We are in the midst of planning my daughter’s wedding. She’s picked her dress and the colors. The bridesmaids and groomsmen have been asked. The venue and date have been booked. We are working on the decorations, guest lists, menus and other details for her dream day. But there is one element that will be missing and there’s nothing that can be done. Her daddy will not be there to walk her down the aisle.
The apple of her daddy’s eye, my Gracie had Terry wrapped around her little finger. He doted on her. My son loves to tell the story of his “favorite day”. Normally, if there was a difference in what Zac or Gracie wanted, Gracie was known to come out ahead. And, she had this little refrain that she would sing quietly to her brother “I always get my way. I always get my way.” On this day, she must have been a little louder and her dad heard the sing-song tune. That was the day that Zac got to pick everything they did. He got a pick of any treats. That was the day Terry realized how easily Gracie could manipulate him. She was daddy’s little girl.
Gracie was fourteen when her dad died. She’s lived longer without him than he was on this earth. Both Zac and Gracie have tattoos to honor their dad. Zac’s is a cross with Terry’s name and dates under it. Gracie’s is a brightly colored sugar skull owl. Terry embraced a phrase from the Radio Music Theatre in Houston: “Cute as a little baby owl!” A stuffed toy owl sat on the dash of his truck. This toy was known to find its way onto the stage when Terry was involved in a skit at church. You never knew where you might see it. He would howl with laughter when it was discovered. The owl has become our symbol for Terry.
So, as we plan this wedding, I keep thinking about all the things Terry would be doing. I try to find subtle ways to include his memory in the event. And, I have a charm for her bridal bouquet with a picture of Terry and Gracie sitting on my mom’s sofa. Gracie was in elementary school at the time. Terry may not physically walk her down the aisle, but he will be there as I walk her to the altar. On each table during the reception, there will be a small owl charm. Most won’t know why, but those of us that loved Terry will. Gracie loves brunch (just like her dad) and her wedding cake will not be as much cake as it will be waffles. This day will be filled with laughter and love and a few quirky moments. The daughter of Terry Benson would have to have those. And, there will be a few tears as we remember and celebrate.
This November, when my beautiful red head walks down the aisle to her new husband, I suspect I will hear Terry’s voice say “She’s just as cute as a little baby owl” and maybe a little sing-song child’s voice chanting “I always get my way. I always get my way.”
I’ve read several articles recently about celebrity couples that are divorcing. Most of them contain a statement similar to this: “they still love each other very much, but. . .” The current quarantining was listed as the turning point in many of the articles. One entry said they have “felt more like brother and sister”. All I can do is shake my head.
What is Love? Most of us begin our relationships in breathless anticipation. The butterflies and warm bubbly feeling is intoxicating. You don’t want to be separated from your beloved and eagerly anticipate your next encounter. Is that really love? Although there may be some love involved, I think it has more to do with infatuation and even lust. Infatuation is defined as “falling in love with or becoming extremely interested in someone or something for a short time.” While the definition of lust is “a psychological force producing intense desire for an object, or circumstance fulfilling the emotion while already having a significant other or amount of the desired object.” Not very romantic, but very often this is the starting point of love.
How many marriages do I know that were built on the intense desire to be married? It’s being married, part of a couple that is the focus. The “who” in the relationship is often secondary to the need to have someone to love. The picture is all rosy and blissfully wonderful. It’s all about living happily ever after. The object is finding “A” person willing to become “THE” person.
When we are caught up in the excitement of a new connection and the possibility of finding that “one” person, we are able to overlook anything and everything. There are no obstacles that cannot be overcome in claiming this relationship. Much like the fog covers the challenges of climbing a sheer mountain, desire masks the issues that may cause problems in a long term relationship. We disregard the things that would normally signal a need for caution. Repeatedly, the warnings are dismissed. It doesn’t matter if there are hints of anger, unfaithfulness, insobriety, detachment, or domination. The tendency is to ignore differences in faith, questions about step-parenting roles, and the handling personal finances. The hard questions are left unasked rather than risk lifting the curtain and ending the dream.
