Nowhere To Go, But Up-Chapter Two

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Chapter 2-The Letter

For most of his adult life, Chas did things his own way.  He rarely followed advice and often made decisions based on the proverbial gut-feeling.  Following his emotions at any given moment had a tendency to make life interesting for him.  Sometimes the process worked out in his favor, but there were times it did not.  There were days he wished a choice could be taken back; a do-over, if you will.  The chance to start all over again, had plagued his thoughts many nights.  The thought was particularly strong this morning, as he sat at the dining room table reading over the letter he had just written.


‘Dawn,

I don’t like the idea of leaving a letter because it seems cliché.  In truth, I can’t look into your eyes, because the hurt is still too fresh.  This is the first time in months I’ve mustered the urge to write, and it seems strange to pick this letter as my outlet.  So be it; here it is.  I have to share my thoughts, in light of what I’ve recently discovered. 

Bad deeds have a way of coming back to get you, when you least expect them to show up.  No one is exempt.  Our sins always find us out. To that end, I suppose I should have expected karma to find me. I guess I always figured my payback would come sooner, while I was prepared.  

I don’t trust you anymore, Dawn.  You’ve shown your lack of respect for yourself as a woman and for our marriage. Our relationship; everything we’ve built together over the years; means less to you than your personal quest for excitement.  You don’t seem to be in any hurry to change whatever it is about yourself that hurts our marriage.  I mean, how could you be? Your adulteress behavior over the last few years says it all.  You don’t care about me and I’m so tired of being disappointed by you time and again.  With each incident, your words of apology become more and more transparent. 

 I wanted to believe that together we could change your ways if you put your all into it. But you’ve proven that to be a useless dream. 

I’m leaving you, Dawn.  I just can’t take it anymore.  By the time you read this note, I’ll be gone.  I need a few days to clear my head and put things into perspective. When I come back, we’ll need to sit down with the kids and explain the situation.    

I’m sorry that I couldn’t be the only man you needed in your life.  I wish you could have been the woman I thought you were becoming.  For what it’s worth, we did have good times and five beautiful children to share.  I’ll always love you for that. 

 I hope you find whatever it is you continue to look for.

~Me~’


“I hope you find whatever it is you continue to look for,” Chas whispered.

Reading the last line of the letter, seemed to solidify the finality of his decision. This was it.  This move would change the course of seven lives.  It would change everything for his family, and he would undoubtedly be viewed as the bad guy in the end. If only time were changeable. This might be different.

“I hate you for doing this to our family, Dawn.” He muttered.

As he scanned over the letter, Chas brushed tears from his damp stubble cheeks.  His heartbeat pounded in his throat and temples. He looked through the living room toward the monotonous tick tock of the old Grandfather clock, standing against the far wall. That clock had been given to them by his late mother as a wedding present, ten years ago.  Under normal circumstances, the ticking worked to sooth his senses whenever he was stressed.  But this morning was different. The ticking only drove home the reality of what was about to happen.  Lately, the clock served as a constant reminder of a failing marriage, and unhappy family.

Chas walked through the living room, and stood before the great clock.  The dial hands read a quarter after four in the morning. He switched on the lamp stand next to the clock, illuminating the small living room. Charles stared at his reflection in the clock tower’s glass doors. His usual tone body and sinewy arms seemed to slouch.  These days, he ate less and less, continually troubled with his marriage.  Dark patches encircled his deep set brown eyes.  He bald head and strong jaw showed three days of hair growth. The marriage was physically taking its toll on him.

“I’m withering away. This marriage is draining the life from me.”

Chas’s tired gaze shifted from the clock mirror, up the beige living room wall, to the huge Red Oak framed family portrait. The Smith family had taken this picture when things seemed to be going well.  A depressed smile glistened over his face as he looked at each of his 5 children.

Tomas looked so handsome that day, dressed in a lavender shirt, with matching tie; the ensemble accentuating his pale brown latin skin tone.  It was hard for Chas to believe his 17 year old step-son was about to start his senior year of high school.  The boy’s lean muscular frame filled the dark purple suit to perfection and, for the first time, Chas could see the young man Tomas was destined to become, looking into those huge intense almond colored eyes.

