Family

Saying Good-Bye to My Brother

Today was my brother’s memorial service. In his honor, I thought I’d share the eulogy I read today.

Scott 1Nobody ever wants to find themselves in the place my parents and I find ourselves in now. Anytime someone dies young, it is a tragedy. When that person takes their own life a whole new layer of grief is added.

However, I am, by nature an optimist and an idealist. God says in Romans 8:28 that He works all things for our good. I truly believe that through God’s grace and mercy, even in the tragedy of my brother Scott’s death we can find meaning and purpose.

The truth is, my brother suffered from mental illness, and if his death can open up a conversation about what it means to have mental illness, it is a start. In our society and even – maybe even especially – in our churches, mental illness is something nobody really talks about. It is associated with shame and the person suffering is often stigmatized.

If someone gets diagnosed with cancer or heart disease or another serious illness, we rally around them. We bring meals, send cards and offer our support and encouragement.

The person who suffers with mental illness too often suffers alone. Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown. Despite so many medical advancements, the human brain still remains mostly a mystery.

But if my brother’s death will cause one person to reach out to offer comfort, encouragement and support to a person with mental illness, or if will cause one person to realize they are not alone and their illness is nothing to be ashamed of, it is a start. If we can begin the conversation of what it means to have mental illness and how we can support and help people who deal with this on a daily basis, then my brother’s death will have purpose and it will have meaning.

The truth is living day to day with mental illness is difficult. You and I take for granted getting out of bed in the morning, going to work and all the myriad of daily tasks we do, almost without thinking. For the person with mental illness, those mundane things are a struggle. It is like strapping a 50 pound weight on your back and trying to go through your daily routine. It can be overwhelming and exhausting. Most days are a battle. Winston Churchill called the depression that plagued him much of his life, the black dog, always on his heels.

Mental illness is also a liar and a thief. It twists the person’s thoughts so they are overwhelmed by fear and despair and helplessness. It steals a person’s potential, his dreams, his relationships and in some cases, like my brother, his very life.

Just like someone suffering from cancer or diabetes, though, a person with mental illness is so much more than their illness. The biggest tragedy to me today is if you left this place and only remembered the end of Scott’s life.

My brother was so much more than his illness. He was and always will be my cool older brother. When I was a little girl, my brother seemed to me to be this shining light. He had all this energy and he was so much fun.

If you knew him at all, you will remember how he sort of came into a room like a mini-tornado. His energy and enthusiasm was infectious. If it was Christmas, he had on his Santa hat – usually the one with leopard fur trim. When we were kids, he was definitely the risk taker out of the two of us. He spent a whole year in a cast because he broke the same arm three times. He’d get one cast off, and something else would happen. I was beginning to think his graduation pictures would feature that cast!

I remember one day, he was doing wheelies on his bike and the tire got caught in the drain, flipping him over the handle bars. My Grandma McColm happened to be visiting at the time and she put baking soda on his arm, which was skinned from wrist to elbow. I could hear him hollering all the way up in my room.

I remember another time, when Brock was turning 4, Scott – who lived in Michigan at the time – came swooping in on his birthday with this giant blue bear. The kids loved it. Well, Brody loved it after he realized it wasn’t going to eat him or anything. Hanging out with Scott was always an adventure.

He did everything with enthusiasm and with his whole self. When he came to the boys’ basketball games, you better believe he was decked out from head to toe in Temple gear. He was their most loyal (and loudest) fan. When he went to Brody’s free throw competition, he started to clap and whistle. I had to tell him you couldn’t do that until it was over. He was somewhat disgruntled that he couldn’t show Brody his support from the stands.

Scott was a people person. I have never met someone – with maybe the exception of my friend Amber – who knew everyone everywhere you went. He even met the guy who owned the Animal Planet channel and house sat for him. I’ve lived here for 28 years. My brother didn’t really start living here until 2011 but he knew way more people than I did.

He was also crazy smart. I think he probably had a photographic memory – at least he’s one of the few people I know who could ace a test he never studied for! He could take apart something mechanical, fix it and put it back together. I remember we were having trouble with this recliner and he came over, took it apart and fixed it.

