My First Crush

Hi everyone. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is first crushes. Let me share.

My first crush was a boy called MJ (that is, he had a double first name). I think he was a year younger than me. I was ten at the time and in the fifth grade at the school for the blind. Back then, we would always say we were like 90% in love with the other one. I don’t know where the percentages came from or if kids in other schools used them too. I certainly remember telling MJ that I had a crush on him and at that point, several kids in his class pushed me to kiss him. I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek but till this day feel intense shame about it.

I don’t remember feeling heartbreak when that “relationship” ended. It only lasted for a couple of weeks anyway. I do know that MJ passed away when I was in high school, something I didn’t find out about until many years later.

My second crush was a girl named Layla and I’m not even sure I’m spelling that right. I was fourteen at the time and had only met her once. She was in the grade below me at secondary school. At the time, I was still about as clueless about love as I’d been at age ten. After that first encounter, I never met Layla again and so I never told her I had a crush on her.

For years, I’d have fleeting crushes on various girls and boys who paid me attention, but I never told them. I never quite fantasized about having a husband (or wife, since same-sex marriage is legal here) when I’d grow up. In fact, when my now husband told me he was in love with me, I wasn’t so sure whether to reciprocate it. I did like him, but did my feelings go beyond mere friendship plus a little puppy love because he was paying me attention? In the end, it didn’t really matter, as our relationship and now our marriage is a happy one.

Gifts My Husband Gave Me

Today is Valentine’s day. Of course, my husband and I aren’t together now, as he had to work and I’m at the care facility, but I wanted to honor the occasion anyway by sharing something about my husband I appreciate. I looked to Lisa Shea’s collection of journaling prompts on love and romance. One of the prompts is to share a gift your lover gave or gives you that’s most precious to you. It can be a physical gift or an action or emotion. Instead, I am going to share a list of things my husband gifted me. Some of these things, I didn’t really appreciate in the sense that I liked the gifts themselves, but the gesture at the time was very much appreciated. And the story behind those gifts gives me and my husband a good laugh now.

1. A Planxty CD. This was the first gift my husband gave me when we were officially dating, for my 22nd birthday in 2008. I only listened to it probably once or twice when he came to visit. Then again, that same year, when he had his birthdday on November 12, I thought I’d gifted him a very well-thought-out present: a book of previously-unpublished philosophical texts by British Idealists. British Idealism was my profile research (high school graduation thesis) topic and he was a philosophy major at the time. He never read the book though.

2. Homemade apple pie. One year, I think it was 2010, my husband brought me a home-baked apple pie in the psych hospital. It was delicious!

3. A Tom Lehrer CD. This CD was much more appreciated than the Planxty one. In fact, I put the entire thing on my computer so that I can always listen to it, even now that I don’t have a CD player anymore (or the CD for that matter).

My husband had introduced me to Tom Lehrer’s song I Hold Your Hand in Mine back in 2008 and I loved it. From there on, I learned about most other songs. We still crack jokes about some of these songs.

4. Chocolate. It used to be kind of a tradition that my husband would buy me chocolate on Valentine’s and our wedding anniversary. Not that I’m a big chocolate fan, but I loved them nonetheless. One year, I bought my husband peanut rocks (chocolate filled with peanuts), but I’d bought him the milk chocolate ones when he preferred dark chocolate. Oopsie.

5. A bear soft toy. I can’t remember whether I showed this one on my blog yet, but last year, I got a gorgeous teddy bear holding a heart for Valentine’s day.

6. Winegums. I remember one day, my husband had been shopping at the wholesale store and he’d bought five bags of winegums (gummy candies) for me. He said he’d wanted to buy a prime number of bags and three seemed a little too few to him. You can imagine my delight, but, if you know me, you can also imagine I consumed them within a week.

7. A phone case. In 2020, when I’d bought my current iPhone, I’d asked my husband to set it up as a birthday gift and, if he wanted to give me a material gift anyway, he could give me a case. It turned out I could do the setting up mostly myself with some help from my staff, but I did get a pretty sturdy phone case.

I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something really important my husband gave me. Of course, the most important thing he gave me, and continues to give me, is his love. I hope he feels I give him the same in return.

loopyloulaura

Also linking up with Senior Salon Pit Stop #200.

My Perfect Lover

I think my husband is perfect. He is the ever-most-beautifullest, ever-most-lovablest
person in the world. That’s why I chose him as my lover.

My husband and I can finish each other’s sentences and it doesn’t get annoying. Or sometimes it does. Then we say “banana spider” and the other knows we’ve bored them out of their mind.