Nate, at 12 years old, showed wisdom beyond his years, within his deep set hazel-brown eyes.  Chas chuckled, remembering what the photographer had to do to actually get Nate to smile for this picture.  His eldest son’s skinny, light brown, freckled face had a shine that contrasted with the dark brown suit Dawn had chosen for the occasion.  Chas stared into the frozen gaze of Nate’s photographed eyes, and recognized the look from countless old photos of himself, at Nate’s age.

Dominique’s awe-inspiring smile always melted Chas’s heart.  On bad days at the office, he would often look at smiling pictures of his 11 year-old daughter, to cheer himself up.  In the family portrait, her long silky hair draped down her back from a brown heirloom hair pendant; a gift from her late grandmother. The long brown dress she wore highlighted her brown skin color.

Jordynn, Chas’s 6 year-old daughter, looked absolutely beautiful the day of the family portrait.  Like Nate, her light brown skin tone seemed to glow against the contrast of the matching calf-length brown dress she and her older sister each wore.  Chas stared into the hazel-green eyes of his youngest daughter; glared at the dimpled smile of his baby-girl and had to choke back a fresh wave of tears.  She wouldn’t understand why Daddy had to leave, even if Dawn explained the situation using Crayola Crayons for display.

Hesitantly, Chas blinked and found himself staring into the dark brown eyes and innocent face of his little man: 3 year-old Zeek.  This handsome young fellow looked absolutely adorable dressed in a dark Purple pinstriped vest, with a light purple dress shirt, accented by a dark purple pinstriped clip-on tie.  Zeek’s light brown, ear to ear smile unexpectedly ripped the very air from Chas’s lungs.  For a moment, his knees unhinged as his weight threatened to tumble to the ground, looking at Zeek.  The little boy would never comprehend Daddy leaving the house forever.

Tears flowed freely down Chas’s cheeks, and clouded his vision.  For a brief moment, he reconsidered walking out the door while his family slept in their respective beds.  He hated the thought of his children thinking he had abandoned them, even for a few days.  Chas clamped his eyelids shut, forcing the salty tears to race down his streaked cheeks.  When he re-opened his eyes, he found himself staring into the photographed eyes of his wife, Dawn.

She was so happy, the day the family portrait had been taken.  Her dark hair had been freshly cut into a short teased bob with the dark red accents of her low curls sloping just above her ears.  The piercing stare of her green eyes always pierced Chas’s heart.  Dawn’s rosy cheeks combined with her peach colored, tanned skin worked miracles to accent the earth-tone ankle length dress she wore in the portrait.  Chas’s gaze traced the curve of her long neck, down the sightline of her C-cup breasts, down to her French manicured fingers resting across her folded left knee.  He traced the line of her shiny beautiful calf protruding out from the folds of her dress, down to her ankle.  How he had loved to watch this woman dress.  How he had once adored her.

Sorrow transformed into hatred as he envisioned Dawn willingly giving another man full access to those wonderful calves and ankles, that should have been his exclusively.  His brown eyes shot back up to Dawn’s frozen photographed stare.

“Thank you very much for destroying everything I’ve ever loved, Dawn.”

Chas glanced at the note.  Taking in a deep breath, he folded the note in half, then stuffed it into a blank white letter sized envelope, before sealing it.  Across the front, he scribed, ‘For You, From Me’.

Chas tucked the envelope into the bottom left corner of the Red Oak-framed family portrait; high enough out of the reach of their children.  He gently grasped the handles of the leather day bag sitting at his feet.  Taking a final look around the beige walls of the living room, Chas remembered all the plans he and his lovely wife had made for making this house a Christian home for their family.

“I’m sorry God.  I can’t do it anymore.  I just don’t have enough love to hold us both up, when she’s only giving a fraction of herself.  I quit.  Please forgive me.”

Opening the old wooden front door, he quietly dropped the leather day bag onto the concrete porch.  Turning around, Chas gave the living room one final glance over.  Despite what the written letter said, he had no real intentions of ever returning to this living room.  Chas gently closed the wooden door, stepped off the concrete porch, and took his first few steps into his new life alone.

