Be brave and dare to love someone…

November 17, 2022

A couple of quotes in my saved quote file just seemed to fit together this morning –

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” (Anaïs Nin)

“Love comes… when you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.” (Joyce Brothers)

There is little else that expands one’s life as much as sharing love with another person. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to share that love takes the courage to dare that you could be hurt, especially if your love is not returned. Yet, even unrequited love expands your life, since you become more aware of your ability to love someone else.

Loving someone else does not have to be restricted to romantic love. When you form strong bonds with friends it’s often because you have allowed yourself to be vulnerable with them, perhaps sharing secrets or dreams or fears. By opening yourself up and sharing personal things with them your life has expanded to take them into your personal space. Sometimes that may prove to be a mistake, but most times they reciprocate by also sharing parts of their life with you that are their secretes. Think of your BFF’s and the things that you each shared with the other. That took courage.

Being brave enough to keep trying for friendship or love means being able to overcome the disappointments of past attempts that did not work out. In almost all cases it means being able to forgive and move on. I’ve posted here many times about forgiveness – forgiving others who might have hurt you by betraying the thrust that you placed in them; as well as forgiving yourself for misreading the situation and placing trust in someone who was not ready to honor or return that trust.

The bruise that is left by a betrayed trust or an unrequited love can be deep, but it will heal if you let it. Sometimes it is important to forgive yourself first and then move on to forgive the others. That is why Jesus included in the prayer that he taught the disciples in the Lord’s Prayer that they needed to forgive nor only their own transgressions but those who transgressed against them. I chose that version of the wording of the prayer because the word “transgressions” seems to have wider and more inclusive meaning that the word “sins”.

Don’t let your life shrink into loneliness. Put yourself out there and life will become expansive for you. Have the courage to keep being vulnerable, to keep making new friends or searching for love. 

Dare to love and you will find love in return.


What about the thorns?

October 20, 2022

I saw this quote, some time ago in the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a lot to love a leaf.  It’s ordinary to love the beautiful, but it’s beautiful to love the ordinary.”  (Unknown)

It is true that it is easier to love the rose than it is to think enough about the leaf to love it, too. Life has many more leaves than roses, but we tend to just look past them and focus upon the roses – the beautiful things and people that we encounter in our lives or that we strive to achieve.

But what about the things that are not only not beautiful, but perhaps even painful in life – the thorns that we encounter. If there is beauty in loving the ordinary in life, maybe there is even more beauty in leaning to love the thorns.

Both the leaves and the thorns are an integral part of the rose bush that produces the roses, just as the ordinary, day-to-day things that we experience and even the painful or hurtful things that we endure are a part of life. We must learn to love them, too.

Most of the “thorns” that we experience in life are not necessarily harmful or painful; they are just things that didn’t turn out the way we had hoped or envisioned that they would. They may be failures or disappointments or even rejections.

Just like the experience of grabbing a rose stem the wrong way teaches us about thorns and causes us to use a different approach the next time, we also learn from the life thorns that we encounter. “How we handle what’s ahead of us will be determined by what we learned from everything that’s behind us.”  (Craig Lounsbrough)

I’m not sure that we can ever learn to love the thorns that we encounter in life; however, we can decide to learn from them to make the road ahead a little less bumpy and dangerous – a little more beautiful. We can accept them and learn from them.

I find it sadly interesting that it seems to be easier to focus upon and love the ordinary and even the thorns in life once one gets older. When we are young, we are so focused and consumed with the pursuit of “getting ahead” in life (the roses that we are reaching for) that we don’t take the time to appreciate the ordinary (the leaves), much less to love the thorns.

I’m not sure that love is the right way to describe the ability to accept and learn from life’s thorns. Perhaps “appreciate” is a better description of the change that occurs as we get older or maybe just “accept” works best. One stops taking life for granted and becomes thankful for each day – for the ordinary and even for the thorns that come along with the day.

So, go ahead and stop and smell the roses, but also pause to appreciate the leaves and even to accept the thorns.  They are all part of this wonderful journey called life. What will you learn from today?


Work at it…

October 7, 2022

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” (Mister Rogers)

My children grew up watching Mr. Rogers, so I ended up watching a lot of it, too. I like this piece of advice from Fred Rogers because it correctly states a fact about love that is oft overlooked. Society has too often accepted the idealized notion that we “fall in love”. I have learned over time that love is not a passive thing that one falls into. Love must be worked at to be successful. A big part of that effort is the acceptance of the things that one might wish were different about the person that they love. Work at it.

Couples whom you might know who appear to have loving successful relationships do not live in some dream world of perfection; instead, they have worked at understanding and accepting each other. They have found ways, not to overlook their partner’s faults (if that is even the right way to express differences) but to accept them and go on with life. Work at it.