We joke that, when we get old and suffer with dementia, only the two of us will still understand each other, since we have so many special phrases and words between the two of us. At least I hope we’ll have something to laugh at ourselves about then.

Honestly, it’s too bad that my blog is in English and my husband and I communicate primarily in Dutch. After all, our expressions sound even better (or should I say even weirder?) when written or spoken in our native language.

Written for Twiglet #257: “Even Better” and FOWC: “Lover”.

I Can Rest in Jesus

A few weeks ago, like I’ve mentioned before, my husband pointed out that I cannot and should not do life alone. I at once cannot and do not need to rely on myself alone to solve the puzzle that is life here on Earth. I have God to help me.

That same day, John 15:5 was the verse of the day on the Bible app I use. It has been on my mind ever since and could easily be one of my favorite verses so far. Oh yes, I know the Bible wasn’t originally written in chapters or verses and the wider context is important too. I will get to that.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV)

This is good news! My husband was initially worried that I would be disappointed by the rest of this chapter, because, well, it is good news only to those who will listen. This verse, to me, however, captures both the positive and the negative message that the wider context of the chapter reveals: Jesus is the vine, while we are the branches. If we abide in him, we will prosper; if we don’t, we will perish.

Today, as I was thinking of what to write for my blog, I opened Bobby Schuller’s book You Are Beloved and saw him discuss this exact chapter. Schuller says that, in Greek, the word that is translated as “abide” in English, is “meno”. There is no literal translation for this word in either Dutch or English (the Dutch Bible translation I use says “remain in”). Meno, according to Schuller, means something like coming home to a warm place after having been in the cold for a long while. We can come home to Jesus.

I loved the imagery Schuller evoked. As regular readers of this blog might know, I have never felt that I was truly “home” anywhere. No, not even in my current care facility. I didn’t feel very safe with my parents and, after I moved out, have been in so many places that were all temporary. Now that I can stay here, still, I struggle to believe it. Regardless though, in Jesus, I can rest and be home.

Schuller also makes it very clear that we can only truly love one another if we know God’s love for us. Through Jesus, we are loved in all our sinfulness. If we realize that God loves us, imperfections and all, we are able to extend this love to other people.

In my experience, this isn’t even a fully conscious choice. God’s grace extends to us, and due to that we are able to extend our grace and love to others. I am reminded, as I often am lately, of my music teacher’s telling me and my fellow students about a show on Dutch TV at the time called “God changes people”. Because the first several syllables of this phrase are the same as those in a Dutch swear word involving God, I was tempted to start cussing with God and then change my wording mid-sentence to “God changes people!” I still use God’s name in vain at times, but each time now, I am reminded of this. I credit God’s work in me for that.

I am linking up with Faith on Fire and Grace and Truth.

My 2021 Word of the Year

Okay, the first week of January is already over and people have come to say it’s weird to wish each other a happy new year even if this is their first time meeting in 2021. It may be a bit late for me to pick a word for the new year. Then again, it’s one of Mama Kat’s prompts for this week. Besides, last year I didn’t choose my word for the year until January 10. I had the flu to excuse it with then, but oh well.

Last year I picked “Wellbeing” as my word for the year. I was somehow convinced it’d be a bad omen though. It wasn’t, in the sense that I didn’t end up in a major health crisis in 2020. Then again, the world at large did.

This year, I’ve had a word in mind for several weeks now and yet I keep making up my mind about it. I want to deepen my faith this year, so shouldn’t something like “faith” be my word of the year. That’d be too easy though. Rather, I based my word for 2021 on Bobby Schuller’s book. It is: BELOVED.

I want to focus this year on the creed of the beloved as Schuller outlines it in his book You Are Beloved. It is:
I am not what I do.
I am not what I have.
I am not what others say about me.
I do not need to worry.
I do not need to hurry.
I can trust my friend Jesus.

I also want to focus this year on my relationship with God and with others. After all, “beloved” does not just apply to me, but to my husband and others around me too. The fact that I am a beloved child of God, also, implies that I need to accept God as my Heavenly Father.

Now of course my thoughts are going back to the idea that this word of the year would be tempting fate. I fear that, now that I chose “Beloved”, it will mean I’ll lose my husband or other important people in my life this year. Even if this happens, though, I can show my love for them. I can start to express love right now, after all.

What is your word for 2021?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Moving Beyond Shame

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. I feel shame over a lot of things. Then again, my husband said that shame is only useful for the one second you realize you should’ve done different. Then you need to move on.

I just read a part of Bobby Schuller’s book You Are Beloved in which he tells me that God’s love is the antidote to shame. Jesus, he says, did not act out of shame. Maybe he didn’t even feel it. He didn’t care about his reputation, inviting the lowest-status people of his time to eat with him. Schuller notes that eating with someone in Jesus’ time on Earth means seeing them as equals.