Scott was also very compassionate. His voice mail encouraged callers not just to leave a message, but to make a difference by serving at a homeless shelter, adopting a pet in need or donating to a cause. You could find him on Thanksgiving and during the holidays serving meals to the homeless or needy. My brother and I shared a love of animals. He volunteered at the Humane Society often and he couldn’t pass up an abandoned animal. He always had a pack of dogs and cats that he rescued. He specialized in the hopeless cases, the dogs or cats that nobody else wanted. Scott had a real heart for rescuing the abandoned. Sometimes, I think by rescuing those four-legged friends, he was rescuing himself a little bit at the same time. Despite his own struggles – or maybe because of them – he wanted so much to help others.

Scott could also be amazingly thoughtful. He loved to buy gifts for people and really made it into an art form. From the gift itself to the wrapping and even the tissue paper, he worked hard to give not just a gift but something meaningful to the recipient.

He noticed what you liked and what your interests were. He found this vintage book about sheepherding collies for me once. I still have that book. He would buy OSU things – despite being a rather rabid Michigan fan – for my son and my husband. He haunted Hobby Lobby for art supplies for Brody.

One time, he even put in newspaper that had an Ohio State football game story on it in one of my husband’s gifts because he knew Bruce was a big Buckeye fan. Now, sometimes, he didn’t quite hit the mark, but even the misses were meaningful because he put so much thought into those gifts.

Scott had the ability to not just look at someone but to really see them. So many times, we are so busy and we rush from one thing to another, not taking the time to really see the people around us, but not Scott.

I remember one time I had to have this surgery on my ear. Now, you need to know I used to be deathly afraid of needles. I still don’t like them, but at least I don’t pass out anymore at the sight of one. But at the time, the thing I was dreading the most was the IV they would have to put in my hand. The nurse came in with all of her equipment. Everyone was kind of chattering away, but my brother saw the petrified look on my face. He came over and squeezed my hand hard. “Look at me, Rosi,” I remember him saying.

Yes, my brother was like a shining light, and now that he is gone, my world is a darker place, as I think it probably is for many of you here today. Although he didn’t really realize it, Scott made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I will always miss him – his compassion, his energy and his enthusiasm. It will always make me sad that he lost his battle with mental illness. But even though his battle here didn’t end in victory, he still won the war. In I Thessalonians 4:13, Paul tells the Thessalonians that they don’t grieve as people who have no hope. And the thing is, I have that hope. I know my brother was saved and that today, he is at peace in the presence of his Savior. His struggle, his daily battle – it’s over.

The same God that my brother is with now is the same God that has shown up for myself and my family in so many big and small ways since last Thursday – from how the officer told my parents, to reconciled relationships, to encouraging phone calls and messages. It’s because of that hope I can say today that God IS good. He IS faithful and He IS kind. Quite frankly, I don’t know how anybody can get through something like this without that hope. It’s because of that hope that I know, even though I didn’t get to say goodbye to him in this life, I will say hello to him in the next.

When God’s Call Doesn’t Include a Platform

There is a lot out there right now about following your dream and fulfilling your call. Don’t get me wrong, in many ways, I think all that is great, but one thing I notice about it is those dreams and those calls are often big and public.

They often involve tweeting and Facebook updates and blog posts and boosting traffic and sale funnels. Obviously, I have nothing against those things because I post on Facebook, and I definitely blog. I’ve even tried to tweet. (I’m still not entirely sure I’m doing that right!) I think sale funnels are pretty cool, too.

But nobody talks about the small call. The call that isn’t glamorous or cool or big.The call that means getting up at midnight with a fussy baby or showing up every day to a job you don’t like so you can provide for your family or working in the nursery every week so others can take in the sermon.

There are millions of people nobody’s ever heard of that are quietly, faithfully answering the small call every day – day in and day out.

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I’ve been studying I Thessalonians the past week or two, and the few things that stood out to me were the great suffering and trials Paul had to go through just to share the Gospel in one place. He did it – even though he knew he would suffer because those people needed what he had to share.

The other thing I noticed was that it was all about the people Paul served – not about him. With cyberspace, there is so much potential. We can reach people across the globe with a blog post. We can connect with someone who doesn’t even speak the same language as we do through a video or podcast or picture.

We stand on a global stage and it gets really easy to expect every call to be big and loud and sweeping. It can be really easy to make it all about us instead of the people we’re called to serve. It seems the struggle is worth it to reach so many, to do something big and important where everyone can see us.

But what if what God is calling us to is small and quiet and immediate? Are we still willing to suffer without an audience? Are we willing to sacrifice without applause for doing so?

