An authentic love

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Many times I am asked to explain what I mean when I talk about feeling close to Jesus and having more than a superficial relationship with Him.  How can I say he is my best friend?  How do I know when He is guiding me in a certain direction?

When I was very young, I was taken to church by my mother and grandmother and as I grew it continued to be part of my life.  In my pre-teen years, I went for the fun and games, to see my friends and because I genuinely wanted to be good.  I wanted to do the right thing and I was afraid of the consequences if I didn’t.  Somehow, in spite of all of the lessons telling me that Jesus died for me and how much He loved me, I couldn’t wrap my head around what it meant to be in a relationship with Him.  There were times I felt more inspired than others, but I still didn’t grasp the depths of His goodness at the time.

Many years later, after multiple failures and the death of my mother, I found myself in a bad place.  I felt alone, insecure and without much hope.  As a young wife and mother, I didn’t feel like I had anything left to offer the ones I loved.

But slowly and surely, the things I had learned in my youth came back to me and the timely words of a friend reminded me that there was somewhere to find strength and peace.  I found myself thinking about God and wondering what it would feel like to run to Him and cast all my cares in His lap.  Would it work?  My mind, educated in the bible, said yes but my emotions were a wreck and my doubts numerous.

I don’t remember the exact day and time like some people do when they have life-changing experiences, but I do remember feeling like I didn’t have anything to lose.  Why not cry out to God?  I was at the end of me (and therein lies the key).  That was almost twenty years ago and I haven’t regretted my decision to fully surrender to Jesus, not one time.

On the contrary, my love for Him has grown by leaps and bounds.  He has been my friend when there was no one else who could possibly understand me.  He has forgiven me though my sin was deep and He freely gave this precious gift of salvation.  All I had to do was believe and ask and surrender my life to Him.

Has it been easy?  No, I would be lying if I answered that with a yes.  There were times I felt weak and frail when He has been my strength.  When I felt faithless and my shortcomings seem to come in droves, He was long suffering.  When my tears fell like rain, He taught me to have joy in spite of my circumstances.  When I was afraid and fearful, He spoke peace.  Making a decision to surrender didn’t make things perfect and life still had it’s curve balls to throw but now I had a perfect God to run to, Who gave strength like no other and a peace that I had never known my entire life.

Having said all that, I still haven’t fully explained how I feel so close to Him, why I am certain of His abiding presence and direction.  How do I know how much He loves and and how can I confess such an overwhelming love for Him?  Intentional time spent with Him, loving Him, getting to know Him and in the process, getting to know me.

The only way I know how to explain is this.  When you love someone (and I’m not talking about the superficial relationships this culture is wrought with), you spend time with them.  You get to know them.  You read their notes or letters over and over again because you want to discern how they really feel about you.  You’ll take the time to discover what moves them.  It’s not a “hook-up” or a “best friends with benefits” type of attraction.  It’s way deeper than that.  You put them first and even in the midst of life’s craziness, they remain a priority.  You look forward to their touch and you share with them your heartfelt thoughts and desires.  You turn to them for direction and advice because they know you so well, they are the best to give it.  You take every opportunity you can to be in their presence.  It’s intentional.

This made all the difference for me.  I went from feeling like I was outside looking in, to a beautiful, holy relationship with my Maker.

I felt inspired to share this on this beautiful rainy Sunday.  We will all have our perfect sunshiny days, but we will all also experience the rain.  Let us love Him intentionally, placing Him in the proper place in our lives.  When the rain comes, He wants to be your shelter.

