Category Archives: Love

Sweaty and upset says “I do”

After 22 years of marriage, my husband is still a mystery to me. We are celebrating our wedding anniversary today and laughing about that day so long ago when we decided to marry forever. We both admit that neither one of us had any clue about how challenging being married and staying married could be. We look back and see all the marriages that ended in divorce, and are so thankful that we have made it through the gauntlet so far.

When we compared notes on our wedding day this morning, my husband recalls that he wasn’t nervous at all, until the entire church turned to look at him when he and his groomsmen proceeded out from the side altar. He was definitely unprepared for that!

I wasn’t nervous either. I definitely remember being hot. We were married in a church that had no air conditioning. It was an enormous structure and beautiful. It just happened to be unseasonably hot for mid May. I felt like a flower that was drooping. My lovely, professionally curled hair began to flatten like a mop. But that is minor compared to what happened before my husband and groomsmen arrived on the scene.

Like I mentioned, this church was enormous. The bride’s room was towards the church entrance, while the groom’s room was downstairs and towards the altar. When the organ began to play that was the cue for the groom and his groom’s men to come. The music started and duh, duh, da duh–no groom or groom’s men. The music continued. My father began to panic. He sent my younger brother to find the groom. My father started turning red all over. He actually accused my soon-to-be husband of leaving me at the altar! Now, I wasn’t only hot, I was angry! I couldn’t believe my own father had such little faith in my future husband. I began to argue with my father, telling him just how ridiculous his idea was. That’s when my brother arrives saying he cannot find the groom or any groom’s men. I seriously thought I saw steam begin blowing from my father’s ears! Oh boy.

As the organist was winding down the first song and my father is in full panic mode, in walks my husband and his groom’s men. Later, my husband explained that they could not hear the music from downstairs and were too busy laughing and enjoying themselves to realize they should be listening.

I whipped my veil over my face, grabbed my father’s arm, and put on the biggest smile I could conjure under the both sweaty and upsetting conditions of a moment ago. I think I dragged my father down the aisle. Everything was lovely throughout the ceremony and we were happily married. And then, there was the limo ride to the reception. That’s another story for another blog.

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50 Years of Motherhood + 40 Grandchildren

I’ve been thinking about my mom and what an unsung hero she is. First of all, my mom may never have been born, if my grandma didn’t have tremendous faith. My grandma had at least 14 miscarriages. Her doctor told her that it was no use trying to have children, and that is was actually unsafe for her to continue. My grandma is a bit like me–when someone tells her “no,” she digs down deeper and busts through. That’s when she had my mom, and the next year, my aunt. Two women who would not have been here without a very strong-willed, faith-filled grandma.

A couple of decades later, my mom marries my dad and one year later gives birth to my oldest sister. The next year, she has my next oldest sister. A year and a half later, she has my next oldest sister. Then she miscarried during that next year. The following year, she has me. To sum up: 10 kids in 13 years, then a 7-year gap, and the baby of our family is born. That’s a 20-year range for the math challenged!

Here’s the kicker: my mom was having babies when everyone around her was “burning their bras” and “going to work.” She was home with preschoolers and toddlers and babies when the whole world was screaming, “Don’t let them keep you at home. You can be everything you want to be.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. My mom is a brilliant lady. She had a business degree and could organize the world. She managed to have us all fed, dressed and to school early with hair combed, matching socks, and complete backpacks. Laundry in our home was like a small business. There was no room for error because we actually wore all the clothing we owned. Shopping for food was a weekly exercise with two grocery carts full. Thankfully, the grandparents on the farm provided the beef. Home-cooked meals were all we could afford and the only thing my dad wanted. So, we ate together every night at 5:30 p.m. around a long kitchen table.

Because my mom stayed home, we had a huge comfort zone. We knew she was there for us. The other working mothers called her regularly to provide rides for their children to various activities and events. They never seemed to include her or befriend her for anything else. She did have a group of friends who were stay-at-home moms, too. They became the monthly bridge group. Although some of them ended up working part-time, mostly they rallied around each other. It was not a popular time to have a large family. In fact, the over population myths that are still around today started during that time.

My mom was telling me a few years ago when I was complaining about how much weight I had gained with my last pregnancy and that nothing fit that she only had 2 maternity outfits total. That’s all. Boy did I feel selfish. When my husband had to travel three days a week for a few months, I called her to cry on her shoulder a bit. She reminded me that our father traveled for his job for weeks at a time, even months sometimes. She gently helped me see that I would make it through this.