Chas hopped behind the wheel of his pickup truck intent on driving downtown to the nearest motel.  So many emotions to sort through; so many tasks needed to be completed.  He had no idea of how to begin divorce proceedings.  The only surety was that divorce was inevitable.  While driving up the block, he envisioned memories of happier times: teaching Tomas to ride his bike, the birth of Nate, Dominique’s first tooth falling out, walks along the river front with Dawn; memories scattered through the past, blown apart by years of pain.  As Chas continued to drive, his mind eventually settled on the beginning.  He remembered computer class of 1991, and the day he first locked eyes with the emerald stare of the girl who would someday capture his heart.

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Nowhere To Go, But Up-Chapter One

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I’m starting my new book. While the tale is fiction, a lot of it is based on true events. I’d like to share the first few chapters, just to through feelers out. Feel free to tell me what you think.


Chapter 1 – Losing Sleep

The bedside digital clock read 4:16 AM, when Dawn felt a shift in the bed.  She feigned sleep, taking labored deep breathes; her back turned against her husband.  Dawn could feel him staring through the darkness; could feel his accusing eyes glowering at her.  She knew he had spent the entire night lying awake.

Another shift in the bed, and Chas was now crossing the room to his dresser.  She heard the customary progression of open and shut drawers as her husband dressed for another day’s work.  But another glance at the clock assured her that he was at least an hour too early for that.  She started to question his intensions, but decided to remain quiet.

For every arguement they shared over the past few years, Chas had never looked at her the way he did yesterday.  It was as if she looked into her husband’s eyes and saw hatred personified, staring back at her. Dawn forced herself to mimic heavy, steady breaths as if enveloped in deep sleep.  She listened for any signs that her husband might attack her, just in case she would have to defend herself.  In all the years they had been together, Chas never once laid an angry hand on her.  But one could never be too sure when the first time might come.  After all, she’d seen her mother beaten by men, as a child.  In general, men couldn’t be completely trusted. Why should her husband be any different? He was a man, after all.

Dawn waited until she heard Chas tread down the bedroom steps before sitting up, propping her back against the headboard.  Staring across the pitch-black room, she replayed the events of the early evening in her mind: how Chas had screamed, in front of the children and how she had slandered him as if they were the only two people in the room.  Who gave him the right to question her whereabouts?  He had no right to demand any explanation on who she had spent the evening with.  She told herself these things, but deep down, her soul ached.

Dawn reached for her cell phone charging next to the clock.  A few quick taps along the screen brought up the name she searched for.  Fingers furiously tapping away, she typed out a message.

‘I can’t see you again.  It’s over. Please don’t call me anymore.  Have to do what’s right for my kids.’

“Yeah,” she whispered as she punched the SEND button. “They need me more than anyone else. What are you doing, girl?”

Dawn placed the phone back onto the table.  Drawing her knees up to her chin, she began to butt the heels of both hands against her forehead.

“Why do you keep doing this? You have to stop, before it’s too late,” she whispered through tears.

She lay down snuggling Chas’s pillow under her nose, taking in the scent of her husband.  It suddenly struck her funny, how much she hated the Old Spice. But at the moment, it smelled like home and security.  It smelled like Chas.

She slowly breathed in the pillow and remembered the first kiss they had shared.  Chas had worn enough Old Spice to make her eyes water, but she had endured the overbearing aftershave to share that special moment.  She had once adored him, and then…something happened.  What? She couldn’t remember.  Her mind sifted through miscellaneous memories of times shared, both good and bad. Yet, there was no one clear turning point buried in the recesses of her mind.

“What happened?” Dawn whispered.

As tears soaked the pillow case, Dawn’s memory shifted to a time before the children; before the marriage.  She remembered Chas away at college.  She recalled a surprise visit; remembered driving two and a half hours in the dead of Michigan winter, to see him.  In her mind, she saw the look of total astonishment on the face of Chas’s roommate, as she strolled through the front door of the apartment.  Dawn remembered the blissful feeling of comfort walking down the short hallway toward Chas’s room.  Her plan had been to simply undress, and spend a romantic evening with her love. She remembered turning the door knob, smiling giddy, only to find him cuddling with another woman under his bed sheets.