There is a very big difference between infatuation and being in love. Infatuation is when you first see someone that you are attracted to and immediately feel there is a connection based on that whereas love is knowing the good and bad of someone and still loving them all the same. One cannot be truly in love and be unable to acknowledge the negatives in the relationship. Unconditional love, the love we all say that we want, means we face the good and the bad and love in spite of it all. We are willing to work through the difficult things. We are able to love through the darkness and get to the light.
I understand the “brother and sister” statement. I remember thinking this very thing about my first husband. Our relationship was good, just not very exciting. We had two very active teenagers. Life was busy. We spent our time together, but after 18 years I wasn’t breathless when he walked into the room. Still, we looked forward to the future together. There are worse things than being married to a really good friend. Trust me. Burying that friend, the husband I planned to live with into old age was far worse. It had been so easy to take our marriage and our love for granted, that I had lost touch with how deeply in love with him I was. I made a promise to myself to never allow that to happen again.
Marriage is characterized as a partnership. So, what happens if:
the partners fail to cooperate?
they don’t participate equally, or don’t agree on major life decisions?
they are no longer physically or emotionally attracted to each other?
when one of the partners treats the partnership unequally?
when one of the partners becomes too sick to do their share?
Do you dissolve the marriage partnership?
I recently read an article by Steven Berman that states:
“Real marriage is not an equal partnership. It’s not a partnership at all. It’s a merger, a permanent joining to create something new.
If you look at marriage as anything other than a lifetime commitment to a mate, you’re looking at something other than marriage. You’re looking at a friendship with benefits, a shack-up, a good time, or a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend. Adding a piece of paper to it labeled “marriage license” adds nothing to the relationship except a tax break.”
Both of my weddings included the vows: “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part,” Sounds pretty permanent to me. Don’t get me wrong, if you are in an abusive relationship – get out!. If you are in danger, you are not being cherished. However, not getting your way, not being happy, or (especially) finding someone more interesting are not reasons to divorce. Marriage is not about what feels good. Marriage is about commitment. Marriage is about giving up everything to join together.
So, what happens when you miss the spark, when the grass looks greener somewhere else? What’s a person to do? Basically, fertilize your own grass and make it the greenest thing around. Put in the work. There’s a psychological term: “Fake it till you make it.” Basically,
“Faking it until you make it only works when you correctly identify something within yourself that’s holding you back. Behaving like the person you want to become is about changing the way you feel and the way you think.”
Accept that you only control yourself and not your partner. Understand happiness and contentment are a choice you make for yourself. Stop placing blame and accept responsibility for where you are in this marriage. Offer love with no conditions, no reciprocation. And, I think most importantly, immerse yourself in God’s love and continually pray for your partner. Not what you want to see changed, but for true God’s guidance for your partner. In the best marriages both people are giving more than themselves, which is impossible if you don’t believe in anything more than yourself. A union of two people beyond the physical requires something beyond the physical to bind us. Emotions are not enough.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV
Looking for the best that God has for you will bleed into your relationship(s). As you focus on Him and His plan for you, the greener pasture becomes your own. You are able to love even the most unlovable. You will find happiness & joy in a way you never imagined. Even if your marriage partner doesn’t get it. God will and He will honor your faithfulness.
“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.”
I think one of my favorite Christmas memories is from 1982. That was my first Christmas totally on my own. I had moved to Houston for my first “grown-up” job. This was the first Christmas that I purchased all my Christmas gifts with my own money. I loved shopping for the perfect gift for each family member. And what was even better? I didn’t have to limit myself to just one gift. I set my own budget and made my choices. It was great!
