Tag Archive: marriage


The Disease of Expectation

winter snow heartAhhhhh, February – Christmas decorations are packed away, tax returns are being filed, winter stews fill the crock pot, and we watch the skies anxiously for a cozy blanket of snow or a promising hint of spring. And Valentine’s Day…oh yes, Valentine’s Day: the one day that possibly generates more stress in the hearts of men than a wedding anniversary; or a first date; or the wedding day itself; or the honeymoon; or becoming a father; or being a father on his daughter’s wedding day.
In a word, Valentine’s Day = anxiety.

Here’s the quandary: if a man spends too much his wife may question his motives or wonder if he is being financially responsible; if he doesn’t spend enough she may feel cheated, disappointed, unappreciated, rejected. This presents a tightrope walk for sure with only past successes (or failures) as the balancing pole for our men.

Enter peer pressure. “Well, so-and-so’s husband took her [fill-in-the-blank]” or “you should see what so-and-so’s husband gave her for Valentine’s Day” or the ever popular “I just thought you knew how much this day meant to me” (accompanied by sad little tears, manipulative pout, and possible stomping of feet and/or a lock on the bathroom door).

And exactly when did one day on the calendar become the benchmark for LOVE? Love can’t be measured in a day! I propose we have taken a dangerous detour from the word’s true meaning when it has been reduced to what can be paid for, wrapped up, and tied with a bow.

A group of professionals recently posed the following question to a few children between the ages of 4 and 8: “What does love mean?” The answers were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think (italics mine):

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy, age 4 (Love protects)

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl, age 5 (Love inspires our best)

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy, age 6 (Love shares)

“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri, age 4 (Love energizes)

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” Danny, age 7 (Love makes the extra effort)

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy, age 6 (Love is committed)

“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy, age 8 (Love is empowering)

“My mommy loves me more than anybody. I don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.” Clare, age 6 (Love is affectionate)

“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” Elaine, age 5 (Love is selfless)

“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann, age 4 (Love is happy)

“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren, age 4 (Love is smart!)

“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” Karen, age 7 (Love is romantic)

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica, age 8 (Love is expressive)

And in my personal opinion, hands down the best one:

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby, age 7 (Love is profound)

WoW! “… if you stop opening presents and listen …”

As parents, my husband and I have tried very hard to instill balance in our children’s expectations about holidays, and about life in general. While we want them to always believe in the magic of Christmas and the unique celebrating of their birth day, we have worked to keep their expectations within the framework of reality. As in, “I don’t care if one of your friends got a limo ride downtown to share a hotel suite with their friends for the weekend, complete with 24/7 room service and tickets to a concert.” Someone – or several someone’s – will always have more, do more, be more. And the disease of ‘expectation’ may be far more dangerous than any other childhood illness they will ever face.

So what kind of example are we setting for our children when it comes to this one day set aside for lovers? What are we teaching them about what love really means? I’m not suggesting that gifts are not appropriate; I certainly enjoy opening a pretty little box or two and I have never been accused of turning away from chocolate. True, there are times when a card can express what we may not be able to say in our own words. But maybe right alongside reining in our children’s expectations, we ought to be evaluating our own.

Ladies, may I encourage you this Valentine’s Day to set aside your expectations of the presents you ought to get – or stop comparing what your friends and co-workers get – and simply listen to what’s already around you?

Men, may I encourage you this Valentine’s Day to pause, look your wife in the eyes and give to her from your heart? Not as an excuse to squeeze your wallet a little tighter, but because you truly want to share yourself with her.

sharing hearts

It’s easy to buy something. What takes time and effort is giving of our selves. To share a piece of who we are. This Valentine’s Day, let’s stop opening the presents and listen. It just might be the best Valentine’s Day ever.

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A Boy, A Girl, and A Canvas

ImageMy parents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary this past week.  55 years. My mom was not even 19 when she and my Dad married – and he was an old man of 21. Robert Vern Chambers and Charlotte Cathleen Crowe married on a very hot June afternoon in a sweet little southern church with no air conditioning — at 6pm! My mother was every bit as elegant as Grace Kelly in her borrowed wedding gown and my Dad would have given James Bond a run for his money in his elegant white coat tuxedo.

Shortly after they were married my Dad, enlisted in the Army, became stationed in Germany. Mom went along and without the comfort of cell phones, email, or Skype to reach ‘home’, they managed to turn his call of duty into an extended honeymoon all across Europe. For two full years, each time my Dad had leave, they would set out for a previously unvisited country and explore the diverse and unique beauty that is the continent of culture. My Mom still tells wonderful stories of their ventures into Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Monte Carlo among others.

