One True Fragrance (in Marriage)

roses

Roses. I do like roses and their fragrance.

‘Especially on our anniversary, my birthday, on Mother’s day, or any other time in-between. Especially other special times, like the births of our babies – I like roses.

I used to tell folks that when I wanted a dozen roses, all I had to do was have another baby.

While it’s true that roses were waiting for me six times over when I got back to my hospital room from Labor and Delivery, it’s also true that I don’t get roses for every birthday, every anniversary, or every Mother’s day. Just sometimes, and sometimes in-between.

After all these years, he continues to splurge. He keeps saying that he doesn’t know how much longer we’ll have each other and he wants to have no regrets, so I’ve quit fussing about the cost.

roses

You know what makes the roses so special? 

The fact that, on any other day when there are no roses, my man is in my corner. Any other day when I’m unkempt and the house is a mess, he helps pick up the pieces and puts me back together again.

Any other day when there is no wafting fragrance in the house, he becomes the fragrance by serving me, again.

The man’s rather imperfect, and no one knows it better than I.  But then, so is his wife. Imagine that. He can verify that, but he won’t broadcast that because, he says, we are one. To speak negatively of me is speaking negatively about himself because we are on the same team. Even so, in a world of strife where so many marriages have dissolved or  are falling apart, we are blessed.

Like so many other marriages, ours could simply be a statistic.

It’s not that we’re so smart or so special. It’s that God – and the way He tells us to do marriage – is.

When you go to God for help, when you really seek for wisdom, when you truly apply what you know to do even when you don’t feel like it,  you  will find that marriage can be done well.

There have been days when I’ve stormed the gates of Heaven, asking God to show me how to understand and love this man. Every time I have asked, He has given me answers.  ‘Not that I always liked the answers or felt like following the directions, mind you. But every time I’ve asked for wisdom, He has given what I needed. ‘Trouble is that sometimes we just don’t bother to ask or we just don’t really don’t want to know.

Our marriage bed is not an array of roses minus thorns.

It’s a fragrance that comes when the petals are crushed as  becomes us.

It’s a fragrance that comes when making love is not so much about “everything is perfect and we’ve got it all together” as it is about “even though we are frustrated with each other, we are still committed to each other; so tonight making love to you is a great way to emphasize that commitment.”

I always thought I’d want a summer wedding, but that didn’t happen. Does that matter now? Not at all. That’s how it is with marriage. The things on the “must have” list, many times, are no longer important and really weren’t that important in the first place. What really matters is commitment.

I figure some folks are tired of hearing me say that, but it’s true. If more people truly believed it, there would be fewer marriages floundering by the wayside.

In a small town in western Maryland over thirty-two years ago, in the church where my parents were married many years before, we tied the knot. Amid freshly-fallen snow, family, and friends, we celebrated. With flowers, music, family – and with God – we were wed.

Life happened, and now our kids are grown and mostly on their own. Life happened, and it is still happening. As life happens, we still celebrate. I still enjoy roses and their perfume. Most especially, I enjoy the fragrance of commitment.

Most especially, we continue to celebrate the greatest fragrance of all: the true faithfulness of God.

pinterest fragrance

How to Prove That I Love Jesus

When all is said and done, there’s a record of  how we’ve lived. For those who lived thousands of years ago, God kept a record as well. For some of them – and, I believe, especially for those of us who claim to be His children – God kept a record. He recorded what mattered. You’ll find those folks in what we call the Faith Chapter: Hebrews 11.

faith-ark

If you grew up in church and heard the Bible stories from little up, you’ll know the characters. You’ll know what they did (or didn’t do.) What strikes me most is that these folks did what God told them to do – by faith.

The record of their obedience is proof to us that they were people of genuine faith. They proved their love to Him by acting out their faith.

Jesus said that if we really, truly love Him, we will love and keep His commandments. God gave specific instructions to those heroes of faith. Not only are their names listed, but what they did is listed as well.

By faith . . .

  • Abel brought the offering required by God. [Later he was murdered because of it.]
  • Noah built an ark and spoke to warn others. [In spite of ridicule.]
  • Abraham left his familiar, comfortable home and became a stranger in a foreign land; he packed his bags when he didn’t know where he was going. [How’s that for not having a GPS?]
  • Sarai conceived and bore a son in her old age. [This one makes me tired just thinking about it.]
  • Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice because he reasoned that God could raise him from the dead.[Could I really do this?]
  • Joseph gave instructions for the burial of his bones and prophecied about the exodus from Egypt years before it happened. [After being sold into slavery.]
  • The parents of Moses (Amram and Jocabed) hid their son Moses for three months because they saw he wasn’t an ordinary child and because they were not afraid of the king’s edict. [They knew they could lose their lives in defying the king’s edict.]
  • Moses chose to be mistreated and counted his disgrace for the sake of his people to be of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. [He claimed his people.]
  • Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea. [And boy, were they stiff-necked!]
  • The walls of Jericho fell down under the leadership of Joshua. [Six days of marching without anything happening.]
  • Rahab was saved from death because she received the spies and kept them safe from harm. [A forgiven prostitute.]
  • Gedeon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel and the prophets, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword and were made strong out of weakness. The list (and their accomplishments) goes on and on and on.

