A Love Story

Wedding DayOnce upon a time there was a young man from Maryland who met a young lady from Mississippi while she was visiting her family for one golden summer.

It was as close to love-at-first-sight as love-at-first-sight can be because when the young man laid eyes on the pretty young girl his gaze never really left.

The young girl, she fell hard and fast with a love that lasted the summer and all the seasons to follow. And sure, well meaning family and friends and older sisters would say, “Well what about him? Or him? Or him?” They’d say, “You’re too young, too naive, too optimistic to give your heart away.”

Martie SavageSappy LoveWendellBut the young girl didn’t care or mind because her cares and mind were fixed. This young man would be her first, her last, her only love.

It was an old-fashioned love from the start. Fashioned after the oldest love that fashioned the dawn of time.

The boy and the girl grew up together and loved one another with miles and states in between. They counted the days between visits that became more treasured than gold. They wrote letters so hot and juicy those letters had to be burned. They waited and plotted and planned for the day when they would be together at school.

College DaysThe boy went to college and the girl soon followed and at the end of four years they had dreams, degrees, and rings on their fingers. They gained jobs, and friends, and furniture. They moved here and there and hoped and prayed for God to give them a family.

Good times came.

Heartache came.

Together they laughed and cried.

They lost jobs and friends. They lost beloved old ones and precious new ones.

At times they lost their like for each other but they never lost their love. They never lost their faith or their commitment to God and each other.

In times of poured out tears, of heartache, hurt, and loss, they looked to the verse stitched into cloth that hung by a thread on the wall:

For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.” Psalm 48:14

And they remembered the One who hung by nails and poured out love for them.

It was here at the cross and the crossroads that they found love, and hope, and graceful grit that kept them right on going. Right on living with broken but still beating hearts.

And God, He didn’t leave them hanging. He came to the broken but still beating hearts and filled them with His glory.

He filled empty pockets, empty chairs, empty rooms. He filled their empty, aching arms with one baby girl, then two. Laughter, hope, and dreams were born pink, and fresh, and new.

Baby MelBaby MeDad's FavoriteThis boy from Maryland is now 72, and his Mississippi bride is an exquisite 70. And they’ve been wearing those rings on their fingers for 50 golden years.

Those two baby girls, who filled their arms, now fill their hearts, and days, and home with two sons acquired by law and six of the grandest children.

GrandbabiesAnd the girls and the grandkids and the son-in-laws, too, wish they could give this Maryland boy and this Mississippi girl the greatest gift in all the world to celebrate their golden day.

A journey to Europe! A pair of gold watches! A fabulous piece of art!

But the daughters, the grands, and the sons-in-law know the truth. The golden truth that seems unfair: The gift has already been given, not to the honored couple, but to them.

IMG_2760The gift of parents and grandparents who journeyed and struggled and fought through life but chose to stay together, to stay in love, to stay in the grip of His grace.

The golden legacy of vows made and vows kept.

The portrait of a marriage.

The gift of a mom and dad that would rather sleep in a bed too small than not sleep together at all.

The gift of parents who still kiss and touch and whisper secrets, who still laugh and hug and exchange I love you’s each and every day.

The gift of seeing Psalm 48:14 as more than a fancy cross-stitch on the wall but as truth, and testimony, and family tradition.

This is the gift and it is theirs and all they can really give in return are ten beating hearts full of thanks.

They can take the journey, the golden legacy, the portrait painted before them and fashion their own love stories after this love story, after the love story. After their parents, their grandparents, their God.

One love story molded from and by all the loves that went before, for all generations to follow.

Mom and Dad SappyRingsMom and Dad GoldenBecause this kind of love lasts forever. Rooted not in the soil of earth but the streets of golden eternity. Centered not on the love of man and wife but the love of a Savior and His beloved.

This is the gift of fifty years.

Forged in the Refiners fire, the gift more precious than gold.

~ Happy 50th Mom and Dad (Nannie and Papa)!

With Love From, Melanie, Jennifer, Landon, Chris, Conner, Madeline, Garrett, Aletheia, Tenley, and Cabellea ~

The Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Beach StairwayPlanning a romantic getaway to surprise my husband has been on my bucket list ever since we were married.

As our twelfth anniversary drew near I went online and made a reservation for an overnight stay at a B&B on Lake Michigan. I did everything to plan a perfect weekend, and when the time was right I let him in on my scheme.

When I told Chris about my plans he was just as excited as I was, and on a golden fall afternoon we set off on our little adventure.

From the moment we arrived at the B&B we enjoyed everything if had to offer: a view of the lake, a fireplace by our bed, a Jacuzzi in the bathroom. We ate dinner at a cozy upscale restaurant and followed it up with a sunset stroll along the beach.

As Chris and I walked we held hands and laughed about some of the stupid things we’ve done over the past twelve years.

“Do you remember the time share presentation we went to in order to get a free digital camera?” Chris said.

