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At home

This is my favourite photo of my mum, who died 5 years ago today.head and shoulders

We lost my mum and my mother-in-law within 9 weeks of each other and, as I say in an article I wrote at the time, worry was their love language.

My mum worried if there was something wrong with us; and if there wasn’t, she worried that there would be. She worried if we were home and she worried if we weren’t home – when Alan and I were going out together, she would have fallen asleep before I got in, then wakened up and burst into my room at some unearthly hour of the morning to check that I was in.

 

She’s home now – and waiting for us all to get there.

Scott and Kiki’s wedding

Claire-Lise was married on Saturday 5 September. Scott referred in his wedding speech to having been ‘mystified’ by the girl who wore foot socks on her arms.  Kiki (or Claire-Lise) has always expressed herself in an individual, independent way – another word which Scott used was ‘quirky’. So their wedding was set to be different.

The location was Switzerland, actually in the town where Kiki was born. Instead of a church, Scott and Kiki chose to be married outdoors –  in the Place des Marronniers in Nyon, with the Lac Leman as a backdrop.

k&s at roman columns

Scott wore a very smart navy suit, accessorised by a gold tie and beautiful waistcoat, and his groomsmen picked up the gold theme in their bow ties.

wedding k&s groomsmen and scott

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Once the guests had gathered, the bridesmaids strolled in one by one, down the long ‘aisle’ made by the guests’ chairs, each wearing their own version of the colour blue, and each carrying sunflowers and gypsophila. Claire-Lise came last, escorted by her proud father and carrying the same flowers with just a splash of red carnations.

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The ceremony was simple, with family and friends participating; yet it was profound as we worshipped God in such magnificent surroundings. A good friend of Scott and Kiki’s – Andy Fearon – presided over the vows and preached the sermon.

As Andy pronounced the happy couple man and wife and they set off down the aisle, the guests blowed bubbles in joyful celebration – for this was Switzerland after all and one could not litter the place with confetti.

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After a few family photographs, the guests were free to wander through the streets of Nyon. Most meandered down to the lakeside where they were able to get a delicious ice cream or a frozen yoghurt with berries as they relaxed in the sunshine. Even the bride and groom enjoyed an ice cream, the colours of which blended perfectly with the flowers.

Kiki and Scott ice cream Hotel Real

Then they were whisked off by a family friend, Ted Talbot, in a boat on Lac Leman which took them from Nyon to Founex, where they were welcomed ashore by some of the guests.

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The reception was in the garden of another family friend, Pam Walsh, who hosted the event with her usual mix of sparkle and exuberance. IMG_0314wedding fondue chinoiseFondue Chinoise was the menu of choice and once it got going, all fears about the strange menu melted away and everyone seemed to enjoy the food, as well as the accompanying wine from a local vigneron.

The wedding cake was probably the most quirky part of the reception. Modelled on the well-known ‘carac’ which had been a favourite childhood treat of Claire-Lise, the pȃtissier had been asked to make 3 gigantic caracs and instead of icing them with the usual green icing, to ice them with blue and gold, tying in with the wedding colours. He had excelled himself, producing 4 tiers, alternatively blue and gold, interspersed with sunflowers. Never before (or since!) was there a wedding cake quite like it!

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The evening drew to a close with a few dances and then the young couple left for a honeymoon which would start in a chalet (of a another family friend) in the Swiss Alps and then proceed to Italy and one or two other European countries.

Wedding K&S at night

We began with a reference to Scott’s speech and we will end with another. He said that he and Kiki had dreamt of such a wedding but never thought they would see their dream come true. How wonderful it was for us all to be a part of that dream come true.

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You may have picked up on the number of ‘family friends’ who have been mentioned already. Some family friends hosted bridesmaids and groomsmen; others helped set up for the wedding reception; one provided the cake; another provided the fruit platters; others provided transport; and when everything was over and the bride and groom had left, all the guests pitched in and cleared the tables and chairs away, ready for them to be picked up by the Commune of Founex. Many, many thanks to all of the people who contributed – in so many ways – to make the day the fulfilment of Scott and Kiki’s dream.

‘It is in the shared experience (whether trial or joy) that love grows’

What is Love? Guest Post No. 5

Today’s guest is Caroline Merriman, who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA, with her husband Jake and two little daughters.

