Though Love language challenged…41 years of married romantic love

Valentines Day can be a high pressure day for couples. In fact, it can be so high pressure, that many couples break up before the holiday because they don’t want to risk getting it wrong or celebrate a love that can’t match the hype of the holiday.

DSC_0046Kevin and I have our own Valentine’s Day hurdles. Cards and gifts are a learned love language for Kevin while I love listening to the language of gifts. Our first Valentine’s Day as a dating couple was a clue that this would be a communication glitch for us. So- what does 41 years of married romantic love look like for a couple who does not speak the same Valentine’s love language?

Well- it looks like staying up late when a re-entry glitch causes concern. Yep, that happened to us on Monday night after I flew home from Chicago. I sat on our stairs while Kevin leaned against the wall. We didn’t budge until we’d talked it out, re-affirming our love even in our messiness.

41 years of married romantic love looks like not settling for no romance. We take time, make time, create time which can be easier now with no children at home. Not saying we don’t miss our kids, but there are perks of an empty nest.

41 years of married romantic love looks like sharing the load. Kevin does all our finances and taxes, household repairs and car maintenance while I manage the hospitality side of our home. We’ve found what we’re good at and, though these tasks are chores, we are thankful to be able to care well for each other in these arenas. It is pretty sexy to be so well cared for.

41 years of married romantic love looks like being cherished, held, comforted,
encouraged, supported, cheered.

41 years of married romantic love may look mundane or messy. It is in the dailiness of living life together rather than in the extra special celebrations that we find our love thrives. So we invest in the habits of walking and talking and praying together, enjoying simple meals and discussing our concerns, hopes and dreams. That dailiness can sometimes be messy when we need to engage uncomfortable issues. We are solution seekers, not content to live with ill-repaired or broken concerns even though this requires attentive, hard work.

41 years of married romantic love looks like living with integrity and honesty side-by-side while choosing not to become stuck in negativity. We may have to talk about hard things. We may need to speak the truth in love. But, we don’t have to stay stuck in a negative downward draft. We can confront and soar.

41 years of married romantic love knows we will fail. We actually plan for failure by knowing our weak areas. So we try to anticipate danger and strategize how to live our weaknesses and troubled areas well. It seriously helps to talk and pray together before we get to the danger zone.

41 years of married romantic love recognizes we disappoint ourselves and each other. We aren’t even close to being perfect spouses. So we repent, forgive, practice grace and mercy, and accept each other right where we really are with unconditional love. We do not assign blame or fault but move ahead into forgiveness and hope.

41 years of married romantic love means we choose to guard our thoughts and words. We don’t say things like, “What’s wrong with YOU?” or use words as weapons to tear down the other or build up ourselves.  We choose to guard against anything we might think or say that could hurt the one we love so much.

41 years of married romantic love requires we do not let issues or differences or challenges come between us. We purpose to remember we are on the same team, with the same ideals and goals. We sit side by side facing problems and solve them together instead of letting those issues come between us. We don’t always share the same perspective, history, priorities, or expectations about issues so we have to work hard to come to an agreement that works for both of us. We choose unity over division. We won’t let a difference win by division.

41 years of married romantic love looks like intentional living together. We both have time-consuming, demanding jobs so if we want to have energy and time for each other we have DSC_0061to plan our days around each other’s schedules. Our relationship doesn’t just happen- we have to make it happen. Which means we look for opportunities to create special moments or occasions to celebrate each other.

41 years of married romantic love looks like still learning how to love each other well. We are still asking questions, still learning, still growing and changing to become all God would have our marriage be. 41 years of married romantic love allows us to invest in each other and our relationship as if we have another 41 years of married romantic love ahead of us.

God and Lent

DSC_0133 (1)When we or those we love suffer, or we observe worldwide injustice and tragedy, we can be tempted to say, “If God was a good God, He wouldn’t let this happen.” Or, we might ask, “How can a loving God allow this to happen?”

We’re not the first to ask these questions. While Jesus hung on the cross, giving His life for everyone, the bystanders, mockers, and religious leaders were saying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” And, “He saved others, He cannot save Himself.” And, “Let Him come down from the cross and we will believe in Him.” To them, Jesus’s personal suffering proved He wasn’t God. (Matthew 27)

The season of Lent, which begins today, reminds us we worship God Who suffered to save us, God Who sent His Son to die a horrible death in our place, God Who broke all the molds to redeem us. During Lent, we make space for God who did not answer our Savior’s famous prayer in the Garden. Jesus prayed, “Please take this cup of suffering away.” God said no. Jesus surrendered.

When we suffer, we can know God understands our suffering. When God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we’d like, we can remember Jesus prayed a prayer God didn’t answer how He wanted. Yet Jesus surrendered to His Father’s will.

As Lent begins today, let’s make space for our God who is GOD. Unfathomable, untamable, full of love and mercy even in suffering. Always present. Never far away. He invites us to live all of life, the good and bad, with Him. He will walk with us no matter what cross we may be bearing because He bore His cross for you and me.

