Day 10: Love is always worth it

I came across this song when I saw ‘Fireproof‘, and it’s words left me in a hot, melting mess, because they are truth.

Every. Single. Word.

Love is not a battlefield, it’s not a place where we go to fight, but it is absolutely, always, worth the fight.  To keep it.  To live it.  To make it stronger.  To make it real. Love is not a pick and choose kind of deal.  It’s a place we stay, we don’t just get to leave when it gets hard, and yes, it is hard. Every day.  With every relationship we have.  I don’t know about you, but one thing I’ve learnt in my 37 years is that the things in life that are worth something are hard work, and worth the effort.

I will never back down from this truth, and will never pull any punches in speaking the realities of love. It is not all sunshine and lollipops and red hearts and warm fuzzies.  It is hard.  It is gut wrenching.  It drains every ounce of energy we have, and brings us to depths we never knew existed.  It can feel like we’re fighting round after round after round of fear, discontent, hopelessness, grief, anger and pain when we’re trying to hold onto what we believe in, to make it real.  It can take what feels like everything from us, can completely change our reality and turn our world upside down, and sometimes, that’s where we need to be, so that God can rebuild.  Because God, He is Love defined.

 

Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It’s a house we enter in
Then commit to never leave

So lock the door behind you
Throw away the key
We’ll work it out together
Let it bring us to our knees

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

To some, love is a word
That they can fall into
But when they’re falling out
Keeping that word is hard to do

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

Love will come to save us
If we’ll only call
He will ask nothing from us
But demand we give our all

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

I will fight for you
Would you fight for me?
It’s worth fighting for

What are you fighting for, right now?  I would love to hear more of your story, to pray for you and encourage you through whatever is your testing ground at the moment.  Please feel free to share in the comments, or e-mail me at stitchingmum at gmail dot com.  One thing about this whole love thing, we’re not alone.

Day 9: The story of us (Part 3) – All you need is just a little patience

love never gives up. If one gives up then it was never love at all.

via pinterest

Patience.

So not one of my ‘natural’ better qualities.

I’m in a season of realising more and more how much I crave instant gratification, and have my whole life, so that gives you some idea of how I lived through a process that took 7 years from God telling me to pray for our marriage to be restored, to us coming back together.

Not very patiently, at all.

I should back up a bit – when God first spoke to me about being married again to my husband, I did not want that to happen.  At all.  Ever.  It took another nearly 3 years before my heart changed, before God changed my heart to that being what I wanted, to that becoming the desire of my heart.  For me, the true test of patience came once I realised I had fallen in love with my husband again, and then had to wait and see what would happen.

It was a situation where so many elements were completely out of my control, and the only thing I could do was to keep trusting God that His promises were true, and to wait.  Like I said, not one of my strong points.

The King James Version of ‘Love is patient’ reads ‘Charity suffereth long’ Strong’s Concordance translates ‘suffereth long’ as:

 (I) ‘to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart’, (A) ‘to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles’

Merriam-Webster defines patient as:

1
:  bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2
:  manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3
:  not hasty or impetuous
4
:  steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity
5
a    :  able or willing to bear —used with of

Bearing pains.

Not hasty.

Steadfast

Able or willing to bear.

To be of a long spirit.

Not to lose heart.

To persevere patiently and bravely.

I only read these words in the last couple of days as I sought out the definition of and the Biblical application of the word ‘patient’, and I discovered the simple description of what is was to wait on the promise God gave me, one that initially I didn’t believe.  Let’s just say that I was not a picture of patience by these definitions.

So many times, I grew impatient, I did lose heart, and I gave up on seeing His promise fulfilled.  I tried to rush things because I didn’t think God was making things happen when they should.  I got sick of waiting.  I thought ‘if it hasn’t happened by now, it will never happen’.  I thought I knew how it should all happen.

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.

via pinterest

I would have times when I could hardly physically bear the longing, the desperation of wanting to see His promise to me, to us, come to life, when the love I felt for my husband was almost crippling, and I wondered how on earth I could keep living like this.  I told myself that this was the cross I had to bear for not ‘getting it right’ in our marriage the first time, and sometimes told myself that actually, I had it all wrong, this wasn’t really what God had in mind for us.  But deep within, in a place I have yet to uncover inside myself, I knew, without a doubt, that I was wrong, that His promise was true, and that when His timing was perfect, I would see it come to life.