God’s timing is always so interesting. The small call is something I’ve been contemplating. The idea of God fulfilling our dreams is also something I’ve been thinking about – mostly because it seems, well, a little too happily ever after sometimes.

I hate to be a downer. I tend to be an optimistic, look-on-the-bright-side type of person, but those who answered the call in the Bible didn’t exactly get happily-ever-afters. They had to do hard things that involved scary leaps of faith. After all, they didn’t know the ending of the story like we do.

Look at the apostles. The best ending for any of them was John’s and he was exiled to an island all by himself. Not exactly a pot at the end of the rainbow, is it?

God used him – gave him Revelations – but it wasn’t a trip to Club Med. John didn’t know that his words would be read (and argued over) by thousands of Christians for millenia. Instead, he died a lone in the middle of nowhere. Probably not how he’d always dreamed his life would end.

The other apostles were run through with swords, beheaded and even crucified upside down. None of their ends were anywhere near what we would consider happy. Their happy ending came AFTER this life.

I don’t mean that God doesn’t use us. I don’t mean that He doesn’t call us and equip us to fulfill that call. I’m not even saying God doesn’t show us His goodness right here on this earth. I’m just saying I’m not sure it is quite like all the gurus would have you think – working out all neat and tidy in the end with a big bow.

Many times the things He calls us to are hard. They don’t come with applause or accolades. They are not performed on a global stage, but quietly behind the scenes.

Are we still willing?

In November 2013, my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Despite the statistics, it still rocked my world. Cancer is something you expect to happen to other families. My dad got chemotherapy and a great doctor, and he did well.

Until recently. When the chemo stopped working and his numbers rose at an alarming rate.

In a very short time, he wasn’t doing so well. He also got shingles at Christmas and came down with pneumonia. It was a difficult winter for him and an even harder spring.

Instead of a monthly visit to his specialist an hour and a half away, he now has to go twice a week. When he first started going to his specialist in 2013, I went with them the first few times. After that, he and my mom have been making the trips on their own or with some good friends of theirs. This last trip, though, I felt like I should go with them.

I’m glad I did. It was a long day for my dad, and he was really too tired to drive home. I’m glad I was there to do it for him. (Did I mention big city traffic is crazy at rush hour?) I was glad I was there to lend the support of another person’s presence. It was a long, grueling day for both my dad and my mom.

For the foreseeable future, until the cancer is back under control, I plan on going with them for most of their upcoming trips, as well. Right now, that’s my calling. It’s not easy with a family and work. I am in the process of expanding my freelancing, and I usually have a long to do list every day.

But, as my friend Kayse Pratt said in her post today – my parents don’t really need my productivity. They need my presence.

It’s not glamorous or cool or global – but it’s still a holy calling. And you know what? It’s rewarding in a way the out loud, flashier things are not. To quietly be present, to lend a helping hand and a supportive shoulder is a gift – and I don’t mean to my parents either.

Throughout my life, my parents have been there for me. They have supported me and believed in me and answered my frantic calls as a new parent with a spewing child. They have stepped in and stepped up more times than I can count.

Now it is my turn to do the same for them, and it isn’t some kind of burden either. It’s an honor and a privilege to do the same thing for them that they’ve always done for me – and that’s simply be there.

I don’t know what the future holds. The early numbers look promising that the chemo is working for my dad. I hope that means I’ll have years left with him. I pray he can see his grandsons (he’s always bragging about them) graduate and start their own lives.

But regardless if I have years or not, I plan on being present.

How about you? Has God called you to something small and quiet? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

Shades of Love

This weekend, the movie 50 Shades of Grey came out on Valentine’s Day. The movie, based on the wildly popular books by E.L. James, details the relationship between the two main characters, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, a relationship that includes, among other things, sadomasochism.

This is not a post about why I am against 50 Shades of Grey – although I am for a variety of reasons.

This is not a post to tell you  how sinful it is to read and watch these books – although I do believe that it is. However, I’ll be really honest and say, I’ve probably both watched movies and read books that were not right for me to ingest – movies and books that I excused because I liked the story or characters or it made me laugh.

There have been a lot of people who have written excellent blog posts and articles about the dangers of 50 Shades of Grey. I don’t feel like I can really add to the well thought out arguments against these books and now the movie.

Instead this is a post about what real love actually is. I find it really interesting that those who are trained to spot counterfeit money don’t actually study the counterfeit – they study the real thing.