 

Renewing my mind when I wouldn’t choose and can’t change my circumstances

Written last night:
I’ll be checked in for my flight home in about 12 hours. Now, I’m lying in bed, feeling glad to be headed home to Kevin and so sad to be leaving Maggie and her sweet boys. Joy kissing sorrow; a very real, almost everyday, part of our lives.

A very early morning play time....

A very early morning play time….

I’ve received boat loads of love from sticky fingered, runny noses, hacking coughing little boys whose beauty and zest for life captivate me. Maggie has generously loved me well as we shared parenting roles while David was away. I’ve so much to be thankful for, but my heart isn’t leaning towards thanksgiving right now… it kinda wants a pity party.

What do we do when our circumstances aren’t all we’d like them to be? When joy is regularly ambushed by sorrow? It helps me to….

Acknowledge where I really am

I’m happy to be going home to Kevin and sad to be leaving my Chicago family.

Welcome my sorrow

Welcome Jesus to my sorrow… He loves all of me and you… even our sad parts

Welcome my joy

Joy does not deny or diminish sorrow

Welcome Jesus to my joy… His perspective is perfect

Live into Joy kissing Sorrow with zest

The truth is, I fly away tomorrow but we have plans for more visits, and there are wonderful tools like skype and facetime to keep us connected. From a distance we will choose to be present with each other and engage in living life together apart. Joy kissing sorrow.

This intentional awareness of where I am and where I want to be admits I can’t change my circumstances but God can help me change my mind (heart, attitude, thoughts…)

Updated at 5 am today:
I can reflect back on what I wrote as I fell asleep last night and say, “Yep, that’s where I am and were I want to be. Now, a new situation has developed. I opened my email to find NJ under a weather advisory. Snow is about to fall and accumulate. My flight was cancelled coming out due to the big blizzard two weeks ago. What will happen today?

Again- I can’t change my circumstances but I can ask God to help me “renew my mind with His truth.” My days are in His hands. He holds everything together. He tells me to not worry or be afraid. So I….

Welcome the part of me that wants to grow anxious.

Welcome Jesus to my anxious self and receive His understanding, love, acceptance- and challenge to not worry.

Welcome His presence with me… begin to focus on Him and not my anxious thoughts…

Renewing our minds is the real deal. Every day we are given large and small opportunities to choose life or death in our thoughts and our hearts. With God’s help we can choose to live life and not live into the choices that take us into negative territory. This isn’t denial, or burying, or choosing to pretend we’re OK. This is being real with where we really are while letting God take us where He dreams we can live the abundant life even when we wouldn’t choose and can’t change our circumstances.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will.

And- when that happens, we’re able to live the truth of this amazing verse- the life God wants us to live:

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

(Kevin preached on this a few Sundays ago- you can find his sermon HERE.Thanks, Love!)

love sightings….

It’s a long story so I’ll keep it simple and short. My glasses broke a week ago Sunday, the day after I arrived in Chicago for a 16 day visit. Kevin taped my glasses, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to wear taped glasses till sometime in March which is when I’ll be home long enough to have them repaired. But, obligations and false information lulled me into waiting until Thursday last week to begin looking for a solution. After checking with some local options for a repair, I went to Costco where the false info I’d been given was exposed and I realized I could be wearing taped glasses until sometime in March.

The clerk helping me at Costco was Michelle. She was the one to tell me the bad news. We looked at each other and then sank into our chairs, Michelle on the inside of the display case and me on the customer side of the case. That unison sitting, the shared, realization look of bad news dawning, told me Michelle cared. I watched as she collected herself and proceeded to solve my problem. She broke protocol, she went above and beyond, she made phone calls and advocated. The order for my new glasses went to the front of the line with a rush status. Yesterday, I went back to the store and Michelle fit the glasses to me. Perfectly.

I was a stranger to Michelle the first time we met. She listened to me explain my problem and decided it was her problem to solve. Though I was a stranger, she made me her neighbor and crossed the road to give me her best. Michelle demonstrated love to me, a stranger, and I’m beyond grateful!

This morning, I had another love sighting when Maggie called the same Dr. who had seen my oldest grandson a few days ago. Eliot had a high fever, cough, runny nose and double ear infection. It’s no fun to have one sick child while Daddy is away- now we have two. The receptionist answered with a smile in her voice and cheerfully listened to Maggie explain her youngest was now spiking a fever. With interest, care and professional aptitude, the receptionist’s loving response and attitude created assurance and calm- proving love is phoneable….

At Costco with my new glasses and my littlest grandson who was just about to spike a fever...

At Costco with my new glasses and my littlest grandson who was just about to spike a fever…

Please pass the love

I often feel overwhelmed at the lack of love in our world, the abundance of cruelty, bullying and ostracism not just on playgrounds and at schools, but by national leaders around the world, and sometimes in our families, churches and neighborhoods. Terrorists wear many disguises and come in all sizes. Some of them even live in our heads and bombard us with negative messages.