The young often mistake physical attraction and sexual pleasures for love, but both change over time and if there is not more to the relationship the result is most often divorce. I often hear from loving couples that their partner is also their best friend – the person that they most enjoy being around and the one person that they can count on. Those are people who have worked at love. Work at it.

Trust, openness, sharing, and acceptance are all parts of what makes up a successful relationship – a loving relationship. Those things are only possible once both partners start accepting the other as they are. Work at it.

There is a quote attributed to the late Queen Elizabeth II – “Grief is the price we pay for love.” Grief is a past-tense way of looking at love. I would submit that a present-tense way of looking at love is – “Acceptance is the price we pay for love.” Love is an active, living thing that must be worked at to be successful. Work at it.

I cannot complete my thoughts on this topic without touching upon abusive relationships. In those cases, it is a big mistake to accept that abusive behavior or to believe that you can somehow change that partner. An even bigger mistake is believing that it somehow your fault that you are being abused. The only thing that is your fault is staying in that relationship. Get out and get on with life. The love that you are seeking to share will not be found in that type of relationship. Life will never be perfect, but it does not have to be abusive. Work on it.


That’s enough for me…

February 15, 2022

I’ve been saving this quote for some time, trying to figure out the best way to use it, because it sums up so well my feelings after 56 years of marriage. Somehow it makes perfect sense to use it on Valentine’s Day.

“There will be no medals or monuments for me, but I have loved one person with my whole heart and soul, and that’s enough for me.”  (Nicholas Sparks) 

“Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

When marriages last a long time they undergo many changes, just like the people involved in them. The thing that gets the couples through the tough times that all marriages encounter is love. The thing that endures long after the heat of passion has become glowing embers rather than leaping flames is love. The thing that allows the forgiveness of forgotten birthdays or anniversaries is love. The thing that allows us to look beyond to the ravages of aging bodies and still see beauty is love.  That’s enough for me.

It seems that it takes most people a long time to figure out what is truly important in life; not what you may like or enjoy at the moment, but what really natters and endures. Perhaps that is the maturity and wisdom that comes with age. Most eventually get it, but for some that wisdom comes too late and the one person to whom thy might have given their love to is gone. I was blessed to find my true love 56 years ago and share the biggest part of my life with her. That’s enough for me.

Every night the last thing that my wife and I say to each other as we go to bed is “I love you”. If I didn’t wake up in the morning I would be content that the last thing I said on earth was “I love you” to her and the last thing I heard was “I love you” in return. That’s enough for me.

Happy Valentine’s Day my love. You’re enough for me!


Hope supplies the light…

January 5, 2022

I’ve has these two quotes in my saved file for a while and they just seem to go together –

“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” (Stanley Kubrick)

“Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent”.  (Mignon McLaughlin)

Kubrick’s quote points out that we must find our own way our of the darkness of sorrow or anger or despair – the things that plunge us into darkness.

I wrote a few years back about four candles – Peace, Love, Faith and Hope – and how one by one they were extinguished until only the candle of Hope remained burning (see https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/01/27/where-there-is-hope-there-can-never-be-complete-darkness-2/).

Our lives can seem like the candles sometimes, especially when jarring events snuff out the candle of Peace or the unexpected loss of a loved one causes the candle of Love to flicker out. Sometimes it is all too easy to allow events to overcome us and so we lose sight of the candle of our Faith. In those times all we have is the candle of Hope to show us the way our of the darkness.

If we can get to the point that McLaughlin mentioned, where we realize that the darkness we are in is not permanent by holding out hope for a better tomorrow, we can start to reignite the other candles in our lives.

Recent events in the U.S. and around the world have provided vivid images of people who have lost everything or endured unimaginable hardships and yet still cling to hope. Out of that hope many have expressed their faith that things will get better, and that life will go on. Most often they express gratitude that they still have their loved ones and state that they will rebuild their lives and their homes. They know that the feelings of loss and despair that they may have at that moment will not last.

You do not have to suffer a disaster to be plunged into a dark place. For some, mental illness takes them to those places often. No matter how you got there, the candle of Hope is the way out. Keep Hope burning in your life and let its light show you the way out of the darkness. Peer into the darkness with the light of Hope and you will see God standing there with the candle of Faith ready to be reignited.

Faith is most often the first candle to be relit by Hope. Hope illuminates God as our guide out of our funk and allows us to ask God for His help.

Once you have the candle of Faith burning in your life again it becomes possible to relight the candle of Love and to once again allow the candle of Peace to guide your way through life.

Hold on to Hope…it supplies the light in the darkness.


What’s in you?