It’s when they know the real thing that the counterfeit stands out. 

I Cor. 13

There is a lot in the Bible about the topic of love, and I find it really interesting that human love is often meant to be a mirror of Christ and His love for us and the church. For example, we gain a deeper understanding of the love of God the Father when we become parents ourselves. In our finite, imperfect way, we see how God REALLY feels about us, his children.

In the marriage relationship, there is a picture of Christ giving Himself up for His bride, the church. It is a relationship that involves sacrifice on His part, but its a sacrifice that Christ gladly gives – because He loves His bride so much.

Even in physical love, there is a picture of God, of how intimately He wants to know us. Unfortunately, when it comes to God and the topic of sex, we have this idea that God just wants to spoil our fun. Like He is up there, wagging His holy finger at us and saying, “No, no.” Or at the most, He tolerates it, turning His head in embarrassment or disgust.

But you know what – that isn’t actually true. I want to let you in on a little truth – God CREATED sex. He could have created it as a simply neutral thing, to allow for procreation. Instead, He made it this beautiful thing of passion and pleasure. It was meant to be this almost mystical way that two separate people become one – both physically and emotionally.

In Song of Solomon, God gives us this picture of passionate, erotic sex. In Song of Solomon 5:1, He looks over the young lovers and tells them, “Drink, imbibe deeply, O Lovers.” There’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on in this small book. Solomon and his young bride’s desire for each other steams the page.

But it is BECAUSE God loves us that He puts some boundaries around sex. It isn’t to control us or limit us or to prevent us from having fun or pleasure. It is because sex is such a powerful thing it shouldn’t be treated casually.

It is such an intimate, wonderfully strong thing that it should only be enjoyed within a safe, committed relationship, a relationship like marriage. God doesn’t tell us not to engage in casual sex because He is a killjoy. He does it to protect us. When you join with someone through sex, you aren’t just giving your body. You are giving a little bit of your soul. Do that enough times, with enough people, and your soul will start to feel a bit thin and threadbare.

God doesn’t just talk about love in the Old Testament. He gives us a beautiful description of love in I Corinthians 13. While this passage isn’t solely about married love, it does give us a blueprint of what love really is – obviously God knew we needed a primer because in our brokenness, we often make love about us and what we need, rather than something we give to others.

Using God’s blueprint for love (and sex), we can love well. Real love can even point a person to God by giving them a glimpse of what true love really is, but friend, please hear this – we can’t love someone whole. Only God can fill up that bottomless well of need. 

God’s love comes in all kinds of shades from the crimson of romantic, passionate love to the deep blue of the friendship of love. The only shade you won’t find is grey.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Not the Christmas I Planned

It all started last Friday when I was out shopping. And I fell. On the only patch of ice in the entire mall parking lot because it was TOO WARM FOR ICE. Just call it a Christmas miracle – well, sort of, in a backwards type of way.

I managed to fold my left leg underneath me – which meant that my knee I had just finished doing physical therapy on for 6 weeks. All I could think of as I was lying there looking up at the cloudless blue sky was that at least it wasn’t January 1st when my deductible would start all over again!

On Sunday, my oldest son Brock said he felt congested, but we thought it was a cold. After taking his temperature that afternoon just to be on the safe side, we went to a Christmas cantata, and then he went off with his best friend to a youth group activity and to spend the night at said friend’s house.

The next day, he had a raging fever of 102.5.

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Yesterday morning, I was sound asleep when the phone rang around 8:30 a.m. I was so groggy, I could barely understand what my husband was saying on the phone, until he came back to bed to inform me that my dad was in the hospital due to chest pain.

Needless to say, I leaped out of bed and set a world record getting ready and out the door.

Then yesterday afternoon, I took the congested kid to the doctor, only to find out he had influenza A which meant someone was going to have stay home (i.e. me!) with him for the inlaw’s Christmas celebration unless said kid would make a miraculous recovery.

So, Christmas is not going like I planned. At all.

I couldn’t even go back up to sit with my mom and visit with my dad while he awaited bunches of tests on his heart because I didn’t want to accidentally infect him with the plague (i.e. influenza A). Seeing as he is still on chemo, this is a real concern.

Then my mother-in-law called this afternoon – AFTER I made the dessert for tomorrow – to say she had decided to postpone our Christmas until next week.