If you are like me, there are many people you feel helpless to help. But, there are people right under our noses who we can love in tangible ways. February is already 4 days old- we’ve only 10 days till Valentines Day. Would you join me as I try to “Pass the Love”? For at least the next 10 days, I want to more purposefully look for the lonely, isolated, marginalized, tired and overworked, sick and wounded and see if I can pass a little love to them.

Pass the Love Practices:

Life has many ways of creating lonely, wounded, overwhelmed people. Walk slower through the neighborhood of your life and notice who might need a little love. Notice who is on the fringe? Who is forgotten, left behind, marginalized, alone?

Share a meal with someone who may  usually eat alone

Send a card to someone who needs a bit of cheering

Lend a hand to the one who is overwhelmed

Welcome someone to a pampering routine (a pedicure, massage, walk, movie)

Use my resources to encourage/help/connect the one who doesn’t have as many resources

Take time to write or call a friend or family member

Be there for them… accompany… listen… hold… be present

Ready for this? You are probably already practicing loving the stranger, the needy, the least of these. I’d love to know some of the ways you pass the love….DSC_0008

the joy of real, in-person hugs

I’m with my Grandsons who live in Chicago- a city known for its hot and cold nature, the wind off the lake, the architecture of its downtown and ethnic neighborhoods, a city also known for its violence; more shootings happen here than in any other city.

In a few weeks, I’ll be traveling to put on a women’s retreat in the Middle East and from there I’ll travel to Turkey where I’ll meet up with Kevin and 5 others from our church. We’ll be partnering with a church on the Syrian border that has asked us to come and help them with their refugee care. They are doing the best they can but feel overwhelmed and under-resourced to  meet the refugees’ need for education and job skills training.

IMG_7072 (1)

Early morning wake-up

I’m thankful for these three amazing opportunities: extended time with my grandsons, coming alongside women who serve in a very troubled part of our world, and learning more about the refugees. Today I watched this video– it captures why I want to go to Turkey, why I care so much about the refugees, why I wish our country was more welcoming to the stranger.

In the middle of our world that is sometimes way too violent, I’m loving the hugs I’m giving and receiving… looking forward to paying them forward to others who may need a hug or two….

 

 

 

because we fail, it’s good to know how to fail well

DSC_0006 (1)My littlest grandson’s tears fall in bitter agony when he is upset. He cries loudly when he can’t; can’t do something he wants to do, can’t make something happen he wants to happen. Failure and heartbreak spark his bitter tears.Not many adults weep with such abandon.

Peter wept bitterly when he failed to be as brave and true as he thought he would / could be. Jesus had told him failure was ahead, but who of us likes to believe we will not live our best life? So when failure happens, we are profoundly disappointed. For Peter, his failure resulted in bitter tears. (Matthew 26)

Our grown-up response to failure often demands we save face, protect our dignity, and not let anyone know we have failed. After all, if we have failed, people may consider us failures. We’re afraid of being defined by our failure while often owning the disappointment as a negative part of ourselves rather than an issue we struggle to conquer.

Peter and Jesus teach us how to handle failure.

Their example allows us to know we will fail. Just knowing we will fail can prepare us to fail well even as we strive to not fail. Then, when we fail, we can

  • Recognize our failure
  • Mourn authentically (whatever that means for that time and situation)
  • Receive forgiveness and restoration

Jesus knew how upsetting Peter’s failure was to him. So, after some time had passed, Jesus reminded Peter that Peter really did love Jesus and that Jesus was trusting Peter to do some pretty big things in His Kingdom. (John 21) Peter’s restoration took a bit of time but his future successes grew out of his failure.

DSC_0004Because we are imperfect beings with weaknesses and brokenness, we will fail. Even though we don’t want to. Even when we believe we won’t!

When we fail, it can help to cry bitter tears even as we ask for forgiveness and move towards restoration. It helps to do this with Jesus and others.

It’s downright hard to fail, let alone fail well. We don’t like to see or admit our failures. We definitely don’t like to feel grief or take time to mourn. This is a hard process to do on our own. Jesus came alongside Peter to help him and He comes alongside you and me to help us. He has also placed people in our lives to accompany us through our times of success and failure.

When my littlest grandson wails his grief, it usually takes someone lovingly holding him to overcome his failure. He burrows his little body into our arms and snuggles until the tears dry. Then he is ready to try life again. Happy and full of smiles!

There is such a richness to processing our failures well. Taking time to humbly admit and grieve our failures is an important path to living our best possible lives. When we live our griefs authentically, we strip away pretension and pressure to be more than we really are. In the grief process we acknowledge our need for a Savior and in the company of Jesus and the people dear to us, we find comfort, hope and, in time, restoration.