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My Funny Valentine

When I turned 30, I had only been married for two and half months – a newlywed by all definitions. As a single woman I had always imagined that the elegant dinners and adventures that I often planned to celebrate my birthday would be taken over by my husband as he moves heaven and earth to surprise me for every birthday, holiday and anniversary.

Where my expectations high?

To quote a recently discovered wise sage, “Is an elephant heavy?”

My expectations for my husband were THROUGH THE ROOF! Reasonable or not, I expected to be showered with flowers and balloons and gifts and to be whisked off for an island getaway somewhere. After all, this was my 30th birthday! My biggest milestone yet!

Imagine my response when my birthday fell on a Sunday and we went to church like it was any other Sunday. There was no card; there was no gift. After church, I was still holding out hope that my surprise was lurking somewhere so I carefully suggested an afternoon lunch to celebrate. My hubby agreed and we went to an Italian restaurant close to our home. Lunch was okay even though I started feeling ill right after (early pregnancy). The disappointment of the day weighed on me. I am sure I made more than one smart remark about the lack of celebration of my special day.

The discontentment I felt about that particular birthday was hard to shake. Eventually, I had to take it to the Lord in prayer;  after pouring my heart out before the Lord, I thought I was over it. As we got closer to our first Christmas as a married couple and my husband’s first birthday as a married man, the Lord had to sit me down and explain a few things. I learned that my expectations of my husband to be the one always DOING in order to please me where not only unrealistic and misplaced, they were selfish and un-Christ-like. Marriage was not about me getting this gift or that or about having someone to make up for all of my single and alone years by going over the top for me. Marriage was about loving and honoring my spouse in obedience to God so that Christ may be glorified. From then on I made it my mission to out serve my husband in love. Whether or not he had made a big “to do” about my birthday, I was going all out for his because I loved him and I appreciated all he had done to take care of me and our unborn child. I decorated the house while he was away at work; then I popped up at his job at midnight on his birthday with dessert, homemade food and balloons. Lastly, I planned a surprise dinner with our friends for the following evening. Spending the weekend catering to my husband and lavishing him with love absolutely filled my heart with joy. Watching him beam and blush in laughter with each revelation and surprise was all my heart needed that weekend.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. The joy I felt in serving my husband and ensuring he knew how much he was loved and appreciated could not be duplicated – not even if I had been the one on the receiving end of all of the attention. In blessing my husband sincerely and unconditionally, I received a blessing from the Lord in the form of heavenly joy in my heart and God’s peace in my home.

That experience has set the pace for our future celebrations. Regardless of what my husband is able to do to celebrate me, even if it is nothing at all, I will take any and every opportunity to let him know he is loved.

With each passing year, my husband continues to grow in this area. He is coming from a background that never celebrated any birthdays or holidays as a child so the transition for him is a big one. But every year, he goes out of his way to buy me a card or balloons or flowers or a thoughtful gift for any special occasion and the gesture always moves me to tears. I am the one that is used to doing things extravagantly. He is not. So any effort he makes, motivated by his love for me, speaks volumes to me.

And the years when work, financial responsibilities and his schedule do not allow for him to do anything, I am reminded of how well he loves and provides for me the other 364 days of the year and by God’s grace, I am still able to shower him with affection and relish the privilege to spend another holiday in the arms of the man I love.

Being a proud member of “Team-Doing-Too-Much” I bought my husband’s Valentine’s Day cards a week in advance. Since I could not decide between cards, I ended up with five cards for my one hubby (LOL). Each card held a special message that spoke to our relationship as best friends, as lovers, as partners, and as companions.

My husband stepped his game ALL the way up this year and showered me with gift after gift. For a heart that was already content to receive nothing material, this was the icing on top of the most decadent cake. I appreciate my husband for his efforts to love me well this Valentine’s Day. It is perfectly in line with how well he has loved me for the past three years and nine months of marriage.