My next Christmas memory is from 1988, the first Christmas that I didn’t spend with my parents. It was the 2nd Christmas after Terry and I were married. I was pregnant with our son and we spent that Christmas in Houston. We were serving part-time in a church north of Houston and Christmas fell on a Sunday that year. The church leadership decided that we should have our normal Sunday School and Church service that Sunday as well as a Christmas Eve service on Saturday night. We spent weekends in a drab little house next to the church. The furniture was old, the bed uncomfortable. Our tree, gifts and dog were all in our apartment back in Houston. After the Christmas Eve service, Terry and I went back to our little weekend house. While he prepared spaghetti for supper, I went into the bedroom and cried. I was homesick and (if I’m honest) a little hurt by the lack of consideration from our church. After some discussion, we loaded up the spaghetti and headed back to Houston for the night. We got back to our apartment about 11:00pm. For our Christmas gifts, we had agreed to a dollar limit and decided to fill a stocking for each other. So, late that night, we feasted on spaghetti and opened our stocking gifts. We drove the 2 hours back to the little church in time for Sunday School the next morning. I was so grateful for the tenderness and understanding of my husband that Christmas. At was the greatest gift.
It’s hard to pick a favorite Christmas with my Kids. I loved shopping for them and seeing their excitement. I think I enjoyed even more, the days when we would take them shopping for each other. I will always remember the excitement of looking for the “best” gift for a sibling or a parent. I believe we taught them that giving is what Christmas is all about.
I find it disappointing when I see the joy of Christmas giving transformed into the greed of Christmas getting. When I hear comments like “No one asked me what I wanted” or “I don’t want some cheap thing, I want a REAL gift” my heart sinks a little. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for input on Christmas gifts. But, I think it’s also acceptable to be creative and give from the heart. A handmade gift tells such a different story than a mass produced one. Have I gotten things I didn’t need or want? Yes. And, I try to find something to treasure in each gift, even if it’s only the thought.
Too many of us get caught in the trap of chr”I”stmas where “I” is the most important part of the word. When that happens, it’s all about ME:
“I” want (fill in the blank)
“I” need to be central this holiday season
“I” will not be inconvenienced.
“I” don’t care what you need unless it works for me.
“I” deserve to be happy.
The holiday season can be very difficult and life experiences often exaggerate issues.
The family that is missing a key member for the holidays, grieves for the loss of the person as well as many customs. You may not be able to carry on all of your traditions. Why not try something new this year. Don’t be afraid to be original. After my husband died, I didn’t want to celebrate. It took a few years to face Christmas with any type of joyful spirit. When we were ready, we changed a few things. Our tree was no longer traditional. It was white and decorated in pink, purple, orange and lime green. We used flamingos and boas to liven it up. We still added a Santa figure to Terry’s collection and a house to his village. But, we found new ways to move forward.
Blended families may being a competitiveness to the holidays. There may be a desire to provide the “best” experience. And, when adult children marry it adds another level of stress to the holidays. There are expectations of family traditions from every branch of the family. It can be exhausting trying to live up to it all. Young families need to set their own traditions and accept that not everything will remain the same. We celebrate the Sunday before Thanksgiving and Christmas with our children and their significant others. That’s frees up the actual holiday for whatever the individual family groups need/want to do. I’ll spend some “Mumzy time” with my grandson as well.
Too often, the holidays are a stress on the budget. You may feel the need to spend money you really don’t have and as a result, go into debt. I think I forget the lesson from the story of the Little Drummer Boy. He gave what he had. He played his drum. It didn’t matter that there were greater gifts being given. He gave what he had. When we give the best that we can, it shouldn’t have to live up to anything else. It is the BEST.
When “I” become the center of the holiday season, I miss the reason of the season.
When “I” stress about living up to the expectations that others set for me (or my gifts), I ignore the true gift that we celebrate each Christmas.
When “I” focus on what makes ME happy, I don’t have time to see what others need or have to offer.
I need to keep the holidays in focus. I need to remember that it is CHRiSTMAS and I have a very small part of it. The joy of Christmas is in celebrating the birth of Christ, the greatest gift EVER!
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
It’s been almost 14 years since that awful November day when my life was turned upside down. The memories of that day will always stay with me. In an instant I was no longer married, but a widow. Our happy family of four was now a single-parent family of three. Dreams that were so exciting became dull memories. I struggled to get from one day to the next. My story now had a definite divider: before he died and after he died. Everything in our lives is gauged by that one event.