And I did.  We’re now living the fulfilment of His promise, and He’s nowhere near finished with us yet.  It wasn’t until I gave up on trying to do everything in my power, and came to a quiet acceptance that I just had to be patient and keep trusting and waiting that anything changed.  And it wasn’t God that changed.  It was each of us, being made into who He intended us to be all along.

Hebrews 6:15 (Patience)

via pinterest

God is each of those definitions of patience.  He is not hasty, He is steadfast and doesn’t lose heart with us, He waits patiently for us.  And this is how we are to love, not just our spouses but everyone in our lives – our kids, family, friends, work colleagues, everyone who comes across our path in life.  I know every time I take a deep breath and wait a few moments in those frustrating situations with my kids, the end result is always so much better than when I give into my initial impulse and just yell at them.  When I take the time to listen to a friend and feel some of the pain or struggle they’re experiencing, they feel more loved and encouraged than if I just told them what I thought and what they should do.

This is what God does with us, how He loves us, and so this is how we need to love each other.  It’s really very simple, but it is so hard to put into practice, because we’re not God.  A deep breath, count to 5, and asking Him for His heart makes such a difference in how we love.

Guns ‘n’ Roses had it right all along, a little patience is all we need.  It doesn’t take much, but it can make a huge difference.  I’ll leave you with this classic for your viewing pleasure, and in the meantime, tell me, how do you ‘practice’ patience?  For me, it’s a whole lot of deep breathing and clamping my mouth shut before I let the words come out.  There are times when I’m very, very quiet……..

” Therefore continue to wait in hope, for although the promise may linger, it will never come too late”

– Charles Spurgeon

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

Day 8: The story of us (Part 2) – Love is patient.

After I left my husband, we went through a lengthy court case to settle the ongoing care of the kids and property, the usual procedure here in Australia, but something I didn’t expect to happen.  We were both wounded and hurting, unable to communicate with each other, and the whole procedure was painful and devastating.  We eventually came to an agreement on all counts, and the kids continued in the routine that we had all settled into.

Soon after we finished in court, I applied for a divorce, an astonishingly simple procedure, and after a phone link-up with the Family Law Court, our marriage was declared null and void, with no objections voiced by anyone.  I was surprised by my reaction to all this, how my heart hurt and I cried for a long time after I hung up the phone.  I had thought that this was just another inevitable step in the procedure, that I was finished with pain and heartache, and that now I could move on with my life – whatever that meant.  I didn’t expect the deep ache I felt inside, knowing that what had once been my dream had been declared effectively dead by someone in a courtroom a long way away.

Eventually, as it always did, the hurt diminished, and I began to look with hope toward the future for my heart, assuming that I would one day begin a new relationship, one that I pictured would be better than my first marriage.  I had already started a nursing degree, and was excited at the prospect of becoming a midwife (as was my dream) once I finished my study.

It wasn’t long after our divorce was finalised, about 2 months or so, that through a series of events I found myself coming to know Jesus as very real in my life, and I surrendered myself to His love in March 2006.  It was another completely unexpected turn of events in my life, especially for a girl who thought she had God all figured out.  My coming to faith was the first step for me in seeing Him rebuild our marriage, although I had no idea that that was His plan then.

But He didn’t take long to let me know what He had in mind.  A few months after coming to faith, I was sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, venting about a particularly frustrating time I was going through with my ex-husband.  As I was explaining the situation to her, a thought came to my mind – no, a directive – one that took me completely by surprise and left me wondering where on earth it came from.

In a moment when I was wondering how long I would have to keep going through the difficulty of raising kids in a divorced family, God told me to pray for the restoration of our marriage.

Yep.  God told me to pray to be married again to a man I didn’t want to have anything to do with, but would have to for the rest of my life because of our children.  I didn’t even really know then what it was to hear God speak, but I had a crash course in hearing God that day.  And it was no whisper.

After I responded ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, no way am I doing that, I don’t want to be married to him again!!’, I knew I couldn’t be completely disobedient, so I quickly prayed ‘Fine, Lord, if that’s what You really want, I pray that eventually our marriage will be restored’, and promptly resolved to never think of this curious little exchange again.

I couldn’t have had any idea on that day in June 2006, 13 years after I told the boy I loved that I would wait for him, that I was starting a new journey in waiting, one that would take a lot longer than a few days this time.  7 years later, I know that was the beginning of my lesson in patience, in learning what it is to be patient.

Tomorrow we’ll explore the definitions of patience, but for now, what has been one of your life-lessons in learning to be patient?  Big or small, extraordinary or mundane, share in the comments below how you’ve come to know this lesson of love.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

Day 7 – The story of us (Part 1)

“‘I’ll wait” I said, on a bright, cool winter’s day.

