Loving well is something I strive to do every day, but probably only achieve on some days. I think we all want to be seen as people who are loving, kind, and caring individuals, but we fall short sometimes. The quick verbal jab that is in response to a loved one’s actions or words or the weariness of caring for a loved one during an illness may cause us to say things out of pain. Count me in on that tally.
My desire is to love well my husband of 41 years, Chris. I have the awesome joy to hold this man that I married in college at 19 so close to my heart that, for the rest of our lives, nothing can come between us. Many years from now, I want to know that I loved him well, to the best of my ability.
It sounds impossible, right? Well, maybe it is a fairy tale, but I am aiming for the fairy tale. I am not perfect in any way and am aware that, sometimes, I fell short under the stress of raising five children including one with a profound disability, Robert. Sometimes in the middle of military deployments and life caring for our children, I was exhausted and didn’t have the energy to be that perfect wife.
So, I’ve learned to love Chris in ways that are tangible and attainable. Simple things mean something to this man who serves others so well. These include acts like bleaching the kitchen sink and counters so they can pass the Henderson sterile environment test (Haha!); caring enough to do the laundry and putting it away (a dreaded task for me); preparing a homemade meal (most of the time); and sitting down to watch a movie with him. An occasional local hotel getaway has also been a way to remind him that time with him is the most important time in my life. These may seem very basic gestures, but basic can work!
Two additional pieces of advice I offer to engaged couples who seek wisdom from an older wife are:
Learn to forgive quickly.
Try to honor dinnertime and eat together as a family as much as possible, even as your children are busy and growing.
I am often asked how we were able to keep our family functioning as we cared for Robert and loosened the parental strings on our four older children. It was a combination of the grace of God and lots of love and food! Each of our now grown children have college degrees and great jobs, but they watched me closely as Robert regressed. The best way I knew how to love them was to be transparent and honest with them. That showed them respect and love.
All of them needed to have detailed medical reports about Robert, but: one needed me to listen; one needed more hugs; one needed to be seen; and one needed to be allowed to be there. When I learned to see them, treasure them, give them what they needed, and let them grow into who they were called to be, I did the best job of loving them. Heartache came to all of us when Robert passed away. It was over those many years of authenticity, though, where we grew to trust each other, and value time not promised to any of us. Yes, deep love was born of pain, but with a lifetime of dinners together.
I know I have not always loved or listened well to extended family members, friends, and voice students whom I cherish. Sometimes, I have wanted to give my opinion more than truly listening. But I am loving better now that life itself has become so precious to me. When honored by someone sharing their heart with me, I treat our conversation like my husband would treat a patient’s medical history — it’s private! You have personal ways of communicating love, too.
This Valentine’s Day, I know I am well loved, and that gives me grace to love those of all abilities who come into my life … for a lifetime.
Listening Library: I Will Not Take My Love Away (Matt Wertz)
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)
I Will Not Take My Love Away
I will not take my love away When praises cease and seasons change
While the whole world turns the other way I will not take my love away
I will not leave you all alone When striving leads you far from home
And there's no yield for what you've sown I will not leave you all alone (Oh, yeah)
I will give you what you need In plenty or in poverty
Forever, always, look to me And I will give you what you need
I will not take my love away