Jesus regarded people who didn’t believe they belonged, as equals. Of course, he is God, so we can never measure up to that, but we can rest assured that he loves us no matter what.

God, help me move beyond the feeling of shame towards an experience of peace. I know You love me for who I am. Please help me see this with all my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This post was written for Five Minute Friday, for which the prompt this week is “Beyond”. I didn’t set a timer, but I think I did a pretty good job of doing this piece in five minutes.

Grateful for Love

Today’s Five Minute Friday (FMF) prompt is “Grateful”. It truly speaks to me, even though I, being from the Netherlands, don’t celebrate Thanksgiving this week. In fact, all I do for it is look all over the Internet to see whether the Apple Watch I want is on sale for Black Friday (it isn’t).

That being said, I haven’t felt more grateful than I feel now in a long while. Here’s why…

I feel so immensely grateful for my husband. He loves me and cares enough about me to show me his love multiple times daily even though we don’t live together. He must miss me, but rather than turn around and find someone else to live with, he tells me he loves me too many times to count. In fact, when COVID hit here first, we weren’t allowed to see each other for three months and yet he still loved me.

Last week, I wrote about grieving the loss of my “normal”, functioning self. Today, I am so immensely grateful to be loved for who I am. Not just by my husband, but by God as well.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV)

I have been meditating a lot on this Bible passage and somehow come across it almost on a daily basis when reading about Christianity. It was the start of the Bible reading for the First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge, LA sermon I referred to on Tuesday. More than commanding me to be Godlike, it speaks to me in that my old self doesn’t matter. I am loved by God just the way I am.

Okay, this took me longer to write than five minutes, but then again it usually does. Sorry about that. In fact, I took probably about five minutes to find, read and copy/paste the Bible passage. Well, at least I tried to keep it short.

Faith Is a Verb

Last Saturday, my husband told me about a book he had been reading. He said: “It’s a Christian book.” As a progressive believer who struggles with her faith a lot, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a Christian book. Two weeks earlier, he had recommended Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis to me and I hadn’t picked it up yet. After all, some of the passages he read to me had me angry.

My husband though explained to me that the book he was recommending now was perfectly suited to my recent struggles. You see, I have been struggling with feelings of worthlessness due to my not living the life my parents had envisioned for me.

The book is called You Are Beloved by Bobby Schuller. My husband was so convinced it’d help me, that he offered to buy me the eBook on whichever platform suited me best. I said I’d look whether it’s available on Bookshare, an accessible book service for the print disabled, first. And it was. I downloaded it as soon as I had access to stable WiFi.

I looked up Bobby Schuller first before starting to read the book. My husband isn’t very conservative either, but still more conservative than me. I wasn’t sure I’d like what Schuller had to say.

I so far only read the introduction, but was immediately enthusiastic. Not just for Schuller’s book, but for my faith in general.

I don’t have a church I belong to normally even without COVID. In fact, I usually listen to American church services despite living in the Netherlands. I hadn’t listened to them in a while though and the ones I usually listen to are so progressive they’re hardly Christian at all. On Sunday, I decided to listen to the prior week’s sermon (since the current week’s wasn’t available yet due to time zone differences) from First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA.

In it, the pastor discusses Ephesians 4:22-5:2, in which Paul tells believers how to be Godlike. The pastor also quotes an original Methodist work that explains the character of true believers. It said, among other things, that we are happy – always happy. The pastor uses this to tell the believers that the goal of the Christian life is not just to go to Heaven after we die, but to be Christlike in the current life too. This very much resonated with what my husband said to me when recommending Schuller’s book: that faith is a verb.

My husband meant to say that, if we truly believe that God loves us, we will also extend this to others and live an ethical life. He also said that the goal of every religion, not just Christianity, is to find true peace of mind. In other words, the goal is not just to sit on a cloud and play the harp after we die (in case that’s how you picture Heaven), but to experience the kingdom of God here on Earth.

Schuller’s main point, by the way, is that we are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not how others see us. We are beloved by God just because we are.

”Grace

The One I Love: My Husband #Blogtober20

Welcome to day two in #Blogtober20. I realize that when I wrote about myself yesterday, I never mentioned the fact that I’m married. Thankfully, the second prompt in the series is “The One I Love”, so now is my opportunity to talk all about my husband, Jeroen. I usually don’t refer to him by his name, but right now it’d be confusing to refer to him as my boyfriend, now husband or whatever constantly.

