hand rail, although you had to lean forward to grasp it. It wasn’t real steady–it kind of rocked. Jim crossed first. I didn’t like how he had to straddle the log, push up and stand and then carefully turn his body around to face the skinny upper tree. OK. I can do this. I’ve done it before. I told myself. But my inner voice said–screamed more like–Don’t do this. You’ll crash into the water and break something! I ignored both of those voices clamoring for my attention and  stepped to the spot where Jim got on. I straddled the snag on the log, carefully stood up and turned around. But that skinny tree that was my handrail was so far away. And I’d have to lean forward and awkwardly side-step across the log above the river! I got off the log–carefully. Let two women cross before me who were about my age. Certainly if they can do it, I can! So up I got up on the log bridge again. I really tried to cross, but could not! I waved to Jim and called out, “I can’t do this. I’m sorry.” He nodded and proceeded to cross back to my side of the river. “I’m really sorry. I don’t want you to think I’m a chicken, but I just can’t do it!”


The crossing. See those tiny figures on the other side? They were the brave women who crossed. Not me!


You were an eagle


He shook his head and in a firm voice said, “I didn’t think you a chicken at all, but an eagle, for being honest. I really didn’t want you to try, but didn’t want to stop you if that’s what you wanted to do. I certainly didn’t want you to fall and break something.” Wow. What a man I’m married to. He totally supported me in my fears of crossing the river. We turned around and hiked back to the car, not completing our plans of seeing Ramona Falls.


We enjoyed the trail. Admiring huge house-sized rocks. The sun started peering through the clouds, warming the air.

Rock settling down right next to the trail.


It  tasted as good as I remembered


We didn’t see Ramona Falls, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying huckleberry pie at the same named restaurant in Government Camp, near Timberline. It tasted as good as when we finished climbing to the top of Hood in years past.

Try their pies–they’re great!


A prudent choice

We didn’t make it to our destination, but we got out into God’s beautiful creation–my favorite place to be. A prudent choice, not crossing the river, we both think.


My soul thirsts for God


I love the verse in the Psalms.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2


God understands


In answer to the question: When can I go and meet with God?  For me, it’s the great outdoors. God is so good and helps me make prudent choices. Jim understood my fears and better than him, God understands.







Sunshine and Shadow

Posted by on July 13, 2018 in Shirley's Blog | 2 comments

We took a short get-away last week to the beautiful North Cascades in Washington State.  The views were stunning, the weather perfect. The crisp, blue skies added to the beauty. It was too difficult to get many photos while we were driving, but we did take a hike near our B & B and captured a few photos.

Methow Valley near Twisp, Washington

Tempting berries, but we weren’t sure, so we didn’t eat!


Hiking brings me closer to God…..


For me, hiking the great outdoors, helps me feel closer to God than any other time. It’s usually quiet. The views are stunning. I gasp at God’s creativity.

Stunning views



I took the time to remember and be sad…..


That first afternoon after driving through the beautiful North Cascades, I felt a little sad and I wasn’t sure why. Later, I realized it was because the first time I’d been on this road, I was with another husband more than a decade ago. It didn’t mean I wasn’t enjoying myself with Jim, it just meant I had a precious memory flit through my brain. Instead of pushing the sadness down, I took some time to remember and be sad.



He didn’t feel threatened by my past….



I confessed to Jim my feelings and he acknowledged my sadness and told me he felt sad about his former life sometimes, too.  I am blessed with an understanding husband who doesn’t feel threatened when I remember my past life with husbands who are no longer here on this earth.




Sunshine and shadows….


After our hike that hot day, we enjoyed lunch where it seemed like we were on the top of the world. Then we ventured back to our B & B, where we rocked in the hammock by the Twisp River. Ahhhhh. Summertime enjoyment. Shadows and sunshine, blended together.

Making new memories.