October 30, 2021

A daily quote that I get from somewhere (who knows how one gets on these email lists) struck a chord with me yesterday –

All the ill that is in us comes from fear, and all the good from love. (Eleanor Farjeon)

One needs to think a bit about the broad generalizations in Farjeon’s statement. There are lots of emotions or feelings that one can have about things in life, but they do all boil down to either fearing or loving whatever it is that has evoked those reactions. Even the strong negative (ill) emotion of anger is motivated deep down by fear.

It is a worthwhile exercise to explore and try to identify the root causes of regret, anger or anxiety in your life. Why? Because it forces you to confront those fears and allows you to overcome them. Cutting through the emotional layers of fear allows one to focus upon the thing that is driving the fear – the upcoming decision or event or, maybe, the person that we fear facing.

Then, instead of allowing your imagination to explore all of the possible negative outcomes (something that it is very good at), you can instead use your imagination to visualize the desired outcome. Professional golfers use that visualization technique all of the time to “see” the successful outcome of their next shot. You don’t imagine that they stand there “seeing” their next shot going in the water or into a trap. No. Instead they “see” their shoe landing softly on the green and rolling towards the cup. Why would you spend time visualizing failure rather than “seeing” yourself being successful in whatever challenges you are facing.

So, where is the love (the good) in all of this? Using the same logic as I espoused for analyzing the fears in your life, you can backtrack the love side to find its core, too. If you have been able to visualize your success in whatever is facing you, it is easy to take the step of loving what it is that you see yourself doing. From there it is a small, but important step to love yourself for having the courage to be successful. If you can love who you are and what you are about to do, you can then admit to yourself that you could not have done it alone and acknowledge and embrace the love of God that gave you that courage.

So, at the heart of the love in your life is God’s love for you and all the rest of the good (the love) radiates out from that core, like the ripples in a pool of water when you toss in a rock. For at the core of all fears is the fear of death and those who believe in God know that Jesus has saved us from death and promised eternal life. Allow me the latitude to paraphrase Romans 8:31 – “If God is with us, what is there left to fear?”

Love God, be fearless and life will be good. What’s in you?


Are you all-in?

October 7, 2021

A couple of quotes that I picked up from the Jack’s Winning Words blog just seem to fit together this morning –

“Love is, or it ain’t.  Thin love ain’t love at all.  (Tori Morrison)

“Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.” (Bob Dylan)

Jack used the first quote today and commented on recalling “thin soup” from his life during The Great Depression, which extra water was added to soup pots to thin out the soup and make it go farther. Thin love, or watered-down love, he opined is as unsatisfying as thin soup. The Dylan quote he used some time ago in another post and he commented on the inability to have partial faith in God.

It is not possible to say that you believe in and love God only some of the time. However, what sometimes happens those who believe, is that they get distracted and wander away from God from time to time. Jesus told a parable about sheep that occasionally wandered away from the flock and how the good shepherd searched for those sheep to bring them back into the flock.

The events of life can distract us and cause us to wander away from our faith. We may become too focused on success in our work life and begin to ignore both our family and our faith. Perhaps we get so wrapped up in the secular events of our family, like sports practices and games, that we abandon our churches and temporarily lose sight of our faith. In some cases of the loss of a loved one, we may become overwhelmed by grief or remorse or even anger and turn away from God. That is the “How could God let this happen” reaction to a personal tragedy.

But the words of Morrison and Dylan provide the answer to our questions and the relief of our pain. If you love God and believe in him, but have wandered off; let the good shepherd, Jesus, find you and lead you back to the flock. Just like in a poker game, you must play the hand that you’ve been dealt in life, so either fold (not a good option at all) or go all-in with your faith. There is no thin love for, or partial belief in, God; you either got it or you ain’t. If you got it, let Jesus find you through all of life’s challenges and lead you back to the flock.

Are you all-in?


Free yourself…

August 21, 2021

I saw this quote recently in a daily email of inspirational quotes that I somehow got on the mailing list to receive.  

“Forgiveness is just another name for freedom.” – (Byron Katie}

One may be excused for not immediately associating freedom with forgiveness. However, if you think about it for a while, the inability to forgive, whether it be forgiving someone who has wronged us in some way or forgiving ourselves for our own mistakes, holds us captive to the bitterness and pain from which we cannot free ourselves.

If, or once, we find it in our hearts to forgive, we are free to go on with life, unencumbered by the baggage of past transgressions, whether by us or against us.

We can find the advice to forgive others in the Lord’s Prayer, where we are admonished to forgive the transgressions (sins or trespasses are terms also used)  of others as God forgives our transgressions. It is in accepting that God forgives us that we also find the reason to forgive ourselves and free ourselves to move on in life.

Forgiving others is sometimes not easy, especially if it is still close in time to whatever the incident was that needs to be forgiven. Sometimes there is an initial reaction of shock to some slight, rejection or wrong that we perceive has been done to us. That is usually quickly replaced by anger. We get mad at someone or maybe at ourselves. We seek someone to blame for what has happened. Hopefully those reactions dissipate quickly, and we can start to think rationally.