 

Later

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LATER

I will tell him I love him later,
I will whisper it in his ear
Not now, but I’ll do it later
He knows, but he still likes to hear

I will call and apologize later
Right now I’ll just sit and stew
It’s not my fault that she took it that way
We just have different points of view

We will play catch outside a little later
After the dishes are done
When your bedroom is back in order
Then I promise we’ll go have some fun

The frustrating thing about later
Is that later sometimes doesn’t come
So let’s do it right now and not later
Please don’t wait til’ the sinking sun

You can’t change their spots

 

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My love and I in 94′

Since I like to impart knowledge to the younger crowd, I listen to their conversations with great attentiveness to things that bother them.  When I hear them discussing relationships, my ears perk up because I have been married for 22 years and let’s just say I’ve learned a lot.  So, in an attempt to save someone a little heartache or just to make you think, I wanted to share some thoughts.  If you are currently in a relationship, it would behoove you to take great care to notice the things that irritate you now.  Once you have been married for a few years, they will irritate you more.  That cute little snuffling snore will become something you despise.  Trust me on this one.  I write more about it at Sleeping with the Enemy .

A good marriage is work; it doesn’t just happen and it’s not 50/50 like so many say; it requires each giving 100% for the best shot at making it work.  Because it isn’t easy, you should be careful when you begin to consider a spouse; someone you intend to spend your life with (because in my opinion that should be the goal at the onset).  If you are looking at it as something you can jump out of at a whim, you’re going in with the wrong attitude. Unfortunately, that seems to be how many younger folks see it, but I digress.

One of the things to consider is the fact that you cannot change someone.  They are who and what they are and no amount of whining, griping, threatening, withholding or pouting is going to change that.  That will only serve to make both of you more miserable.  So, if you already have a growing list of the many things you do not like about your “love”, you better think long and hard about this.

When you’ve been married a couple of years and the baby has been up all night, the ac is out and your checkbook is in the negative, it takes patience and stick-to-itiveness.  At times like these, when your knight in shining armor has let his facial hair get all prickly and he is sitting in his favorite spot in his boxers all puffed up like toad, you have to dig deep, sister.   It’s not always like the movies…wait, it’s rarely ever like the movies.

What I am trying to convey is, don’t settle now thinking that your Mr. (or Mrs.) with the problem(s) is going to change once you marry, or once you have a baby, or once they get a job they like.  If they have an addiction problem, they are going to carry it into the marriage and, in my opinion, keep it until they allow God to deliver them.  If your “girl” has a spending problem, and you are very frugal, think twice or you might be paying off credit card debt for decades.  If they aren’t romantic and you are sappy and schmaltzy and not happy if you aren’t having dinner by candlelight, think it through.   I hear way too many of you young ones say, “Things will change when X happens”.  No, they won’t.  Don’t fool yourself.

No marriage is perfect, but figure out what your deal breakers are.  I am saying this as a woman with a failed first marriage that lasted 10 years and a 2nd one that has lasted 22.  I love my husband dearly and I am grateful that we can talk things through and we have overcome many obstacles and have been through many storms together.  We had family values in common and that is important.  We don’t believe in going to bed mad so we don’t let things fester and get bitter over them.  We are experts in the art of compromise.  I would be remiss if I didn’t give glory to God for giving me the faith, grace and love to be a godly wife as I’m sure things wouldn’t have gone as well without His divine hand.

Remember what real love is and ask yourself if this is the kind of love you have.  Obviously we all fail at some of this at times, but following is a good set of scriptures to meditate on and have been a source of strength for me in the darker hours.  In the words of St Paul – Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

I am mom

Dearest Mother BIG tag

Dearest Mother BIG tag (Photo credit: AForestFrolic)

From the time you see that soft, wiggly, bawling baby, you fall in love.  You become a fierce protector.  You are mom.  This tiny gift from heaven rocks your world and melts your heart.

You vow she will always be safe in your arms, sheltered by your love, kept far away from all evil and danger.  She needs you.

She will be given every opportunity, receive plenty of praise and encouragement along with proper discipline and instruction.

As the years go marching by in this journey, you stumble, yes you even fall a time or two, but you do your best.  You learn quickly that this thing called parenting is no easy feat.  Your best isn’t perfect, but you never give up.  You defend, you teach, your love grows deeper.

She drives you crazy sometimes.  She reminds you of when you were that age.  She makes you want to tell your mom you’re sorry again.

She grows up overnight and it seems she doesn’t need you as much anymore.   Thankfully, she still calls and asks your advice.  She doesn’t always take it.  You probably drive her crazy sometimes.  You have dreams and goals and hopes for her.  She has different ones, but you will love her anyway.

