Don’t abort the mission. You may have to re-strategize, change tactics, or reprioritize, but keep your eye on the goal. I left this message for a friend before he proposed to another friend of mine over the weekend. He’d elaborately worked out a scheme to ask her to marry him at the top of a mountain where the view is spectacular, but the climb isn’t for the faint of heart. Wielding cameras, music, and even a change of clothes for pictures, he had friends get up early and climb to the summit to wait and record the special moment. With the careful, well-thought-out plans, the mission was set into motion.
Who would have thought you’d need a reservation to climb a mountain?
Turns out, in 2020, you do. Thankfully after some quick thinking, he finagled the park director to let them hike an obscure trail. They made it to the summit where friends hid behind a rock playing, Marry You by Bruno Mars. She caught sight of one of the people hiding and broke into tears before he could get on one knee. She was crying so hard he had to ask her if she was okay before he could say, “Will you marry me.” Thankfully, the tears were happy tears. She said yes, and they have the most beautiful engagement photos.
Plenty of obstacles attempt to hinder us or thwart our plans, but we’ll never experience the joy and spectacular view of heaven if we abort the mission.
In this case, my friend’s mission was to propose to his girlfriend, and despite the roadblocks, he forged the climb and was successful.
But what is our mission?
We’re told to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves, but we can get so caught up in our own detailed plans that we take our focus off our mission. Loving our neighbor sounds easy until obstacles arise. What if the neighbor throws their lawn clippings over the fence into your yard, spouts off about their different political views, never returns what they borrowed, or cranks loud music while you’re sleeping?
Inside we might fume. We might retaliate in kind or run mental replays of how we’d tell them off, but where does that leave us? Loving someone can be easier said than done. However, that is our purpose, and more than ever it seems like we’ve reached mission-critical. When the world starts to spew hate, we are supposed to love. When your “neighbor” acts like the devil incarnate, it’s time to kill him with kindness. When life throws one battle after another at you, open up your arsenal and choose to love, because love conquers all.
Don’t be fooled into believing that love is wimpy, soft, or naïve. Love is a powerful weapon. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always endures, but best of all, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13). It takes a strong, brave person to love. Nevertheless, we can do so because God first loved us.
Don’t abort the mission. Love people throughout the rocky climb, because there are spectacular rewards awaiting us at the summit.
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The L word gets tossed around so easily: I love ice cream, I love summer, I love football. I’m at fault for using it flippantly, unfortunately doing so devalues its meaning. As a romance writer, I get to ponder about love daily, but even more so, with Valentine’s day right around the corner. It got me thinking about what the definition of love means to me:
Love is a connection, an intimate knowledge of one another, mentally, spiritually, and physically.
Love is sacrificing your needs over theirs, and the secure feeling of knowing that if the situation were reversed, they would do the same for you.
Love is setting aside pride, grudges, and being right because you value the other person above those things.
Love is believing in someone and seeing their potential sometimes, even when they don’t.
The Bible doesn’t leave us in the dark. It tells us specifically in 2 Corinthians 13 what love is and what love isn’t.
Let’s start with what love isn’t.”
Love doesn’t envy
Love doesn’t boast
Love isn’t proud
Love doesn’t dishonor others
Love isn’t self-seeking
Love isn’t easily angered
Love keeps no record of wrongs
Love doesn’t delight in evil
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs writes in his book Love and Respect about a couple who were given a tour of a brand new home with lots of amenities. The wife without thinking says to her husband in a joking manner, “You need to get a second job.” I can imagine the husband, wife, and homeowners chuckling, but the husband’s smile is a little tight. His wife has no idea she just dishonored and wounded her husband.
In the process of looking for a laugh, we can put our self-seeking desires first and say unkind things that break the trust of our loved ones. In the same way that we flippantly use the term love and devalue its meaning, hurtful words are tossed around that devalue the people we should be protecting. Now, what love is:
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love rejoices in truth
Love always protects
Love always trusts
Love always hopes
Love always preservers
Love never fails
Love never fails. I believe the reason the U.S. has a 40% to 50% average divorce rate is that people have forgotten the true definition of love. Read up on what the Bible says about love. Love doesn’t try to catch our spouse, child, or family member doing something wrong. Love tries to catch them doing something right. Love gives the benefit of the doubt. However, it’s more than just a behavior change—it’s a heart condition.
The words always and never aren’t casually added to 2 Corinthians, because our God isn’t haphazard. It means love always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres, and love never fails. You don’t fall in and out of love. It’s more than a whim—even more than a decision. Love is a mandate. God is love, and if we abide in God, then we too should radiate love. We each have an ugly side that rears every now and then, but God has loved us not only despite our ugly sin but also through it. Let that be the example we follow. God pours His unfailing love upon us so that we can do the same.
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. Love never fails. 2 Corinthians 13: 4-8
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The kids scatter to get away from the tension between mom and dad. Yelling, screaming, tears, a door slams. Words have been said that can’t be unsaid.