This was NOT the Christmas I had planned (and baked) for – I can’t remember a time we all stayed home for Christmas Eve AND Christmas day. Not since that year my husband had the stomach flu and I had to leave my parents’ house early because it hit me out of the blue, too. I think my kids were 5 and 2 at the time.

At the risk of sounding all schmaltzy, I’ve been less upset than I thought I’d be. In fact, I find myself feeling, well, thankful.

I mean, we WILL be doing Christmas with the extended family – just a bit later than planned.

My 13 year old and I went to see a movie this afternoon. He’s 13 and he STILL went with me to a movie. In public. I’m thankful he still wants to hang out with me.

My oldest son, the one with the flu, has actually had a very mild case. While he is congested and under the weather, he has not been completely miserable and that raging fever seems to be pretty much gone. Not to mention, this couldn’t have hit him at a better time – after his last game and a full 7 days before his next game and he doesn’t have to miss any school.

There’s never a good time to be sick, of course, but at least this is not as bad as it could have been. He might even be able to play on Saturday. I’m thankful both that his flu seems pretty mild and thankful for him as I know he’d hate to miss a game. Ever.

My dad went home today. Every test he had – EKG, Echo, blood tests and a stress test showed no new heart problems. For a man who has had his share of medical issues the last few years, it was a huge relief that he didn’t have to have a heart catherization – on his birthday! I’m thankful both that no new health crisis has cropped up and that he is still here to celebrate with. Cancer has a way of making your realize the brevity of life.

Tonight, we had a nice dinner together after weeks of eating in shifts due to practice schedules and games. We didn’t even have the television on. I’m thankful for that peaceful meal amid the bustle and hustle.

We sat down together and watched a movie when usually everyone is plugged into their own device. I’m thankful we could experience scary dinosaurs together. (Gotta love the Jurassic Park movies!).

Tomorrow, we get to sleep in as late as we want. We can open presents leisurely, watch more movies, play games and just enjoy each others company (well, enjoy my older son from a distance since we don’t want to catch his flu!). I’m thankful for that time to just be together without a schedule pressing in on us.

While I will missed my parents tonight and will miss my in-laws tomorrow, I am thankful we just have a postponement of the festivities. So many people this year are facing a Christmas knowing their loved one will never be present again.

While this is not the Christmas I planned on, it is a Christmas I am thankful for, nonetheless. After months of feeling like I have been nonstop running, God put a pause in my life, a pause to just breathe and enjoy my family. A pause to see all the blessings in my life.

For that, I am truly thankful.

Merry Christmas!

Rosanne

There are No Guarantees in Parenting

I remember the first time I looked at my oldest son after he was born (well, the first time I actually remember after being knocked out for an emergency c-section). I remember being amazed that this tiny being had been in my stomach not that long ago, and then I gulped.

Why? Because I realized I was now responsible for keeping this little scrap of humanity alive. It felt like an incredibly weighty responsibility.

Before Brock was born, I read a ton of parenting books. I had a plan. Within a couple weeks of his birth, I learned the hard truth that children don’t always go along with their parents’ plan – no matter how well-intentioned they are.

Brock was born early and he had a lot of trouble feeding, so my idyllic vision of breastfeeding went out the window when I took him to the doctor for the second week and he was STILL losing weight.

I remember how crushed I felt to have failed this first test of motherhood. What kind of mom can’t feed her own kid? As someone who had always gotten A’s, this felt like a big fat F on my first mom report card.

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Then I kind of got over that first failure and Brock was such a great baby and toddler. He slept through the night and he didn’t throw tantrums. I could just explain why we did things a certain way, and, bless him, he’d look at me with those enormous blue eyes, nod his little golden head and I thought, “I have this mothering thing down!”

Then Brody came along, and everything I thought I knew went right out the window. While he got the whole breastfeeding thing without any problems, when he got to be a toddler, explaining things to him didn’t make a bit of difference.

I’d lean down and gently explain to him why we did or didn’t do something. He’d look at me – his brown eyes glinting with mischief, give me a big smile and enthusiastically go do just what I had told him not to.

He was also a champion tantrum thrower.  I left more than one store feeling humiliated, my head bowed in shame after Brody screamed all the way through the store. Once again I felt like I had earned a big fat F on my mom report card. I was sure everyone in that store thought I was the worst mom ever because of how my child was behaving. It didn’t matter that Brody’s tantrums netted him exactly nothing. It didn’t matter his cute little picture should have been next to the word “strong-willed” in the dictionary. Nope, what mattered was my child’s behavior directly reflected on me – his mom who was supposed to control said behavior.