Your love grows ever deeper and she returns that love.  She begins to realize that you often make sense and tells you so.  You watch her become more like you in many ways.  You become one of her closest confidantes.

She’s not perfect; she stumbles and yes, even falls sometimes, but she gets right back up. You are her biggest fan and you secretly hope she got that tenacity from you.

Your role as a parent never ends; it merely changes.  You continue to pray that as the years pass and you both continue to grow older, that you are always what she needs you to be.  You are mom.

Empty nest but a full heart

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As the curtains gently sway with the beautiful fall breeze on this quiet Thursday morning, I sit in the midst of the leftovers from the wedding; the items that they couldn’t quite squeeze into the very packed black Jetta now bound for Texas;  the one with “just married” fading on the back window.

As I take a few moments to reflect on the past several days, I smile broadly and my heart warms.  She said, “The wedding ceremony and the reception were everything I wanted them to be”. (and wasn’t that the goal?)

We were blessed before, during and after the wedding with friends and family who smoothed out the potential wrinkles prior to their occurring with their support, love and encouragement.  During the wedding ceremony, love permeated the crowd; the love between the bride and groom and also the love felt for both of them by so many family members and friends who came to share in the joy of their nuptials.

This now official “empty nester” knows that days will come when the sense of loss brushes across her heart in large, sweeping strokes.  But, at this moment I feel nothing but excitement and thankfulness; excitement about all that God has in store for them and thankfulness that another daughter has found love and happiness with her soul mate.

Yes, mom and dad may be all alone now but as the youngest takes that final leap and clears the nest; we will look on and smile knowing she has been equipped to soar.

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Shuffling a little slower now

-Elderly couple comfort each other

-Elderly couple comfort each other (Photo credit: Gordon T Lawson)

They walked out of CVS together, cars impatiently waiting for them to make their way slowly through the crosswalk.  I watched the struggle with empathy, silently imagining what their long history together might have entailed.  They both approached the car and she slowly and carefully got in the passenger side.  He opened the driver’s side car door wincing, as if the mere action of pulling it open caused him pain.  Then, he took his time to gently fold himself down into the seat.  After several minutes, they were on their way.

My eyes see an elderly couple; the lady had white hair and a matching polyester outfit gracing her petite frame, full makeup and glasses and sensible shoes.  She had a plastic bag sporting the store logo in her hand and the contents, 2 boxes of frosted flakes,were visible.  I smiled.  The man was stooped over, bald and moved as though arthritis or some other painful disease was taking its toll on him.  I could see the vexation in his eyes as he struggled to do the small tasks that only a few years ago were likely very easy for him.

As they drove away, their mouths moving in conversation, I began to wonder if they felt as old as they looked.  I wondered if there are things they can no longer do, and if that frustrates them greatly.  I thought about children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and wondered if they had any of these and if so, did they visit?  Were the boxes of frosted flakes for them or their grandchildren?  Were their lives happy ones or did they face each day with increasing loneliness or fear at what the future holds?

I remember a time, not long ago in the grand scheme of things, when my first thought may have been that they probably shouldn’t even be driving and I may have been one of those impatient drivers in the crosswalk, rushing about.  As I grow older myself, my patience increases and my compassion grows.  I am reminded once again, that life is short.  We need to live out every moment and love the ones God has placed in our lives, to tell them and to show them each and every day.  Life can be stressful and we are all too busy with so many things that don’t really matter.  Can we show more respect, love and appreciation to the elderly in our community?

I know how it can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Sometimes you do make the time to reach out and love.  You may call or visit or write, yet, the person on the receiving end doesn’t seem to appreciate it or you feel like it’s never enough.

Whatever the case, do it anyway.  Make a day brighter, help quench the pangs of loneliness.  For you and I, my friends, will be there soon enough.

The Two Anniversaries

This week holds two special days for me; one is the anniversary of my marriage, which symbolizes a beautiful beginning and the other is the anniversary of the death of my mother which epitomizes an agonizing final chapter in the book of my life.

