‘Til Death Do Us Part

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. While the world has turned the holiday into nothing more than a day to spend money on Hallmark cards and expensive chocolates, it’s actually a day to celebrate those you love. Last week, I had the pleasure of witnessing eight couples renew their wedding vows at the site of the wedding feast of Cana. I remembered when Ken and I had that same beautiful opportunity three years ago. I felt so blessed, each time, to stand with couples who realize that marriage is something to be obtained, maintained, and sustained, through good times and bad.

Renewing vows in Cana of Galilee

In the 3rd Century, Roman King Claudius II outlawed weddings as he believed that marriage led soldiers to distraction, and he wanted all men to become soldiers. Valentine was a Catholic priest who secretly married couples and was eventually thrown into jail and executed for refusing to renounce his faith. While in jail, Valentine befriended the jailer, whom he converted, and began teaching the jailer’s young daughter. Before his death, Valentine wrote a note to the young girl, encouraging her to stay close to Jesus. Thus began the tradition of sending notes on Valentine’s Day, a tradition that dates back to the 5th Century when it replaced the Roman festival of Lupercalia. It was thought that a day to celebrate true love was far better than the practice of celebrating spring and fertility by pairing off men and women through a lottery! Though I have to wonder, have things really changed all that much since the 5th Century?

I hear it all the time–the way to meet someone today is through an online dating site. I’m not knocking online dating. I know some couples who were paired by the magic matching algorithm and are quite happy. For some, it’s the best and easiest way to meet a companion or future spouse. For others, it leads to peril and abuse. An article in the Huffington Post points out the drawbacks of online dating. Among them: treating people as mere commodities, lack of willingness to commit, and the possibility of harassment and stalking. The potential for danger when meeting up with someone you only know online is terrifying for this mother of three young women.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the lure of meeting online is because we have become a society where showing any interest in a person of the opposite sex is automatically seen as harassment. After all, in today’s world, how can you let someone know you are interested in them without a) offending them or b) sending a signal that all you want is sex?

Here’s the other thing I think about when recalling the story of Saint Valentine. He was a man who was willing to die to protect the right to marry. Moreover, couples were willing to be imprisoned or killed for love. It would have been much easier for couples to engage in sex or live together without bothering with marriage, but that’s not what they wanted. They understood the importance of marriage, the sanctity of it, and the beauty of being husband and wife. It makes me sad that so many people today choose not to be married.

According to a recent analysis at the University of Maryland, more millennials are staying married after they’ve said, “I do.” Unfortunately, while the divorce rate among post-baby-boomers is decreasing, the amount of people tying the knot has dropped. More people are choosing to remain single, and more couples are choosing to co-habitate. A large part of these decisions is economic stability. College-educated adults are more likely to marry because they can afford to have a family and can afford to make the choice to stay home to raise their children. Marriage has become more of a status symbol and less of a natural progression of love and fidelity. Brides and grooms are getting older, and the amount of children they are bearing is lessening.

What would Saint Valentine think of our world and relationships today? Would he shake his head, perhaps even shed a tear, over modern views of marriage? If marriage was outlawed, or even just looked down upon, would he still risk his life or reputation to marry those who seek his help? Would people even bother? Would they risk their lives, their reputations, their self-reliance and pride, to take vows to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do them part?

As the sacred author tells us in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” And as is affirmed in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

Saint Valentine knew that men and women need each other and that marriage is not merely a way to bolster one’s status but a commitment made to each other and to God. May all of you, and your loved ones, have a very happy Valentine’s Day.

Primacy Hearts.jpg
Step stones at the Primacy of Peter, Galilee

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Ashes and Chocolates

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

Lessons for Lasting Love

DSC_1911“No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” Mark Twain

I recently realized that I am no longer of the age when my friends are getting married.  I am now of the age when friends of my daughter are getting married.  How did that happen?  Rebecca, who will be a senior in college next year, already has a friend who has graduated and gotten married and others who are now becoming engaged.  It’s strange to think that sometime in the next five years, Rebecca will probably be thinking about taking that next step.  What’s even scarier is that I’m not sure young people today have any idea what marriage really is.  Honestly, did any of us actually know what was involved when we took those vows?  Were we simply planning for that one day, or truly thinking about for our future?  Perhaps it has been the same through all generations, but today it seems that marriages are disposable, vows are no more than wishes, commitments are fleeting.  I pray every day that I have instilled in my daughters what marriage really means – both the good and the bad.  Here are some of the things that I learned over the past twenty-two years.