And then…suddenly…there it was. The image forever burned into her psyche like a black and white photograph. Dawn opened her bleary eyes as her breath caught in her throat.  Through the darkness of the bedroom, she could still see the look on Chas’s face, the night she had caught him with another woman.  It was as clear as if the whole event happened yesterday.

“I never forgave him for that,” she whispered. “…and that was it.  That’s when it turned. He turned out to be just another lying man, and I never forgave him for it. Lord help me, I still don’t. I don’t know how.”

Love Purposefully

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1Corinthians 6:18-20 (NKJV) – 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Let’s talk about sex for a moment. At a young age, I found a copy of Playboy Magazine containing nude photos of a well-known beauty pageant queen. Those images would shape my perception of sex for decades. I would eventually grow up believing women were to be revered as objects of sexual fantasy, and whenever the physical encounters did not measure up to the fantasies, I moved on to the next woman.

As bad as that sounds, our culture actually promotes this behavior. Sex is everywhere. The culture is telling our young girls to dress provocatively, to get ahead in the world. It tells our young men to treat women as slaves instead of delicate queens. Throughout the history of our culture, sex has dominated our purchasing power, and children learn this at young ages. Power Rangers are not fighting crime in robes. No sir, their attire is fashioned to complement their physiques.

Yesterday I read an article on the recent terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert. The caption picture depicted her in a form-fitting cat suit with cat ears, posing for the lens. This young lady has vehemently advocated against portraying the “sex-kitten” role in her career, so I felt like it was totally dishonorable for the editors of the article to choose that particular photo to represent her, especially given the content of the article. Even in tragedy, sex sells.

Satan stays busy corrupting and attempting to corrode God’s original plans for humanity. It makes sense to me that sex is as powerful a force, as it is within our culture. The enemy knew the urges of the human body, and thus turned God’s plan for marital pleasure into an excuse to defile ourselves. Even within the sanctity of the Christian marriage, sex is corrupted. Paul knew this, which led to him having to remind the Corinthian church of the dangers of sexual immorality. In our culture, sexual purity seems like a dull outdated way to live. Yet, even in its indulgence of adultery, the culture does not have a problem with the divorce rate sky rocketing, even among Christian marriages.

Paul wanted to remind the Corinthians—and by extension, us—that our bodies do not belong to us. Believers need to understand that our bodies belong to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Sexual immorality grieves the Spirit, and defiles us. Paul taught that sexual immorality is a direct sin against the body. It ties you to someone else, creating soul ties. That type of connection was never meant to be shared between multiple partners. But in today’s sex-crazed society, that type of connection is encouraged.

Couples have to get to the place where it becomes important to fight for marriage, again. Marriage was meant to be sacred and long lasting. It was designed for spouses to enjoy one another, thereby eliminating the sinful urges to be with anyone besides your own spouse. We have to remember the importance of Jesus paying the price for us. Christians engaged in sexually immoral behavior dishonor the sacrifice of the Lord. Conversely, we honor Jesus by honoring and loving our spouses.

Today I encourage you to take a look at the world surrounding you. Take notice of the things, events or circumstances designed to subtly cause you to diminish the sanctity of your marriage. Take notice of your own feelings toward your spouse. Then choose to love that spouse on purpose, just as you purposefully choose to drive your car. You don’t reach your daily destination by autopilot. Why would we float through life allowing our marriages to operate on autopilot? The way to fight against sexual immorality is to purposefully love our spouses.

This Valentines Day

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Love is in the air; or is it really? Valentines Day is traditionally the time to get close to your sweetheart, and remind them of how much they mean to you. But what about those couples–particularly longevity couples–who look at it as just another work day? You know who I’m talking about. Maybe it’s Mr. and Mrs. Jones down the street, who have been married for 30 years. We always see him or her, but never him and her together. Perhaps we’re talking about Mr. and Mrs. Smith who have seen 20 years of marriage, and now only pass each other in the hallway on their separate ways to another one of their kids’ activities. Maybe we’re thinking of Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, over on Peach Street, who have been married for 11 years now. Everyone in the neighborhood admires their big house and flashy cars. But, everyone knows that while Mr. Bailey works crazy hours, Mike the mailman visits the Bailey home frequently. How much mail do they receive in a day?!

