Love, Actually.

Ah, love.  It’s perhaps the most overused and misunderstood word in the English language.  Between hearing it commercialized in songs, movies, books and TV shows and then out of the mouths of people in our lives, I think we are almost becoming desensitized to it.   Don’t get me wrong, a new baby wrapped up in a tiny receiving blanket, or my children’s chubby hands wrapped around mine as we walk together definitely gives me the feels.  But overall, I think we just don’t think about what it means to love anymore.  And if we do, its some weird sensationalized version of what society has convinced us that it looks like.  Certainly not a biblical love.  But who really cares what society says love is?   I mean, its most recently given us jumpers for men, so ‘society’ has questionable judgment, at best.  What I really care about is what my Creator, the God of the universe, says love is.  His definition is how I want to love.  So I turned off my TV and silenced my phone, locked my kids in the basement (just kidding.  I don’t even have a basement) and reached for my bible.  I read scriptures on love and waited for the Holy Spirit to speak.  Here’s the verse that stuck out to me the most this week:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  1 Peter 4:8

I’ll admit, the Holy Spirit stepped on my toes all week long as I sought out the truth in this verse.  At first glance, its kind of like, “yeah, yeah we gotta love each other real hard.  I get it.” But its so much more than that.  To cover over something means to cover something so that it cannot be seen.  It’s not saying to make an excuse for a sinful behavior or to sweep our sins under the rug but to cover them completely out of sight of anyone but God.  So wives, when you husband offends you or is involved in a sinful behavior what do you do?  Do you analyze his comments or behaviors with your girlfriends over coffee?  Or do you take it to God in prayer?  To be in line with the word and love our spouse the way God wants us to love, we need to completely cover our spouse’s sin and take it to the Lord in prayer.  No one hates to hear this more than me because I, A. analyze everything to death and B. talk to my sister on the phone every morning.  Sometimes it is just so nice to complain to someone who always takes my side. But if I want to align myself to the word and show love to my husband, I shouldn’t point out his sin to anyone but God.  God doesn’t need us or our girlfriends/sisters to convict our husband.  How’s that for a #truthbomb?

When I begin to notice one of our children lying or cheating, or being repeatedly mean to their siblings the first thing I want to do is ask my mom why she thinks they are acting up.  Then I want her to go to her “How to fix kids” manual and tell me what to do!  True, my mom might have more experience than me and it’s certainly ok to request that she pray for my children, but if I want to show the love of God to my children, his manual is the only one I need.  My mama can’t change the sin in my children’s hearts, only God can.  A mama blog can’t give you some magic advice that washes sin away and no psychologist can cure the sinful nature we are all born with.  If you want to show biblical love to your children, take them to God in prayer.

What about that sassy little broad at work that is having an affair with the boss and has a snarly comment for every little thing you say?  Surely you can just show her some fake, “bless your heart” kind of love and get by with that, right?  I mean there has to be some kind of clause that exempts us from having to bite our tongue when it comes to people like her. I  have had co-workers who have literally made my skin crawl  and I’ve been sooo guilty of shamefully putting on a fake front and playing nice.  One thing society has taught us to do very well is to show this vomit-inducing fake love to people.  We gloss over our eyes, and hearts, with the expertise of an Oscar winning actress and pretend to be a loving friend when in reality we are gossiping about her (or him) the first chance we get.  I got news for you, and me, sister.  We might be fooling the whole world with our fake love, but God sees right through us.  And he doesn’t like it.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to make God mad!  If we really want to practice what we preach and show the love of Jesus, we must choose to not gossip (no matter how despicable the person) and take it to God in prayer.  Ouch.

The last part of the verse says we are to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Hospitality is another one of those words that has gotten totally twisted.  And thanks to my arch enemy Pinterest, it’s managed to get even worse.  I mean, who has time to hand paint tiny little turkeys on cupcakes for Thanksgiving, anyway?  Who are these people and when do they sleep??  But hospitality actually puts focus on the guest and *gasp* NOT THE HOSTESS.  This knowledge in and of itself is actually thrilling news to me.  I am so relieved to know that God doesn’t care one ounce if my floors are spotless or if I’ve polished my silverware until I can see my reflection.  He doesn’t care how staged my house is with throw pillows, rugs and fancy lamps.  The pressure is off, ladies.  At least in the “all about me” department.  Focusing on others might require that we sit and listen without interruption, that we pray with a friend, that we have clean sheets and a comfy couch but it will never require a trip to Hobby Lobby for more throw pillows.  Can I get an Amen?  Or maybe even a Hallelujah?

All of these things lead me to one truth: to love deeply and offer hospitality we must crucify the flesh daily and resist the urge to expose the sins of another.  Instead, we have to take it to God in prayer.  Let’s work hard to redefine love based on God’s definitions and not what society tells us it should be.

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.  Proverbs 17:9

We are Warriors (yes, even you!)