Losing my 47 year old husband was devastating. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Why would God allow such a thing to happen? I cried and begged God to let me wake up from that horrible nightmare. But, it wasn’t a nightmare. It was my new normal; a normal that I hated with every fiber of my being.
I spent hours agonizing.
Prayer was not a comfort. The
only request I had was for the pain to stop.
I questioned everything I thought I believed.
Does God really exist?
And if He does exist, is God really good?
Does He really love me and care about me?
Is there really life after death?
What do I believe about Heaven?
Is eternity really a gift for the believer?
Through the days, weeks, months and (yes) years, I got my
Yes. God does exist. And, He withstands my doubts and questions.
“Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God.” John 1:1-2 TLB
Yes. God is good. Fortunately, He’s not fair or vindictive. He treats me with Grace and Love beyond my imagination. I’m often too selfish to understand His caring and love.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3;16 MSG
Yes. God really cares about me in particular. He carried me through the darkest days. I saw His care and love through friends and family that stood by me.
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
I do believe there is Life after Death. It is my hope and the only reason I could get through each day.
And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: that we who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord. Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with this news.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 TLB
I’m still learning about Heaven. It’s a place prepared for me, not a floaty place in the clouds. Heaven is in the presence of God.
“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.” John 14-1-4 MSG
The promise of Eternal Life is a gift given to those that have finished their “assignment” here on earth. Death is not a punishment, but a reward for those of us who believe.
“The world and its evil desires are passing away. But whoever does what God wants them to do lives forever.” 1 John 2:17 NIV
I finally stopped focusing on what my late husband was missing and accepted that he was EXACTLY where he wanted to be: in the presence of God. He wasn’t missing anything. It was ME that was missing sharing life with him. His death wasn’t a punishment. It was his reward for a life well lived.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV
I still grieve for my loss. I grieve that my children no longer have their dad. But, I don’t question God’s plan. I know He is in control. I believe in His sovereignty and His plan for me. My faith keeps me on track!
“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!”
We have a blended family that includes 5 adult
children that range in age from 20-30 years old. We are firmly entrenched in the marriage
stage of life. So far, we’ve had 3
weddings: Zac in 2016, Kyle in 2018 and
Reagan was married this weekend. Three
down and two to go.
As a parent, there are lots of thoughts and emotions
that arise when one of your children moves toward marriage. You want the best for your child. You pray they are making sound choices. There’s the joy (and lets be honest the stress)
of adding another person to your family as well as the new extended family. Weddings are fun, beautiful, joyful,
frustrating, tiring and hard work. And,
after the party is over, the REAL work begins in earnest.
Marriage is a constant exercise in give and
to statistics, almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation. Researchers estimate that 41 percentof all
first marriages end in
divorce. Of the remaining 50 to 59 percent of
marriages, I wonder how many would rate their marriages as “successful”. I love being married. I was married for 18 years, widowed for 10
years and celebrate my fourth anniversary in a few months with my new
husband. I had a successful first
marriage and I consider my current marriage a success.
So, what makes marriage so difficult? I think the answer is pretty simple: selfishness. When I concentrate on “ME” and “MY WANTS”, I cannot put my marriage first. My selfishness takes precedence. I recently saw a sign that said: “Want a bad marriage? Put yourself first. “Want a good marriage? Put your spouse first. “Want a great marriage? Put God first.”
There is so much truth in these words. If I concentrate on what God wants, I will take care of my spouse. It doesn’t matter if my spouse reciprocates. I am still responsible for seeking a Godly marriage. And if my spouse also seeks a Godly marriage, so much the better!!
We’ve all heard and/or read 1
Corinthians 13, also known as “The Love Chapter”. I find that putting scripture into my own words, makes it a little
more real to me. This is my personal interpretation
of a few of the love verses.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13 (Melissa’s
Love is valuable. It is worth everything to me.