Since 1996, I have endeavored to honor both dates with all of the respect and enthusiasm I could muster.  The first few years after mom died, it was especially difficult to enjoy my anniversary.  There was that “other” day coming on its heels, the one where the sky always looks the same as it did on that fateful day and details that would be better off forgotten gallop through my thoughts.

As I have grown older and realize the brevity of life and the importance of enjoying it, I often think of how my mom embraced life.

She was a dreamer, a romantic, intelligent and funny.  She lived through some tough things; she lost her mom, her dad, her grandmother and a brother.  She went through a heart-wrenching divorce.

However, if you were to inquire of anyone in my family as to who absolutely lit up a room when they entered; they would tell you quickly that it was my mother.  She is often remembered for her smile, even when in the midst of adversity.

I will never forget the first time she met my husband and how much she adored him.  She said, ‘he’s a keeper”.  I reminisce on the first (sometimes bumpy) years of marriage when I dialed her number seeking solace and more importantly someone willing to blindly take my side.  Although I’m still not sure exactly how she pulled it off, my outlook was often altered by the time I hung up the phone.  She would cause me to look inward, and sometimes identify (much to my chagrin!) when I was the problem.

So, in a strange, somewhat enchanted way, the two days are combined into the fond memories of my mother, the wonderful times we had together; and the beautiful memories of my marriage and the hopes and dreams of many years to come.

There is also the knowledge that she would want me to give my anniversary the recognition it deserves and celebrate it to the fullest.  She would flash that big ole’ smile and give us her blessings all over again if she could.

Once again, my memories, which threatened to take on a life of melancholy this afternoon, have only catapulted me to a happiness that comes from knowing that I have been and continue to be loved and nurtured by some of the best!  I’m sitting here with your smile, mom and happy tears.

For me?

Author: Bagande

Okay ladies, let’s get real.  It’s almost Valentines Day.  For those of us who are married or involved with someone, a large percentage of us must admit that yes, in fact, we do want something.

Granted, some of us are easier to please than others.  There are those who say, “I really don’t want anything” who really mean it.  I don’t understand these people at all, so I’m not going to spend any more time exploring that.

You have those who are perfectly content to receive a romantic card.  These will tend to be the same people who like to give cards.  Then, you have what I believe to be the largest group of all, those of us who want gifts.  I belong to this group so it’s the one I’m most familiar with.

The thing I wanted to explore is why it isn’t enough just to receive from our “loves”.  We must also share, post, tweet, call a friend and dish out our good fortune with as many as possible.  So, it seems just the gift isn’t quite enough, we need pictures and at least a little fanfare.  Perhaps the chocolate is a little bit sweeter once we brag about it to our friends.  Oh, we don’t call it bragging.  We share.

I must grudgingly admit that I have done this – Bragging, masquerading like sharing, that is.  This is embarrassing to admit because I feel like it makes me look adolescent.  But, as I’ve said again and again, many personal secrets just don’t seem that sacred anymore; I’m way happier being transparent, partly because I know without a shadow of a doubt, I am not alone.

It’s funny how sometimes either our pride or some deep-rooted insecurity causes us to think we need approval from others.  We need to make sure, especially with our closest friends, that they love him too and that they realize he really does love us.

However, to cover all the bases we don’t always have the wrong motive and often we really are just sharing something wonderful that happened in our lives with people who we love, who love us back.  This is the good kind of sharing; nothing to be ashamed of here at all.

Truth be told, I love my husband and I don’t need a gift from him to prove his love; he shows it every day.  It’s bigger than the biggest card or heart he could buy.  This should be enough for me and my motives should be remain pure in all of my conversations, pictures and posting about it.

Hopefully as the day set aside for all things romantic approaches, we will remember this and think about our knight in shining armor who took his time to make the day a little more special for us and not worry so much about what others need to know or think about it.

Also, there are a lot of hurting people out there who have either lost someone by death, or recently divorced, even recently broke up who just might not need to hear our sap.  Let’s be thoughtful regarding this as well.