Marriage is work folks. Tonight, I’m not talking about the kind of work required to avoid confrontations. No, I’m talking about the kind of work needed to remind your spouse that he or she is still important to you. Deep down, we all want to be desired. In the beginning of our relationships, it’s easy to be desirable because everything is fresh and new. As time marches on, we have a tendency to become distracted by everyday life, and it’s unwavering demands. Moms, once hot little numbers dolled up specifically for our attention can wake up to find themselves the sweatpant-and -hoodie bus driver for the kids. Dads, once the sexy masculine-suited hero with eyes only for you (lady), overnight find themselves relegated to wearing that favorite yet horribly faded and frayed college T-Shirt, plaid shorts and flip flops to every place you two go.

Don’t get me started on intimacy. What’s that anymore?

(Okay, we’re all adults here, so I can go there…)

It used to be that special time you both looked forward to sharing, where your bodies were each other’s personal playgrounds, and there were little to no boundaries. Yet, as the years of marriage glide by, the intimacy for some couples morphs into a job for one partner, and a simple means of sustaining an otherwise boring existence for the other. And we wonder why infidelity is destroying marriages everywhere.

We have to fight for our marriages. Sometimes that fight takes place in the safety and security of our own homes. We have to fight the world around us, to save and secure our marriages.

  • Date Nights
  • Planned Dinners
  • Impromptu Getaways
  • Midday Lunches

We need to do these things with our spouses to keep the love strong, and to let them know thy are not only desired but needed. It’s important to date your wife, or to cater to your husband every one in awhile. Don’t give them any reason to look for attention outside of your arms.

And for Pete’s sake, have sex with your spouse! Be involved and remember the first time. Christian folks wanna get all uppity and prudish, when it comes to this subject. You better make love to your spouse, and quite regularly! And it better NOT be a one-sided deal, either. If you think I’m being crass, then you need to read your bible:

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NKJV)

Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

I know a brother in Christ–yeah a brother in Christ–who struggles with pornography, because he and his wife are not intimate. Satan will find a way to wreck our marriages, if we refuse to fight for them.

So this year for Valentines Day, I challenge you, dear readers, to take a good long look at your spouse. Remember that first look into their eyes and rekindle the flame. It may take effort for some of you, but it’s worth the work.

 

 

Man, That Fight Though (Marriage Exerpt 2)

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This morning, I walked into a gas station and stepped right in the middle of a spousal feud. It was pretty bad, I have to warn you. The husband was irate.

“You wanna know when I stopped lookin’ at you? When you started to get fat! You wanna know when you started gettin’ fat? When you got a smart phone! For four years, you ain’t got the time for me because you’re too busy *blank*in’ your phone and eatin’ snacks! That’s why I’m seein’ another woman! If my wife ain’t interested in givin’ me what I need anymore, someone else is glad to take care of me!”

Needless to say, I bought my Gatorade at another station…quickly. I got out of there, before I became witness to a murder. As bad as that scene was, it did give me a moment to think about why some marriages fail. As I said last night, sin constantly wants to destroy biblical marriage. Any number of trials could trigger danger in a relationship, but the big one (in my opinion) is infidelity.

Last night, my son and I attended a men’s group at church. During the discussion, our brother Steve spoke on God’s intent for a man and his wife. Steve said in not so many words, “God intends for the husband and wife to have eyes for each other. What he wants for us is to not be able to keep our hands off of the one who is for us.” In this case, I should have eyes and a burning desire for my wife: her only.

When I thought back to that train-wreck I’d just witnessed in the gas station, I was reminded of just how far away from the biblical purpose of marriage that guy had fallen. He not only turned his eyes and desires to another woman; he loathed his wife. Her waistline and eating habits might have posed some difficulties in their marriage, but I got the feeling that he hadn’t really tried to work things out. Almost as if those qualities were his justified excuse for stepping out.