God certainly used Brody to teach me humility and to teach me a truth that I think parents everywhere need to hear.

You can do all the right things as a parent and your child can still make poor choices or struggle or have problems.

The thing is, in this day and age of so many resources for parents, so many blogs and websites and books and radio programs, it can feel like there is a secret formula for parenting – one that we just haven’t managed to find yet. And if we can just get that formula right, our children will never have difficulties. They’ll never struggle. They’ll never make bad decisions.

But God is the perfect Father and look how His children act sometimes.

The thing is kids are little human beings with a free will. They make good choices and they make bad choices, and all of those choices are not a reflection of your parenting skills or lack thereof.

Of course, this doesn’t negate our responsibility as parents. God entrusts these children to us and we need to raise them up, with God’s help, to the best of our abilities.

But we also need to remember that our abilities will never BE enough in and of themselves, and whether our kids turn out great or not so great, it isn’t completely up to us.

I mean, I wish I could tell you that I have prayed for my children every day of their lives – but I didn’t.

I wish I could tell you I never lost my temper or yelled at them – but I can’t.

I wish I could tell you I was always the best example to them – but I wasn’t.

Both my boys are great kids. At 13 and 16, I am proud of the young men they are becoming. They’ve each had their individual struggles and difficulties, but they are turning into Godly young men that make my mama’s heart just about burst with the joy of it. But I certainly don’t feel like that I can take the credit for that.

I know plenty of moms – moms who were way more together than I have ever been and who loved their children and who were godly – whose kids have made bad choices and strayed from what they have been taught. I’ve looked into tear-filled eyes of moms wracked with guilt as they sift through their parenting years trying to figure out what they did wrong.

The truth is how our children turn out just isn’t all on our shoulders. If they serve God and follow hard after Him, we can’t take all the credit for that. Just as we can’t blame ourselves if they follow hard after the wrong things either.

See, here’s the thing, no matter how lovingly, how carefully you mold a piece of pottery, for it to be functional it has to go through the fire.

So, yes, absolutely do your very best as a parent, but set down the burden that it is all up to you. God works in each of our lives and He doesn’t waste anything – not the good or the bad – and that includes our children’s lives as well.

Blessings, Rosanne

Why the New Nicholas Spark’s Movie Is Worse than 50 Shades

In recent months, I’ve seen quite a few blog posts and articles shared on various social media outlets like Facebook about the controversial book being made into a film, Fifty Shades of Grey.

While I couldn’t agree more that women should avoid this movie like the plague, I haven’t seen much on another movie that just might be more dangerous to the minds and hearts of women everywhere.

See, Fifty Shades of Grey is pretty in your face about its values and thoughts on sex and relationships. It promotes some very unhealthy dynamics, but those dynamics are not really hidden in any way.

Nicholas Sparks’ new movie, The Best of Me, is a lot more subtle. On the surface, it looks like a sweet movie, maybe even a date movie for you and your hubby. I mean what’s not to like about true love that lasts the test of time?

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But the messages of this movie and others like it, are subtly undermining marriages because they set people up to fail.

If you aren’t familiar with Nicholas Sparks, he is the king of sweet romance books, many of which have been made into movies. You’ve probably heard of the movie, The Notebook, which was based on one of his books by the same name. (and yes, I watched it and yes, I cried at the end just like the rest of America!).

His latest book turned movie is The Best of Me. The plot is basically about high school sweethearts, Dawson and Amanda, who are separated by tragic events.  They are reunited 20 years later at a funeral of a beloved friend. Amanda, who is in a less than ideal marriage, indulges in an affair with Dawson before the two of them are parted tragically once more. This is pretty typical of Sparks, as his characters rarely have happy endings. In all of this, both Dawson and Amanda are portrayed very sympathetically and seem noble.

Amanda does have a difficult marriage. Her husband has drinking issues and is difficult to live with due to their daughter’s death. However, Sparks frames the story in such a way that it seems completely reasonable for her to have an affair with Dawson – since he was her true love and all. And of course, their love seems wonderful because it’s never really had to stand the test of every day life.

In these types of story, love is like some mystical Holy Grail, and if you are lucky enough to win the love lottery, you will meet “The One.” Once you meet “The One,” your life will change. Suddenly, you will feel complete. Your life will have purpose. Your love – because it is true love  and he is your soul mate – will conquer all.

