Love and marriage

blogIMG_8884

Engagement ring bridal shower cupcakes

Marriage is on my mind this week – if you’ve read my last two posts, can you tell?

Maybe it’s because Papa and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary this month.

Or maybe it’s because two of our grown offspring are also celebrating anniversaries this fall with their spouses. Year seven for both of them.

Or maybe it’s because I just viewed Facebook photos that two of my blogging friends proudly displayed of their sons’ recent weddings. Such love and joy radiated from those pictures.

Or maybe it’s because I recently attended a bridal shower for the daughter of one of my best friends. That sweet young lady will be marrying her true love this fall.

Or maybe it’s because my lovely great-niece is walking down the aisle soon to wed her own handsome prince.

So wedding invitations decorate the front of our refrigerator and my thoughts have turned to RSVPs and gift buying…and marriage.

Weddings are the fun part of marriage. All of that planning and prepping to make that special day just perfect. That is definitely exciting and kind of fairy tale like.

But after the big day is over, real life sets in. It may take a year or two, but eventually, that couple in love realize marriage isn’t like a Disney movie; it’s hard work to live happily ever after.

The shine and glitz of that wedding day can wear off and romance may even wane. But that’s when the two, now become one, have to dig their heels in, look each other in the eye, and say, “We are going to make this work.”

And that’s what I wish for these young couples starting off life together.

I wish they would never allow the realities of life to cause their love for one another to fade.

I wish for perseverance when the tough times come to them.

I wish they understand that you don’t just find the right one to make a perfect twosome, you be the right one.  

I wish them love, not just the fluffy, stars in the eyes, giddy feeling of butterflies that the movies portray, but real, honest-to-goodness love.

The kind of love that makes each one of them remember to insert his or her own name in place of the word “love” in this well-known passage from the Bible.

“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, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Because that passage easily describes how a marriage can last until death do you part. May all of these marriages be so.

“True love stories never have endings.” ~ Richard Bach

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Advertisements

Thumbs up for the ride

blogimage4

It’s been 42 years today. Over four decades now since two young whippersnappers, who thought they knew it all, stood at the altar of a country church and said those words of promise, “I do.”

Those whippersnappers are now retired folks (well, Papa is semi-retired) living in an empty nest home which once rang with the noise and laughter from three children, now grown and living their own lives and probably thinking they know it all just like their parents once did.

The whippersnappers from all those years ago learned a lot through life’s lessons in the last 40+ years. And no, we certainly did not know it all especially when it comes to the hard work of marriage. Because it IS hard.

It’s hard to deal with the day-to-day aspects of wedded life that gets your shorts in a knot. When he can’t seem to remember not to throw his dirty t-shirts yanked inside out into the clothes hamper or she always leaves the pantry door open. When she gets impatient and cranky over computer/technology glitches and he gets grouchy and rants about politics.

It’s hard to realize you will have disagreements. That you won’t see eye-to-eye on everything.  When you’re newlyweds, it’s difficult to imagine that you will sometimes think, “I don’t really like you right now” in the middle of an argument. 

It’s hard to suffer disappointments in one another because after all, we are human and we will disappoint even our beloved spouse from time to time.

It’s hard to endure changes and setbacks and finances and relocations around the country.

It’s hard to put your heads together and plow through job losses and deaths of parents and heart-wrenching difficulties that threaten your children’s happiness.

Marriage is just plain hard sometimes. Marriage is not a fairy tale or a Hollywood movie. Marriage is real life which sometimes gets awfully messy. But hanging in there, working together through life’s complications as they come, encouraging one another, and bringing out the best in one another while not dwelling on the worst is worth every effort.

Take it from a 42-year veteran.  Papa and I both give a hearty thumbs up for marriage today on our wedding anniversary.  It’s been a worthwhile ride and we look forward to more to come.

“The great secret of successful marriage is to treat all disasters as incidents and none of the incidents as disasters.” ~ Harold George Nicolson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Love abides

blogIMG_6959It’s Valentine’s Day. That one day a year where the world supposedly focuses on love.

Hearts and flowers. Chocolates and stuffed animals proclaiming “I Love You.” Sentimental greeting cards gushing with words of affection. The aisles in the stores are full of these items.

All to proclaim love for the one who receives the gift. For some, those gifts truly make their hearts sing. For the receivers. And for the givers. Those folks who claim giving gifts or receiving them as their love language are feeling mighty good about all of these Valentine goodies.