My mom is confined to a wheelchair now. I think all those pregnancies just sucked the calcium out of every bone. She has both knee and hip problems, and probably won’t be walking anytime soon. Her memory is starting to slip a bit here and there. She can no longer cook or plan family events. Much of what the world outside our family loved about my mom is slowly fading away.

But what I see is a lady who has been an amazing mom for the last 50 years, who is facing major changes in her life with grace. She has gently suggested that maybe my dad needs a break once in a while. She knows she will most likely need to transition to a care setting soon enough. Yet, while she can she still enjoys her grandchildren. The extended family gathers tomorrow to celebrate Mother’s Day with grandma and grandpa. It will be a large affair. And Mom will be there, sweetly smiling and loving on the little grandbabies, and thinking of names because number 40 is on the way!

 

 

Husbands Should Discover Secret to Best Mother’s Day Present

I wondered what searching the internet for these keywords, “Best Mother’s Day Gifts for 2014” would uncover. Fox News listed a Top 10 which was mostly comprised of ways to get mom in shape (5 out of the 10 items).  Glamour had 22 suggestions of comfort or vanity items from food to kitchen utensils. Real Simple offered 40 ideas focused on gardening, kitchen and clothing style. And here’s the real kicker, AskMen.com was the highest ranking website. They just listed a bunch of items you can buy in all categories that might interest women. Personally, I think they must pay some big bucks to a really great SEO optimization company.

All this to say that I feel sorry for husbands who are desperately seeking something to give their wife for Mother’s Day on behalf of their children and family. Although some women thrive on receiving “gifts” that are costly, deep down I hope and pray all women understand that there is no gift in this world that can even come close to truly affirming what being a mother means.

Here’s the thing: being a Mom is the most incredible gift our good God gave to us women. He allowed us, with our spouse, to be a partner in creation. When God created, He created out of love, not out of need. In fact, His creation is love. We, as wives, are called to be mutually self-giving with our spouse and to create with God. The result of this is a wonderfully amazing, compact gift from God called a baby. And that baby starts at conception. I have no idea how the sperm and the egg connect and create a baby. But I do know one thing for sure: I have never known an ape or frog or turtle that was naturally conceived in the womb of a woman. When I became pregnant with my first child, I did not have to wonder if I would have a baby monkey or a baby human!

God tells us in the Bible that we are made in His image and likeness. Can we understand this mystery? I’m not so sure. Can we appreciate that we carry this inside us? Can we fully understand the responsibility we have for caring for His children who are also made in His image and likeness? If you are a mother, this is the most important thing you can do while on planet earth. Period. God wants you to love and cherish and raise your children.

Think about it. God celebrated the first Mother’s Day when he put old Adam to sleep and made Eve from his rib. He understands what a gift a mom is for her entire family. If a husband wants to really honor his wife, he may want to start by acknowledging that he is incredibly thankful that his wife had their children. He should simply recognize what the world will not recognize–that motherhood is a gift from God and by his wife saying, “Yes” to children, she gave the greatest gift to him and the family. Finally, he should even be open to having as many more as God will provide. But that takes faith, of course.

Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever!

My son had to write his first college entrance application essay. The college gave him 5 choices of topics. As I read the choices, I wondered who comes up with these questions? He selected one of the topics and started writing.

About halfway through the essay, he called me to his room. He was wondering what I thought the folks at the college were wanting from these essays. It was a valid question. I re-read the topics and quickly realized that it really didn’t matter what they wanted.

I told my son that there could be all kinds of agendas behind certain essay topics that neither he nor I would fully understand or want to understand. I suggested that his best course of action was to write honestly and well. If what he wrote did not fit their agenda, perhaps it was a good thing that he would not get accepted into that college.

Later in the day, I asked my son what topic he chose for his essay. He chose this topic: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? Interesting, I thought. I asked him, “So what is the place where you are perfectly content?” Without blinking, he said, “Home.” And that, my friends, was the best Mother’s Day gift I could have received this year.

Finding Perfection in Brokenness

My family had a rare evening last night when all extracurricular activities were cancelled. We decided to get outside and spend time at a park. It was a beautiful evening and even the family dog enjoyed it with us. When we arrived home, our children asked to watch a movie. Most of television programming is such junk today, that we have purchased some DVDs of movies which uplift and give hope. We let my youngest son chose the movie for us all. He chose Seabiscuit.