And if you do get a gift, even if it’s a light up plastic flower from the corner convenience store, be thankful.

I’m hoping my love remembers the dark chocolate 🙂

The day fingernails won me over

I was a jealous little girl and I couldn’t bear the idea of not getting the lion’s share of the attention from any adults I might spend time with.  This was such a problem with me that I would plot and plan evasive little schemes to get to have my granny all to myself.  If my brother and sister wanted to go stay with her I would remind them that granny didn’t have television and they would miss their favorite programs.  Or, I would pretend that I wasn’t going after all and tell them what fun we would have, only to sneak out and go to her house before they had time to realize I was going.  I was often a sneaky, deceitful child in my dealings with them.

I remember one time granny seriously considered adopting a young girl and I was absolutely devastated and I let her know it.  Looking back, I realize how incredibly selfish and self-centered I was, but at the time I guess I didn’t realize that granny had enough love to go around.  There is no justification for my feeling this way; I was surrounded by people who loved me and let me know it daily.  However, I strive to be transparent here, and this is just the way it was for a long time.

You can just imagine my dismay when I learned that my uncle, who at the time was away at college, was bringing his girlfriend home.  A girlfriend?!?  Are you kidding me?  This just couldn’t be.  I could not allow this to happen.  My uncle had been one of my babysitters when I was young and he held a special place in my heart.   There just wasn’t room for another woman in the picture.

Somehow, in spite of my objections to her very presence on earth, much less with MY uncle, I managed to ride to the airport to pick them up on her first trip home to meet the family.  My little heart was pounding, and my mind was whirling with ideas of how dreadful she would be.  I don’t remember the exact details but I do remember that I ended up sitting next to her in the car on the ride home.  She was tiny and had quite the southern accent.  She had beautiful bouncy brown hair, a tiny splash of freckles and the most beautiful naturally long fingernails I had ever seen.  She let me play with her nails all the way home and looking back, I wonder if that drove her crazy at the time, if she hated it that I sat there pulling, probing and picking at her nails.

Needless to say, before we even completed the hour drive home, she had won my heart and has been carving out her own private place in it ever since.  Not long after that (I don’t think they were married when we first met, but my memory may fail me on that point) she became my aunt.  She has always shown me unconditional love and taught me a lot about marriage and family and my life is richer because she has been a part of it.  I know everyone in my family would agree.

It’s funny because her son and his family were visiting me this past weekend and during church one of his girls sat in my lap and begin to play with my fingernails and it brought back such a flood of fond memories. And you know what?  I didn’t hate it at all; it was precious.

The comforts of home

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is (Photo credit: countrykitty)

I am a home body; always have been, probably always will be.  I love to be at home.  Some folks immediately throw those of us who feel this way into the “boring” category and that is quite alright.  Like I’ve said before, one of the wonderful things about my forties is being superbly comfortable with myself and my decisions.

In the early mornings, I love the solitude. the quiet times with my bible and my coffee, knowing the ones I love are sleeping peacefully and safe and secure.  As the house begins to come alive I love the way they need me for something; the missing shoes, the sandwich for lunch, that one shirt that just has to be worn today, the signature for school.  After the chaos when all is quiet again, after some time has passed, I miss them.

In the afternoons I delight in being here when they come home, hearing the front door open and either, “Babe” or “Mom” called out.  I love knowing that either of them are going to come find me wherever I am, my husband for a hug and my daughter to tell me about her day.

In the evenings, I enjoy the talk and laughter (there is usually plenty of that around here), and the winding down from the day.  I relish in the dinner shared, the stories told, the shows we enjoy watching together.

And at bedtime,the goodnights and I love you’s and the, “Mom, don’t forget to wake me up!” (like I haven’t been doing this for years).

Yes, I love home and everything that it means to me.  I rejoice in knowing that my family looks at this home as a place of refuge, somewhere they can run to when life is throwing its inevitable punches.  Home really is where the heart is and I am so appreciative that my mom taught me how to make a house a home.

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