Taking each holiday  and regular day as a married woman as  an opportunity to lavish my husband with love has changed my marriage and it has changed my character. I am less selfish and less self-absorbed. I am no longer a spoiled brat who expects my husband to move heaven and earth for my happiness. I find myself more grateful for the simple things in life. I am better able to see the big and small ways that my husbands proves his love for me in our daily lives. I am more confident in my husband’s love for me, gift or no gift.

For anyone who had a disappointing Valentine’s Day whether because you are single and felt left out or maybe because you are married and felt forgotten, please be encouraged. Yesterday does not prove or disprove that you are loved or valued. It is just another day and it is what you make it. If you are single, find someone to lavish with your love. Whether it is a parent, a sibling or a cherished friend. Do something extravagant (or simple) for someone because you love them and with absolutely no expectation that they will return the favor – that is the true essence of giving; anything else is an exchange.

If you are married and your spouse disappointed you by not going all out or even acknowledging the day, I know you are hurt and I am so sorry. Maybe like me, you need to adjust your expectations. If that is the case, I pray that God shows you ways that you can lavish unconditional love on your spouse. Celebrate them even if they cannot or will not celebrate you. If you are anything like me, I can guarantee that in giving, you will find inexplicable joy that can only come from the Lord.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

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The Niece/Nephew I Did Not Meet

Therefore comfort one another with these words

1 Thessalonians 4:18

My dear sister and friend. I do not presume to know your pain and I can not even begin to imagine what you are feeling in this moment. I have been pregnant twice in my marriage and by the grace of God, both of my children are here. They are healthy and they are thriving. I can hold their faces close to mine and kiss them as many times as my heart desires. You may be doing the same with your other children. Or you may be holding nothing more than the memories of the days, weeks, or months they spent inside, cocooned by your love and connected to you as only a child you have carried can be. You may have spent months in joyful anticipation of their arrival or maybe you only had weeks to cherish their lives before the screen went dark.

I cannot presume to know your pain.

What I know is what almost every wife and mother knows. When we are presented with the news that our love for our husband and God’s love for us has created a separate life that will be a testimony to both, hope springs eternal. We plan for the days when they will join us on this side of heaven. We share the news with those whose lives will be impacted and changed for the better along with our own. We are fiercely protective of them, refusing and rejecting anything that will cause even a semblance of harm to their growth and well-being. We forgo our favorite wine and sushi, turn down invitations to activities deemed risky or unsafe and attend every doctor’s appointment because we know their lives depend on it. We pray for them more than we pray for ourselves. We speak into their futures the godly desires of our mother’s heart. We imagine their childhood and dream about them as adults. We love them before we ever even meet them. We show off their little black and white pictures with barely captured eyes, noses, feet and hands. We celebrate with glee when we discover their God-given gender – musing about Mommy’s little princess and Daddy’s little guy.

Or at least we would if we were given the chance.

You may have had nothing more to hold of your children than the one positive plastic applicator that told you they were coming. And as soon as hope set your heart dreaming, your worst nightmare became reality.

I cannot presume to know your pain.

Here is what I know, Sis. Children are a gift from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is HIS reward, nobody else’s. We did not get our children because we deserved them. God graciously gave them to us for our good and His glory. In His giving, He is good. In His withholding, He is good because NO GOOD THING will He withhold from those that love Him.

And God loves you, sis.

I know you know this but I am here to remind you. He is not looking for ways to set you up for the utmost heartbreak. When your heart breaks, Christ is with you because He is a High Priest who sympathizes with us in our anguish; He came in flesh so that He is the one best able to show us the way from sowing in tears to reaping in joy.

The pain you are feeling is unfathomable to me, my dearest friend. But I know a God who knows ALL  that you are enduring and guess what? His grace is multiplied towards you when your pain is greatest. Where grief abounds, God’s grace abounds much more. And even in your mourning, let me remind you of the beautiful promise of God’s comfort. In your mourning, God is giving you His utmost attention because it is His desire that you be comforted. I pray that the God of ALL comfort will be with you, tangibly like never before.