Love keeps going even through the hard
gives to others instead of taking for itself.
is happy in its’ own yard. There are no greener pastures.
doesn’t exist only when it gets attention. Love
doesn’t allow my selfish wants to conflict with those I love.
doesn’t manipulate to get its’ way.
plays 2nd fiddle at times.
is calm in the face of conflict or disappointment.
has learned the art of forgive and forget.
doesn’t take pleasure in making others beg for attention
speaks the truth (even when it hurts.)
withstands any attack.
is from God and trusts that He is in control.
often wears “rose colored” glasses and sees the good in a difficult situation.
never asks “what if” and longs for something (or someone) else Love stands firm and stays true to its’
vows and commitments.
There are three things that will make me successful in life: Trust, Hope and Love. And Love is the one that is my focus.
We all crave love. We want to be adored and cherished. Too often, however, we confuse lust with love and settle for less than the best God has for us. We have found that we can avoid solving issues within relationships by moving on to new relationships. There is excitement in the chase. We use the excuses “I’m just not happy and I deserve happiness”, “We’ve just grown apart and have nothing in common”, or (the biggest lie from Satan) “God wouldn’t have brought him/her into my life if He didn’t want me to be with him/her.” Just as Eve allowed the Serpent to persuade her to eat the forbidden fruit, we listen to the world and throw love and commitment to the wolves in order to have a moment of excitement and fun.
As my children begin and continue
to grow their marriages and their own families, I pray that the words of 1
Corinthians 13 will ring true and keep them on the true path.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”
Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
I am the oldest of three children. I am also the first grandchild on both sides
of my family. I am the definition of “the
There are lots of perks that come with being the
oldest. Hand-me downs don’t exist when
you are the first-born. As the oldest,
you get to do things first. You get the
undivided attention of your parents and grandparents when you are the only one.
But, there are some downers to being the
oldest. You are the first one that has
to learn to share – everything. You are
the “learner” child: your siblings get
to do things you were never allowed to do. And even though it’s nice to be the
first, it also means you will be the first to fail.
The first born has only adults with which to compare
himself/herself. Think about what an
oldest/only child sees: Everyone around
can walk without holding on or falling down. The only crawling seems to be to encourage the
baby to get up. You are being watched at
every moment, so you try to please. Communication is crucial and the praise
received is worth the effort. A first
born learns early that you don’t want to disappoint the big people.
The first born gets more attention. This is partly because the baby stuff is so
new, but also because the time is spent with just this one child. Just
look at photo albums or baby books. The
first child will have tons of pictures and a complete baby book. Child #2 will have a few pictures and a good
start on the baby book. Any other
siblings will just have to make do with a few snapshots and will be grateful if
a baby book was even purchased. The
first born will benefit from more time being read to and being taught at
home. Even when siblings are added, the
oldest child will continue to benefit from the time spent learning as a
As soon as another sibling is added, the oldest child
becomes a leader. We know how it should
be done and will not hesitate to point it out to our younger siblings. We will be put in charge of our siblings and
reminded that we are “older” and therefore “more responsible”. Some will call this being a natural
leader. Others call it being bossy.
First born children tend to be perfectionists, leaders, good
students, and teachers. We are often
people pleasers that fear failing. I
never tried anything that I wasn’t pretty sure I would excel at. If there was a chance that I might look
silly, I did not attempt it. I was never
good at roller skating, mainly because I did not want to fall. It hurt and people would laugh. My younger brother was a good skater. Granted, he was black and blue from throwing
himself into the “experience.” But, he
had fun and enjoyed it. I would rather
spend my time with a good book or a logic puzzle.
I was always at the top of my class in school. Learning came easy to me. I wouldn’t classify myself as an
overachiever, I just did what came easily. My classmates that thought I had it
made. While others would be praised for
getting a “B” on report cards, I had to get all “A’s and A+”. Even an “A-“wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t until I was taking college classes
that I was really challenged. I had to
learn to study. It was hard to accept
that I might not be “the best” after all.
But, it was also in college classes that I found I could enjoy learning
without being the best. As a junior
accounting major, I had a class under Dean of the School of Business, Dr.