Adam and Eve with their slain son Abel

The way I see it, it wasn’t an easy road. In fact, it was more difficult than pleasant, harder rather than easier.

They obeyed, and they persevered.

That’s why they are listed in the Hall of Faith. It was their obedience. Surely, they loved God. Yet the only way to show their love was to obey.

faith-hands

It still works the same way, today.  

To love means we obey.

What are the things He is asking you – or me – to do?  Sometimes He asks us to go somewhere. Sometimes He asks us to be someone. Sometimes He asks us to forgive, or to share, or to give. Sometimes He wants to change our relationships. Sometimes He asks us to change the places we go or the places we aren’t willing to go. Sometimes He asks us to make changes in the things we wear or the things we do, or the things we say.  Sometimes He wants us to spend more time with Him. Sometimes He asks us to step outside our comfort zone.

This I  know: if we ask Him, He will tell us what He wants us to do.

The most accurate measurement of our love for Jesus is our obedience to Him. 

Jesus said to those who claimed to love Him, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He also responded to the crowds following Him, “Why do you call me LORD,but do not the things that I say?”

He is still responding in the same way to those of us who declare our love for Him.

What cities is He asking you to march around? What sacrifice is He asking you to put on the altar? What offering is He asking you to bring?

We can’t say we love Him if we’re not willing to do those things.

 

Did We Love Him Enough?

 

 

 

I couldn’t wait to get back to my house. It was less than ten miles from here to there, and I couldn’t put the miles behind me fast enough.

Dashing into the house and running to our bedroom, I collapsed on the bed, stuffing my face in a pillow. Then I cried. I wept tears as I prayed.

I’d dropped my son’s friend off at his house, the blue ribbon he won the evening before in hand. Nobody there cared or paid attention. The dogs had as much chance at the cold pizza on the coffee table as the kids, and there was no semblance of order or of home inside that small house.

The baby slept on a mattress with no sheets and the lonely eyes of younger siblings called to me. I wanted to take them all home with me and make life better for them.

Instead, I left the fourth grader in the house with his family and came home to my tribe of well-nourished, adequately clothed, and normally squabbling kids.

I wanted to give him what I had to offer. I prayed and I asked God what I could do.

His reply was a gentle, “Just love him.”

“But I want to do something to make it all better! Show me what to do.”

“Just love him.”

“But I want to do this . . . and this . . . and this . . . !”

That was all. Just. Love. Him.

So I did. At least I tried.

Weekly, when he spent the night, we played games, read books and colored. The kids pitched ball in the front yard and I taught him how to set a table for supper. Once a week, he became a part of our family.

Making sure our place was a haven he could come to every week – and should he ever need a place. We did that.

But was it enough?

Every Wednesday, he hopped off the bus with my kids and spent the night. He went to church, participated in the kids’ club, and then got help with homework when we got home. Not one day’s homework, but all five days since the last time he stayed. He slept in one of the bunk beds in the boys’ room.

He was fun. He was gregarious. He was smart. Really smart. Smart in math and smart beyond his years. Too smart for his years.

Every Wednesday night he wet the bed. Every Thursday I stripped the bed and washed the sheets and hung them out to dry.

Every Wednesday, he sat down with our family and ate around the table. And we loved him.

I pined for him. I wanted to do something.

But each time I asked, I heard God say to me, “Just love him.”

So I loved him. And I prayed. For him.

It’s been nearly twenty years, and I don’t even know where he is, for sure. We’ve heard things about his being a father and jail time. We’ve heard rumors about drugs.

We remember the sweet guy who was so smart he could have done anything he wanted – but didn’t.

Did we fail because he never became a winner? Or was our love a love that was enough?

Jesus said that when we do something unto “one of the least of these,” we have done it to Him.

Jesus said I should just love him.

Yet sometimes I still wonder: did I love him enough?

Pinterest love him enough

 

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I Want To Grow Old With You

hearts

 

It’s Valentine’s Day, and young lovers are enjoying the freshness of their relationship. I watch them, and I remember how it was with us.     I treasure the memories of our beginnings, for there is nothing quite like the fragrance of an opening flower.

Yet the fragrance of our love is deeper and richer than that of a fresh blossom.  We’ve weathered storms and seasons because we are committed to each other.  I want to weather many more storms and seasons with you.

