If you don't love someone how they are right now... you don't love them at all.
Relationships are funny things. We have so many different kinds of relationships: family, spouse, friend, sister, co-worker, niece, mom, dad, etc. All of them take work.
We have all heard that "relationships take work." That phrase is probably accepted as a universal truth. I agree that "relationships take work." I think somewhere along the line this phrase gets mistranslated. In my own mind, I have adopted the "relationships take work" truth and made it a justification for the expectations that I put on those around me. My thought pattern in relationships can go something like this: He should compliment more. She should come to my house. She should reciprocate, because I payed last time. They should appreciate me. He should know better. If she doesn't pursue the friendship, I'm letting her go. I just want him to listen. I just want her to share more. I can't believe they kept that from me. I told him he shouldn't do that. I don't respect that. Last time...
How can my thought life revolve around the work that OTHERS should do to maintain a relationship with me? The longer I live, the more I realize that selfishness is in my DNA. It consumes me, just as it does you. We can take perfectly good advice for promoting relationships and turn it into promoting self.
Yes, relationships take work. But let me add... from ME! I need to work at relationships! What should this thought pattern look like? The bible outlines it perfectly in 1 Corinthians 13:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Wait you mean my relationship with ________ (fill in the blank) is not for them to jump through my hoops to please me? Nope... it isn't. Actually God's word clearly says the opposite.
If you don't love them as they are right now... you don't love them at all.
Lord, help me to love... like You do. I know relationships take work. Lord, help me to work ...like You do. May the excess of Your love in my life pour out in every relationship I have. In Jesus name, Amen.
If you missed the first two parts of this series, you can access them here:
Part 1: Longing
Part 2: Calling
I have been struggling to write lately. You have to know who you are to blog about yourself. I know who I was at 18. I know who I was at 21. I know what kind of teacher I am, but who am I now?
Children are amazing. My children have given me a purpose and calling in life that far outweighs any other goal I have created for myself. It feels natural to stop talking about myself, to stop taking care of myself, and to live vicariously through them. Those are unsustainable habits, because my identity is not tied to them.
My children have eternal souls, just as I have an eternal soul. My job as "caretaker" of them is extremely temporary. Some days, mothering feels like a never-ending cycle of feedings, cleanings, and laundry. But, I have already felt the incremental process of letting go in mothering: the last nursing, the first steps, the first time sleeping in a big bed, the last diaper, the first sleep over. I can already feel the stretching of my heart and faith thinking about the plethora of firsts and lasts to come: the first day of school, first time driving, the last day of school, the first date, and the day we give him/her away in marriage. Parenting is not ownership, but a relationship.
I still have to know who I am, even if my children do not live with me anymore. I am changed by them but not defined by them. I do not fit into my previous molds. I feel as though I am at a decision point in my life. Again.
Who am I now? I am longed for. I am called. I should run. God calls us to run the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). What is that supposed to look like?
Running requires purpose: an eternal prize. Focus on eternal things, not material things.
1 Corinthians 9:23-25 (NIV) I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.The Need for Self-Discipline 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Running requires you to go straight. Nothing matters except faith expressed in love. This race is not a maze. Galatians 5:6-8 (NIV) 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.
You CANNOT run with baggage entangling you. These are those days when you can't stop thinking about a hurting friend, the days when you watch your child struggle, the days when the money does not add up to enough and you are coveting what someone else has. Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
If you keep your eyes on Jesus while you run, you won't get tired.
Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
All of my questioning, observing, and configuring of my own emotions isn't who I am anyways. Who am I now? I am a runner. So are my kids. So are you. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Enjoy your run today!
(Photo Credit: Sura Nualpradid)
I like things neat. I like things in order. I guess I really just like perfection. You know, the kid that only walked on the black squares through the grocery store, or who has strange quirks like always adding a pinch more sugar to a batch of cookies EVERY time. Standing back from something you've done and knowing it's better than it was before. If there's something wrong, just go ahead and tackle it. I have to purposely make myself STOP and remember to enjoy the moment sometimes, instead of trying to just make things better. Ah, the reward of "fixing" things, and the sense of accomplishment that goes with it! The problem is, when perfection isn't attainable, no matter how hard you try. Some things you just can't fix. Like yourself. And, as much as you like to make things better for them, sometimes not even your kids. And it's even more frustrating when it's something obvious.