Lauderdale. He promised to weed out the
bookkeepers from the accountants in his class.
He was strict and had high expectations.
Our class size dropped by 50% as the semester commenced. Before our last final, Dr. Lauderdale looked
at me and said “You have a B in this class.
If you ace the final or not, you have a solid B. Don’t come to the final.” I have never been so excited to be told I was
a B student!
I still struggle with perfectionistic tendencies. This causes lots of anxiety in my life. I play scenes over and over in my head of how
I disappoint my friends and family. There
are days when I feel like I’m balancing on a pin cushion. When I am out of control or over-whelmed, I
protect myself with a veil of detachment.
I separate myself from those areas.
If they don’t exist, they cannot hurt me, right? My husband helps me to see past the veil and
to accept that I can only be the best that I can be. If someone is disappointed at my best
efforts, then that’s not my problem. Hurt
and disappointments are part of life. I
cannot avoid them.
I still don’t like to do anything without a road map. I want to know EXACTLY what is coming before
I step out. But, I’ve learned that is
not always possible. But these things I
I CAN make phone calls when I must. (Many of you
know how much a hate to do that!)
I CAN meet new people and get to know them
without hyperventilating. (I still do
better in small groups.)
I CAN make decisions and live my life the way
God leads me. (Even when others don’t agree/understand.)
I CAN trust that others will love me. (Love isn’t earned, it’s given.)
I am the oldest of three children. I am the first grandchild on both sides of my
family. And, I am a beloved child of
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”
Psalm 139:13-14 NLT
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
I learned a lot from grief.
I learned that my identity was as a wife, a mother and a daughter. When I lost my husband, and later my dad, a lot
of what made me feel whole seemed to disappear.
For years, I submerged myself in my role as “mom”. I needed my kids as much as they needed
me. As they grew up and moved on with
their lives, I again lost my touch point, my anchor. Where did I belong? How would I make a difference? It was a struggle. I forgot what it meant to be just “me”.
Have you ever felt the effects of too much caffeine? That jumpy, panicky feeling became normal for
me. Most days, I felt like I need to
crawl out of my own skin. On the days when my kids weren’t around or I
didn’t have to work, I stayed in bed. It
was easier to sleep than to face my reality.
I didn’t keep up with my house or
my yard. I avoided being at home as much
as I could. I didn’t know how to ask for
help. I didn’t know if there was any
help. I was overwhelmed. I was supposed to be strong and I was embarrassed
to admit that I was failing in every area.
I just tried to keep my head above water.
I lived this way for almost 10 years. I knew I had to get used to my new “normal”
and believed that I had dealt with my grief.
I helped with grief recovery groups.
I put on a good face. I didn’t
realize that I was living with depression.
All the things that had given my life meaning seemed to be
disappearing. My son and daughter didn’t
need a hands-on mom. I had accepted that
I would live out the rest of my life alone.
It had been long enough. I had to get over it all. I had to close the door on the part of my
life that wanted to be loved and accepted.
But, I had a friend that listened to me. A friend heard what I said and what I didn’t
really want heard. He asked questions I
didn’t want to answer. He probed into
areas that were off-limits. He
recommended counseling. He encouraged me
to trust again. He challenged me to open
the doors that I had closed and sort through those emotions and dreams. He waited patiently to be allowed into all
areas of my life.
There are many that question the choices I’ve made over the
last four years. And, there are those that frankly, just
disapprove of the life I now have. I’ve
heard the whispers and I’ve seen the looks.
I don’t have any doubts that I am
exactly where I need to be. I married my
dearest friend. I have never felt safer
or more secure. I am loved deeply and
completely. Our life is not without its
challenges and frustrations, but we face them together.
I have learned that grief is love turned upside down. I will never give up the opportunity to
experience a deep and passionate love in order to avoid the pain of grief. Love is worth EVERYTHING!