Marriage is work. Yep…I’m reiterating what was already said last night. Marriage is (sometimes) hard work. Chances are, 20 years after the wedding, we might look a little heavier or move a little slower. Maybe the fires of our youthful desire need a little stoking to rekindle. Whatever it takes, under God. Folks, we have to protect our marriages. Husbands need to adore their wives and wives need to cherish their husbands, because the enemy of biblical marriage is out there…winning. I saw it today. I almost experienced it personally, a few short years ago. Had it not been for God’s Devine intervention, this might be a totally different type of post.

I think sometimes we need to put our own wants aside and do for our spouse. If I know my wife desires something, but I purposely and frequently deny her, am I not setting our marriage up for failure? The reality is that temptation is real. If she’s not satisfied—whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually—I’m making temptation that much more appealing to her. I have to put my selfish desires to rest and give her whatever she needs. It shouldn’t have to be a “job” to do so, either. I should do it because I want to please her.

We have to fight for our marriages.

Marriage (Excerpt)

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Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

From the beginning, God intended for one man to join with one woman, and for the two to become something new and whole entirely. This is what biblical marriage looks like, as ordained by our Heavenly Father. The first family—Adam and Eve—were created to compliment one another unabashedly. In fact, verse 25 of Genesis chapter 2 states, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” The first union should have been perfect, if not for human nature. Adam and Eve’s fall from grace ushered sin into the entire world, and erased perfection from marriage.

Today, television and movie screens paint marriage in many different facets, ranging from the perfect high school sweethearts who live out perfect lives in the west, to the perfectly prearranged middle-eastern marriages that survive lifetimes without trials. While such tales make for interesting entertainment, the truth of marriage is seldom a smooth-sailing route.

Marriage is work. Make no mistake about it, the happy-ending romantic dramas displayed for our entertainment usually oversimplify the complexity of the union between a man and woman. Real marriages often face insecurities, incompatibilities, compromises, deceitful choices and silent moments; all of which are firey darts shot for one very specific purpose. Sin constantly wants to destroy biblical marriage. If your marriage in under fire, take comfort in the fact that you are never alone. Anything worth having, must be fought for.

Always and Forever

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You remember being a kid, and words like always and forever didn’t carry much weight? Think back to when you were five years old. Maybe you had a favorite stuffed animal to sleep with every night. It was a sure bet that you would always love that plush teddy, and would probably keep it until the end of time. Maybe at seventeen, you had “the” crush. No matter what happened in the years to come, you were going to always love that boy, or hold a special place in your heart for that one girl forever. Steve and Lindsay know what I’m talking about (I love my brother and sister). Or, how about that 1960s muscle car you bought with your own saved money, dad. You babied that car for decades, and just know that you’ll always cherish it. Even now, well into your 60s, that car’s going to be with you forever.

Okay, those examples may have been a little superficial, but deep down at the heart of it all, that’s the kind of love that makes an awesome marriage. When a man and a woman come together under God, weather any and all storms that rage against them, raise a family as a united front and pass on into the after life knowing they’ve given their all to their blessed mate; that’s what always and  forever looks like.

It doesn’t just pertain to the marriage relationship, however. Lasting friendships can–and often do–exhibit always and forever, too. Did you know that King David and Saul’s son Johnathan loved each other with a deep love? I don’t mean any funny-business-love either. I’m talking pure, no judgment, deep, lasting love that only the best of friends share.

Do you know what it is to have less than a handful of deep root inner circle friends? I’m talking about pals you might not even speak with on a daily basis, but when you do get together, time stands still. Do you know what it is to instinctively know when your pal is hurting? That sixth-sense type of love that takes precedence over everything else going on in your life, for one moment? Some of you know what I’m talking about. That’s the always and forever bond of true friends.

Most parents instinctively know what always and forever love looks like. It’s that unspoken bond you have with your children that automatically makes you put yourself and your needs behind theirs. No matter what, you’re going to always love them, forever. That kind of love makes a 41-year old mother refer to her 24 year-old son as, “my baby”. It’s sappy, but it’s pure.

Do you have a spouse, a friend or a child in that always and forever spot locked in your heart? Make sure you tell them what they mean to you, sometime this week. Life is short. Our loved ones need to know we care, and that we’re in their lives for the long haul, no matter what.

 

*always*