The Greatest of These is Love ♥

Song of Solomon 2:16, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”

Song of Solomon 3:4, “I have found the one whom my soul loves.”

1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Romans 12:9, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Colossians 3:14, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Mark 10:9, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Several years ago, I shared my remarkable love story with a local TV station in honor of Valentines Day. They came out to my house and interviewed myself, my husband, and our children. It was such a sweet story. Then last year I shared my love story again through the Storytellers Project, where I spoke in front of a live audience and spoke about how love changed my life. In honor of the month of February and Valentines Day, I want to share my remarkable love story again but with a different focus.

Today we seem to use the term ‘love’ so freely, that I wonder if it is somehow losing its significance, its importance for our lives. I love coffee! I love chocolate! I love pizza! I love sleeping! I love The Sound of Music! I love reading a good book! And we do love these things and more, but not in the same way that the Word of God speaks to us about. That love should be remarkable, unconditional, and perfect. Let me start by sharing my love story, a love story written by God!

“My remarkable love story is a story I share every chance I get. I have been blessed not once, but twice, and that is rare. My husband will tell you I am truly a romantic, I love the happily ever after stories, and love watching or reading any love story. However, I will tell you that I feel that way because I do live the happily ever after love story, not once but twice.

My first love story started in high school, your typical high school sweethearts . . . dated for 4 years, started college, got married, both of us stayed in college, graduated, and had a beautiful baby boy. However, it ended tragically soon after we celebrated our tenth anniversary, when he was killed in an air ambulance crash in North Carolina on January 8, 1987. He was the chief flight nurse on the helicopter, and the crew was trying to save a baby. Everyone was killed in the crash, and our world changed forever. I never expected to be a widow at 30 years old, and I was so worried about my 4 1/2-year-old son and how this would affect him. God never fails though, and He made sure we had a family who loved, supported, and protected us for years to come.

Fast forward a little over a year later, in March of 1988, and God sent my second love. We had an extraordinarily strong connection from the very first phone call. So many things in common that just made the connection even stronger – our strong faith in God, our love for family, and our ability to laugh at life brought us together from the very first moment. With our very first date, we had a chance to see the laughter in the lighter moments in life, for example when he drove up to my house and my very protective neighbors were all hanging outside in their driveways, and just staring at my house. I got a call from one of my neighbors to tell me he was here, and he was carrying a rose. It was all quite funny, and just what was needed to help overcome any awkwardness that might have normally come with that first date.

My husband, Steve, had been married before also. He had a daughter from his first marriage, and it was obvious from the beginning that she was the apple of his eye, just the way it should be with a father and his daughter.

From that first date, our romance was a whirlwind. We started dating in March, in April we were engaged, and between June and August, we sold two houses, built another house, and got married in August. Now 30 years later, we are still married, in love, and getting ready to retire this year, so we can spend even more time with each other. We have three beautiful grown children, and three wonderful grandchildren.

I have often called Steve my ‘Knight in Shining Armor’ because he has always been there to rescue me, support me, encourage me, and to be my shoulder to cry on. About a year after we were married, I realized that I truly had not gone through all the grieving I needed to, and I went through a lot of anger and guilt. Steve was my rock! He understood every outburst, every tear, and every period of silence. When the hospital that my first husband worked at, built a memorial in his honor, and wanted our son to come and be a part of the program, Steve went with us, helped Patrick pick out a tree, and helped him plant the tree in his daddy’s honor. When I was given a diagnosis of breast cancer about 15 years ago, Steve was there through all of it. He never left my side, and once again was my rock to lean on. When my mother had a stroke, and we had to make decisions about her care, Steve was the first one to say she is coming to live with us, and she lived with us for 6 years, until she passed away a year ago. It was not just that he invited her to live with us, but he went the extra step and learned how to help with her care, her medicine, and even giving her insulin shots. Steve and my mother had a special relationship, and for that I will be forever grateful. Her last six years were filled with family and love, both are things that meant so much to her.

Steve and I truly have the kind of love that everyone should experience in their lifetime. It has not always been easy, but it has always been worth every minute of blending our two families and creating memories to last a lifetime. I truly have been blessed with love in my life, and for that I will always be thankful.”

Steve makes me laugh, he makes me feel loved every second of every day, and he believes in me! He supports my thoughts and decisions, and he encourages me to be a better me every day! This year we celebrate 33 years of marriage, 33 years of love, laughter, tears, frustrations, sadness, happiness, successes, changes, blending families, and now retirement. Thirty-three years and we are more in love now than we were in 1988. Steve often talks about us being together for at least 60 more years, and I laugh and tell him I do not think we will live that long. However, I know in my heart that if it were physically possible for us to live until we were well over 100 years old, we would still love each other, we would still be laughing with each other, we would still be holding hands whenever possible, we would still be driving each other crazy at times, and yes, we would still be together in marriage!

