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It’s all about love

Valentine’s Day 2018 may be a memory, but February makes me think about love like November reminds me to be thankful. If it could only last longer than a month, I’d be a better person.

Sweet William and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a couple days before the event. We knew the 14th would be filled with appointments and obligations. We’ve been together long enough to know a number on the calendar is not as important as what is in our hearts.

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On the morning of the 14th I woke with thoughts of love on my mind. I put Steven Curtis Chapman’s All About Love on the CD player and hummed familiar tunes as I prepared whole grain pancakes with bananas for our breakfast.

 

I sent messages to my precious ones who are miles away, the texts a meager substitute for the hugs I want to give them on Valentine’s Day.  But it was what I had to give. I received a quick loving response from our son that made me cry. His words were like sweet oil on my heart, soothing and tender.

In a minute or so “I Will Be Here” began to play, a song that means a lot to Sweet William and me, the musical message of commitment that weathers storms and holds fast, no matter what. And I cried some more.

As I stood at the back door looking out the window while tears fell freely, I thanked God for His love that makes our love possible. For love is from God. If we would see God, we should look for love where it flows freely from hearts who know love, who have been loved and have learned to give love in return.

I think how God’s love has covered a multitude of sins, the ones that would have drowned me and sucked the life from my lungs. Because of His love, grace has taught me to love and forgive others, those sins covered as well. I stagger at something so amazing and struggle to grasp its enormity.

It is easy for me to see God in the world that often denies His existence. I look for love where it is being acted out. It isn’t just the romantic kind that made my stomach flutter at a glimpse of my special someone, though that love has a place.

Love shines brightly when it is hard to walk out, when it is an act of will that requires all we have to give. I see it in the mother who prays and belives for a prodigal to return. In the father who takes care of and provides for his family by working a job he dislikes. In the adult child who gives patient and tender care to an aging and sometimes forgetful parent. In the spouse who lives the promise of for better or worse. In the couple who leave all that is familiar to show Jesus to the world. In the family who opens their home to a troubled teen.

As I ponder the kind of love that comes from the heart of a loving God, the last song of All About Love CD plays and Chapman sings:

“A song of living sacrifice
For every moment that I live and breathe,

This is a moment made for worshipping.

Love is from God. He gives it to us lavishly through Jesus Christ, holding nothing back, like a rushing river flowing out of its banks. As I stand in His presence and refresh myself with a deep drink of it, I know I am loved.  It’s only through Him I am able to love in return.

This love, this day is a moment made for worshipping.

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Sunday grace

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalm 100:5

If it had not been for the Lord’s mercy, where would we be?

When we faced each other 46 years ago, me dressed in ruffled white and you, so handsome in your dark tux and ruffled shirt, we made promises and could not anticipate how they would be tested, how we would be tested.

We climbed high mountains and crossed troubled waters, wondering if we would come out alive. We did, but we bear the scars.

We tread the daily, the mundane, the getting up each morning to work and take care, to build and repair, and then the next day we did it again.

We have lived years as the two made one. More than two-thirds of my span of days has been spent with you. We are intertwined, you and I, like vines on a trellis.

We are different in so many ways, me the quiet reserved one, you the friendly talker. You are punctual and I am not, and you quote Brad Paisley’s “Waitin’ on a Woman” with a patient smile on your face.

We have loved and lost. We fought for faith when the Lord gave and when He took away. We have shared experiences that are ours alone. We have come far and learned life lessons on the journey together.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without you beside me these years. You are still the one, my only one, Sweet William.

For the Lord is good, His mercey is everlasting. He has been faithful and full of compassion to us.

And today is full of grace.

Sunday grace.

 

 

Say good-bye to Thanksgiving and hello to Christmas

Let the Christmas music begin! Sounds of carols on the radio echo through the rooms this morning. I pulled no less than three dozen Christmas CDs and cassettes (remember cassettes in their chunky little plastic boxes?) from their hiding place deep in the large old radio cabinet turned music center, and I’m ready for the next season to begin. Music is prime at the Wright House.

Thanksgiving is complete, a two-day event for me and mine. Having extended family with which to gather makes Thanksgiving my all-time favorite holiday event. When you are an only child and neither parent is alive, there is a feeling of being an orphan that only another only child could understand. Surrounded by my cousins and their young comforts me. So I do not rush the season of Thanks in all its togetherness and food, glorious food.