For me, those things don’t matter. If you give me a gift, I’ll be appreciative that you spent the time thinking of me and I will thank you profusely. But gifts don’t really float my boat. They’re nice. They’re lovely. They often are extremely thoughtful. But they don’t necessarily bring joy to my heart. 

Several years ago, I asked my husband to stop spending money on gifts for me, especially on Valentine’s Day. Flowers fade and die. My black thumb kills plants.

My expanding waistline doesn’t need chocolate candy. Greeting cards pile up and then what do you do with them? Throw them away.

Jewelry is lovely, but honestly, I have enough. Trinkets proclaiming love just clutter up the house and I certainly don’t need anything more to dust. I’m not a foodie, so even going out for a nice dinner doesn’t make my heart swell with appreciation.

So Valentine’s Day gifts just aren’t my thing. I’d rather my true love do one or both of these ways that show love – spend engaged time with me either at home or on an adventure or do some act of service for me. And after all of these years of marriage, the Papa of this empty nest, finally gets it.

Love, for me, is showing me you care with actions. Listening to me. Being there when I need you in good times and bad. Through thick and through thin. You know, that for better or for worse thing that so many of us married folks said in our wedding vows.

Years ago, before carpal tunnel and arthritic hands, I enjoyed doing cross stitch projects. The photo above is a piece of that kind of embroidery I completed a long time ago and is an insert on a wooden shelf that has hung on our entry hall wall ever since.

It simply says love abides. And isn’t that the truth? Real, honest to goodness love does abide. Love, no matter what day it is whether it’s Valentine’s Day or just any old Thursday, is what carries us through life.

My Valentine’s wish for you is that you find and keep that kind of love. And you share it with those around you.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers.

“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at all times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.” ~ Wendell Berry

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When thoughts turn to love

blogDSCN8695 (3)This week of February when we will celebrate Valentine’s Day brings thoughts of love to our minds.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Those profound words about the human emotion of love come straight from God’s Holy Word, the Bible, in the book of First Corinthians, Chapter 13, often called the love chapter.

Those words often come to my mind, not just during February when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, but all year long.

And if I want to consider whether I really am being loving, I insert my name in that passage in place of everywhere the word “love” is used like this:

Mama is patient, Mama is kind. Mama does not envy, Mama does not boast, Mama is not proud. Mama is not rude, Mama is not self-seeking, Mama is not easily angered, Mama keeps no record of wrongs.

Mama does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Mama always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails if Mama is adhering to these words.

“How sweet the words of truth breathed from the lips of love.” ~ James Beattie

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

WordFULL Wednesday: Then and Now

blogScan_20171022

“I want to feel your hand in mine as we walk through life. Together.” ~ Unknown

 

blogmama-and-papa2

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

 

In celebration this month of October for 41 years of marriage, the words in these quotes hold true for the Papa and Mama of this empty nest. 

May it always be so.

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

How do you love?

Love you collage.jpgIt’s the love month – February – and I often wonder why we don’t celebrate love all the rest of the 11 months of the year? Surely this world would be a better place if we were reminded to show love all year long, wouldn’t it?

Yeah, I know, we celebrate love and affection this month because of Valentine’s Day which is tomorrow.  But today, I’m considering why we even celebrate this holiday at all.

I know the day is named for Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome during the third century and secretly performed Christian marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers and their wives.

At the time, Rome was ruled by a pagan emperor who outlawed marriages for his soldiers because no doubt he believed their only focus should be Rome and protecting it.

Valentine was imprisoned for his so-called crimes and eventually executed on February 14. His focus on the importance of love survived and became the stuff of legends.

When Rome became predominantly Christian 200 years later, the Catholic Church, in an attempt to abolish a pagan ritual which had been annually held in February, proclaimed this day as Saint Valentine’s Day.

And so a holiday began. Now all these centuries later, it’s a highly commercialized money-maker. If you visited any store shortly after Christmas – and in some cases even before – store shelves teemed with Valentine greetings, gifts, candy, and all kinds of merchandise pertaining to this holiday.

Buy your sweetheart this fancy card declaring your love. Or this gargantuan stuffed animal. Or this massive heart-shaped box of chocolates. Or a dozen (or more!) red roses. Or this glittering diamond jewelry.

All purchased and delivered to demonstrate your love.

