THE GREATEST OF THESE

 

Our small group has been studying I Corinthians, and we have been camped out for a couple of weeks in chapter 13.  The love chapter.  Most people are familiar with this passage even if they are not churchgoers or Bible-readers, as it is a favorite reading at weddings.  For centuries people have been expounding upon this passage, and writing about love in general.  So I am not sure I have anything new to add.  But if you will excuse the wandering and random thoughts, I would like to share some things.

This morning I woke up thinking about the infinite quality of love.  That is, we have an infinite ability to love, because love is infinite. Specifically I was thinking that when we love more, when we add more people into our love circle, love is not divided.  It is multiplied.  Love does not run out!

Ask any new mother who is holding her second (or third, or fourth…) newborn.  She is overwhelmed with love for this new little one.  But in no way does it subtract from the love she has for her first child, or for her husband for that matter.  She has enough room to love both children, because love never runs out.  Unless we willingly turn it off.

In my work, I see a good number of blended families…second, or third, or fourth marriages.  Think of the different family configurations these scenarios can present.  A common problem I see is something I will call turf wars.  I’m brining my children into this relationship, but I am not going to love yours.  Maybe I don’t even like yours.  It is as if loving these new children, or sometimes adults, will somehow diminish one’s love supply.  Sometimes the children of the new spouse are seen as a threat to the new marriage.  I don’t want you to continue loving your children.  You must now love only my children and me.  And sometimes it works the other way.  The children make no room to love the new stepparent.  They may not want to share their biological parents with these new outsiders.

Or consider friendships that are jealously guarded.  There is only room for you and me (or our chosen group).  No one else gets in.  Learning to love a new friend does not mean I no longer love you.

Now as I write these things, I acknowledge that while love is infinite, time is finite.  We have a limited amount of time, and relationships take time.  That is where priorities come in.  And intentionality.  I am blessed with a number of enduring friendships.  Some I see or talk to weekly, others maybe once every month or so. They are the kind of friendships that are relatively low maintenance.  We are all busy and we see each other when we can.  I know that June is having fun in London with Jeff, and Stephanie is busy with her grands, and others are on vacation or just plain busy! But these are people I love dearly and I know they love me too.  All I have to do is pick up the phone and they will be there.  In a few days Jerry and I will be going to Dallas to reconnect with a group of high school friends.  We have a mini reunion every year that is open to anyone who can make it. It always amazes me how those bonds that were so strong in high school fall right back into place.  I love them across time and miles.

Back to the love chapter. I told you this is random and meandering.  One commentary I read suggested replacing the word “love” with your own name:

Fran is Patient, Fran is kind. She is not proud.  She is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrong.  Fran does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Fran always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I can tell you I fall short, woefully short, on every one of these.  And God has taken every opportunity to remind me.  “Fran are you keeping a record of a wrong, are you too easily provoked, are you persevering with this person even though they are difficult” and on and on.  I realize it is taking me a lifetime to master love as defined by God.

One more though about the infiniteness (is that a word?) of love.  It is in the last verse.  “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” One day, when this earth has passed away, when we are in the presence of Jesus, we will have no need for faith and hope, for those will be realized.  But love will always remain, because God is love.    

ANOTHER THANKSGIVING, ANOTHER TURKEY

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It occurs in autumn, my favorite season, and it’s all about family, food, and love. About the only shopping required for Thanksgiving takes place at the grocery store, and I even love grocery stores at this time of year. All those special seasonal foods.

As I was getting my dressing together this morning I was remembering past Thanksgivings and trying to remember how many Thanksgiving dinners I have prepared. How many times have I made that dressing? I’ve cooked a LOT of turkeys!  I can’t remember many Thanksgivings from my childhood. Of course that was a LONG time ago. I do remember having Thanksgiving with my grandparents and my cousins a time or two, but as time went by I can’t remember Thanksgiving being an especially big deal. Broken families sometimes make for difficult holidays. I’m sure we must have done something for Thanksgiving because my dad was a fabulous cook. This happened out of necessity because my mother had neither the skill or the inclination to boil water. But that was our gain, because Daddy had an interest in cooking and an adventurous palate. His meals were the best! I guess that is where my love of cooking began.

So after Jerry and I married at the very tender age of nineteen (smart!), I wanted to tackle a turkey. It’s a good thing I didn’t try it at Thanksgiving because I caught it on fire. Turkey flambé! Gosh who knew there were bags of really gross stuff inside those cavities? So I’m thinking the first couple of Thanksgivings we must have had with Jerry’s family.  On our first Thanksgiving we went to Jerry’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Sam Lomonaco’s house with the Italian Carona family. That’s when I made the happy discovery that some people have lasagna and spaghetti with their turkey. Awesome!