There is no way forward along the paths of hate or disappointment that does not lead to further hate or even to depression.  The only way forward that leads to a better life is to forgive. The forgiveness path replaces hate with love. Forgiving does not equate to forgetting, it just means putting the incident in proper perspective and making the choice not to continue down the paths of hate or disappointment. If God can forgive you for your mistakes, surely you can forgive others for theirs or yourself for those same mistakes. If you can reach that point, it is a short journey down that path to get to love for those same people or for yourself.

I know of no greater example of this than the forgiveness that the survivors of the racial massacre of nine worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015. After the initial shock of the heinous act by Dylann Roof wore off, the survivors found it in their hearts to forgive him and even to pray for him. They freed themselves from the fears and hate of that incident and found a way to share God’s love.

Let us hope that none of us are involved in anything so horrific. Let us also strive to put whatever smaller incidents have taken place in our lives into perspective and move as quickly as we can to forgiveness, so that we, too, can be free.

Forgive…Free yourself.


Don’t blow air kisses…

August 3, 2021

Pastor Freed used a quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, that made me think this morning – “Love is, or it ain’t.  Thin love ain’t love at all.”  (Toni Morrison) 

Actually, his daily quotes always make me think and I suspect that this is what Jack has in mind when he posts them. Freed used the example of thinning out soup by adding more water during the Great Depression and talked about spreading one’s love to thin or over too many people.

My thoughts turned to people who blow air kisses your way when they meet you or exchange those faux kisses to both cheeks. They are going through the motions of expressing love, but that is all that it is – just going through the motions. Don’t blow air kisses…

Many people blow air-kisses our way, but it is thin love that they are expressing, meaningless love at best. I think that is the important distinction. One can, in fact spread real love around to many people, but it is critical that it is real, heartfelt love and not just air kisses. I believe God gives us an infinite amount of that kind of love to share, just as He shares His infinite love for us. However, we will not have that feeling about everyone that we encounter. Why is that? Don’t blow air kisses…

Maybe the answer lies in thinking about love as an unconditional sharing of ourselves with others. The things that keep us from sharing our love unconditionally are our fears, pre-conceived notions, and prejudices. We allow these things build barriers around us that prevent our love from being shared. We blow air kisses to those people for whom we cannot seem to feel real love. Sometimes that may make us feel uncomfortable, but far too often we feel self-righteous about not sharing ourselves with “those people”.  Don’t blow air kisses…

We may rationalize our inability to share our love with certain people s a defensive mechanism to keep us safe. In fact, it is not so much keeping us safe from them as it is keeping us from sharing ourselves with them and experiencing the love that they have to share in return. We may feel safer for having withdrawn from them, but we are also poorer for having missed the experience of sharing love with them. Don’t blow air kisses…

Perhaps we can make a better effort to overcome our fears and prejudices by asking God to take away those fears and allow us to experience with others the unconditional love that He shares with us. We may never get to that level of unfettered love with all other people, but our lives will be so much richer if we can get a few more of those prejudices out of the way and allow ourselves to experience the sharing of love with more people. Don’t worry, you won’t run out of love the more you share it. God has lots more for you where that came from. Just remember – Don’t blow air kisses…


You decide…

June 18, 2021

“One day, or Day One?  You decide!”  (Paulo Coelho) 

That was Pastor Freed’s quote of the day in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today. He used it to discuss pursuing one’s goals and dreams for tomorrow. To me it seemed to pair well with another quote that I found and saved recently –

“No matter what troubles have befallen you or what difficulties you have caused yourself or others, with love for yourself you can change, grow, make amends, and learn… Real love does not encourage you to ignore your problems or deny your mistakes and imperfections. You see them clearly and still opt to love.” — Sharon Salzberg

I have posted here a few times about love for oneself being critical in life. I have also opined that love for oneself begins by accepting the forgiveness and love of God.

Most of us spend way too much time beating ourselves up for mistakes that we make. We second guess and agonize about what might have been. We find it hard to let go of the past and accept its influence on the present and our future.

We are told in the Bible that if we accept Christ into our lives – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” – (2 Corinthians 5:17)

None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes, some more serious than others; however, all of us are given another chance to repent and return to God. If we turn to God, ask for His forgiveness and then ACCEPT that forgiveness, we can once again love ourselves and make this Day One of our new lives, instead of just another day of regret and sadness.

When that happens in your life, it is Day One of the new you, that is a you that God loves and a new you that you can love. If you can get there, you can begin loving others, too.

So, is this just another day in a life that is not what you hoped it would be or not something that you are proud of or is this Day One of a new life that you can feel good about. Ask God to make this your Day One.

You decide.