BROKEN HEARTS

Does the hurt ever go away?” my friend asked, as the tears flowed.  Her husband of sixty plus years was recently deceased.

I couldn’t help but think that tomorrow, February 9, would have been my fifth wedding anniversary.  After being alone all of my adult life, at the age of seventy-seven, I married for the first time.  Sweet Cecil, a long time friend, who had been widowed, came on like a stormtrooper declaring he loved me, and there was no changing his mind.

The thought of giving up my prized independence terrified me.  I came and went as I chose.  My schedule was mine to arrange.  If I wanted to study in the middle of the night, there was no one to object.  I was accountable first to God and then to my church leaders.  That was it!  At this late juncture, I wasn’t looking for a man.  I had done quite well on my own.

My emotions ran rampant.  I was excited, fearful, hopeful, and pessimistic.  I was determined I couldn’t do this.  Yet, like the proverbial moth, I was drawn hypnotically toward the flame.  How could I, after all these years, make room for another person in my life?  How could I share my space, my stuff, my bed, be accountable to someone else twenty-four hours a day?

I was scared, but not stupid.  Being loved, being touched, being important to someone else was kind of fun.  I found myself succumbing to this cute, white-haired, charming man, who thought me “precious.”  I still laugh at that.

One morning I awakened early.  Lying there thinking of Cecil and the possibility of marriage, I thought, “Why do I cling so to my independence?  Being alone hasn’t done that much for me.”  In that moment I made up my mind.

On February 9, 2013, Cecil and I stood at the altar in his home church, where we had met.  Before God and 150 “forever” friends and family, we repeated our vows pledging ourselves to each other “For Better, for Worse.” We had many “For Better” plans:  serving missions overseas, cruising Europe’s rivers, and visiting the Great Wall of China.  On that cold, cloudless, sunshiny day, it was beyond us to think of anything but the “Better.”

Never once did I consider the hurt that might lie ahead.  But, the fact is, Cecil will not be here tomorrow to celebrate our anniversary.  Five months and eleven days after our fairytale wedding, he died of an inoperable aortic hematoma.

It made no sense.  Why did God allow this to happen?  What did I do wrong?  Why was I worthy of only five months with Cecil?  I wanted to remind God, “I was doing all right.  I wasn’t looking for a man.  Why did you interfere in my life?”

The hurt was beyond belief.  I’ve always been the strong one, but I was tired of being strong.  I wanted to fall in the floor and kick my heels and throw a fit.  I howled with grief.  Oh, how I wanted someone to take care of me for a change.  That was supposed to be Cecil’s job.

I prayed, but my prayers consisted mostly of the same tearful plea, “God, I need you.  Please help me.

I have discovered there is a “For Better or for Worse” in almost everything we attempt in this life.  We hope for and expect a good outcome, but life dictates that the outcome is sometimes really bad.  That’s when we experience the hurt.  O, it may not be the devastating hurt experienced at the loss of a loved one, but at one time or another, we all suffer hurt and disappointment.

So we return to my friend’s question.  “Does the hurt ever go away?”

My faith in a God who cares had kept me for more than seventy-seven years.  That’s why I was strong, and though I couldn’t see any purpose in Cecil’s death and the questions were unending, my faith remained intact.  I chose to trust God.

As I trusted Him, God wrapped the sharp corners of grief in His tender love, and bit by bit, the sun began to shine again.  I could get out of bed in the morning without falling apart, and I found new purpose for my life.

I can only attribute this miraculous healing to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as I trusted God to help me find my way again.

In Isaiah 61:1-3, Jesus says of Himself, “He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn…to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning…”

There will always be a lonely place in my heart where Cecil fit perfectly.  I will wonder what life would have been had he lived.  But this I know.  God is faithful.  He is the healer of broken hearts.

REMEMBER THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

MY VALENTINE

We have very little reliable knowledge about Saint Valentine, a third century Roman Catholic Priest upon whose life, the little bit we know of it, we have built a worldwide holiday that will net $19.6 billion dollars this year.  Valentine’s Day is the busiest holiday of the year and ranks fourth in retail sales.

No one is quite sure how this happened.  We do know that the Roman Emperor, Claudius, prohibited young people from marrying, because, in his opinion, single men were better warriors.  They did not have to worry about wives and children, when they went to fight.

Valentine, this soft hearted, sympathetic priest, defied Claudius’ decree by marrying couples secretly.  On February 14, he was beheaded for his infraction of the law, later becoming known as “The Patron Saint of Lovers.”

It wasn’t until the high middle ages, historically associated with courtly love,  that someone came up with the idea of celebrating Saint Valentine and his martyrdom.  O, through the centuries, his death had been celebrated in churches, but this was different.  Now he would be remembered for his kindness and regard for lovers.  Thus was born Valentine’s Day as we know it.

I can’t help but reflect on Valentine Days in the past.  Remember those “beautifully” decorated classroom boxes?  I used lots of lacey, paper doilies and gallons of paste fabricating valentines for my classmates.  It was an exciting day.

In the fifth grade, I was in love.  There was brown eyed, dark haired Ronny and blue eyed, blond haired Keith.  I couldn’t choose, so I just loved them both from afar.  A Valentine from either of them became a treasured possession.

When I was an eighth-grader, I really was in love.  David walked me to school and carried my books.  I dreamed such wonderful dreams about him.  Then he moved away and took the dreams with him.