Even since I was little, I've always hated how my feet turn in. I remember walking to Cal and Sandy's house, eyes on the pavement, watching my feet, making sure they were straight. Stumbling as a kid, and my parents wondering why I fell so much. Trying so hard to correct it, and hoping people wouldn't notice. But, over time, they have. Like crashing on the ski slope and standing up in such an awkward position, my family exclaiming I MUST have broken my legs, but such a position is possible for me. Or the time I was snowboarding with friends, and I couldn't control the board as it was. We went into the shop and my guy friend asked them to, "Turn the feet in, you know, cause she's a little pigeon-toed." Ouch! But it was true. And similar comments the devil stacks up and pulls out to remind yourself how you don't measure up.
Tyler has been showing signs of the same problem. And his seems a little worse, but maybe it's just his age. I knew I was going to "handle it", "fix" it. Do what had to be done to fix such an "imperfection", so he wouldn't have to feel embarrassed. Today, we went to Dr. Boxer; and, sure enough, he shared that his tibia, or shin bone, is curved. It turns his feet in and has been causing him to trip quite a bit. But, he shared, braces have proven to not work. Unless it's very severe, they don't do anything anymore, because it would require surgery, and so it is what it is.
Until now, I just saw it as something I was going to fix. But, now, I realize, it's just something I have to ACCEPT. And, in accepting Tyler's problem, I have to accept myself. How can you expect your child to handle the comments, and (hopefully not!), teasing, if I don't have peace with the way God made me? Now, I have to admit, of all the problems to have, I'd gladly choose this one. But it is something that's bothered me. And today made me realize the way I view my beautiful, and, in my eyes, perfect child, and I know God sees me the same way. I love Tyler because he's mine, and I even love that he's like me.
In our perfection-based world, I encourage you to love the "imperfections" around you because God has His purpose in it. And we're better for it. Love and accept yourself as God does, and do the same for those around you.
Last night my 3 year old son Clayton had his first sleep over with his best friend. He did great there and was very happy when we met up at Starbucks. Then, he realized that he had to come home with me. This scenario created a mild melt down at first. I just told him to shape up and say thank-you for a nice time. I visited for a few minutes not minding his quiet sulking.
Now, there is some background information you must know. I am NOT by nature either patient or gentle. I actually struggle with fits of rage probably as much as the 2 and 3 year olds I am trying to parent. I am loving, but in my loud, authoritative way. I have been praying for patience and the ability to parent without yelling, because I know the brain research behind yelling. I studied psychology in preparation to become a teacher. The recipient of yelling goes into to flight or flight mode and literally does NOT hear what you are saying. They are just surviving.
The knowledge I have from teaching worked great in the classroom. I could always keep my cool in a class full of 12 year olds, because I knew "I only have ___ minutes left." Parenting, on the other hand, can make me feel like there is no escape. This is for-ev-er. At that point, a wire snaps in my brain and all my knowledge gives way to my own self preservation and sanity... which usually surfaces as "ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Just ...... arghhhhhhhh!"
Now, back to Starbucks and the growing melt-down. I just start to pull out thinking that he will snap out of it. Clayton had other ideas and escalates. He started yelling repeatedly, "I wanna go to RAIDEN'S HOUSE! You're naughty mommy!!!! I don't want you!" He was thrashing at this point. The thought of driving 20 min home made me cringe, so I pull back into a parking spot and get firm, "You don't speak to me that way." I give him the count down, "1....2.....3.... Now that really did it! Finally, I tell him he needs to calm down and try to take him from the car, as he is grabbing the car seats.
God must really answer prayer, because I was somehow calm! I was given patience and to my surprise... understanding washed over me! I grabbed my little boy in a big hug and said, "Just tell mom who loves you that you are really really sad, and it is just too much to handle alone." I continued to hug him, and my little boy went limp and hugged me back. There we were sitting in the middle of the Starbucks parking lot...hugging. We just didn't let go of each other.
Tears starting to fill my eyes, and my little boy just cried: Not spunking, Not yelling, just sad. At that moment, I can picture my heavenly father quietly talking to me in my fits of rage, "Just call on me." "Just tell me this is more than you can handle. I will carry you." Oh how I love him! Oh how he loves me! Now... I can love my kids. I can be patient. I can be gentle.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
P.S. This blog was in part inspired by one that I read a few weeks ago called the gentleness challenge.