“Yes,” I said with a giggle. “That thing was so crappy, I don’t think we ever used it. Remember how we got into a huge fight the first week we were married because I thought you would take me out to eat every night so I wouldn’t have to fix supper?”

“Yes,” he said rolling his eyes.

“We should make a list of the Top-Twelve Stupidest things we’ve done as a married couple,” I said.

View Lake MIWe never made a complete list but as we continued to walk I realized with a moment of clarity that the absolute stupidest thing we’ve ever done as a married couple is wasting time being mad at each other.

I know all couples fight, and argue, and get mad at each other. When it comes to knock-down, blowout fights, we are just like everyone else and perhaps, in their own way, confrontations like these serve their purpose…but in the long run? What do we ever gain by putting ourselves at odds with the one we love? With the one we’ve chosen to share life with?

I remember a scene from Little House on the Prairie where Caroline Ingalls gets her petticoats in a wad with Charles. By the end of the episode they’re lying in bed and Caroline turns to Charles with a complete change of heart and says, “Oh Charles, it is such a waste, being mad at you.”

With a fresh perspective Caroline was able to take her eyes off whatever their grievance was and see it for the relatively small issue it had been all along. In accordance, she saw her husband for the man he was and realized how silly it was to continue being angry with him.

Some of the best marital advice I’ve ever been given is to not let anything destroy the closeness you feel between you and your spouse and in recent months I’ve taken this to heart. It’s a nugget of wisdom that sticks in mind whenever I’m tempted to unleash on Chris.

In a recent argument I couldn’t understand, for the life of me, why Chris saw things the way he did, why he made decisions, involving me, that I didn’t agree with, why he just couldn’t see things my way. But at the same time I realized that ultimately it didn’t matter. The issue itself simply wasn’t worth jeopardizing the closeness between us. So I let it go, and I’m glad I did, but this hasn’t always been the case.

12 AnniversaryThere have been plenty of times, and I’m sure there will be plenty more, when I’ve let my temper get the best of me. When I’ve failed to protect the closeness, when I’ve failed to show grace and see his heart in a matter.

And it always comes back to seeing his heart, to remembering who he is (a mighty man of valor), whose he his (God’s and mine), and why I love him so (because even when it doesn’t seem like it, even when I don’t feel like it, I do love him, with all my heart, I do).

It is this, this seeing of his heart, of my heart for him that makes me fight, not against him, but for the closeness. For the love. Makes me fight against the temptation to waste time in anger.

So how about you? Who are you wasting time being mad at? A friend? A family member? A spouse? Whoever it is, whatever has caused your anger, do what you need to do to stop wasting time, to restore the closeness.

Seek counsel…

Say you’re sorry…

Take a long look at their heart…

And choose love.

Always and only, love.

Today Was A Fairy Tale

JournalOnce upon a time there was a witch and a toad…

…Lightning flashed in the princess’ eyes as the prince thundered down the hall. Every room in the castle seemed to vibrate with the tension and anger between them…

Fairy tale or a typical Saturday morning after a long and weary week?

All couples have their moments. Moments when stress, fatigue, misunderstanding and frustration cripple an otherwise happy marriage. Nagging and bickering elbow out hugs and kisses. Peace and closeness fall under attack. The cycle spins like a wicked spell, and the distance that forms between man and wife can feel like anything but a fairy tale.

I know it firsthand. After a recent stent of on and off squabbling between me and my prince, I went to the oasis of a trusted friend for advice. “What do I do when I feel like I’m not being heard? When I feel hurt and accused? How do we put an end to the fighting and distance between us?”

With the look of a fairy godmother, and thirty-four years of marriage shimmering in her eyes, my friend smiled a knowing smile and spoke an answer that was simple and true, “You lean into God, and you lean into each other, and you don’t let anything destroy the closeness.”

With these words in mind I pictured myself over the last few weeks. The selfish things I’d said. The harsh things I’d thought. The prickly shell I grew around me.

I considered the assumptions I’d made.

The grace I’d withheld.

The fingers I’d pointed in his direction.

None of it was helping. None of it did one good thing to restore the peace in our castle. In my eyes he’d become a toad and, let’s be honest, a few warts short of a witch might be the best way to describe me. 

Remember The Sweet ThingsSeveral years ago I read an article written by Ellen Greene, author of Remember the Sweet Things. In her powerful narrative, Greene wrote about her decision to keep a written list of all the things she loved about her husband and the way it revolutionized their marriage.

Moved to begin a list of my own I bought a fancy leather journal for my prince’s thirtieth birthday and started filling line after line with all the things I noticed, appreciated, and acknowledged about him and his love.  

Journal PageYou spent your Barnes and Noble gift card on books we both enjoy.

You built shelves for the basement.

You stayed home from work to be with me when Uncle Ron died.

You dried the dishes for me while I cooked dinner.