Well, gifts are nice. They can be lovely and yes, certainly heart-felt tokens of affection. And some folks’ boats are definitely floated by receiving gifts. It’s one of those five love languages first written about back in the 1990’s in a book by Christian counselor Gary Chapman.

But for me, purchasing a Valentine doo-dad off the Wal-Mart shelf just doesn’t measure up to showing how much you love someone.

Instead, my go-to for demonstrating love – any kind of love, not just romantic – comes straight from one entire chapter in my Bible.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 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, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 New International Version (NIV)

How can I show love every day of the year, not just on Valentine’s Day? 

By being patient with those around me. Being kind to others and not envious of someone else’s success. By not boasting or being prideful about myself.

By honoring others and putting them before me. By being even-tempered and keeping short accounts when it comes to wrongdoings done to me. By seeking truth and rejoicing in it not in evil actions.

By always being faithful to protect my loved ones. By trusting, hoping, and persevering through difficulties with them.

My litmus test? Inserting my name in place of the word ‘love’ in a passage of that scripture. Example: Mama’s Empty Nest is patient. Mama’s Empty Nest is kind, etc.

Because when I do these things, I open up my heart to love – real, honest-to-goodness love. Love to last beyond Valentine’s Day.

“Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside.” ~ Margaret Walker

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

My beloved

blogIMG_2570.jpgIt’s February and now that we’re past Groundhog Day when that famous weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted to everyone’s dismay that we would have six more weeks of winter, we prepare to celebrate the other holiday of the month.

Valentine’s Day. And our minds turn to love.

Love is a word we banter around a lot.  I love this song. Or I love my pet. Love to ski. Love doughnuts. Love this, love that.

It’s one of those words in the English language that we use to proclaim our fondness for all sorts of things unlike the Greek language which has different words for different types of love.

The photo challenge for this past week was Beloved

While deliberating over what photograph to post for the challenge, I asked myself who do I love? Who is my beloved?

My husband of 40 years? Absolutely. My three adult children? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. My two adorable grandchildren?  Oh, yes, indubitably!  

My sisters and their families? Sure thing. Friends? Well, of course. And the list could go on, just like the many ways I could count to say why I love all of these people.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

You may recognize this as the opening line to a famous poem written by Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-1861). She wrote this sonnet (#43) to her beloved, her husband Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Even though I love those I’ve listed above beyond measure, there’s one I love even more. He is my beloved and I am his. His name is Jesus and he is my Savior.

It occurs to me that I could read this poem and address it to him and it would aptly fit. And he could read it right back to me because he loves me that much.

And he loves you the same, even if you don’t know him yet.

I don’t have a photograph of my beloved to share for this challenge. Oh, there are artists’ renditions out there of him, but we don’t know how accurate they are. But I do have something tangible that represents my beloved and I can photograph that.

It’s my Bible. And when I open it to read it, it tells me what I need to know about the one I love, my beloved, the one who loved me and you so much, he died that we might live.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~  John 3:16 (NIV)

“I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’  ‘This much,’ he answered. Then he stretched out his arms and died.” ~ unknown

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Bulls-eye

blogimg_3892-3It shocked me.

Utterly shocked and pierced me right in the heart like a swift arrow hitting the bulls-eye.

One Sunday afternoon, alone in peace and quiet, I decided to plunk myself down and try to conjure up some blogging ideas on our office desktop computer. 

Nothing came to me.  I felt totally devoid of ideas or even coherent thoughts.  So I logged off, drifted into our family room, settled myself on the comfy couch, and picked up my iPad mini thinking maybe I’d just play a game or read something on my Kindle app. 

Each time I fire up that tablet, it shows me app updates/notifications which I generally ignore.  But not this time.

This time, I actually blinked at the very first notification that presented itself right there in front of my eyes.  Blinked. Opened my eyes again to read it. And blinked again.

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” it said.

Say what???? Arrow to the heart.

I have a Bible app downloaded on my mini, but it has never given me a notification like this one before.

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” Bulls-eye.

All I could do was stare at that question so plainly stated on my tablet’s opening screen and believe in my heart of hearts that God was truly speaking to me.

You see, I’m mired in an ongoing struggle and it has derailed me enough to make me feel just like a freight train wreck sometimes. I have never really grappled with such negative feelings in the past. I may have run across people a time or two who I didn’t necessarily like, but never have I experienced these kind of feelings. Until now.

I have struggled daily for quite some time with ill feelings of…take a deep breath, wrestle with the guilt, and admit it boldfaced in writing…loathing for one person. Someone who lied, betrayed trust, and deeply hurt people I love.  