5th grade just ain’t what it used to be. I mean, I know it’s been like 25 years since I was actually in the 5th grade but still. And my 5th grader is a talker so I know absolutely more than I want to about what is going on with the kids in his wing on the school. Just this week I have had to answer questions about what a transgender person is, why two boys kissed and licked each other during recess and what a condom is. Bet you didn’t see any of that coming in the fourth sentence of this blog. Yeah. I didn’t see it coming either. I’ve wanted to spend the vast majority of the week curled in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, refusing to adult until my husband gets home from work. But alas, somebody’s gotta answer these questions and it might as well be me. Matter of fact, if I want to parent my kids and raise children capable of dealing with the pressures of this ‘anything goes’ world we live in, it BETTER BE ME. No matter what your opinion is on anything I’ve mentioned thus far, I’m betting we can agree that 5th grade is way to young to have to deal with and emotionally process these issues. In the 5th grade, the biggest thing I had to worry about was if I was going to get a bomber jacket at Christmas and how to play in the woods without finding all the poison ivy patches. I shudder to think how much less awesome I would be today if I would have had to tackle half the problems this school year has manifested for my kid. Poor guy. And I know it’s not just him. Lots of kids are dealing with this kind of stuff. I could be philosophical and list likely reasons for the decline of parental responsibility and the rapid maturing of today’s youth but it would do no good and be extra super boring. The thing to be really concerned with is that our children are dealing with, and being exposed to, issues that we just can’t relate to. Sure, we learned about all these things eventually but our childhoods were vastly different, much more innocent and carefree, than our children’s are shaping up to be.
Anyone who knows me and my hunky hubby know that, to an extent, we shelter our kids. We made a choice to follow Jesus and we try not to leave any of the “following” part out. We don’t drink or cuss, we don’t let them play video games that are violent or not age appropriate and we don’t listen to mainstream music when we drive. I don’t allow them to check out books that I believe are questionable or “dark” for their age and the list could go on. You might be rolling your eyes here but let me mention just a couple things before you cast harsh judgement. First, our kids are happy and well adjusted despite their parents ruining their lives with our rules (feel free to insert sarcasm where necessary) and second, God entrusts each set of parents with the upbringing of their children and we get to decide the morals and values we instill in them. The ability to shape their future is a great and monumental task and one I know none of us take lightly. In the long run, my kids not hearing cuss words on the daily or playing Call of Duty until their eyes are bloodshot will not damage their ability to be productive members of society. Unless of course the apocalypse comes and in which case, my bad. So, we have all these rules and we run a pretty tight ship as far as matters of the heart are concerned but you know what? They still know all the mainstream songs (even my kindergartener swears his favorite song is Uptown Funk), when someone references the “F” word, they instantly know which one it is…and it’s not fart, just to be clear. Sadly, I continue to have to run defense and counteract all that they are being taught in the 8 hours they are gone from us at school. My control-freak self has obsessed and analyzed situations looking for way to’fix’ these issues until recently. while I was praying about some of these things the Lord revealed something to me. It occurred to me that I have been spending all this time running defense when I really need to pick up my offensive game. I can continue to try to ‘unteach’ all the things they are learning at school or I can turn to the Lord in prayer and FIGHT for my children. I can arm them with scriptures, help them memorize scripture until it is tucked so far into the depths of their hearts that it becomes a part of who they are. I can reassure their broken hearts that when people are cruel and mean to them it is because of one simple and profound truth, hurting people hurt others. I can show them how to let their lights shine for Jesus and feel empathy for those who are hurting their feelings. Instead of getting flustered by the fact that I am having to explain what a condom is to my 5th grader, I can choose to see these issues as divine appointments that give me an opportunity to teach my children how to breath, speak, live and love like Jesus. Sure, I could give in and be like most other parents and let my kids have, act and talk however they want but I’d be letting Satan have them. I’d practically be handing him over parental rights. Instead, I can take each of their specific problems and FIGHT for them on the front lines. God knows what they are facing each day and I can take comfort in the fact that even when I can’t be with them, he is there. Warriors have one job, to go into battle and fight. As such, a warrior is either in a battle or preparing for the next one. If a warrior slacks off and isn’t prepared, the enemy will attack and gain ground! God’s warriors have no off time if we don’t want our enemy to advance. We are the warriors in our homes, mamas! We must fight for our children, our husbands and our homes. We cant’ leave it to chance and hope they turn out alright. We must be intentional and dedicated to our battle plan if we want to save our families. If you don’t fight for them, who will? With all the battles they are facing today I know one thing for sure-Satan sure thinks they are worth fighting for…

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

I will never be enough.