It didn’t take many years for me to start preparing the Thanksgiving meal.  I don’t know how many Thanksgiving dinners I have made. I’m guessing around 40 or so, maybe more. When we moved into our first house I wanted to have Thanksgiving at our new house. In the beginning, I didn’t do it every year, but after a while it became mine to host and I loved it. We would have my grandparents, Jerry’s parents and sometimes his sister and her family. Many times my two great aunts, Una and Tess would join us as well as my Uncle Arthur when he was in town. There were times when my siblings and their families would join us, and a few times when we went to their homes. One of my funniest memories was the time I stopped up the sink and water from the garbage disposal, complete with bits of broccoli and onion, was backing up through my washer! As luck would have it, my brother-in-law owned a plumbing company. He went back home and got his snake and climbed on the roof to snake out the pipes. It was one of those Dallas days that started off warm but a “blue norther” came blowing in while he was on the roof and he just about froze!

 

A few years ago my daughter moved into her new home, and asked if I would mind if she hosted.   Are you kidding me? I’d love for you to host. Please take the torch! I am mostly ready to pass it on to the next generation. But this year I asked to have it back again. I guess I’m not quite ready to give up being the hostess. And like I said, I love Thanksgiving.

 

So this year as I make our traditional favorites, I thank God for my family. There are 19 of us now and we will all be together except for Kaylee and Austin who will be with his family. I now have to share my children and grands. I’m thankful for those who have passed on and for those who are still with us. I’m so thankful for our children and for this new generation, our grandchildren, and even thinking about those babies that are hopefully still to come. I’m thankful for our extended family and for our friends who have become family. Most of all, I’m thankful that I get to spend another Thanksgiving with my husband, the patriarch of our ever expanding family. There were some frightening days when I didn’t know if he would live to see another holiday. We tell each other almost daily (once in awhile we might forget), “We got another day.” So thankful for another turkey to roast, a table to set, and a family to gather round.

 

 

THE EMPTY CHAIR

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The following is a letter my friend Cathy wrote to some of her friends who have recently lost their mothers.  She gave me permission to share it.  I know too many of my friends are facing an empty chair this Thanksgiving.  You have lost parents and grandparents, spouses, and even children.  Please know I am thinking and praying for you all, even as I type these words.  You are not alone.

THE EMPTY CHAIR

The holidays are coming . . . and I dread the “empty chair”.

You are receiving this letter because you are my friend and we share a common bond. We are each one of six who have experienced the passing of our mother and walked with her through death this past year.

For all of us this has not been a sudden event, rather a long and plodding journey we have travelled with our mothers inch by inch. This journey has brought emotions and questions as each of our mother’s health and function declined and we could see the end coming. In moments of angst and suffering we would wonder when the end would come and yet . . . we embraced her at every turn not wanting to let go. And then . . . we knew the end was near.

As my mother came closer and closer to death in her final weeks, I felt more and more the presence of God. I prayed for His grace and mercy for her soul and mine. Death is a most sacred time . . . a time no one can completely understand, but you know God is near and your loved one is transitioning into the life after death. For all of us this is part of the human experience, we know it is coming, but it takes on a much deeper meaning when you sit by the bedside of the mother you love. You know God is there as you witness the spiritual mystery when her soul leaves her body like a whisper in the quiet of the night. She is gone.

Now after several weeks, I still reflect often on my mother’s life and her passing. And now . . . the holidays are coming and I face the “empty chair”.

As the holidays approach I hope to embrace the gift of the “empty chair”. I know from the life my mother lived that I am worthy of receiving and giving love, joy, and generosity. I know my mother faced challenges, difficult decisions, and made mistakes in her life and yet she endured. She never gave up, but kept on keeping on. This remembrance inspires me to do the same . . . forgive others and yes also myself, when I am weak to remember I can be strong, and know I can be kinder and gentler, more compassionate and empathetic to others.

The empty chair also reminds me of the depth of love within my family and the reason to keep that love alive and make it even richer. I am also reminded of the love of friends and how that love blesses my life and how I want to be that kind of friend to bless others. And . . . walking with my mother and witnessing her death reminds me to turn to a more consistent life of prayer and dependence on God embracing His love and mercy.

All of our mothers lived long lives and they endured and pressed on. And now . . we have the “empty chair”. We have been left with many gifts from the “empty chair” and It is our time to press on, to reflect and examine our own lives and genuinely embrace the joy and pain of life, allowing it to mold us into a better person, one filled with love and hope, kindness and understanding.

As you and your family gather, I pray you, my friend, have holidays filled with an abundance of love and joy and remember the gift of the “empty chair”. Yes there will be tears, but through these tears we have received many gifts.

Keep on “keeping on” my friends . . . and know I will be thinking of you and your family during this holiday season. I am sending abundant wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving and Christmas season with prayers for comfort and peace.

Lovingly,

Cathy