And I ashamedly admit that I have succumbed to too many truly negative thoughts about this person and I’ve even uttered them out loud.

As a life-long believer in Christ, I KNOW this is wrong. I KNOW it!

I KNOW this a vile emotion and I KNOW that as a Christ follower, I should do all things with love.

I KNOW that my Savior told His believers to love our enemies and pray for them.  He plainly spoke these words in the Bible – Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

And I KNOW I need to forgive.

I tried. I really did.

I fought to dispel my passionate emotions and show this person love. I prayed daily for weeks and weeks for that one soul. But as weeks turned into months and even years went by, I just stopped. The offender demonstrated no remorse, no apology, and no signs of even remotely caring about the sorrow and heartache that person’s actions caused.

As a result, disgust and abhorrence engulfed me. I found this fellow human utterly despicable and in doing so, ugly, hideous thoughts of anger filled my heart at the mention of the person’s name. 

Those feelings have shaken me to my very core. The thought that I could harbor such animosity towards another human being shocks me because never, ever in my lifetime, have I felt this way towards another. It’s proved to be a daily battle and I have prayed, I have wept, I have retreated, I have discussed it with those closest to me until I am exhausted.

And then that Sunday afternoon, my iPad confronted me. “Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?”

Am I listening? I’ve tried to. But that’s the thing.  I have tried to do it on my own. I have tried to sweep this ugliness away myself but haven’t allowed God to truly transform my heart as only He can do.

Why did this hit the bulls-eye with me? Because on that same Sunday, just a few hours before my tablet asked the question which seared my very soul, our pastor preached a message called “Clarifying Love.”  

Real, honest to goodness love. Not the giddy, fuzzy warm feelings of love, but love that is an action, love which is the “non-negotiable fundamental of Christian faith,” according to my pastor and I agree.

Sacrificial love. Love that is deliberate.

As I sat in worship listening to Pastor’s message and reading the scriptures he cited, I found my thoughts centering yet again on that person who I still harbor ill will against. That one who proclaimed with words to exhibit this kind of love yet, when the price of love was difficult, didn’t manifest it at all, and wouldn’t even try to make amends to the ones hurt most.

And I realized that I wasn’t exactly manifesting sacrificial kindness myself. When my pastor reminded me that this kind of love – or the lack of it- reveals the state of my heart, I knew his message was for me.

My heart surely has been in an awful state. I felt that check in my spirit as I read scripture that I have read many, many times before in the book of 1 John, Chapter 3 and 4:  Anyone who doesn’t love is in death.  If you do not love, you don’t know God.  Yes, yes, I knew that!

But the next passage was a full frontal assault on my heart and spirit. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. A murderer?! I tried to brush that off.  I’m not a murderer. This person who so willfully wronged my loved ones is the guilty one.  But yet, wasn’t I “slaying” this person with my negative words and unforgiving actions?

I thanked my pastor and told him it was a great message – which it was – and then jokingly told him that I knew I needed to take heed to it but I still wanted to punch this one person in the nose. And my pastor, being the great person that he is, laughed with me. He didn’t chastise me or give me that righteous look that makes one feel condemned. No, he laughed. That’s why I like him so much, he’s real.

Pushing that message to the back burner of my mind, I searched for something distracting to do later that Sunday afternoon. And that’s when my iPad challenged me.  

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?”

No, I must admit, I have not been listening to what God’s Word tells me. But it’s time – actually past time – that I do. When I don’t speak love with my words, I am wrong. But I’m even more wrong when I don’t love with my actions and in truth.

It’s not an easy task – a work in progress. I must willingly submit myself to the Lord every day to help me rid the malice from my heart and to forgive with sacrificial love even though the offender has never asked for that forgiveness and maybe never will.

Someone once told me that to be unforgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the wrongdoer to die. I’ve never forgotten that and I’ve even used those same words in a women’s Bible study on forgiveness that I once led.

Being unforgiving doesn’t hurt the one who wronged you, but it does great damage to your own soul.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

How well I know. I have been forgiving so many times in my lifetime, but this one has been the most difficult ever and I don’t understand why.

But this I do understand – God promises to help and guide me as I apply His Word to my daily life –  “Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” – if I allow Him to do so. 

Just like He did when I opened my Bible app that Sunday afternoon and discovered the verse for the day:  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” ~ Psalm 32:8

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” ― G.K. Chesterton

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com