My church always threw a grand Valentine banquet each year.  The promo declared that the banquet was for everyone—married, unmarried, sweetheart or not.  For years I went hoping they were telling the truth.  However, in spite of the promises, everything was tailor-made for sweethearts.  I finally gave up on Valentine’s Day and Valentine banquets.

A few moments ago, I took a file out of the cabinet here by my desk.  It is marked “Cards to and from Cecil.” The file contains the first, last, and only Valentine that I ever received from my husband.  Cecil’s cards were usually sloppy with sentiment, but this time he chose a cute, funny one.  It says, “You are sweeter than a Pina Colada, more beautiful than a piano sonata, you are the whole enchilada, and I love you because “I just gotta!”  I honestly would have preferred the sloppy, sentimental card, but it would have made me cry today.  However, on a day when I really need to laugh, this card makes me laugh.  God surely must have known.

Cecil and I spent our only Valentine’s Day together on a boat off the coast of Maui.  It was a warm sunshiny day.  A slight breeze whipped up frothy meringue on the edge of the gentle waves.  There was fabulous food and live music.  Mostly, we just sat quietly holding hands and grinning at each other.  Somehow it was noised around that we were newlyweds.  There was a steady stream of people coming to congratulate us, offer a drink, or just a friendly smile.

There is no one here today.  The phone doesn’t ring, and there are no lacey valentines.  But I’m all right.  I have my sweet, goofy memories and the knowledge that I am not truly alone.   For God, who sustains me continually, has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me, and He is my closest friend—closer than my brother.   In fact, He has promised to be my husband.

Isaiah 54:5, speaking to Israel, says, “For your maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.  He is called the God of the whole earth.”  Think of that!

On this day for lovers, God will be to you everything that you are longing for.  If you are alone today, I pray you will remember how very much God loves you.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

LOVE OF GOD—

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF THINGS

It is all well and good to say that things are not important—that things really don’t matter.  There is a minimalist movement afoot where people are simplifying life by getting rid of all extraneous stuff and moving into tiny 200 sq. ft. homes on wheels.  I don’t know how serious these people are or whether this is just a short-term fad or phase.  Perhaps they feel superior or even spiritual giving up the trappings of ordinary life.  Fact is, I have been a minimalist all my life.  Actually, I was just poor, but minimalist sounds better.

It is my guess that even these people, who are leaving everything behind, have tucked away some very special things they cannot part with—things that are important, even precious to them.

Yesterday I got rid of a lot of stuff.  Almost a year ago now my sister moved into an Adult Care Facility.  Before leaving her much loved home of more than forty-five years, she showed me the things she wanted to take with her.  There was, of course, her bed, the lovely dresser and nightstand, a Tiffany lamp, the rose painted wall clock, the television, some paintings and a few decorative objects to adorn her room.

She stood before the sofa looking at the beautiful, beveled mirror on the wall.  “I wish I could take that,” she said wistfully.

I followed her into the kitchen.  She had removed her Christmas dishes and china from the hutch.  They were stacked on the counters, the table and even in the floor.  In bewilderment, she stretched out her arms and said, “I have these.”

The responsibility for clearing out, cleaning up, throwing away, selling and boxing up my sister’s entire life fell to me.  I was able to dispense with most of her furniture, but her kitchen stuff, linens, and smaller decorative items, I carefully wrapped and packed in cartons. Somehow I had no stamina or heart for a sale, so my sister’s stuff has been stacked in my garage.

Yesterday some friends carried away most of the cartons for the church rummage sale that raises money for missions.

In the end, I couldn’t give them everything.  I kept the Christmas dishes and China, the quilt Mama made, and the box labeled “pretty fragile things.”  June will never use them again, and I don’t need them.  But—just in case she asks again, “Where is my stuff?” I will be able to say, “I am keeping it safe for you at my house.”

One of my most precious possessions is a small transparent glass dog.  I have had it for more than seventy-five years.  Daddy brought it to me when he returned from a preaching trip.  It was filled with tiny, multicolored candies.  I flew to the door when I saw him coming up the walk.  I looked up at him through the screen, and he said, “O, I needed to see you.”

I have discovered something about precious things.  It is not necessarily the thing that is so precious.  Rather, it is the memory elicited by that thing that holds firm your heart and enriches relationship.

I have a box of my Mama’s precious things—the head of her china doll, grandpa’s mustache mug, and small shoe last, and a hand tatted baby dress.  I can imagine Mama, as a child, playing with that fragile china doll, grandpa drinking his coffee from the mustache mug, and forming a small pair of shoes in his cobbler’s shop, and my eighteen-year-old pregnant Mother tatting a baby dress in anticipation of the child she carried.

While I am defending the importance of certain things, there is a still small voice within that cautions me to hold loosely the things I possess.  Many assume that achieving the American dream is defined in the possession of things.  They are so ardent in their pursuit that they become possessed by their possessions.

Possessions and the acquisition of them must never become more important than my relationship with God and man.  Possessions must never replace my passion for God and His work.  Possessions must never obscure my view of heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, the Apostle Paul tells us, “…the time is short…” and “…those who buy should be as though they do not possess…for the fashion of this world (the way of this world) is passing away.”

Matthew 6:19-21 says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Earthly treasures are temporary.  They are passing away while your genuine love for God and your selfless service to Him flow into your account in heaven.  You are laying up treasures far more valuable than anything you now possess.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!