As I’ve watched them over the years, there are many things that stand out to me about their relationship. My Daddy is reserved, kinda’ serious, a packrat of sorts, and solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. He enjoys spending time with friends but would never be one to initiate any kind of social gathering. An excellent (and sometimes experimental) cook, he especially enjoys baking. For years, we have enjoyed his homemade cinnamon rolls, cheesecake, and German Christmas bread. I can think of only one mishap of his which has jokingly been placed in the annals of history as “Dad’s sauerkraut cake”. Ick – my mouth curls up even now as I remember that first (and last) awful bite.

My Mom is super organized, highly social, and has an incredible way of making everyone around her feel special and important. She’s tenderhearted and compassionate to the core. Watch out though, she will cut you like a butcher’s knife through soft butter if you come after her family! Mama can make popcorn and brownies seem like a feast fit for a king, cry tears of joy as quickly as tears of sorrow, and read a story in a way that truly makes you feel as if you have been transported through time.

Daddy gave me my blue eyes, my appetite, and my ugly knees. Mama gave me my great cheekbones, my love of entertaining, and my stubborn streak.

So how do two people, with such diverse personalities, make a marriage that is still going strong after 55 years? There are several things which come to mind:

Commitment. The dictionary defines the word “commit” this way: To give in trust or charge; to pledge oneself; to entrust, especially for safekeeping.  My parents have encompassed all those beautiful attributes of commitment in their attitude and actions towards each other. They trust one another. And they know that no one else on Planet Earth has more invested in their safekeeping than each for the other.

My grandmother told my mom the morning of her wedding that if she ever showed up at their door after she married my dad, she would swat her on the backside and send her back home.  Bottom line, it was my Memaw’s way of saying ‘you’re in this for the long haul; be committed to it and work it out.’ And work it out they have. There have been incredible highs and devastating lows, but my parents have gone through it all together. Their commitment to each other is absolutely unwavering. And everyone around them knows it.

Strength. Strength is not the same as commitment. One of the definitions for strength is moral power, firmness, and courage. My mom and dad have been strong for each other, strong for their marriage, and strong for each other’s families. My dad has always had an excellent relationship with my mom’s parents. Daddy grieved the loss of one of his best friends when my Papa died. And Mama was every bit as caring and loving towards my dad’s family as she was her own. They have been strong and courageous for each other, on behalf of each other, and with each other. They give strength to one another and receive strength from each other.

Loyalty. In a word, faithful. My parents have many friends and acquaintances of the opposite sex. But they have observed and respected undeniable boundaries, remaining loyal and faithful to each other from before their wedding. They are truly each other’s one and only.

Perseverance. Definition: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Nothing could be more true of two people in this world than the perseverance of my mom and dad. They have faced insurmountable odds, endured betrayal by those they considered friends, survived financial hardships, and suffered the heartache of their extremely rebellious children. But they have stayed the course. Unwavering in their faith and their commitment to prayer, my parents have walked what they talk.

Unity. Oneness. “The state of being one.” I remember growing up, there was no playing one against the other in our house. Mom and Dad always presented a united front to my brother and me. Even if they might have disagreed behind closed doors, we never knew it. Mom and Dad truly enjoy each other’s company and have made their friendship a huge part of their marriage.

My parents are not perfect. They have disagreements and spats. They get frustrated with each other. And there have probably been at least a couple of occasions when they questioned their sanity. But they have, over the years, taken a blank canvas and painted a beautiful picture of commitment, strength, loyalty, perseverance, and unity. In their 55 years of marriage, that canvas has become a masterpiece. And I, for one, am grateful to have watched these two artists at work, at play, at home. Together.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you.

When Love Isn’t Pretty

Valentine’s Day. Cupid’s arrow. Hearts. Cards. Balloons. Flowers. Chocolate. And maybe some bling. It’s a day we specifically set aside to show our love in tangible ways. A special dinner or concert, maybe a romantic getaway, or an evening out to see the latest romantic comedy at the theater. February 14th is a day to celebrate and express some of the deepest feelings of the heart.

It’s a beautiful day painted with reds, pinks, whites, and even purples in every possible combination. And isn’t it easy to love when love is easy? When it feels good, when it warms the soul, when it brings uncontainable joy?

But what happens when love isn’t pretty?

I must confess I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. I love romantic novels (real love stories, not the sleazy ones), romantic movies (Somewhere in Time, The Notebook, Sleepless in Seattle) and romantic music (no one does it better than Rachmaninoff and Barry White). But I’ve been reflecting these last few weeks about love. Real love. Enduring love. Love that goes the distance. It’s a very different thing from what we see portrayed on TV commercials and in magazines.