Love (and thereby, marriage) does mean having to say you’re sorry.  I’m sorry, Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw.  It’s a nice sentiment, but nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes.  Owning up to those mistakes is one of the most important things to learn and actually do.  Resentment is too easily built up, so while those simple words, “I’m sorry,” can’t take away the pain, they can open the door to healing for both of you.

It’s okay to go to bed angry.  I know, you’ve heard otherwise your entire life; but sometimes, in order to say “I’m sorry” to someone else, you need time to realize that the words are true.  Nothing beats a good night’s sleep, and perhaps a good cry on the way there, to be able to recognize that things are never as bad as they seem.  Moreover, trying to get to the place where you’re no longer angry is not easily done in the heat of the fight.  Sometimes, the sooner the conversation ends, the better.

Put away your phones, turn off your TV, curb your social life, and spend time in conversation.  Remember back when you were first getting to know each other?  All of those hours spent in conversation over dinner, on the phone late at night, or even using FaceTime were all meaningful.  That’s when you opened up to each other, let out your feelings, your doubts, your fears, your hopes, your wishes.  Don’t ever let that end.  I remember once, when Ken and I were first married, we were out to dinner and engaged in conversation when Ken just stopped and motioned to an elderly couple across the restaurant.  Ken observed, “They haven’t said one word to each other all night.”  He looked at me and said, “Let’s never let that happen to us.”  Yes, I admit that there are times when it’s nice to just be quiet and enjoy the moment, but those times when you can sit and talk without distraction are so rare.  Take advantage of them.

It’s all right to argue and disagree.  Sure, you stand before God and declare that you are now one, but let’s get real.  You are you, and he is he (or she is she).  You will not always agree, even on the big things.  It isn’t the argument that counts.  It’s making sure that you find a solution, a compromise, or a way around the situation that you can both live with.  You won’t win every argument, but neither should he.  Marriage is give and take.  Learn that quickly, and deal with it.

Hold hands.  Cuddle.  Sleep curled up together.  Kiss hello and goodbye.  Never lose the desire to touch the one you love.  Once you learn to live without the other person’s touch, you will lose the need for it.  Intimacy holds a marriage together.  Nurture it.  Every day.

Speak kindly to one another.  Full disclosure here.  This is the one I have the hardest time adhering to.  I am impatient and often intolerant.  I expect everything to be done on my timeline and in my way.  While I have the skill to be tactful (a former boss always sent me to deal with problem patrons because she knew I could be tactful yet get to the point), I don’t seem to have any idea how to use that skill with those I love.  I try to always be kind. I teach and preach kindness, but my tongue is often quicker than my brain, and it gets me into trouble.  I promise to work on that, and I encourage you to do the same.  It’s the hardest habit I’ve ever tried to break, but I work on it every day.  Actions may speak louder than words, but words can cut right into someone’s soul.

For those who are making their wedding plans as I write, always remember that the marriage is far more important than the wedding.  Enjoy the time spent planning it, and know that it will not be perfect.  Some small thing, or dare I say, maybe a big thing, will go wrong.  Move on.  It’s a day, not a reflection of the rest of your life.  Face it with love and humility.  Take your vows seriously.  Stand up before your friends and family in an actual church.  The reception can be wherever you want, but treat your marriage like the sacred event that it is.  Pray for your spouse and your marriage every day.  Ask God to be a part of it, on that special day and always, for He is the rock upon which you can build a strong foundation.

Amy Schisler is an author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages who lives with husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three  eBooks of 2015 as chosen by a group of independent Christian publishers.  You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.