BY: Meagan Greene Friberg
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~1 Corinthians 13:13
I scanned the pages of the JCPenney catalog as our children slept. My husband was working the night shift, and this was the only way I could finish my Christmas shopping. I checked off items on each child's wish list. I tried not to think about how much I was about to add to my charge card. I flipped through the pages of children's clothing and drifted to the toy section to pick out a few items.
Ron and I had been married five years. Our blended family included his two girls, my four boys, and our toddler son. We both worked hard to provide a home for our children, but the past year had been clouded with arguments and resentment. Everyone in the family was adjusting to the challenges that so many blended families experience, including alimony, child support, and shared weekends. Each one of these challenges seemed to lead to a new argument, and I was having a difficult time pretending to be joyous about the Christmas season.
I let out a sigh and thought back to a day, five years earlier, when Ron and I had gone to marriage counseling.
"The average blended family takes five to seven years to gel," said the counselor.
"Hmmm," I mumbled.
"That is, if your marriage lasts that long. And only if you both have the support of your ex-spouses."
I glanced over at Ron. Oh, boy. Five years? Who has that kind of patience?
Ron took my hand. "What we need is the six-month plan, Doc," he said. "That's why we're here. We have seven children depending on us. This needs to work now, not five years from now."
She stared back at us. "I see. Well, good luck to both of you."
Five years had passed since that counseling session, and I had lost my enthusiasm for this marriage. Darn, she was right, I thought.
I thought about a recent argument with my stepdaughter that had escalated to an all-out screaming match. I had tried to be the perfect mother, stepmother, and wife, but I had been falling short of that goal for many months.
I flipped to the back of the catalog. On page 758, my eyes were immediately drawn to a wall tapestry with the same dusty rose and green colors of my bedroom. I reached over to the nightstand and grabbed my reading glasses. I leaned in closer to the page. My heart raced as I read the words from 1 Corinthians 13 in the center of the tapestry:
"Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude."
I remember these words, I thought.
"Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful."
I took a deep breath and read further.
"It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
My chin dropped to my chest, and tears ran down my cheek. Finally, I started giggling.
"Sending your love through a JCPenney catalog? Well, God, that's different!" I laughed as I glanced up.
I ordered clothes and toys for the children for Christmas -- and the tapestry for our room.
Ten years have passed since that evening, and the tapestry still hangs on a wall in our bedroom. It is a constant reminder of God's unfailing love and our unconditional love for one another. We have had our challenges, but we continue to grow stronger in our love and respect for each other. We count our blessings, and we continue to believe, hope, and endure all things together. We are a family.