Perhaps you are among those who want the house fully decorated in red and green with trees blinking twinkle lights before the guests arrive for turkey and dressing. Go for it. We can still be friends. But not me. There are pumpkins and autumn hues still gracing the mantel and front door this morning. There are a few leftovers in the frig waiting to be enjoyed one more time, attesting to our Thanksgiving meal.

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Just because I’m not decorating yet doesn’t mean I’m not thinking Christmas thoughts. I did a little Black Friday shopping yesterday from the comfort of my kitchen table, my favorite way to shop. While I’m only now listening to Christmas music through the sound system, my piano students and I have been playing carols since October because that’s what musicians do. As we prepare for a December recital, notes of Silent Night and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen are dancing in our heads and through our fingers.

Red and green may not be my primary colors yet, but I’ve been on the lookout for bargains and making a gift list. Last week I stopped for a little browsing turned shopping. I was really looking for half-off sales of fall pumpkins, which I found by the way. As I was waiting in an unusually long check-out line, with one lone checker, the woman ahead of me looked as though she were on a shopping spree with her baskart full and overflowing. The line grew longer behind me as I watched the baskart being emptied of its contents.

Another employee finally came to open a second register and announced, “I can take someone here.” The woman who was last in my line quickly scooted her cart right over there to be first in this new line. I was a little steamed since I’d been standing there a bit longer than she had. Maybe several minutes longer.

Other people moved to the faster moving check-out line, and a couple of them asked me if I wanted to go ahead of them. Bless their courteous hearts. I stayed where I was, figuring if I moved behind all the others who used to be behind me, it would take me as long.

By the time it was my turn to lay my purchases on the counter, the young woman checking and bagging was a bit frazzled. And I was too, feeling cheated of my rightful place in the process and frustrated at those who think of themselves more than others.

At that moment I realized I had a simple choice, to continue in my exasperation or to attempt to be patient. It wasn’t the checker’s fault that someone had a hundred or so items to purchase (slightly exaggerating here), nor was it her fault this person was trying to use a summer coupon for one of her items. None of the events were her doing as she was just doing her job to the best of her ability.

As I was finishing my purchases, the Holy Spirit reminded me this is the season to practice patience and kindness, especially with retail workers. I was in retail once, and I recall dealing with an unhappy public. It’s my turn to give those who are waiting on me a little slack, to understand they may have been on their feet a really long time today, to appreciate the fact that they would like to be home with their families also in the season of holiday rush.

It is not only those in retail who need a gentle approach, but also fellow shoppers, drivers on the road (though some be crazy!), and with my regular people. After all, the proclamation of “peace and goodwill” is no less important in 2017 than when it was first told to a group of shepherds.

As we close the Thanksgiving celebration, let’s not forget how much we have, how blessed we are, how good God is.

Take the challenge with me to practice patience, kindness, and gentleness with those we meet during a busy and stressful season. Spread some joy and share lots of love. Smile at everyone. We never know what someone else is enduring right now. Let compassion and understanding be our motivation to show the world that the peace of God really is available in a world filled with bad news.

I believe it will increase our enjoyment of the Christmas season. Jesus came in the midst of a troubled culture, a world in strife, a people distressed, offering Himself in the most vulnerable way. He asks us to serve one another as He served while on the earth.

It was for love that Christ came. We can be His love extended if we really want to.
  

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P.S.  For those who are just thinking about getting ready to decorate, like me, here are some helpful thoughts before you begin from the Lazy Genius Collective.

 

Sunday grace

Sweet William and I attended a wedding last night, the lovely fairly-land like atmosphere setting the mood for a special occasion.

I listened as the officiant read familiar verses from 1 Corinthians 13 during the ceremony:

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.

These familiar words are easy to read and easy to promise. But they are challenging to put into practice. I thought of how long it has taken me to learn what love really is.

Thus, the importance of the covenant of marriage, the “until death parts us” portion that assures we will not bail out when I lose patience, when the spouse is unkind, when we become selfish and easily provoked and keep all sorts of records of offences and can recite them in the heat of an argument.

While God’s love is perfect, it takes a lifetime to perfect love in us.

I’ve learned to love better over the decades of marriage to my Sweet William. And he has learned also. I’m thankful we kept trying to get it right when it was hard, that by grace alone we did not give up and give in when it seemed an easier way out.

Allowing God to love us, accepting His love, and letting Him love others through us is the way to 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. It is what we need to endure.

Sunday grace.