My maternal grandparents were a powerful example of real love. Oh my, how Memaw and PaPa loved each other! My grandmother could walk into the room and PaPa’s face would light up like Christmas morning. Memaw always spoke my grandfather’s name, Charles, with uncontested pride and respect. She genuinely adored being his wife. My PaPa was a preacher for 57 years and Memaw was a faithful preacher’s wife, pianist, Sunday School teacher, mother to five, and elementary school teacher right along beside him. Any time my grandfather expressed his concern about not being a seminary graduate, my grandmother would pat his arm sand say, “Now Charles, you’re a good preacher. And you love your people. Don’t you let anyone make you feel badly about not having a piece of paper on the wall at your office.”  Memaw and PaPa loved their children, their extended family, their neighbors, and their church. But they loved no one the way they loved each other. PaPa kept his good looks all throughout his life and Memaw was careful to keep hers, looking mighty fine for him as well. She still has the prettiest legs of any woman I’ve ever known – and she’s 96!

When my PaPa’s cancer returned aggressively in early 1991, he endured extensive radiation treatments that can only be described as horrific. My grandmother never left his side. When it was time to make arrangements for hospice, she found a nurse to come live with them. But Memaw made it very clear she was his caretaker; the nurse was there only to help her manage his pain. After he passed, through deep sobbing cries she said, “I miss him so much. But I wouldn’t bring him back for anything. He’s whole now and I wouldn’t want to take that away from him.”

That, my friends, is real love.

My paternal grandparents were a beautiful example of love that goes the distance. My Grammie and PawPaw were kind, gracious, respectful of each other and those around them, and hospitable. They loved their family and especially their grandchildren. PawPaw always planted an amazing garden in their enormous backyard and Grammie would surely have hosted a cooking show if The Food Network had been around in her day.  I don’t remember them being openly affectionate with each other but their love and commitment was undeniable. And I do remember upon my first trip home from college, PawPaw actually returned my hug when I threw my arms around his neck.

When doctors confirmed my Grammie’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, we knew it would be difficult. We had no idea how agonizing it would be. My beautiful grandmother, an elegant, strong Southern lady who never had a hair out of place, who taught me to peel peaches and cook fried chicken, who gave me my love for rocking chairs, lost herself in a place too far away for us to reach. I’ll never forget the first time I went to their house and she didn’t recognize me. It was crushing. My PawPaw gently, lovingly, stubbornly cared for her in their home 24/7/365 until it nearly killed him. By the time he finally relented and moved her to a nursing facility, he had not slept more than an hour or two at a time for months.

PawPaw spent every day with her, holding her hand, talking to her, bringing her things that might touch some place deep in the recesses of her mind. When she yelled at him and called him names, he loved her. When she tried to run away in her nightgown, he loved her. When she accused him of holding her hostage and keeping her from her parents (long since passed), he loved her. And when she could no longer communicate at all, he loved her still. He grieved the loss of his beloved Anna Mae for years before death finally released her.

That, my friends, is love that goes the distance.

When I received my cancer diagnosis in 2001, I was shocked to learn that many of our ‘friends’ told my husband that our marriage would never survive such a traumatic event. “Hang in there as long as you can, Richard,” they told him. “And when it’s finally over, just know you did your best.” That’s not enduring love. Enduring love doesn’t bail when love gets hard. Enduring love digs its heels in and finds a way to stay. And stay he did. Richard was by my side through every surgery, every doctor’s visit, every chemo treatment, every perinatal checkup, every lab appointment, every radiation treatment, every day, every week, every month.

Richard took care of the kids, managed my care, maintained the schedule of meals and house cleanings, and stayed on top of Alex’s homework. He knew when to let me do a little and he knew when to make me stop. He was my bodyguard when people wanted to hug me too soon after a surgery, my protector when strangers turned away from my bald-headed, pregnant, one-breasted self, and my personal comedian when we needed to add a little salt to our very full plate. There were many things we were afraid to confess to each other during that time; things maybe the other one of us hadn’t thought about yet. But leaving was never one of them. Richard is loyal to the core. And he would take on the devil himself for his family.

That, my friends, is enduring love.

All these examples point me to a greater love – undoubtedly the best example ever provided to humanity. His wasn’t pretty either. Subjected to cruel mocking and bitter hatred, an inhumane beating and a torturous crucifixion, Jesus showed us what love looks like when it isn’t easy and it isn’t pretty. His was a real love which valued obedience to his Father over his own comfort and convenience; an enduring love that bore the shameful, humiliating penalty of our sin on his own sinless body. Love that felt no bitterness, hatred, or judgment towards the one who betrayed him, only deep sorrow. Love willing to go the distance, even unto death on a cross, willing to do whatever it took to defeat Love’s enemy which he triumphantly accomplished on that glorious third day.

For your sake. For my sake. For eternity’s sake.

As we exchange cards, flowers, gifts, and our affection on Valentine’s Day, let us remember the greatest love of all, expressed in John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world [real love] that He gave His only son [enduring love], that whosoever believes in him should have everlasting life [love that goes the distance].”

Love that loves when it isn’t pretty.

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