I was on the cusp of 17, he about to turn 18, and we loved each other.  But he was trying to sort out where to go in life, this boy who was not made for school, and wanted us to wait until high school was over to start a relationship.  So I said I’d wait.

We could never have known then that it would take 20 years for our picture of love and life together to really become real.

I loved him, and I knew he loved me, and that was all that mattered, right?

At 16, what did I know of love?  What did I know of waiting, of patience?

I was living through my parent’s divorce, one that had taken nearly my whole life to eventually happen, so I thought I knew what love and marriage wasn’t.  I knew what I didn’t want our marriage to be.

And I knew I was going to marry this boy.  That was as true to me as knowing that the sun rose in the morning and set at night, because even though I didn’t know it then, they were words God had spoken into my heart.

A few days after our conversation, we started ‘going out’, as dating was called in our part of the world in the 1990’s, and I thought I had everything I wanted.  A boyfriend, great friends, the end of high school and the start of becoming an adult in sight.  I had an on-and-off relationship with God, having been raised in church with my mum and my sister, and never questioning that God was real.  But I didn’t know Him, didn’t know that He was as real and present in my life as the people around me, and that above everything, He loved me.

Fast forward 10 years, and the dream life I had pictured was falling apart.  After high school I had gone to uni (university) for a year, and hated it so I came home, and he started working.  We moved in together, and I got a job, eventually moving to a town an hour away for work.  We got engaged, and then a few months later life took a turn for the unexpected.

I became pregnant.  So not a part of the plan, but a very welcome surprise nonetheless.

Our eldest son was born, and at 21 my heart’s deepest desire came true – I was a mum, and I was going to be a wife.  I didn’t think I could be any happier, but even then, our life together wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  On the surface we looked happy enough, but you didn’t have to dig very far to see the discontent, the struggle, the wounding and the damage caused by words spoken in anger.

Our son was nearly two years old when we got married, we bought a house the next year, and our daughter came along 8 months later.  Our youngest child, another son, joined us when our daughter was 21 months old, deciding to arrive 6 weeks early and throwing life into a tailspin.  But we managed, and eventually settled into life with 3 kids, me a stay-at-home mum and he a shift-worker in a local factory.  I thought I was living the life I wanted, the life we had dreamed of having – simple, hard work, and time to enjoy our completed family.

If only.

When our youngest son was about 4 months old, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression, and I can honestly say that that was the worst time of my life – of our lives – and it was all downhill from there.  The cracks in our marriage became wider and deeper, and neither of us had the energy that we really needed to try and fix things, try and make it work.  We became two people struggling for survival, almost completely unable to help the other, despite knowing we had to for us to stay together.  We were beyond exhausted, and just existed in the same house together, doing our best to raise our kids and trying not to fail in the process.

There was only so long we could keep going like that, and in January 2004, the day before our youngest son’s birthday, we had an argument that was a repeat of the thousand we’d had before, and in that moment, I knew that was it.  I had a moment of pure clarity where I realised that I couldn’t change him, despite how hard I’d tried, and that I couldn’t keep living the way we were.  We couldn’t keep living the way we were.

It was then that I knew I had to leave, and the relief was overwhelming.

I had thought of leaving before, but had always dismissed the idea, because as far as I was concerned, that wasn’t an option.  I was never going to repeat what happened to my parents, I was never going to put my kids through what I had experienced (even though I had always thought that my parents had a ‘good’ divorce), and so to me, a broken marriage would mean that I had failed, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

But it did.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to us.

Of course, that wasn’t what I was thinking at the time.  Our world as we knew it had been blown up, and we sat stunned amongst the debris of our life together, barely knowing where to start, what to do, where to go.  The dream I had so desperately tried to live had been completely destroyed.

Back then I had no idea of the concept that for God to truly be able to do His work in us, for His plans and purposes for us to be realised, that which we create and hold dear in place of Him  – our idols – has to be broken and torn down and destroyed so that He can work in us, work for us, building in us the real dreams and hopes that He had planned for us all along.

God created me to be a wife and a mum, it was my picture-perfect expectations of marriage and motherhood that became my idol, one that I could never live up to.  We both know now that we didn’t really know what it meant to be married, the true purpose of marriage – to love and respect and serve your spouse above yourself, not to seek to be fulfilled by what they can do for you.