If you haven’t watched this movie, you should. It is a story that intertwines the lives of three people and the struggles they went through during the Depression. It is a story of those same people finding each other and healing each other through a race horse named Seabiscuit. There are some difficult scenes in this movie, so I would either limit it for younger children or watch it first, and fast forward through those scenes. But overall, it is such a powerful story that I highly recommend it.

The fact that my son picked this movie doesn’t surprise me. It seems that healing was a theme in my life yesterday. Earlier in the day, my sister and I were discussing how every person and every family has brokenness and sin. This came up because our extended family is planning a gathering at our family farm in Nebraska to celebrate a 50th Wedding Anniversary, and 80th Birthday, and a 17th Wedding Anniversary, as well as the upcoming sale of our family farm in Nebraska. The farm has been in the family for over 100 years. But we have been leasing the land to local farmers for decades as all of us moved on to other occupations. This is a time to remember and let go. It is a joyful and sad moment for my entire family, and when family gathers, all kinds of issues arise.

Our family is not perfect. We have alcoholism, overeating, anxiety, suicide–you name it and we probably have it. But the truth is we also have a lot of love. We know we are not perfect, yet our love is strong. However, there are some people in my family who harshly judge other family members. They cannot relate to them or do not want to spend time with them. They cannot stand their brokenness. In fact, they choose to think that certain people are “perfect.”

I love that line in “Seabiscuit” where Mr. Howard wakes up in the middle of the night very perturbed and tells his wife, “Perfect. He’s perfect. What the hell does “perfect” mean? What? You show me something that’s perfect, I’ll show you something that’s not.” People who think others are perfect are looking at the outside of people or the surface of their lives and they believe that these “perfect” people have no faults, no issues, no sin. This is setting these “perfect” people up for a big fall off the pedestal you have set them upon. They are sinners like you and I. Their families have brokenness, whether they want to face it or not.

The only person who is perfect is Jesus Christ. Yes, we are called to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, but that takes a lifetime to come close to accomplishing. In the meantime, we have to learn to accept our weaknesses, change what we can change, and love each other the best we can. I guess the script writer of Seabiscuit said it best, “You know, everybody thinks we found this broken-down horse and fixed him, but we didn’t. He fixed us. Every one of us. And I guess in a way we kinda fixed each other, too.”

Taking Nest-Building to a Whole New Level

A robin has decided to build a nest in a terrible location–on our house. Somehow, we all overlooked this giant nest in our comings and goings. This bird’s choice of location is by our downspout under an overhang. My husband noticed the nest and swept it down. He took the twigs and grass and sprinkled them in the woods.

The next morning, the nest was back. Apparently, this robin is a quick worker or her mate is a really good helpmate. So my husband once more swept the nest down and took away the raw materials.

That afternoon, the nest was back. As we loaded up in the minivan to visit friends, we watched my husband once more knock down the nest. I said, “Poor bird. She just wants to make her babies a home.” My husband said, “She has 7 acres of woods to choose from, and she picks a metal downspout?” I’m thinking she may not be a very smart bird after all.

My brother and his family arrived the next day for a brief visit. He saw my husband knocking down another nest. His comment was that he had the same problem at his house. He said, “The way I figure it is that we have this whole outdoors to share. There’s plenty of room for their nest elsewhere.”

Yesterday, my children and I were enjoying an Easter Monday celebration with our dear family friends. When we arrived home, my husband informed me that he had knocked down 4 nests. These robins have kicked into high gear! The time for laying eggs must be imminent.

I remember those days when I was pregnant with each child. I would kick into high nest-building gear. My husband would come home from work and find our household rearranged. Large and heavy pieces of furniture would have moved from one room to another without a mark on the floor or walls. I remember him looking at our giant sofa and saying, “You and I together could barely budge this thing. How in the world did you move it into an entirely different room by yourself?” The facts didn’t count when it came to preparing for the new life in my belly. And once those babies arrived, my husband and I spent hours enjoying God’s little gift in our lives, and still do!

I hope that our robins choose one of the many thousands of trees for their next nest which would be a much better choice. I understand they want a safe nest for their soon-to-be baby birds. I think the robins are showing us how much life matters. I wish that every couple would take to heart the perseverance of our robins in creating a loving, safe home for their soon-to-be baby. And then every couple would be able to enjoy this amazing gift from our good God for the rest of their lives.