When I think of you, I bless God. Because even in our grief we do not grieve as those without a hope. We have a hope that endures, His name is Christ Jesus and He is The Resurrection and The Life. He is the only one who has conquered death and put the grave to an open shame.He is the ever Victorious One – so do not believe the enemy when he tries to tell you that all hope is lost. Who can conquer a King who conquers death? NO ONE. Death is not victorious. On the last day when the dead in Christ shall rise and we who are alive are caught up to meet Him, you and I will see clearly that death has had no victory.

I cannot presume to know your pain, sis.

But I encourage you to trust God. Trust His goodness so fully that even when evil seems to rear its head, you can confidently say to the enemy “what you meant for evil, God turned around for my good.” Trust God so fully that you can see His hand in every circumstance, no matter how dark. Trust Him so fully that the testing of your faith purifies you rather than breaking you.

I cannot presume to know your pain, sis – so I will never dare to impose on you something I have never had to walk out in my own life. The only thing I know about your loss is the God who saw it coming and is with you even now. God trusts you, not in your own right but God trusts Himself in you. His Holy Spirit lives within you and He has given you and will continue to give you all that you need in order to endure, overcome and prevail in this time of testing. You will not fail. All you really have to do is get through each day, moment by moment. As long as there is life, there is hope.

I do not have the right words to ease your pain, sis. But I am here. I am here to sit with you in the darkest times of your life because I am convinced that Light will triumph over darkness. I am here to cry with you if your pain needs my tears as well as your own because honestly, my heart does break for you. I am here to rejoice with you when the spirit of heaviness finally gives way to the garment of praise. I pray that what you have sown in tears, you will reap in joy in Jesus Name.

I love you.

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

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When Perfection Fails

Have you ever scratched at a scar that you presumed was healed only to have it bleeding again? It reminds me of just the other night when I was walking along minding my business. I saw a few people that I use to know but because our acquaintanceship has been raft with ups and downs, make-ups to break-ups if you will, I decided not to intrude where I was not invited. To be honest, I was a little afraid. The rejection that once wounded me should have been healed by now but would wisdom really have me put myself in the line of fire in a moment when I was feeling so vulnerable (alone in an unfamiliar place)?

“I am not saying ____ to them”

The crass thought floated across my mind before I could sensor it. My flesh was on high alert. My natural mind and high voltage emotions remembered what it felt like to be rejected and branded and rejected again. My emotions bucked against any attempts to remember the healing and grace that God has poured out since then or the restoration, if not of relationships, then at least of wholeness. In that moment, perfection failed.

Where was the woman who has been made whole by the redeeming power of God? Where was the on who was bent on being long suffering because her Savior’s love has suffered long for her own case?

She was hiding in the back drop. Weighed down and wearied from the past six hours of caring for demanding, little hands and hearts. It was a busy day. My energy was low and my children were operating on all cylinders. Couple that with the ongoing inability to steal away even just for a few minutes to refresh – and I had the recipe for a perfect storm.

When perfection fails, grace shows up. The fear that gave way to the fleshly response was dissolved by an extended hand of fellowship. After a short moment of polite conversation, we went our separate ways. I wish I had been the bigger person in that moment but I was not. What I could not do, grace did on my behalf through another person.

Perfection fails me regularly.

“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. ”

(Jesus  as recorded in Matthew 5:48)

The question that drives my life is this. What would it look like if God decided to demonstrate His love to the world by sending a thirty-something year old wife and mother who looks like me to impact her family, her corner of the world and her circle for the sake of the Gospel?

Or to phrase it another way, what would it look like to have the life of Christ lived fully in and through me in my same marriage, with my same children, with my same friends and in my same church?

Because, for too long I had lived with the notion that I could live a more Christ-focused life if I had a different kind of marriage or if my kids were better behaved or if my community was more supportive or if I had different traits, characteristics or personality than the one God has given me.

And it is not true.

I am not required to become a different person in my own life in order to meet God’s standards. By and through the Holy Spirit, little old me can do much to proclaim the glory of God even if my circumstances never change. I do not need God to deal me a different set of cards – I need Him to perfect His work in me so that I can reflect Heaven to those I meet on this earth.

I have not mastered it. But  when perfection fails me, grace steps in.