Structures with shaky foundations never last, they need to be torn down and a new foundation laid, so they can be rebuilt as something strong that will last forever.  That’s what happened to us, to our marriage, we were built on a shaky foundation, and now after the tearing down, we’re living in a construction zone of being rebuilt into something that will last forever.

Our broken marriage and the subsequent journey I’ve lived over the last 10 years has taught me what real love is, what it means to truly love someone – not just my husband, but everyone in my life.  If that was the sole purpose of that experience in life, to learn true love, God-style, then it was totally worth it.  It is a challenging lesson I live and learn every. single. day, and every day I learn a little bit more about how to love, how to be loved, how much God loves me.

Love never fails, despite what we think,  and I thank God for that truth every day of my life.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

Day 6: Love is a risk

quote Henri Nouwen, Inner Voice of Love

via darcie nicholson

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving.  And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”

―     Henri J.M. Nouwen

Day 5: Let me tell you a story

All the words are whirling around in my head, and I’m having trouble catching them and forming them into something that will tell the story.

My story.

The story that God has gifted me with, one that I could never have written, one that has taught me real love.

I’ve been struggling to articulate how Paul’s words – God’s words – to the Corinthians have come to show me the true meaning of love, and I’ve realised it’s because when I try to explain things, I generally use an example, a lived experience, a story.  I tell stories to try and explain life, it’s what I do.  I’m learning that it’s how God has made me.  To be a storyteller.

We all have stories, we all have a voice, and I love Jeff Goins’ words regarding how we all need to tell our stories:

Stories are written to be shared, and it is our responsibility to retell those that we witness — not only for our own sake, but for the benefit of others. Stories change people. They shape entire cultures.

I have believed this for as long as I can remember, and I encourage everyone I know to tell what has shaped their lives, encouraged them to believe that their story is worth telling.  But I haven’t practised what I’ve been preaching, not entirely, and it’s been because of fear.  Fear that my story isn’t important enough, interesting enough, that it’s not worth telling because it’s already been told (by someone who did it better), that I won’t tell it well enough, and perhaps more than anything, that once I write the words, it’s out there, and I can’t take it back.

Fear.  It’s a killer.  Well, it would be if we didn’t love, because there is no fear in love, and perfect love – God’s love – drives out fear.  So with that in mind, I’m going to tell you my story, and how it made real the words of love for me in my life.  If you were to pick up a book and read the blurb on the back, curious about what’s inside, this is what you might read:

Once upon a time, there was a girl.  And a boy (I’m sure you already know where this is going…).

High-school sweethearts, they thought they knew what love was, and just assumed that it would last forever.

But it didn’t.  Not how they thought it would, anyway.

Life just happened, as it does, and eventually, the walls fell down, and everything fell apart, ending in the pain of divorce.  3 kids, a marriage, a house, dreams and hope – all wounded and terribly broken by, well, two people who didn’t know how to really love one another.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Because the love they thought would last forever?  It did. They discovered that real love never dies, it doesn’t give up, it keeps going to the end.

This is the story of loss and restoration, of renovated hearts and lives, and how love always, always wins.

Day 4: Love is hard

No, that’s not part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, but as much as I know that love is good, I know without doubt that it is hard.

I couldn’t work out what to write today – it’s late Friday night here in Australia, and I’m very tired after a particularly trying day at work, and a few days of dealing with a child’s trying behaviour (which is nothing unusual around here).  Both situations have required conscious acts of love, the kind that don’t fit the warm, fuzzy version, rather the ‘this takes a lot of me and is really hard’ version.  Patience.  Laying down pride.  Turning away from anger.  Speaking truth, with kindness.  I’m feeling a bit raw around the edges as a result.

That the last few days have been rather challenging is no surprise to me – writing about a particular topic involves rather a lot of time thinking about it, and I’m finding that I’m constantly measuring my thoughts and actions against Paul’s words describing love.  As a result, I’m feeling pretty vulnerable, which is not an unfamiliar state of being for me, but one that I’m still not ‘at home’ in.  I’m learning more and more about vulnerability, why it is so important in our culture and why we need to embrace it – why I need to embrace it.

I found this quote tonight, one I’ve come across before and is particularly relevant right now, to this series.  To truly know love, we need to be vulnerable – the alternative is to be hard-hearted and unfeeling, and love cannot live in a place like that. Take these words with you into your weekend and ask yourself (as I will be), what are you wrapping carefully around your heart?   What is your casket or coffin, your I-can’t-be-hurt-here safe place?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  – C. S. Lewis