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About Valentine’s Day

Culture will try to tell us what to think and how to act. The media, in all its various venues, formulates ideas they want us to accept. If they say it often enough, we tend to believe it is true, especially if it is on the internet.

How does that relate to Valentine’s Day?

We are told the day is for lovers and sweethearts, couples and spouses.  We must buy things, like candy and cards.  Spend money on jewelry and flowers.  If you are not currently in a relationship, or your sweetie forgets you, or you don’t get something costly, well you just must not be loved.

Please, don’t believe that lie.

love-wordLove is from God.  It is His essence, who He is. Anything good in this world, any smidgen of kindness, any beauty, any joy comes from the Creator of good and perfect gifts who first initiated love.

His love is displayed in the warm sun, the air I breathe, the faces of my children and grandchildren.  His love is in my Sweet William’s embrace, in the smile of a friend, and in the strength to take care of another.

God’s love is shown by strangers who let me in the line of traffic, by the customer service person who helps me resolve a problem, by my neighbor telling me she is just a phone call away.

God shows His love for me by showering me with grace all day long, gifts like a good cup of coffee, a gorgeous sunrise, finding our Maisie who was lost, and a phone conversation that encourages.

But the very most extravagant love God ever demonstrated was the life of His Son to a world that did not recognize Him, did not welcome Him, did not love Him back.  The greatness of His love was manifest in this fact: He loved us when we were unlovable, unfaithful, unholy.  He loved first.

Any good in this world is because He gave love. He lavished it on the ones made in His likeness, the very ones who turn their back on Him and use His name to curse.  The ones who don’t believe.  The ones who choose their own determined way instead of running to His beckoning arms of forgiveness and mercy.

Stories and legends abound about the man named Valentine, how he was kind and loving, and so we celebrate him with a special day. We call him a saint. We are enticed to spend money in his honor.  Sorry, it’s just not about that.

Love is serving, giving of oneself, sacrificing our own wants for someone else.

Love forgives and doesn’t hold grudges. Love does not get offended easily.  Love is patient and kind, not jealous or prideful.  Love causes us to consider another first and act in loving ways, no matter what.  Love longs for truth and doing the right thing.  Love bears up under the hardest of circumstances, continues to believe God is good, and trusts Him for power to keep on going in the grace that strengthens.

Love does not end.  Not when divorce divides.  Not when loved ones die.  Not when words wound.  Not when distance or misunderstanding or unresolved conflict separates. Love keeps giving, keeps restoring, keeps healing, keeps seeking.

Because God is love.  And love comes from God.  And nothing, absolutely nothing can separate me from His love.

This love is worth remembering and celebrating on a day in February and every other day of the year.

Revised and reposted from February 2015

 

 

February begins

The origin of the word February is surprising to me. I’ve always simply thought of it as the month of love.

With the advent of Valentines Day, merchants discovered another way to entice us to spend money, reds and pinks showing up in stores early last month. Cards to honor the day of hearts and flowers flood the isles, and TV commercials encourage us to make diamonds the proof of undying affection.

But what if . . .  what if we really did practice a little more love during February? Not the gushy, mushy vaporous emotions or the once-a-year expensive gifts that last but a little while before they are forgotten and we move on to other “more important” endeavors.

What if we tried scattering a little more kindness this month, without it turning into a spending spree or a guilt trip? What if we gave out of the abundance of our hearts, out of the grace we have been given?

We take on the character of God when we become givers. God gave. God gives. God will give eternally.

“What if the truth is every tremor of kindness here erupts in a miracle elsewhere in the world?” — Ann Voskamp,  The Broken Way

Chapter 5 of Ann’s new book, a gift from a friend, ignites something this morning as I read about her and her children leaving unexpected gifts all over the city, creating smiles and joy in their wake.

One of the dots on my Bucket List is “Always be kind.” I wish that just writing that down and marking it a priority made it always be true in my every day. It isn’t. I need a reminder. Often.

Scatter Kindness 8x10 Canvas Quote[purchase the canvas at this Etsy shop]

So I am challenging myself to Scatter Kindness in February, to find unusual and unexpected ways of giving to others out of my own abundance. Thoughts, ideas already drift in my head. I would gladly bring a few more smiles to the faces I encounter regularly and those who just happen along my pathway.

This month, February, I will make it my goal to Scatter Kindness, to Sweet William first for his is the face I see most often and the one I can so easily take for granted. I will endeavor to Scatter Kindness to those I know and to those I don’t, to the ones in my circle of  influence and to those I may pass only once in this life.