I met Jeroen on an Internet forum in 2007. Neither of us were looking for a relationship. I wrote on the forum that I was bored and lonely living on my own in student accommodation in the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands. He went to school in Nijmegen at the time. He was also looking to expand his social circle, so he PM’d me asking if we could drink a cup of coffee or tea in Nijmegen somewhere. We met at the bus stop near the university’s dentistry department, because that was the only bus stop near the uni that my bus would stop by. We went for a coffee or tea at the uni’s cafe. I was so nervous that I tumbled off a step and dropped my coffee.

Thankfully though, Jeroen didn’t mind. Though he had been nervous too and had mixed feelings about our first time meeting, he did want to meet again. I invited him to my student apartment, just because I had no clue where else to meet. That could’ve been really stupid, but thankfully it turned out well.

Six weeks after first meeting Jeroen, I was hospitalized onto the psychiatric ward, which didn’t have an Internet connection for patients. I didn’t have Jeroen’s phone number, so asked my staff to log onto the forum and send him a message. The staff didn’t include my phone number, because I hadn’t requested it.

Several weeks later, my father called to ask whether he could give my number to Jeroen. It turned out that Jeroen had found my father’s E-mail address by googling the whois info for his website. I am so grateful my father didn’t have privacy protection on, as I do with my websites.

It certainly wasn’t love at first sight (oh, that sounds stupid for a blind person) for me. On the contrary, when Jeroen told me he was in love with me, I let him wait four months before reciprocating it. Similarly, when he proposed to me in June of 2010, I replied: “So do you think that’d be cool then?” He did really want to marry me and we had our wedding date on September 19, 2011, exactly four years after we’d first met.

Jeroen and I don’t live together. Like I said, he fell in love with me while I was hospitalized. This hospitalization lasted 9 1/2 years, after which I was kicked out to live with Jeroen. I really struggled to cope living semi-independently, so eventually applied for long-term care funding.

Jeroen is 31-years-old (32 next month). He sometimes jokes about my having married a younger man, as I am 34. I am glad he isn’t significantly younger than me though, as, when I was hospitalized on the locked unit, I wasn’t to leave the ward unless with someone 18 or over. We loved going to the hospital cafeteria to have tea or hot cocoa. We also loved playing cards.

Jeroen and I have the same sense of humor. We love wordplay and have our own phrases and terms for communicating certain things. For example, when we get bored of each other, we say “banana spider”. He is also really inventive with new nicknames for me. I, not so much.

I really love Jeroen and want to be married for the rest of our life. Not living together has its ups and downs. Particularly in these times of corona, we’ve had to be separated more than we’d like to. Thankfully, our love has survived.

#Blogtober20

Pandemic Positives

Today, Fandango asks in his weekly provocative question wehther the need to quarantine as a result of COVID-19 has made you a better person.

Lockdown here started in the middle of March with restaurants acutely closing their doors, school closures and, a week later, a no-visitors policy in nursing homes and care facilities. I couldn’t see my husband for nearly three months. Then we could see each other, but we had to keep our distance as much as possible.

Life more or less returned to some sembleance of normal at the end of June. Still, people are scared. I, not so much, though I do take COVID-19 seriously. There are still certain restrictions, most of which don’t affect me too much.

The main thing affecting me was not being able to see my husband. This certainly made me appreciate our very special relationship even more than I appreciated it already. I mean, I chose to go into long-term care last year, of course not knowing that this would mean not seeing my husband for a few months. However, I doubt most marriages would survive even that decision, let alone the consequences. I attribute the success of our marriage mostly to my husband’s everlasting love, but I do deserve some credit for it too.

In general, too, the pandemic has made me more appreciative of what I do have. I am physically healthy and so are my loved ones. In April, a man at the home below me died of coronavirus. Though he was in his 70s, this shocked me a little. My father is in his 70s too, so I’m all the more grateful to still have him.

Other than gratitude, I think the pandemic taught me some level of creativity. Before the lockdown, I found it hard to connect to my husband when I didn’t see him. Now we call each other multiple times a week and text multiple times a day. Of course, I could’ve done that before too, but out of need grew the solution.

I also read somewhere that some people are particularly happier now than they were before the pandemic. I have to say so am I. The reasons may not be related to the pandemic at all, as I’ve also finally settled into the care facility and such.

In general though, I think the pandemic has had and continues to have negative effects on the world, of course. However, if it affected me personally at all, it’s positively. By this I don’t mean my economic, social or health status, of course. Though I’m still financially secure and healthy, no-one knows whether this will remain this way given the huge economic costs of the pandemic. I’ve just become a more positive (or should I say less negative?) person.