Easter Sunday has come and gone once again. The chocolate bunnies and candy eggs are now sitting on the clearance aisles. I have always enjoyed Easter eggs; the dying, the hiding and the hunting. Some of my fondest memories are of the egg hunts at my grandparents farm with my cousins and family members. Eggs would be found for days around the yard after Easter. I looked forward to the new dress, the shiny new shoes and maybe a new hat. Easter was the beginning of spring. A new beginning for the year. But, I’ve learned that Easter (or Resurrection Day) is so much more than frilly dresses and colorful eggs.
Easter is all about Love. True, deep and passionate love. It is a blueprint for each of us to know what it is to love sacrificially. In short, the meaning of Easter is how we, as Christians, are to love. Period.
The week before the crucifixion, Jesus is honored with a dinner and a very expensive anointing. Mary knew the meaning of sacrificing for one you love.
Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them. 7-8 Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” Word got out among the Jews that he was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead.
John 12:1-10 MSG
Have you ever kept something precious for yourself? I have! I used to hide my Christmas candy. It was something I felt the need to share. It was MINE! Mary offered something not only special, but very expensive. A gift borne out of love and devotion.
Later in the week, Jesus would celebrate the Passover with his disciples. It was customary to wash the feet of the guests before the meal. Not one of the disciples was willing to do this. But, Jesus was willing.
Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.
John 13:3-5 MSG
Have you ever heard or uttered the phrase “It’s not my job”? My husband and I have various responsibilities around the house. On more than one occasion, I have used this phrase to get out of a less than pleasant task. Washing feet would be one of those things I would not want to do. But, Jesus took a servant’s position. It may not have been His job, but it was His pleasure.
Jesus lived love. How different would our lives be if we followed His directions to ” Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.” Would my marriage be better if I loved my spouse more than I love myself and put my bucket list down and honored him instead? How would my children react if they witnessed that they were more important to me than my own agenda or enjoyment?
“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
“But remember the root command: Love one another.
John 15: 9-17 MSG
Jesus knew what was coming. He knew the next days would be brutally painful. He knew. And, He continued to love and to sacrifice for us.
Then he told them, “My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death . . . stay here . . . stay awake with me.” He went forward a little, and fell face downward on the ground, and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup be taken away from me. But I want your will, not mine.”
Matthew 26:38-39 TLB
Christ took the punishment that I deserve. He stood in the gap for me. He was beaten and murdered to give me the gift of God’s love. All that is asked in return is that I put my faith in Him and love other’s just like He loves me.
He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.
Isaiah 53:5-6 MSG
The next time I’m upset because I didn’t get my way, I will remember what Jesus did for me. When loving another person means walking away from my own pursuit of happiness, I will choose to walk in Love. On those days when I think I am being asked to give up too much too often, I will rethink my own comfort and walk the walk that Jesus taught.
What does Easter mean to you? Is it just a time for games and bunny rabbits? Or, is there a deeper meaning to this day of celebration? Are you willing to truly love in the sacrificial and passionate way that Jesus taught? What does it mean to Love?
Between my husband and I, we have 5 children between the ages of 20 and 30. Both of our boys are married. One of our daughters is newly engaged and planning her summer wedding. The other 2 girls are in their own relationships. We are surrounded with young love and wedding talk which can be very exciting. The talk of love and happiness is everywhere. Love is a wonderful thing. But, there are days when Love is just difficult. And it’s on those days that happiness seems to disappear. So, what makes it all worth it?
I married my first husband in my late twenties. We were young and in love and dumb. As the newness of newly wed life and the infatuation that accompanies it wore off, we found that love wasn’t always so sweet and happiness didn’t come easily. I didn’t particularly “love” that my husband artfully draped his clothing around our bedroom instead of putting it in the laundry hamper. He wasn’t very “happy” that I only washed what was actually IN the hamper and he had no clean socks. There were days and sometimes weeks when I wondered WHY I had decided to marry this man. We lived in a one bedroom apartment. He wanted to do EVERYTHING together. I craved my alone time. We struggled. I wasn’t miserable, but I wouldn’t describe our life as happy.