I want to grow old with you.

I always said I wanted to marry a man who was a leader.  Who, by the love and character he possessed, would cause submission and following to come easily and readily.  Then I found you. You encourage and challenge me to be my best, yet allow me to be different from you.

I want to experience your leadership, when I grow old with you.

I said I wanted a man who was tough as well as tender. Then I found you.  I’ve watched your face soften as you’ve held our babies. I’ve watched you deal out tough discipline when necessary.  Then I’ve marveled at the productive results.

I want to experience the tough and the tender of you, when I grow old with you.

I said I wanted a man who was made of steel and velvet.  Then I found you.  I’ve watched your steel endure long hours to provide for us.  I’ve watched you stand alone when you’ve been asked to violate your convictions and conscience. You are a man of your word.  If fame were integrity, you’d be the star.  Our children have a stellar example to follow in you.

I want to know the strength of your steel, when I grow old with you.

old dogs

Burying a dog one morning before school.

I’ve felt your velvet as you’ve held me or asked forgiveness.  I’ve experienced your velvet as you’ve taken the time to dig a grave for yet another dog and allowed your sons to help shovel in dirt when you could have done it faster yourself.  I’ve seen your velvet with the little girls you call Princess when they come running with excitement because Papa is home.

I want to feel the softness of your velvet, when I grow old with you.

old girls

The little girls he calls Princess.

I always said I wanted a man who could make me laugh.  Then I found you.  You have a way of making me laugh (especially when I’m mad at you!)      You’ve helped me laugh when I intended to cry.  I’ve watched our children’s faces as they enjoy this rare side of their father, wondering what he’ll do next.

I want to laugh, when I’m old, with you.

I never asked for a perfect husband. I knew I couldn’t be a perfect wife. I wanted someone who didn’t always agree with me. We found imperfection and disagreements when we found each other.

You trim the kid’s nails and leave the clippings wherever you happen to complete the job. You track soot into the house from your shoes and forget, at times, to call me when you’re working late.

I forget to keep a grocery list and we’ve been out of essentials when you could have picked them up if only I had remembered. I’ve thrown away papers that were important to you, and eaten your food at McDonald’s when I said I didn’t want any.

You willingly dress the children but leave PJ’s and nightgowns wherever you dropped them. You’ve left medicine within reach of a toddler, an opened shampoo bottle on the side of the tub, and forgotten to close the toilet lid.

I’ve forgotten to give you important messages relating to jobs; forgotten to mail bills due tomorrow; been too tired to tidy up the house, and cooked meals without tasting them.

When the kids are gone, I’ll still be forgetful with you.

old clock

You think the day is half over at 10 AM, which is a good time, I think, to be getting out of bed. I like warm beds with the electric blanket on high; you think a crisp, cool bed is invigorating.

I love peanut butter and chocolate. You refuse to eat either. I like coffee in the morning. You dislike coffee kisses.

I’ll still disagree, when I’m old, with you.

old coffee heart lips

 

I wanted a man who loved me for me, who believed in me. Then I found you.

There have been times you’ve said, “I don’t know what to do with you, but I can’t live without you.”

You continue to love and cherish me, even when I am unlovely.

I want to be cherished, when I’m old, by you.

I wanted a man who believed in commitment and the permanence of marriage. Then I found you. There have been days I have been especially grateful for that commitment. It was the glue that held us together. It was the source for “working it out” no matter how many hours or days it took.

Your assurance, “I don’t know how we’re going to work this out. But I want you to know that I love you and am committed to you and to us,” is the best marriage insurance we could have.

I’ll still have that insurance when I’m old, with you.

old bench

I wanted a man who wouldn’t grow tired of me–nor I of him. You are my best friend, my most creative critic, my favorite person. Even when I am angry with you, I want to be with you. I enjoy your company more than anyone else’s. I pick out your voice from a hundred in a room. My eyes find yours across throngs of people. I recognize the feel of your skin, the clasp of your hand in the dark. I am at home with you.

I want to be at home, when I’m old, with you.

Through seasons of uncertainties, your love and commitment is certain and sure. “A good marriage doesn’t just happen; it takes work,” you’ve said.

We’ve worked and cried and prayed together. We’ve laughed and sung and played together. We are committed to each other. That is the essence of our relationship, our marriage.

On this Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that I am deeply in love with you. I admire and respect the man you are. For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness or in health, I am committed to you.

And I want to grow old – with you.

Pinterest Grow Old

This story was written by assignment in 1996 whenI was pregnant with our youngest son.  Dave and I are growing old together – and enjoying it immensely!  It was first published in Christisn Living Magazine and later in Discover Southside, an online ezine. You can also read it under My Attic.