Being a helpmate of my husband

Being the head of the household must be a challenging job, especially when you have a wife like me. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul makes it clear that just as Christ is the head of the Church, and we are the body, so the husband is the head of the wife. Of course, many people overlook the next verse of this important message. To sum up, Christ loved his Church so much, that he gave his life for them.

I think my husband is much like Christ. He works hard every day at a job that doesn’t necessarily give him warm fuzzies and is surrounded by a materialistic, worldly, self-interested group of people. But he continues and perseveres, always doing the right and honest thing, even if it hurts his paycheck or chances of promotion because he is a man of integrity. That’s why I married him and I hope and pray that never changes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He grumbles and stresses and worries. He is not perfect, nor am I. At times, he thinks that I am trying to run the show. Honestly, both of us have issues with trying to run our own game plan instead of listening to God’s plan for our life together. So instead of turning to God, we sometimes are like two people in a tug-of-war, feeling as if one or the other is winning or getting their way. God must be looking down at us and just shaking His head. I know how I feel as a parent when my children behave this way, and God loves us more than a parent loves a son or daughter, but I am certain at times He must be amazed at how we choose to use our free will.

A dear friend of mine shared some insight into the life of the Holy Family. I have developed a devotion to St. Joseph because he lived with two people who were like no other on earth, and had the responsibility of being the head of their household. My friend shared that although the Blessed Virgin Mary was without sin, she still deferred to St. Joseph as the head of the household. This made me stop in my tracks. It is making me take a long, hard look at myself and my willingness to serve and be subject to other. I fully understand that marriage is a mutual self-giving, a communion of persons. I just had not realized how much my own pride and will get in the way of fulfilling that ideal of marriage. I need to let go of my plans, listen to God more, and be the helpmate to my husband I am meant to be. Sometimes, this will be a giving up of self and of control. I really don’t like the thought of having to do this, but I will do it out of love.

Husband, Father, Superman?

My husband has taught me a lot about  being a good father. I remember the years when I was home with toddlers and babies all day long. My husband would walk through the door after work and I would basically hand off our children to him. I had no more energy or ability to cope. I didn’t always remember to stop and ask how his day went. Never mind that he had experienced a harrowing day at the office with co-workers who were more worried about their pocketbook than their souls.

But my husband always stepped right in and never complained. He changed diapers. He fed bottles. He gave baths. He played with our children. He made meals for them. Really, he did just about everything, even if it was uncomfortable at first.

Lest you think that he is Superman, I must share that when our first child was born, my husband didn’t sleep for three months. It was not because my husband was up in the night with feedings either. In fact, I had no idea this was going on. I thought I was the only one with odd hours because of the nighttime awakenings of our baby. It wasn’t until about a year later that my husband told me about his three months of no sleep. Basically, he said, “When you get something as simple as a driver’s license, they make you take a test. But we get a real, live baby, and there’s no instruction manual or anything.”

I had no idea how overwhelmed he was with this new responsibility. I was clueless because I came from a very large family where I had 7 younger brothers. Babies were like breathing for me. I started babysitting for families with 6 kids under the age of 5 when I was 12 years old! So, I know that my motherhood came easy for me. It was a gift from my parents. My husband was the youngest of 4 spread out across 12 years. He was also close to the youngest cousin on both sides of his family. He really had no experience with child care. That’s why he is so amazing to me! He just took on the challenge and made it look easy.

On this Feast Day of St. Joseph, I just want to give a shout out to God in thanksgiving for my husband. There are many more wonderful things he has done and continues to do as a father. What a blessing he is in our life!

Moving in with Grandma

About 8 years ago, my family uprooted and moved to a new city to care for my husband’s elderly mother. When my children found out that we were going to live with Grandma, they thought they had died and gone to heaven because Grandma pretty much kept a never-ending supply of ice cream and treats around the house. In kid world, this was definitely an upgrade situation.

But in reality, combining two households was challenging to say the least. Grandma had been living a solitary life by herself since my husband’s father’s death almost 4 years earlier. Meanwhile, we had rambunctious children ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old.  Also, Grandma had a very strong personality, plus liked to “favor” one of the children.  She didn’t seem to understand that when we were parenting our children, she couldn’t insert herself and have it work out very well.