It was several years before I discovered the “secret” to true happiness. It wasn’t really that difficult either. I just had to decide to be happy in whatever situation we were in at that moment. I had to give up my expectations that anyone could make me happy. I learned that there were things that I had to sacrifice in order to build our marriage together. Instead of being irritated because I wanted to be alone, I was glad to have a husband who wanted to spend time with me and our children. I made it a point to seek out the reasons to be truly happy and content. When I decided to choose my marriage over my personal agenda, the change in our lives and our relationship was amazing. As much as I loved my husband, he would never be everything that I thought I needed. And, he was powerless to provide the happiness I sought.
When my husband died in 2005, I was confronted with such deep sadness. I didn’t think I would ever know love or happiness again in my lifetime. I was wrong. Even in the immense sadness of those years, I found moments of happiness. I became more intent on seeking out reasons to be happy and celebrate the moments. My children and I laughed at memories and tried new things. I learned that there can be great joy in the midst of deep sorrows. I once again decided that I would be happy even if I never loved another man. Some days were easier than others.
I married my second husband a little over 3 years ago. Our path to each other wasn’t easy. We both had struggles along the way. We both loved and lost. We came into this marriage with scars and (I hope) a little wiser. We know that every successful relationship requires compromises (aka personal sacrifice). He can never make me happy. He doesn’t have that power. We can offer each other experiences that bring happiness. But, ultimately, happiness is a personal decision. I love him deeply and passionately. The joy of our relationship is a blessing every day. There are still struggles. Every morning, I make the decision to choose my spouse over my self. I choose happiness whenever I see the opportunity.
My advice to the young and in love (or those wanting to be in love)? Find happiness within yourself FIRST. Then, and only then, will you be ready to tackle a lasting relationship. Infatuation will not bring lasting happiness. Identify that things that you “love” about the other person. (And don’t fall into the trap of saying he/she “Just makes me happy.”) I married my best friend. I trust him completely. We talk about everything. We have fun together. I know that he looks out for my best interests. Together, we find contentment that may not look too exciting, but it sure offers us many opportunities to decide to be happy.
“Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.” Ephesians 5:22-28 msg
A deceptively simple statement and it conveys so much hope for
each of us. We love EVERYTHING: I love my car; I love my dog; I love the color
purple; I love tacos. Because we use the
word “love” so often in our everyday life, it’s easy to lose sight of what it
means to love or to be loved this deeply and completely. I love my children and my husband with that
deep, soul-crushing love.
“. . . He gave his Son, his one and only
Son. . .”
I would give my life for any of my kids or my husband if
they needed it. And even though I may say I am “dying” for
some good Tex-Mex food, I wouldn’t really trade my life for a taco. I don’t love it that much. I can hardly bear to hear a negative comment
about one of my kids. I go into Momma
Bear mode really quickly to defend them. I can’t imagine giving one of them up for
anyone or anything. But, God loved me
enough to sacrifice His ONLY son. FOR
“. . . And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”
This Salvation is for anyone that believes. Again, it’s a simple statement. But, for some it is impossible to believe that God could love them this much. I still wonder why He loves me so much. I’m not perfect and in fact can be a little bit bossy and insistent at times. Yet, He continues to show me His great love in so many ways. My only requirement is to trust & believe.
Do you understand what it is to love or be
loved this completely? Have you experienced that deep
bitter-sweetness that comes with giving yourself heart and soul to
another? This Love is not a disposable
emotion that you outgrow or tire of with time.
This Love is a commitment: the deepest commitment you can possibly give
or receive. This Love overrides ego and
self-seeking actions. This Love requires
This Love is the gift we were all given in
the form of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. When
you accept His Love, you cannot avoid giving the same Love to others. My needs are not so important when viewed
through Love. My focus becomes Loving
others: my family, my friends, my
neighbors and not just “me”. The more I
practice giving Love, the harder is becomes to NOT Love.
As 2018 draws to a close, I hope that you will examine this gift of Love. Take it out. Embrace it. Give it away. May 2019 be the year when we all decide to Love.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.