I knew it was real love, when, despite obstacles in our way (widowhood, geographical separation and different timelines), God brought our paths together, as we each surrendered to His will for our lives and to one another.  Yes, this real love would be tested as we began to live life together, but God has been faithful to help us honor the commitment that we made at the altar.   

What happens to our love when we are faced with the harsh realities of life?

After eight years of marriage, my understanding of real love has evolved and deepened.  As my husband and I have walked through different seasons, and trials together, we have had an opportunity to understand love on a new level.  What happens to our love when we are faced with the harsh realities of life, when we are stripped bare of the gift we both longed for (a child who was born without life), when we find ourselves on our knees before God, crying out to him in our grief?  As I have had the blessing of discovering, the answer is a greater and stronger love than we once knew. 

It is as if we are on a journey together, hiking to the top of a mountain      couple climbing mountain

When we choose to cling to each other and to our God through the storm, a bond is formed in the midst of the pain.  It is as if we are on a journey together, hiking to the top of a mountain.  We start off at the bottom with seldom a care in the world, hand in hand, singing a happy tune.  It is fun and we are elated to just be together.  As the hike progresses and we must go through rocky patches and up steep hills, we realize that we need one another.  We aren’t just holding each other’s hand because it is nice, but because we need the support of the other.  That firm grip gives us the confidence we need to put one foot in front of the other.  That strong arm tells us we are not alone, and we feel empowered at that moment.  That touch reminds us of the love that is so real, carrying us through.  Some days it may seem easier to make the climb alone, as we might prefer a different pace or even trail.    But when we are willing to receive the hand that is offered, when we admit we are weak, something miraculous happens.  It is in the shared experience (whether trial or joy) that love grows.  When we get through the hard stretch and stop to look at the view, the joy is greater because it is shared, and because the other one knows intimately the struggle which was overcome.

Vulnerability is a scary thing

Real love is also choosing to love the other person when we have seen their worst and ugliest side.  Vulnerability is a scary thing, but as one opens up and reveals their true self to another, an intimacy is created which gives birth to real love.  Real love is humble, and readily admits weakness.  We are but mere humans, and were it not for the example of the ultimate real love displayed for us at the cross of Jesus, we would not be able to experience the reflection of this love here on earth.  When each individual in a marriage looks to God’s real love, he or she has a model of what they can have in a marriage.  One cannot truly love sacrificially without the help of God, as our nature is selfish.  What a gift we have in the Lord, that He would allow us to experience such love with another person!  I can only dare to imagine what real love is after many more years of companionship, intimacy, and sacrifice in marriage.

‘Time passes too quickly when you are together’

What is love? Guest Post No. 4

Today’s Guest Post is written by Edward McAuley, who lives on the north coast of N.Ireland.

Edward was married to Myrtle from 15 Oct 1958 till 5 April 2013.

If as a man you have had a number of girlfriends in your teenage years, did you ever say, “I am in love” to any of them?  Did you know what love was or now, what it is?                                            

Like strawberry jam running down your back?

Someone said it was like strawberry jam running down your back and you can’t get your tongue round to lick it.  Not my experience however.

My mother had heard Myrtle’s testimony of her saving experience whilst she was in Canada in the early fifties. Mum spoke highly of her and I said I would look out for her if she was at church on Sunday and see if she was all that she had said. I fell for her upon first sight. Hairs raised on the back of my neck and I had no hesitance in approaching her and said I had heard a lot about her from my mum. Was it love that allowed her to agree to stay in N. Ireland whilst I finished my accountancy examinations? Before I did finish, we were married.

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How does one know they are in love? Perhaps, when you cannot live without thinking about her/ or if you are a female, him every minute of the day. You cannot do enough to please. You have no problems in making conversation. And time passes too quickly when you are together.

Time spent helps each to learn more about each other; how they think; things they would like to do with their lives; their attempts at doing good and disowning evil, right and wrong; reciprocal affection; reflect on how both might be aware of what God’s will was for a life together.

Love is expressed and experienced when each, of their own volition and something that comes naturally, perform little acts of kindness, buy the odd special gifts.

