Unconditional Love ❤️ 

I have a three-year-old who is quite mischievous. She keeps me on my toes all the time. Actually, who am I kidding? I can’t even keep up with all the places her little mind goes. At about the time I discover her first disaster of the day, she will usually do one of two things. She either runs and hides, hoping maybe she can blame it on the baby, or she fesses up and bravely decides to face the music. Perhaps her choice depends on the degree of frustration she hears in my bellow of O-LIV-EEEE-AAAH! I’m not sure. But, she’s a smart little whip, and in those moments that she decides to brave the consequences, she has learned how to diffuse my anger. She makes me look at her, right into those large green-brown eyes, and says, with the sweetest and most contrite-sounding voice, “You still love me though, right Mommy?” She already knows how to lay it on thick. In that moment, of course, my heart melts a little (just a very little!) and I love that I get the opportunity to teach her the very greatest truth that can be known. “Of course I love you, Olivia,” I say. This is followed by some version of, “I don’t like what you did and after you help clean up, you still have a consequence, but I always love you no matter what.” She just doesn’t know yet exactly how much my love will bear. Not even Olivia could withstand the power and the depth of that love for her if there were any human way to really express it. We are stuck with inadequate words and gestures that are feeble when compared to the true force of that purest love. It’s a love that sacrifices and has no conditions. And oh, is it ever patient. Real love transcends feelings and circumstances and is a thing in and of itself. I would gladly and easily lay down my life for this little imp.
The greatest truth we can ever know is that each and every one of us is Loved exactly that much and more. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you are doing, your Father in Heaven loves you to your depths. You can never do anything to lose it because it just IS.

I love the mornings in prayer, when I can find some silence to just sit with my Lord and greedily let Him fill me with that Love. I usually close my eyes and rest in His lap, safely in His embrace with no conditions placed. I tell Him how sorry I am for all the ways I have wronged him, even if they aren’t always apparent to me. Gently, He shows me. I usually have to tune out the voice of the enemy that would justify my actions and my sins, keeping me bound up by them. Of course, there are probably good reasons why I’ve done whatever I’ve done, but the One who loves me the best dispels it all with one glance. I promise to try and never do it again. And when I feel brave enough to look up at Him, He is always ready and willing to meet my gaze with gentle, unwavering compassion and Joy. In those moments, I have not a care in the world! I’ve done wrong. I will do wrong again. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate me from the Love of the one who’s counted each hair on my head. I’m the only one who can allow it, if I were to run and hide instead of boldly asking “Lord, you still love me right?” 
His response is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No matter your sin, He would give His life for you and for me. Despite our sin, He did just that. 
Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Wedded Bliss

A Tribute to our marriage on the occasion of our 18th wedding anniversary

Wedding Day August 13, 1994

As a wedding gift, almost 2 decades ago, my cousin gave us a framed quote that said “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.   As a brand new married couple, full of giddy excitement about embarking on life together, this sentiment didn’t exactly inspire warm fuzzies.  I wanted to do nothing more than gaze at my new husband!  As the years have gone by I have appreciated the wisdom of the sentiment more and more.  Life has come at us, faster than we could foresee at times, and we have been well served standing side-by-side, together, united and bonded by vows we have both understood to be unbreakable.

I’ve learned an awful lot in the last 18 years as I’ve grown in faith.  Coming into marriage from a worldly perspective and not truly a Godly one, I would have been shocked to know all that I’ve since learned.

When we started out, full of joy and promise, the cynical sentiment of the world bombarded us; “The honeymoon will be over soon”, “Good luck but most marriages end in divorce”, ”It will never last,” and on and on.  There have indeed been times that those evil thoughts found a voice in my head.  What I have learned, however, is that our marriage is between three people and not just two.  Having God in our hearts and in our midst has been like having our own personal mediator, loving us both unconditionally, giving us an example and wanting nothing more for us than to learn, grow and succeed in our marriage together.

I wish the world had told me that God’s plan for marriage was never that the honeymoon would last forever and life would be easy because of our great Love.  Rather, God’s divine plan for marriage is that we become saints by learning, over time, experience, hardship and joy, the real meaning of Love.  Love is sacrifice and selfless and giving as much as it is joy and pleasure.  Marriage is a vocation in which we learn to serve others as Jesus served in His vocation on Earth.   As such, it is not about our feelings in any given situation but striving to live God’s will for our lives and accepting the grace He gives us to do it with Joy.

I wish the world had given me the message that children are truly a gift and a miracle from God, instead of merely a burden and an expense.  Accepting them, while not always easy, has taught my heart to be selfless in whole new ways.  If we had known at the start that we would be blessed with 8 of them we both might have run the other way but strangely, by accepting the overwhelming, and at times daunting call, it has taught us both to Trust in God and His providence on a level that drives out any fear.   It has given us the privilege to work for His kingdom in a special way – the way Mary did.  We have participated with God in His creation – what a privilege to sacrifice and surrender for His sake!  I will never say that it’s been an easy job but I will say, with certainty and awe and thanksgiving, that we’ve been given all that we need to carry out our God-given mission, not the least of which is Holy Mother Church and the intercession of all the angels and saints in Heaven.  The world did say that it takes a village to raise a child but I doubt it was referring to the Church or the Heavenly village that surrounds us always!  “As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be”.  I wish I had known that comfort and Joy the way I know it now.

Jesus came to preach repentance and forgiveness and the world crucified Him. In any vocation we are called to die to self for the sake of others and especially in marriage.  There is a constant and daily need to forgive and be forgiven and I don’t need a biblical scholar to explain that seventy times seven actually equals infinity!  For every unintended slight, selfish motivation, disordered priority, unnecessary burden, or the less-than-loving words I have spoken, I am sorry. For all the times I don’t even realize my offense, I ask forgiveness and by the power and grace of God, I offer the same.   I am sorry.  I forgive.   I ask for God’s healing of every little thing and big thing and thank Him for being faithful and working in every situation.  I wish the world had told me that Peace and Joy could be had through the gentle power of this humility.

The world had me believe that I was entitled to intimacy and physical fulfillment at any and all times in our marriage.  The truth, that the church has always taught, is that intimacy involves far more than what goes on behind closed doors.  Intimacy encompasses all the moments of life together that are shared between the three of us alone.  It is not at all what the world would have one believe about the pleasure-seeking ideal and selfish entitlement mentality.  Sometimes we need to wash one another’s feet as Jesus did in intimate and humble service to His apostles.  He humbled himself to foster love and communion and we are called to do no less.  It is not always the most glamorous side of marriage but perhaps one of the most beautiful, to do for one another what no one else would!

God calls all of his children to live chastely and surprisingly this sometimes applies to married couples as well.  His divine plan did not include contraceptives but rather the virtues of self-control and self-denial at times according to the prayerful discernment of His will in a marriage.  The world could never understand this wisdom because it doesn’t give it a chance and married couples are caught in the trap of societal norms trumping the wisdom and divine beauty of the Truth God intended for them.  I wish I had known of the beauty and wisdom of the plan instead of the years of anxiety caught between lies and truth.

The world did not tell me, but by the Grace of God I have learned, that the Bliss of being married lies not in the satisfaction of every whim and desire or living up to worldly sentiments of love and happiness, but rather it comes from serving the Kingdom together in our daily lives.  Gazing at one another is nice at times but won’t get us very far in the race.  It is in looking outward together that we can see and strive for the finish line.

So to the Man I love, respect and adore, thank you for sticking with me through thick and thin (more thick than thin!), through good times and bad, for better and for the very worst.

Thank you for being a man after God’s own heart.

May we fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith until the very end!