This morning, as I thought about our life together and reflected on how much love I have in my life because of Steve and God’s plan, the only thing I could think of were the words to the song by James Taylor, “How Sweet it is to be Loved By You.” Truly how sweet it is and how sweet it has been for 33 years to be loved by Steve Murrell. He truly is the love of my life and my Valentine.

How sweet it is to be loved by you

I needed the shelter of someone’s arms

And there you were, Steve Murrell

I needed someone to understand my ups and downs

And there you were, Steve Murrell

With sweet love and devotion

Deeply touching my emotion

I want to stop and thank you, baby

I close my eyes at night

Wondering where would I be without you in my life

Everything I did was just a bore

Everywhere I went it seems I’d been there before

But you brighten up for me all of my days

With a love so sweet in so many ways

I wanna stop and thank you, baby

How sweet it is to be loved by you

Life has given me many opportunities to love and be loved:

  • The love of my parents
  • The love of my grandparents
  • The love of my sisters and brother
  • The love of aunts, uncles, and cousins
  • The love of dear friends
  • The love of two husbands
  • The love of in-laws and extended families
  • The love of my children
  • The love of my grandchildren
  • The love of my students and their families
  • Even the love of my pets

Yet, all these opportunities for love come from the most remarkable love of all! God’s love for me, God’s love for us, ALL of us! I am thrilled and delighted knowing Steve loves me and always will. His love is complete, our love is complete! Our love for each other carries me through life every day, through the ups and downs, and through the frustrations of life and the successes of life.

Yet, I am in awe and fall to my knees with thankfulness knowing God loves me and always will! God loves me, He loves all of us with a love that saved me, and saved you, and gives us eternal life. God loves me with a love that is unconditional, forgiving, and merciful! God’s love is everlasting, eternal! How incredible is His love, How incredible is God! God’s love gives me strength, wisdom, guidance, forgiveness, and grace! God’s love for me gave me two loves, children, and grandchildren. God’s love gave me the gifts of teaching and serving, and a career where I could use them for 28 years. God’s love gave me a childhood filled with Christian leaders and guidance so rewarding and unforgettable. God’s love is immeasurable and everlasting!

God loves me so much that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

The words to the chorus, Oh, How He Loves You and Me describe simply how much he loves us:

“Oh, how He loves you and me, Oh how He loves you and me. He gave his life, what more could he give?

Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves me; Oh, how he loves you and me.

Jesus to Calvary did go, His love for sinners to show. What He did there brought hope from despair.

Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves me; Oh, how he loves you and me.”

He gave His life, His one and only Son! Jesus went to Calvary to die for our sins because He loved me, He loved each of us! His love brings hope into the world! His love brings hope into our lives!

As a small child, I grew up singing many gospel songs that described His love for me, His love for us. One of my favorites also describes the love I have for Him, Oh, How I Love Jesus.

There is a name I love to hear

I love to sing its worth

It sounds like music in my ear

The sweetest name on earth

It tells me of a Savior’s love

Who died and set me free

It tells me of His precious blood

The sinner’s perfect plea

It tells of One whose loving heart

Can feel my deepest woe

Who in each sorrow bears a part

That none can bear below

Oh, how I love Jesus

Oh, how I love Jesus

Oh, how I love Jesus

Because He first loved me

God, Jesus, Savior, Holy Spirit, Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Lamb of God, Counselor, Shepherd, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Messiah, Word of God, and so many more are names of God. Each one of His names I love to hear, I love to speak, I love to sing, because His names truly are music to my ears. His name means love, the love of a Savior! His love fills my deepest sorrows and grief. His love is the precious blood of His Son! His love set me free! How can you not love to hear His name and to speak His name?

February is the month of love, we celebrate by giving each other cards, chocolates, flowers, and hugs. However, God’s love for us is not contained to one month! His love for us has no containment! His love is just there, always, everywhere, and with no conditions. How we show our love for Him comes through our faith, our belief, and our love for others! John 15:12 tells us, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

              How incredible is His love for us! How simple is my love for God – I love Him because He first loved me and continues to love me unconditionally, every moment of every day!

Happy Valentines Day to the love of my life, Steve Murrell!

Happy Valentines Day to all of you!

Dear God, I love you every second of every day!

Thank you for loving me!

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