It will be challenging because I am too often self-centered. Perhaps the focus on others will alleviate my struggle for a while. At least for the next 28 days.

And like the dandelion fluff I’ve scattered with my breath on scores of summer days, perhaps one seed will take root in another heart. Perhaps Scattering Kindness will grow and flourish in someone else.

This morning’s radiance splashes pinks and oranges in the sky from my eastern window. The Spirit whispers, “I love you. This is for you.”

The world is chaotic and dysfunctional. I cannot fix it or make people happy. But I can show them they are loved by simple, kind deeds. And “no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone is just asking if they can be loved.”*

February could turn into a bountiful opportunity to show God’s love through small acts of kindness. There is the chance it could change me and my little corner of the world.

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* Quote from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

The wedding

The couple is young, but there is a depth in them not often seen in their age group.

I met her through a mutual grief. Death often draws people together. I shared my own devastation at my mother’s death when I was in my thirties. She was in her twenties when it happened to her.

We had breakfasts and lunches and did lots of talking, as women do, in between bites of food and tear drops. We came to call each other friend.

I had the privilege of being part of her wedding through my gift of music.

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I’ve sat on many a piano and organ bench during my musical life, watching from the sidelines as a couple promises with all their hearts to keep the vows spoken. I believe they mean those words at the moment. Too often I have seen those words fall and shatter into tiny pieces as troubles and trials and all manner of life situations bombard the two who were meant to be one.

It happens and I cast no stones, because I live in a delicate glass house that at one time almost fragmented into a million pieces.

My young friend’s wedding was a sacred event. From the songs chosen to the intentional sharing of a new family Bible, the service was planned with care and with the desires of a husband and wife who want to be all God has planned for them.

I look forward to watching this young couple grow in love and acceptance of each other. And I anticipate seeing them be vessels of God as He points them in His direction and fills them with Himself.

Their lives at this moment are a beautiful thing to behold.

But lest we see things with only rose-colored glasses, there will be challenges. They will feel like they have hit a wall sometimes. They will not always experience the euphoria of “being madly in love” as they did on that special wedding day.

Such is the way of a man and a woman joined together in holy matrimony. What draws one to the other is a mystery of sorts, but what keeps them together is grace. God’s tender mercies and everlasting love do what is not humanly possible.

He designs for iron to sharpen iron and never were there so many sparks as in a marriage. We learn to be patient with one another’s idiosyncrasies and personality bents. We adjust our standards of orderliness and punctuality, of being the life of the party and the need for alone time.

We learn to speak the truth in love, to ask to be forgiven and to forgive in return. We decide to pick our battles and then fight the good fight, not tearing at the heart of the one we are called to love but attacking the problem.

And we are called to love. Love is that action word that keeps demanding much of us when the cozy, fuzzy sensations wane and the “I just don’t love him anymore”  non-affection surfaces.

That is not the time to give up and give in. No.  NO.  NO!  Do. Not. Give. Up. 

Studies show if couples will stick it out when the marriage looks lost, the feelings can and often do return. Ask those who have celebrated those 30, 40, 50 plus years of marriage if they are glad they didn’t throw in the towel when the towel was dirty and smelly and full of holes.

I for one will say, “Yes, I’m glad we did not give up.”

God uses a spouse to make us better in so many ways. I could list them, but let your own ideas develop in your mind. The rough edges of who we are rub like sandpaper until those places begin to smooth out little by little. It’s irritating to say the least and often painful in the truest sense.

I’ve not really liked the process, but I am thankful for the results.

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Sweet William and I celebrate 45 years of marriage today. They have been hard-fought and grace-filled years. There have been joyous and gut-wrenching seasons. We’ve been healthy, strong, able to take on the world together. We’ve been sick, weak, desperate for relief. We have laughed together and cried together. We have questioned and wondered and grieved together. We have rejoiced at births and wept at gravesides together. We have attended church, Bible studies, and counseling together. We have built strong walls and torn down barriers together. We have climbed tall mountains that looked impossible and walked through valleys of lush green and still waters together.

We have prayed together.

The key word here is “together.” We are still together. Thanks be to God for His amazing grace and His gift of enduring love. I’m so glad He did not give up on us when we would have given up except for His mercies.

We are together until death shall part us.

Steven Curtis Chapman sings it for us and for you who are still together.