Living with a octogenarian who has increasing dementia keeps life interesting. If you think toddlers are challenging, you are just beginning to understand what this is really like. Layer in a few of her adult children who are in denial about their parent’s condition, and who also conveniently live out-of-town, and you begin to get a picture of some of the fun we have experienced. Our family has definitely grown in many virtues because of choosing to serve Grandma.

Fast forward 8 years. We had to transition Grandma to a long-term care facility last year for a whole host of reasons. My family has been mourning the loss, even though she is only 1 mile away. We visit her often, but not many people seem to understand how it feels to embrace someone into your daily life like we did, then have to “let go.” I think that has been the hardest part of this transition. We love her dearly and she was part of our immediate lives for 8 years. She turned 90 years old last week, and we celebrated with her at the center. My children played piano and she sang along. We all ate way too much pie. Half the residents stayed and listened to the recital. One even claimed my children as her grandchildren, too. She also had a birthday next week. She thinks she is turning 92.

Grandma taught us many lessons which I want to share with you today. I hope you can learn as much as we did!

  1. A positive attitude is everything. Grandma lived through the Depression, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, etc…She knew what it meant to face difficulties. Her approach was to always keep a positive outlook. When she went into the long-term care facility, she never looked back. She takes “the bus” on outings once a week. She doesn’t have any idea where she went, but she sure enjoys it. She cannot get over how lucky she is to have such a loving, caring staff who she works with! I see that her loving attitude attracts the loving, caring staff.
  2. A simple faith to know that God loves you. Grandma was blessed to have many holy people guide her throughout her life. Some of the people who she had for direction are now famous names. She could recall all kinds of examples of how God opened doors for her. I noticed that she was always willing to step through them.
  3. Never, never, never give up. Grandma is like the Energizer bunny–she keeps going and going and going. She has more energy in one day than I will probably have in a lifetime. She keeps active and is persistent in what she pursues. Although, sometimes that would mean finding her dangerously perched on top of the patio table trying to open the umbrella over her head. I see that she was simply overcoming any obstacle in her path, even to her own detriment.

Grandma taught us many, many more lessons. She continues to show us how to live with dignity. She shines brightly around all of her neighbors and the staff at the center. We sure love and miss her in our lives, although we still get to visit. Thank you, Grandma, for showing us how to live. Happy 90th Birthday!

How to multiply your romance without any effort at all

My recent post about my husband surprising me on our 16th Wedding Anniversary got my whole family and friends talking about those events. (To read that post, click here: https://gracespark.com/2014/03/04/he-waited-16-years-to-get-me/)

First of all, everything I shared was absolutely true, 100%. In fact, my husband just now reminded me of a couple of details that I had forgotten. The following 3 tips are how you multiply your romance without any effort at all:

  1. Surprise them when they least expect it! My husband chose our 16th Wedding Anniversary because he knew that most women like me are on the lookout for a bigger deal on their 10th or 20th Anniversary. Something about a decade seems important to us ladies! It also happens that we were married on the 16th of the month, but who pays attention to those little details?! (I should have been….) To seal the deal, he left a card on my suitcase the night before since I was leaving for the airport so early in the morning.
  2. Do more than they could ever anticipate. My husband reminded me that there were additional gifts, signs and surprises that I had forgotten. For example, at the Conference, there was a cake for everyone to share that read, “Happy 16th Anniversary from your loving husband.” Also, there were signs sitting curbside along my route to the Conference Center that wished us a Happy 16th Anniversary. There are more but you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you all of them!
  3. Now here’s the multiplier: when my husband started making phone calls to set this all up, people started responding to his idea of a surprise anniversary. People love to help when you are doing something good for someone else!  For example, he didn’t plan the gift for me at the Conference Center, but the woman in charge of the Conference just made that happen. When my husband called my brother-in-law who works for an airline to see if it was possible to make an announcement over the plane’s intercom, my brother-in-law found the right person at Southwest Airlines even though he worked for a different airline entirely. Also, I just found out that the hotel upgrade wasn’t my husband’s doing! He called to arrange for the flowers in my room, but the hotel staff upgraded me to help make the surprise better.

This all ties back to my blog about “More or Less Love”. Because when you try to do good, others want to join you. And the little good you were capable of doing by yourself becomes even more because of their help. It’s an abundance thing that is simply inspired by good. Isn’t that divine?