I kept with it for a while but I’m sad to say I eventually let months, even years, go by without a single entry. Inspired by Ann Voskamp and her book One Thousand Gifts, my list, over time, evolved into an ongoing journal of things I am thankful for, a record of God and His gifts.

One Thousand GiftsIt’s a different sort of list but the idea is the same. Both lists keep track. Both lists recognize what could easily be missed. Both lists revolve around my ability to see, and choose, and dwell on love, thanksgiving, and the gifts I’ve been given.

In fairy tale stories the princess must kiss the toad to turn him into a prince. Why should life with my beloved be any different? When my prince starts to look like a toad, when I start to act like a witch, the answer, the cure, the only way to break the spell is always and only through love.

To lean into God. To lean into each other. To let nothing destroy the closeness.

Keeping a list of things I love about my husband changes my eyes to see a prince instead of a toad, his love instead of his faults. It changes my heart to feel soft instead of prickly, thankful instead of hard. It changes my focus to that which is good, and right, and lovely between us, instead of all the little things that pry our hearts apart.

On days when my prince is a prince I see, I choose, I scribble down lines. On days when my prince resembles a toad, I read the lines, the notes on love, so I can see, so I can choose, so I can break the spell with love.

This list…it is the act of love… it is the kiss that transforms. (And for the record…real kisses work too.)

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in a list of love, of gifts, of thanksgiving. When lightning strikes in her eyes, when he thunders down the hall, may you lean into God, may you lean into each other, may you always fight for closeness and break the spell with love.

The Time To Love

Today was one of those days. Around 1:00 this afternoon my husband and I got into an argument that lasted the rest of the day.

What started as a disagreement quickly turned into an afternoon and evening of cold shoulders and awkward avoidance of each other.

When bedtime came, I crumbled. I didn’t want to go to bed angry; I wanted peace. Yet, at the same time, I wasn’t ready to lay down my pride. Needless to say, with both of us being tired, weary and emotionally drained, this wasn’t a good combination.

Hurt, frustrated and getting nowhere, I left my husband alone so that he could go to sleep and considered going to bed in another room.

I knew I needed to spend time with God, to pray through the situation between me and my husband, but somehow my prayers fell flat. I didn’t know what to say, or rather, I didn’t know how to be honest with myself or with God.

I didn’t want to admit the fact, that maybe I was wrong, that maybe my pride was keeping me from making a sincere and honest apology. No, I wanted to focus on Chris, and all the things he did to hurt me, the things he said, the ways he misunderstood.

For several minutes I continued to pray, but nothing seemed to help. Whatever truth God was trying to show me was obviously not getting through my wall of blame and pride.

In the end, something must have softened my heart because I decided to sleep in our room.  As I slipped into my side of the bed and reached for my phone something caught my eye.

12:07

September 11

There on my phone in bright-white numbers, a sobering reminder.

In that moment my heart changed. My hurt, my frustration, my anger faded swiftly away in comparison to my memories of that fateful day.

For a moment I let my mind wander to that day, twelve years ago. In my mind’s eye I tried to imagine all the husbands and wives who went to work on that Tuesday morning, never to return home. I pictured the goodbye kisses, the smiles and waves exchanged as coffee, and jackets, and briefcases were grabbed on the way out the door.

And I know there must have been some who left in anger. Who left with hurt, and arguments, and issues that weren’t resolved. With issues that would never be resolved.

I imagined what it would be like to spend the last precious moments with the one you love in anger.  I imagined what it would be like to have the one you love snatched away, gone forever.

And I thought to myself, what if? What if the day that lies before me, carries my own 9/11? What if this is the day in which, the one I love, the one I share my life with, will never come home.

Because the truth is, the people that lost their lives on 9/11, and the people who lost their loved ones, had no idea what was coming…and neither do we.

As the sun dawns each morning, we have no promise of what the day will bring forth, whether it will end in triumph or tragedy.

As my wall of pride crumbled, I finally heard God’s voice break through, there to me in the darkness. In my darkness. And what He said was, “Love.”

And I knew it sure, that in this world of terrorist attacks and cancer, of drunk drivers and road rage, of accidents and suicide, I do not have time to fight, but only time to love.

To love.

To look long into the eyes of my beloved and know that he is mine I am his.

To spend my life honoring our vows, treating him as the king of my heart and my home.

To swallow my pride, and tear down my walls, and humble myself to ground zero, to the washing of feet if necessary.

To say, “I’m sorry,” and mean it, not just because I seek peace, but because I know that true peace will never come without true repentance.

To say, “I love you,” once, twice, a thousand times a day, in a thousand different ways so that when, and if, 9/11 comes he will know and I will know that we lived and loved well and that we did not take for granted the time that we were given.

Sweet friends, may this sacred day live on in our hearts, in our homes, in our lives, as a reminder of those who were lost, as a reminder of those who were heroes, as a reminder that this day, this moment, this right-now, is the time to cherish what we have…and who we have. That this is the time to love.