We made sure our differences were settled before going to sleep

In 1958 we married and during those years simple acts, gifts and short excursions out together, we got to know those little intricacies that brought pleasure. Those early years brought disappointments, a stillborn child in the first year of marriage, two miscarriages and then the blessings of two wonderful children. Her faith in God and care for me at the loss of the child showed me her love and that I should not be too upset; ‘all will work out OK’, she would say. Marriages are not without disagreements but we made sure our differences were settled before going to sleep.

In sickness and in health

In 1993 I noticed forgetfulness and a gradual deterioration in her ability to remember and in 1999 it was confirmed that she had dementia and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease. I recall her thoughtfulness about me when I was unable to bring calm to her troubled mind and I ended up in tears. She stretched out her hand said, ‘Don’t worry, everything will work out OK’.

Our son is of the view that she would have done anything, or even do without things, just because she loved me so much.

Is that love? It could be said that I expressed my love for Myrtle when she was in care for over 10 years and I visited her every day – but I never found it a bore or an obligation.

Perhaps we each fulfilled the wedding vows, freely made, that we would love and care for each other, in sickness and in health.

Edward McAuley

‘Being in love is an exciting adventure and a calming refuge’

What is Love? Guest Post No. 3

Today’s guest is Sharon Morgan. Sharon lives in Springfield, Virginia, USA,     love is patient mug

with her husband Keith and they have two adult daughters.

To love is to want what is best for the object of that love

Many years ago someone shared with me this definition for the meaning of love: to love is to want what is best for the object of that love.  In theory, that definition makes it fairly easy to show love to another; in fact, to show love to lots of others. (However, it does require a level of selflessness that can inhibit the ease of executing the love.)

When I was a girl, wanting what was best for our pet dog included training him not to eat everything he put in her mouth as well as teaching him to stay out of the street because of the danger of passing cars. Perhaps a childish example … but we all start learning love in childish ways.

Making adjustments to do what was best for Mom was a way I could show her that I loved her

As I matured, so did that desire to want what was best for those I loved. One of the biggest lessons I learned about love came from the opportunity to assist my dad in caring for my mom after her brain surgery.  She was left very much like a stroke victim from her two surgeries. In the hospital, it was best for her not to be pushed to talk much or think too hard about things as her brain needed time to recover from the trauma of the surgery. As she learned to walk again it was best for her to have me walk close by her side to steady her and be her crutch when necessary. When she was able to come home from the hospital it was best for her that she never be left alone lest she lose her balance and risk an injury from a fall. Making adjustments to do what was best for Mom was a way I could show her that I loved her.

An energized, excited commitment

But, showing love to my dog and my mom does not mean I was IN love with them. I loved them, but was not in love with them. In my opinion, being IN love includes not only the desire to do what is best for the other person but also an energized, excited commitment to do it for life, no matter the cost. And, you can bet that a life time commitment will require some ‘costs’ along the way but the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice. After 30 years of marriage, I can say I’m still in love with my husband and thankful we tied the knot for life. To experience that level of being ‘all in’ relationally involves a level of comfort with each other that provides a safe place for your body and soul while realizing you are stronger together than you could be apart.

Being in love is an exciting adventure and a calming refuge. It is a reciprocal experience that differs from loving someone or something, and enriches life in mysterious ways.

‘It was a bit of a whirlwind romance’

What is love? Guest Post No. 2

Today’s post is written by a friend called Danielle, who has been married for 15 years.IMG_2376

Danielle has 3 children and lives on the north coast of N.Ireland.

I have been married to Graham for 15 years (16 in May). We were crazy in love from our first date. After just 8 months together we got engaged and 10 months later we were married; I had just turned 20 when we married. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance, especially considering I was quite young.

We were madly in love

I look back on those first years together with a wry, knowing smile. We were madly in love; we spent all our free time together, we were more than happy with just our own company; our conversations were filled with big hopes and dreams and we easily saw the best in each other and cheered each other on with great enthusiasm.

16 years and 3 children later, we have experienced many great joys together and faced many storms we would rather have avoided at the time. Our relationship has, undoubtedly changed over the years.

Love became a little more challenging

In the beginning love came so easily, no effort was required; it was fuelled by the excitement of a new passion and the hopes that it carried. Somewhere along the way love became a little more challenging and called for more intentionality.  It depended upon both of us being committed to the promise we made to each other on our wedding day.