All that sounds wonderful doesn’t it? You are probably wondering why I am being so bah humbug about true love. Well, I’ll tell you. While this is fine for movies or books, it doesn’t work so well in real life. What happens is the inevitable – those first ooey, gooey romantic feelings wear off. You might even feel – gasp! – unhappy in the midst of the reality of picking up dirty socks or financial difficulties or discovering your husband thinks you will be spending all holidays with his family.

In times past, people just sort of sucked it up and made it work, but in today’s society, true love is the ideal. Finding true love trumps the more boring commitment to your marriage, especially if you aren’t feeling so happy and fulfilled.

So, if you are unhappy the doubt comes in that maybe, what you’re dealing with is NOT the realities of married life over the long haul, but you just picked the wrong person. He must not be “The One.” Because if he was, surely your life would have a lot more rainbows and unicorns than it currently does.

This message that infidelity is okay if the circumstances are right is subtle and all the more dangerous for that subtleness. Unlike Fifty Shades of Grey which hits you in the face with its immoral message of anything is okay for an orgasm, movies like The Best of Me, frame immorality and sin in a way that makes “true love” and “fulfilling yourself” a worthy, almost noble goal.

It negates the hard work a good marriage entails by making it seem that if you are truly soul mates, a lifelong love will just come naturally.

It’s interesting to note that the vast majority of famous “great loves” all died pretty early into the process – you know, before they experienced the dirty socks on the floor, being up all night with the baby or the reality of you with the stomach flu.

While “being in love” is a wonderful feeling, true love is NOT just a feeling. It is a choice – sometimes, a hard choice.

We do our newly marrieds a disservice not to be honest that even if you love your spouse, even if you have a strong relationship, there are going to be days when they get on your last nerve. There are going to be days when you wonder if you made a mistake or when that suave guy at the office looks more appealing.

The thing is, marriage is really NOT about making you happy. It is about making you holy. Movies like the Best of Me give a false picture of what true love really is.

What lies have you bought into about love and marriage? I’d love to hear how God opened your eyes to them!

Blessings, Rosanne

 

A Gift Wrapped in Disappointment

I had plans – big plans. I had an editorial calendar and it all made sense in my head. But then life happened. Life with it’s busyness and it’s disregard for my plans, my schedule, my list of to dos.

After a whole school year of good health, we’ve had a week of sickness. A week of sickness that followed hard on the heels of losing a friend to cancer too early and starting a long term subbing job earlier than expected.

My oldest had the stomach flu last week, and my youngest had some fever on Friday. It disappeared only to return Tuesday night with a vengeance. I’ve made soup, taken temperatures, and pushed fluids. did I mention I am not a natural nurse?

I have missed baseball games, my oldest son’s award assembly, part of a day of work, and get togethers. I’ve been a little disappointed that illness has tied me to home – keeping me from all the plans I made.

I was feeling pretty grumbly about it tonight, but you know, sometimes gifts come wrapped in disappointment.

Forest road. Landscape for background

It wasn’t the week I had planned, but this week I’ve gotten to slow down – no rushing around or flitting off to games. Instead, I sit and I’m still. I get to spend time with my youngest (who will be 13 in a little over a month), and he leans his head on my shoulder and seeks out the comfort only mom can give.

And it’s a gift because I don’t know how much longer that will happen.

I don’t really remember the last time I picked him up and carried him. I just know that one day I realized it had been a long time and he was too big to heft in my arms.

I don’t remember the last time he sat on my lap. I just know that one day, I realized it was a long time and he was now much too cool to cuddle with mom.

The days go by slowly but the years pass swiftly when you have young kids. These days, I look back with nostalgia at when my kids were tiny and our time was our own. Rushing from games to practices to activities is a part of this season of my life. I’m sure in about 10 years, I’ll look back at it fondly, too and wonder why I savor the moments more.

But this week, I got to slow down and just be with my youngest. While I hate that he’s been sick and under the weather, I can’t help but feel that this time is a gift, a gift I almost didn’t find wrapped up in the disappointment of changed plans.

As I wrap up this month of looking at God’s promises, I am once again reminded that God knows the plans He has for us, and often they aren’t what we had planned. I’m reminded that God often doesn’t give us what we think we want, but what we truly need.

What need has God met unexpectedly in your life lately? I’d love to hear about it!
Blessings, Rosanne

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