It’s spring and around here that means one thing: baseball.  Sports in this house is usually a joyous activity that occupies the hearts and minds of our children.  Their daddy works away and is gone for long periods of time so it’s always refreshing to fill the days until his return with practices, games, stinky socks, dirty cleats and basically just all things sports.  We want them to stay busy but we also want them to stay happy.  When they have to much time to sit idly around, one of them inevitably ends up crying for daddy and that makes us all sad so we try to avoid thinking, or talking, about it to much.  Four weeks may not seem like a long time but when you are in the eye of the storm, it is really loonnggg.

A few nights ago Jack had practice so I dropped him off and threatened him within an inch of his life not to leave his new jacket and water bottle at the field since he was riding home with someone else.  Well, when I picked him up three hours later, imagine my shock to learn that he did, in fact, leave all said items at the field. Ugh.  Sometimes I wonder why I even speak. I drove him back and listened as he gave me a play-by-play of every strike, foul ball and pop-up that happened during practice while the other two giggled and laughed listening to their bubby talk. When we pulled up to the field Jack’s coach and his son were still there practicing.  Jack’s demeanor changed within moments of seeing this but it didn’t click with me right away.  He asked me why they were still there and I told him that they probably just wanted to get in a little more practice and then I moved on to what we were going to eat for dinner.  By the time we got home, Jack was in full melt-down mode.  He got irrationally mad at his brother and sister and yelled at them, he was disrepectful to me when I corrected him and went into a katy-bar-the-door crying fit.  I mean, I remember standing there in shock while this usually level-headed child of mine turned into an irrational, well, preteen.  If someone could have recorded my face the first five minutes of his meltdown, I’m pretty sure it could have been a facebook meme or a wildly popular youtube video.  After the initial shock wore off and I found words again, I tried to get to the bottom of what was wrong.  After all, not an hour before he was as happy as could be and now he was quite possibly on the verge of dehydration from all the tears he’d cried.  He finally mumbled what I somehow missed.  HE MISSED DAD.  It was an epic mom fail (story of my life) that I did not realize that when he saw his friend and his coach practicing together, he became immensely aware of the void in his life.  And perhaps void isn’t the best word because when Nick is home you have never seen a more involved, loving father in all the world.  He plays, and tickles and laughs, and makes funny jokes.  (Seriously he is just the best thing ever and I wish I were exaggerating because his awesomeness makes me extremely boring in their eyes but alas, he is truly amazing.) But then again, void is exactly the thing we all feel.  For the four weeks he is gone the emptiness takes up an extraordinary amount of room in our hearts. We feel it in the extra plate at every meal, the empty place in the bed, the empty seat in our pew at church (who am I kidding; we don’t have a pew.  We are always late, we sit wherever we can squeeze in). And I do my best to fill the void.  I keep them busy, I take them to church and teach them to pray.  I try my best to stay upbeat and positive even though some days I miss him so much that the sadness takes my breath away.  I hide all emotions but the happy ones.  I even quit my job to be there for them all of the time.  And yet, I am not enough.  And the truth is, I will never be enough and neither will their daddy.

After my sweet boy cried until his eyes were swollen and my empathy had morphed into frustration, he finally fell asleep.  He was missing daddy and truly heartbroken.  This momma wept too.  I was broken for my boy.  I couldn’t fix his broken heart and it killed my soul.  I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed for God to help my baby and it was during this time in sorrow and prayer that God ever so lovingly made me realize that i can never be enough.  And I’m sorry to report but you won’t be enough either, sweet mommas..  Our job is to teach them to know the one who will always be enough.  Time is quickly passing and that chubby little hand that used to drag his “melmo” pillow through the house to snuggle in the bed is turning into a hand that will all to soon be driving a car. That baby boy who used to be stuck to my hip as I tried to do my chores rarely stays in the same room as me anymore.  He is growing up quickly and his brother and sister are too.  There will be many times in their lives that they will weep and they will feel great sorrow and their daddy and I might not even know it.  This time he wept because he missed his daddy but later he will cry for other, more profound, reasons.  And their ability to bounce back from their sorrows will depend on one thing: did we teach them to really know and seek the face of the one who can heal their broken hearts?

I don’t always sign the reading log, sometimes I don’t make them study spelling words as much as they should.  My kid is the one who doesn’t have on his academic team shirt during the district championship because I forgot where I put it.  My shortcomings in the role of mother are too numerous to list but I don’t ever want to be guilty of not teaching them to seek the one who can be with them everywhere they go, every single day of their lives.  I don’t want to forget to teach them that there is a God who loves them, and is merciful and will rescue them when they fall. Whether it’s their first day of college and their stomach aches to go home or if the remnants of a bad choice leave them scared, ashamed and alone.  I want them to know that there is a Heavenly father who will always be enough.  A great big God who is with them wherever they go.  My babies are really not babies anymore.  They are becoming little people who have extraordinary emotions and opinions all of their own.  I thank God for my wake up call to remind me that my duty as mother is far greater than helping complete a science project or get to practice on time.  I am called to teach my children to seek and depend on a God who will be their calm in the midst of any storm they face in life.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6