On those days when I find Graham irritating or I flat out disagree with him I have to choose to love. To me that means I choose not to take offence, I choose not to huff when I feel like I don’t want to talk to him and I choose not to speak those sharp words that come to the tip of my tongue far too easily. I can even replace that offence by reminding myself of some of the kind, selfless things that Graham does for me (he brings me hot water bottles because he knows I’m always cold!)

To me, love is found in a perfect balance of both parties making selfless choices, which leads to an atmosphere of trust between you where both people feel secure in the relationship. This kind of foundation then allows grace for the times when you mess up and act or speak in a way that is unkind or unloving.

We look forward to an end that will be much better than the beginning

As committed Christians we both believe that marriage is one of God’s best ideas, that it is for our good and that with His help our marriage can grow stronger and better. We believe that the love we share now is different to the love we shared in the beginning, but “better different”. That which has been tried and tested has grown deeper roots and been proven to be true.

We look forward to an end that will be much better than the beginning. We look forward to having a more loving, secure, joy filled marriage 16 years from now.

So what is the difference between being in love and loving someone? For me, being in love with Graham is the result of the consideration we have given to intentionally loving each other over the years. I believe if we had stopped making those small choices to be selfless and thoughtful, somewhere along the way we would have found ourselves no longer “in love”. I think the difference is that “being in love” is a description of the status of our relationship which is borne out of the habitual action of “loving” each other. You cannot achieve the joy of the former without consistently doing the work of the latter.

Danielle McElhinney

“Being in love kicks starts love, but ‘loving’ keeps ‘being in love’ going”

What is love? Guest post No.1

Continuing along the theme of love and what exactly it is, I am reproducing here in its entirety a guest post from a young woman who fell in love a year ago. Here is her answer to the question ‘What is the difference between being in love and loving someone? (the names are fictional).

Being in love is emotional, it’s exciting, and ….. conditional         red rose

Being in love is wonderful. I remember the first time we said ‘I love you’ to each other:  I still get those same butterflies when Frederick is around. Spending time with him is the best part of my day. We are in love. We want to spend time together. We want to continue to get to know each other like we know no one else. We have lots in common and lots of differences. We are fascinated by each other. Being in love is emotional, it’s exciting, and to an extent it’s conditional. I guess what I mean is that those happy, excited feelings are conditional on the person we are in love with also being in love, or at least demonstrating love, back to us. The times I find myself whispering “I’m so in love with you” to Frederick, are the times when he shows me he is also in love with me – with a meaningful hug, a thoughtful note or an honest conversation. It’s a personal feeling to me, almost a selfish one that depends on Frederick showing me affection. But what about the times when the other person doesn’t communicate their love to us? When the condition hasn’t been met? The times when we question if we really are in love? The times when we don’t feel in love?

It puts our neediness and our pride to one side and says “I will love YOU”

“Love is a verb”. So we are told. But it isn’t just a verb and not just a doing word. Before the ‘doing’, there is the ‘choosing to do’. For me, loving is a conscious decision, not an emotional one. I chose to love Frederick and I continue to choose to love him every day. In my choosing to love him, I also choose to learn and educate myself on how to love him best. I choose to learn how he feels loved and then I do the ‘doing’ part of loving. Loving for me has involved learning a new language, the language of touch, and sharing a communal language, the language of quality time. Loving someone is choosing to love them, learning how to love them, and showing them love. In that order. Everyday. It’s a conscious, humble, daily decision, regardless of feelings or emotions. It’s selfless and it costs – it puts our neediness and our pride to one side and says “I will love YOU. Not just when I feel like it, not only  when it’s easy, but every day. And I will do it in such a way that you understand because I want you to know that I love you.”

Being in love kicks starts love, but ‘loving’ keeps ‘being in love’ going

Being in love with someone and loving someone are more intertwined than it maybe appears from what I just said. I am in love and I love Frederick. I chose to love him, and he chooses to love me because we fell in love a year ago. From those feelings of being in love, we made a choice to love each other every day. From those choices flow loving actions and words and care. And because of these, we are totally in love. Being in love kicks starts love, but ‘loving’ keeps ‘being in love’ going.