Living in the Embrace of Forever Love

by | Jan 20, 2016

Forever LoveThis past week we celebrated my parents’ fifty-fifth anniversary…

Fifty-five years. Quite a milestone in a world of disposable, easy-come-easy-go love. But the half-century mark wasn’t a surprise to us, their kids.

Growing up my sister, brother and I always felt safe and secure. Despite life’s twists and turns and ups and downs, we held onto this one indisputable fact:

Momma loved daddy and daddy simply adored mom.

For over fifty years, we’ve had front-row seats to one of the sweetest love stories the world has ever known. And I’d like to share it with you.

To Have and To Hold

Cliff and Annette NewlywedsFor as long as I remember, Cliff Gustafson has carried the scrap of paper on which his “Yakima Peach” wrote her name and number the day they met, carefully laminated and readily available.

To all who will listen, he recounts the story of their meeting and the marvelous gift God gave him when his sweet Annette said, “I do.” The voice of the tall, lanky dump-truck driver catches with emotion and his eyes grow misty when he speaks of his tiny bride.

I’ve lived surrounded by Cliff and Annette’s love. A love that goes beyond “to have” and embraces “to hold.” Each evening, as far back as I can remember, my father has held my mother in a blue velvet rocker. Sometimes they talk. Sometimes they pray. Sometimes they simply hold each other, whispering things without speaking a word.

Early on, my siblings and I loved to interrupt their kisses and caresses, eager for some of the affection so tangible in our home. Mom would laugh as Daddy reached down and picked us up, piling us one upon the other until we were a pyramid of little arms and legs all tangled up in their love. Then we’d rock in the dusky hours of early evening. Laughing and telling stories. Loving and being loved.

Different blue velvet rocker...same love

Different blue velvet rocker…same love

I have been given a rich dowry of demonstrative love.

I’ve received the gift of touch.

The shelter of an embrace.

I’ve witnessed the joy of a kiss.

The strength found when two people meet, then turn to face whatever comes, hand in hand.

Some nights when it’s cold and dark and the fear of tomorrow claws at my throat, choking all hope, I reach for my husband. “Just hold me,” I beg. Something mysterious happens as I lie wrapped in his love—a transfer of strength. I can’t explain it. The words that come to mind seem too trivial on one hand, too mystical on the other.

I only know what it means to me. Secure in my husband’s love, surrounded by his prayers, and safe in his arms, I surrender to sleep, knowing I’m not alone.

So much is lost when we settle for “to have” and miss the “to hold.”

– Excerpt from With This Ring: Promises to Keep


Mom and Dad 1Celebrating an Epic Love Story

IMG_5725Five and half years ago, my siblings and I had the privilege of celebrating Mom and Dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary eight months early and in an unforgettable way.

Dad had just gone through several medical emergencies including kidney cancer, and to be honest, we weren’t sure whether he would be with us to celebrate if we waited until January.

Mom had always dreamed of kissing her honey under the Eiffel Tower, and in a miraculous series of God-kissed serendipities, Steve, Linda and I were able to take them on a trip of a lifetime.


Of course, once in France, we made them kiss under the Eiffel Tower (and every other major landmark!) We spent seven days celebrating this love that had made us – that had SHAPED us. Laughing, crying, reminiscing, it was a time none of us will ever forget.

One of my deepest prayers is that John and I pass on this legacy of love. That when our children look back, they see a love that not only stood the test of time, but grew richer and deeper in the process.

For there is nothing sweeter than living in the embrace of forever love…


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