Most fights are not the iconic scenes of the movies like Braveheart where William Wallace inspires his warriors with a freedom speech before they charge into battle. Or, the fantastic light show of sabers as Luke Skywalker holds a final showdown with his Darth Vader dad. Or, even the witty, I love you, but I have to kill you now, undercover spy humor of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Usually, fights are trivial, hurtful, and often a simple misunderstanding.
Misunderstandings are what develop conflict between the hero and heroine in most romance novel plots. It can be anything from hiding a past shame to believing the hero may be an actual murderer. Whatever the conflict, it’s good to know how and why fights progress. In my research, I came across two types of fighters: duckers and confronters.
Duckers prefer to hide or ignore the issue hoping it will resolve itself on its own. When forced into a confrontation, they think, I don’t need this, or I don’t have time for this.
Confronters prefer to attack the issue. They want to air it all out in the open. When faced with a ducker they think, he’s/she’s not willing to fight for me and wants to press their spouse into standing up for them.
Here’s an example of an argument from my manuscript “Love Never Fails” between a confronter (Abby) and a ducker (Nick). For some background information, Abby’s husband Nick had gone missing during the Napoleonic Wars with France. He’s suffering from what now would be diagnosed as Post-traumatic stress disorder, and even though the war ended, he’s allowed everyone, including his wife to believe he was still deceased.
Abby crossed her arms over her chest. “Do you have another family?”
“No!” Nick’s bellowed answer reverberated off the cramped cabin walls. His eyes flicked to the lieutenant who stoked the fire as if it was his sole purpose in life.
Abby’d grown tired of excuses. The truth must come out. Tonight. She lifted her chin higher. “You know, for a moment, I was actually relieved to discover you were a spy.”
“I’m contracted out by the War Department for specialized missions.”
“You’re a spy.”
“You’re not listening.” Nick stared into the fire and dragged his fingers through his thick hair.
She continued to watch him, using silence to demand the truth.
He let out a low growl. “Yes, I’m a spy. The lieutenant is my liaison. He can confirm I have no other family.” Cynicism tinged his voice. “Since my word isn’t enough.”
A single nod from the lieutenant verified Nick’s statement. Once again silence fell over the room, interrupted only by the popping and hissing of the fire. Lieutenant Spark’s eyes shifted between her and Nick before he slowly stood, faking a yawn. “It’s been a trying day. I’m going to turn in for the night.”
Abby followed him with her eyes, using it as a chance to blink away tears. Lieutenant Sparks grabbed a blanket from out of his saddlebag and curled up in a corner facing the wall.
Nick continued to stare at the blazing fire. He snapped a twig in his hands and threw it into the flames one piece at a time.
“You never meant to come back home, did you?” Abby demanded in a hoarse whisper. “I discovered you by accident. You planned to sneak back in and grab your bow and arrows while I slept.”
“Don’t do this, Abby.”
Abby stood. “I waited for you for ten years. I prayed and prayed and prayed until I thought God had forgotten me, but you were alive.” Her arms hugged her midsection. “Did you ever plan on telling me?” She shook her head. “No, of course not. That’s why you suggested I remarry because you wanted to continue to play dead so you could resume spying for the crown.” Hot tears choked out her voice. “You would prefer a cloak and dagger life over being with me.”
“I wanted you to remarry,” he hissed in a rough whisper, “so you could have a chance at happiness.”
Abby crouched beside him, her tone lethal. “I’m already married.”
“I’m not the same boy you wed. I was giving you an out.”
“I never wanted an out. I wanted you. I wanted a life and a family of our own. You never gave our marriage a chance.”
“Don’t turn this around on me,” he roared. Nick’s gaze flicked to the lieutenant’s sleeping form and lowered his voice. “Everything I did was for you.”
“What did you do? Save me from heartache? My heart shattered into a million pieces ten years ago.”
His hands clenched into tight fists. “I don’t need this right now. You’ve made up your mind. I’m the bad guy. I can’t reason with you if you’re not going to listen.”
“So, you’re not even going to try?” Hot tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
Nick chucked a large stick into the fire and stood. “I can’t do this.” In three long strides, he stalked to the door. The wooden door crashed into the weeds as he exited, leaving a gaping hole.
Love and Respect a book by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs talks about the “crazy cycle” in which married couples can find themselves trapped. Men yearn for respect. If they don’t receive it, then some will withhold love using it as a weapon to lash out. In the same line, women yearn for love, but if they’re not getting it, they may disrespect their husband as a method of revenge. Dr. Eggerichs found that these tactics only land couples in an endless circle of dishing out more disrespect and unloving behavior. He encourages people to break the cycle. How? Husbands—by being bold and doing something that shows your love, even if you think she doesn’t deserve it. Write a love note, buy flowers, finish the honey-do-list. Wives—respect your husband, even if he may not have earned it. Tell him qualities you admire in him, thank him for working or even taking out the trash, encourage him. Even little acts of love and respect compounded over time can reverse the “crazy cycle.”
I know I’m a hopeless romantic (it’s why I write romance novels), but I believe there’s a reason why little girls play princess and boys pretend to be superheroes. Deep down women want to know, “You’re worth fighting for,” and men want to hear, “I believe in you.”